Tag Archives: humor

Self Assessment #Fail

On Monday I sat down to pull together the dreaded self assessment.  As a manager this is doubly hard because there’s a fine line between giving all the credit to other people (“you did nothing“) or taking credit for things that you managed but didn’t actually do yourself (“credit pirate“).

buzzWhile performing a brain dump of the accomplishments this year I typed the words “right sized” and, before I knew it, my ADD kicked in causing me to search for corporate BS generators.  I was chuckling at some very humorous lines created using nothing more than random buzzwords when my manager stopped by my office.

” What’s that on your screen?”  he asked as he leaned over for a closer look and I turned around to see my draft self appraisal on one monitor and a page with a huge banner headline of “Corporate Bulls@@t Generator” on the other…

It’s a good thing he has a sense of humor!

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Filed under Business, Career, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

Turning Negatives into Positives

Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you deal with it.

Sometimes that means just staying positive, or keeping a sense of humor when things go wrong.  But occasionally it’s possible to flip things on their head and actually turn a negative into a positive.  Hard to imagine?  Here a couple of quick examples:

1. Shooting the cat.

When my wife brought home a cat I was quite happy…right up to the point when he started using the furniture as a scratching post.  The little bugger would happily saw away at the arm of the sofa while staring directly at me.  It didn’t matter how much I shouted and waved my arms, he wouldn’t stop until I stood up – at which point he would take off only to return only a few minutes later to taunt me again.

After about a week of this, he started his game again but this time found his fun cut short by a powerful jet of water to the neck.  Yes, the tide had turned – now I actually wanted him to attack the sofa so that I could use the super-soaker I had just purchased.  Sadly my fun was short-lived as he quickly realized he was out-gunned (literally) and the scratching stopped.  But, for a short time, I had a lot of fun turning this negative into a positive!

2. Junk mail revenge

Junk mail is a sad fact of life these days.  Each day our mail men and women break their backs delivering paper goods that go straight from our mailbox to the recycling. Clearly someone is buying things from this or they wouldn’t send it, but I find wading through the pile offers and begging letters to find the ‘real mail’ to be a little irritating.

Fortunately Scott Adams provided the answer in his book, The Dilbert Principal.  Some of these companies offer pre-paid envelopes in their junk.  Should you find one of these gold mines, there is an opportunity to release some of the negative energy by stuffing their envelope with your other junk mail, along with a note saying “Please throw this in the garbage for me”. You can then chuckle to yourself as you slip that into the outgoing mail in the full knowledge that the company will now have to pay postage on your junk. Another negative turned into a positive!

3. Spam purveyors of bloatware

A recent update of Adobe Reader installed not only the expected update, but also a copy of McAfee Security Scan Plus.  I never asked for this, and certainly didn’t want it.  If these companies actually believed you wanted their bloatware, they would not feel the need to hide the opt-out check box in obscure parts of the screen. I was very irritated by this and decided to vent to the customer complaints department of Adobe but, alas, their website doesn’t have any such link – perhaps shut down due to excessive call volume?

Instead I found the Facebook page for Adobe Systems and flagged them as spam. The Internet can be self-healing (Wikipedia is proof of that) so, perhaps, if enough people take this sort of action when a company installs unwanted software, they will get the message.  If nothing else, it gave me a little tingle of satisfaction and turned a negative into a positive!

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and take control of your life – there’s fun to be had everywhere if you know where to look, so start looking!


Filed under Life - or something like it, Technology, The Human Condition

Why Does She Do It?

Mince Pie

Image via Wikipedia

Sheila Ellison‘s book “How Does She Do It?” is about the difficulties one woman faces trying to balance a busy career with the demands of home life.

The book starts at 1:37 a.m. on an average night with our heroine, Kate Reddy, carefully distressing store-bought mince pies with a rolling-pin so that they’ll look homemade for her daughter’s school Christmas party.  She then hides the pie boxes so that her nanny won’t tell the other nannies that Kate ‘cheated’ on the pies.

Seriously? I was so struck by how dumb this appeared that I canvassed the opinion of a few people, including my wife.  Without exception all of the men agreed they would have delivered the pack of mince pies without a second thought, and all of the mothers totally understood why ‘Kate’ felt compelled to go to such lengths.

Clearly the book should not have been called How Does She Do It but, instead, Why Does She Do It?

Why is it that people (usually women?) insist on creating convoluted social rules that make people jump through hoops to get things done?

Does it really matter that this woman didn’t bake the cakes herself?  Surely the task was to deliver something edible and festive and, frankly, I know several people for whom the first part of that statement would be huge a challenge.  It wasn’t that long ago when a store-bought cake was seen as a special treat.  That was when time was available and money was harder to come by.   Now that free time is so elusive, whose bright idea was it to make up rules designed to use up the scarcest resource available ?

When I hear women complain that they never have enough time, I have to admit that I often see it as self-inflicted.  I have no problem with a clean house, but does it need to be constantly ready for a photo shoot for Architectural Digest?  I don’t think so.  Throw a few kids into that situation and this is a recipe for constant frustration.

So, here’s a new social rule for you.  If you make up social rules that go beyond what is really necessary, or abide by  ‘unnecessary’ rules created by others in your social group, then you are not allowed to complain that you don’t have enough time. There…the lack of complaining should give you a little more time in your day already.

People who have watched Seinfeld will be aware that he made up crazy social rules, and had a good deal of success getting society to accept them.  The “double dip” is a great example.  So I am going to take a page from his book and create an “Anti-dumb Rule rule. Not only that, but I am going to put a handy Get Out of Jail Free card at the end of this post for use in future situations.

Here’s a few examples where the card can be used:

1. Wearing the same dress.
I know this is hard to understand, but just because your friends have seen you in that dress before, does NOT mean that it should be thrown to the back of the closet never to be seen again.   Here’s a simple flow diagram to help you – ‘no’ answers take the right fork:

2. Hand writing addresses on holiday cards.
Yes, I have just gone through the holiday season and, once again, tediously hand wrote the envelope on each card.  Aside from the fact that this takes time, my handwriting would make the average doctor look like a calligraphy expert, thus ensuring that these envelopes are both unattractive and may never actually reach their destination.  And why is it that when you can’t remember if you have the most up to date address you are not allowed to just call them and ask?

3.  Bringing gifts when you visit someone.
It’s nice to bring a gifts.  But when you avoid visiting your friends just because you don’t have to ‘knock with your elbows’, then I think the world is a colder and less friendly place.  If these are real friends, then simply spending time with them will be a gift in itself – a bottle of wine isn’t going to add much, other than providing something they can pass along to the next person they visit.

There are many more, but I would really love to hear your versions of silly social rules – there have to be hundreds of these things.  Heck…maybe I’ll even turn them into a book!

So here is my gift to you – a Get Out of Jail Free card for those silly social situations.

Simply print, cut out, and keep in your wallet.  If you want to get really serious, then I would suggest laminating it. Whenever you are short on time, or just not feeling it, simply show the card and other people are banned from complaining.  Done!  You are now free to only partake of the baking, cleaning, shopping, gift-giving, that you WANT to do or that are NECESSARY to keep people clean, clothed and fed.  Enjoy the freedom, and you are welcome!


Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

A Thrilling Ride of a Lifetime

Most motorcycle rides usually start with a pre-ride check.  Depending on how anal the rider is, this can be anything from a thorough inspection to merely a squeeze of the tires to make sure they have air in them.  But this past Sunday, ride preparations involved slicing fruit and making a quiche from scratch!  Now I make a mean quiche, but how did these strange bedfellows come together?   Well, as is often the case when things get a little weird, this all started from a desire to try to please the fairer sex.

Listen up men, because I am about to give you one of the most important life lessons you are likely to hear…Men and Women are NOT the same! I know some men think that women are like men but with different ‘bits’…they are not.  Women are different in ways that we men will never comprehend, and the best we can do is try to keep up with their likes, dislikes and strange social mores.  Pretending to listen is an excellent way to keep your woman happy, but this takes years of study to truly master.  In fact, I am pretty sure that full mastery ends with shaving your head and ritually branding dragon shapes onto your forearms using a cauldron of hot coals. Those able to master these dark arts are rewarded with copious amounts of action…or so legend has it.

Now that we have that important life lesson out-of-the-way, I’ll get back to the story.  Some time ago one of Joanne’s friends said that she had always wanted to go for a ride on the back of a motorcycle.  I suspect she hoped Joanne would drive but, since Joanne is not a confident enough rider to do that, I volunteered my services.

Here’s another important fact about women – they talk to each other (sic) and will actively seek out opportunities to do so.  In fact I am told that if women don’t use up their daily quota of words then they will, quite literally, explode!  Men, on the other hand, need either beer or technology to lubricate the conversation. For example, it is OK to text a question to your friend, or to mumble your question drunkenly into a beer bottle, but you can’t just ask a man something outright…even if they are sitting next to you.

Joanne mentioned her friend’s request to some other ladies and, before you knew it, we had eleven women, ranging in age from thirties to eighties, lined up for rides! This made coordinating things very difficult, because even a short ride would mean several hours between the first and last person.  In order to keep things civilized, I came up with the idea of having a nice Sunday brunch so that, while waiting their turns, the women could talk and eat – tasks they are well designed (through millenia of evolution) to handle.

Now when I said “brunch”, I had in mind a box of Joe and some bagels/donuts.  But this was to be a women’s brunch, and so preparations needed to start several days in advance.  By the time the guests arrived, “brunch” consisted of two kinds of coffee, a variety of bagels, freshly baked quiche, fresh fruit salad, pasta, salmon, cream cheese, grapes, fruit juices, wine coolers, mimosas, muffins, croissants, cheese, crackers, flowers on the table…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

Fran gets a tattoo

I had provided two route options – a quick ride around the block, or a longer ride that took in a few twistier roads and a short blast on the highway.  Joanne and Sarah dressed each guest in a leather motorcycle jacket, a do-rag (to keep their hair looking nice), gloves, and a full faced helmet.  All riders also then received the obligatory tattoo from Sarah before they were allowed to climb aboard.

It was interesting to see how different these eight women (three dropped out at the last-minute) behaved on the back.  Most of them started out very nervous and holding on tight but, after a short while, started to relax and enjoy the ride.  I won’t name any names here but there were several notable passengers:  Ms. Fidget didn’t stop moving around and, despite being rather petite, had the bike jerking from side to side, even when traveling in a straight line on the highway.  Ms. Nervous held on so tightly that I was jammed up against the tank and ended up with a cramp in my leg, and Ms. Natural  felt so at home that I could have sworn she already had thousands of miles under her belt.  I had told most of them that it was OK to hold onto me, but that experienced passengers held on to the bar at the back.  One person held onto me and then switched to the bar  about 20ft from the driveway…hmmm.  You know who you are…

It isn’t easy to talk when you are moving, but anytime we stopped I would make a point of asking how they were doing.  I was not surprised when Ms. Natural replied enthusiastically, “I WANT ONE OF THESE!”

S sports her new tattoo

Back at base camp, the conversation was going hot and heavy.  Had this been men, they would have been texting each other on things like how far over they leaned, speeds attained, commenting on the acceleration etc.  But the women would greet each returnee with a loud cheer and then get down the business of discussing schools, teachers, food, weight, exercise classes, etc.  Huh?  These women have just had their first experience on the back of a machine with the power to weight ratio of a Ferrari, and with nothing but  a layer of leather between them and the elements and…nothing!

Since I was riding most of the time I had to get my information third hand from Joanne, and it was like pulling teeth!  However, after some verbal waterboarding, I finally managed

to eek out that most women felt as though they were going to fall over going around the turns, and that those who went on the highway found that the most exhilarating part.  Personally, I find highways dull, and use them as little as possible, but I guess it was the only place where we saw any real speed.  I did hear that Ms. Natural was frustrated by the traffic, and wanted me to overtake – clearly someone born to ride, since motorcycles are the perfect overtaking vehicle.  (Maybe I’ll lend her my copy of The Perfect Vehicle?)

A couple of emails arrived after the event, thanking us and including a couple of classic quotes including:

“Wearing all of the gear really added to the reality of the ride!”, and

“I will never look at Rt. 208 the same way again!”…the interesting part here is that I have no idea if that is a good or a bad thing…hmmm…

I also received a very nice thank you note from our octogenarian saying that it was a “thrilling ride of a lifetime” which arrived on some pink, monogrammed, paper…most unmanly…but welcome nonetheless.  I hope I’m still up for new experiences when I reach my golden years.

In all, it turned out to be a very fun event.  I think most of the women enjoyed themselves and managed to check another item off of the bucket list.  As for me, I’m going to send some text messages to see who is interested in joining me for a twenty year apprenticeship at a mountain retreat to learn why women cry so easily.

And if there are any other people out there that want to check this activity off of your own bucket list…text me!

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

In a few short weeks the whole family will be jetting off to see the natural splendor of Yellowstone National Park.  While I have no doubt that the scenery will take my breath away and the activities will be great fun, I find myself dreading the flights. 

It is not just that flying economy involves squeezing my 6’2″ “big-boned” body into a seat designed for a midget.  History has taught me that flying with children is an experience that teaches you about yourself – mostly how much patience you need! 

Family flying is something that always generates such “fond” memories.  Such as the time I found myself trapped in my seat with my cupped hands full of child vomit, no free hand to undo my seatbelt, and desperately trying to get Joanne’s attention by waving my foot at her across the aisle while she was blissfully absorbed in the obligatory romantic comedy.

Or the time we flew to England and I found myself behind a person who smashed his seat painfully into my knees within seconds of takeoff.  When I politely asked if he could move it forward just a tad, he complied – but clearly we were not off to a good start.  He quickly fell asleep, only to be awoken when our 10-year old, Daniel, absent-mindedly played his hands across the headrests of the seats in front on his way to the bathroom.  This resulted in Daniel dragging his whole hand clear across the face of our sleeping friend, causing the man to wake up with such a start that I believe the only way he could have been more startled would have been if Daniel had thrust his fingers up his nose in the process.  If looks could kill, Daniel would have dropped dead – but this is Daniel we are talking about and the daggers merely bounced off of his shield of oblivion. 

In my travels I have been witness to fellow passengers whose behaviour was so obnoxious that, had I finally lost control and murdered them, I believe the other travelers would have provided an alibi.  And I also observed one young fellow who displayed astonishing grace and charm even after having a 1/2 litre bottle of water emptied into his lap by Gregory, followed by being repeatedly kicked by Sarah as she screamed and insisted that she would NOT put her seatbelt on.  Our “hero” even sat for hours with the sleeping (at long last!) Sarah’s feet draped across his lap.  (I wonder if this young man has been put off kids for life…) 

Things would probably go better if Joanne and I had similar views on travel, but my laissez-faire approach does not fit well with her ideals of everything being well planned and organized. 

One thing Joanne always tries to do during long journeys is find interesting activities to occupy the kids.  While well-intentioned, and sometimes successful, there have been a few misfires.  My favorite was on a drive to Florida, when she handed each of the kids sheets of silver foil.  The intent was to craft little silver works of art – a nice crown or swan perhaps?  What actually happened was that about 2 minutes after handing out the materials, a large silver ball came flying from the back of the car and crashed into the back of Joanne’s head…a lesson in humility for sure. 

So, keeping in mind the hours of flights and car journeys ahead of us, I’d love to hear your suggestions for keeping kids happy and quiet on a long trip – other than the obvious “Oh, you look like you have allergies, drink this cup of Benadryl.”  The life you save might be your own.


Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, Travel