I Hate Meetings (pt. 1)

In my previous life, I had to take part in, or organize, a LOT of meetings. On average, I had at least two meetings a day. These meetings all tried to accomplish different things, involved different people, and created a TON of work.

That’s one thing I’ve learned about meetings: you don’t actually get anything done in a meeting. You just create more work for yourself. There’s the preparation work that needs to be done in order to get ready for a meeting, there’s the work that you promise to do after the meeting, and then there’s all the follow-up that needs to be done as you check with all the participants to make sure that they understand what they need to do. Phew. That’s one long sentence.

I remember when I first started to attend meetings for this job. I thought they’d be simple affairs where people work collaboratively for the good of the company. I anticipated that there would be some good arguments, but that what we did would end up saving all of us time and effort. I wasn’t exactly wrong, but I definitely wasn’t right.

A lot of times, participants in a meeting have their own agenda (other than the one that’s set for the meeting). Each person has something they want to accomplish as a result of the meeting, and this may or may not coincide with the intent of the meeting. It’s these preconceived ideas that people bring as ‘baggage’ into a meeting that can really slow down or derail the progress of a productive meeting. I know, since it happened to me on more than one occasion.

Hmm.. I think this post is running a bit long. I’ll continue next week with what you can do about salvaging a meeting.

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Frank Lloyd Wright

Have you ever seen a building and just been taken aback by it? I don’t mean recognized landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but something smaller, like a house, or an office building, that looks unlike anything else around it. It isn’t the sheer scale that makes these unique constructions stand out, but the way they’ve taken traditional conventions and twisted them, or created entirely new designs in ways that neither you nor anyone else has thought of.

One man that has been on the periphery of my consciousness for years, ever since I saw pictures of his Fallingwater house, is Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve only recently taken more time to learn about him, prompted by a coffee table book of his life and works I discovered at a friend’s house.

Wright lived from 1867-1959. This, to me, is the single most amazing thing about the man. He lived during a time when architecture in America was heavily influenced by European and Victorian designs. Somehow he was able to rise above the conservative notions of his peers and design based on how he saw the world.

His creations all have a timeless feel to them. Many of them have strong geometrical lines that project strength and solidity, and can’t be easily pigeon-holed into a particular era. His later works took on curving walls and flowing shapes. The interiors of the buildings he designed, especially the houses, are unlike many homes today. While function was just as important to him as design, he managed to achieve a balance between the two, structuring the rooms to be useful but beautiful.

His designs have influenced American architecture of the past 120 years, and will probably continue to do so as his followers and imitators take his work and put their own influences into it.

(If you’re interested about architecture, check out this Wikipedia article and the links at the bottom.)

Blades of Steel over Short Bus 2-1

We won! We won! We won!

If it sounds like I’m a little excited, it’s because I am. Here’s the situation: going into the game, we had 4 wins after 17 games. Good enough for worst in our division. And we’re in division 19 of the ASHL at Burnaby 8 Rinks, so really, we’ve sunk as low as we can go.

Short Bus is a team we’ve always played well against, and last night was no exception. It probably helped that we had three full lines of forwards and defencemen rolling.

But I think what really got us the win was that we changed our mindset. With all the games we’ve lost this season, we were stuck in a rut. Some of us were trying too hard to make the perfect shot or pass, others didn’t feel like they could make a difference anymore. Still others had just gotten used to the idea of losing, and thought that keeping the scores respectable instead of a blowout would be good enough.

It turned out none of these reasons were correct. Steve, the “Running Man” right winger, said it best: “We’re not having fun out there”. Guys were so tightly wound up that they seemed to forget we were playing in division 19 in a beer league. We are paying good money to play, so the least we can do is enjoy it.

I think that’s what happened last night. The guys finally learned that we play best when we’re having fun, when we’re taking the time to look around and make the smart play, rather than the quick play. I hope this trend continues when we have our next game Friday night.

My, it’s quiet in here…

I’ve been asked to write this blog as part of my job as an online peer tutor here at Douglas College. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty good deal. Basically, I’m getting paid to write my thoughts on just about anything and everything.

So what should my first post be about? Well, seeing as how I live in a consumeristic culture, I thought Apple’s new iPhone would be a fitting subject.

For those of you who haven’t heard yet (Oh my god, you haven’t heard? Where have you been for the past 3 days??), it’s a mobile phone that plays music, takes photos, plays videos, and oh yeah, can be used as a normal mobile phone. So what’s the big deal, you ask?

The big deal is that it’s an APPLE phone. Apple has made a name for itself as an innovator of creatively-designed products (iPod, iMac) that have managed to tap into niches that other companies didn’t know were even there. Apple is trying to do the same thing with its iPhone.

The problem with this is that Apple’s previous products have been more than just gimmicks. The iPod was backed by a clean, simple interface and software that was programmed intelligently with the user in mind. The iMac was a breakthrough in home computer design that saved space yet still looked cool. The iPhone on the other hand doesn’t really offer anything out of the ordinary, once you look past it’s nifty touch screen. It doesn’t offer any features that other phones don’t already have. Sure, it’s cool to look at but is it anything more than that?

Apple is entering a market segment that is fraught with peril. The average person changes his or her phone on a regular basis, with the interval between phones growing shorter and shorter. I’m sure the iPhone cost huge money for Apple to develop. Are they going to be able to recoup these costs when consumers are always looking for the next hottest thing? I think companies have learnt from the way masses of people gravitated towards the iPod in the early days. They’re going to be quick to jump on Apple’s multiple touch screen, making Apple’s iPhone stand out a whole lot less in a very crowded market.

Video Games and the Wii

I can’t really remember the first time I played video games, but it was in an arcade somewhere. (There aren’t many arcades anymore, since console games seem to have forced most out of business.) I do remember begging for quarters from my parents, and being repeatedly told no, until they relented with 2 or 4 bits, probably just to shut me up. Those few seconds I spent blowing up alien spacecraft, or gunning down evil terrorists, opened up a whole new world of imagination and possibilities to me. Here was something that I had total control over. Too bad it couldn’t last.

Since then, I’ve maintained an interest in the gaming world. From the Atari 2600, to my cousin’s 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (with light gun!), through the Sega Genesis, Super NES, and Playstation, all the way to the Sega Saturn, X Box, and today’s crop of Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii – I’ve always kept track of the latest and greatest technology out there, even if I can’t afford to own any of it. I’ve seen the industry grow as technology has improved, despite horrible Hollywood movies based on video games (remember Super Mario Brothers with Bob Hoskins as our favourite red-overalled plumber? Or how about Street Fighter, with the late, great, Raul Julia unfortunately miscast as M. Bison?).

Now, gamers have numerous consoles to choose from, and hundreds of titles to while away the hours. If you don’t have one already, which would you choose to own? X Box 360? Playstation 3? Nintendo Wii? I haven’t owned a system since the Super NES, but I tell you right now that the Wii is the only system worth owning. Sure, it’s not the most powerful, nor does it have a huge library of games (yet). But it is by far the most innovative console in the past 20 years.

Technology has finally reached the point where an interactive gaming experience which involves more than your fingers and thumbs is possible. With the Wii, people have the opportunity to try and learn real games (think Wii Sports) that they never before had the chance or inclination to play. I’ve heard people say that they actually get a workout while playing a game – that’s not something you can say with any other game system. People I know who would normally never play video games, now say that they love the Wii. To me, this harks the arrival of new opportunities for the design and future of gaming.