Not so stealth cell phone towers

We’ve all seen them: The cell phone towers disguised to blend into the surroundings after complaints of the unsightly, high-frequency transmitters dotting the landscape. Below are a few of the more original cell phone towers in disguise that I have come across.

Cell tower disguised as tall pine tree
This one doesn’t look too bad. Only trouble is trees like this don’t grow in the desert.
Cell phone tower disguised as a cactus
To the untrained I this cactus cell tower wouldn’t stand out at all when it has it’s lid on. See it laying on the ground?
Palm tree cell tower
This one’s a little better. I doubt many of the motorists on the adjacent 202 freeway ever noticed the cell tower here considering how fast they typically drive.
Stadium light cell tower
Who’s going to notice the extra hardware on this ball field light pole when they’re watching the game?
Undisguised cell tower
They didn’t even try to hide this one. Perhaps code didn’t require it since it’s buried deep in an industrial park.

You want baseball? You can’t handle the baseball!

About this time last year, when I was living in Colorado, I proclaimed to my Facebook friends, “One of these years I’m going to go to Phoenix for a couple weeks and attend as many MLB spring games as I can. Just not this year.”

At the time I had never been to the Phoenix area and we had not yet discussed moving here. (Another post for another time.) That was also before I realized just how much baseball action takes place in Arizona. Every spring thousands of people flock to the Phoenix area for to catch glimpses of their favorite players up close during Major League Baseball Spring Training. It turns out Spring Training is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

In the past five years or so, I have become a fan of the complete game – the players, the stats, the rules (written and unwritten), the coaches, the umps, the fans, the reporters, the stadiums. I love it all – minus paid parking. I study in the off-season by reading biographies, magazines and geeky books like “Watching Baseball Smarter.”

So this year I’m committed to taking in as much baseball in person as I can. Back in January I mapped out what the spring would look like on a calendar. I started with the MLB Spring Training calendar – six or more games per day from the end of February through March. On top of those games, I overlaid the World Baseball Classic, then Arizona State and University of Arizona games, plus a baseball experience like no other.

Photo of vintage base ball game at Warren Field, Bisbee, AZ
Vintage Base Ball Tournament at Warren Field in Bisbee, AZ. Photo courtesy of Friends of Warren Ballpark.

Would you believe the oldest active baseball stadium in the U.S. is also in Arizona? Yes, even older than Boston’s Fenway Park. Had to book a family trip to Bisbee in April. We’ll catch one day of the Copper City Classic Vintage “Base Ball” tournament on Saturday. They play by 1860 rules in old school uniforms and the umps wear beanies and bow ties.

On our way home Sunday, we’ll stop in Tucson to watch the defending national champion (2012) Arizona Wildcats play the Cal Bears – a 2011 College World Series team – in another classic ballpark: Hi Corbett.

I took in my first Spring Training game with my teenage daughter this past Sunday. It was windy and cold and she wanted to leave early. I coaxed and coddled her to stay through six innings. Day two of my 2013 baseball binge is today: day one of the four-day round robin Coca Cola Classic Tournament in Surprise featuring ASU, Arkansas, Gonzaga and Pacific.

As if plotting out all the baseball games going on isn’t challenge enough, I need to work in my full-time job and my part-time role as taxi driver for the kiddos, plus their sporting and school events and the occasional family meal.

I’m not sure how I’ll handle all this baseball but I’m going to give it a try.

Is lip-syncing the new photoshop?

Welcome to the new age of deception: Lip-syncing has gone mainstream.

Remember the big stir Milli Vanilli created when they were busted for lip syncing in a live concert in 1989? The band was sued for consumer fraud and suffered, rightly so in my opinion, an immediate end to their success when fans realized they had been duped.

So why do we allow today’s stars to get away with it?

Most recently, Beyonce was outed by the Marine band for lip syncing the national anthem at Obama’s inauguration. The national anthem! Is this what show business has come to: Deceiving fans and spectators at in order to deliver a “perfect” show?

If the productions were perfect, it might be tolerable. However, I’m aware of two recent accounts of lip syncing that were far from perfect.

In October 2012 my wife took our teenage daughter to the opening night of Justin Bieber’s tour in Phoenix. Not fifteen minutes into his act, Bieber threw up while “singing” one of his songs. My wife texted me the details live. She reported that the show continued even though he threw up twice more with no interruption in the music (or his singing) at all.

Justin Bieber caught lip syncing as he throws up on stage
Justin ‘the Biebs” Bieber tosses his cookies in his 2012 concert in Glendale, AZ as a recording of his voice continues to play. Photo credit:

Intrigued to see what this was all about, I searched YouTube later that night and sure enough, smart phone videos taken by a number of people in attendance revealed that a recording of the Biebs rolled on as he tossed his cookies.

Another botched lip-sync performance occurred at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl football game I attended. As we fans were asked to remove our caps for the singing of the national anthem, the jumbotron camera zoomed in on 2012 London Games high jump silver medalist Brigetta Barrett who appeared to be psyching herself up for the performance she was about to lay down.

Before the crowd quieted down, her lovely voice began to deliver those beautiful lyrics we Americans love. The only trouble is that her lips weren’t moving yet. My guess is the AV producer had one espresso shot too many in the preceding hours and pushed the button prematurely. Once he (or she) realized the error, the pause button was pushed – at just the second the Barrett’s lips began to move.

Eventually they got it together and she finished her part of the show, but not before the damage was done. What a fiasco! I’m sure she’s a great athlete. She may even be a good singer, but she lost the faith of anyone that was paying attention that night.

Modern technology has made it possible for us to be fooled in just about every aspect of life. Think about all the models who are Photoshopped for their appearances on the covers of glam magazines. How about the Manti Te’o girlfriend scam?

Sadly, it seems that most Americans are okay with being duped by technology. I for one am fed up with it. In my opinion, if you want the fame and rewards that go along with being an entertainer, you had better be able to entertain.

Screw it up and you might find yourself featured in my blog.

Five keys to writing Craigslist ads that sell

by @PaulFiarkoski

If you have you been thinking about trying to post something for sale on but have been hesitant because you don’t know how to go about it, read on.

In 2012 I sold no less than two dozen items using Craigslist. To date, I have a 100% success rate. I also have a bachelors degree in advertising, but my advice here comes more from my actual experience using Craigslist.

craigslist selling tips
Craigslist is a free website you can use to sell items around your house.

1) Write to an audience of one  Knowing and writing to your audience is key to success for any ad. Since you likely only have one item for each ad, you don’t need the type of door buster ad that we see around Thanksgiving. In most cases your target audience is just one person out of a hundred or so that will see your ad. What does that one person need to know about the item you’re selling?

2) Keep it simple  Use simple language. Keep your sentences short; a bullet pointed list is more effective than sentences. Tell as much as you can in the title: brand, color, model, year, etc. This helps people find your ad when they perform a search.

3) List the price  In the world of Craigslist, price is a big motivator. Unless you’re selling something so unique that it can’t be found elsewhere, your ad will likely flop if you don’t offer the item(s) at a bargain price. If you don’t tell them your price, potential buyers are more likely to skip on to the next seller’s ad. Based on my experience, Craigslist buyers aren’t as likely to haggle as garage sale or old-school classified ad shoppers. So you don’t need to price it higher than you really want to sell it for in order to give yourself wiggle room.

Tip: my 100% success rate with Craigslist ads is due in part to my willingness to drop my price (if necessary) over a number of weeks until the item was attractive enough to a buyer.

4) Post pictures Many Craigslist shoppers won’t even open your ad if they don’t see the image icon next to your title.  Craigslist now allows you to upload as many as six pictures per post. Use that to your advantage by showing the item(s) from many different angles. Since the first image you upload is the one that shoppers will see first, make sure it’s the most representative picture. Don’t hide the flaws though. Showing imperfections up front will make the transaction go much smoother when the buyer shows up at your house with the cash.

5) Give your phone number  This is critical. Craigslist buyers tend to be spontaneous. They feel like they need to strike quickly in order to get a good deal and won’t take the time to send and manage a number of emails. Be prepared to delete your ad as soon as it sells so you can eliminate unnecessary calls or text messages.

Tip: It’s best if you give a cell phone number and mention that they can call or text you. This works better for you too, because you can answer or respond to calls if you’re away from home.

Follow the five tips above and you’ll be selling your stuff on Craigslist with the best of ’em in no time. It’s a great way to turn unwanted items around your house into cash.

For examples of what not to do when you write a Craigslist ad, see these OMG Craiglist ads (intended to be humorous).

Reflections on 12-12-12: No ordinary Wednesday

by @PaulFiarkoski

I’m not into numerology, so I don’t believe anything special happens when numbers line up in a certain way. That said, all the hype with 12-12-12 could have came and went for me with almost no significance. Same for last year on November 11, and October 10 the year before that. August 8, 2008 (08-08-08) was sort of cool since it was my sister’s birthday – and the day of the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

My lack of interest in a numerically significant date notwithstanding, somehow a switch was flipped for me the morning of December 12, 2012. It actually started the night before when my 11 year-old daughter made me pinky promise I would take a picture of my iPod screen for her at exactly 12:12 pm since she would be at school.

Couldn’t avoid the buzz
When I checked in on Facebook the morning of the 12th, my feed was lit up with all things 12-12-12. Same thing on Twitter. One post in particular stood out to me: ” 12.12.12 …I have the DVR all ready to go!,” a friend from my high school posted. It was then that I remembered hearing about the benefit concert taking place later in the day at New York’s Madison Square Garden. I promptly set my DVR too.

Time check
I worked from home that day and started my lunch hour at exactly 12 noon, so could I stay focused on upholding the pledge I made to my daughter. An added bonus was being able to hug and kiss my wife like we do each New Year’s eve at midnight. I captured the special moment on my iPod and posted the image on Facebook with a snarky comment about surviving 12-12-12. Even though I know the Mayans alleged apacolypse was allegedly not to occur until December 21, so many people mistook the twelfth for D-day that I decided to play along.

The screen shot I took of my iPod screen at 12:12 on December 12, 2012.
The screen shot I took of my iPod screen at 12:12 on December 12, 2012.

Benefit concert
The day continued as any usual Wednesday would until 6:30 local time when the 12-12-12 benefit concert came on the tv. What a line up! When it kicked off with Bruce Springstein and Bon Jovi I quickly realized this was going to be a big event. The legends just kept parading out, one after another. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, the Who. Honestly, I got chills a few times just sitting there watching these larger than life rock stars humble themselves for the cause of raising money for those suffering from the effects of SuperStorm Sandy.

I checked in on Facebook and Twitter a couple times during the show to see how others were reacting to the performances. Most were impressed, although there were a few low points. Kanye West comes to mind. A personal favorite for me was Adam Sandler’s rendition of Hallelujah. An instant classic! The biggest shock for me was that Alicia Keys did not sing her hit “New York”. Maybe I’ll find out when I play the rest of the concert on the 13th that it was part of a finale. I hope so.

Like Farm Aid on steroids
Here was my one-liner that summarized how I felt about the concert: Farm Aid has been working out and taking roids for the last 25 years and has re-emerged as the #121212concert for Superstorm Sandy victims.

I mentioned to my wife that when we look back at tonight in ten years or so, we’re going to realize this was a bigger event than Woodstock, BandAid or any of the other big time concert events.

Meteor Shower
Another topic that others were commenting about on social media was the Geminid Meteor Shower – an event I would not have been aware of were it not for Facebook. Then Kanye West took the stage. About 45 seconds into his act I decided then was a good time to make a break for the hot tub. Everyone else in the family had already dozed off, so I was solo. Low and behold, I saw a few streaks from the meteors whizzing through the night sky, high above South Mountain on the south edge of Phoenix.

I still don’t believe there is any thing special about how certain numbers line up. But thanks to the large contingent of others that do believe, 12-12-12 was anything but an ordinary Wednesday for me.

How to survive without cable or satellite tv

by @PaulFiarkoski

In 2012 my family of four decided to chase after the notion of financial peace. It was a decision that my wife and I made, but we made sure to include the kiddos in on the plan so as to explain why some things would be changing around the house.

GE indoor outdoor antenna
This medium quality indoor/outdoor HD antenna cost about $40 and delivers all the network and local channels in high definition.

Although I didn’t earn any popularity points for this one, I made the executive decision that we would be cutting DirecTV out of our budget after about fifteen years of loyal subscribership. It wasn’t easy at first but we’ve adjusted, and now we rarely miss the hundreds of channels we had access to but rarely watched.

How we did away with satellite TV
Since we already had a HDTV, I purchased a medium quality digital antenna for about $40 that I mounted on the side of our house nearest the radio and tv antennas perched atop South Mountain in Phoenix. After running the channel scan, we ended up with about 40 channels that are viewable; however, roughly a quarter of them are Spanish only stations and another quarter program content we would consider only on the most sleepless of sleepless nights. We do get all of the majornetwork channels that accounted for about 80% of our viewing when we had satellite. Most of the channels we watch now are in high definition, so we’re actually getting a higher quality picture than satellite at no cost.

Stretching our dollars with technology
So as to make sure we could watch the shows we want when we want (a habit we developed thanks to the DVR satellite receiver), I did spring for a Tivo box at a cost of about $70 and a $20 monthly service fee. I also pay for high speed internet from the local cable company and have the internet connection wired directly to the Tivo box. The internet connection means we can stream videos from Netflix ($8 a month for unlimited movies and programs) as well as free videos and programming available from YouTube and Tivo.

For music channels similar to the satellite radio stations on DirecTV, we now stream our favorite Pandora channels. We can also now surf the web, shop or play games with others around the world on the Wii console that’s also wired to the tv.

There are still moments when we really miss some of the stuff we used to watch on channels we no longer get. For instance, my wife and daughters used to love watching Dance Moms. When Superstorm Sandy battered New Jersey and New York, I really wished I had The Weather Channel.

Update (Jan. 1, 2012): I may be a little slow, but I just discovered that we can watch ESPN and a number of cable networks on the iPad, thanks to the growing number of available apps.

Bottom line
We gave up a monthly satellite bill of about $80 in exchange for our current cost of $28 (Tivo and Netflix) – a savings of $52 a month. That’s over $600 a year we’re saving for giving up very little. It may not be worth it to a lot of people, but we are laser focused on cutting our expenses and paying down debt.If it sounds good to you, I would suggest you try pulling the plug on cable (or satellite) and see how much you can save too.

How to organize those you follow on Twitter with lists

Go ahead, follow anyone and everyone you want to on Twitter. Lists can help you keep them organized.

The trouble with following too many people
In the early days of Twitter, the prevailing wisdom was to not follow more people than follow you. I think the logic was that if you don’t have as many followers as people you follow, then you’re not worth following.

Another reason often given for keeping the number of people you follow on Twitter low was that your feed would be too cluttered if you followed too many people. I admit that after I followed more than a couple hundred people on Twitter, it was hard to keep up with it all.

How Twitter lists help you reduce clutter
Then Twitter lists came along in 2009 and changed all that. A list allows you to group the people you follow by category. Say for instance, you are a baseball fan and like to follow professional baseball players. You can create a list called Baseball.

Once you have created the list, adding people to it is easy. The process varies depending on whether you’re using Twitter on your PC, mobile device or an app on your mobile device so I won’t detail the steps here. Search ‘lists’ in the help menu of the Twitter application you’re using if it’s not plainly evident.

You can add one individual to multiple lists. As an example, I follow @DbacksBaxter – the team mascot for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I added D. Baxter to these lists: Sports, Arizona & Personalities. You don’t have to put everyone you follow on a list. Doing so is not wise in my opinion.

You’ll see the real value of taking the time to set up Twitter lists after you have created a few. Let’s say you’re watching football on a Sunday afternoon. You click on your list called Football or Sports or NFL Fans – whatever you named it – to which you have added the people who play or are interested in football. Next thing you know you’re viewing only the tweets of people on this list who are presumably talking about the game(s). The tweets from others about weather, family or dinner are still out there; you just can’t see them for the time being because you have filtered them out.

Finding worthwhile people for your lists
A good way to find people to follow and add to your lists is to search a key word or hash tag when you know people are tweeting about a particular topic. Want to find other baseball fans to follow? Search #worldseries during the World Series. Try the same for #grammys or #oscars or any particular shows you like to watch. When you see a tweet you like, follow the person that tweeted it and add them to your list for that topic. You can do the same for other areas of interest.

Shortcut: follow other people’s lists
Maybe you think this is all too much work or just don’t have the time to manage one more thing. No problem, you can still take advantage of Twitter lists by following other people’s lists. The quickest way to find lists you might be interested in is to click on ‘Lists’, then ‘Member of’ while logged into Twitter on a PC. (Mobile Twitter apps may not offer this option.) This will show you the lists that others have added you too. Scan the lists and see which ones interest you most. If you like what you see after you click on the name of a list, you can subscribe to it. Now you have a list you can follow without having gone through all the legwork to create or manage it.

Top 100 Twitter lists
If nobody has added you to a list, see what lists some of your favorite people on Twitter have created. Or check out the Top 100 Twitter lists based on number of subscribers. Surely you’ll find a few that interest you.

Don’t let concerns about a little clutter keep you from following more people on Twitter. Instead, follow to your heart’s content and use lists to keep the people you do follow a little more organized.

About me

Paul Fiarkoski

Based in Phoenix, AZ | 303.241.1990 |

Welcome to the new age of marketing. Social media, blogs, email, search engine optimization. These are the means by which marketers without huge budgets are making things happen today.

That’s me: a new-school marketer – experienced in traditional mass market approaches, yet up with all the latest techniques to pinpoint specific audiences. I know how to pull it all together and make things happen on a budget of any size.


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