Tag: guide to better living

Five essential skills for the modern worker

I don’t really like giving advice where I’m not qualified. But I’m Gen Y. So I know everything about work. Here are my five essential ways to get ahead in the workplace…

  1. Communicate better. Learn to do public speaking – it’s invaluable in meetings and day to day interactions to be able to confidently put forward your views. Learn to write in plain language. Keep things simple. Don’t waste people’s time.
  2. Learn to say no to things you can’t do – outsource. Paying an expert is often the best decision you can make.
  3. Learn the 80/20 rule. Be prepared not to be perfect in order to do more stuff.
  4. Keep up to date with new developments in your field. Read the right blogs and magazines, keep in touch with technology, find new ways of doing things and suggest them to others.
  5. Learn a little bit about desktop publishing and graphic design. The basics are easy.

Five essential skills for trainee geeks

I’m not sure if I’m a fully fledged geek or not… but here are five areas I think are essentials…

  1. Learn to put together wires and boxes (like an amp, TV etc) – particularly learn about cable varieties and all the terminology involved in audio and visual stuff.
  2. Learn to put together a computer – learn what the parts do from the CPU to the fans, and everything in between.
  3. Develop an obsession – past the point of normality – for me it’s coffee. Once that obsession has gone past normal points pick something new.
  4. Learn as many subsets of jargon (or niche languages) as possible, particularly acronyms.
  5. Get a multitool, like a leatherman.

Five essential skills for men

As a follow up to my last post – here are five skills that are almost essential for successful manliness…

  1. Learn to BBQ – especially steak.
  2. Learn to kill bugs/mice/pests.
  3. Learn to buy flowers without thinking it’s a waste of money.
  4. Learn to read manuals.
  5. Learn to cook breakfast.

Again, feel free to share your own “skillz” in the comments…

Five not so essential skills

Kottke has a list of essential skills for living (ages ago, I’m clearing out my queue)… you should read it.

Here’s my list of not so common skillz that I’ve decided are important.

  1. Write a haiku – they come in handy for classy SMS invitations. Limericks are also useful.
  2. Make dangerous things that impress children – glove guns are a classic.
  3. Pull apart a piece of technology, try to get it working again, then turn it into a piece of art.
  4. Learn to tell dad jokes – this is an important skill – I don’t recommend starting with the tractor joke, but learn it to punish people.
  5. Get a party trick. You never know when you might need to save your life by performing some sort of miraculous and spontaneous piece of entertainment.

Share your non-essential skillz in the comments.

Broadening your culinary horizons

I haven’t had fast food from a major chain for more than three months. I stopped on July 1. It’s a pretty big effort because I love fast food. Especially KFC.

I was just reading an article about “secret menu items” that I’d kept in the blogging queue for a couple of months. I just hadn’t got around to posting it yet.

But the point of this post is to share with you my infinite fast food wisdom… some of you may know this already, but other people I’ve spoken to don’t…

You can literally create whatever you want at Maccas from the available menu items – and they’ll make it for you.

Some of my favourites included the Chicken Patty Big Mac, the Flake Shake with chocolate sundae sauce, double bacon cheeseburgers (before they were put back on the menu), and the legendary “pounder”… used in Christian bucks parties around the country.

If you really want to broaden your fast food horizons though – check out the Fancy Fast Food website I posted about a while back.

One way to annoy people less via email

In the spirit of my “let me google that for you” post recently, let me share with you another little piece of online etiquette that is bound to make you less annoying to friends, family, and coworkers.

It’s called Snopes.com. And it’s the place to go before sending on any forwarded warning/sob story/wealth generating chain letter.

If you send me a stupid forward about a missing child who needs prayer, or a sick kitten, and I find it on snopes, I am going to mercilessly call you out on your stupidity in the hope that you’ll learn your lesson. These letters are designed to clog up the Internet.

You don’t even have to go to snopes – a quick google will normally kill any stupid internet rumour.

Ice magic

Lifehacker posted a list of tips for getting a coffee on the cheap (mostly from Starbucks or other mega-chains).

But they had a couple of tips for those of us who know that the cheapest coffee is the coffee you do yourself at home. The more do it yourself the better…

I particularly liked this tip:

If you’re an iced coffee fan, but you hate how it gets watered down, you can make ice cubes out of black coffee and use them instead of ice.

Hitchhikers guide to coffee

Finding a good cafe when you’re on the road is pretty tough. We struggled in our January trip to New Zealand. There are a number of tips and tricks for checking if the cafe you’ve stopped in is worth your while. But most require you to actually step inside the cafe, and then there’s the awkward evacuation that comes after you spy the milk caked steam wand…

But no more. Beanhunter does the hard work for you. Tracking down independent cafes and recommending them. There’s one result for Townsville – the sadly defunct Squires (actually I think they’ve just moved, and I haven’t found them yet). I’ll put Coffee Dominion on the map. Because they deserve it.

In case I’ve not posted something like this before – here’s my fail safe list for judging a cafe without actually tasting their coffee…

  1. Bean supplier – I tend to avoid the big name companies like La Vazza and beans that are shipped from Italy or elsewhere. You’ve got absolutely no way of knowing if the beans are arriving within the window of freshness – and chances are they’re not. Beans roasted on site are normally the best bet (but not always). Reputable local wholesale roasters (eg Merlo) are a good start… but can suffer from the same dramas as international beans. Beans from specialty roasters tend to come with a little more care involved – they’re more interested in protecting the brand than expanding the number of cafes selling their beans.
  2. Grinder. I don’t think there are any cafes not grinding their own coffee these days. But Grinders with a big doser (the plastic chamber at the front) are dangerous. If the barista is grinding on the spot it is at least freshly ground.
  3. Milk wand. Seriously. If it’s caked with cruddy milk or screaming like a banshee – run away. Literally. Run. Don’t wait.
  4. Volume of traffic – lots of customers means high turnover of beans and that other people like the product.
  5. Staff – if the staff look like they can handle the basics – grinds, tamp, extract, and froth the milk – that’s a start. If they have two baristas working the machine – one doing coffee and the other milk – that’s even better.

A series of 4chanate events

It seems nobody can safely enter the world of online Christian dating. Cyber bullies from 4Chan have stolen a bunch of login details from a Christian dating service’s database and used them to hack the people’s corresponding Facebook profiles, posting all manner of nasties and shocking family members. I’d seen a couple of their escapades pop up on a couple of the humour blogs I subscribe to. They’re not nice. And I can’t imagine having to explain that sort of thing to friends and family. Here are some examples – don’t believe your friends if they claim these things without talking to them first…

“Status updates posted on other hacked Christians’ Facebook profiles included racist hate messages and messages pretending that the poster had contemplated suicide or had accidentally killed a homeless person.

The hackers also caused trouble between the users and their friends, writing on one user’s photo that their baby was “ugly” and on another woman’s photo that her teeth matched her skin.”

The message here – other than “don’t always believe what you read on someone’s Facebook account” is “don’t use the same password for all your sites across the internet”… oh, and “don’t have a stupidly simple password” and on that point I’m speaking from experience

I’d also suggest not keeping all your passwords in your email inbox. That’s a recipe for disaster

Yawn of a new era

Ben has posted a little bit of conspiracy theory driven speculation over on Vanishing Point which suggests that his blog’s nominally inferred prophecy may come about as the result of a yawn.

The yawn, unlike the sneeze is a subtle evil. Where the sneeze is loud, and produces a certain amount of tangible outbound traffic (spittle), the yawn sneaks under the radar. It is silent. There is no wetness to be felt. And yet the damage can actually be of a similarly devastating magnitude.

I have some of my own theories about yawns, which according to my site search thing I’ve never actually written about. Which is a situation that must surely be rectified. Here. Now.

Yawning, as we all know, is a contagious disease. One person yawns, and in the right circumstances it could set of a perpetual motion loop where everybody in a circle yawns, one after the other, dooming them to a harrowing oxygen fuelled existence.

I have a theory about why yawns are contagious. When we yawn we draw more oxygen into our lungs than a normal breath. To yawn in an enclosed space is to hog oxygen. Which, because we are selfish individuals, explains why everybody else in the vicinity also yawns. We don’t want anyone having more than their fair share.

This could one day pose a problem. If a group large enough gathers, and a yawning epidemic spreads, there will not be enough trees in all the Greenpeace wheelbarrows of the world to photosynthesis enough oxygen to replace the catastrophe that would follow.

Once you understand and embrace this underlying understanding of the nature of yawning you are on the path to enlightenment. You are equipped to deal with and understand life in a way that you have not been before.

This new, secret, knowledge gives you an unfair advantage over your fellow man. So use it carefully. Here’s an example.

If you are a single person and you are sitting in a room full of eligible people of the other gender – and you think that a particular member of the opposite gender has quite literally "caught your eye", if say, you think they are engaging in a little bit of casual "checking out" – just yawn. If they were checking you out your yawn will be irresistible. They’ll respond. If not, well, there’s no reason to get your hopes up and have them cruelly dashed.

There’s nothing so painful as unrequited cross auditorium/lecture theatre/church/conference centre love. Harness the power of the yawn and you’ll never feel that pain again.

How not to lose friends and alienate bloggers

There is a better way.

  1. Find a blog/article about a topic you’re passionate about online.
  2. Read and comprehend the original post.
  3. Think about a reasonable response.
  4. Write your response, erring on the side of grace and caution.
  5. Read to see if other people have commented since your last comment.
  6. Reread your comment.
  7. Make sure it’s loving in its tone, and not offensive.
  8. Post it.
  9. Realise that other people aren’t like you and don’t necessarily want their comment pages spammed. Post once per response.

How to lose friends and alienate bloggers

  1. Find a blog/article about a topic you’re passionate about online.
  2. Barely read/comprehend the original post – just find key words and points that invoke your bloodlust.
  3. Get indignant.
  4. Post a comment about why the person is wrong.
  5. Only read the follow up comments that talk directly to your point.
  6. Argue with those comments using much hyperbolic subjectivity, little objectivity in order to demonstrate why you are right while continuing to ignore the context.
  7. Read back what you, and they wrote.
  8. Feel guilty.
  9. Post a contrite apology on that discussion and a list of things that alienate people so others will learn from your mistakes.
  10. Hope that the people from the other blog also read yours so that they see said list.

A place for everything

Lifehack.org had this great chart for communicating with people – and the best way to do it.

Sadly, it didn’t deal with social networks and what the appropriate vehicle is for meeting your communications goals.

One of the common themes pursued by parents in this whole debate is that they feel the need to vent, the need to celebrate their experiences and a forum for support.

Someone needs to do up a similar flow chart for how, when, and where, you should communicate this sort of stuff and meet these important needs.

So, in order to extracate myself from a sticky situation where I offended mothers and questioned their self worth, I will give you my following solutions to this problem that will hopefully offer a middle ground…

Here are my professional (possibly not expert) opinions of the appropriate contexts for discussions – and I’ll use parenting as an example because it’s timely. And if I don’t you’ll suspect I’m talking about it anyway.


Twitter is a microblogging service and has evolved as a source of "as it happens" information about major events. You may have heard of it. The mainstream media is flogging it hoping it’ll become a dead horse – because they’re worried about its potential to take the place of newspapers.

It’s strength is that it’s real time – and you can follow just about anybody. It’s much less private than Facebook. It’s also designed to be updated much more frequently than Facebook statuses appear to be. I suggest that parents wanting quick feedback on decisions, or wanting to brag about their offspring’s achievements should do so via Twitter.


If you want to share photos – and you want to control exactly who gets to them – the best way to do that is using a dedicated photography site. You’ve got more control and better default privacy settings. You can then invite specific people to have a look at your family photos rather than sharing them with your colleagues, school friends and the rest of the world who you might have "friended" elsewhere.

A lot of parents I know are protective of their childrens privacy – and I think this is a good thing. Heaven forbid your child grow up having some parental musing as their top search result on google.


YouTube has the same benefits as the photo sharing services – you can share your videos with close friends or the world – and spare acquaintences from the pain and suffering that comes from curious voyeurism. That’s what most people use Facebook for. To spy. I’ll watch your videos and look at your photos just because I want to know more than I should about you, advertisers will do it so they can figure out what best to sell you, other people will do it for more nefarious purposes.


There are heaps of bookmarking sites out there that let you share bookmarks with relevant keywords – you can also look up what other people have tagged using those words. And save interesting articles to share with your friends.

I’m sure there are plenty of great parenting resources out there and if you want to share tips and tricks, and expert opinions this is a good way to do it. That way I (a non parent) don’t have to be notified by you every time you find an article you’d like to share with half of your friends.


Communication works best when it’s "opt in" or permission driven. If you want people to listen to what you have to say, don’t do it to a captive audience, build an audience by being useful and informative.

I may be your friend on Facebook because I want to occasionally invite you to social functions – and lets face it, parents complain about being out of the social loop, I may be your friend because we are part of the same organisation… generally your Facebook friends aren’t only your closest friends. So don’t treat them like they are.

I might be biased – but I think the best forum for sharing your opinion in an opt in manner is on a blog. People have to make a decision to visit it, to come back, or to subscribe. It’s easier not to go back to an annoying blog than it is to unfriend someone you know but don’t want to hear from. And much less socially perilous.

Forums and user groups

If you’re looking for support with specific problems related to parenting why not join a forum. Forums are great. They’re the best way to get assistance from the "hive mind". They’re completely opt in. They’re a community. And there are forums for just about everything – and if you can’t find one they’re pretty easy to start.

You can also share all your milestones with people who will share your joy.


Most of the reasons people give for sharing stuff on Facebook (relatively public) could be done via a targeted group email (relatively private). If you’re friends with someone on Facebook you have their email address. Be polite. Email the people you want to share your information with.


I’ve left Facebook to last (and MySpace off the list entirely) because I think it dabbles too much in the areas better covered by tools specifically designed for specific purposes. Unless you want to set up privacy settings and sharing settings you’re broadcasting everything to either your entire friends list (or the world) and relying on them to filter it.

Facebook is widely abused. Some people should have lisences revoked for anti-social behaviour.

Having said that, Every one of these previously mentioned tools can be achieved using Facebook – it’s powerful. It’s a great platform for sharing photos, video, bookmarks, and opinions, and for conducting forums, advertising events and soliciting feedback and advice. It’s also a pretty functional email platform.

But with great power comes great responsibility. If you’re going to use it for all of these purposes – Be a good citizen of the online world. Use it appropriately.

  1. Protect your photos.
  2. Set up groups for discussions about parenting where you can overshare to your heart’s content.
  3. Set up events and invite only the people you’d like to attend.
  4. Don’t spam people with needless applications.
  5. Don’t have private conversations on people’s walls.
  6. Use the "email" capacity of Facebook to keep things private.
  7. Don’t send unsolicited promotional stuff to people about your courses and stuff.
  8. By all means use your status to invite people to peruse your blog, your business website, your business Facebook page, etc, but do so sparingly. Once every ten minutes is too much.

If you’re aiming to be a functional participant in the web 2.0 world you need to remember the golden rule of opt in. Don’t make everybody suffer through every piece of information you feel like sharing – if they like you enough they’ll do that. Give them the option – don’t force feed them. It’s just basic manners.

New Rules

Wired has a great little feature called New Rules for the Highly Evolved – it features contributions from Brad Pitt.

It’s a feature providing all sorts of tips for how to use social technology in a socially acceptable way. I’m sure there are some rules that I’m breaking. But here are my favourites.

There’s this graph on when it’s appropriate to reveal TV spoilers…

And these great little articles (there are more that I wasn’t really enamoured by…

  1. Don’t blog or tweet anything with more than half a million hits – I’m probably guilty as charged, though I see my blog as a repository of things I’ve found on the internet and while I care deeply about you, dear reader, I’m not worried if you’ve seen stuff before.

    “The things we forward, tweet, or post send a message about who we are,” Berger says. “And you don’t want the message to be that you’re behind the curve.”

  2. Delete stuff you don’t want on your wall from your online profiles – While I’m all for freedom of speech the thing that annoys me most (almost) is being misrepresented. I do enough damage to my personal branding on my own, without people sabotaging it.
    An example: people using my phone to send stupid SMS’s to girls I was interested in.
    You’re judged as much by your associations as by your actions so take heed of this advice:

    The only way out is to police your wall, even if that’s awkward. Don’t be shy about deleting untoward graffiti, eliminating your name from tagged photos, or even asking friends to remove incriminating pics that weren’t meant for public consumption. “You might damage a friendship,” Donath says, “but that’s one of the costs of the collapse of social circles.” Then again, you could migrate to MySpace. Nobody pays attention to anything written there.

  3. And lastly, the great social conundrum of our time – knowing which ringtone to choose – that won’t ever be a problem again thanks to this handy flow chart.

Guide to better working

Successful careers are a matter of working smarter not harder. I’m almost positive that’s the case. Every job has “short cuts” or tricks of the trade to make things easier. Here’s a collection of some of the best – from some obscure trades and some normal every day careers.

My favourites:


If you have to change a light bulb where the glass is broken, you can press a potato into the metal base to unscrew the remains of the bulb from the fixture.

Graphic Designer

If you have a client who is unable to approve a proposed design without putting her stamp on it, just put an obvious error in the proposal: a logo that’s too large, a font that’s too small, or a few judiciously seeded typos. The client requests the change and feels she’s done her part—and your design, which was perfect all along, sails through to approval.


If you’re reading too fast, your brain can “correct” typos, preventing you from catching them. That’s why it’s sometimes a good idea to read a page upside-down. It forces you to pay closer attention to individual words out of context, and you can’t race through pages too fast.