contentgrrl

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Archive for the ‘heroes’ Category

My heroes! The gods, wizards, captains, mavericks, brothers in life, literature, and media.

Figaro’s 5 ways to teach a kid to argue

Posted by contentgrrl on January 26, 2012

Years ago, I ran across a site that put Aristotle firmly in mind for his three Rhetorical appeals: ethos, pathos, and logos. The site, which is lost now, gave some wonderfully homey examples of how a child could use the three appeals to convince her mother to let her go to a certain party.

Recently I ran across FigaroSpeech’s Teach a Kid To Argue.

What?! If you teach your kids to argue, they’ll talk back! They’ll second-guess you! They’ll question everything! They might think independently…oh, wait. I actually want that.

Here is Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse, according to Jay Heinrichs:

  • Argue to teach decision-making, by playing devil’s advocate. “You seem to have good reasons for what you want to do. But what’s going to happen next? What happens down the road? How does that affect your friends and family?”
  • Focus on the future. “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”
  • Call fouls. “Calling names is not going to win anyone over.”
  • Reward the right emotions. “Expressing anger with whining and shouting is not pathetic enough, because it doesn’t persuade me to empathize with you. Try using a calm, big boy voice.”
  • Let kids win sometimes. Reward a good argument.

Liking this better and better. Aren’t you?

Yep, I got the book: Thank You For Arguing. Chock full of pop culture examples to illustrate rhetorical devices. Thinking of getting his Word Hero once I have time to get through dozens of similar books on my shelf. Anyone read Heinrich’s latest?

And if any of you English & Rhetoric teachers out there can find me a great source on the three appeals, please share.

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LinkedIn Does A Better Job of Communicating

Posted by contentgrrl on January 23, 2012

OopsSurprising phrase in an email from LinkedIn:

We could have done a much better job communicating about this change, so we want to clarify what this may mean to you…

This was the second message I’ve gotten about its changing feature set for displaying Twitter feeds.

The first alert had left me wondering if my Tweets would still update my LinkedIn status stream. This second message clarified that this service was still intact and unaffected by the change.

Now, Alsup’s Number 8 of 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation is to recognize your shortcomings. “We could have done a much better job of communicating” rang very loud about the faux pas. Think for a minute: LinkedIn might have been a little quieter about their previous oversight. But if they had left out that statement, the message would have come off as a high-handed afterthought, as though the audience was too dumb to realize the previously unspoken detail.

So that statement:

  • Brings LinkedIn down a notch
  • Keeps their reputation friendly and self-deprecating
  • Fulfills that rhetorical appeal of Ethos, or character. Kudos!

Ideally, when alerting customers about a change in services, you include a little disambiguation from the get-go. A good writer knows to anticipate and define terms the audience may find confusing. The writer’s challenge is to select details that will clearly support the purpose of the alert, while assuaging their biggest concerns and promoting a positive reputation for the organization.

In the first message, LinkedIn could indeed have done a better job of distinguishing the Twitter feed box being discontinued from a related feature that automatically integrates Tweets into your LinkedIn status updates.

But they freely admitted their oversight. Bonus, they successfully communicated the difference, while educating members about a feature that many might not have known was available.

It’s good public relations, too. If you want to temper bad news where you must take something away from your customers, come back to admit an oversight and highlight something great that you offer for free!

I may steal this trick sometime in the future. Shhh…

Two questions for discussion:

  1. What did you think of LinkedIn’s decision to remove the Tweets box from member profiles?
  2. What other examples have you seen of companies turning bad news around?

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Why I Write? Because I Can Spell

Posted by contentgrrl on April 12, 2011

Dictionary Indents By Till Niermann (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsI was discovered as a writer because I could spell.

Spelling is not difficult when you have:

  • Great teachers early on fostering a love of etymology.
  • Great books peppered with foreign languages and highfalutin’ vocabularies.
  • A great father who gave me my first dictionary, set of encyclopedias, and book club membership. (Am I dating myself? It’s obviously before the Internet 🙂 .)

My writing had humble beginnings. In Texas, each school district sends students to district University Interscholastic League (UIL) meets, running the gamut of academics to arts to sports.

I was a geek: I won best actress in One Act Play, regional contests in Accounting and Typing, and several respectable ribbons in Ready Writing and Spelling.

Dr. Tom Buckner, director of the journalism department at McLennan Community College, had the dubious honor of judging such contests. Bless him, he always contacted the winners of a certain age for followup interviews, to recruit them to his department.

I got a scholarship, joined Dr. Buckner’s staff, became one of his editors on the Highland Herald, and went on with his guidance to win collegiate awards in headline writing, editorial writing, and investigative reporting. After I received a degree in journalism, he introduced me to an internship at a national trade magazine, Occupational Health & Safety, which hired me for my first full-time job as an associate editor.

I followed in Dr. Buckner’s footsteps a few times volunteering to judge UIL contests. I still keep in touch with some of the cartoonists, and other editors of the time. My contacts there have led to several gigs over the years.

For Dr. Buckner, I am very thankful. I have a career that I love.

How were you “discovered”? Please comment!

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GTD like Your RPG Avatar Builds Real-Life Character

Posted by contentgrrl on April 8, 2011

I love lists. I’ve used so many systems: daily checklists on my tear-off-a-day desk calendar from the ’80s, Franklin Covey and Success Management Institute in the ’90s, FlyLady’s Control Journal in the 2000’s. Post-it notes to be rearranged and updated daily on my wall. Folders/binders front and center for each duty or project, with immediate next steps clipped on top. Calendar time reserved for a couple of weeks ahead when I need to devote my attention and dissuade distractions and ding reminders.

And I gotta say I’ve accomplished a lot: master’s degree, happy career, healthy family, some spiritual development along the way, and forays into wide-spread interests. Not perfect by any means; always room for improvement.

Now I’m an iPhone app hound :P, especially for recurring tasks so I don’t have to write them down again.

My two current faves:

  • At home, I use [url=http://www.homeroutines.com/]HomeRoutines [/url]for its program inspired by [url=http://FlyLady.net]FlyLady.net[/url] to encourage good household and decluttering habits. I am motivated to fill up those stars!
  • For both home AND WORK, I use [url=http://www.epicwinapp.com/]EpicWin [/url]for its chores to-do lists inspired by role-playing games (RPGs). I build (“level up”) character in real life for quests, and feats of strength, stamina, intellect, social, and spirit. I use mine for work and various project to-dos.

I also get virtual loot, and can update Twitter and/or Facebook as follows: “I’ve been doing my chores and just scored a Undercover Shrubber – Epic Win! http://bit.ly/ao6xRS”. I’ve got several work to-dos slated there.

One site I have liked for fitness and diet is [url=http://www.sparkpeople.com/]Sparkpeople[/url]. But it is so rich in content, tools (menus, calorie counters, tracking databases, reports) and community (login point spinner, groups, blogs, forums, gifts, statuses) that it can be overkill. Eventually it becomes a time-sucking distraction from actually getting out and burning calories.

I keep falling off the wagon there. I tried to simplify – merely log in to note that yes I’ve exercised for 20 minutes today, and I’ve drunk 8 glasses of water, and eaten 5 fruits & veggies. The SparkPeople iPhone app is more about logging calorie intake and burnoff, which is not my program.

Now I can do my three simple daily health to-dos on my iPhone in HomeRoutines and/or EpicWin.

How do you get things done?

What do you do to build your own real-life character?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Posted in games, grrly, heroes, heroines, performance, project management, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SuperShadow Star Wars Trilogy Disjointed, Disappointing

Posted by contentgrrl on July 2, 2008

When researching Leia: the heroine’s journey through hairstyles, I found a SuperShadow plot synopsis of what is supposed to be George Lucas’ upcoming trilogy. I am disappointed, for several reasons:

  • Leia’s son is named Anakin, and Luke’s son is named Ben. Namesakes smack of laziness, and make for confusion among fans (Did you mean Anakin Skywalker or Anakin Solo? Ben Kenobi or Ben Skywalker?). I’d rather see a creative wordplay honoring both Padme/Amidala and Anakin (Padkin? Dalkin?)
  • There’s no character growth. The focus is on the aging Luke, Leia, Han, and so forth. As much as I want to see Leia grow into the matriarch she’s born to be, and a Jedi in her own right, Lucas makes her and Han minor characters.  Sure, their children have to step up and do them proud, but there’s no real drama here, or tension.
  • There’s no romantic tension. Oooh, one scene tossed in with Ben and his girlfriend on the Kessel Run, but it doesn’t add to the story arc.
  • No interesting new world being explored, except maybe an old Sith stronghold.
  • The thought that Jedi would even think about using a weapon that unleashes a black hole on a system turns my stomach.
  • More clones, but not all that sinister. More Sith, but I found myself almost rooting for them as underdogs.
  • Out of the edges of space comes a new enemy pouncing to conquer the Republic during a post-rebellion turmoil. I wonder that it’s not that dastardly Trade Federation again.

Next, I’ll look at what I think are better ideas.

Posted in culture, heroes, heroines | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

wii steps closer to virtual reality in your living room

Posted by contentgrrl on February 1, 2008

o mii gosh! My husband found this video on YouTube, where Johnny Chung Lee, a grad assistant at Carnegie Mellon U’s human-computer interaction department, has adapted the Nintendo Wii remote to serve as a digital whiteboard and head tracking for VR displays.

It’s amazing what he does with some hardware driver programming, a PC, the Wii remote controls, and some basic items you can pick up at your local Radio Shack.

With head tracking turned on, the TV actually looks like an entrance to a real room. Just like in real life, when we move our head around, we can look behind objects. As you look closely, some targets appear to be floating off in front of the screen, reaching into the real world. As we get closer to the screen, we get closer to the objects, and even get behind the ones floating in front of the screen. (Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the WiiRemote on YouTube, 2:43)

Tom Cruise, Minority Report, finger LEDs, computer interfaceThe finger tracking technology is the future now. Remember how Tom Cruise flipped through images on a virtual interface in Minority report?I would love to see some games where you can look around corners like I always want to in a race or a stealth mission.

I’d also love to use that whiteboard, since you can “draw” right on the wall, and it can record your notes for later. Oh, collaboration!

Posted in games, heroes, office, tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

report: new evidence for evolution, lack for intelligent design

Posted by contentgrrl on January 4, 2008

Yesterday, the National Academy of Science and its Institute of Medicine published a report, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, touting new fossil evidence for evolution and emphasizing that non-scientific creationist positions have no place in public school science classrooms.

The report emphasizes the need to teach evolution. That’s just in time for consideration by certain state education boards (including Florida and of course, Texas, which I’ve already mentioned in “teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world”) who are considering adding or adjusting standards for teaching evolution in their curriculum.

The book, which can be read online for free, also takes the stance that creationism and its repackaged intelligent design alternatives are not science, and thus should not be included in public science classrooms:

Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes. Many teachers are under considerable pressure … to downplay or eliminate the teaching of evolution. As a result, many U.S. students lack access to information and ideas that are both integral to modern science and essential for making informed, evidence-based decisions about their own lives and our collective future. …

…[T]he science curriculum should not be undermined with nonscientific material. Teaching creationist ideas in science classes confuses what constitutes science and what does not. [page 43]

The conclusion emphasizes that the science of biological evolution forms the basis for biomedical sciences, ecology, and some engineering fields that are profoundly important for the health and welfare of future generations.

Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future. (page 47)

Why can’t we all just get along? Because we — both fundamentalist and atheist, both anti-evolution and anti-creationism — say hurtful and defensive things that turn us away from each other.

In the Dover, Pa., case, duly appointed judge upheld the evidence presented by the plaintiff (Kitzmiller) to declare a certain school-board required statement promoting an Intelligent Design text unconstitutional. Afterward, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson said “to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God — you just rejected Him from your city.” It seems so unChristian and hateful of him. Just because Robertson didn’t agree with the results doesn’t mean that a loving God would retaliate against the faithful citizens of the town where the case took place.

And yes, I’ve heard my share of “infidels” discounting and insulting creationists. Them’s fightin’ words.
I for one am glad that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If parents and church thought leaders want somebody to teach intelligent design, something clearly the realm of religion, shouldn’t that be part of their Sunday School curriculum?

I found the story originally on beliefnet news, Importance of Teaching Evolution Noted. There is an interesting set of reader comments there. The Associated Press story also appears in Dallas Morning News.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

divaFAQ: style and grace in collapsible Q&A

Posted by contentgrrl on December 26, 2007

Months ago, I searched high and low for a script to help me show and hide the answers to our frequently asked questions (FAQs). I didn’t want to program it myself. Ideally, it would work in Macromedia Dreamweaver, but also use standards-compliant, W3C-valid xHTML markup, friendly JavaScript, and CSS. And since we often break down questions by category, multiple sets of Q&A per page had to be possible.

At first the best I found was tjkdesign.com’s Perfect FAQ, toggling show/hide elements using Definition Lists and the DOM. Thierry and T.J. Koblentz offered it in easyFAQ, but then I had trouble applying the script to a page based on our Dreamweaver site templates, and had some other suggestions. Luckily great minds think alike. Thierry and E. Michael Brandt of Valley Web Designs (my heroes) were collaborating on a new version of the product, and asked me to beta test. Thierry was recently scooped up by Yahoo! so is now “emeritus,” offering vital input and ideas but leaving the day-to-day activities and programming to EMB.

divaHTMLI am downright ecstatic to have found the result of their collaboration, divaHTML’s divaFAQ, and happy to testify that it beats out every other kid on the block!

Here’s why:

  • No one else lets you toggle the display of multiple FAQ sections per page.
  • Nobody else gives you the option to let users print the FAQs page with either selected answers or all answers shown.
  • Nobody else does all this at such a reasonable price.
  • Nobody else does all this while making it so easy to implement and maintain, even in a template environment, without a lot of coding.

We even include images, paragraphs and bullet lists within the definition tags, and it turns out very clean, user-friendly, and customizable. We did some easy tweaks in the well-commented CSS, and we have more pages to convert to definition lists. But my boss likes the buttons and my most verbal coworkers are thrilled with the results.

They keep adding new products too: a standards-compliant pop-up window divaPOP, and “you are here” highlighting to virtually any menu in divaGPS. …And now they’ve updated divaFAQ with the ability to have multiple definitions (DDs) per definition term (DT). OK, I’m not sure how I’m going to use that, but it speaks volumes about their support and dedication.

One thing I learned the hard way is that divaFAQ cannot be added directly to Templates, rather it is to be added to their Children. Not a problem; with the Extension installed in Dreamweaver, that’s a couple of clicks away using the friendly toolbar button and wizard.

If you’re not a Dreamweaver fanatic, it’s still easy to use by simply setting up and naming your Definition Lists, copying the divaFAQ files and scripts into the right place.

I use the collapsible divaFAQs for not only Q&A, but also for lists of recent software support messages, and to organize information about our Webinars.

Posted in heroes, publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

dad – claiming heritage without going back

Posted by contentgrrl on December 23, 2007

One of the reasons I started this blog was to honor my heroes and heroines in life and literature. I’ve got a long list of names in my drafts, but I’m having trouble feeling like I can do any of them justice.

I have had the privilege this year to scan a photo album that belongs to my dad, the perpetual boy scout. His father was a scout cadet and leader as well. So my dad’s been in uniform all his life. And considering what happened during WWII, I don’t blame him for wanting to become a U.S. soldier and therefore a U.S. citizen.

It’s been interesting to see all the photos of old classmates and girlfriends, but the thing that really chokes me up is all the notes written affectionately from my grandfather to “Pepito” on the backs of these photos. I’ve scanned these notes as well, and will display in the photo albums I make for family.

After my dad came to New York for his medical residency, there’s a set of photos showing the house that was built with the money he sent back, with a note about the penthouse reserved for him when he comes back home. And there are several pictures of a young lady, apparently friendly with my grandmother, who writes with great affection for my dad. And then, abruptly, there’s a message “To Pepito and Judy” right around the time that dad married my mother, who was just out of nursing school near the hospital where Dad was a resident. And then there are pictures of my uncle and godfather, who also emigrated to New York around the time I was born.

I denied my heritage for a long time. By the time I was a teenager, Dad had settled in a small country town that is the complete opposite of cosmopolitan. I strived not to look too different. And, studious introvert that he was, he never spoke to me of our heritage or his story. And so, studious introvert that I was, I never thought to ask.

In college I dated a guy who had been stationed in my family’s country; what he knew of my heritage was gained from what a soldier might know, the underbelly.

I married a man who guessed my heritage; he thinks women from my family’s country are the most beautiful in the world. It’s a nice sentiment, but certain stereotypes haunt me. My dh’s grandfather had been stationed there in WWII, and also recollected that country’s horrifying underbelly.

Dad left the islands and went back only for funerals, to bring back pearls for his daughters. I suspect there is an unspoken pain he would rather not burden the present with. But when I asked him why he didn’t go back to live, he simply said he felt that there was better opportunity for him here in the States.

I have followed his example even while I was unaware of it; as much as I want him to be a part of my sons’ lives, I definitely don’t want to move back to that small town, or even the larger town nearby. I chose the town where we live now, within easy driving distance but not so close that we see each other every month. And it’s hard to let go of a steady job that I like so much, even when I remain isolated from family and friends.

I would love to go back to the islands when I have a good opportunity; there was another funeral for an uncle I never met recently, but with all the terrorists it has become very dangerous for an American citizen abroad there. My sons need a mother more than I need to visit that hornet’s nest.

But I will take the opportunity to ask what I can while I can, and make sure my children know their grandfather and great uncle. And I resolve to chip away at the walls of isolation that I have built up around us.

I’d like to share a related story that touched me: Reclaiming Ownership of My History.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, grrly, heroes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

a little sugar for the season

Posted by contentgrrl on December 21, 2007

This week at work, our inboxes are graced with thank-yous to the few very hardworking “Santa’s elves” who brought the Childrens’ Holiday Party to reality this year, broadcast to all employees.

One of the elves responded with fond sentiments for the parents who helped and for the children who participated.

Then, one guy joked, “Yeah….that’s a lot of words….I got “thank you” and “have a very merry Christmas” out of that ;).” He referred to the only capitalized phrases in the single large block of sentiments, obviously meaning to be funny. But as with the other messages, it went to all employees.

Kudos to the guys who made light of it: “And the award for tact goes to…” and “Suggested reading: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.”

Kudos to the ladies and gentlemen who responded to the original sentiments with thanks for making their day.

And kudos to the joker who actually apologized rather well. After a talk with his manager, and a review from another manager. ;^)

But it reminds me of my whippersnapper days when I was still working (at another company) at 3 am due to last-minute changes that had to be done to get the product out the door, and what to my wondering mind did appear but a idea to suggest (via email, of course, to the entire department) that the project should have been user-tested earlier. In hindsight, it was useless and inconsiderate. The next day, I learned that months before I was hired, well, they actually had gone through that testing. And I wasn’t with that company for long after the project ended.

That's a pretty stupid idea, John. I'm afraid I'll have to kill you.So. I commemorated the event with a coffee cup, decorated with a cartoon of a guy in a suit at a meeting, pulling a gun out of his coat, saying, “That’s a pretty stupid idea, John. I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you.”

But thanks to one of the humorous respondents, what inspires me is the lesson of this Carnegie exerpt:

Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment. …The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.

George B. Johnston of Enid, Oklahoma, is the safety coordinator for an engineering company. One of his responsibilities is to see that employees wear their hard hats whenever they are on the job in the field. He reported that whenever he came across workers who were not wearing hard hats, he would tell them with a lot of authority of the regulation and that they must comply. As a result, he would get sullen acceptance, and often after he left, the workers would remove the hats.

He decided to try a different approach. The next time he found some of the workers not wearing their hard hat, he asked if the hats were uncomfortable or did not fit properly. Then he reminded the men in a pleasant tone of voice that the hat was designed to protect them from injury and suggested that it always be worn on the job. The result was increased compliance with the regulation with no resentment or emotional upset.

As Mary Poppins loves to sing, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” I’ve learned that even if I think pretty good with my keyboard, I come across much better when I let some ideas wait their turn. And when it’s truly worth the trouble to take the time to speak to someone privately on the phone or in person, you have the chance to let small talk and a human connection open doors.

Posted in heroes, humor, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »