This is how you remind me…

Don't Forget!

Just over a week ago, I received a call from my wireless carrier. I had walked into their store a few days earlier and inquired about available discounts. The sales rep helped me to get setup with the correct discount through my employer, and I was on my way. Now, a customer service was calling me to request proof of eligibility. He needed something official, such as a pay stub, to prove I was actually entitled to the discount. Living on the bleeding edge means one doesn’t have much paper lying around, so I told him I’d pull up an electronic copy of a recent stub the next morning at work and send it to him. He gave me a fax number (seriously), which I promptly popped into a note in OneNote on my phone with a reminder to take care of it.

OneNote Banner

Microsoft has repeatedly billed OneNote as one place for all the notes in your life, from grocery lists to reminders, across all your devices. In fact, if you’re a Windows phone user, then you can even voice dictate a note by saying “Note” or “Take a Note” followed by your note. Bing/Cortana will dutifully capture your dictation into a new note in OneNote, complete with an embedded clip of the voice recording.

That’s all fine and good, but fast forward one week, I opened my notebook to look up something completely unrelated, and stumbled across (you guessed it) my “reminder,” much to my chagrin. I took care of faxing the paperwork, muttering curse words all the way, and deleted the note.

OneNote is an awesome note-taking solution, but as a reminder tool, it sucks. A note isn’t the same thing as a task, and I’m angry with myself for conflating the two, but OneNote makes it stupidly easy to do. That missing component in OneNote is  an actual, y’know, reminder, one that surfaces some kind of notification at the right time, and preferably one that keeps nagging you until you take action. The desktop version of OneNote handles this pretty neatly with an integration that flags tasks in OneNote but actually lets Outlook manage the tasks. That way, they show up on Outlook’s unified task list, and Outlook handles the reminders.

The problem with extending something similar to its mobile platform is that, at present, Microsoft doesn’t have just one central, consumer-facing framework for task notifications. Instead, it has three. Microsoft’s consumer Calendar provides marginal support for tasks, but it’s kind of an afterthought feature that puts tasks in a specialized view; they’re not particularly easy to find or set on the phone, and there’s no way to trigger them with voice. OneNote seemed to be Microsoft’s strategy in Windows Phone 8; it’s slick but woefully insufficient in this regard. More recently with Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana seems to be the preferred way to set reminders using the phone; however, she’s currently relegated to a private notebook, and her reminders don’t translate back to your calendar or PC at all. The end result is a rather disjointed mess, where work tasks are generally tracked in Outlook on your PC and buried in the Calendar app’s task view on your phone, while personal tasks may be siloed in Cortana’s notebook, the Calendar’s task view, and/or in OneNote.

No wonder I can’t ever seem to get things done.

Like Father, Unlike Son

Boba Fett and Jango Fett

Boba Fett works for all the reasons that Jango Fett – and by proxy, the prequel story arc – fails. He’s not trying to be cool, but he just is. He’s not the focus of Episode V, but he steals every scene he’s in. The fact that he’s a bounty hunter makes complete sense, given the culture of the Empire and the underworld it has spawned. He’s given special instructions by Vader, so you know he’s a loose cannon, even by bounty hunter standards. He also negotiates with Vader, which lets you know he’s respected. When you look at that tattered armor, you know he’s seen some serious action. But other than that, he’s a complete mystery, so your mind fills in all kinds of gaps. And aside from his stupid swan dive into the Sarlacc in Episode VI, Lucas doesn’t manage to screw him up too much.

On the other hand, Jango Fett (and the plot of the prequels, of which he is a big part) is unnecessarily overproduced. First of all, they call him Jango a lot, which just sounds stupid. Not quite as stupid as calling a grown-ass man “Annie,” but a close second. Other than the scene in Jedi where Han says, “Boba Fett, where?!” (and then proceeds to kill him…by accident), he’s never referred to by name, and certainly never by his first name. He’s just “bounty hunter,” which is completely bad ass.

Jango’s armor is shiny, which speaks volumes about him; this guy’s a poser. Furthermore, Jango has a lot of unnecessary dialog, generally quirky motives, and seems in every possible way to be a square peg shoehorned into a round hole (or no hole, depending on how you want to look at it). I mean, why does he have to be a bounty hunter in the first place? In a relatively peaceful galaxy where the Jedi keep order, is there a huge market for bounty hunters? It just seems like every other person we meet is one, like they’re plumbers or something. Yet if you’re gonna call him a bounty hunter, then make him one. Throughout Episode II, Jango functions more like a mercenary or assassin (that’s not the same thing, BTW).

They go to great lengths to explain how he’s involved with the creation of the clone army, was given his own personal clone to raise as a son, and is important enough to keep on Kamino. Yet they let him go on dangerous missions to assassinate politicians, which he apparently sub-contracts to lesser bounty hunters, then gets all coy when talking with Jedi who can presumably read his mind. Whenever he’s cornered, he tries to run instead of fight, in the process teaching his son some terrible moral lessons, and manages to get hoodwinked by what one would assume is probably the oldest trick in the space combat book. He rounds out his appearance by serving as the personal muscle of a Sith lord (Darth Vader never needed a bodyguard) and then gets summarily beheaded by a Jedi the instant shit gets real on Geonosis. Jango Fett is basically the intersection on the Venn diagram of eye candy and lip service.

And absolutely none of it was necessary. He could have just been some legendary warrior who never appeared on screen, and he instantly would have been 100 times better. He’s the explanation to a question that didn’t need to be asked. And perhaps that’s the general problem with the prequels.

Whoever takes the helm of the Boba Fett spin-off film is going to have to walk a razor-thin tightrope to avoid irreparably damaging this iconic character. He’s worth a lot to me.

A New Chapter

For the past 10 years, I have enjoyed the privilege of calling myself a member of the TeamHealth family. I joined the Integration & Training team on November 29, 2004. I was immediately impressed with this organization, and I remain proud of the integrity and professionalism with which we conduct our business every single day. Over the course of the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects supporting our operations and administrative staff, as well as our leadership.

TeamHealth has experienced so much growth and change in the last decade; we’ve become better at what we do, and we certainly do a lot more than ever before. Along the way, I have grown with our organization. In May 2012, I moved to the TeamHealth Institute, and I have since gained additional experience working with and supporting our clinical community.

During my tenure, this company has allowed me to develop important technical skills and to gain invaluable experience with our business. I’ve learned something new nearly every day of my time with TeamHealth, and I’ll carry that with me throughout my career. My colleagues have also become my extended family, and together we’ve shared important life milestones and made memories that I’ll always cherish.

I was recently recruited by Scripps Networks Interactive, and they have made an excellent offer for me to join their team. While coming to a decision has not been easy, I have concluded that I need to take this opportunity for the benefit of my career and family. Therefore I will leave TeamHealth, effective Friday, May 9, 2014. In the meantime, I will be busy working with my team to close out any projects and make my transition as seamless as possible for everyone.

I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served this company for the past decade. I wish them all continued success and a very bright future.

 

 

Status Check

A friend on Facebook recently asked me about my status updates. He said he very much enjoyed them and wanted to know whether they were spontaneous, carefully thought out and stored in some huge database, or whether I stole them from some website. I thought about a simple answer like “yep, sometimes, and never,” but something inspired me to give him a buck-fifty answer. After all, he was asking a question about my favorite subject (a.k.a., me). So here’s what I told him…

Back in the days of Messenger around the office, I had this running “status update” shtick. It made for good laughs, and I became that zany guy around the office who always had something goofy on his Messenger status. When Windows Live came along, and later Facebook and Twitter, I guess I just sort of kept the tradition going. It became far easier to write a sentence here and there than to maintain lengthy blog posts that few people would bother reading. Mobile completely changed the way I approached sharing, because I could fire off a line practically in real time.

I won’t go so far as to say I’ve never “repurposed” someone else’s content to get a laugh, but by and large, the stuff I put out on social media is my own stuff…for better or worse. I retweet when appropriate and when I do reuse something out of context, I try to be careful to provide attribution. One guy I followed on Twitter got eviscerated last year for plagiarism, and it just destroyed his credibility. He defended that since he wasn’t making money off of it, he could borrow and riff on other people’s (mostly professional comedians’) material, but the dude had to leave Twitter and roam the earth like Cain. It was pitiful. Then this past year, Shia LaBeouf happened. Really, passing off someone else’s stuff as your own, when it’s connected to the source materials via world’s most searchable database takes serious balls. Some time later, I noticed that one of my friends seemed to be killing it on Facebook, but then I looked closer and all of his updates were from an app called “Funny Status Updates for Android.” Groan. Even if a joke falls flat (and I hate to call them jokes, they’re really more like observations), then I’d rather it be mine to own.

I love memes, because they represent an idea that people can build upon. Sometimes, I will do that. You can take a way of phrasing something (such-and-such is probably the worst thing in the history of ever) and put your own spin on it (“Meatloaf is probably the worst thing in the history of ever. You decide whether I’m talking about the dish or the singer.”), but that’s about as far as I’ll go. First and foremost, I want my updates to be authentic, and then hopefully also funny…or at least quirky.

My best updates are an extension of the stuff that happens around the house or the office throughout the day. Otherwise, I feel like they come off as someone trying too hard. And honestly, there’s nothing less funny than somebody trying too hard to be funny (people’s exhibit A: Carrot Top). Self-deprecation is one of my staples, because I’m the one person I can always tease without getting hurt feelings. I’m also genuinely goofy, but I’m probably not quite as socially inept as I seem online. My updates generally do reflect my personal attitudes, but sometimes they’re tongue-in-cheek. And I’ll absolutely give credit to my wife, Ginny, for being my creative inspiration (much to her chagrin, I’m sure) and sometimes the outright co-author for many of my updates. “You can’t post that!” is a common utterance around our household.

Most of the time, updates go straight from my brain through my hand and into my phone in less than 2 minutes (fat fingering aside), but I do keep a running OneNote page called “Musings” where I jot down incomplete thoughts throughout the day, until I’ve had a chance to craft them a bit more. Timing is everything; on more than one occasion, I’ve forgotten and subsequently missed an opportunity. Case in point, the morning after this year’s Super Bowl, I forgot to post:

“Somewhere in the third world this morning, a child is wondering why there’s a demon horse on his new t-shirt.”

There are some that I just haven’t figured out how to phrase quite yet, like this:

“Something about plants being chock full of stem cells.”

I also have a few tucked away that will probably never see the light of day, at least not under this persona. I don’t really filter who sees this stuff, so my rule of thumb is not to embarrass my grandma too much. Maybe I’ll have to invent a fake Twitter handle for my “after dark” material.

A blog by any other name…

So Internet, I’m really trying to get back in the habit of blogging, and I think a rebrand might help me. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

When I started this blog back in 2006 on Windows Live Spaces, I just called it “Greg’s Space,” because I’m all about sticking with the default choices (it makes me feel safe, seriously – every PowerPoint is in Calibri). For a while there, I got all creative with it, and changed the name to “Hello, World,” because that’s the output traditionally written by every developer’s first program.

header.pngRemember this era?

A few years later, the blog’s name changed again to “Since You Asked,” because it’s one of those conversational qualifiers for telling someone exactly what you think, but in the most passively aggressive way possible (see also, “Bless his heart”). I liked the idea that this was a personal space where folks who were interested in my opinions could come and read them. Obviously, in the last few years, I’ve had very few blog-worthy opinions to share.

Fast forward to today. My pal Sam was doodling on my whiteboard, and he joked that “gregsedwards” (my original Hotmail username and sort-of brand pretty much everywhere online) looks like “Greg Said Words.”

WP_20131008_001

Exhibit A
(Sam is actually a chimpanzee who has learned to manipulate human tools)

Do you ever have one of those “a-ha” moments? It just struck me that the brand I’ve been cultivating for the past several years would make a great name for the ol’ bloggity blog. So, welcome netizens to the new (but sadly not really improved) blog, “Greg Said Words.”

Welcome back, blogger

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back... Blogging has been a longtime hobby of mine, dating back to 2006, when I started my Windows Live Spaces blog. In fact, it evolved into the blog you’re reading now. I find blogging to be a great way to share tips and tricks about my geeky pursuits, even if my posts don’t find a wide audience. Moreover, it helps me to organize and archive my thoughts.

And for a couple of years, I kept it up pretty regularly. At least a couple of times a week, I could be counted on to crank out a techie rant or goofy observation, and people from all over the world would pop over to leave their comments. And then my kids came along. And then Facebook and Twitter happened. Suddenly, spending an hour every night meticulously crafting a post with inline images and stylish layouts became a luxury I couldn’t justify. In those few moments between burping, baths, and bedtimes, banging out a few 140-character updates seemed like a much more realistic endeavor. And surprisingly, I found that even though I wasn’t blogging nearly as often, I was actually sharing more information via Facebook and Twitter with a wider audience on a more diverse set of topics.

For a blogger, using a system like Twitter to communicate (and I mean to actually communicate an idea, not just share a link or picture) is quite a challenge, because it really forces you to get to the point. It’s like writing haiku; there’s an elegance in the simplicity, but to master the form, you must first unlearn all the literary trappings you’ve spent a lifetime accumulating.

And yet I feel like there’s still a place for traditional blogging in my life. WordPress has some nice hooks into my other social circles for promoting and sharing new posts. Thanks to mobile apps, it’s easier than ever to post quick updates in the go. In fact, I’m composing this post on a svelte little Wordpress app running on my Microsoft Surface RT. So, I hope to start blogging again with more frequency, even if there’s little hope my posts will be any more interesting to read. You’ve been warned. 😉

Coming out of the closet

For many years, I’ve kept a secret that only my close family and a few open-minded friends know. But I feel it’s time to be honest with all of you, because you deserve to know who I really am. No more avoiding the subject. No more smiling politely and remaining silent when the topic comes up in mixed conversation. No more avoiding family gatherings because I’m afraid someone will call me a derogatory name.

I’m finally ready to admit publicly that I’m left-handed.

That’s right folks, I’m a lefty. I curl my left hand over when I write. I use left-handed scissors. I catch with my right and throw with my left. My mouse buttons are backwards. I can’t use spiral-bound notebooks.

I can remember when I was a little boy, and I first realized I might be left-handed. I was coloring with all the other kids in kindergarten, and it just didn’t feel natural to me. Sure, my blue ducky looked good enough to earn a gold star from the teacher, but I knew in my heart that something just was missing. The crayon felt awkward in my right hand. Across the table, I made eye contact with another boy, and I could tell he felt the same way. Call it intuition, or maybe some kind of radar. When nobody was watching, we quietly slipped our crayons into our left hands and colored. It was glorious. For the first time in my life, I just felt right, er left…you know what I mean.

To Do List

Maybe I just didn’t give being right-handed a chance

For a long time, I tried to ignore it. I tried to forget how wonderful it felt to use my left hand, how much easier it made just about everything in my life. With my left hand, I could butter my bread, comb my hair, and even write my name legibly. By the time I was six or seven, I couldn’t deny it any longer. Besides, people were worrying I had some sort of palsy. I finally had to tell my mom that her only son was a left-handed. I was so worried, but she just smiled at me. “I know,” she replied with tears welling up in her eyes. “Somehow, I’ve always known.” She hugged me close, and I felt validated.

Thankfully, my parents were supportive of my alternative lifestyle, even when my grandmother tried to discourage it. “Better put an end to that boy using his left hand,” she protested. ”He’ll never fit in.” She actually suggested tieing an oven mitt over my left hand. That’s supposedly how they handled odd behaviors back in her day, when folks wouldn’t put up with such nonsense.

When rumors started circulating at our church that the Edwards boy was left-handed, people called me all sorts of horrible names like “sinister,” “southpaw,” and “commie.” Parents wouldn’t let their kids play with me anymore, because they were afraid I might turn them into lefties, too. The minister cited Bible verses that he said clearly demonstrated how God favored the right-handed. You know what? Turns out that hypocrite was a flaming lefty his whole life! Anyway, we stopped attending services shortly thereafter.

Participating in sports was always tough for me. In baseball, I had to use a special glove and stand on the other side of the batting box. But the stereotypes were definitely the worst part. One day, I heard my own father tell the coach, “Why don’t you put him on first base? His kind is really good in that position.” His kind?! Is that how my father sees me now? I know I’m still his son and he loves me, but things between us have just been different ever since. In my heart, I know he’d prefer a normal, right-handed boy to make him proud.

I found acceptance among my friends. They didn’t care that I held my fork backwards or couldn’t drink from a regular mug. But I was still living a lie.

Once I got to college, the world really opened up. There were clubs and bars that were friendly to people like me. Most of my professors were openly left-handed, and I learned that many famous politicians, artists, and intellectuals have been left-handed throughout history. I discovered that there are a lot of different philosophies in this great, big world, and there are people out there who are into way freakier shit than just being left-handed. I met one guy who did calligraphy…with his feet.

Today, I’m happily married to a wonderful right-handed woman who loves me for who I am and doesn’t judge me, because I leave the panhandle on the wrong side of the stove or put my toothbrush on the wrong side of the sink. To the outside world, I appear perfectly “normal.” I’ve learned to golf right-handed, and I wear a watch on my left arm. Thank goodness for computers, because I seldom have to bother writing with a pen or pencil anymore. In our home, we’ve decided that we’ll be open with our kids about handedness, and if one of them decides to become a lefty, we’ll just accept it. But I better not catch them trying to be ambidextrous, cause that’s just plain wrong. Sorry if that sounds judgmental, but you gotta draw the line somewhere, people.

The Leftorium
Contrary to popular opinion, left-handed people are not more likely to have moustaches

Yes, society has come a long way in how it view us lefties. Studies have found that around 10% of people are left-handed, and while evidence suggests lefties are just “born that way,” others believe it’s a conscious lifestyle choice. Isn’t that just ridiculous?

Nevertheless, it’s becoming more mainstream every day. We even have our own observance day, August 13. In larger cities, you might find people marching in a left-handed pride parade. No longer can you could be discharged from the military for being left-handed. We’ve even had left-handed presidents. But we still have a long way to go. For instance, did you know that most public places are not required to recognize left-handedness? Desks in our public schools are right-handed. Doors across this great nation are designed to be opened with the right hand. People almost universally offer you their right hand to shake. Cup designers still put the handle on the right. Books are designed to be read left to right. In most churches, you can forget about being accepted if you’re openly left-handed. Lefties can’t even hold public office in Tennessee (no wait, that’s atheists). Did you know there’s even a chicken restaurant that openly opposes left-handed people on moral grounds?

True story (mostly).

One man, some crazy ideas, and a blog.

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