Archive for Writing (other)

A Week of Writing, April 30 to May 6

This has been another epic week of writing for me, although some of it won’t appear online just yet. For example, I just wrote an article for Magazine Azur, but its awaiting translation to French so it won’t be published for a few more weeks.

On May 2, 2012, I attended the BCTIA Techbrew event where it was announced that Webtech Wireless was nominated for the Adoption of Technology award. I pre-wrote this blog about the event to which I updated and added photos later that night to be ready for its scheduled release at 5:40 am PST (early enough for eastern readers).

 

Webtech WirelessI found out that the agency that looks after Webtech Wireless’ news releases particularly mentioned the quality of the Quadrant Manager Mobile news release I wrote. I haven’t been writing a lot of their news releases, so that’s great to hear.

 

Magazine AzurStay tuned for an article in Magazine Azur (it’s written and submitted, but not yet published). Two Canadians—one English; one French—experience the trials and triumphs of travelling in the south of France. I wrote the English and my friend and fellow traveller, Sylvie Soucis, is translating it into French. “Où est le &#@* train.”

 

Celebrating Mental Health Week: May 7-13, 2012 describes the loopholes private insurers use to elude quite valid claims from people who pay for private insurance.

 

 

May is the Month of Motor Safety is another timely blog post based on a recent news release from the Vancouver Police Department’s announcement that it will be targeting dangerous drivers in May. I go on to warn of the dangers of entirely trusting one’s accident claim to an ICBC Adjuster. AS a public entity doing the work of a private insurer, ICBC is in an ongoing conflict of interest with every claim it settles.

I wrote an article called, Long-Term Disability Claims: A Cross-Country Check, which highlights stories across Canada affecting those with long-term disabilities. I didn’t know there was a Rick Hansen coin?

A Week of Writing, April 23 to 29

I’m in such a state of production, that I didn’t realize I’d written two blog posts for Webtech Wireless (our goal is one per week), so that’s why there are two.

Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet client, Ville de Québec is among seven finalists for this year’s Intelligent Community award for web savvy and innovative cities.

 

Quadrant Manager goes Mobile describes the latest, greatest to the Webtech Wireless suite of Quadrant products: Quadrant Manager Mobile for iPad and iPhone.

 

 

I researched a quick and wrote a quick ICBC Accident Checklist for those in British Columbia who’ve had a motor vehicle accident and need to know what to do next. There’s a downloadable version you can print and keep in your car too.

 

A Week of Writing, April 16 – 22

As the momentum of my writing picks up, I’m called to produce ever more content with ever more speed. While not altogether abandoning my reliance on adhering to good technical writing skills, it’s really the audience that matters most, so that’s my greatest focus.

This week:

Webtech Wireless 2012 Annual ReportAt Webtech Wireless, we (the Marketing department) worked tirelessly with Finance to produce the 2012 Annual Report. All were concerned with proper reviews, but also in ensuring this document is readable to our Board, stakeholders, and investors.

 

 

Also at Webtech Wireless, the blog post I researched in February went live in time for the many tradeshows now occupying the lives of government snow removal fleet operators. I’m pleased the name, “Are Your Winter Fleet Contractors Worth Their Salt?” was retained.

 

Long-Term Disabilities Top Social Issues in Forthcoming Alberta Election for the Disability Claim Denied site looks at social issues affecting Alberta, which ever way the election goes.

 

 

A Week of Writing, April 9 – 14

I should preface this post with “why I love my job” to describe the diversity of things I do. Apart from writing on a diversity of subjects (see below), I’m also busy designing graphics, designing web pages, interviewing interesting people, collaborating, doing some project management, and generally being a techy good time charlie. When I hear people complain about their jobs, I am torn between sympathy and the desire to say, “then quit”.

Long-Term Planning for Long-Term Disabilities describes changes to RDSPs (Registered Disability Savings Plans) in the 2012 Federal Budget. It’s mostly good news for those with long-term disabiliteis, but otherwise off the radar of the Media.

Investment in Lean Technology Powers CP’s Success picks up on the news of the day–CP Rail is posting record profits, despite harsh winter conditions (in the West) and a low stock evaluation. Its adoption of lean technologies such as Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution is credited with this success.

How Provincial Budgets Affect Those with Long-term Disabilities is a simple cross-country tour describing changes to provincial budgets that affect those with long-term disabilities. I slightly favoured western provinces (because that’s where the traffic is coming from), and I’m sorry I could find nothing for Quebec.

ICBC Conflict of InterestHow Could Your MVA Claim Be Compromised By ICBC’s Conflicts of Interest? describes some of the ways British Columbians are at the mercy of the Province’s auto insurer, ICBC. This is my kick-off blog post for this site.

History of GPS Devices

Since working at Webtech Wireless, I’ve starting getting an idea of how transformative location-based GPS-powered technology can be to our future once everyone adopts it into their everyday lives.

Take for example, your public library. No longer would a librarian passively wait for borrowed books to be returned and then issue fines. Every librarian could take an active part in repossessing books, because each book would have its own GPS device installed. With just a little help from satellites and small fire arms, a librarian could then find and repossess books from forgetful borrowers?


Moral drawn from this short film clip: Return your library books and nobody gets hurt.

But enough of the mundane future. What about the past? The past is full of great missed GPS/AVL (automated vehicle location) opportunities. How would the Age of Exploration be transformed by GPS?

No more “Let’s try around the next shark infested cape for the route to Cathay, or the Fountain of Youth, or Name-Your-Spice Island” anymore. A Magellan or Columbus could toss his outdated sextants and ridiculous astrolabes overboard and, instead, boot up his GPS device.

Voíla! With affordable on-board communications, he could easily navigate around monsoons, plot a route to India, or get the upper hand on Malacca pirates. As a leader in bringing  state-of-the-art GPS tracking and cellular solutions to small vassal states, he could add to the riches of his king and/or patron. And through communication among enterprise-level fleets, he would be able to offer just-in-time delivery of gold, tobacco, slaves, and beaver pelts on time and under budget.

thar be monsters !

A One-Float Parade

Yesterday, I came upon a one-float parade making its way through afternoon traffic in downtown Menton, France. It appeared to have no fixed direction (although it led us to the beach with its seaside restaurants and shops). For me, it represented a lively example of what a small group of people—about five in this case—can do to bring playfulness and happiness to a city.

One-float parade - Menton

Living life like a whole parade sounds expensive, and excessive; like a one-man parade, lonely and perhaps lunatic; but a one-float parade with close friends—just right.
Happy holidays friends,
Jason

The galley slave, the orchestra conductor, and the kitchen party

There’s a kitchen party going on in my head these days. It could be the air here in the south of France where I’m otherwise churning out corporate blogging content for Vancouver clients, or it could be that I’m discovering that the kitchen party in my head is pretty effective for getting certain things done, I don’t know.

Recently, I read a story, which utilized the popular metaphor of the orchestra conductor to describe enlightened leadership in a corporate setting. I liked the comparison, but I had to look elsewhere for a metaphor that was more enlightened still.

How do Slave Galleys Work?

Credit: funnytimes.com

In the old, OLD days, employees were seen merely as resources (sometimes costly ones). Like a slave galley, most everyone was chained to his post and the “employer” used negative motivation (usually whips and torture) to produce results (i.e., forward movement).

Why is an Orchestra Conductor more Enlightened?

The orchestra conductor metaphor is considered more enlightened, because everyone brings together his or her best talents under the conductor’s light touch, (who of course brings it all together into beautiful music). The emphasis is on bringing out each person’s unique talents.

Dumas – “The orchestra when tragedy is being played”

Having played in a symphony orchestra, I know firsthand that it is not always that enlightened. An orchestra is extremely hierarchical, music is programmed sometimes years in advance, and except for first-chair players, there’s very little freedom to interpret the music freely. Bluntly: Sometimes it’s much, much closer to a slave galley than what you might imagine.

So, Why a Kitchen Party?

In a kitchen party, everyone is draw there because he or she wants to be there. There is no obligation—it’s a party! Everyone participates and everybody shares equally in the creation. There may be a host, but no leader. If you don’t want to play, you can always sit out (or leave). Kitchen parties seldom have distinct rules and, being spontaneous, they tend to follow rules set out by those involved. It’s a viral happening.

Newfoundland_Kitchen_Party_by_AlexisLynch

Credit: Alexis Lynch

I believe that if everyone who disliked his or her job were to quit, after the initial bumps and burps as the world reconfigured itself into one in which people only did what they were drawn to do, things would probably improve considerably. This is the kitchen-party metaphor: Love what you do or do something else.

Complaining 101 – How to Get Results

Here's what I'd hoped for...

Did you ever notice how optimism can turn to disappointment and then to anger? Yesterday as I was playing in the sun with several semi-feral kittens, I let my mind wander and I suddenly observed the distinct thresholds that brought me to lodge a complaint at my hotel.

When I first saw my room, I just laughed. It was like a student dormitory, but it didn’t matter. This hotel serves the French school where I’m learning French, so there are a lot of twenty-something students around and the atmosphere is decidedly informal. But when informal crossed the line into incompetent, the problems started mounting:

  • I asked to have my shower fixed three times with no action from management.
  • Although I’d been promised a WIFI connection (a necessity for staying in connection with my Vancouver clients), it frequently didn’t work or the connection was so slow it was like being thrown back into distant 1994.
  • With no notice, the management of the hotel tore apart the ceiling in the corridor leading to my room, leaving wires and dangling lights in the way.
  • While I expected a certain amount of partying, it didn’t occur to me that some students would selfishly party all night long on a school night at the expense of sleep for everybody less inclined to party (and then miss classes themselves the next day to catch up on sleep).
  • My room was close to the shared kitchen where noisy students tended to gather and in addition to the noise, a night’s partying left our shared kitchen (already laughably inadequate) filthy—a cochonnerie in fact.
Castel Arabel has clearly seen better days

...Here's what I got.

A few years ago, before I learned how truly counterproductive complaining can be, I think I actually thought complaint was an effective communication tool. When I realized this was not the case, I resolved never to complain again. Now, this untenable situation was backing me into a corner. As a readied myself for class, I pondered the most effective way to complain so that my grievances would be heard and acted upon.

Here’s what I decided:

  • No matter how justified, nobody likes a complainer. When stating the grievance, avoid whining. Whining is a fast ticket to abdicate your power. Instead, clearly explain the problem and the solution you expect to see.
  • Document your complaint. Make sure your facts are straight before you complain, then you don’t find yourself on the defensive.
  • Give people receiving an out—an opportunity to be right; otherwise, they may become defensive.

When I arrived at the school, I sat down with administrator. I simply said I had a problem with Castel Arabel (my hotel) and held up my iPhone with pictures of the filthy kitchen and the disemboweled ceiling. I described my attempts to get my shower fixed and my lack of sleep resulting from the all-night partiers. I then explained my concerns about my friend, Sylvie, coming from Quebec and whether if the problems were not resolved could we expect to be reimbursed should we move to a different hotel? I only used strong words where when he tried to excuse the state of the hotel. I simply said, “No more excuses”. He then offered to call the hotel and speak with its manager.

When I returned to the hotel, my shower was fixed and the manager explained to me that because of the work in the hallway, he’d be moving me to their “de luxe” accommodations for the duration of my stay. I let him save face (it’s much easier for him to apologize for moving me because of the repair work in the hallway than my lengthy list of other complaints). I courteously thanked him for thinking of me and finding me a different room.

après la tempête

Après la tempête - wellbeing restored

All is well now. I can feel my optimism begin to return. I conveyed that I wasn’t going to fly into a rage, I am not a complainer, and I expect results if I do lodge a complaint.

 

Learning French with Dignity

Here’s an excerpt from my travel journal. It doesn’t really fit the business angle I’d intended for this blog, but hey, this is where the humour’s coming from so I’m going with it.

Yesterday, I headed up to Vence (a mountain town close to the coast). There’s a lovely old town there but I really went to have tea with the friends of parents of a friend of mine in Vancouver. How do you like that for 6 degrees of separation? I was concerned that they might be a little French and formal, especially the parents of my friend, who’s but 30, is quite formal—almost regal in his ways. But his parent weren’t and neither were the hosts and it wasn’t long before we all sitting in the study drinking coffee and eating homemade orange merengue (oranges courtesy of the neighbour’s orange trees) and having a roaringly fun time.

The hosts are both visual artists and art collectors so their home is a veritable gallery. Helen is English born, but has lived in the Cote d’Azur since her teens and her husband, Joe, a witty Sicilian has a genius for tending the conversation with word play and other trickery like it was a fire. When I left, my stomach hurt I’d been laughing so hard.

This contrasted strongly with my experience at the French school where I’ve been studying. Maybe, in the greater scheme of things, I’ll conclude that coming here was a really bad idea, but for now, I’m adapting myself to the situation as I go. It’s a little bizarre for me as everybody is about 20 to 25 years younger and not nearly as amusing as the crowd in Vence, who is about 20 years older (okay, maybe 15).

At the school today, I was compelled to join in with our class to sing Jingle Bells in six languages for the faculty. I was the only male singing as all the other classmates were girls. I thought, “how much more humiliating is this going to get?” I’d just bite down on it and endure, and in the end it really wasn’t that bad as everyone was laughing and nobody was really listening to the quality of the music. Just festive fun. Who’s the formal one here?

If the courses weren’t so good, I’d probably complain about the hostel where I’m housed—it’s quite a dump. I’ve been waiting for five days to have my shower fixed, the shared kitchen is filthy and very run down, and the internet barely works at all.

But now my French is so improved I’m comfortably ordering food in restaurants, asking people for directions, and exchanging pleasantries with a high degree of efficiency. Although, today on my walk downtown, I had to go to the washroom really badly and finally simply walked into a cafe to ask to use their WC. In my urgency, all I could come out with was, “Je dois faire les toilettes”, which either doesn’t mean anything at all, or roughly translates into “me make do-do”. Whatever I said, the owner gave me a dead metallic look and just said, “Allez”, which I took to mean “just do your business”, not “get out”.

Using Dropbox on the iPhone

Travel is always fraught with unexpected challenges and my experience is that a small oversight can cartwheel into a major breakdown when in a different country trying to use unfamiliar technologies. Take for example, the train in France.

I reserved my train passage on the TGV from Paris to Antibes with little difficulty, and it was only at the last step—literally—that everything suddenly went very, very wrong.

I had become comfortable with the manual doors on the Paris Metro, but the doors on the TGV were a new adventure. And while I’m on the subject of the Paris Metro, the iPhone app for it is called, “Le Metro Parisien”, and it’s one of the best apps around (if you’re comfortable with directions in French), particularly because it works as well offline as on. You simply enter your start and finish station and it walks you through the steps to get there.

When the train stopped at Antibes—a whistle mere stop—I pressed the button to open the door and nothing happened. In my halting French, I asked several old French ladies on the train trying to open the door, but we couldn’t open it. Two minutes later, then train departed Antibes with me still on it bound for Nice.

In Nice, I was able to catch a train back to Antibes, but I’d missed my pickup. This is when another small problem became a large one. I’m missed my pickup in Antibes by this time, so I opened Dropbox on my iPhone to check the hotel information and, to my horror, the confirmation files weren’t viewable.

I was using Dropbox on my iPhone to read PDF versions of bookings and other travel information. I’d never checked, but files only open in Dropbox offline, if they’re been viewed online. I hadn’t bothered to get roaming wifi or a European phone account, so I found I couldn’t even read my hotel information. Fortunately, I could boot  up my laptop in the train station and read the files there offline. It’s always good to have multiple failsafes and lots of redundancy.

I told myself not to panic—even when I thought I’d have to book into another hotel for my first night in Antibes—and in the end, panic wouldn’t have helped. The entire ordeal lasted no more than 1 1/2 hours, including the little trip to Nice and back.