Follow the links

I started this post four months ago, which makes it incredibly overdue, and if I thought I was slacking then, I’m not sure what to even call it at this point…

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I was pleasantly surprised (and very humbled) a couple of weeks months ago when Graham of Graham’s Crackers nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award (especially since my writing habits haven’t been all that inspiring of late – I’ve been slacking quite a bit in the past few months).  Nonetheless, his doing so happened to help inspire me to get back on the horse again.  Thanks, Graham!  I needed that.  As a recipient of the nomination, I will now nominate seven others, while also sharing seven random facts about myself.  I’m going to do this all at once by linking to others’ whose posts themselves illustrate the random facts I intend to share about myself.  I apologize in advance that this seems sort of circular.  It is.

1.  In Google reader, I have a handful of categories for the blogs I follow.  “Agents and Advice,” for those moments when I think maybe I’ll publish something someday (current unread count: 162).  Second is “Beginner Bloggers,” which might seem odd unless you’ve taken part in one of the “platform building campaigns” that Rachel of Rach Writes organizes a couple times a year.  When I started this blog I stumbled across her campaign and decided to join.  The blogs in this category represent what’s left of the other people in the Beginner Bloggers group I joined (current unread count: 3 – maybe that deserves its own posts one of these days).  Next is “Creativity,” which I think I meant as a shot in the arm for those times I seem to have no idea what to write about (which is really almost always, so it’s a good thing it’s simply a figurative shot in the arm).

The two last categories are “Humor” and “Writers”.  “Writers” is the category I use for almost every other blog I’ve come across that I wanted to stick with, unless the writing is always funny (or almost always, anyway), in which case, it goes in “Humor”.  2.  I have two blogs in Humor, the wuc and listful thinking (though I’m sure there are plenty of other funny writers out there).  Read on…

3.  Check out this post on listful thinking – it’s funny and an all too accurate commentary on our relationship with technology.

4.  Next, I may never have shared with the world how much I like pickles – or other pickled vegetables – but, it’s true.  I’m a pushover – especially for pickled brussels sprouts.  So, of course, I loved reading “In a pickle.”

5.  Charlie Hale’s post, Juvenile Delinquency, reminds me why I started doing genealogical research.

6.  Graham recently pointed out my fixation with writing about odd things, though he put it much more eloquently than that.  The Tall Person, of Bassa’s Blog, does brilliantly with pictures what I can only attempt to do with words.  Look at a few of his pictures, and you’ll see things that I doubt anyone could write about with any success.  Check out this one, and this one, and this one – and then keep going back for more.  On the other hand, if you were to take a picture of some of the things that I find perplexing or out of place, they probably wouldn’t seem very odd at all.

7.  I’m constantly amazed at John-Bryan Hopkins, the force behind Foodimentary.  Every day is National-some-kind-of-food day.  Every day.  He never misses a beat.  I grew up in the midwest and will always have a soft spot for these things – thing 1, thing 2, thing 3.  I am also particularly amused by the quotes by Yogi Berra and Dorothy Allison, on this page at Foodimentary.

Thank you to everyone I’ve linked to in this post – you all inspire me and I very much enjoy reading the thing you write about.

Catching up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I thought I’d catch up with a completely random collection of thoughts…

First, some recent blog spam (typos intact):

Several months ago, I heard exeictd cawing and looked outside my window to see a semicircle of crows gathered around a crow that lay spread face down on the sidewalk with its wings extended. My first thought was that the crow had died and the others were mourning and upset. Then I noticed one crow run up to the prostrate crow, pull at its wings, peck energetically at its head, and then go back into the circle. This behaviour was repeated several times while the crow lying on the sidewalk seemed to be attempting to protect itself by endeavouring to lie more flat on the pavement. After ten minutes or so, the lying-down crow got up and flew away and the circle of crows dispersed without paying any more attention to the crow who seemed to have been under attack. There is a family of crows who live on my block and many other crows also gather daily. Over many years, I have never before seen this behaviour. I live in Vancouver BC.

I’m not quite sure what to think of this, but Graham, being a Canadian citizen, perhaps you can comment on the behavior of crows up in your neck of the woods…

Next, I’ve been to my local watering hole plenty of times, and often, I think I want to write about my adventures there, so I make a few notes on my phone.  I generally don’t use the notes on my phone, so at the moment, they are filled with obscure references that I will try to decipher, given I was under the influence when I wrote them.

I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned this before, but the ‘company’ that mans the karaoke booth is called ‘Kontrolled Kaos Karaoke.’

I also found a great picture online of the  interior of the bar, and I’m sure when you see it, you’ll wish it was also your neighborhood bar.

A couple months ago, there seemed to be a Spanish theme. Axl Rose was greeting everyone in Spanish, which doesn’t fit at all, considering his classic rock and metal personality, and his Norwegian heritage.  Then, someone sang Heart of Glass, by Blondie.  You’d think there would be no connection, but to my surprise, while reading the lyrics on the many teleprompter screens in the bar, I noticed some more completely inexplicable Spanish in the song:

Once I had a love and it was divine
Soon found out I was losing my mind
It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind

On another occasion, getting Chinese before we went people-watching at Mel-o-dee, a friend got this fortune in her fortune cookie:

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

Anyone who might be able to shed some light on that one, please let me know.

Last weekend, a friend and I made two new friends at Mel-o-dee.  My friend recently moved to the area from our home state of Wisconsin, and was in desperate need of someone to cut his hair.  He wasn’t ready to pony up the average $75 a haircut, but luckily, we met a transsexual FTM barber with a handlebar moustache who was out partying with his mom and girlfriend and only charges $30.  My friend had an appointment within 15 minutes for the next day and loves the haircut.  Score.

The next friend we made is a Tibetan named Karma.  He taught me a Tibetan greeting that I can use with the man who walks incessantly around my block every day with his prayer beads.  I can’t pronounce it very well yet, but it means “Good luck, good health” and I expect my elderly Tibetan neighbor to be very surprised when I do something other than wave or give him an apple, which are the only ways I have been able to communicate with him thus far.

We spent a little time discussing Buddhism, and Karma shared a brilliant piece of advice with us, which I will close my long overdue post with….

When there is a disaster or something goes terribly wrong, before you panic, you should examine the situation.  Pause, and ask yourself if there is a solution.  If there is a solution, then there is nothing to worry about.  If there is not a solution, then there is nothing to worry about.

Easter Egg?

I get a monthly email from one of those employee discount services through a payroll provider, and this month’s email is titled:

November’s Giveaway: Lenovo IdeaPad Z580!

I’m a Lenovo fan.  I’ve owned more ThinkPads than any other kind of laptop, so I decided to read this month’s email.  I was both confused and amused to find this offer inside:

In case you skimmed over that little ad, please go back and read the second bullet.  Brilliant, right?  I had no idea an IdeaPad came with steaks!  I went to the website to check this out further and find out if it’s real, but I can’t find the specifics of the giveaway online.  I have decided it is actually a little Easter Egg put there by some prankster copywriter who thinks we all just delete these emails, anyway, and I only wish I knew who that was so I could send him or her a thank you for brightening my day.

It’s been nice interfacing with you

Last week, in my role as consultant extraordinaire (*sarcastic cough*), I was introduced to a man from another firm, who is working in a different capacity on the same “corporate initiative” I am assigned to.  It will be my role to interview, investigate, analyze and document the perceptions and desires of the stakeholders that will be impacted by the aforementioned initiative.  The purpose of my information gathering is to locate “levers and barriers,” to craft an appropriate messaging strategy, to evaluate the organization’s readiness for change, and generally advise the manager of the initiative, who refers to himself as the “head on the horse,” as to how he can best use the information I prepare to essentially cram some new software down the throats of the people that actually perform the organization’s work.

I am creating many “deliverables;” things like a stakeholder inventory, a perception map, a stakeholder management plan, a change management plan, and a communications management plan, among other things.

The other consultant is implementing the new software, and I met with him to discuss what kinds of reports might be available from the system which could eventually be used to illustrate to even higher levels of management in the organization how well “things” are going.  In closing, he handed me his business card, shook my hand, and told me he enjoyed interfacing with me.  I couldn’t tell if he realized with regret how ludicrous it was to say such a thing and kicked himself for falling prey to an extreme case of tech jargon disease, or if he is so far gone that it was a natural term for him to use.  I did manage to keep a straight face (I think.)

 

Places as names for persons

Friday night, at my local watering hole, I met a guy named Israel.  Israel works at a chain pasta place, another fine establishment in the strip mall which houses the karaoke bar with the bartender who knows what I want before I open my mouth and waves at me when we drive past each other in the neighborhood.  Israel seemed jittery and anxious when I was introduced to him by the Norwegian guy we call Axl Rose.  Israel and Axl didn’t really know each other, but Israel had seen Axl sing a metal song the last time he was in.  They spent the first five minutes of conversation trying to name the song Axl had sung.  When they finally agreed it must have been “Symphony of Destruction” by Megadeth, Axl headed back in for a rendition of something Metallica, and Israel explained that he only recently learned of the existence of my favorite people-watching venue.

“I can’t believe I’ve been here like five years and had no idea about this place.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of hidden.  And I guess it’s not like you expect to find it between Trader Joe’s and the martial arts studio.”

“It’s great, though….  I’m a singer….  I sing in bands a lot….”  He paused between each short sentence to suck on the end of his cigarette, which was wedged too close to where his first and middle fingers meet.

“Except I’m not really in a band right now….  So, I’m not really singing much….  I mean, except in the shower….  Everyone does that….  Sings in the shower….”  His eyes darted away from mine whenever he realized I was looking at him, which I was doing the entire time he was speaking, so I don’t think he actually looked at me for more than a tenth of a second.

“But it’s not the same in the shower….  I mean, no one’s really listening….  It’s different than being on a stage….  When people are looking at you….  And since I haven’t been on stage for awhile….”

“Man, last time I was here….  I was really nervous….  At first….  Then it got better….  So, now I’m back….  Cool place….”

Had Israel been the only person named after a place that I encountered that night, I might not have thought much of it.  But earlier, I had done a double take when I saw the name Nevada splayed in large font on the flat-screen that ensures even completely inebriated people that don’t know the lyrics to a song can sing along anyway.  It reminded me of a handful of other people I know who were named after places.

When I was in high school, there was a family that named all their boys after cities that start with the letter ‘D.’  One from Texas, one from Colorado, and one from Ohio (I suppose they could’ve done worse with major cities from Michigan or Iowa).  We used to wonder what prompted this particular pattern – did the parents travel a lot and just happen to be in those places when their sons were conceived, or was there no meaning to it at all?  I never found out but I still wonder.

A former co-worker of mine named his son after the Vermont ski resort where he met his future wife while snowboarding.  So, that makes six regular people I now know of who were named after places I would classify as rather uncommon: Dallas, Dayton, Denver, Israel, Nevada, and Stratton.  I guess that’s one way to decrease the chance your kid will have the same name as someone else in his or her class…

In case of elevator entrapment…

Safety is big at my workplace.  Really big.  It’s the kind of company that is highly regulated, and subject to all sorts of safety standards, as it should be.  In the small hallway where I work, there are 8 cubes, 4 on each side of the walkway.  Four of them have large signs hanging from the ceiling above them with a big red cross against a white background.  That is because there are four safety monitors in my immediate vicinity.  Should we have an emergency, they would perform a variety of pre-assigned and practiced actions, including sweeping the building to make sure everyone evacuated and assisting any persons that may not be able to get out of the office under their own power.  I feel very safe at work.  Except, perhaps, when I’m in the elevator.

Upon entering the elevator in our building, I am greeted with this sign.

Aside from the brilliant, though I”m sure unintentional, example of personification, I think my favorite part of the sign is the portrayal of an elevator gone haywire with the poor little arrow clearly in a panic as it vibrates between floors four and five.  However, we have yet to get to the instructions…

I have a feeling that anyone entrapped by the elevator would likely attempt all of the above instructions without needing a reminder, but who knows?  Whenever I ride the elevator, I play in my mind a little scene with an unfortunately paranoid and anxious person reading the list aloud while thinking to himself, “Is this a life threatening emergency?  Am I equipped with a cell phone?  Stay calm?  Who the hell do you think you are telling me to stay calm?!” Of course, this is done while repeatedly mashing the elevator alarm button, which instruction seems designed to increase the anxiety of the entrapped.  Maybe “Stay calm,” should be the first step?

Note: Apologies for the crappy images again – I just can’t seem to take clear pictures in a hurry, and as I’ve mentioned before, I hesitate to get caught taking pictures hence I be perceived as some sort of corporate spy…

Follow the links

I linked to a series of posts by John Ellert quite some time ago – it was some of the funniest writing I’d seen in a long time, and I still highly recommend you read it.  I bring it up, because the subject of his first story has come back to haunt him, as he explains in a more recent post.  Go read the original four parts of the story – you won’t regret it – and then you’ll be dying to hear what will happen this summer, as I am.  John is a bit of a sporadic blogger, but perhaps with a few more comments, we can pressure him into telling us what happens next…

Since I’m thinking about humor, here is another hilarious read on Mike Is Happy. Relatively.

On a more serious note, I’ve been recently buried in a book of essays, called How to Be Alone, by Jonathan Franzen, and was happy to stumble across Nathan Bransford’s recent post about seeing Franzen speak in person.  I really like hearing one author’s take on another.  Check it out.

Congrats to Monica Lee, whose memoir is being released this summer.  She posts her Prologue here, and after reading it, I am definitely going to keep an eye out for the book launch.

And, finally, who do you know that writes like this?  “My brain be scattered, like the bones of a zombie on the highway of a free-wheeling granny.”  There’s only one person, and if you haven’t subscribed so you don’t miss a post, you should.

More Ridiculousness

I have noticed a lot of ridiculous things lately, and have shared them in my very sporadic recent posts.  Today I found something particularly ludicrous.  I was studying for a project management certification exam I plan to take in the near future.  Part of the requirement for this particular certification is that you have to have 35 contact hours of recent project management education.  To fulfill that, I signed up for the cheapest online version of an exam prep program I could find, because the exam itself is expensive enough.  The test is multiple choice, though it is surprisingly difficult for a multiple choice test.  So, along with my online “course,” I get to take some practice tests.  Most of the scenarios begin with some fairly meaningless scene-setting, such as…

Your company, an oil giant, is implementing a new software system.  As project manager, which of the following would be inputs you would consider when defining scope…

You nephew is studying for the PMP exam and asks you for help understanding how to manage procurements.  Which of the following would not be steps he would take…

Your employer has chosen you to manage an extremely high profile project.  After the completion of  the first phase of the project, you are running on schedule but realized an overachieving team member has implemented more complex features than requested, resulting in higher costs than planned.  The first thing you do is…

And then this one:

Your company has been contracted by your country’s military to create a prosthetic finger for a General who lost a digit during combat. As this project is especially unique and custom in nature, you would maximize the odds of the General accepting your deliverable by:

Really?

I think maybe the fortune cookie writer has found a new job…

Puzzling Sign

Again, my day job brings me in contact with writing that needs help…

I apologize for the fuzzy image – I thought I might look weird taking a photograph in front of the security guard’s desk and it looks like I rushed a bit too much – the text is below for those of you that can’t read this.

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NOTICE

Check “IN” with Officer if you have a

Guide Dog and/or service animal.

NO pets allowed on premises.

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Amusing business writing

I started a new gig this week, consulting at a very big corporation.  It’s been close to a decade since I worked in a large corporate environment, but I spent enough time there early in my career to know what to expect.  I haven’t been surprised, though I am noticing little things I might not have in the past.  Not sure if that’s because I’ve been writing so much more myself, or it’s just my quirky sense of observation.  I have spent my first few days reading various documents, and yesterday, I stumbled on these definitions in a training presentation…

Issues

An issue is defined as a situation, problem, or an activity that has happened or is happening which impacts upon the [project]. A project issue needs to be addressed, either immediately or during the project.

Issue: While crossing freeway I got hit by a bus

Risks

A risk is something that may happen in the future and have a positive or negative effect on the project.

Risk: When crossing the freeway I might get hit by a car and get hurt.

Mitigation: Find the nearest pedestrian bridge