Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Do You Communicate?

I recently joined Toastmasters - for several reasons. One being I need better public speaking skills. Anyway, I gave my first speech this week - it's intended to be an "icebreaker" - kind of a "get to know me" speech. I didn't expect this, but to my surprise, it ended up being about communication and grammar. Here it is, if you're interested...

I just recently figured out that one of my passions is communication. This is the kind of thing that sneaks up on you and you don't realize how important it is, because it subtly permeates every aspect of your life. Of course, having a passion for communication doesn’t necessarily make me self-confident or a good public speaker. That’s where Toastmasters comes in.

I've found that I place a lot of importance on the “how” and “what” of communication. First, how do you communicate? Do you communicate poorly? Do you communicate correctly? Since we’re all different, we’re never going to completely understand each other – this is why proper communication is so important to me.

Also, what do you communicate? Is it accurate? Is it true? Or is it based on rumor, urban legend, or outdated and archaic information? Of course, my wife might say that this isn't my passion for communication, just my passion for telling people they're wrong. But I think it's bigger than that.

I think that this passion is something I've always had. I remember being about 9 or 10 in a group of people, and my dad mentioning something about the state of IllinoiS. Wouldn't he want to know that the correct pronunciation of that state was Illinois? So I corrected him. In front of everyone. That didn't go over very well.

But this has helped me all through my academic and professional life. I enjoy writing. I enjoy editing.

And today, we are constantly communicating with people; whether it’s professionally – in meetings, in memos, in e-mails, in trainings; or socially – in person, on the phone, in chatrooms, on Facebook. Communication is a pervasive part of our lives. This makes the “how” so important.

I never cease to be amazed at how so many people on the internet – in email, blogs, or forums – have a problem telling the difference between there, their and they're. Or your and you’re. And BTW, “lose” – has one “o”. You didn’t cry last night when you watched The Biggest Looser. That was me crying when I read your Facebook status.

Or when people use the word “literally” for emphasis – instead of to mean “literally”. That literally drives me crazy. Well, no – I guess it just really drives me crazy. Literally is not a synonym for really. I was in a training once, where the trainer was finishing the last day and said, "we are literally sliding into home". I looked around wondering if I was the only one not playing baseball.

That doesn't mean I think I'm perfect – I make mistakes. Half the time I can't remember when to use “whom”. I know what the rule is, I just can never seem to conjure it up when I’m talking.

And this doesn't always help me make friends. Even here at Toastmasters, I sit and think, “hmmm...I don't think they used the Word of the Day correctly.” I'm wondering if I should stay away from the Grammarian role.

And, while the term “lectern” is probably preferred for “a stand used to support a book in a convenient position for a standing reader”, and the primary definition of “podium” is a “dais or elevated platform”, the secondary definition of podium is…“lectern”.

But I felt for Whitney's comment when she was grammarian several weeks ago and began with “Please don't hate me.” I've had some difficulty learning the importance of how to properly communicate these kinds of things without losing friends.

But not only is “how” you communicate important, but also “what” you communicate. I have a horrible habit of checking facts to find out if what people are saying is true.

In graduate school, I discovered – and sometimes for me a little info can be dangerous. I was sure to inform people that no – Craig Shergold was not a little boy with cancer collecting business cards – he was now 15, has made a complete recovery and had already collected so many greeting cards that the Guinness Book of World records would no longer update his old records with his new records.

This habit has resulted in me rarely get emails like this any more, telling me about the latest missing child (who most of the time is either a hoax or has already been found by the time you get the email), or about Facebook selling your cell phone number to telemarketers.

But it still happens sometimes.

More recently, I've seen interesting stories come through my work email. Amusing stories, being passed off as fact, though all fiction. The woman on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire who didn't know what was bigger – an elephant or the moon (the picture was photoshopped); the amusing story about Nancy Pelosi talking to a psychiatrist who makes her look stupid (printed in several joke books since the 60’s); and the hilarious video about the Australian politician being interviewed about a ship falling apart (it’s a comedy sketch from the early 90’s).

As difficult as it was, in the interest of peace, I let all of these go.

In the last few years, all of this has made me realize I have a passion for communication, and that I want to weave this into my life even more – probably as writing. I'd like to formally make this more important in my life. So I've spent more time applying it, with what little time I have. And every chance I get, I attempt to apply communication and writing to my job.

But I know I can always improve my communication. I communicate better when I've had time to think about it – that’s another part of the reason I joined Toastmasters – I need to be able to think on my feet. Hopefully, as time goes by, I'll be able to apply this love for communication and writing – and even allow it to help me become a better person and better leader. And I'm very much looking forward to hear what the Grammarian has to say about it my speech.
(A couple notes. In each Toastmasters meeting one person is appointed Grammarian and pays attention to all the speakers, listening for um's, uh's, poor grammar, repeating words, etc. Each meeting has a Word of the Day, and speakers are encouraged to incorporate it into their talk somehow. Also, several weeks ago, the President of the club made the point that you don't stand behind a podium and use it to hold your notes - that's called a lectern. I had to look that one up. And mention it.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

D&D Limited Edition Jones Soda

I know what you're all thinking.

I want to get Jim a Christmas present.

And I want to get him an early one. Like, maybe at the end of September.

Well - I've got the perfect gift!!

Jones Soda has Limited Edition Dungeons & Dragons Spellcasting Soda.

This is the coolest, nerdiest thing I've ever seen.

So if you find yourself in this predicament - problem solved!!

I knew the iPhone could do anything.

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Pixar vs. Dreamworks - Ha!

Ha! Pretty funny!
Pixar vs. Dreamworks.  So, so true. on Twitpic

Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't waste your time on Marvel SuperHeroSquad

Like I did.

Quite possibly the stupidest superhero cartoon I've ever seen.

Juvenile vomit, fart, burp, snot, toilet, and underwear jokes. Way too silly - written for 3-year-olds, but nothing intelligent for the older crowd.

Bad writing. Annoying animation.

Not even a Battlestar Galactica joke could save it.

I've always been turned off by bad Marvel writing (and that includes Stan Lee). The way they nickname everyone? Wolvie, Falc, Ms. M, Squaddies...

And "HERO UP!"

Good grief.

Marvel SuperHero Squad

I almost missed this! A new show, Marvel SuperHero Squad, is on in 30 minutes at 7 EST / 6 CST on Cartoon Network.