Thursday, June 30, 2011
So last night I went, what's the meaning of life, anyway? I called Dr. Phil only to get his voicemail. So I thought, who better to know the meaning of life than one who isn't alive anymore? Peanut and I got out the Ouija board and dialed up a few dearly departed but suspiciously the pointer kept spelling out "cookie". (Never Ouija with your dog.) Finally, I did what any one of us in today's networked world would do. I Googled "the meaning of life is..." 35.1 million hits in less than a quarter of a second. Wow.
I got the expected responses: Monty Python, Hitchhiker's Guide, Wikipedia... some t-shirt offerings and some neat cartoons...
Then I stumbled on a study from a very reputable institution of higher learning. (Please excuse the following personal synopsis, no reflection on the original study.) It was interesting because the author(s) took the time set things up. The history of other people who had asked the question was explored. Then they defined exactly what was being asked and from what perspective. (It's like the "It depends on your definition of having sex'" thing in the news a few years ago.)
What is meant by the word "meaning" itself took maybe three pages of rational inquiry. What we are asking exactly and why do we want to know? Is meaningfulness a final good in a person's life that is distinct from happiness, rightness and worthwhileness? More questions.
Then, there was a methodical examination of meaning in life from different viewpoints. A supernaturalistic point of view is either a God-centered view or a soul-centered view. (If one lacks a soul, or treats it badly, then one's life is automatically meaningless.) The second major viewpoint is naturalism: either subjectivism (defining actions that one ought to concentrate on), or objectivism (all actions act together to make life meaningful). The third and final viewpoint is the nihilism theoretical account (if you believe that God or a soul is necessary for meaning in life, and if you believe that neither exists, then you are a nihilist: someone who denies that life has meaning.)
The last paragraph in this paper concludes the original question posed lacks conclusive answers. Their answer appears to be, "It depends." Which I sorta knew before. Which made me wonder why I spent the last two hours reading the paper. At last I had something of an answer.
Sometimes the process of examining different viewpoints is something of an answer in itself.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Ancient Romans began the practice of stopping its citizens from falling into sewage. And it caught on. The square knobs are said to have been popular since the days of horse and buggies, the knobs being footholds for horse's hooves. Weighing over 50 kg, these artifacts have captured the imagination of people the world over, who collect photos of various designs. Modern race cars are so aerodynamically designed that manhole covers have to be welded down to avoid being lifted by the suction caused when the cars pass over them. And the same when the Queen visits, as part of security precautions (not suction-related).
Microsoft incorporated the question: "Why are manhole covers round?" into interview questions, to gauge how people tackle a question with many right answers. (Cannot fall into it's opening, strong, material efficient and cheap to manufacture, don't need to be rotated to fit, can be rolled when moved, etc.)
"...in the several weeks beginning in mid-February 2004, when, slowly at first but with mounting velocity, manhole covers started to disappear from roads and pavements around the world. As Chinese demand drove up the price of scrap metal to record levels, thieves almost everywhere had the same idea. As darkness fell, they levered up the iron covers and sold them to local merchants, who cut them up and loaded them onto ships to China. The first displacements were felt in Taiwan, the island just off China's southeast coast. The next were in other neighbors such as Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan... Wherever the sun set, pilferers worked to satisfy China's hunger. More than 150 covers disappeared during one month in Chicago. Scotland's "great drain robbery" saw more than a hundred vanish in a few days. From Montreal to Gloucester to Kuala Lumpur, unsuspecting pedestrians stumbled into holes."Because of this demand, it is said that 8 people in China were killed by falling into open manholes in 1994.
An interesting footnote, for those of you still reading. The word manhole was first used for access holes between the decks of the old, all-male sailing ships and had nothing to do with sewers.
So today, as you juggle many tasks at once, remember the humble manhole cover. We, like them, serve many purposes. And on our best day, we may even prevent someone else from falling down a hole.
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:18 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I live in a house that may be well over 100 years old. In those days they started small (as in "shack") and built out and up. The above photo is of an outside wall exposed during a recent reno to put in a patio door. Once the outside facade was removed the patchwork pieces of scraps that once enclosed an old doorway were revealed. Being one that admires "make do" ingenuity I went "cool." But to the carpenter on the job, it seemed more like a mess.
I had asked the carpenter before the work began what would be involved and how long it would take. His response has stayed with me since... "We won't know until we get in there."
I've worked on the communication end of Total Quality Management (TQM), Business Process Re-engineering, Six Sigma programs for government, high tech and academic institutions. What has been consistent throughout all change management activities, is that it is a top-down process of discovery, learning and continuous communication rather than a rigid plan based on predetermined judgment. Because what may have seemed clear-cut during the planning stages can all change after you begin to remove the layers. Once you begin to reveal the structure of what had been done before, you are then in the position to assess the workforce needs, the time and support tools required.
Just like taking down an old wall to install a doorway.
Okay, I'll lighten up tomorrow. Three Stooges anyone?
Sunday, June 26, 2011
We basked in the sun to get a tan. Tans were cool. They made you look healthy. Like you were a Beachboy, or a movie star, or at least from California. If you went on vacation and came back without a tan people assumed that it had rained everyday. Teenaged comparisons of tan lines made for some interesting times...
We slapped on Coppertone (that was really just moisturizer) to keep from getting burned but it never worked. The first time out something would be crispy that evening and out would come the Noxema followed by a few days of peeling. It was normal. A right of passage to summertime.
We didn't know we were also making up some good ol' vitamin D. Few of us knew about vitamin D back then, nor cared to. Vitamins were something god-awful tasting that your mother took down from the cupboard in the morning and made you swallow... or mine did. If we had known back then there were vitamins that you could make simply by the sun touching your skin, we would have thought that was a much cooler way of doing it.
But now folks are encasing their children in layers clothing and shellacking themselves in SPF 1000. Your doctor frowns at you if you have a tan. The worry warts are shouting from the heights about the risk of skin cancer and that has everyone dashing from car to the safety of buildings like vampires who will burn up in the sunlight.
So, being the curious person I am, I decided to read up on it.
Turns out, we all need between 5 and 30 minutes of sunlight on our skin twice a week to allow the UVB rays to stimulate the body's manufacturing of vitamin D. From November to March here in Canada it's almost impossible to get our quota. UV fortified foods, like milk, help. By the way, because it can be synthesized by humans it is not a real vitamin (vital food substance). All vertebrates need sun to allow the body to produce strong bones and prevent rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. For feathery birds, furry mammals, and some abnormally hairy people, oils are secreted from the skin, subjected to the sunlight and orally ingested when they groom themselves.Which, in the case of abnormally hairy people, might not ever happen.
Happy days in the sun. Too much has always been bad for you. Too little is as well... just sayin'.
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 10:39 AM
Friday, June 24, 2011
Realizing I am in no way an expert in such matters, here are ten tips that I've found have helped me deal with the quandary:
1) Turn up the hearing aid. Take the time to listen. Then ask questions. Get the big picture, understand the situation and validate their needs.
2) Show them nirvana. Showing them examples of similar work you have done in the past for others can put a positive picture in their minds. Letting them know how these came to be will give them clues to process.
3) Walk the giving talk. Explain you are there to help. And prove it. Do something extra. Go out of your way in some small way. See it as an investment in the future.
4) Don't poo-poo the messenger. Understand that the person you are talking to has pressures and may be following requests from higher-ups. Provide them the ammunition they need to explain the process to their superiors.
5) Practice comfy talk. People relate most comfortably in different ways and in different circumstances. Many people are email folks. Others prefer the phone. Others like in-person meetings. Find out and adapt your methods of communication.
6) Take a break... and relate. Communicating with folks in a friendly manner, perhaps even (shudder) having a laugh, can lead to informal information that can be valuable in the long term and will aid in the relationship-building process.
7) Flogging a less-than-alive horse? Some situations will not, nor will ever be, conducive to the quality experience you are trying to provide. Some you will never be able to help. Know when to drop the club.
8) Don't hang up – forward the call. If you eventually find that a client is never going to be a fit, offer them a referral. Provide them with email addresses, make introductions and leave the door open. You never know...
9) Address for success. Speak with respect and as if they were the most important client in the world. Because they are.
10) Follow up, but don't stalk. Make sure whatever work you provide is well received. Don't bug, or press for new business, but let them know you are looking forward to working with them again.
Hope this helps!
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:27 AM
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Refreshed, we left them undisturbed as we continued our journey of discovery...
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 6:53 AM
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
To the uninitiated, it was a choice of answers between a number possibilities. Like:
7. Which of the following times occur after 3pm?
d) All of the above.
Okay, trick question. But you get the idea. Ultimately, it would seem that you had a one-in-four chance of getting the answer right. If you were totally guessing, would that make it a four-in-one chance of getting the answer wrong?
Now that I'm an old fart, the "all of the above" answer has taken on a whole new meaning.
The propensity of professionals is to specialize. And the tendency of those who seek out professionals is to look for specialists. But apart from critical life-saving specialties, like brain surgeons, there are those who have spent their lives accumulating a broad knowledge in their field. And if they don't have the answer, they know where to find it.
Years ago in design and advertising you needed a twenty-person (or a two-hundred person) shop to access the skill sets required for quality of work. With the advent of technology, these tasks can be performed by smaller groups – and depending on the need, even by individuals. While large corporations tend to gravitate to creative shops of comparable size, the trend is changing as value is increasingly found in smaller, more economical enclaves.
Picking from multiple specialists to find a solution to your needs? Try accessing a Generalist Specialist.
Monday, June 20, 2011
"In the clover" is a figurative expression from the early 1700's that means in good circumstances. Fittingly, it comes from the world of animals. For, as livestock lived the good life when they ate clover (very palatable and high in protein, phosphorus, and calcium), so people who lived in pleasant circumstances were figuratively said to be living in clover or in the clover.
Peanut has always appeared to live his life with a pleasant disposition when for any number of reasons he could easily be forgiven for bemoaning his circumstances. And I must admit I don't help matters any. In fact, he would be totally justified thinking I have tried my best to make his life miserable and hold it against me (and I wouldn't hold that against him). But time and time again, he just shakes off the bad stuff and continues on.
For instance, a week ago I had him groomed, effectively robbing him of all his hair. It freaked him a bit when it happened but a day later he was acting like he never had a hair in his life. It was like, pfffht, who needs hair?
Two weeks before that I promised him a car ride when I was really taking him to the vet for his shots. An outright deception that would have a normal person fuming for weeks. A few minutes after we returned he'd forgotten all about it. When I brought it up he looked at me like he didn't know what I was talking about.
The guy actually makes it appear that living life in pleasant circumstances may just be a choice. I could take a lesson... Where's that clover?
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:09 AM
Sunday, June 19, 2011
How I got to be is something I never think about. I don't believe any of us like to think of fathers and mothers in that way. It's just yucky.
But, I am resigned to the fact that it must have happened, in my family's case, at least four times.
My first memories of my father were of him carrying me through the house upside down by my ankles, with me laughing hysterically. He was big and strong and built stuff, smoked big cigars, made wine and had the coolest workbench in the basement. One of my last memories of him was during a shopping trip. I stopped at a store in the mall to buy a bolo tie. He walked up and asked how much it was and upon finding out his eyebrows went up at the price and said, "Geez, buy a dozen." He was a frugal man of few words.
A few weeks later he was gone. The loss was huge. How could it not be?
The only thing I nabbed at the time of his funeral was a bottle of Old Spice from his medicine cabinet. I don't know why exactly. It has sat in my medicine cabinet since then... what, it must be twenty-two years now...
Dad always had the aura of Old Spice around him. And as I got further into business I looked up the history of the brand. Turns out it was a father and son story as well...
William Schultz and his son George founded the Shulton Company in 1934 at the height of the depression. Schultz Sr. made and sold private label toiletries but was convinced that he needed to come up with a trademarked product that could be mass marketed. He convinced a bank in New York to let him use some vacant office space it owned and his contacts in the department stores not only placed orders on the basis of some sketches, but extended credit based on future sales. Back at his office, he developed a fragrance from a memory of a rose jar his mother kept in the house, a combination of roses, herbs and spices. Early American Old Spice for Women was first introduced in 1937. Shulton introduced a few items for men in time for Christmas in 1938. Sales at the end of 1939 were $3 million. When William passed away in 1950 his son George took over. Shulton grew and by 1970, sales were $130 million. In 1990, Shulton was sold to Procter and Gamble and in 2008, the original Old Spice scent was advertised with the words: "The original. If your grandfather hadn't worn it, you wouldn't exist."
Which probably explains why I had that mysterious urge to snatch that bottle from his medicine cabinet... possibly, it's why I'm here.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. Your secret is safe with me.
Old Spice® is a registered trademark of Procter and Gamble.
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 9:11 AM
Friday, June 17, 2011
I don't really know why, but it made me think of the infamous short 1969 animated film, Bambi Meets Godzilla, by Canadian Marv Newland.
Perhaps it was because two days ago our image got stomped but good. The international press didn't call it the Vancouver riot. They called it the Canadian riot.
Canada has long been known as a kind, gentle, diplomatic peacekeeper to the world. A welcoming society. A blend of multilingual, multicultural peoples and a social experiment that is the poster child for other countries. It is the Canadian Shield of decency, Mounties, maple leaves and self-depreciating humor. A society of somewhat neurotic politeness and the happy brunt of humor ranging from lumberjack jokes to igloos to the superiority of our beer.
Yesterday, unbidden, thousands of normal citizens came out to help clean up the mess caused in Vancouver the night before. And professionals in the area offered advise and support.
It seems that Bambi has survived the Godzilla stomp.
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:04 AM
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Ever gone into work with three things to do and at the end of the day finally get around to them? It happens to us all.
If you work in a service industry, you'll understand how time can get the best of you. Here are five points I've found have helped me:
1) Be methodical. Keep calm and don't allow yourself the luxury of getting flustered because that will divert your focus from the next thing. And there is always a next thing.
2) Sooth the savage beast. "Let me see what I can do" is a much better response to a client in panic mode than "Are you bloody nuts?" Many clients will come to you in a state, mainly because their superiors have set a deadline, their process has been held up in committees, or decisions have been late coming to them. It's the nature of the beast. This is a great time to develop a relationship with the client and to help them prepare properly for the next job they come to you with.
3) Give them what they ask for, and then show them what they really need. Some clients are very clear about what they want from you, possibly to the detriment of the work. If they ask for something you might think is hurting, show it to them, but also show them what you think works. When you're in a file, it doesn't take long to do a "save as" and offer an alternative that may work harder for the client. Your client will appreciate having an informed choice. And if they go with what they originally wanted, hey, you tried...
4) Understanding is good for the soul. Most of the time the difference between ho-hum work and great work is dependent on the clues you gather from the client when you listen. Involve the client in the process. If you are a prima donna you set up walls. Walls = not good.
5) Eat your vegetables first. Try to do the stuff you hate to do first and get it out of the way. Once that broccoli is down the hatch, the rest is gravy (sorry, bad analogy).
Have a great day! I'm off to work...
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. ~ Will Rogers
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:46 AM
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Gandhi, Baba Ram Dass, love beads, Woodstock, Bob Dylan, the age of Aquarius, be here now, peace signs, lift the human spirit, back to nature, John Lennon, ban the bomb, make love not war... we were going to change it all.
Perhaps we got distracted by mundane daily tasks... doing the dishes, catching up on sleep, paying rent and finding a good cup of coffee.
Perhaps our goals were too simplistic. Dreams. Not based in reality. Pie in the sky. An idea worn down over time like a lawsuit launched by a little guy against a mega corporation with three floors of lawyers.
Is there still a glimmer of hope? I think so. As long as every once in a while, there is someone, somewhere asking themselves, "What the heck happened?"
Note: Unknown to most, the peace movement continues. In Canada, for instance, the Canadian Peace Alliance carries on, comprised of 140 member groups drawn from large city-based coalitions, small grassroots groups, national and local unions, faith, environmental, and student groups, with a combined membership of over 4 million Canadians.
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:32 AM
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The word is rampant in the industry. Some think it means a logo, some see it as the whole corporate package. Some promise branding with a web site. Some look to consultants to refresh or design a brand.
You may have heard this before, but the truth is unless you happen to be an unfortunate cow, a logo is not a brand. In fact, cows will attest this approach stings like crazy. Agencies and consultants can help you develop your identity and marketing communication products, and these may be part of the brand process, but your brand is much, much more than that.
Take, for instance, the Savannah Blowpipe Company, which (according to its website) began in 1900 with a total capital of $3,000. In 1931, now called The Steel Products Company (total assets about $100,000) it saw an opportunity to design and manufacture truck trailers. They hired the best trailer man they could find, who had been building truck trailers in South Carolina and had been calling them by the name Great Dane. He had been familiar with the use of Belgium's use of Great Dane dogs as work animals: known for their strength and stamina.
By 1958 they changed their name to Great Dane Trailers, Inc. and experienced explosive growth through the '80s, allowing great strides in technology and more efficient service to customers. In 2000, the company celebrated its 100th anniversary. Less than one company in 10,000 lives to observe 100 years in business.
Developing a brand is an ongoing, continuous process that gathers equity over time. Small company, large corporation, or just you: you build on a brand every day. Or you hurt it. It's everything you do and how you grow and how you speak to your client's needs. It's your personality and your quality experience and your consistency and how your best efforts reverberate with your clientele. It's how you answer the phone. It's the total environment you create: online and in person. What it is not, though, is a quick logo or a fast website, regardless of what others may say.
But you knew that.
"At the end of the day, your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room."
Attributed to Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
Sunday, June 12, 2011
We all know how things happen in real life where you say or do something in haste when, thinking about things later, you realize you probably should have reacted differently.
I call it poking myself in the eye (figuratively, of course).
These things happen in social media as well – all the time. I'm no social media expert, in fact, I've pulled some pretty wicked groaners.
Some of my faux pas have been a result of male pattern grumpiness (which is hereditary as I understand) but most were totally avoidable. Whether I'm posting on Facebook, a discussion on LinkedIn, Tweeting or posting/contributing to blogs, I've found setting a few ground rules for myself has helped to keep me from embarrassing myself totally.
Here (in no particular order) are 10 checklist items that I've come up with for myself to help avoid the pitfalls of social media black eyes and I thought you might be interested (feel free to add to, or discuss). Note: these are based on common sense so probably aren't all that original. Perhaps they've been rattling around your brain too...
1) Kindness is as kindness does. Contrary opinions can help further an amiable conversation but are sometimes just a knee-jerk reaction. Knowing the difference helps. When things go south, stepping out of yourself to support others having a difficult time understanding is sometimes more powerful than a confrontation. Stepping out of the conversation entirely is sometimes best.
2) One wild Saturday night live can kill your Monday. We all like to enjoy our off-hours in different ways but posting references to these fun and often edgy activities can be accessed by professional contacts later looking for clues to your character. Nuff said.
3) Calling constantly at all hours can cause people to switch to unlisted numbers. Posting excessively can bother some and cause them to de-list you. A combination of moderation and meaningful substance is best. Wise quotes from others and links to articles are great occasionally but fifteen in a row in a three hour period can aggravate those who have to wade through them in their in-box.
4) Being a cat doesn't necessarily make you king of the jungle. There are a plethora of experts on the net. Some real and some not. It only takes most of us a few sentences to differentiate between someone who is a qualified resource and others who set themselves up as a self-styled expert. Don't be afraid to be yourself.
5) Don't hand out blank checks. If you don't like getting a mountain of emails dumped on you, try to stay away from giving out your online information, especially to sites that greet you with a pop up to sign up for free, even before you've seen its content. Once you give them your email address, you're basically stuck. And don't even bother trying to unsubscribe...
6) Play nice with other kids in the playground. The internet is truly an international, inclusive environment for people from all countries, cultures and ages. Discussion group responses that critique folks whose native language may not be English for their spelling and grammar or ridicule others for their inexperience can say more about the poster than the person being critiqued.
7) One loose wing nut can take the wheels off of a discussion. Many a discussion topic has been crashed by those who would a) post a comment only meant to push people off site to their own blog or website (i.e. spam), b) post personal opinions that have no real connection to the flow of discussion, or c) bending the discussion away from the original intent into areas of politics or religion. Be respectful and contribute logically. Please.
8) 'Funny' can be a two-edged rubber sword. The use of humor can be a great ice-breaker and provide a friendly approach to posting. But it can land in hostile lands. Folks do invest quite a bit of themselves into the seriousness of a discussion and humor may be seen as lacking respect or dismissive. Gauge your laughs with some sensitivity.
9) Even if you're a duck, limit the fowl language. Profanity may be acceptable in closed groups and the over-use of texting terms like LOL, WTF and ROFL may seem expeditious and trendy between friends but both can give folks who don't know you the wrong impression. Investing your time typing out your comments without swearing and excessive use of acronyms and emoticons (smiley faces) may mean reaching more people with the intelligent side of you.
10) Don't take this social media thing too seriously, or for too long. Life is to be enjoyed and a social media experience is one that can be rich with substance. If you like connecting with people in real life, you'll love the prospect of connecting with old and new friends, peers and associates from around the world online. But don't forget to set your limits. Life's too short.
Going out for a bike ride now...
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 12:44 PM
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
No more messy water hoses at society garden parties, no more trespassing charges for dips in a stranger's pool, and no more embarrassing moments with the produce sprinklers in the vegetable aisles.
This amazing, eco-friendly, patented invention will give you hours of pleasure! It's reusable, durable and comes with its own handy-dandy travel case complete with pocket for your favorite towel. ORDER NOW and get a collapsible 20 gallon water jug ABSOLUTELY FREE.
But WAIT! That's not all! Now that you're clean, you say you've worked up an appetite? NO problem! The Zippy-Dippy-Shower-All is made from recycled mac and cheese leftovers. Simply slip the refolded bag into boiling water and simmer for three hours. Instantly, you will have a sumptuous meal for four (remove zipper before consuming)! Comes in three delicious flavors: mac and cheese gruel, mac gruel with cheese, or cheese gruel with mac! Aren't hungry? NO PROBLEM! Simply boil for another hour and you'll have a tile grout for your home projects!
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:03 AM
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
This animal only comes out when summer weather is truly upon us. Their tinkling mating call is quite distinctive, and sounds something like: "De-di-lut-de-lut-di-lutdidoot" (sorry for the bad impression).
Rare in some areas, these creatures appear for one purpose and one purpose only: to attract and dispense its goodness to human children (and the young at heart).
Occasionally known to gather at festivals and fairs with fellow members of the truckus family, (the chip truck, roadside canteen and cotton candy stand), they are normally a nomadic breed. Their natural habitat is basically wherever the weather is warmest. Parents, when learning of one roosting close by, will send their offspring curbside with change jingling in their pockets to feed the wonderful creature and witness firsthand the splendor of the species.
Be on the watch for this rare creature. They are such a treat!
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 7:57 AM
Sunday, June 5, 2011
This is not a step I take lightly, because it means that during this time I am hereby declaring myself material that could be omitted without destroying or altering the overall meaning of this sentence called life. Normally I'd hope that I would be more vital, but not this week.
I am independent of the normal course of things.
So, if you think of me in the next little while, (and there is no reason you should) you will have to put me into your thoughts as supplemental content. Nice, but inconsequential.
For this week I intend to be as much an afterthought as are things like world peace, truly representational democracy and universal human kindness. Follow along if you want on my journey in unimportance.
This week I am last week's stale omelet... a bird singing on a vacation rooftop to no purpose.
Posted by Rand MacIvor at 12:33 PM
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Take a break sometime today and have a look through the site "Damn You Auto Correct!" (Warning: language.)