Siri, please let me love you.

October 7, 2014

Siri thinks she did something wrongYou know how you re-vacuum the same spot over and over until it picks up that one piece of lint even though it’s easier to just bend over and snatch it up with your fingers?

Sometimes that’s what it’s like to deal with Siri.

“Siri, call Premier Dry Cleaners.”

“Here are three dry cleaners in your area. One is fairly close to you.”

“Siri. Call PREMIER Dry Cleaners.”

“The premier of ‘Gotham’ was September 22nd.”

“SIRI!” Call Premier DRY CLEANERS.”

“Here’s a website for Clear Vue Eye Glass Cleaner.”

*Furiously punches buttons on phone to verify Premier Dry Cleaners is in Contacts.*

“Siri. Access Contacts. Call Premier Dry Cleaners.”

“Okay, I have added ‘Order Contacts’ to your Reminders.”

“Siri. Find Premier Dry Cleaners.”

“Okay, I found Premier Dry Cleaners. Would you like directions?”

“No! CALL Premier Dry Cleaners.”

“There is a Veneer Dry Roofers, but it’s quite a ways away from you.” (2,844 miles, in Eastern Canada)

“Go away, Siri.”

“Did I do something wrong?”


Zen and the Art of Leaving Facebook

September 29, 2014

ZenI wasn’t really sure what to expect when I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account a couple months ago. I’d been on the site for several years, mainly using it to keep up with the lives of people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. It was also a great place to let my hair down a bit since I need to be cognizant of what I post on, say, Twitter, which can be seen by anyone.

The reasons I decided to deactivate aren’t really germane to this post so there’s no need to go into them. Suffice it to say, the signal-to-noise ratio became unbearable and it was starting to affect my stress levels (which have since returned to normal).

Here’s what I’ve noticed since turning off my account.

There is no graceful way to leave Facebook.

When you deactivate an account, you simply disappear from the site. There’s no way to leave a note on your own profile that you’ve disabled your profile and no options for letting people know you’re taking time off.

Well, that’s not entirely true. In the days leading up to the deactivation I could have posted something about my decision and let it filter its way through my friends but melodramatic “I’m leaving!” posts are anathema to me. So I simply vanished.

The resulting reactions were…strange. A surprising number of people assumed something was wrong which, I suppose is a fair presumption in the absence of information to the contrary. A few people took it very personally, assuming I’d simply unfriended only them.

Many people, as I expected, didn’t notice. Now, let me be clear. I don’t say that as a passive-aggressive way to imply my friends don’t care. I’m sure they do. I simply mean that the way Facebook presents information in timelines makes it virtually impossible to know whether people have left Facebook or are simply not posting. Indeed, even prolific posters don’t always make it into the feed of all their friends because Facebook’s algorithms are so screwy it’s hard to know what to expect.

This is my single biggest frustration with leaving Facebook — the inability to let your friends know in a way that’s not completely awkward.

Scheduling is complicated

My husband and I use Facebook as the invitation mechanism for some of our parties. We’re planning an upcoming event and I’ve realized that inviting my friends will take some additional work since he’s not connected to some of them. They won’t be able to see his Facebook invite unless we make it public (not an option). On the other side of the equation, I don’t always know about upcoming events I’m invited to since they’re also typically scheduled through Facebook.

Isolation factor: 10

I’ll admit it, I feel completely out of the loop now with nearly everyone I know. A good friend was involved in the elaborate rescue of a mother and child after witnessing a car accident and I heard about it fourth hand. My mother-in-law had foot surgery and I didn’t know until she hobbled into my house. My friends are having all kinds of notable things happen to them but I have no idea what they are. I miss their pictures and stories, their triumphs and concerns. However…

Real life is a lot more fun

I’ve been floored to discover how much more enjoyable it is to meet up with friends face-to-face and be able to say, “what’s new?” without already knowing. I love to watch the joy on their faces as they describe a new job or a the details of a vacation. I love seeing actual, real-life, animated faces telling what I’ve missed. I love being able to say, “I’m so happy for you, tell me more” instead of mindlessly clicking a Like button for the 84th time that day.

You too, huh?

When I tell people I’ve left Facebook nearly every single person says, “I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing.” Assuming folks are being honest with me (and I believe they are), the majority of people I know are unhappy with the site and don’t want to be there. Everyone I’ve talked with about this says the only thing keeping them from leaving is that it’s the only way to keep in touch with others, especially people who don’t live nearby. But…

It’s not the only way

Believe it or not, Facebook is not the only way to keep in touch, nor is it the easiest. I’ve taken to corresponding at length with friends over email and, guess what? It’s a hell of a lot more fulfilling than Facebook ever was. It’s the modern version of writing letters and takes exactly no more time than chatting over Facebook.

An added bonus? I actually look forward to opening my inbox these days because it’s now it’s filled with more than spam and bill payment reminders. On top of that, I’ll always have the messages we exchange and they won’t get lost in the timeline or private messaging depths of some website.

Fewer obligations

Perhaps my favorite thing about being off Facebook is that I’m no longer obligated to tolerate posts and comments that make me uncomfortable. I’ve spent about 30 minutes typing and erasing all sorts of examples of what I mean by that. In the end, I think it’s sufficient for me to simply let the preceding comment stand because I’m pretty sure anyone reading this has had at least one relatable experience and understands.

What now?

I’m not sure. I do miss certain aspects of Facebook  but not to the point that it overrides the enjoyment of being away from it. Perhaps I’ll reactivate my account one day, perhaps not. In the meantime, I’m truly enjoying about 99% of what being off of Facebook has to offer. I’m still on Twitter (mostly professional stuff) and Tumblr (whatever strikes my fancy), so if you’re on either of those, look me up.

Image: Pittaya Sroilong


My Standing Desk is “Marvel”-ous

September 25, 2014

I’d love to claim that I switched to a standing desk in my home office because of a sweeping desire for improved fitness and health but I’m not gonna lie. I took the leap (the stand?) a couple months ago because Marvel Studios has its movies planned out through 2028 and I want to be around to see them all.

I wasn’t sure if I’d like it but it turns out my lazy self actually enjoys standing most of the day. Except for some weird minor pain behind one knee that I’m still trying to figure out, I don’t have any of aches or agonies I’d read so much about. In fact, I feel so good about the whole setup that I recently added a mini-elliptical to the mix so my feet have something to do.

 

 

Though pre-made standing desks are pretty rad, I didn’t want to invest a whole bunch of coin in something I wasn’t sure I’d use long-term. Instead I went with the IKEA standing desk setup this smartypants came up with (bonus: an excuse to go to IKEA). That’s where I got my conventional office desk a couple years ago so the fact that all the pieces and parts of the new rig match is a nice little aesthetic touch.

My iMac, wireless keyboard, and mouse are comfortably elevated and there’s enough room on the table for a cup, pens, notebook, etc. My MacBook sits underneath the shelf on the regular desktop so when if I need to sit for a while, I can just plop into my chair — after moving the cat off of it.

I stand on an anti-fatigue mat when I’m typing, but when I’m reading, surfing, or goofing off I use this mini-elliptical. I’ve only had it a couple of weeks but, so far, I love it. Shockingly, I haven’t fallen off of it. Given my klutziness, that’s a ringing endorsement for its stability.

 

Stray observations:

  • I fidget a lot more now than when I was sitting all day. I switch from foot to foot, rest one on a footstool, (okay, upside down cardboard box. What? I’m cheap.) or adopt strange pseudo-yoga poses.
  • I’m about a hundred-thousand times more active during the day. I used to save all my “next time I get up” tasks for one big excursion every couple of hours. You call it lazy, I call it an economy of effort. Now I zip around all day refilling my water, switching out laundry, and doing all the other things I used to put off. I figure tackling mundane stuff is easier now since it’s halfway done because I’m already up anyway.
  • I can’t sit for long stretches anymore without getting twitchy. Sitting through Guardians of the Galaxy without standing up nearly gave me an aneurysm.
  • I drink a lot more water and nibble a lot less throughout the day. I’ve always been good about guzzling water but I get refills much more frequently since I’m already on my feet when I drain my bottle. I’ve stopped a lot of mindless eating because… well, I’m not sure why. I suppose I feel like it would be too much of a pain in the ass to eat while marching away on the elliptical and I just don’t have an appetite for grazing while standing still. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.
  • I am a whole lot less stressed about exercise. If I don’t get around to walking or doing something else fitness-related on any given day, the stats on my Fitbit remind me I haven’t exactly been sedentary all day either.
  • My cats love me more because, now that I don’t use my desk chair as much, there’s an extra place for them to sleep.
sleeping cat

Exhibit A

So, if you’re on the fence about trying a standing desk, I highly recommend giving it a shot. The IKEA setup and an anti-fatigue mat will only set you back around $75. You can always repurpose the items if you don’t like it after all.

(Geez, has it really been a year since I’ve posted? Eh. I’ve been busy.)

 


What I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

September 4, 2013

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a ridiculously long time and I kind of feel bad about it. I feel particularly silly because it seems counterintuitive for a professional writer’s blog to be devoid of words. I’ll blame it on Shoemaker’s Children syndrome and just being really, really busy. After all, it’s the truth.

So, here I am. The list of things I could write about is as long as my arm. It ranges from my thoughts on current events to sharing fun little stories about work, married and family life, or remodeling a house (ugh!). None of that is on my mind today.

People often write up postmortems about life-changing events and I’ve got a litany of my own lately that range from a new marriage and moving, to a health issue, a couple of major projects I’ve undertaken, and so on. However, the learning experiences I’ve taken away from all of these events seem to boil down to one thing — and it predates the events themselves.

When you’re in the midst of The Very Important Things, it’s difficult to see what kind of person you’ll be when the dust settles. While I’ve learned a lot about myself in recent years, I’ve learned even more about the world around me and, specifically, the people in it.

It took me a long time to realize that for every poisonous person in this world there are double the genuinely good souls. I noticed a while back that I was spending too much time dealing with the former at the expense of the latter. I also noticed that poisonous people tend to pool together and I began making it a point to avoid those swamps. My life has been infinitely better for it.

Those of you who know me are aware that I have an exceptionally low tolerance for bullying that dates back to early childhood. As an adult, I was disappointed to discover that bullies still exist in the grown-up world, often slathered with a greasy sheen of manipulation to soften the edges.

I railed against such behavior in adults for a long time before I finally realized the answer was to simply cut off their food supply and not engage at all. It doesn’t stop the behavior, but it certainly removes the impact it has on my life. Bullies are a festering bacteria, but they can’t invade your ecosystem if you wash your hands.

I realized that the wonderful life-changing events I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy are a direct result of my refusal to wallow, rail, fight against, or challenge people who make it their life’s work to be assholes. Instead, I spend my time enjoying the opportunities that find people when they’re happy to the core.

Have you ever taken a hard look at people who try to force others to bend to their will? They look old, ravaged, and miserable (hint: they are). Contrast that with people who are happy, ambitious, and enrich the lives of those around them. They look peaceful (another hint: they are).

This was driven home to me recently when someone I haven’t seen in quite a long time came to visit. The last time he’d seen me, I was struggling with a situation brought on by someone who wanted their happiness to come at the expense of mine. The visitor remarked to Michael that I looked “radiant and serene,” and that the last time he’d seen me, well…not so much. That’s all the evidence I needed to know that I’ve made the right decisions.

So what does this have to do with lessons I’ve learned from life-changing events? Simply this. You only get one go-around on this planet. You can choose to spend it challenging desperate people with agendas but no life, or you can choose to spend it with people who have delightful lives and no agenda.

When you do, you’ll find that the life-altering events that come your way are enriching instead of draining. When you encounter a road block, you’ll have people to support you instead of people so wrapped up in their version of the world that all they bring to the table is anger at the “unfairness of it all.” Oh, please.

It seems to me that people are reluctant to walk away from poisonous situations because they’ll lose something important to them in the process. While that may happen temporarily, I’ve never seen it last. I’ve found that whatever precious-to-you tendrils have coiled themselves around a bad situation eventually lose their grip and head for a sunnier environment. Every single time.

Experience has taught me that not all bullies give up, especially when they refuse to realize that it’s their very actions that created the consequences they dislike so much. Let them tilt at windmills and just walk away. Toxic people create and thrive in toxic environments and I prefer to breathe clean air.

If you’re stuck wondering why things just don’t seem to go your way, take a look at what — or whom — is gaining from holding you back. If you’re spending all your energy pushing back against people who want it their way or no way at all, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Instead spend that energy on people who light up your life, be patient, and watch the things you thought you’d lost gravitate back to you.


You Don’t Scare Me

April 26, 2013

I posted this on Facebook this morning and I’m going to leave it here as well. It concerns the avalanche of factually-inaccurate memes that circulate around social media and why I’m sick of it.

I’ve tried to stay far, far away from this gun control debate but there’s one point that I can’t stay quiet about any longer (and it’s not about the gun laws themselves).

 

Many memes and “shares” claim we’re one step away from the days of Hitler if we change our laws. Here’s an article CITING HISTORIANS about why that is utter crap.

 

The reason this particular false meme bugs me is because I’m sick to death of the fear-mongering and hysteria surrounding so many of the things we’re debating as a society. It’s hard to have civilized discourse and, y’know, solve problems, when a group’s first line of defense is to play the fear card or, in some cases, bully people (“If you don’t share this, you don’t have a heart.”)

 

I see it in everything from public safety or policy debates to animal welfare concerns to attempts to raise awareness about health issues, and I’m tired of it. If you want me to hear your side of things or listen to your elevator pitch about what concerns you, stick with facts. I’m more than willing to have my mind changed or be enlightened about things I misunderstand, but don’t come at me waving fear flags or insinuating there’s something wrong with me if I don’t capitulate. I simply won’t listen.

 

We are in a technologically wonderful age. We have the ability to reach people in ways we never could before and in numbers that go far beyond what we could in the past. Facebook is an excellent medium for sharing ideas but it’s easy to click, share, and like without giving it any real thought. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that gal.

 

If you want to sway me, talk to me. Tell me what YOU think. Throwing things at me designed to scare or intimidate won’t make me hear you and it certainly won’t make me take up the torch for your cause.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I can’t be bullied, coerced, intimidated, or made to feel bad about not reacting the way someone wants me to. I’ve faced too much legitimately odious behavior from people in recent years to have a scare tactic on Facebook even get on my to-do list of Things I Should Consider.

I’m perfectly happy to have a civil conversation about nearly anything and am always open to the possibility of having my mind changed. But when the conversation begins at DEFCON 4, I’m out. I simply don’t respond to manipulation, threats, or anger. If that’s your approach, I’m sorry to disappoint you but, Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.


Thank You: The Prologue

March 25, 2013

We’re more or less off the grid for the next few days, but I wanted to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all the well wishes we’ve received after I tweeted this yesterday. It means so much, honestly it does.

We’ll tell you more about it and answer a lot of the questions people are asking once the dust settles. In the meantime, pictures are trickling onto Facebook so if you want to see them, feel free to connect with me there.

It was the perfect day. Everything went off without a hitch and included a few wonderful surprises. The day was unusual, quirky, and a little eccentric, but then, so are we. It embraced the things that matter most to us and was the most beautiful, meaningful, batch of hours I could have ever imagined.

That’s a great way to begin my future with the most amazing man I have ever known. The overwhelming amount of messages we got on Twitter, Facebook, email, etc has humbled me and I want to thank you all for the kind words that made our day that much more special.

And now, typing this for the first time as a newlywed, I sign off…

Lisa McGreevy

 


How To Choose Images For Professional Blog Posts

March 21, 2013

I don’t mention work on here for a variety of reasons (though that’s probably going to change soon as I change some things around on this site). Today, I’m going to put on my professional hat for a few minutes because I want to talk about the impact of images on professional blog posts from both the reader and the writer point of view.

Some of you may find the topic ironic because I don’t include pictures with posts on this blog (again, that may change). I don’t bother adding images right now mainly because I don’t have the time to add as much fresh content here as I’d like. To spend any of that time searching for images just to pretty up a post isn’t really on my todo list at the moment. Anyway, I’m not referring to personal blog posts right now, I’m talking about the type of content that professional bloggers and writers are paid by their clients to provide.

I spend a ton of time finding pictures to accompany the professional blog posts I write for clients. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job but it’s not always easy, so I get why some businesses have absolutely lousy images alongside their blog posts. Let’s discuss.

The first rule of choosing an image (and I can’t believe I have to spell this out) is: don’t insult anyone. Most companies are smart enough to avoid overtly sexual, racist, misogynistic, etc pictures, but forget there are additional sub-groups to keep in mind. Here’s one really ill-advised picture making the rounds right now on the social network pages of several businesses.

grandma

Suggesting your older customers are too stupid to understand technology that clearly a toddler can grasp? That’s not a good plan. Here’s what you can poke fun at in a professional blog post: Animals doing silly things, oddly juxtapositioned inanimate objects, everyday exasperations we all encounter (endless waits at the airport baggage carousel), and whatever other things that tickle your fancy without potentially insulting an actual person.

While we’re on the topic of offending people, be sure to check the humor in your images. The Simpsons, Family Guy, and the Hangover movies may be popular as far as cultural references go but, for the love of Mike, don’t assume everyone in your reading audience finds humor like that amusing. Trust me when I tell you that you can be hysterically funny without ever going near the line of what some may consider offensive. Don’t believe me? Go take a look at the Facebook pages of Oreo, 7-Eleven, or the Tampa-area restaurant, Bowled.

Next, remember there’s a very high likelihood your image will only be seen for one or two seconds as people scan their Facebook timeline or RSS feed. The image of a large crowd of people with one hand raised in a cheer may look entirely different (ahem) when it’s displayed as a thumbnail pic in a feed aggregator. Before you publish a post, view the accompanying image in various sizes to make sure it doesn’t imply a different meaning that what you intend. The picture you choose represents your client. Don’t take a chance, no matter how small, on embarrassing them.

Finally, use images you find on the internet ethically. There is no excuse — none — for stealing copyrighted work, or altering work when its license doesn’t specifically allow it. Then again, if you’re a writer reading this I shouldn’t have to tell you that, right? Unfortunately, I still see images being heisted, altered, or used without proper credit. You don’t need a fancy, expensive account with a stock image service. Just head to Flikr, click on Advanced Search, tick the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” box, and go nuts.

I understand it’s hard to stand out in the overcrowded chaos that is blogging. I know that between finding a good topic, figuring out the SEO, shopping a finished post around social networks, monitoring comments, watching stats, and getting eyes on what you’ve written, the last thing you want to worry about is a picture that people will only glance at for a millisecond. It’s the cost of doing business, though. Anyway, you want your work noticed for its quality, not because of a mistake over an image that could have been avoided with a little attention, right? Right.


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