Liza Rose

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Which Came First ?

Today I experienced that age old dilemma of "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Otherwise known as Catch 22, the question provides circular reasoning at its best, about which many authors have written, besides Joseph Heller.

As followers of this blog may know, I am in the throes of (with very distinct air quotes) establishing my platform. Something which appears to be absolutely necessary in this age of social media. In so doing, I ventured onto LinkedIn, as I have previously mentioned. LinkedIn can best be described as the older more stately brother of Facebook, everything Facebook promises to be but isn't and without the familiarity of befriending everyone who has not yet figured out the overly complex and laborious process of privacy settings. As a result, the excellent LinkedIn requires you to effectively know the people you are trying to link to, although you cannot get to know them without first linking. Ah, you say, this is to pull you in and get you to spend money - if you subscribe, you can send "In Messages" to total strangers! I'm not sure I actually want to do that if the total stranger has in fact got their privacy settings arranged to prevent me contacting them normally, just because I have paid, doesn't mean that they suddenly will welcome my advances.

A case in point, I am a new member and my LinkedIn page is therefore not the most detailed nor does it come with a large pack of ravenous readers. I came across a writing group that allows people who wish to develop their writing skills to chat among themselves. However, apparently my profile was insufficient to tempt them, I was mistaken for a bot. I wrote to the moderator, explaining my situation. This had worked successfully with another (excellent) group, but in this case, I was still mistaken for a bot. So, not only do I have no profile, I am also apparently not human - very worrying. In order to prove I am human, I need to have an interesting profile, and in order to have an interesting profile I need to generate interest, not of the bot kind. Hmmmm...dilemma....Catch 22. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

How to get a work life balance with a two year old

Earlier in the week, I realised that my LO was feeling sadly neglected when he started tapping on my keyboard with great gusto while I was working. I decided to commit the rest of the week to his well being and entertainment, which of course comprised mainly of pretending to be a horse, or pretending he was a doggie, when we were not watching Barney the "insert own word of choice here" dinosaur.

Since my current project is a children's book, why not kill two birds with one stone, thought I. I was thinking of starting my research anyway, so why not include my LO in my endeavours? Ah haaa...evil parent say you, how can you possibly consider experimenting upon your own precious child? Well, before anyone calls child services, I would say it was more that he experimented on me. After listening to his babble during playtime for over an hour and interpreting the noise into words, I found my concentration waning, although I had a much better insight into his current passions, which mainly involves penguins, empty boxes and Thomas the tank engine!

After that I attempted to share with him some of my passion for words and poems, knowing that he has at least had some interest in this area, if only in the form of "The Very Cranky Bear". I suggested a poem based on the statement he had made when he followed me into the bedroom earlier in the day.

The resulting joint effort is titled "My tiny shark" (named for the tiny shark he was carrying at the time), and while I supplied much of the frame work, my LO supplied the punchlines, giving me further insight into just what can make a 2 yr old giggle, and just how much they understand about pushing your buttons. As you will see, he clearly thought that he was being funny (had you been there, you would have seen the look on his face which clearly indicated that not only was it funny, it was also absurd and he knew it!).

Make of it what you will...My Tiny Shark

By LizaRose and LO

I have a tiny shark, his name is shark (repeatedly)

He likes to eat chips in the park

Sometimes he eats pizza in the dark

I love love love my tiny shark

I have a little train, whose name is Henry (actually we don't, and this also took a few attempts, since LO was rooting for shark being the train's name too!)

Who likes to slide with Thomas (on the Little People Garage ramp in case you were wondering)

They ride down together with a great big wheeeeeee ( I was aiming for "ride on the tracks")

Crash on the tracks with lots of glee

Well it certainly wont win any awards, but it was far more rewarding than that, and demonstrates that market research while useful, will not tell you everything you need to know, and it probably won't normally be this much fun! I look forward to my next "research project"!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

How to study at home

..... and perhaps also, how not to!

Last night I complete Module 1 of my writing course with a reassuring pass mark. I figured that if I cant pass the introductory module, then maybe I wouldn't be cut out for this writing life. So...progress.

It has only taken me two weeks which has completely surprised me - I had to double check the date when I started! It was all down to the excellent advice of other people!

What now follows is nothing new, but it IS a confirmation that these oft repeated suggestions really do work:

1. Clear the decks
  • make sure there is nothing pressing that you have to do.
  • if there is something pressing then make a decision - what is more important?
2. Make sure there are no distractions
  • Turn off the TV - studying IS multitasking (as is driving, but thats a blog for another day!)
  • Turn off the radio, or if you have to have it, make sure it is low and music only, not the kind you sing along to!
  • Make sure the kids are well occupied, understand that mummy is "working" or are tucked up safely in bed. This of course depends on the age of your child, your available time for them, when and where you work, how long a commute you have, how many activities they have etc. But you can usually squeeze in a hour after they have gone to bed (or in the case of teenagers an hour while you wait up for them to come home....)
3. Make sure you are comfortable, and in an environment that supports study
  • Not next to a pile of washing up.
  • Not in a room that blinds you with its brightness, but definitely not in a dark room either.
4. Get your self a nice cup of tea/coffee/juice/water and an apple/banana/chocolate bar/biscuit
  • Being hungry is a distraction 
  • Going looking for food is procrastination
5. If you are stuck try one or all of the following
  • Come back to it later.
  • Move past the sticking point and something else may help you understand the earlier point
  • Re-read later when you are fresh, your mind may have had time to process the information
  • Go back to the previous parts and apply them, see if that helps make sense of the gap
  • Look up the key words on Google (check multiple citations to make sure your understanding is correct)
  • Ask a friend or colleague, a chat room (if its an online course), or study leader
6. Write down the key points, to revise over them later - note that not everything is a key point. A key point is one that leads you automatically onto a group of remembered items.

7. Apply your knowledge, practice makes perfect! Use an example that has meaning for you

  • If you are studying medicine apply it to your current partner!
  • If you are studying math, apply it to your bank account (arithmetic), share scheme (imaginary numbers) or the tiles on the wall (geometry)!
  • If you are studying writing, apply it to your own novel
  • If you are studying french language, get a favorite novel and translate it.

8. Apply yourself. Make sure you put your head down and study. It wont happen by itself!

And good luck!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Buzzwords and Jargon

The subject of today’s blog arises from the intersection of various discussions I had today on a selection of different platforms, all of which revolved around language.

The use of extraneous buzzwords, the use of plain English in report writing, the communication of ideas by different media including Twitter are to name but a few.

The office in which I work is currently in the throes of adopting the parent companies culture. Culture change is always difficult, since it involves the introduction of a whole slew of new concepts, management styles and buzzwords; Buzzwords, which we are now in the process of learning and applying in the established way via the company intranet. At the same time today, the UK BBC reported on the internet that the use of excessive buzzwords and jargon makes us less efficient although it can encourage a sense of belonging in a common language, it can also lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings with clients. The suggestion at the end of the article refers the reader to the use of Plain English where ever possible.

This brings me to the second discussion which occurred via Yammer, a similar concept to Linked In but with a closed environment so that individual companies can throw ideas around without giving away their intellectual property. This discussion was also on the use of Plain English and via a number of different topic threads happily explored what exactly is meant by Plain English and indeed Plane English. The result being that there is no such thing, since English is one of the most complicated languages around. Examples abound, through and threw, so and sew and so forth.

Meanwhile my new found “platform” has expanded to include an exploration of the Twitterverse. I have attempted to post profound, or at least new short poems, and have taken some time to look up some of my favourite writers. This latter activity has led to some disappointment. While I was not expecting great literature from every post, I had some expectations, in particular of writers who are known as some of the most eloquent people on the planet. I do realize that not every post will be a heart stopping moment of literary creation, and perhaps I’m a little old fashioned, but is it necessary to swear so much?

I was brought up to believe that there are a very few situations in which swearing is appropriate – banging your thumb with a hammer, when the driver in front cuts across you, when no one else is around, but that the rest of the time, it is mere laziness and lack of knowledge of the vastly expressive language we call English. Is it laziness though or something else. Consider the text I received from a friend “R U OK?” – Is this laziness, or is this someone making sure I’m alright, and taking a few seconds to think about me, out of their very busy schedule. Has language evolved to allow us to be more efficient? Or is it degenerating, and will our next step will be a return to grunting.

Which brings me to evolution not just of language, but of writing, and myself. We have to evolve if we are to survive. Those who deny evolution deny themselves the ability to rise to every day challenges, or to react to the changes around them. If I choose to stay in the past, and not embrace the change in language, and structure, how then can I learn and adapt, create something that is both interesting and readable, something that actually speaks to an audience whose language has evolved when mine has not?

So, since I am obviously very busy and important (to quote Bridget Jones), I will “C U L8er”!.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A promise to keep

Before my father died, I promised him that I would "write an article, that on completion would be submitted to a magazine about (my) mothers hobby". That was almost exactly how he phrased it. While I may have a biased opinion, my mother, while not perhaps artisan level, is quite good at her hobby, although she herself would not agree. We are all our own worst critics of course, but a promise is a promise and he was terribly proud of her work.

The only problem is, how to keep the promise while allowing for my mothers sensitives and maintaining her privacy. So, a technical piece, in a field I know little about, with pictures that provide illustrative examples without compromising privacy. Sounds like an exciting challenge.

The problem is, I put it off (I am an expert at procrastination of course) and while I have taken the photographs, and have a few paragraphs in mind, I have in fact only written two sentences. It is not that I am uninterested in writing the article, I love to learn new subjects. Nor is it that I do not have the time, although for the last two years that had been a suitable excuse. My son now goes to bed at a reasonable time and allows me time to write. 

I think that it is in part because it was in fact my first commission, and that there is no one to hold me accountable. Perhaps its also a form of mourning - if I do not finish the article, I will always hear my fathers voice. However, it has been some time now and I hear my fathers voice whenever I need to explain something carefully to my son. The rest of the time, I hear my mothers voice... but it has made me realise that my father will always be there, I just need to look for him. Which means of course, that I had better get on with his commission, after all, I have a promise to keep!