Wednesday, August 22, 2007

and it's not that much of a farce, it's mostly true

...and makes me question my rationale for going back into agency world.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

sort of, kind of, myself... blah blah blah at the office

I'm not sure how many of you have noticed this in the workplace and then on TV (and perhaps catching yourself doing it). Instead of using "um" as filler... and before I launch into this diatribe completely, don't use UM. Just don't. Say nothing instead of um. It makes you sound nervous and sometimes (depending on how often you say it in a certain amount of time) incompetent. No one needs to do that to him or herself.

Ok, so "sort of". I noticed this earlier this year on the Today show (NBC) where the hosts like Matt Lauer or Ann (I forget her last name) say "sort of" and then I noticed a LOT of their guests would use sort of.

I started a new job in June and noticed the entire office is infected with the sort-of disease. Statements like, "[Name] could you sort of compile those list of deliverables for me and kind of, you know, send it to the group?" or "What we're sort of trying to accomplish here is, sort of like more innovative spin on the existing project, and sort of trying to keep it within certain parameters."

I'm not kidding. These aren't made up examples.

I went to a meeting where inside of the first hour, which was a presentation to a room full of clients, the main speaker said "sort of" 157 times. By the end of the presentation, all staff members from my company said "sort of" 427 times and "kind of" a mere 204 times. If I had the time and wasn't trying to pay attention, I'd have counted how many real words were used also. I'm sure it was far more real words than filler, but you get the point.

Once you notice people saying "sort of" or "kind of" you can't turn it off. You'll notice that most people are using what I like to call 'socially accepted white noise filler'. Everyone is in silent agreement that they won't notice this and we all do it.

I've caught myself doing this a number of times. The longer I work here, the more I start to sound like them and it's driving me up a wall.

If you catch others doing it or yourself, please let me know how you deal. If I've just pointed it out to you and now you can't tune it out. I'm sorry. Welcome to my world.

PS one other thing I've noticed, and I'm less certain this is grammar-suicide... the use of "myself" in place of using "me" or "I". I believe this increasing use of "myself" is to cover those who don't know when to use "me" or "I" -- which often tends to be people that use "I" when they should use "me" because they think it makes them sound more sophisticated. If you know what you should say or should hear, then you (like me) just think the other person is a wanker.

Most recent example is "name, name, and myself will attend the session." I'm pretty darn sure it should be "name, name, and I will attend." Or it could go "Will you invite name and me?"

I know people really want to say "Will you invite name and I?" but you need a direct object. I is a subject, me is a direct object for these examples.


*sigh* okay, I feel better now.

The above was typed in here on 21-Aug-07, and today is 28-Oct-07. I've been thinking about it almost daily (still) for a year or two at least, and have decided to comment it in writing twice.

I've begun to wonder what we're all so afraid of. What happened to English-speaking peoples, in particular Americans. Although I've heard it when I went to Toronto and I'm sure there are plenty of Canadians who think that Toronto is too closely 'related' to the States anyway. And I've heard British celebs on US and UK TV say it, too.)

Why can't we just say what we mean? Or is it that we don't mean anything? Why do we couch anything that is an opinion or statement with a weak pretext like 'sort of' or 'kind of'. Are we afraid the government is going to hear us and come get us; deport us from our own country? Are we afraid of being sued for saying something incorrect, scandalous or irresponsible? What is it? I know it's something. This is too pervasive to be nothing, and yet seems to be happening without questioning why.

There's something in the fabric of American culture, I'm guessing it's American, that is showing up in this way. Have we lost our self-confidence? Is it the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq (potentially Iran)? Is it the weakening ties the US has with other world nations? Is it our lack of buying power when compared to China and India? Is it our reduced voice in the UN? Is it our weak dollar? Our potentially re-rivalry with Russia? Or is it that we just talk too much and really have nothing meaningful to say, so we say lots of filler for the sake of hearing our own voices?

I don't know exactly so I'll keep mulling this over. In the meantime this filler language which is accepted as okay plus the warming of the fall and winter seasons in New York is worrying me daily.

Friday, August 17, 2007

European eco-design

From Core77's latest e-newsletter:

European market forces such as Ecodesign, consumer choices and ecolabels are beginning to change the practice of design at the most fundamental levels. It is no more just a matter of a greener product or choosing a less toxic component or material. It requires an understanding of the entire production process, distribution and marketing system on a global scale, and the way that systems are being redesigned to meet these criteria. These trends also imply sea changes in the way businesses are organized and the way they function...

Ecolabel is the first piece of design change that the posting covers.

From me: and isn't that what Design Management is about? understanding the entire lifecycle of something -- in this case, product.

wind energy, oil rigs -- another eco-friendly solution to energy consumption

Now this is forward thinking and good big D design. Convert unused oil platforms off the coast of Texas to wind energy.

Again from Wired's February 2007 issue in an article titled, "Inherit the Wind".

Use what you have, change it for a different end result and maintain/take advantage of a core function. Great idea and better execution.

Now if people would get off the 'NIMBY' problem of thinking wind power is ugly. I can't tell you how joyous I felt when we got to Maui two weeks ago for our honeymoon and the island winds pushed back the clouds from West Maui and I saw the wind towers on the mountainside. How lovely and joyful. (If you had the same view of wind energy that I did, you'd probably welcome any wind-based energy contraption as well. I mean who gets excited about these things and isn't in the field?) Even if you're not all ga-ga over 'green' energy, it's not that ugly. It's a streamlined windmill. And it's sure prettier than smog, dang it!

underwater logging... green solution to a paper problem?

I read an article in Wired about underwater logging in reservoirs. It's in the February 2007 issue of Wired, article called Reservoir Logs.

I found it a clever solution to eco-friendly paper supplies and interesting in its technology and design/vision. I'm not sure that it's one of those things that can be called the solution or a solution per se.

Here's a bit from an e-newsletter from Rainforest Alliance:

"Mother Nature never intended for trees to be underwater," explains Christopher Godsall, president and CEO of Triton Logging. But trees -- perhaps as many as 300 million worldwide -- are submerged in reservoirs and Triton has come up with an innovative, eco-friendly method for harvesting them.

Triton has been recovering Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, hemlock and other species that have been preserved by cold water and turning a profit without damaging the surrounding environment. Key to his efforts is the Sawfish, an underwater logging machine invented by the company. Operated by remote control, the Sawfish attaches inflatable air bags to the trees, then cuts them underwater with an electric chain saw. The air bags float the logs to the water's surface, where they are loaded onto barges.

The Rainforest Alliance has certified Triton's milled wood under our SmartWood Rediscovered program, which recognizes environmentally sounds practices for the recovery, recycling and reuse of wood products. The eco-friendly logging method doesn't emit carbon dioxide the way that conventional logging does, doesn't pollute the water and leaves the lake floor undisturbed.

It's all about the process... green cards

Far be it from me to critize any government office. Lord knows that without forms and proper documentation no one could CYA or, better, do anything to help the citizens.

For anyone who has applied for a green card, he or she can tell you stories of various levels of aggravation and complication. It's a trying process. It takes a long time. It's also necessary on some level because without it there wouldn't be any valid way of making sure each visa recipient was indeed worthy of holding it. There are a lot of dodgy lawyers out there who probably make a ton off of the bureaucracy or at least most people's fear of dealing with a government bureaucracy. There are a ton of good immigration lawyers who make a stressful process less-so for their clients. We went with the latter kind of law office. And even then, there are a number of forms that aren't particularly well-designed and create problems just as much as they allow progress.

What I'm writing about is the design of the process. Since it really is 'all about the process' the process could be better designed. Of course when you are going to improve a form, you must consider the related forms, process, people, offices, resources, money, time, effort, political motives, personal needs, stakeholders, leaders, managers, staff, etc. A form is often the end result of a long 'family' -- and therefore the physical representation of the quality or state of that 'family', or the design of that 'family.' And by design I don't mean what it looks like. I'm talking about big D design, sustainable design. Making plans, consideration and excuting and follow up on those plans, strategies to make sure that people, planet, profit are all well considered AND visually appealing, of course.

The example I'm going to share is my husband's greencard. We were elated when after being married for just over a year, he received a letter stating he was approved. So the other night, when it arrived, he was very excited, relieved and hopeful upon opening the letter. Of course, this was all confirmed he checked his name (often mis-spelled) and then dashed when he saw they messed up his birth date.

They didn't just switch the date or put the wrong day in, they turned a now 28-year-old married man, whose photo is on the card, into a one year old. They had his birth date as the end of July, last July. He was born in mid-August, and not last year.

Of course the likely excuse is that they have a TON of visa backlog and with varying political pressure to hold off and then to push ahead, people inside of a hectic process with not-quite-good-enough forms are doing what they can. Again the forms and process are a reflection of each's designed 'family'. So the family is going through some tough times.

What's more, and to be expected, is that there is a form he needs to fill out. And of course there is documentation he needs to provide to prove that the mistake is theirs not his. So all parties recognize a 28-year-old married man is not a year old. Let's do another form. The form is going to be filled out by the aforementioned lawyer's office because the amount of time and aggravation one can spend with Homeland Security is potentially astonishing.

As many have said before, often the design of the process can reward those who do not abide by its rules. Because this is just one of many examples, large and small, of how you are not rewarded by following the process. I can assure you on all of his forms that the birth date is correct. I can bet that what happens at the end of this is that it was just a simple human mistake (again a piece of the process behind the larger design) and it will be fixed.

I just wonder how long it'll take and how much longer he has to wait to be able to work for any employer he wants, just like I can. It's one of the benefits of having a green card vs. an H1b visa. H1b you are beholden to the sponsor/employer and they to you (in a sense), green card you get the freedom to move around. H1b visas are great and I am grateful for them. They are, as the greencard is, part of a larger poorly designed process that has an extreme amount of pressure to improve and, likely, a lot of dysfunctional 'family members' that impede evolutionary change in its design.

The balance is between necessary CYA and accountability, and levels of frustration on all sides. Perhaps this was worse in the past. I often wonder as a new version of a form comes out if it improves what it wanted to improve and didn't make a bigger mess where one didn't exist before.

N.B. Sustainability for me means good design-- in the big D design sense. It can be simply broken down into the 3Ps: People, Planet, Profit (or whatever order you like to put them in). Essentially it's sustainability in the longevity of success (in as many ways as can be measured). I don't find immigration in the US a sustainable process. I do believe it will be improved because I'm a "Pollyanna" and if I don't have that potentially false hope, it'll be too aggravating and disappointing to realize just how much my representative government -- as a whole -- doesn't care about those who give them the power.