SXSW Cares

Here at the South By SouthWest conference, several of my friends noticed the “fiddling while Rome burns” effect of people socializing and going to parties while tragedy continues in Japan. Realistically, people here are not going to drop everything and become rescue workers, and I think it’s challenging to keep up with news during a conference of this size.

But we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the situation abroad and that’s why many people I admire here at the conference started SXSW Cares. Donations at will go directly to the Red Cross, with no transaction fees, meaning 100% of funds raised go to charity.

I encourage my friends to take a moment to make a quick donation, and help our Japanese neighbors in their time of need. Thanks.

Running Contests for Dell

On the Harbrooke Blog, I’ve announced two contests.

1. From Thursday 2/24 at 8 am Eastern through Friday 2/25 at 8pm, the folks at Dell and Zócalo Group will be looking at tweets that are sent that include my Twitter handle, @howardgr, and the #tradesecrets hashtag***. People sharing their tips on how to make a great first impression will be eligible to win a Dell Vostro V130. Please only share one tip during this time for your entry. If you have more tips, see below.  (Please RSVP in my comments if you’ll join us for this)

2. On Monday, 2/28 at 2pm Eastern Time, I’ll be holding a Twitter chat, discussing the same subject. Anyone who participates during the time stated when we start, also using the #tradesecrets hashtag will also be eligible to win a Dell Vostro V130.  (UPDATE: Please RSVP in my comments and tweet it if you’ll join us for the chat – Sample tweet: ” I’m joining @HowardGR on Twitter on Thur, Fri, Mon to share tips + a chance to win a Dell Vostro V130 #tradesecrets “)

The full rules are on the other post at

I hope you’ll participate with me.

Disclosure: I’m compensated for these contests.

How We Enjoyed our Taste of Toronto

Back in May, I attended a blogger event and won a “Taste of Toronto” vacation courtesy of Porter Airlines and the Intercontinental Hotel Toronto Centre. This past Columbus Day Weekend (also Canadian Thanksgiving) the family headed off to Newark for our Porter experience, and a long weekend in Toronto.
The Newark-based crew was very nice – we arrived early enough that we were able to take an earlier flight!

Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-1.jpgHere we are in our  leather seats on the plane. Porter flies into Toronto City Airport, which is a small island in Lake Ontario right in downtown Toronto. It looks like this (when viewed from the CN Tower). Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-3.jpgWe got into a shuttle bus and were delivered to a hotel just a 2 block walk from the Intercontinental. We dropped our bags and grabbed some lunch. Then it was off to visit the CN Tower, right behind our hotel.

Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-2.jpgThis Toronto landmark is easy to see from anywhere in the city. The kids loved looking down from the glass platform. We also went to the very top to the observation area, where we were 143 stories above the city. On a clear day, you can see Niagara Falls. We couldn’t see the falls…yet.

That night we ate in an Italian place on King Street, a few blocks from the hotel. This restaurant row had lots of different choices, but we had very tired kids.

We all went back to rest, which was good, because we were up bright and early (for us) on Saturday morning to attack the day. We bought a transit pass that was a very good deal – all subway and streetcar/bus transfers for the entire weekend for four of us for 10CAD. Well worth it.

We took off to see Casa Loma, a very special castle built by Sir Henry Pelllatt, a man famous for his work in electrifying Toronto using water power from Niagara Falls.Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-6.jpg

There were amazing stained glass works, beautiful gardens, and a great audio tour in a cell-phone-sized package that each person was able to carry around with them – included in the price of admission. The kids loved learning about the history of the castle.

We stayed for a while, then took a walk down to the closest subway station to trek back across the city to enjoy some of Canada’s national sport – Hockey.

Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-7.jpgThe “Marlies” are the local minor league team, and the tickets were much more available and more affordable than trying to get into the Maple Leafs game. The Rochester Americans won the game 4 to 2, to the disappointment of the local fans.

After a dinner of some Indian food we hit the pool in the hotel – the kids loved it.

Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-10.jpg The next morning, Sunday, Canadian Thanksgiving, we rented a car and headed out of town to Niagara Falls. Yes, the town is tourist-y and cheesy and expensive. But this is one of the natural wonders of the world and we all loved seeing it. We did the obligatory Maid of the Mist boat ride, which, despite the ponchos, left us soaking wet. Thankfully, the day was sunny and unseasonably warm, and we quickly dried off and walked around. Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-9.jpg We took a ride on a Ferris Wheel that allowed us to see both the Canadian and American falls, and was a huge hit with everyone. Back in the car, we drove to Toronto’s China Town area, where we walked around and sampled some Chinese “buns” from a bakery. We returned the car and called it a day.

For our last day, we again took advantage of public transportation and went to the Ontario Science Center. (But not before an excellent breakfast at Tim Horton’s.)  At the museum, Harris couldn’t stop playing with the electronic circuit display, which lead to an excellent Hanukkah gift idea. Toronto Columbus Day Weekend 2010-11.jpg

After enjoying many of the exhibits, we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Unfortunately, mother nature had a fireworks display going on near Newark, and our flight was delayed a few hours. On the plus side, Porter’s terminal in Toronto is like a business lounge, with free wifi, coffee, snacks and 20 or more iMacs for public use. The kids were full and happy (and so were mom and dad.)

All in all, a fantastic trip to Toronto, made even better because part of it was paid for already. We had a great Porter experience, and the Intercontinental is highly recommended. Hope you enjoyed this little trip report.

(Blogger disclosure – as noted in the previous post – I won two tickets and two nights were awarded by the hotel. However, no one said I had to make a blog post, made the award contingent on anything or asked us to do anything in return. I’m just sharing the experience since we enjoyed it so much.)

What I Learned About MS by NOT Riding the Bikeathon Today

My backpack is packed with extra tubes, tire tools, supplies, Clif bars, and electrolyte jelly beans. My bike jersey sits alone, unworn. I did not get to ride with my friends Tony and Andy today on the 30 mile trip around Manhattan that we’ve been training for since early spring. Here’s Tony and me on one of our recent trips. Who knew the ambulance sign in the background was foreshadowing?

I exceeded my $1000 fund raising goal thanks to you, my friends, some of whom I’ve only occasionally heard from in years but who still opened their wallets for my cause.

Hell, I’m ready to ride! I did 16 miles last weekend over hills and Manhattan is basically flat compared to where I’ve been training.  And I was so psyched to be with thousands of riders, riding the highways of NYC without fear of cars and enjoying the city skyline from my bike. The legs are willing. More than willing.

My back, however, is not up to the task.

Yesterday, after a short 5 mile warm up, I reached down to pickup my helmet and that was the straw that tweaked my back. Maybe it was two 7 hour flights in coach, or lifting luggage, or walking with a heavy backpack through London. But since yesterday morning, I’ve taken Advil, Aleve, Valium,T equilla, back patches and cold packs (only some of them at the same time). Nothing has stopped my muscles from being clenched and keeping me about 20 degrees off vertical when I stand. I walk like Bart Simpson’s grandpa.

I can only say how disappointed I am that I couldn’t ride. But on the other hand, in a few days, this will pass and I will be up and about again, happy to be riding and working and doing whatever. My sister and those with MS know this kind of feeling well – the inability to get through the day and do simple things when you need to. This small setback for me is just that. But it helps me appreciate even more that I’m basically healthy.

So, I owe you all 30 miles. I’ll be up to it, soon. In the meantime, your support helps fund research that may eventually allow my friends or my sister to bike alongside me and talk about the times when she couldn’t. Until then, we continue to ride for the cause.

Thank you.

Participating in an HP event – with contest for you

Over on I’ve given details of an HP Printing live event for Monday (post goes live Monday morning), 9/20/20 where I’ll be participating as a subject matter expert in a conversation about printing.*

The event will be live streamed on Monday around 10:15 AM Eastern, and you can submit questions and comments from the comfort of your keyboard. I’ll provide the email address for submissions soon.

Please check it out, as there’s a contest and a few people will win printers! Free Printers! (Please read the rules).

*This is a sponsored conversation – I am compensated for my time and expertise.