Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Great Communication (or: Great. Communication.)

Instant messaging has its place, but I'm a traditionalist. In today's terms, probably even a fundamentalist. My problem is that I insist on complete sentences in my business communications.

Typical IM exchange between me and a co-worker:
Me: Are you there?

Co-worker: y

Me: When you say "y," do you mean "yes" or "why?"

Co-worker: wut
Co-worker: y do u ask

Me: See? In that last sentence, "y" clearly meant "why," but without context your first sentence could have meant "yes I am here, thanks for asking," or "why do you need to know? Am I late for a meeting?"

Co-worker: ?

Me: Ah! So you DO know what a question mark is!

Co-worker: go away
I blame my mother. She has always been a strong typist and I decided at some point early in life that I wished to master the realm of QWERTY. I remember sitting at our small portable typewriter upstairs carefully transcribing my collection of Bill Cosby records. By the time I took typing as a class in junior high, I was already typing around 35 words per minute. I think in my prime I got that all the way up to around 70 or 75. Fast enough to prefer typing to all other forms of writing, but not quite fast enough to be an office admin.

Then Dad bought our first home computer. I was still on my mission at the time, but it didn't take me long to immerse myself in the world of microcomputing and begin learning a third language: BASIC. (Fourth, actually, if I count both K'iche' and Spanish as my second and third languages. Unfortunately, I've all but lost the Mayan dialects now.)

BASIC was fun because I had to master a whole new slate of keys to which I'd never paid attention on the old typewriters. Things like the colon, for which I could never find a use in normal correspondence, but which are found in nearly every line of BASIC code in any given application. Likewise the @ symbol. I can't even remember covering that silly thing in typing class, yet have been using it faithfully since 1980. Almost lost my skills when migrating from the old TRS-80 keyboards to today's standard PC keyboards, though. The Trash-80's character keys were in different positions, so I had to re-teach myself how to type them when I received my first XT Boat Anchor (640K RAM! Two — count 'em — TWO 5-1/4 inch floppies!)

Even then, however, I refused to give up on traditional English when writing memos, even as a lowly expediter working in a factory.

(For those who really know me, this is especially ironic. My family nickname is "the Great Communicator," because I pretty much never communicate with anyone who is not in the immediate room with me. I have kids living in Minnesota who are now convinced that I am about as real as Santa Claus because they only hear from me once a year, and about all I say is, quote, "Ho, ho, ho," as in, "You need money? Ho, ho, ho.")

(Secondary sidebar: Do you have any idea how ludicrously difficult it is to frame a formal letter in the old DOS version of Lotus 1-2-3? Yet that was what we tended to use because we weren't allowed an actual word processing application for a few years. Then we printed them out on our dot-matrix printers, some of which forced everything into ALL CAPS WHETHER YOU TYPED THEM THAT WAY OR NOT. The result was that our business communications, however well formed, tended to look like we'd printed them using $1.99 rubber stamp kits such as you'd buy at your local supermarket to get your kids out of your hair on rainy afternoons. Weren't those days fun?)

Now, of course, we have a whole new generation of college-educated kids hitting the workplace (assuming they won the mud-pit wrestling match at the jobs fair) with really fascinating degrees in business and communications. Except that they can't form a complete sentence to save their souls. These days it's not at all uncommon to receive requests like this one:

Someone said to me that you are the guru for UCA datas and I need a report but I need it last quarter and first quarter and you can have it for me by tomorrow? Early? Thx
You guessed it: another MBA from Pepperdine just hit the rolls. I'll probably be working for this person in another six months or so.

I may be poor, but I'm a terrific communicator.

Unless you're related to me.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's Too Soon!

Next year is Election Year(!), and a presidential election to boot. And while 2012 cannot possibly get here fast enough for most Republicans, I have to say it's far too soon to have to deal with sharks in the water already.

The odd thing is, we have good reason to hurry. The ruinous health care fiasco foisted on us by an over-zealous Congress and President last year continues to rankle. The list of waivers is growing nearly as fast as the debt ceiling, with no end in sight. Even with Republicans in control of the House, no one seems quite ready to engage in more than token spending reductions at this point. Heck, I may actually have to file an extension on taxes this year just because some rule changes are harder to figure out than others.

But I am definitely NOT ready to have to listen to all the posturing, finger-pointing, mud-slinging, and other forms of lying that will accompany either the candidates themselves, or the rabid liberal press who will insist on pounding us with their social justice agenda.

Time once again to buy more stock in whomever makes Motrin®.

Besides all that, I am nowhere near ready to write up two more Curmudgeon's Guides for Young Conservative Voters next year. And heaven only knows when the primary election for California will be. We were so concerned with getting "out front" last time around that California Republican officials very likely torpedoed any chance we had of gaining even one significant state-wide office, much less making any sort of difference at the national level.

(NOTE TO CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY LEADERS: Next time you throw support to a candidate for Governor or United States Senate, let's get out in front of the whole alien employee situation, hm? It's embarrassing to live in the most populous state in the country, yet one that is incapable of putting forward even one serious contender for state or national office in the last twenty years. Let's work on that one, 'kay, guys? Let's also make sure they have solid conservative creds this time. That last bunch were RINOs to the core!)

Already wishing it were 2013.