TechMomTuesday Archive

TechMom Tuesday: OneDay at a Time

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

I used to be a scrapbooker. Creative Memories all the way, with approximately 57,000 stickers for every adventure.

I was known for stealing piles of brochures from hotel lobbies. I’d squirrel away a menu from a fancy restaurant and save every ticket. Every vacation or milestone moment in time became a stack of memories carefully curated into an 11×14 amalgamation of arranged art.

When I became TechMom, I had the best of intentions of continuing with my hobby, documenting those fleeting moments of childhood. I even started both TechTots books during the months my family lived apart – tiny twin TechTots in Chez NICU and me wishing them home already.

TechMom Tuesday: Targeted Baby on Board?

Spoiler alert: No. Although Target seems to think my purchasing habits indicate otherwise.

IMG_0686I was typing away in my cube at work when I got a text from Jon: “Why does Target think you’re pregnant?”

(Clinton interjection:  Ah the joys of parenting… poop features in this text twice.  I don’t miss those days)

I figured they’d sent some circular of coupons that included some sort of discount for diapers. Nope. It was a complete registry packet – “a helpful little guidebook as you start planning for baby.”

According to Target statistician Andrew Pole, from a 2012 New York Times article, “new parents are a retailer’s holy grail.” So it makes sense that establishments try to reach potential clientele as early as possible.

Baby PlannerThe flyer was addressed to Patricia, so I know the data was collected via my purchasing habits gleaned from activities using my full name. We may think the digital tracking system has completed its full transition to a Big Brother watchdog state, but sometimes the cookies crumble.

As noted in the article, “We have the capacity to send every customer an ad booklet, specifically designed for them, that says, ‘Here’s everything you bought last week and a coupon for it… And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”

(Umm…seriously? Read that last paragraph again and tell me you don’t have a WTF moment.)

At first glance, this doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. Buy groceries at Safeway and get a slew of coupons. Amazon lists personalized recommendations. Convenience and complacency have lulled the majority of people to trade away personal information. (When was the last time you actually read a Terms & Conditions popup?) Apparently I’m not the only one caught in Target’s web.

 

Target

“If we send someone a catalog and say, ‘Congratulations on your first child!’ and they’ve never told us they’re pregnant, that’s going to make some people uncomfortable,” Pole told me. “We are very conservative about compliance with all privacy laws. But even if you’re following the law, you can do things where people get queasy.”

Target’s publicly published privacy policy states the following information is routinely collected for analysis:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number (home and cell)
  • Drivers license
  • Credit/debit card
  • Birthday
  • Purchase/return/exchange history
  • Registry events

We collect data that’s publicly available. For example, information you submit in a public forum (e.g. a blog, chat room, or social network) can be read, collected, or used by us and others, and could be used to personalize your experience. You are responsible for the information you choose to submit in these instances.

We also obtain information provided by a third party. For instance, we obtain information from companies that can enhance our existing guest information to improve the accuracy and add to the information we have about our guests (for example, adding address information).

This improves our ability to contact you and increases the relevance of our marketing by providing better product recommendations or special offers that may interest you.

No wonder the biggest retail breach in U.S. history, from Target’s point-of-sale, was such a boondoggle for the company and boon to the hackers.

The Times article continues its examination of data collection and statistics with the finding that, “As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score.”

Some of the items noted in the story:

  • Magnesium: Often used as a supplement for digestive issues as it functions as a laxative – maybe something like Miralax for a 4-year-old’s poop issues.
  • Zinc: Lozenges comprising this mineral are the go-to treatment for remedying the common cold. And as preschool is synonymous with germ factory, multiple 4-year-olds share a lot of viral infections.
  • Scent-free soap: Scrubbing off all those germs can be done without spending the rest of the day smelling like an over-ripe mango. Also, hives.
  • Extra-big bags of cotton balls: It’s always handy to have extras around. You never know when you’ll accidentally drop a handful into the sink because you accidentally knocked over the jar to prevent a TechTot from brushing the dogs teeth with your toothbrush.
  • Hand sanitizer: I did recently purchase a full case of Purell off of Amazon. The TechTots are boys; I have yet to recover from my addiction to sanitizer borne in the NICU. (Also my cousin just graduated from high school, and I thought some Purell would be a great off-to-college gift.)
  • Washcloths: See above notation about boyish nature of TechTots. Man, can those kids get dirty. It’s not uncommon to pick them up from preschool and think, “Well, I can’t be certain these are my children under such layers of grime, but I’ll just scrub them down and return tomorrow if necessary.”
  • Cocoa-butter lotion: I have dry skin, ok? It’s the California weather – 89 degrees outside, 8 degrees in the air-conditioned office.
  • Purse large enough to double as a diaper bag: It’s called a mom-purse for a reason. Sanitizer, snacks, change of underwear, random toys, wallet, reading glasses, seeing glasses, sunglasses, iPad, iPhone, keys, wadded-up tissues (most likely unused), Chapstick, gum, headphones, sunscreen, safety pins…
  • Bright blue rug: I’m assuming the Target statisticians see this as nursery décor. It could also be updating the baby room to a big kid room. Or a dog could have thrown up on the existing carpet one too many times.

To be honest I can’t remember what I last bought at Target, so I’m not sure what items tipped me over the “pregnancy predictor” scale. Yet, when I review some of the items noted above, I can’t help but think maybe Target is on to something – just four years late.

Of course, if they read my blog, they’d already know that.

TechMom Tuesday: Quite the Sticky Pickle

Today’s column is brought to you by the theme of “Well no kidding Captain Obvious.” But I shall share this tale of terror as a reminder to everyone out there.

Under no circumstance, should you use your laptop in the presence of liquids – especially any containing sweetener. Syrup will congeal to create quite the sticky situation within the innards of your technological device.

TechMom Tuesday: The Home Network

Because everything had been working far to smoothly on the technology front in the TechHousehold, I decided to go spelunking into the nether regions of the Apple Airport Extreme in the attempt to configure a fully shared home drive.

My weapon of choice here in the Silicon Valley is a MacBook Air. And to keep it functioning light and spritely, I keep very little loaded onto the actual hard drive – instead, big-ticket items (like the multitude of adorable TechTot photos, Disney movies, and all my rocking iTunes) live on a Western Digital external drive.

I wanted a way to access all of my digital goodies when composing the latest and greatest TechMom Tuesday post from the comfort of my couch, instead of forced to retreat to the confines of the home office to plug back in.

TechMom Tuesday: Not Sold in Stores

The TechTots and I recently loaded up the TechMom Mobile and headed south for a long weekend celebrating my father’s 70th birthday.

(We’ll call him PapaStavo – he doesn’t get a Tech moniker because he is clueless when it comes to all the newfangled gizmos and gadgets. You know, like the concept of computing. But I digress…)

In honor of seven decades gone by, I whipped up a video slideshow of the guest list in days of yore reminiscing key moments with the birthday boy. (I’ll give you an easy tutorial in the near future.) It was funny and tear jerking, sweet and tearful, all at the perfect moments. (Indulge me here, ok?) Alas, our beloved hosts did not own an Apple TV. And as it turns out, the latest and greatest entertainment systems do not hold a lot of love for DVD-Rs.

So it was off to the mall to procure an HDMI adaptor.

I remember this mall. I spent a good number of hours there as a teenager. (Native San Fernando Valley Girl at your service – like, omigawd totally.) Once upon a time it was a two-story shopping center; it was a giant oval. You’d walk the length, then ascend/descend to the other floor and walk back. Done and done.

Not Sold in StoresApparently in the decades I’ve been gone, immersing myself in the geekdom of Silicon Valley, Westfield Architects took to the structure and transformed it into Pan’s Labyrinth of shops. It is now big and scary – a million stores – none of which carry what I want.

You’ve likely heard the term “showrooming.” This is when people wander through a brick and mortar store before heading online to find the best deal. In turn, stores have reduced the number of goods actually available.

245 stores (minus the 25 “fine watch and jewelry establishments” – seriously, why are mall’s so obsessed with overpriced baubles). Most are now focused on clothing – either boutique-y throwbacks (Betsey Johnson the 80s have passed, let them rest in peace), or super high-end designers where the store features a maximum of two ensembles.

I know this because there’s a mall app.

However, I realize, all too often I’m frustrated by the lack of items I’m immediately searching for when in a physical environment. Customer service has gone by the wayside as knowledgeable individuals no longer staff big box stores – so any search is a crapshoot. And even if you do find what you’re looking for, no guarantee it’s the right size or color.

If you’re lucky, you’ll hear, “We can order that for you.”

photoBut I can do that myself now. Because there’s an app for that. A quick peek at my iPhone shows a whole folder dedicated to shopping. (Although to be fair, when you have twin TechTots you never want to go anywhere ever again – see the Great Target Tantrum for proof.)

I have apps for (as found in alphabetical order on my phone):

All the things
Amazon – Shop millions of products wherever you go.
Etsy – Discover over 17 million unique items from 800,000 sellers around the world.

Books and magazines
iBooks – An amazing way to download and read books.
Newsstand – Dedicated to downloading and displaying digital versions of newspapers and magazines.

Clothes
Nordstrom – The latest looks are always at your fingertips
ModCloth – Your go-to source for unique fashion, decor, & inspiration.
Zappos – Shoe shopping app does its darndest to deliver that WOW service customers have come to know and love.

Entertainment
AMC Theatres – The amazing place where movies want to play.
LiveNation – Brings you concerts, festivals, and tickets in one app, personalized just for you.
Ticketmaster – Get the tickets you want on the go with the Ticketmaster app.

Food
Instacart – Groceries delivered in an hour without a trip to the store.
Munchery – Reinventing the weeknight dinner, and making it ridiculously easy to put a delicious, high-quality meal on the table in just a few minutes.
Starbucks – Keeps you connected to your card, so you can just scan to pay.

Household goods
Casa.com – From everyday must-haves to specialty collections, Casa has over 45,000 products for every room in your home.
Soap.com – Remember that awesome time waiting in line at the drugstore? Yeah, we don’t either.

Makeup
Sephora – Faster, smarter & even more beautiful.

Music
iTunes

Sports
AfterSchool.com – Gear up your little star from head to toe with thousands of products for kids’ sports & activities.
At the Ballpark – Your favorite mobile companion when visiting your any Major League Baseball ballpark.

Technology
Apple Store – The best way to research, personalize, and buy products from Apple.

TechTot Supplies
Diapers.com – Get everything your baby needs in just 1-2 days.

Toys
Disney Store – Put magic in the palm of your hand.
Yoyo.com – Make shopping for toys fast, efficient and fun.

Additionally, along with instant access has come “instant buying.” I remember a time in the days of my youth when I would go to Blockbuster or Tower Records. I would meander, browse and mull my options. I would deeply consider whether or not I wanted to spend that $3.47 for a night with Titanic. I would hem and haw over how badly I liked the entirety of Filter’s album just to obtain the single “Take A Picture.”

These days? Shoes, coffee, movies or music, just to name a few – “That looks interesting” <click> – and you own it.

In our tricked-out tech world, what role do you think the physical store will continue to play?

PS. I acquired my cable at the Apple Store, promptly lost my cable at the birthday party and had to order a new one via my Apple Store app after I got home. Because the mall scares me.

PPS. Mall Rats and Empire Records, documentaries of the days gone by of brick and mortar, are both available via Apple TV.

TechMom Tuesday: Let Them Eat Cake

It’s no secret that culinary prowess is not one of my many strengths. (I have a strong tendency to set things on fire. Except when I simply blow up the dish.)

This merely compounds the issues I face when trying to go grocery shopping with two TechTots in tow. Or coming up with intelligent produce ideas for TechDad before he goes off to the store.

Enter Munchery and Instacart. (Living in Silicon Valley has its perks. Apologies for all of you readers not in range of such wonders.)

Munchery IconMunchery
At some point, you’ve gotta figure out what’s for dinner. And when you’re too busy or tired to cook, it’s all too easy to just grab something fast on nights like these. But usually the easy option isn’t the best one for you.

If ever there was a blurb that could sell me on a service – this was it. The dishes to choose from were delectable! Entrees, sides, desserts and drinks – all of gourmet quality, “real” food – and the pricing was pretty on par with what you’d pay at a casual restaurant (approximately $10 a person).

Local chefs create the variety of dishes, which change each day. Deliveries are available on weekdays and each week you can peruse five days of drool-worthy dishes. Upon selection, you then choose a delivery time out of three one-hour slots. A driver will text you when they’re approximately 10 minutes out.

Meals are delivered chilled (not frozen, more of a pleasantly refrigerated cool), with instructions on how to heat via oven or microwave – both needing mere minutes before you look like a modern day Donna Reed with a delicious dinner on the table.

Of course, after I got my hopes up I discovered the delivery boundary ended two blocks from my house. So close!

Adapt and overcome. I ordered dinner to be delivered to my office. It arrived, I departed, I reheated. This is WAY better than fast food. And even easier than peanut butter and jelly.

Munchery is currently serving the San Francisco Bay area (San Francisco, East Bay, Marin and the Peninsula)

Munchery (Universal App) – Free – Download Now

TechMom Tuesday – Poor Unfortunate Phone (a LifeProof iPhone case story)

As Clinton considers the technology at his disposal to build a vessel that can hold all creatures of the world two-by-two amid the gale force deluge dumping upon the British Isles, California final got a sprinkling of moisture.

Of course, as the water situation becomes bleaker in one of the worst droughts seen by the golden state, any rain in the forecast brings about the emergency alerts: STORMWATCH 2014. (No joke, this was the leading nightly news story on the day we expected to receive 1/10th of an inch of rain – a mere quarter centimeter for all you metric people.)

Finally, this past week, we had a desperately needed downpour. By which I mean actual rain for the morning commute, which causes all the drivers forget how to operate a motor vehicle.

By the time lunchtime rolled around, I decided I was hungry enough to brave the elements in search of a sandwich (it was drizzling now). After procuring the necessary foodstuffs for storm survival, I returned to the office and darted across the parking lot into the building so as to not get too much mist on my hair.

It wasn’t until I got back to my desk that the feeling of utter nakedness descended upon me. My phone was not in my pocket.

TechMom Tuesday: The Next Generation

We recently had to register the TechTots for pre-K. For those of you reading this post as an interlude to arguments with your sullen teenager, you may not think pre-K sounds all that exciting. But for me – the sheer amount of technology it took to get us home from the neonatal hospital in the first place makes this feel as though I accidentally slept-walk into a time-traveling TARDIS.

As part of the pre-K preparation process, TechDad and I toured the preschool campus. Part of this expedition took us through the school computer lab, where a class of students was diligently typing away. Each student was seated at a laptop, engrossed in their task and removed from the reality around them via high-end headphones.

How far technology has taken us.

TechMomTuesday – He Who Controls the Remote Control Rules the World

The average Micky Mouse Clubhouse episode is precisely 24 minutes long.

This means, on the average Saturday morning, I have just under a half hour to get myself together just enough to make myself presentable to the world. (Clean sweatpants and a mismatched shirt totally counts.)

Freshly cleansed, I pulled back the shower curtain and wrapped a fluffy towel around myself. Simultaneously, the bathroom door slid open. A three-foot tall 3-year-old stood determinedly centered in the doorframe.

“I need more Mickey,” Destroy calmly informed me, wielding a tiny remote to punctuate his point.

Apparently I mistimed my morning. And the kids haven’t quite mastered the Apple TV, although they’re quite adept at lobbing demands via possession of the remote.

When you’re 3, your television viewing options are limited.

TechMom Tuesday: Santa’s Coming!


He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Ohh! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

Santas Coming

But these days, as it turns out, you can keep track of Santa as well.

He’s been keeping an eye on us for 12 months now. He’ll be making his rounds with a sleighful of goodies and toys for the good little girls and boys in T-one week.

Are you ready?