A Story of Shenanigans

Normally, I save stories of shenanigans for my other blog, Musings of Řehoř. Writing my last article, “Greasing The Skids of Communication” however, reminded me of a funny story. I hope you’ll indulge me while I share of a bunch of 20-something people with a lot of youthful exuberance. There were sometimes disagreements between the shops at the place I wrote about in that article. They were mostly between the front shop (where I worked) and the back shop. Many times those disagreements stemmed from differing interpretations of guidance from the home office. At other times we might be in dispute over the exact wording of a Monty Python quote or rivalries between sports teams. No matter the reason, we occasionally found ourselves at odds with “those guys.”

Normally, I save stories of shenanigans for my other blog, Musings of Řehoř. Writing my last article, “Greasing The Skids of Communication” however, reminded me of a funny story. I hope you’ll indulge me while I share of a bunch of 20-something people with a lot of youthful exuberance.

There were sometimes disagreements between the shops at the place I wrote about in that article. They were mostly between the front shop (where I worked) and the back shop. Many times those disagreements stemmed from differing interpretations of guidance from the home office. At other times we might be in dispute over the exact wording of a Monty Python quote or rivalries between sports teams. No matter the reason, we occasionally found ourselves at odds with “those guys.”

One time, during a stretch of midnight shifts, we decided to declare war against the back office. It’s hard to remember what the disagreement was, but no doubt our honor was besmirched in some way or another. The fact that midnight shifts were sometimes boring and filled with idle time probably didn’t help matters much, either.

Don’t Try This At Home, Kids – We Were Trained Professionals
One of our team, Jerry if I remember correctly, devised a way to make a paper wad launcher. The office in which we worked was a computer room with an elevated floor. In a corner behind some spare equipment he found some brackets which were designed to hold the floor tiles together. He also rounded up some plastic “zip” wire ties, rubber bands, binder clips and butterfly-style paper clips.

The binder clip was attached to the bracket with a wire tie, and this served as the trigger and firing mechanism. He reshaped the butterfly paper clip into a piece resembling a sling shot which was attached to the front of the bracket. To that he attached the rubber band. Viola – he created a very serviceable paper wad launcher. We found some paper towel cores to use as a stock for the butt end to finish off the weapons.

Another of our group declared himself “commander” of our skirmishers. He gathered an army consisting of ten of members of our team. Plans were made to march to the other office in two ranks of five. We would stop in formation in front of our “enemy” and engage them Revolutionary War style. Upon the command to fire, the first rank would fire, then immediately kneel to reload. While the first rank members reloaded their paper wad shooters, the second rank would fire over their heads.

While we carefully crafted our weapons and paper ammunition under Jerry’s tutelage, our ersatz commander drafted a formal declaration of war against the back shop. It was quite flowery, written in what we thought was appropriate colonial style wording. It was dispatched by messenger to a no doubt quite befuddled group in that office.

Just after the time indicated in our declaration of war for the commencement of hostilities, we assembled in ranks and marched down the long hallway to the other shop. We must have been quite a site to the “noncombatants” going to a fro in and out of the other offices conducting  their business.

The entrance to the back shop’s office was a double door, which was just wide enough for us to march through in our formation. When we got into position our “commander” shouted the order for the first rank to load and fire. The looks on the faces of the “enemy” soldiers was absolutely precious. They stood there with their eyes wide open and their mouths hanging open at the spectacle of us launching our volley of paper wads at them.

Each rank completed three volleys of fire before the “commander” shouted out the orders which guided us to march back to our office area. As we left, the workers of the back shop yelled various insults at us and threw paper wads in our direction. It didn’t matter, the field was ours and we carried the day.

We made incursions into their office at random times over the next few nights. It didn’t take long for them to start building paper wad launchers of their own, either. Eventually, though, someone a little more mature than us put a stop to our war, declaring a permanent cease fire. There was talk about it being fun until someone had an eye put out.

One of the highlights of this whole time was the mortar my friend Scott made with the cardboard tube left over from the paper roll for a plotter printer. He rigged it with a number of very large rubber bands which made it capable of launching a toilet plunger into the air towards an enemy formation some 20 feet away. It was quite ingenious.

I still laugh when I think about this event. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed the retelling.

Top 10 Articles – 2010 Retrospect

Here are the top ten articles on The Crossing of Marketing and IT for 2010

Here are the top ten articles on The Crossing of Marketing and IT for 2010:

1. EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey – It’s not too surprising given Dave’s popularity. His EntreLeadership training is excellent, too. If you get a chance to attend his 1-Day training go. It’ll be time well-spent.

2. Smack It On SocialSmack – SocialSmack’s CEO Matt Curtin told me I was the first blogger to write about his Austin-based startup, and this is the article he was referring to. Apparently I beat out the next blogger by one day. I wrote a few times about SocialSmack this year. They are worth watching and are up to some great things so you can expect to see more about them in 2011.

3. One Reason Not To Link You Twitter Feed To Facebook – People are always looking to ways to save time. In this article I recommend folks not save time by linking their Twitter feed to their Facebook page. Along those same lines, I wrote a post inspired by a tweet by Tim Walker down in Austin called “Cross Posting A Socmed No-No?

4. Local Boys Make Good – This article covered the guys at Belton, Texas-based Squeaky Wheel Marketing and their Waco Board and Belboard web sites. These guys are doing some great work for their clients.

5. Dave Ramsey Gets It – This article covered the Dave Ramsey Total Makeover Live Event and how well the crew putting on the event incorporated various aspects of social media to encourage audience participation. These folks did social right.

6. Be That Expert – Inspired by the Keynote address by Rob Snell of Gun Dog Supply during PubCon South this year, this particular article is my favorite of the year. Rob’s story and the business lessons you can learn from it are a great combo.

7. Your Copier Is A Security Risk – You need to make sure any device with memory you own is properly secured. This article talks about copiers in particular.

8. How Not To Respond to Social Media Criticism – This one was written in December of 2009, but continues to be popular this year. It describes how an author got into a “shouting match” with reviewers on Amazon and suggests ways she might have handled it better.

9. PubCon Masters Group Training – The folks at PubCon assembled an all-star cast and offered a one-day intense training session on Social Media and Search Engine Optimization. This was my summary of the great information presented.

10. Cross Posting A Socmed No-No? – This was mentioned earlier. Apparently cross-posting social media feeds was a hot topic this year.

What were your favorite topics in your world this year? Even if it wasn’t here, please feel free to share in the comments.

My Electronic Communication History

I attended the Defense Language Institute in 1984 and 1985. While I was there, the library had this cool computer system called PLATO. It was run off a University mainframe somewhere and was installed so we students could work on extra training in whichever language we were there to study. Of course, even in that early system there were games included in the menu. I got hooked on his cyber submarine and convoy escort game which pitted players from who-knows-where against each other in World War 2-era ocean combat. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I recall there was a feature included so players could “chat” with one another in the game.

I attended the Defense Language Institute in 1984 and 1985. While I was there, the library had this cool computer system called PLATO. It was run off a University mainframe somewhere and was installed so we students could work on extra training in whichever language we were there to study. Of course, even in that early system there were games included in the menu. I got hooked on his cyber submarine and convoy escort game which pitted players from who-knows-where against each other in World War 2-era ocean combat. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I recall there was a feature included so players could “chat” with one another in the game.

Unfortunately, our fun didn’t last long. The “powers that be found” out we were spending most of our system time playing games, so those options were removed from the menu. Still, we had a couple weeks of great online fun.

A little later, I worked in a shop with a different mainframe system. This system had a messaging feature which allowed the users to send short messages from a workstation to one or more other workstations. I don’t remember exactly, but I think the character limit on the messages was around 200. It was rather like IRC or Twitter messages. Of course, the message we sent were not quite work-related.

My friend, John, and I were big into gaming on Commodore 64 systems when we were stationed in Germany. He joined a dial-up computer club (it may have been Prodigy). It didn’t go over very well because it was very slow over the phone lines since the max speed allowed there at the time was something like 600 baud.

In 1990 I studied for and earned an amateur radio license at the Sun City Amateur Radio Club in El Paso, Texas. This opened up a whole new world of communications. There was the local voice chat on the local VHF and UHF repeater systems via our handheld or vehicle-installed radios. Some of the repeaters were tied into larger networks of repeaters which extended all the way into northern New Mexico and Arizona. The radio club had an elaborate HF station with a large antenna perched atop a very tall tower. That station allowed me to communicate around the world, exchanging information with voice or Morse code (the original digital code).

At that time, there was also an extensive network of digipeaters, repeaters which exchanged digital data using the AX.25 protocol (which was known at the time as “packet” radio). One  could “check in” to various bulletin boards, exchange email (though simple addressing was just coming into play on that system), and log on to systems with “pages” of information. There was even a rather sophisticated system for exchanging information about operators on the air in foreign countries (known as “DX” in ham speak). These packet clusters were able to exchange information real time. It was all text only, but pretty interesting.

For packet radio I used my Commodore 64 connected to a Terminal Node Controller (TNC) which was capable of running data from radio fax, AX.25, and various forms of teletype transmissions. At the radio club we used some surplus dumb terminals connected to a TNC. It’s amazing what hams can do with surplus gear.

Later, when I got my first PC I got into AOL. After a short time on there I got a dial-up account with a local ISP. The rest, as they say, is history.

Really, all the things we have now are variations of a theme – a theme which has been running electronically for quite some time. Twitter, Facebook, My______, and the others have great features, but are rather much like things I’ve been messing with for a long time, now.

What about you? What are your earliest electronic exchange memories. Did you play with some technology when it was new? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Dejte Pozor!

I hope you’ll indulge my public service announcement today. I was involved in a fender-bender during my drive to work yesterday. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I was hit from behind by another car while riding my motorcycle.

The Czech phrase Dejte Pozor means “pay attention.”

I hope you’ll indulge my public service announcement today.

The aftermath of a car versus motorcycle accidentI was involved in a fender-bender during my drive to work yesterday. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I was hit from behind by another car while riding my motorcycle.

I was exiting off one highway onto another. As I made my way around the turn I noted a car coming rather quickly on the road I was about to enter. I knew there was someone behind me, so I pulled over close to the curb as I stopped to let the cross traffic go by. I was thinking that would give the other driver room to go around me. Unfortunately, he was hugging the curb too. He thought I had gone through onto the road, so he kept going as he was looking for cross traffic.

Thankfully he merely “bumped” me. However, since I was on a motorcycle, that bump knocked the bike and, consequently, me over onto the pavement.

I wearing a helmet (as I always do) and a bright, yellow reflective vest (the kind you can see from the moon if you shine a light on it). He saw me, knew I was there, but didn’t allow enough space to react when I stopped. It was his fault, he admitted it. The police officer who responded issued him a ticket because of it.

He was very apologetic. I think he was more scared than I was.

The point is: it never should have happened.

I tweeted this a couple times yesterday and posted same on my Facebook wall – Drivers: Watch out for motorcycles!

I’m very sore today, but happy I didn’t get more than a few bumps and bruises. I know others who were not so fortunate when in a “Car versus Motorcycle” accident. My story could have been a whole lot worse.

Please, pay attention and look out for motorcycles.

Ironically, it appears the car took the worst of the damage. Plastic bumpers versus aluminum fenders seems to have worked out in my favor. I’ll know more after I take the bike to the shop for a closer inspection.

Why It’s Movember To Me

This past weekend a coworker passed away. For a year I have been following her valiant struggle against cancer through the group her close friends set up on Facebook. They chronicled her story, all the way through the funeral today. Another youthful life snatched away by the evil that is cancer.

Movember Citizen ShieldThis past weekend a coworker passed away. For a year I have been following her valiant struggle against cancer through the group her close friends set up on Facebook. They chronicled her story. They started with some of her treatments, her participation in the Pink Heals Tour, through the ups and downs she went through, all the way through the funeral today. Another youthful life snatched away by the evil that is cancer.

Right now I have two aunts fighting breast and lung cancer, a cousin fighting lung cancer, my dad fought prostate cancer, numerous friends are fighting or have fought off cancers of various kinds. I’ve lost a grandmother, an uncle and a more than a few friends to this scourge.

Enough!
That’s why I’m raising funds during the month now known as Movember, to help the Movember Foundation fund organizations such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Lance Armstrongs LIVESTRONG so they can continue their work in helping educate and research in the fight against cancer.

Please go to my Movember Mo Space page and donate a buck or two or five or a hundred. It goes to a good cause in helping fight against cancer.

If you’re in Michigan, please also consider dropping by and donating a buck or two to my friend Scott’s Southwest Michigan Movember team. This is his first year joining in and I’d like to see his team do well, too.

Check back throughout Movember and I’ll post pics of my mustachioed self.

This post is cross-posted on my other blog the Musings of Řehoř