Showing posts from 2014

Which Superhero Are You?

There are many different types of personalities in the workplace - heroes and villains, alike. I'll let you decide which one is which. The Flash This person gets their work done very quickly. Once the task landed on their desk, the turn-around time to completion is lightning fast - and The Flash is ever-proud that the work is always delivered before the deadline. That's not to say that the quality of the work is always good. Attention to detail is usually the main casualty, as is consistency. But the sooner the task gets checked off the list, the better. The Enforcer The Enforcer knows every single company policy, by-law, and industry standard. If a colleague tries to bend the rules, The Enforcer is there to make sure that the law is obeyed. Dotted "i"s and crossed "t"s are more important than meeting deadlines. Sometimes innovation, flexibility, and timeliness are sacrificed, but to The Enforcer, doing it right takes precedence over all. Superman T

Three Aussie Phrases You Should Never Use at Work

I love Aussie slang. It can be colorful and evocative, and it reminds me of where I grew up. We once had a handyman who inserted "strewth" and "bloody oath" into every sentence. I betcha he went down the pub to shout his mates, or invite them back to watch the footy and rip into a six-pack. A rudimentary Google search will find any number of web sites listing Aussie slang. On most of those sites you'll find multitudes of Aussie phrases inappropriate for the workplace. I'll refrain from mentioning any here. However, there are some seemingly innocuous Aussie phrases that you should avoid using because they can erode your colleagues' confidence in your abilities. No worries A favorite phrase of mine, "no worries" is ingrained deep into my DNA. When talking with other Australians, I'll add "mate" to the end. The problem with "no worries" at work is that, by using the word "worries" you suggest that there c

Getting the Chop

Yesterday, I picked up the classic children's book, Charlotte's Web. The preface to the 60th anniversary edition preaches that if you want to know how to write, you must first read this book. I have read Charlotte's Web a few times, but there it was in my hands, yet again. I flipped to the opening sentence, "Where's Papa going with that ax?" The editor in me awoke. Surely it is spelled "axe"? I'm certain that E.B. White, an accomplished writer and co-author of the famous " Elements of Style " knew how to spell such a simple word. Perhaps it was a printing error. I gave the missing "e" no further thought. It’s one of those words that I don’t see written that often, but in the last few days, no matter where I look, there is always someone coming at me with an axe, or an ax. This morning I read a list of 17 reasons not to become a Technical Writer . I shall save any criticism of that particular post for others, but suffice it

Camping Trip August 2014

We just came back from a camping trip. There's nothing that brings a family closer than conquering the beast of nature together. We barbecued. We pitched tents. We sang songs around the campfire. Camping takes effort, planning, the ability to improvise, and the wherewithal to live without a shower for a couple of days (not easy in the heat!) - but it is worthwhile. Before our last camping trip, my wife had t-shirts made for each of us. The back of the t-shirt says "We love to tour in the Land of Israel" (it rhymes in Hebrew). It's a fun way to create some family unity. Israel is small, compared to almost everywhere else , but there are still thousands of kilometers of highways, endless winding country roads, and hundreds of nature reserves and historical attractions. If you have a car, an " Israel Nature and Parks Authority " card, and the Internet, you can find free and cheap places to see, and plenty of fun things to do. We spent this camping tri

Windows XP Closes Up Shop...Or Does It?

Windows XP is on it's way out. As April 8 2014 looms closer, the lights are slowly being turned off, and the shutters drawn. I remember when I first upgraded from Windows 2000 to XP. The cartoonish, Fisher-Price-like interface made me cringe. But I didn't want to use the "Classic" view because then I'd be seen as old-fashioned. So I got used to the big, bright buttons, which, over the many, many years, have become warmly familiar. But all good things must come to an end...or must they? If you think that 13 years is too old for an operating system, perhaps Microsoft should take a leaf out of Chevrolet's book. As they say, " Old Chevys never die, they just go faster! ". Well, perhaps Microsoft and Chevy have something in common: I just noticed that my modern, touch-screen, in-car navigation system is running..wait for it...Windows CE, first released in 1996, now in it's 8th major iteration. That's 18 years, folks. As hard as Microsoft i

My Plan to Take Over the World

Is there anyone out there in the great, wide world who can answer this very important question: Why is it that manufacturers of garbage bags refuse to brand them? Unless I keep the garbage bag packaging (which, incidentally, is the first piece of garbage I put in the new bag) I can't remember which brand I like and which I don't, or which size I need. Isn't it basic business sense to put your company name or product name in front of your customers as often as possible? Even  food can be shaped with the brand name, right there on product (like biscuits), yet not one garbage bag company prints its name on their bags! Are they embarrassed? Is it because in 1,000 years, when archaeologists excavate landfills to learn about our civilization, the garbage bag company doesn't want to be held responsible for a garbage bag induced ecological disaster? There must be a reasonable answer to this question. If not, I'm going to start manufacturing garbage bags, put my name on

5 Covert Conversational Games

Ever find that you need a challenge? Do you feel that ordinary games just don't cut the mustard? Would you like the entertainment to last a whole day? Well, I might just have what you're looking for. Here are five challenging games you can play all day long, and nobody else needs to know you are playing them. 1. Song lyric conversations - choose a song for which you know all the words. Try to work every sentence or phrase from the song into conversations you have throughout the day. Double points for saying the lyrics in order. Triple points if nobody catches on. "What time is the party? Um, it's nine o'clock on a Saturday. I'm expecting the regular crowd to shuffle in a bit late." You get the picture. 2. Last letter first - when conversing with someone, make sure the first word you say begins with the last letter of the last word the other person said. This one makes you actually listen to the person talking. 3. Mispronounce me - choose a word that co

Why Radio Just Won't Die

Nobody sends telegrams anymore, snail-mail is reserved for wedding invitations, and analog television has seen its last day. But if video killed the radio star, then you can wrap me in plastic and call me Buggles . Back in the day, families would sit around the wireless, listening to news broadcasts, soap operas, and the football. Radio stars were the royalty of the living room, bringing the great, wide world into every modern home. To give you an idea of how sophisticated things were back then, cricket commentators (and I assume baseball commentators, too) would simulate the sound of ball on bat by holding a wooden block next to the microphone and tapping it with a stick. Nowadays, instant replays from every angle, ball-cams, net-cams, helmet-cams, stump-cams, and up-to-the-second on-screen statistics on every aspect of the game render mere verbal commentary primitive, at best. Back then, random music hissing out of the box in your lounge room was a miracle of mode

Why Drones Were Invented

High above a mountainous desert pass, a predator drone silently stalks its prey from the safety of the clouds, waiting for the signal to unleash its payload Somewhere in Texas, a Ranger launches a drone from the local high-school football field. It whirrs upwards, heading for preset coordinates to keep an eye on nefarious activity in the bad part of town. It's 3pm on a Tuesday. Jimmy dumps his backpack in a corner near the door and heads for his room. He reaches under the bed and pulls out the quadracopter he got for his birthday. He sets it flying out the window and mercilessly buzzes his sister while she tries to play dolls on the porch with her friend . In a nondescript building at the edge of a prestigious university campus is an electronics lab. The supervising professor carefully monitors an array of screens while his PhD student, wired to a powerful laptop by an assortment of colorful cables, controls a drone with his thoughts. In a meeting room in the headquarters o

The Writer's Dilemma

I have great respect for anyone who publishes a novel. Dedicating the massive amount of time and energy required to bringing an original work to completion is almost enough to win my envy. Or scorn. It's true that writing a book is an impressive accomplishment, but don't waste my time. Novels built on the weak foundations of overused, formulaic writing serve no purpose. A book like that adds no more to the knowledge of the universe,  or the entertainment of humankind,  than does an instruction manual for a chocolate kettle. (Actually, that might be a fun read.) The problem, though, is that novels and stories have been around since, approximately,  the beginning of time. It's difficult to come up with something new. The human race has heard it all before. We are savvy story-listeners. And we are clever. Whether we realize it or not, people are excellent at predicting outcomes. Some of us are better at it than others, but we can often spot a punchline a mile away. Herein

3 Ways to Avoid Being the Prey

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines - the one true motivator to get work done. The problem with deadlines is that even if the promised delivery date falls within the deadline, the Requestor still sweats until the job is done by the person actually doing the work. This leads to the inevitable visits to the worker's office for constant (and unnecessary) progress updates. Last week I was asked to edit a PowerPoint presentation. The requested deadline was "by the end of the week". I agreed to the deadline, but I had a full schedule, so I only planned to deliver it by lunch on Thursday (the last day of my work-week). I knew it was a one or two-hour task, so I wasn't worried about delivering it on time. I suffered through the constant visits and reminders from the Requestor, but I stood my ground and stuck to my schedule – after all, he wasn't the only one to whom I had promised work. I am reading a fascinating book by Nir Eyal called "Hooked" , about how comp