Monday, June 16, 2008

Your Moment in the Sun

We've had some severe weather recently in the land of YIFY (check local listings). Lots of storms and flooding and all of that stuff that the rest of you have seen on the national news. I don't mind the weather for the most part, but I do mind the increased focus on the local weatherman. Specifically the interruptions to my regularly scheduled programming.

It starts with the crawl on the bottom of the screen. Basically just a list of counties that can expect bad weather in the next few hours. This isn't too bad, unless I'm watching a something like golf that has its own crawl across the bottom of the screen. It's when they cut into my television for the local weatherman to come on and show me a graphical representation of what the crawl on the bottom of the screen has already told me. This is big time stuff for the local weatherman. It's his moment in the sun. He's breaking in during prime time to tell us all about the storms that are coming. There's no need for banter with the anchors and he doesn't even have to talk about pressure systems or anything coming down from Canada. Nope, all he has to do is point to the green, yellow, and red blots on the screen and say that we can expect winds, rain, hail, and maybe a funnel cloud. You can see how excited the weatherman gets during this moment in the sun. He'll zoom in on the storms, do a little highlighting and circling with the telestrator, and maybe even instruct us to go to the basement or lay down in a ditch. This is the moment that weathermen dream about during weather school.

Side note: Why do they have to refer to different areas by county? I know this is what the national weather service does, but you'd think that the local weather guy could add some value here by actually naming some cities. Instead of saying that this band of storms stretches from Southeastern Putnam County to Northern Monroe County, he could add value by saying that you should watch out if you live between Greencastle and Bloomington. Or does everyone have a better grasp on counties than I do?

Anyway, the weatherman plays up his moment in the sun. No more waiting for his four minutes in a 30 minute broadcast...this is all about him and he's drunk with power. There are other examples of people playing up there moment in the sun. Scrubs did a bit about the time when the dermatologist gets called in for a surgical consult and that's his moment in the sun. I love that show.

Weddings present several opportunities for moments in the sun. First, there's the priest/minister/reverend guy who has a new audience. His power trip usually starts during rehearsal. At a wedding this weekend I had to practice walking my bridesmaid down the aisle three times because I was doing it wrong. I'm pretty sure the minister guy was just trying to prolong his moment. Then there's the deejay at the reception. He's the only one with a microphone, which gives him lots of power and lots of opportunities for a moment in the sun. Fortunately the deejay this weekend didn't abuse his power. He was willing to give me his microphone (which he was sure to turn off) long enough for me to fake karaoke to a couple of songs and tell all of the young children that they should go home and download the entire Journey catalog.

Oh, and then there's the guy who knows the entire Thriller dance. His moment in the sun involves him going solo on the dance floor and dancing like a zombie. His moment lasts about 7 minutes. This is about 6 minutes too long.

There are plenty of other examples of people with their moment in the sun. It's not quite Andy Warhol's 15 minutes, because the individual didn't really do anything to deserve their moment, it doesn't really bring them 'fame' and it usually is over in less than 15 minutes. Like the guy who works for the hurricane bureau or whatever national agency looks at hurricanes. Most of the year he just sits around coming up with names for hurricanes, but there's that one night per year when he gets interviewed by Brian Williams and tells us that he thinks it's going to be a bad storm season this year. Thanks man, we'll see you again next year. Now get back to thinking of a female name that starts with Y.

So my apologies to RJ for going away from the blog charter/mission statement on this post. He isn't allowed to complain until he posts something again. Let me know if you guys have any other examples of people enjoying their moment in the sun. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Free Cat on 2!

My blogmate asked me yesterday if we have strayed too far from the original purpose of the blog (which had something to do with helping others survive their mid-late 20s/early career). This is RJ's passive-aggressive way of making a statement, or asking me to get back on message with the blog. And didn't he say this was the year of the bold and direct RJ?

While I disagree with his methods, he's probably right. I've been blogging about whatever I've been thinking of, rather than thinking about keeping a common theme going here. So I'll use this post to talk about a universally misused communication channel: internal, company email. More specifically, this is about the (mis)use of distribution lists.

The Red ! - Outlook users of the world are familiar with the red ! is supposed to signify that a message is important or urgent. I have not used this feature in the past three years, and I don't think it has impacted the ability for me to get my point across via email. When I receive emails with the Red !, I typically ignore them - especially when they are sent to a large group. My thought here is that nothing that I really do at work is urgent, so if the email is marked with the !, then it must be directed at someone other than me. I also think that if I get enough people to start ignoring the !, then maybe people will just stop using it altogether.

Plz and Thx - Stop it. No more abbreviations in email. These aren't time savers. It's more difficult to find the 'z' or the 'x' than it is to just spell out the damn word. Oh, and abbreviations are even worse if they are in a ! email. If an email is really important, than you should probably take the time to use your grown-up words. Abbreviations are only okay if you aren't sure how to spell a certain word. If you struggle with the spelling of 'congratulations' then I'll accept the use of 'congrats' but you should probably just give in to the power of the dog, the paperclip or the squiggly line.

Reply All - I don't understand why, but people still struggle with this one. If you only want it to go to the sender, then just hit reply. If you want it to go to everyone on the distribution list, then reply all. If you aren't sure who to send it to, just ask yourself if everyone on the distribution list would be able to pick you out of a police lineup. If not, then your opinion/reply probably isn't important to the entire group.

The Forward - This is what Hotmail accounts and great aunts are for, not work email. If you start out an email with "I usually don't send this type of thing at work, but..." then you should just look in the upper right hand corner, find the X, and click on it.

The Giveaway - People in our office (and probably most offices) try to pawn off their unwanted stuff in email all the time. That's where the title to this post came from, in case you were wondering. Actually the title came from a post that RJ started about a month ago, but he hasn't written it yet, so I felt like it was okay to steal the title. Anyway, I have witnessed solicitations for dogs, cats, furniture, pizza, old laptops, and even a house in the past couple of years. This is not okay. I don't want your stuff. Well, pizza is okay, but not the others.

The Re-purposed Out of Office Message - So you're going on vacation and getting ready to tell the world via automated response that you are not going to get back to them. Take the extra five minutes necessary to scan your out of office message to ensure that it accurately reflects the date and seasons. I have a folder of my favorite out of office messages. I have some that say things like 'happy holidays' that I received in late April. Are you really that excited about Arbor Day or is this your first day off since Christmas?

The PSA - There are lots of great causes out there. I know this. If you want to advertise one of them, use the bulletin board or the bathroom door. These are public spaces. My inbox is my personal space. If your coworkers didn't know that it was election day and use your email as motivation to get out and rock the vote, then there's a good chance that they really didn't read up on the candidates/issues. So do you really want them to vote?

So that's it. A blog post that relates back to the YIFY value proposition. I hope you're happy, RJ. Oh, and if anyone has any great examples of these, plz post them as comments. There might be a free cat in it for you. Thx!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Your Airport

I've been spending a decent amount of time traveling lately. So while I'm waiting for Group 4 to board, I figured I'd comment on the latest of my poorly developed theories. I've decided that instead of visiting cities to determine if the city is a good fit, you can just spend an hour in the airport and learn what the city is all about. The basic premise is that most airports in most cities look a whole lot like the cities themselves. I'm sure that there are some exceptions, but here is my evidence thus far:

Indianapolis: This one might change (we're getting a new airport) but the city and current airport share several qualities. It's cheap. Parking is $6.50/day at the airport, and food is moderately priced, much like the city. Both the city and airport also have way too much sprawl for their size (you'll taxi for 15 minutes on the runway, to get to one of their 15 gates).

Miami: It's big and noisy. There are pushy people, obscene humidity, and a general disinterest in being helpful. It's pretty much New York + more humidity + really attractive people who make bad wardrobe decisions.

Salt Lake City: Incredibly sterile. Really clean bathrooms and really large families. I was in a line with about 30 people in front of me, but there were only 3 families.

Chicago: Too much stuff in too small of a space. Always late. Noisy. Frustrating. Always seems like someone is really close to going nuts and getting violent - both in the city and the airport.
Note: this is a commentary on Ohare. Midway is okay, I guess.

Atlanta: There are good parts and really bad parts. They allow indoor smoking and the Airtran terminal feels like a Greyhound station. Lots of greasy food.

Vegas: Lots of old people gambling. Really expensive.

So that brings me to Charlotte. Kate and I visited the city a few times before we decided to live there, but we probably could have saved some time and money by just visiting the airport. It's nice and clean and everything feels new. Good shopping and food. Oh, and they have rocking chairs.

Well that's my theory for today. Would love for the loyal YIFY readers to comment on how their airports are/aren't an accurate reflection of their city. And if you disagree with this theory, that's okay. I'm working on a couple more, including:

1. A new sliding scale on how much you can spend on something unnecessary that could potentially be memorable. Basically $100 for every year that you'll remember something. So if some meal/trip/wine costs $300, then it's only a good investment if you think you'll remember it for the next three years and reference it in stories to friends/acquaintances.

2. Houston is the worst city in the world. You can prove this by taking the city that you dislike the most, and then take away the best thing from that city (whatever that may be) and you'll probably end up with something that looks a lot like Houston. Like take L.A. and get rid of the're basically left with Houston.

I better stop now. Using multiple subjects in the same post and starting to sound like Andy Rooney or Larry King. I think it's time for Group 4 to board.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Two Kinds of People

I read a lot of Cosmo. Oh, and Glamour. I do this on the off chance that Kate buys one of these (rarely) or when I'm waiting in line at Wal-Mart. Some people might be embarrassed to read Cosmo while waiting in line at Wal-Mart. If you are one of these people, just look at the other people waiting in line. Your secret is probably safe.

Side note #1 - How are these magazines socially acceptable? They're pretty much female porn without the pictures. Just read the cover if you're too embarrassed to read the articles. Just on the cover, you'll find teasers about your moan zone, what he likes in the sack, and how it's okay to sleep with your boss. These things should have the plastic cover on them. But then I guess I wouldn't be able to read them at Wal-Mart. Nevermind. They're harmless.

Side note #2 - If you're a 28 year old male, people give you a strange look if you're reading People or Cosmo. If you're reading Cosmo Girl or Teen People, then it's a little creepy. This is sort of ironic, since the actual content of the tween versions are much less graphic, but I guess it's because Miley Cyrus is on the cover. She's always on the cover.

So back to Cosmo. I have many favorite parts, but if I had to pick just one, it would be the quiz/testing section. Maybe it's because I like numbers, or maybe it's something else. Either way, these things are great. For those of you who haven't read Cosmo (or want to pretend like you never have) you basically have 10 multiple choice questions. After answering these 10 questions, you add up your score, and then go to the corresponding table to find out what outlandish statement the editors of Cosmo use to classify people with similar scores. 0-12 = You're a dead fish. 13 - 20 = You should leave your husband and sleep with the pool boy. 21 - 35 = You should quit your job. You get the idea.

I've decided to come up with a YIFY compatibility test. After completing this test, you'll know if you're compatible with RJ's posts, my posts, or both. There should probably be four options for each question, but I'm already procrastinating as it is, so we'll have to settle for two. For each question that you answer A, give yourself one point, and B's are worth 2 points.

Question 1: What is your idea of a perfect weekend?
A. Going to an art museum on Friday, an open water swim on Saturday, and doing a crossword puzzle during breakfast at Bob Evans on Sunday.
B. Eating Pizza, Drinking Beer, and Watching sports on TV. All weekend.

Question 2: When someone brings up politics, you
A. Say that you're independent, bring up one harmless issue, and show that you know what you're talking about while still making it clear that you really don't want to talk about politics.
B. Make a smartass comment that will probably offend the other person, even though you know you shouldn't. And then make the conversation more awkward by somehow bringing up religion.

Question 3: When you meet a new coworker, you
A. Make an effort to introduce yourself. Give the new person the benefit of the doubt, and invite them to do something, somewhere.
B. Avoid an introduction. Make it known that you don't like change, and start with the opinion that the new person is an idiot. This way you can only be pleasantly surprised if the person is good at their job, and you'll look like a genius if the turn out to be an idiot.

Question 4: When someone mentions Indianapolis, you
A. Talk about all of the great local spots, offer recommendations, and probably invite them to do something, somewhere.
B. Say the same inappropriate things that you brought up in the political discussion, and mention again that you're moving.

Question 5: When a coworker asks you to grab a beer after work, you
A. Think, sure, maybe I can stop by for one before I go do what it is that I was planning on doing tonight
B. Clear your schedule for the evening

What does this mean?
5 You should probably just read RJ's posts
6-9 Read all of our stuff
10 We should probably hang out
11+ Leave your husband and sleep with the pool boy

Order Up.

I'm the guy who asks waiters for his recommendation on what to order. Some of my friends think this habit is embarassing, or annoying, or that it slows the ordering process. Or that it puts the waiter on the spot. People who know my dad thinks that my habit of asking a waiter for a recommendation is very Roy Talyor-ish. Whatever the case, I'm that guy.

There are entire industries based on the idea that someone else knows better. Consultants are paid for their expert advice. Doctors are, too. Travel companies and tour guides are supposed to know their respective cities or points of interest. When I go to a restaurant, I like to know what's good and what sucks, and so I'll ask the waiter, who's supposed to be an expert at their restaurant, right?

I understand that asking the TGI Friday's waiter might not be worth it, as he inevitably respond with "I haven't tried that" or he's just working there to make some extra money over the summer. I know this because I used to be a waiter at TGI Friday's. Or some waitstaff might be expected to know the wine menu but instead only know a few. I know this because I waited tables at a different restaurant (Friday's doesn't have a wine list) and knew only one white and one red recommendation. But at a non-chain restaurant, or one in an unfamiliar city or foreign country, you can count on me to ask for a recommendation.

Yesterday, I was in Lisbon, Portugal, at this crowded restaurant in the Bairro Alto district. Picture small cobblestone streets, Portuguese people (okay, and tourists) spilling out of the local pubs. Picture a cool evening with the sun setting where you can barely hear the crash of the Atlantic waves. Now put three different guys in that mental picture all asking me if I want to buy cocaine. You get the scene. Right down the street from cocaine dealer #2, there's this great restaurant called Bato Alto. It's crowded with locals and all the other people who bought Lonely Planet: Lisbon. After a wait of about a half-hour, we get wedged into a tiny corner to delight in this authentic experience.

Our waiter spoke English, so I asked him his recommendation. He said they were known for dried fish, which I didn't want. But in our trek through the crowded restaurant, I saw someone with a bowl of a risotto-looking dish being served tableside by another waiter. It looked kind of like oatmeal, or slop, or something mushy, brown/gray with clam shells in it.

I asked our waiter about it. He said that it had shrimp, clams, clam shells, herbs, rice and a raw egg mixed in. "99 percent of people don't like it," he advised. My sister had her friend ordered the dried fish and the specialty cod, so I thought I'd just eat more bread or something if I didn't like my order. The raw egg made me a little wary until Martha said, "you eat raw cookie dough all the time." Good point.

The waiter came to the table, dropped the raw egg and mixed it all up and served it. I must be part of the 1%, becuase it was good slop. When dessert time came, the waiter said that he didn't like the fruit and nut pie. I ordered against his recommendation on that one, too.

In other news: I'm finishing this blogpost in the Philadelphia airport. I think I just saw New York from MTV's I Love New York. Rewind and put that TV show on my list of guilty pleasures.