No wonder I hear snoring from out there…

January 28, 2008

The ever interesting Walt Jaschek, author of the Walt Now blog, lead me to learn this about my blog:

blog readability test

Reading level courtesy of Critics Rant TV Reviews

Um, do I really write all that high falutin’?  Guess that explains my strong MEGO factor.



January 26, 2008

You know how we’ve become accustomed, in North America at least (where working in a retail service position is generally viewed as something you do until you get a real job — more about this below), to being served at “big box” stores by mindless drones with no real product knowledge or experience…

And yet… the unexpected sometimes happens. Twice now we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the knowledge and hands-on experience of the staff of the Michaels® crafts store in Waterloo.

Once was when K (aside: the link is to her new blog “42.1“; wabi sabi has been retired from active blogging duty, although it’s still on-line if you’re looking for her earlier knitting posts — she’s consolidated her on-line knitting presence at the shownotes blog of her Purl Diving podcast) and I were shopping for a stamp-pad to make Christmas cards. To make a long story short, the woman working there had been doing stamping for a good decade or two and provided us with very helpful guidance on which brand and type of stamp-pad would work best for the cards we were using — a heavy, textured stock in a dark red. She explained the pros and cons of the different ones they carry and said which one she preferred, and why — longevity, quality of the impression and so on.

Then, today, K was in search of some Japanese seed beads, size 6 and 8, which are on the requirements list for a beaded knitting workshop she’s attending next weekend. First, we tried the specialty bead store in Waterloo — no luck. They did have some seed beads, but much smaller than the sizes K needs.

The clerk was pleasant enough, but wasn’t experienced enough to suggest alternatives they might have other than to point out the section where there might be something that would work. Now, they do have a lot of beads… which is admittedly A Good Thing for a bead store, but makes finding just the right one a bit like the proverbial needle in a haystack endeavour.

The best she could suggest was to call back Monday and speak to the owner, who knows about beads and might be able to help. Riiight.

So, off to Michaels… but K didn’t hold out much hope of finding anything remotely like what she needed at a big box store. Still, it turned out they had some seed beads, and what’s more — they had, once again, a staff member who actually knew about beads and beading. She was able to at least find us some that should be suitable for one of the projects on the agenda for the workshop.

On top of that, she recommended a couple of bead stores in the area — well, actually, three, including the one in Waterloo that we had just come from, which we mentioned — that might be able to help us out with the other, slightly smaller size bead. We will likely try out at least one of them to see if anything suitable can be found in time.

Now, perhaps the store management at Michaels might not be too keen about staff referring customers to a competitor (albeit a small one), but in this case, we did buy some beads from them, and based on our experiences there with staff that actually know something about the products they sell, we’ll definitely be back for other purchases. In my mind, that’s a pretty good payoff for them.

Now, of course, Your Mileage May Vary and I can’t say that every Michaels will have the same quality of staff, but it’s at least encouraging to know that big box does not always equal the death of decent service.

Oh, and about the earlier observation about service jobs being looked down upon in North America (and with some justification… can you say “D’ya want fries with that?”), it’s in contrast with what we experienced when we lived in France for several years (and had the opportunity to travel a bit throughout Europe, as well). There, service jobs, at least the ones where you don’t ask “Voulez-vous des frites avec ça ?“, are still respected and reasonably well compensated. As a result, you get people doing these jobs who enjoy it, who are knowledgeable about the field and are proud to serve you professionally.

Miss that, a lot. Ah, well — small finds like the staff at Michaels keep the flame alive…

CV Updated

January 21, 2008

Just a quick note to say that I’ve updated my résumé/Curriculum Vitae page and the PDF that you’ll find linked there.

While I’m not in active job search mode, it doesn’t hurt to keep it up to date and, well, I’d be daft not to be interested in hearing about good opportunities for advancing professionally.

Let me know if you hear of anything that would suit my strengths and experience.

Z2P — From Zero to Podcasting in Two Days Flat

January 5, 2008

Z2P — Zero to Podcasting

This event, a two-day session that will be part of PodCamp Toronto 2008, will be especially interesting for those who are curious about podcasting and how to go about creating their own podcast. Even for experienced podcasters, there will be some useful opportunities to both learn from the experiences of others and to help others by sharing your own experiences.

Both yours truly and K (the actual* podcaster in the household, c.f. Purl Diving, Cinéfolle and Funky Eclectic) will be facilitating the “campfire talks / circle discussions” (more on what that means below…) that are part of the Z2P stream.

In addition to the campfire talks, there will be technical workshops (including some “hands-on” sessions) presented by Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche of the Canadian Podcast Buffet. Whether you’re a total noob wanting to know how to start podcasting or are already podcasting and want to improve your game, their workshops will have something for you.

Also bringing their podcasting experience to the campfire talks / circle discussions will be Sage Tyrtle of Quirky Nomads and the Scarborough Dude of DicksnJanes. The campfire talk / circle discussion format came out of PodCamp Ottawa that K and I attended last November. That PodCamp was organized by, among others, Bob and Mark; in turn, they had attended PodCamp Boston in October, where a spontaneous discussion group had formed in an open space — everyone just sat on the floor and was engaged in the discussion.

PodCamp Ottawa was built around that concept and it really does get everyone engaged; lots of ideas were exchanged and I don’t think anyone went away without having learnt at least one new thing.

After hearing from a number of people in Ottawa who were interested in starting a podcast or who had started one but were struggling with some of the issues (a common theme being “everyone says it’s so easy to podcast but I can’t figure out how to…”), K and I had decided to contribute a session to PodCamp Toronto based on the circle discussion format that would bring together some experienced podcasters with those wanting to start podcasting or newcomers wanting help getting up the learning curve.

We ended up contacting Mark about citing PodCamp Ottawa as the inspiration for the session and format, and that’s where two good ideas collided to spawn an even better one.

It turned out that Mark and Bob had been putting together a workshop to address some of the same issues from a technical perspective, and we all realized the synergy of putting the two together would result in a really amazing opportunity to help grow the podcasting community.

Since the objective of the session was to give a newcomer the knowledge to quickly get up the initial learning curve and actually get a podcast produced and published to the web, I suggested calling it “Zero to Podcasting”, borrowing from my gearhead lexicon (as in “going 0 to 60 MPH in nothing flat”) — shortening it to Z2P seemed like A Good Thing (from a typing point of view, anyway…).

So, if you’re in the Toronto area, or are going to be there around the weekend of February 23rd-24th, 2008, and are interested in podcasting and other forms of new media, I think it would be well worth your time to check out Z2P at PodCamp Toronto 2008.

If you’re not able to attend, don’t despair — the Z2P sessions are going to be videoed and made available for download after the event.

Also, if you’re already a podcaster (er, I suppose it would be helpful if you were in the Toronto area and/or already planning to attend PodCamp Toronto) and would like to share your experiences about getting into podcasting, please consider participating in some of the campfire talks / circle discussions — we’d be glad to have you!  If you’d like to be a part of Z2P, let me know by leaving a comment below.

* OK, so I have appeared occasionally in front of the mic on a podcast or two… both for K and Sage.  But given my rather unremarkable voice and lack of creative writing ability, I think it best if for the most part I just stick to audio editing/production, uploading files and other techy activities.