Embroidery is all fine and good, but the extreme version is just too cut-throat for my tastes; embroidery should not be a blood-sport.
Having gotten that off my chest, I'm going to clarify that I don't use minis all the time. My preferred 'rate' would certainly be less than 50% of the time. But, for example, I have a game I'm planning to run for the 'Teen Room' at a con in February. If I find the kids can't grok what I'm verbally laying down, rather than have the game grind to a halt, I'll have minis with me to keep the game moving.
Also, I have occasionally run encounters with lots of moving parts, such as high numbers of opponents, various terrain aspects, a change mid-way through like the earth opening up or something else bizarre, and if we can plop some stuff on the table to show relative positions, the chaos plays out as more fun and less confusing. Having said that, sometimes 'confusion' is part of the encounter, and I specifically want no visual aids whatsoever, to keep things weird. No reason at all to use minis vs. invisible assailants, for example, from where I sit -- though I have seen others do it!
I did have a fight one time where, try as I might, the players just couldn't understand the size of the thing they were fighting. I went to the closet and pulled out a toy of Fin Fang Foom I had picked up at clearance, and plonked it down on the table next to a standard mini. We didn't use these to 'play out' the fight, but the 'puppet show' aspect of seeing things in scale so everyone was on the same page helped immensely.
And Colin, please feel free to ignore the box of sock puppets, minis, parcheesi pieces, and jam that I sent you -- along with the note threatening that you'll have to wear all of the costume jewelry enclosed, if you persist in not using the toys in the box in your games. I clearly stepped over the line with that parcel, and I apologize.
The jam, however, is excellent on toast. It would've been marmalade, but it tasted even better than the jam, and like a bat rastard, I ate it all myself...