contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Why I Don’t Write Fiction

Posted by contentgrrl on October 27, 2009

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.‘ – E.L. Doctorow, author of World’s Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1989), and others.

The prospect of completely creating a fictional universe — around a protagonist, his allies, his family, his challenges, his antagonists, and all the little twists and turns of fate — frankly frightens me.

I do well enough to make a living as a technical communicator and content developer, and leave myself a little time to make healthy little forays into escapist fiction, television, games, and dreams.

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This Means Something … Generational

Posted by contentgrrl on October 3, 2008

Today I told what turns out to be a generational joke, and for the first time in my life it it went flat due to an age difference.

The department where I work brought in Babe’s for lunch today from Roanoke, TX (I highly recommend Babe’s, but you can only choose chicken fried steak or fried chicken. Those are the only entrees on the menu.).

We were in line serving ourselves, and the guy ahead of me had a plate laden with a mountain of mashed potatoes, which — in preparation for Babe’s wonderful country gravy — he was molding with a fork.

“‘This means something,'” I quipped.

No reaction.

“You mean you’re too young for that one?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m ’83.”

I thought he might mean class of ’83, which would certainly put him in movie theatres when that infamous quote was around.

“That was Close Encounters. You’ve never seen it?”

“Was that from the 70’s? I don’t even remember when ET was out.”

“Oh, you were born in ’83. Wow.”

Oh, he’s young. I don’t always get those one-liners in at the perfect time. I know, that one’s done to death. With people my age, who are in the know ;^), It would get more groans than chuckles. But I started to be proud of myself for a funny, and ugh! fell flat on my face.

Well, this is a first for me. Is it all downhill now?

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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.

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13 elements that appeal to this gamergrrl

Posted by contentgrrl on November 28, 2007

I ran links to a gamergrrl’s manifestos in my post about misguided gift shopping lists of games. But what appeals to gamergrrls about actual gameplay? Developers and fellow gamers, I can offer my own likes:

  1. I love customizing my avatar. Oblivion has some great tools to customize facial features and other characteristics that make up the personality. Even the Tiger Woods game did a fair job with avatars, and gives you the option to buy new clothes. The faces, hair, and physical proportions still need work, and the wardrobe is definitely appropriate for the golf course (not in a good way). My dear husband recreated himself, me, and our young sons in his game. I kick total butt on all courses onscreen, even if I refuse to pick up a putter in real life.
  2. I love building a well-rounded character. In Baldur’s Gate, I hated when my husband focused on one characteristic like strength to the detriment of charisma and agility. That may be the influence of my time management training, between Franklin-Covey and the Paul J. Meyer system. Even though Diablo II had a rather limited set of characters, I loved building up points so I could use some of the treasures. Lara Croft seemed fairly well-rounded already (;^), but I would have liked to build more than just quest stats, and build skills. A well-rounded character should be rewarded; I think Oblivion did this well, as did Torment.
  3. I love an intuitive interface. I keep seeing these getting better and better: navigation through movement and physical skills, interaction with the environment, talking with other players and non-player characters, selecting spells and weapons, and shopping for stuff. Oh, and thanks for letting me customize the keys I use. Now if only I could use those Lara Croft or basketball moves in real life.
  4. I like beautiful gamescapes, but not to the detriment of gameplay. It’s another thing that makes a game immersive. I won’t say I love beauty and art and graphics, because lately a lot of engines favor looks over substance.
  5. I love clever music. Portal’s closing credits are a hoot (see it on YouTube). Diablo’s themes for various levels haunted me all the time.
  6. I love allies. In Planescape Torment, they gave me much more than your standard fighter/wizard/archer mix of allies. I could actually have conversations with these allies, learn more about the world, discuss the pros and cons about what our troop was doing and could do next. I could even learn new skills (like thievery, weaponry, magic, eloquence, and so on).
  7. I love a story with a good plot. I want to immerse myself in a story. Again, I’ll use Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and the Myst series as good examples. Actually, Star Wars Academy was another. You move the plot forward by the choices and actions you make.
  8. I love both laughing and crying. This may be an extension of plot, but it comes up with dialog as well. Planescape Torment actually moved me to both laughter and tears, and not just because I’d been awake for far too long. (BTW, laughing and crying are my litmus tests for a good movie, and extremely rare in a game).
  9. I love dialog that moves the plot. Not the “Wait, I’m a Medic” or “Thanks” and “You’re Welcome” of the new Crysis that Morgan reviewed last night on G4TV. I have to admit that I like the multiple-choice dialog from Baldur’s Gate II, where you made friends and enemies and affected your charisma points by the dialog choices you made. And I’ll say again about Oblivion, while I love using humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion to win over non-player characters, I’d much rather have a good Whedonesque screenwriter write the actual banter, which would give me some better examples that I might want to try out in real life. Oh, and the voice acting has to be good. Sure Lynda Carter (of the original WonderWoman) can do well as an Orc in Oblivion. But some sound bytes are downright annoying.
  10. I gotta touch everything. I want to explore every square yard/meter of a level or landscape for treasure, and clean it up by killing all the Big Bads and their minions. In that, I differ markedly from my husband (and young sons). Have you seen that comedian, Defending the Caveman? It’s the difference between Hunters and Gatherers, and I am the latter.
  11. I love puzzles that make me think and apply what I already know in new ways. Go Portal. Go Myst. And, to some extent, go Tomb Raider, in terms of using Lara’s skills to get to where she needs to go. But most games are still limited when it comes to what you can pick up and use in the environment; a recent exception is Half-Life, where you could break all sorts of things, lift them, push and pull, with a very user-friendly interface.
  12. I love when the game’s karma rewards or punishes moral choices. Baldur’s Gate punished you for selfish choices by dropping your Charisma so low you couldn’t get anybody to give you information or sell you stuff. Oblivion lets you explore being a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, and so on, all in the same game, but completing each faction’s quests definitely has its rewards, and I’m not sure I want immorality rewarded so much; I’d like to see something decremented like your ability to restore life force or mana when you disrespect property, life, or earth. As much as I like Grand Theft Auto as entertainment, it puts a knot in my stomach for how rude Tommy & CJ are, the foul language they and their NPCs use, the disrespect for women, and oh, yeah, the stealing, killing, and outright destruction. There are games where you get to play the cop, but he’s usually an anti-hero, one who’s out to get speeders or break all the rules. Are there any good detective or FBI profiler or spy games? I haven’t really looked.
  13. I love learning something that reflects real life. I’ll say again, my absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay, dialogue, and plot. I also learned about biology and ecology in an old Gaia simulation. I actually learned a thing or two about using golf clubs from Tiger Woods. I’ve even learned a few things about combination shots and English from the old Virtual Pool. It’s too bad that Guitar Hero is only a dumbed-down version of the Dance steps. It doesn’t actually teach you how to play chords. If it did, I’d be all over that. I could really get into a sim for learning how to sail or fly a small plane. I was even lucky enough to be involved in developing simulation training for telecom field network troubleshooting for SBC, now at&t.

Any other manifestos around?

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Corpse of Copse

Posted by contentgrrl on October 31, 2007

I’m looking back on a poem I wrote for a corporate contest Halloween 2006:

Homeward bound in hope and reverie and mist
Through twisted grove in twilight hallowed and shadow-tricked
The wood winds blow chill crystals from my breath
My eyes clench against a musty autumn bluster
I amble, stumbling in brambles abruptly clearing
Free to find a faery circle, the crux a primordial specter
Whose ancient shade cast a fruitless barren
But hidden by bushy locks of coal and silver
A face insinuates in petrification, there a sneer, there a brow
Wrinkle-ringed with eons to tell under a thorny crown
Limbs adorned in lichen and webs of refuse
Round a monstrous trunk worn to a pulp
A wind whispers dry admittance of former glory
Then wafts a golden amber resinous essence’s beckoning
Inexorably I am rooted, entangled and climbed
To wield a wand, then plant within my grasp
A thorn, piercing, slivering, bloodthirsty
Wending its poison’s way into atriums dexter and sinister
And I am fallen, leaves clinging with sap-strewn veins
To cloak and bury ‘til melting slushes
Wash the withered shroud from frozen bones

By TereLyn Hepple, Halloween 2006

“Too bad there wasn’t much of a challenge in the race for best poem/story,” I said, on winning the $25 prize for best poem/story. “That was right up there among the absolute worst poetry in the universe, by Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England. ;^) But thank all 46 fellow employees who voted!”

The worst poem in the Universe:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Neil_Milne_Johnstone

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