Joke Bombs

When I was in college we had Showtime on the campus cable network.  They ran the Aspen Comedy Festival one year.  There was this one comedian who did a routine he called stand-up for both hemispheres of the brain.  He’d do traditional stand-up at one microphone, but there was another microphone on the stage and he would walk over to it at any time and say something that had nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of his monologue.  One of these out-of-left-field comments was, "Don’t you find it ironic that on Lincoln’s birthday the stores have a white sale?"  There were a few chuckles, but it clearly went over the heads of most of the audience.  He looked out and assured them, "some of these will hit you later, and that’s OK."

I call these "joke bombs."  They drop, but don’t always go off right away.  I have experienced many of them.  Some of them only have a few seconds of delay.  Some take days to go off.  I just had one go off after many YEARS and thought I’d share.

The bathroom down the hall from my office has a lone urinal which I have determined that not every user flushes after having used it.  The reason for this is that it is quite old and has no visible water trap, said trap being in the pipe below the urinal.  Traps exist to keep sewer gas from emanating from toilets and urinals.  But if you don’t flush, then what gets trapped is, well, urine.  And it smells.  So rather than stand there and do my business having to breathe in the odiferous vestiges of someone ELSE’S business, I will typically make a pre-emptive flush as I walk up to the urinal. 

This morning I did so thinking of TV’s "Ally McBeal," in which one of the characters frequently states that he "likes a fresh bowl."  (He has his favorite toilet rigged with a remote so he can flush it while on approach.)  Not having much else to think about while standing there I recalled the character’s name: John Cage.  Then I remembered his partner’s name: Richard Fish.  Then I remembered the name of their law firm, which stuck in my mind because the series uses a lot of aerial establishing shots zooming in on the Boston building in which the fictional office is purported to exist and one day while re-watching the series a couple of years ago I actually found it on Google Earth.  I marked it with the name of the Law Firm: "Cage & Fish"

Cage & Fish.

Cage And Fish

Cage An’ Fish

CageAn Fish

Cajun Fish!!!!!!


Really?  Apparently. 

All those years, and I never "got" that until just now.

Oh, and I, too, like a fresh bowl.

A Couple Of Meeting Maker Tips

This post is targeted at SUNY Potsdam personnel who have Meeting Maker accounts.  If that’s not you, stop reading now because this won’t make much sense!

There are two very useful features in Meeting Maker that I have come to realize are very underutilized on our campus.

1) Auto Pick.  In the days of paper-based calendars, secretaries/assistants had to spend a lot of time coordinating schedules and arranging meetings.  Responsible use of Meeting Maker makes this unnecessary, though I suspect an awful lot of this still goes on.  Assuming that everyone with whom you would like to meet is a user of Meeting Maker, all you need to do is create the meeting and invite the guests.  You can decide if they are "required" (i.e., you can’t practically hold the meeting without them) or "optional" (their participation isn’t critical).  As you add them, Meeting Maker will indicate whether or not they are available.  If anyone is unavailable, you can schedule the meeting at that time anyhow and tell them they have to go (and reschedule whatever is in the way–probably only an option if you are their boss!) or you can use Meeting Maker’s "auto pick" feature, which will automatically pick the next block of time that is long enough to hold the meeting and in which all required attendees are available.

I used the phrase "responsible use of Meeting Maker."  This needs definition.  I define "responsible use" as setting your preferences to indicate your general availability, e.g., Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:30.  "Responsible use" also includes accounting for ALL of your time commitments in Meeting Maker.  If it’s blocking your availability, it should be in Meeting Maker.  This includes lunch, meetings with people who don’t use Meeting Maker, days off, taking your dog to the vet, etc.  You might be leery of putting personal information into Meeting Maker, but that’s what the "Private" option is for.  When you create an event, click on the "Options" tab and check the "Private" check box.  That event then blocks your time (so people know you are unavailable) and appears as "Private" to all of your proxies (anyone else you have given permission to see your calendar–even those with read/write access).  If you don’t account for all of your time commitments, then you are "fair game" for anyone else trying to schedule time with you!

2) Inflexible Banners.  Let’s say you’re going to a 3-day conference.  You want people to know you are unavailable, but you also want to use Meeting Maker to track the sessions you’ll be attending at the conference.  I’ve seen several people who block off the whole day with a "meeting" that says "conference" (or something) as a means of ensuring that no one (or auto-pick) thinks they are available on those days.  Scheduling overlapping meetings in Meeting Maker is possible, but it’s clunky, annoying, and ugly. 

There’s a better way.  Create a banner spanning multiple days to indicate your conference.  As you are creating the banner (giving it a title and setting the date and duration), click the "Options" tab.  You will see that by default, all banners are "flexible."  If you un-check "flexible," the banner will automatically block off your entire day!  This leaves the day free for your personal use.  You can put in your conference sessions and anything else you want.  Or let’s say you want next Friday as a working "day off".  Instead of scheduling a "meeting" (with yourself) that runs from 8-4:30, you can just create a banner called "No Meetings" and remove the "flexible" option. 

Playing Schedule-My-Boss phone tag is something no one needs to be doing anymore (if everyone concerned is using Meeting Maker)!  If all users are diligent about keeping their calendars up to date, scheduling people should be a breeze.

If you have questions about either of these features, schedule a meeting with me in Meeting Maker.  My calendar is up to date!!  🙂

Why Your Computer “Slows Down”

I see it all the time:  People put off getting a new computer for as long as they can.  I know people still trying to make due with 8, 9, even 10 year old computers.  And why not?  They’re still "working"!  It’s understandable; they can be a serious expense, ranging from a cheap $300 netbook up to a fully-equipped-and-loaded desktop computer for several thousand dollars.  The frustrating thing…the issue with which so many people wrestle…is that barring hardware failure, their 10 year old computer is every bit as "good" as it was the day it was made.  Computers don’t "slow down," they are simply being asked to do way more than that for which they were designed.

How does this happen?  Imagine your computer is a pickup truck.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a Chevy S10 or a Ford F350.  It’s new and it can do the job.  In this analogy, "the job" is driving on a flat, straight road.  There are no hills.  There are no curves.  There is no wind, snow or other weather.  It’s a flat, smooth, straight road in the middle of the day.  You bought your truck to drive, and so you start driving.  Everything’s great!  The road is flat and so the truck uses very little gas.  There’s just one catch, however: every mile, there’s a guy at the side of the road and as you drive past he tosses a sandbag into the back of your truck.  "No big deal," you think as you continue your way down the road.  You hardly notice it!  The truck’s performance hasn’t been noticeably hindered, and you’re still not using very much gas.  As you drive along, you see all kinds of sights and side roads leading to all kinds of destinations; some of them fun, some of them work, but all of them open.

This continues every mile.  The road is still straight and flat and there’s still no weather hindering your progress, but every mile a new sandbag lands in the back of your truck.  They keep piling on, higher and higher, heavier and heavier.  You start noticing that you’re using up gas faster and faster.  You also notice that some of those side roads are now no longer an option.  Why?  Because you’re now too heavy and over the weight limit!  As you get heavier and heavier, your truck gets less and less efficient and more and more roads are closed to you.  Eventually it becomes impractical to use your truck because you’re stopping every mile to get more gas and there’s nowhere to go anyhow because no road will let you pass because you’re so heavy.

That analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s basically apt.  The truck is your computer.  The highway system is the World Wide Web, colloquially (and incredibly incorrectly) referred to as "The Internet".  The side roads are individual web sites.  The sandbags are the software requirements of constantly-improving technologies that demand more and more computing "horsepower" to execute efficiently.  Your computer is every bit as powerful as it was the day you bought it.  But the work it is expected to do is constantly evolving, and it’s not getting easier! 

I know a couple that still have the computers they bought 25 years ago.  They still use them and they work just fine.  How can this be?  Simple: Their needs have not changed!  They bought those computers to do word processing and nothing else.  The original software as purchased with the computers still works.  Their printers still work.  The computers still work.  Their needs have not changed, so everything is, from their perspective, just as good as it was when the computers were new.

But today everyone is online.  The Internet and the software needed to use it is the sandbags.  Web sites and all the "stuff" that you see on them get more and more complicated to display on your computer screen.  As a result you have to download a near-continuous stream of "software updates" just to stay current.  If you buy an actual truck and take care of it; change the oil regularly, put new brakes and tires on it when it needs it, keep it clean, etc.; it might last you 25 years or more, just like those 2 computers.  It will have some wear and tear, but it will basically be as good as the day you bought it.  The needs of drivers don’t change all that much.  Our roads don’t change much. 

The Internet, on the other hand, is constantly evolving.  Therefore, whether you want them to or not, your "needs" are evolving in kind.  If you expect to remain compatible with the "Internet" and all of the technologies that make it possible, you should be prepared to buy a NEW computer a minimum of every 4-5 years. 

And watch out for sandbags!