Archive for September, 2013

Speaking Tips

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

A friend of mine recently asked me any speaking tips I might have. I don’t have many, but I’m happy to oblige. I’m not saying I’m particularly good at it, but I have spoken at a few pretty cool events.

The audience wants you to do well, just respect them

Even if it’s true, don’t say say stuff like: “I didn’t prepare much for this.” or “I’m just super out of it today.” I got this from the book Confessions of a Public Speaker, and I like it. Now that I know this, I see speakers do it and suffer for it all the time at conferences. I think speakers think that saying it will garner them extra sympathy, but in fact it does the opposite.

You have this big opportunity to say something to a big group of people that want to hear it, you owe them some respect.

Don’t do too much

There are talks and there are workshops. Workshops are long and generally have that “deep dive” vibe. Talks are short (45 minutes is still short). If you plan to deep dive on anything, it better be super specific.

One of my favorite talks I ever did was a full hour on how ::before and ::after work in CSS. That’s a long time to spend on something so specific. I like to think of City Slickers and the “The cows could program the VCR by now!” scene. By the time you are done, the audience should absolutely understand what you were trying to say.

Have a point you’re trying to drive home and keep hitting it different ways until it’s as clear as can be.

Pick something you’re super comfortable talking about

Ideas for talks will come to you that you think would make great talks, but also that you might not be the most well suited to talk about. There may be a difference between what you are currently infatuated with and what you totally grok. What you grok probably will make a better talk.

I try and be aware of thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for a long time. If I pick that as a topic, then start to create the talk, the ideas usually flow out pretty well.

As a bonus, you’ll speak more confidently about subjects you know better, and will be more prepared to field questions after.

Practice what you are actually gonna say.

All the books say to do it in front of a mirror. Or out loud in your living room. I don’t do that. I just stare at keynote and pretend I’m talking in my head. Works fine for me. I find what I said in my head matches pretty well what actually comes out of my mouth during the talk.

If your personality allows, rock some jokes.

If you ask someone what their favorite part of a conference was even a few days later, you’ll be lucky to get a few generic sound bites. People just don’t remember that much detail. They will remember that general feeling that they enjoyed themselves though.

Conference talks are largely entertainment. We’re nerds. Nerdy things are fun for us. A good conference experience might be like a Super Bowl party for a huge football nerd.

So if possible, make your talk fun. Toss out some jokes. Be self deprecating. Use some embarrassing past photos of yourself. Just don’t…

No cats.

Hi. I’m not very good at being funny, so I’m going to use the most formulaic possible way to get a laugh. Maybe I’ll even throw in an IE joke too!

You’ll get better.

Like every other thing ever, you’ll get better over time. You just might suck that first time. That’s OK, the next time will be better.

How a Car Engine Works

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

File under infographics that are actually effective.


Monday, September 9th, 2013

I recently spent a week at Hilton Head Health. I ended up there rather on a whim. Being overweight is constantly on my mind and several months ago the thought occurred to me to try some kind of adult fat camp. I literally googled that. This article was the first hit. It seemed fairly positive and mentioned HHH.

I was super nervous about the idea, but I must have been feeling adventurous and liked what I saw enough on the HHH website and pulled the trigger. I’m glad I did!

You stay right on Hilton Head of course which is a beautiful place. Loads of beach. No overly obnoxious developments. Everything is only a story or two tall from what I saw. Businesses, even along major roads, are set off the road a bit with trees in between which maintains a very beautiful, nature-y look to the island.

I stayed in a private villa, which was $75 more dollars per day. Not too bad, since it’s already fairly expensive at $2900 for the week. As an introvert, I needed my escape hut. I remember kind of gawking at the price, but I feel like a beach vacation can approach that anyway when you factor in all the costs. Remember this covers everything including lodging and food (but not transportation).

Right away they test your blood and take your blood pressure, and record your weight and such. Then you meet with a counselor to discuss your goals and look at those numbers (blood sugar, triglycerides, good/bad cholesterol, etc) They help you make a plan for the week.

From 7am to 7pm each day, there is stuff going on. Activities, classes, and meals.

Activities range from the very chill like beach walks and movie night to the fairly intense like their signature “Treading” class (fancy treadmill stuff) and a class where you alternate between cardio machines and weightlifting every 2 minutes for an hour.

There are three main meals a day. They are at certain times and everyone eats together. This is where you really get to know everyone. Each meal is around 300 calories. Then there are three “Metabomeals” of 100 calories each, putting the total at 1200.

Classes range from hour long lectures like “Mindless Eating” and “The Restaurant Game” to 3 1/2 hour courses on grilling in their fantastic indoor cooking classroom.

Some of the classes, activities, and meals cost additional money but everything, including the free stuff, is optional. You make of the time you have there what you will. Nobody is cracking a whip. Very chill.

For me, it was all about the food. Forcing myself onto a super strict eating plan like that was worth the trip alone. I enjoyed the classroom stuff quite a bit and did as many exercise classes as I could, but that was just gravy compared to the meal system. That’s just me – eating is my hardest thing.

I don’t have that much regiment in my life, so forcing some structure on the day and being amongst so many nice people in the same situation was wonderful. I’m planning to go back, if nothing else, to give myself some accountability. I can’t go back worse than I left!

Single Tab

Friday, September 6th, 2013

The last few months I’ve been trying this thing where I only have one browser window open. If I’m working on CodePen, I only have that window open. It’s been working pretty well for reducing distractions and being more productive.

Lighting Adapter

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Mine wasn’t connecting very well on my iPhone 5. Some cords wouldn’t work at all. Some worked OK. Mostly it was getting that thing where the phone would rapidly toggle between charging and not charging.

I cleared some lint out of there at some point which made it better for a week maybe, but then back to normal and no more lint to be cleared.

I made a genius bar appointment at a local Apple store. They got me in right on the exact time the appointment was for. They tested it and found the exact same issue (that’s a first). They replaced the entire phone for free. I asked if that’s because I had Apple Care on it. Nope, they just do that for this issue. Plus I didn’t even have Apple Care on it.

The whole thing took 15 minutes. iCloud backup on WiFi maybe 30. Pretty damn sweet. This kind of thing will keep me on the Apple bandwagon.


Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

I was recently in Scotland for a trip. Purely for fun, with friends. We stayed in Stirling at a rental home called Newholme House operated by Nikki and David Callander. It was lovely. Here’s some photos, mostly from the house.

We took day trips out. One was to Oban, which people may recognize as the name of a fairly popular scotch. I quite liked the city as well as the scotch. The distillery tour there was fun (my first). One thing that stuck with me is that scotch is aged in U.S. bourbon barrels. There is a law in the U.S. that barrels cannot be re-used. So scotch distilleries buy them from the U.S. (likely from huge places like Jim Beam) and use them to age scotch. Since they have been used already (Oban actually uses them a third time around, purchased from another scotch distiller) they infuse less flavor into the scotch, like a used tea bag would put less flavor into water the second/third time used.