Monday, May 18, 2009

Writer's Block: The Elements of Style

Strunk and White's Elements of Style celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, with three simple words: 'Omit needless words'.

Amen.

As a forever student of journalism, I have always believed that the key to good writing is brevity and clarity.

Although I am not yet the most brilliant of writers, it is this principle that I keep in mind and still apply to the best of my efforts when writing. So far it hasn't failed me yet.

The Elements of Style is a book I like to keep at my desk, right next to my copy of the AP Style Guide, the dictionary, and thesaurus.

If one ever had to summarize The Elements of Style into a few words, it would be to keep writing simple.

Strunk and White tell us that good writing is about brevity and clarity. When in doubt -- omit, simplify and pare. Do away with jargon and pretentious words.

Here's a good example of what to avoid:

The Taming of the Shrew is rather weak in spots. Shakespeare does not portray Katherine as a very admirable character, nor does Bianca remain long in memory as an important character in Shakespeare's works.

Here is how he fixes it:

The women in The Taming of the Shrew are unattractive. Katherine is disagreeable. Bianca insignificant.

You don't have to be a writer to apply this basic principle. I believe everyone needs to pick pointers from this book, to avoid miscommunication especially at the workplace.

In an effort to sound intelligent and capable, we throw in a lot of words that get in the way of the message we try to convey.

Although jargon will always be part of the corporate culture, it is good to remember that sometimes it's just better to keep it simple. You'll get more work done.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Strip: These hard times

You must have already heard this one: 'Recession is when other people lose their jobs. Depression is when you lose yours.'

Whilst the global economic turmoil isn't funny (no thanks to those folks at Wall Street), it does help to laugh about our troubles once in a while.

It's just Lil' Death


The only job The Fly could get



What HR really stands for


Can a superhero get a job around here?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coffee Break: If you want to be happy...

Maybe Europe is where I should go...

T
he Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a new study ranking the world’s nations by the happiness levels of their citizens. According to the published results, northern Europeans are the happiest people in the world. The top ten are:

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. The Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Ireland
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. New Zealand
9. Norway
10. Belgium

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Coffee Break: The Contrabass Sax

The saxophone has always been on the top of my list of sexiest sounding/looking instruments, followed closely by the guitar and the drums. But I think I still prefer the sound of the tenor and alto sax over this.
Just try scoring with the chics with this contrabass sax. I think I'll stick to David Sanborn.

Click here for more humongous instruments.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Writer's Block: Distracted or just plain stupid?

Feeling distracted? You're not alone. And don't blame it on Google.

In as much as I'd like the world to blame them, it isn't true. Google isn't making the world stupid. If anything, it just makes people lazy, and I'm speaking from experience.

My exposure to the Internet and my cellphone over the years has expanded tremendously -- so bad that I find it psychologically painful to turn off my laptop and other gadgets, even when I am at home. It's as bad as my dependence on coffee, and I can't let go. I don't even want to.

I'd take my laptop to the shower if I wasn't so afraid of getting it wet or moist. And I know a lot of people who would willingly admit to their heavy addiction to the Internet. If you don't believe me, just ask Yahoos. If you don't know anyone from Yahoo!, ask yourself how many times you've been on Facebook, Multiply, Twitter and Friendster.

Admit it. We're all over-logged. The sooner we accept it, the better.

So what exactly is the problem? Here's what Laura Miller of Salon.com has to say about the subject: 'What this commonplace crisis comes down to is our inability to control our own minds.'

Web articles are designed to be concise. So concise that they are sometimes condensed into fleeting sentences and paragraphs, that anything 14 paragraphs long is considered lengthy.

Of course, other elements come into play, such as layout, graphics and ads. So many things go onto a page that it is so easy for us mortals to get distracted by the 'pretty picture' and lolcats.

As someone who's worked on and studied online user behavior, it is quite easy to tell what people love to pay attention to, and they rarely have anything to do with anything with actual literary value.

Our brains are wired to be drawn to what we find pleasing to the eye, so even self-proclaimed bookworms (like me) may have some trouble reading more than a few pages of a paperback novel at a time.

So are we getting stupider? Not necessarily so. Modern humans are still able to retain the same amount of information as our forefathers, maybe even more. But we are also bombarded with a lot of useless information that, if we are not careful, can distract us and make us lose our desire for 'real meat'.

Just like dieting, the information we let in shapes the way our minds work. If we keep feeding it junk, our brains just end up malnourished. So go pick up that book. - wmf

Coffee Break: The Problem of Time

by Jim Culleny

Then was now once while now always is
the train leaving the station

and Is (itself) is pretty much
a matter of interpretation
as murky as the dilemma:
to be or not to…which was
well explored long before today
(today being exactly when
Hamlet was written anyway).

Tomorrow maybe I’ll figure it all out,
though by then it’ll be almost yesterday again

which before tock has ticked will
seem like a month or two ago
or year or even an eon or so
, which it undoubtedly is

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coffee Break: 7 Types of Bad Bosses

They insist that a five-day job should only take five hours, and wonder why you only work 16 hours on weekends. They flip-flop and blame you for their mistakes, but downplay any job well done.
Yep, we're talking about bosses from hell.
I don't know about you, but I've had my share of some pretty bad bosses. Although most of my bosses were wonderful, intelligent people that I would happily fetch and carry for again -- there are a few who just seem make Donald Trump look like Oprah.

Here are a few of the types I've had unfortunate encounters with:

1. The Bully

He alternates between jolly and grouchy — but even his jolly side is a little scary sometimes. He enjoys "teasing" his subordinates, especially anyone who's different in some way, like having funny-shaped ears. "Notices" his female underlings a little too closely. He does give an inspiring speech about risk-taking, but that's usually just to drag you into some weird body-switching scheme that will leave you with a weird rash for a month. He's also the original "I want it done yesterday" boss, who's "sick of hearing the word 'can't.'"

2. The Blamer

She's always right — even when she changes her mind three times. She'll take a tough stand, but then change her tune if her cronies disagree. She lectures you about her principles, but they're all totally disposable. She's all like, "No, we are not going to make an alliance with the Denim," "There is no way we are possibly going to trade technology with the Gherkins," etc. etc. But when it comes down to it, she's all about expediency. And then after one of her little ethical shortcuts blows up in her face, it's always your fault, not hers.

3. The Queen Bee

She claims it's all about the group, and what's best for the "collective." It's not about her at all — in fact, just pretend she's not there. She's just there to speak for the group. And then she insists on being all showy — ooh, look at me lowering my head and spine into my slinky new body! She has to be the center of attention, even while she's pretending that she's one small part of a huge collective. She enjoys seducing you into her group, but once you join, you'll just be one of her bees. And if you ever get away, she'll keep bugging you and showing up when you're trying to chill in your regeneration alcove.

4. The politician

On the surface, he's a big swaggering warlord... but it only takes a glance to realize he's really just a conniving weasel. He'll say anything to get ahead, and always manages to wind up in charge because he maneuvers all the smarter people into destroying each other while he remains unscathed. If you start doing too well or — worse yet — become too popular around the office, he orders you to do an impossible task and then blames you when you fail. Or he tries to maneuver you into self-destructing somehow, by giving you contradictory or unrealistic orders.

Here's the complete list: The 7 Types of Bosses according to Star Trek