June 29, 2009

Run Melbourne result

Well did I do it? Yes I did!
Can we fix it? It seems we can!

I completed the 5 km run in a time of 00:31:04 which, for me, was great. I had planned to stick to a pace of 6 minutes per kilometer, but ran somewhere between 5.5 minutes and 6 minutes for most of it. Well that is apart from the 4 or so minutes where I walked across the bridge past the tennis centre and MCG (there was a hill!!).


That's me on the left!

I consider this result bordering on the amazing, if I may say so myself, given that I hadn't really trained for the month leading up to the run. Like many, training in winter is just such a drag!


The above graph is from my Polar Personal Trainer software that came with my Polar 625X heart rate monitor. It interprets the data on the monitor that includes heart rate as well as distance and pace from a foot pod. It also talks to my bike. For anyone wanting to run and make a difference, something similar which can track speed/pace is a must have!

The 2009 season of Spring into Shape is my next serious run, although a short course entry in Melbourne Marathon is also kicking around in my head!

June 10, 2009

Not feeling particularly motivated

In ten days time, I will be running in the 2009 Run Melbourne "fun" run. I have done very little training over the past several weeks and before that, I was lucky if I ran even 2-2Km at the gym on the weekends. It would appear that when the 28th comes around, it will be a case of a steady pace and putting one foot in front of the other for the 5Km. I used to go to the gym twice a week in addition to my Personal Trainer and in general, run on both of those days. Why I lost my motivation, I'm not sure.

I have an Orbea Tri Bike sitting here in my study that has been rode too few times. I had got it two years ago and started riding in preparation to do some duathlons (don't even talk to me about swimming; I'm one of these people who tries to swim and never moves from the same spot!), but that ambition also dried up.

The whole lack of motivation thing is kind of surprising to me, given the fact that I used to be an aerobic instructor back in the days before Les Mills, and would sometimes 3 classes a night several times a week. Perhaps it goes back to one of my earlier posts about t-shirts (I'm wearing one now despite a not-so-warm house) and that as we get older, our abilities, and in this case, motivation changes. It's not that I don't want to; I really want to be a good runner, good cyclist, and even learn to swim in any direction, but I just lack the self motivation these days. Maybe I need to join a group and train with them, but then I'm not the most social of people a lot of the time, but that's a whole other post!

June 8, 2009

Life and Death and everything in between - part 1

It is a truth universally acknowledged... that we exit this world the way that we entered it. We dependent on someone else bathing, dressing, feeding us, turning us over in bed, checking on us in the night. It is a concept touched in 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet, a newborn or young baby receives, generally, more attention that the elderly despite needing many of the same basics of life. We would never leave a baby on its own, but it's the easiest thing to deposit someone in a hostel or nursing home and let someone else worry about them.

Nearly every Sunday, while visiting my Grandmother in her room at the hostel, I would think to myself that I hardly see anyone else visiting their relatives up there. One of the other residents was the mother of someone with whom I went through high school, and not once did I see him up there. The government pledges baby bonuses and other monetary incentives to help new mothers, which incidentally is OK by me, but the funding and the responsibility for the aged often falls short. In my Grandparents' case, too often the DVA pension would go up and then the age pension would be adjusted so that the increase was cancelled out. The cost of age care just never seemed to be a priority.

The crunch came recently, when nursing homes and residential aged care facilities were forced to close due to the owners owing in excess of $23 Million dollars, having gone into resident's bond money, and not paid staff superannuation for years. If there is no government regulation on this, then why don't we see the same thing happening for the other scenarios? Out of these closures and the news being reported, it has become quite clear that the government have not been providing the same level of protection for these residents, their money, and for the staff that care for them, as it would for other citizens. This is despicable, and tends to reinforce the "dump them and leave them" attitude.

What it does make you realise is your own mortality. In my case, this could be me in 50 years time. Left in some nursing home bed with no-one to feed me, wash me, or even talk to me. Our population is aging but the the moral sense of responsibility is not ageing with it.

It makes me extremely angry.

June 2, 2009

My thoughts on presenting and demonstrating

One of the many things I have to do as part of my job is conduct presentations and demonstrations of our product. Public speaking has always been easy for me, probably since I was "made" to go and read the lesson at church as a youngster, and now I almost relish to opportunity to speak in front of large groups or present our product to them. Of course, over the last 17 years with my job, I have learnt the hard way through feedback and watching my own presentations, but also through observing others. While I don't profess to be an expert by any means, often the way to learn is through the experience of others.

Recently, I was asked to present to my team on some tips and techniques for presentations and demonstrations. I thought that I'd summarise some of them on this post, keeping in mind that not all of them may apply if not demonstrating a software product.

Comments and feedback appreciated.

Mouse work: When presenting anything that involves a mouse, e.g. navigating a product or web page, I encourage my team to take note of the following:
  1. Mouse movements can be distracting. Make use of ‘home position’ for mouse when talking, for example, sit the cursor top left or centre screen.
  2. Fiddling can be really distracting even if you don't realise you're doing it. One thing I see the team doing is making columns wider/smaller while talking and it can be distracting because the group watch what the mouse is doing rather than listening
  3. Be careful not to rush from one concept to the next. Use pauses while the group take in what you've just said and process it. Sometimes, if it's an interactive group, and you're showing something quite new such as a software product, 'digestion' time is needed. Pauses are also good because they let the presenter think about the next bit!
  4. Compartmentalise concepts before moving onto a new one
  5. A trick I've learnt to emphasise something I'm doing rather than saying, is to not say anything while using the software/moving the mouse. It can be very effective to draw attention to what you're doing by not saying anything at all!
  6. In reverse to the above, sometimes I've found that talking and no mouse at all can work as well if you want to get a point across.
  7. When talking or answering questions, keep your hand off the mouse.
Question time: There will always be questions! This is one area that I've really worked on over the years as I was in a position to observer some of our presenters in action:
  1. Do not talk over client. Stop and let them finish the question. Too often I see our staff guessing the question and then giving the wrong answer. Normally I hate people talking over me, but in a demonstration/presentation scenario, I stop dead and let the person speak.
  2. Clarify Question if not completely certain what was being asked.
  3. Check that you gave the correct/expected answer, e.g. ask “did that answer your question?”
  4. Keep people on topic. Sometimes I'm fortunate to have someone facilitating the session, but don't be afraid to say that a question is off topic and it can be addressed later, particularly when doing software demonstrations.
  5. This can be a difficult one, but try to watch for potential question. For example, the person who has something to ask but cant get a word in, but be careful not to prompt them if they don’t have a question!
Presentations: Slide shows are very very popular and there are enough web sites devoted to the topic of creating good presentations, but some points I try to stick to:
  1. Keep it simple. Take a cue from Steve Jobs/Apple who give great simple presentations where it's about the speaker, not the slides. However, if you're not as confident at presenting then the slides can be a good 'support' for you. An example slide I have used is below.
  2. The slides should either reinforce what you're saying with key points or "take-home-messages" or introduce/sign-off on topics. Don't read the slides word for word - the group can do that for themselves!
  3. I find that if I do need to read the bullet points (it has happened) then either my presentation is wrong or the slides need re-work to take out some of the detail.
  4. Having said that, summary slides sometimes may need the words.
  5. If slides do get wordy (sometimes it happens), give the group a few sections to scan/read it.
  6. Don't use sounds or fancy transitions. PowerPoint is great because it provides sounds, actions etc for building slides, and are great for schools, but in a professional setting they can be annoying or inappropriate if over used.
  7. Keep images to a minimum - this works well with the 2nd point above. Having said that, I did do a presentation to a NSW university once where I found funny pictures like those old black and white photos you can buy on the front of greeting cards, used only those in the slide show and talked to the slide headings instead.
  8. From experience, people remember the simple rather than the detailed when it comes to presentations.
Some other miscellaneous points:
  1. Know your audience. Talk to the right level. Be aware if some/all of the group might have heard some points before, that may not be needed.
  2. In a professional demonstration, sometimes it's worth avoiding giving of personal advice, just re-word it. For example, “personally, but you don’t have to do this” doesn't work, but say instead "a suggestion is..."
  3. Having said that, in some presentations, the group appreciates getting to know a bit of who you are, rather than just someone up the front talking. This might be an introduction point about you, but could also be some personal experiences. When I'm presenting our product, I talk about "when I implemented this in xx area/department of the hospital".
  4. PowerPoint and Keynote have presenter views when you have multiple monitors configured, and this can provide you with your notes, next slide and a timer. I use this where possible.

My Office 2008 for Mac journey

Today I finally gave in and purchased a full version (well the upgrade) of Office 2008 for Mac. When I had purchased my new MacBook, I'd also purchased Office Home/Student edition on the assumption that it also had Exchange Server support.

For the uninitiated, Exchange Server support means the ability to talk to your corporate/office Exchange email server. If you're a home user or have a home/small business, it's possible you won't have an Exchange server running.

The assumption was based on the Apple Store web page that contains the same blurb for all versions of the Office product, which is very misleading, especially when there's a radio button at the top allowing you to select your edition.

I currently use Office 2004 with Entourage (the email product, not the TV show!) on my other desktop Mac, and connect via Outlook web access, which seems to work, but it does lack a few of the things that I needed to use, such as Out of Office and Rules. Trying some clever things like loading Entourage 2004, then Office 2008 and not removing the 2004 program, or doing it in the 2008, then 2004 order was not successful. Office seems to load "something" that disables all Exchange support as soon as the Home/Student edition is loaded. Bummer, but clever at the same time.

This morning I loaded 2004 on the mac book, thinking that I'd just go with that, and then, I promptly got some emails that had Word 2007/2008 documents attached. Now I know I could have just loaded the converter, but I thought what the heck and forked out the $320ish dollars to buy the upgrade. I will keep 2004 on my other Mac as it's become mostly a web surfing machine, and will use 2008 on the MacBook. My Personal Trainer might buy my Office/Student edition off me if I succeed in converting him from Windoze land.

So what benefits have I discovered of using Office 2008 Standard over the other editions? I really wanted just the Exchange server support so that I could use my Mac at home and access the work email with a little more flair than the Web version. Office 2008 now gives me the ability to set my out of office, displays calendars and emails better and has better access (it seems) to view team calendars etc. The little pop up "My Day" widget seems cool too. Having the other applications of course does give me the ability to exchange documents better, now that more people are getting Office 2007 for PC or 2008 for Mac. As I find more interesting bits, I will post them in future blogs.