Tuesday, 20 February 2007

A Huge Error and Musing About Alcohol

When I screw up, I really screw up big. I can't really talk about it, but I screwed up and I need to fix it - and I am not confident at this point that I can. I am not going to find that confidence any time too soon. It isn't hiding under my desk with the answer to why I screwed up, and on such an enormous scale. I have three aspects to my job and two of them seem to be problem areas for me. What a track record that is.

The musing that I do is that I don't understand why people drink alcohol when they are upset or something is wrong. I am a tiny bit drunk (I don't feel drunk, but I had some miniscule amount of vodka in my juice (at first I filled the gass not quite half way. We are talking about a six ounce glass, not a dinner glass. I mixed it with Fresca. YOWZA. WAY, way, way too strong! I dumped about half of that out and put juice in there with it. That was a little better, but it still needed less, so I dumped more out. By that time, we are looking at maybe an ounce of vodka and the rest was juice and some soda.

Vile. Absolutely disgusting. Maybe I should say Abolut disgusting.

And I don't feel any better about this. Not even a little bit better. I feel a bit weird, but just faintly buzzed, I guess is the right phrase.

So why do so many people start drinking to feel better? What is the point of drinking? Why do so many people drink alcohol to forget or ameliorate their problems? I suppose it might be one thing to drink until you are feeling obviously drunk. I am impaired. I know I am. I feel fine, but I know that with this much alcohol (don't laugh, I had a lot for me!), I logically have to be impaired in some way. The idea of getting bombed and so impaired that I'm getting sick or blacking out or have a hangover (something I have never experienced and why in the name of anything would I want to?!) doesn't sound appealing. How can it? I have been on calls with people in all sorts of phases of drunkeness or the aftermath - what looks fun about any of that?

So. I am miserably unhappy and I am impaired. What a world. I clearly did not learn anything too staggering about the human condition that was worthwhile. Another failed experiment. Or I just don't get it.

Body Language - A Key To Success In The Workplace

This is a good article:

Let's say you're all set for your big interview—the one you're confident will change your career. You know you can wow the person across the desk with your accomplishments. Or you're ready to give the presentation that reflects months of hard work and success. But before you even open your mouth, the rest of your body has already spoken volumes.

What does your body language say? Does it say you're confident, smart, and enthusiastic—or just the opposite?

Only a small percentage of communication involves actual words: 7%, to be exact. In fact, 55% of communication is visual (body language, eye contact) and 38% is vocal (pitch, speed, volume, tone of voice). The world's best business communicators have strong body language: a commanding presence that reflects confidence, competence, and charisma.

More Than Words

One problem with body language is it may not convey what you really feel. For example, keeping your hands stiffly by your side or stuck in your pockets can give the impression that you're insecure—whether you are or not.

Avoiding looking at people—maybe simply because you're too busy consulting your notes or your résumé—can lead people to think you're being less than honest with them. You may be slouching because you're tired, but people may read it as a sign that you're not interested. Conversely, strong and effective body language can help establish an immediate rapport with your audience, signaling confidence in your message. Look at photographs of Ronald Reagan. He carried himself impeccably even on the back of a horse at his ranch. He had an aura of confidence, optimism and power.

The Eyes Have It

People want to feel special. They want to feel as though you are speaking to them directly or that they are the most important person in the room during your conversation. Breaking eye contact is a surefire way to break the connection.

During presentations, mentally split the room into thirds. Address some of your comments to one side of the room, turn your attention to the middle, and then look to the last section. Pick out one person in each section and direct your comments toward that person. The people surrounding that person will think you are making direct eye contact with them.

Maintaining eye contact throughout your presentation requires preparation. The material on your slide should be committed to memory; otherwise you will be stuck reading instead of connecting. Make sure you know what's in your résumé or notes so you're not constantly referring to them.

Don't let anything come between you and your listeners. Crossing your arms, standing behind a podium or chair, or talking to someone from behind a computer monitor are all examples of blocking, which prevents a real connection from taking place.

Think openness. Remove physical barriers—podiums, computers, chairs. Even a folder on a desk can break the connection and create distance.

Animate Yourself

When you're speaking, let your hands do some of the talking. Great speakers use hand gestures more than on average. A professor who studies body language once told me that complex gestures—two hands above the waist—reflect complex thinking. Gestures give the listener confidence in the speaker.

Try this: Watch people such as Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Barack Obama, Tony Blair or any number of charismatic speakers. You will immediately begin to notice that they punctuate nearly every sentence with a hand gesture. C-SPAN carries weekly debates between British Prime Minister Blair and members of the House of Commons. Watch it once and you will never doubt the importance of effective hand gestures.

And move the rest of your body, too. Great speakers move around the room, pointing to a slide instead of reading from it, placing their hands on someone's shoulders instead of keeping their distance. Don't animate your slides—animate your body!

Stand—or sit—tall. Poor posture is often associated with a lack of confidence or a lack of engagement or interest. For example, during a job interview, leaning back in your chair can give the impression that you're lazy, unmotivated, or dispassionate about the position. Keep your head up and back straight. Lean forward when seated. By sitting toward the front of your chair and leaning forward slightly, you will look far more interested, engaged, and enthusiastic.

It's All Learnable

I once worked with a client preparing for a major presentation to his company's largest investors. His body language was a mess—eyes cast downward, hands awkwardly tucked in his pockets, swaying back and forth. This guy was a poster boy for poor body language. He seemed insecure and out of his league.

By showing him a videotape of what he looked like and working on eye contact, hand gestures, animation, posture and staying open, this executive went on to rock the house during his presentation. He made solid eye contact with everybody in the room, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and used purposeful, assertive hand gestures. His posture and stance exuded power, confidence, and competence—he had charisma.

So work on your body language. Pay as much attention to it as the words you use, and watch your influence soar!

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Dinner Time!

I have just spent twenty minutes trying to find the right top.

In this case, it would be the right top that transforms me from the fat woman that I am to a stunning, svelte creature that looks like a dark haired Michelle Pfeiffer. There is, sadly, no such top out there, and if there is, I don't have the time to find it and I certainly can't afford it. So, on a practical level, it is useless to try on fifteen shirts and hope that each time I look in the mirror it will be some one else that I don't know (but looks amazing) looking back at me.

What are the odds?

Slim. Clearly. But, let's be honest here. It is a party full of EMTs. This means that 75% of us are obviously overweight and the remaining 25% are weirdly thin. Yes, that is right. Beautiful people don't normally gravitate toward this sort of thing. I'm not saying anything that isn't patently obvious just from sheer observation. There is a small percentage that are more than weird or pretty or outside the "acceptable" body type, but most of us are physical oddballs - and mentally, too.

We are a very different lot. Looking for the social misfits you used to make fun of in high school? That is us. You managed to find us! The programmers, the artists, the HR people, the weird but happy and always themselves people who have the "I am who I am and you can take me or leave me" attitude are all here. We are all of those and more.

We save lives.

So, maybe I am fat (no argument there, I am fat!). Maybe I am not all that and a bag of chips. But I'm happy, and I'm cute, and I know how to have a really great time and I have an ugly but oddly infectious smile - because I genuinely mean it. My smile reaches my eyes, and people compliment me on it all the time (just imagine what I could do if I had great teeth, on top of that!).

I'm going to have a great time tonight.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

The Unbelievable Lightness of Being

And snow...

I get into work in the morning, and instead of putting my iPod on the desk and hooking it up to the speakers, I use my headphones, ensuring that no matter how loud I want it and have it on, there is no way I will wake up any potential guests. I start working, I do my various tasks, and then, without thinking about it, at some point I head down for tea.

Bopping and dancing and butt-wiggling along!

Well, we all have our problems, right? Some of us have angst about everything we do. Some of us agonise over all that small stuff. You know what I mean. One little speck of dirt on the window. The one tee shirt that someone slips into the wrong laundry pile. I like to dance around to music. I'll be doing a lot of that this weekend - at least, that is my goal! So some time between 0615 and 0800, I bop down to the kitchen, zipping along to some bouncy, happy, happening song, people think it is funny! Which, really, it is. But they think - and rightly so - that I am happy.

Which I am!

What fun is life if you are all so serious and straightlaced and sit as though you have had a rod inserted rectally? What is the fun in that? I mean, the Puritans were religious and quite serious about that, but they had music and parties and enjoyment and did not really only wear black and never cracked smiles. All people should be happy, should enjoy life, should go outside and feel sun on their faces, snowflakes on their tongues and bounce in their steps. Life is good, and meant to be lived and delighted in!

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Hammered? Maybe Tuesday...

Bad weather forecast heading our way...

After the winterless winter we have been having, the weather gods are eyeing this area with ferocious intent. Not surprising. On the first Saturday of this new year (I guess not so new now) we had a 71°F (19°C) day, complete with golfer lined up at the first tee. I suppose you can't blame them - having seen what a yen for golf can possess a person to do, this is a prime opportunity, not to be missed. This afternoon when I left work, there was a lone person out on the play deck... no, what is that called? The big hill where everyone whacks practice balls? Oh, yes, the Driving Range. Well, there he was - a guy in a parka out there striking little white balls. It was all of 32°F (0°C), and there is someone so badly struck with the golf disease that he'd be out there in frigid weather to do this. That is nuts.

Having played nine holes of golf some years ago (Luis practically dragged me out to the course kicking and screaming. Not being a person with liking of extreme temperatures, the 95°F (34°C) heat was no more appealing than freezing...), and having played miniature golf many times (don't laugh. It's still golf... just not, you know, real golf!), I would not ever be outside in extremes or odd temperatures at either end of the spectrum. And I did not care for it much... I like miniature golf. That is about my speed. Sad, I know. I work at what, the best golf course in this area, and I don't have much liking for it. Ironic.

Well, come Monday, there won't be a soul to be found out there. Crazy as they are, I doubt the day before a snowstorm with predicted 40% chance of snow is not anyone's cup of tea. Hot tea, anyway. And Tuesday... well. We are looking at 12 - 24" (approximately 30 - 60cm) of snow. Sounds neat and if it happens (I suppose I should say "how much and when" it happens) it will look gorgeous and be stunning. Oh, I need to get gas and some kind of additive for the mondo snow blower... clearly I may be calling on friends for help... You don't really envision me blowing all that bloody snow, do you? Not a chance... I should call Tom. He would never let a little thing like 36" (100cm) of snow stop him...

Speaking of which, everyone is really excited about Oswego, New York - they got some 77" (a whole boatload of centimeters! About... um... let's see. 77, double is 154, with another chunk added on... around, um, 225cm? Something outrageous like that). OK, honestly, is anyone really that shocked? Yes, it is a boatload of snow. It's all lake-effect snow, something that is a known entity up there and not so shocking as all that. In the modern world, no one ends up trapped for weeks in their homes - not often, anyway. It is 2007, not 1807. It is a huge, honking amount of snow, but it happens.

So that is the weather news here for now. I will undoubtedly post more on this topic (I love weather and am totally besotted with it). I have plans to bundle up and take my toy - my beloved telescope - outside after putting on, oh, say, 50 layers of clothing on, and viewing Saturn, who is at opposition tonight. I'm well aware it is all of 25°F (-4°C) out there. Too bad. The rings are still tilted and delightfully visible tonight and soon they will be edgewise and nothing much to see. I need to take advantage of the mostly moonless, clear night to see this before the ill weather covers the sky yet again!

Oh, and did I mention Luis will be flying back from Florida on Wednesday...? Maybe...?