"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cliche WHAT?

A fool and his money are soon parted. Hey, where’s my wallet?
You only hurt the one you love. However, the one you love paid you back by sleeping with all your friends.
A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Kind of ironic if you’re diabetic.
A friend in need is a friend best avoided.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Are those new glasses?
There's no such thing as a free lunch. There’s always a meeting afterward.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can badger someone else to do for you today.
Actions speak louder than words. Profanity amps it up a bit, though.
Any friend of yours is a friend of mine. I hate you.
If at first you don't succeed, there’s always another election cycle.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks. You can’t teach a cat anything.
Good things come to those who wait. Better things come to those who shop online.
He’s cool as a cucumber and twice as seedy.
Birds of a feather flock together, so flock you.
The early bird catches the worm. That’s why I sleep in.
It was a labor of love, but the breakup was effortless.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but don’t let PETA know.
He’s the salt of the earth, but I’m on a low-sodium diet.
If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, wear it to a wedding.
Possession is 9/10ths of the law, as long as you’re holding less than an ounce.
It was like shooting fish in a barrel – there was water everywhere.
Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Urine trouble now!
Time flies when you’re having fun. How long have you been grounded?
Let sleeping dogs lie. You can get the truth out of them once they wake up.
There’s no time like the present. Thank God it’s happy hour.
Many hands make light work. Hey, where’s my wallet?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Language-ing by the Pool

I've been speaking English my entire life (minus the first 18 months or so), and reading and writing it nearly as long -- and somehow only recently have I become aware of the "Oxford comma". I mean, I knew what it was, but I just didn't realize it was a part of punctuation that had this particular name attached to it, like "capital letters" and "missed my period". [And before we go any further here -- was the period in that last sentence supposed to be placed within or outside of the quotation marks? Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the "missed" period.]

Now it seems not a week goes by that some twit... er, I mean some tweet references the "Oxford comma", or a blog post or some other forum for lexicographic commentary. I'd heard of Oxford collars, and Oxford shoes, and the Oxford Press (where, I presume, one would have a shirt with an Oxford collar ironed). I do recall learning not to place a comma before the last item in a series. Said comma, when placed, is known as the Oxford comma. Are there names for other kinds of commas? The only other one I know by name is a "medically-induced comma", which is what language-obsessives are placed into after their participation in frenzied debates regarding the disregard of proper grammatical practices causes them to stroke out.

I won't rehash the two sides to the Oxford comma issue here since there are many other, more-learned, references one could Google if one were so inclined. Or more than one of you, if you can persuade your friend to join you in Googling. However, this kerfuffle has caused me to investigate what other rules of grammar, spelling and writing (or should that be "grammar, spelling, and writing"? or "grammar, spelling, and writing?")... what was I saying? Oh yes -- here are some other grammatical rules with which I've recently become reacquainted with:
  • "i" before "e", except after 3:00 PM.
  • Don't leave a participle dangling; make a clean break from the relationship and then walk away.
  • The plural of any singular noun ending in "y" is more than you'll ever need.
  • "Who" and "Whom" are frequently confused for one another, but not as often now that "Whom" got her hair cut.
  • "Lay" is an intransitive verb; "lie" is what I just told you.
  • Proper use of "its" vs. "it's" can be easily resolved by reading your sentence out loud and substituting "it is" for whichever word you used. If the sentence sounds silly, try reading it again in your normal voice.
  • Should it be "between you and I" or " between you and me"? Sorry, honey -- I broke it off with you months ago; get over it. And take your participle with you.
  • Context is often helpful when trying to determine which word is correct. For example, telling your sister-in-law "You've put on a complement of 20 pounds since I last saw you" would not be taken as a compliment.
  • If you can count it, use "fewer". If you can't count it, then a spreadsheet is required.
  • Some common phrases just confound all logic. As an example, you'll ask for "a pair of scissors", when you only want one scissor. The plural of "moose" is also "moose", which is why they so rarely come when called -- they're not sure which one of them you're talking to.
  • A semi-colon is what many people are forced to use after a bowel resection.
  • Did you know you should place a predicate pronoun after an infinitive? Me neither.
  • "Hopefully" is a dangling modifier. Fortunately, the attendant will point it out before you leave the men's room.
Those of we whom are interested in the dynamics of the English language are familiar with "The Elements of Style", which is often referred to as "Strunk and White" after it is two co-authors, some guy named Strunk and the editor E. B. White. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with the late Mr. White (in this context, late means "deceased" as opposed to "not on time". However, I am fairly certain I spoke with him before he ceased being.). I'll never forget what he said to me: "How did you get my phone number? Stop bothering me, for crisssakes. Your giving me a heart attack." I didn't have the strunk to tell him he'd mis-spoken; surely he meant to say, "Your giving I a heart attack."

Hopefully, upon all of you a similar impression I has made.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Meet Your Heart Out

There are many guides to running more effective meetings – usually with titles like, “Running More Effective Meetings”; “More Effective Meetings – How to Run Them”; “Running Effectively to More Meetings”, and so on. I can quickly summarize the recommendations offered in these publications:
· Provide attendees with an agenda prior to the meeting
· Start and end on time; don't reward latecomers by delaying or recapping
· Prioritize what you want to talk about
· Document off-topic conversation in a “parking lot”
· Don’t take phone calls or read emails during the meeting
· Build time into the agenda for summarizing the discussion and assignment of next steps
As always - the conventional wisdom regarding so-called "best practices" has its figurative head up its proverbial ass. Your goal for a meeting isn't to make it effective - it's to make it memorable. Follow these tips and you'll be certain to engage and/or horrify your meeting's attendees:

Prior to the meeting, provide a list of buzzwords to listen for. Pass out bingo cards and daubers as everyone walks in and award a prize to the first person to scream out "BINGO!" People will be certain to pay attention to every word said when there's a prize for doing so.

Start on time but make the first agenda item "Punish Latecomers". The person who comes late to the meeting is inevitably either the least or most important attendee. If the latecomer falls into the former camp, pounce on him the second he walks in late, regardless of whatever apology is offered:
  • "Get OUT! Who do you think you are, walking in here seven minutes late? Go back to whatever petty task you were failing at, and while you're at it learn how to tell time!"
When everyone is waiting on a key stakeholder, a person without whom the discussion can not move forward, try this strategy: once Ms. Big Shot finally saunters into the room, immediately cease any prior discussion and stare at her unflinchingly. The stare should be long, hard, and severe. Work out a signal with the on-time attendees and, once flashed, resume normal conversation. That'll take that mofo down a notch or two.

In the rare circumstance that all attendees actually show up on time for the meeting, exercise your power over them by demanding random seat changes.

Divert off-topic conversation to a “parking lot”. This seems similar to the usual banal recommendation found in other meeting guides, but what can make it truly effective is to remove the quotation marks and make those who insist on engaging in off-topic conversation leave the room and march outside to the parking lot. Best utilized with meetings held during inclement weather.

Make an impact using your phone during the meeting. If anyone takes a call or starts scrolling through email on their smartphone, take your even smarter phone and chuck it at their head. Solid contact with the offender's cranium sends a strong message that discourages anyone else from making a similar mis-step.

Summaries are not essential. This is because all meetings can be summarized as "I've just wasted ninety minutes of your time, and you missed lunch besides."

Assign "inaction" items. Follow-up to the typical action item results in a stall, buck-passing, or other assignment of blame:
  • (Project Leader): "Chris, do you have an update on pulling the campaign metrics?"
  • (Chris): "Um, well, I *would* have had an update for you but I was out sick last week / my computer crashed / IT wouldn't give me access to the datashed."
We continue to insist on "action" while ignoring the Law of Inertia - an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. Do you think anyone, after being released from the scheduled imprisonment we call a "meeting," springs into action? HELL no! - folks go for coffee, or out for a smoke, or get back online to checkout their purchase from Zappos. And don't get me started on what constitutes an "unbalanced force" -- you work for one. Embrace ennui. Your co-workers will love you for it.

And the final recommendation to ensure meeting attendance -- serve snacks. Food always draws a crowd.

But then charge people to leave the room.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Eddy Blizzard

As I'm typing this, we've still got a few hours to go before the snow and winds start to taper off and the historic winter storm named "Nemo" moves away from my perch in Cambridge, MA and out over the Atlantic. While final totals have yet to be established, it seems certain we'll end up with more than two feet of snow in many areas.

Two feet! That's more snow than some people see in an entire lifetime. For those of you who can't imagine what that's like, here are some analogies to help you picture it:
  • Imagine a foot of snow -- and then another foot of snow on top of it. That's two feet!
  • If you bought two Subway $5 footlong subs and stacked them upright end to end, most of the fillings would immediately fall out and you'd have quite a mess on your hands. Why would you waste food like that? People are starving in Africa.
  • Picture four feet of snow; two feet is half as much.
  • Imagine lying on your back with your arms pointing toward the sky. I'm imagining it, and you look pretty silly.
  • Try stacking the subs again but this time no onions, please.
  • With snow falling at a rate as fast as 4 inches per hour, you would tire of the non-stop weather updates on TV within 20 minutes.
And let's not forget the impact of wind during this event. Winds in some sections of eastern Massachusetts and the Cape are gusting as high as 84 miles per hour. How fast and intense is an 84 mph wind gust?
  • That's faster than any Yugo built could ever go, even down a steep grade with the pedal to the floor and a semi crowding your rear-view mirror.
  • That's more intense than the scene in "Silence of the Lambs" where the two cops bring Dr. Lecter his extra-rare lamb chops and they end up eviscerated. I'm talking about the cops here; I don't think Lecter touches his dinner. Why would he waste food like that? People are starving in Africa.
  • If you want to know what the sting of heavy, wet snow blowing into your face at 84 mph feels like -- stand in front of me and I'll slap you as hard as I can with my wet hand. Now let me do that again. OK, one more time. Oh, stop crying you big baby! You said you wanted to know what it felt like.
Well, let me turn my attention back to the TV -- they're showing the fleet of snowplows required to remove the phalanx of hyper-animated field reporters cluttering the roadways. I hope some of these analogies helped you to understand the impact of this storm and brought a simile to your face. Does it still hurt? Here, put some snow on it...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Winnie the Poop

The other day, I saw a doctor on one of the network morning shows offering "fat-busting tips". The one that caught my attention was his recommendation to eat a container of Greek yogurt before every meal. The calcium in the yogurt combines with the fat in the rest of your meal to create soap; therefore, in the doctor's words, you'll "poop out soap" and thereby reduce your fat intake.

Several questions immediately came to mind:
  • Is this guy really a doctor, or just some kind of twisted ass-freak?
  • Could I scoop the poop-soap out of the toilet and use it for household cleaning?
  • Is this why so many of the fancy soaps in the wellness aisle at Whole Foods smell like poop?
  • If, like this doctor, my last name were "Oz", would I have an overwhelming desire to change my first name to "Thegreatandpowerful"?
  • What other combinations of things could I eat and poop out as interesting concoctions?
It was this last question that really got me thinking. (Well, that and the cleaning idea; short answer is "don't even try".) And would I have to limit my consumption strictly to "food"? If I explored the introduction of saw dust into my diet, I could perhaps come up with the ultimate in recycled building materials.

As is my wont, after letting my mind run free for a few moments in pursuit of this concept, an entirely new tangent popped into my head -- where, all of a sudden, did "Greek" yogurt come from? When I was growing up, yogurt came in two varieties - Dannon or "from the health food co-op". It was, so far as I knew, all made right here in the U. S. of A. I remembered a commercial from years ago, where the Dannon people brought their yogurt to some remote village in the Ukraine where everyone lived to be at least 120, and those old farts glommed down the Dannon like it had spurted out from some curdled fountain of youth. Fast-forward to today, and in the supermarket there is about a quarter-mile's worth of frontage in the dairy case dedicated to different brands and flavors of yogurt. It comes in the traditional plastic tubs, but also in drink form, baked into snacks, and most perplexingly as something resembling toothpaste. However, the only kind I ever see anyone eating is the Greek stuff (usually Chobani, which is Greek for "someone is making a fortune here"). Most of the yogurt ads on TV (a surprising number, no?) are for one of the Greek varieties -- except for those ads with Jamie Lee Curtis where she, with an entire film crew in tow, accosts strangers whom she somehow senses are experiencing lower-intestinal distress. She encourages them to eat Activia three times a day, which will help them poop.

And... we're back to soap.