Friday, May 2, 2008

'80s Flashback: Atari

Friday is here again, so it's time for another '80s Flashback.

Before a word from our sponsor, here are the recent '80s Flashbacks:

'80s Flashback: OP corduroy shorts
'80s Flashback: Parachute pants
'80s Flashback: Rambo cartoon
'80s Flashback: Psyche!
'80s Flashback: Jim and Tammy Faye
'80s Flashback: Avoid the noid
'80s Flashback: Mary Lou Retton
'80s Flashback: One night in Bangkok
'80s Flashback: Adams Atoms
'80s Flashback: Don't you forget about me

OK. This week's flashback is brought to you by Crystal Pepsi, which actually came out in 1992 but still has an '80s feel to me. It was a clear cola ... and clearly taken way too seriously by the people creating this commercial.

Now the flashback:

This week we remember Atari, makers of the "2600" video game system that ate up many of my days when I was about 10 years old. But Atari did more than video games.

The slogan of an Atari commercial from the early 1980s was:

Atari ... discover how far you can go.

Watching it now, it should be, "discover how far we've come."

The best part of the commercial, other than oh-so-80s look of the people in it, is the personal computer that is decribed as "powerful."

Check out the amazing graphics on the home budget the woman is creating. The result of a truly powerful machine. For that time, sure.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tripping out on the mountain

Hey mom, I'm lost on the mountain and I tripped over something and broke my leg.

At least I think so. Maybe I'm just having a bad trip.

Amazingly, this headline is NOT from The Onion.

Expensive Santa Cruz Mountains search finds stoned teen

Time magazine's most influential joke

Time Magazine asked readers in an online poll, "Who are the most influential people of 2008?"

Who is No. 1?

Well, you know he or she has to be pretty big time because a man known worldwide, the Dalai Lama, is No. 206.

That puts him 199 spots behind No. 7:

Tyra Banks.

Yep, this is legit. Also, No. 2 is "Rain," and it has nothing to do with weather.

You can check out the list here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wedding vows, then a kick to the bride

I meant to blog about this yesterday, and then got busy and forgot. You've probably heard about it by now, but it's funny enough that, well ...

I wish I could've been the reporter putting this story together. It involves a brawl between a bride and groom on the day of their wedding.

Sadly, that's not exactly unique. Intoxication is tremendous fuel for marital fireworks. But this scene was special.

The groom "used a karate-style kick with his leg to kick Christa [the bride], knocking her to the floor," the criminal complaint said.

Maybe it was just part of their first dance together. A hip-hop move gone bad, perhaps.

Next:

The fight traveled from a hallway to an elevator then into the hotel lobby where, police said, the couple threw metal planters containing live plants into an elevator at the men who tried to break up the fight.

Well, it looks like the bride and groom were teaming up on that one. I guess they reconciled.

And finally, truly a wedding-day vision:

The bride, still wearing her wedding gown, was picked up by her father. The dentist [groom] left on his own, one eye swollen shut, wearing tuxedo pants, a bloody T-shirt and one shoe.

You can see the rest of the story, and a photo of the couple, here.

Unneeded product, cool commercial

I have absolutely no use for the product, but the commercial is pretty neat.

When I was 12 years old, this is the kind of thing I spent many unproductive hours putting together, usually while listening to one of my homemade soundtracks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Flipping out on the race track

My wife sometimes tells me that she doesn't want our sons to play football. I can understand the way she feels because it's a rough sport, and she doesn't want her little boys to get hurt.

But she shouldn't worry about that, given what our 5-year-old, Ryan, has decided on for a career.

After earlier deciding that he wanted to be a soccer player, and then an artist, then a "lawnmower guy," then a guy who plans birthday parties, he said this week that he wants to be a race-car driver.

That probably won't happen, of course. He'll just be a 16-year-old driver who drives like this ...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Humor Me: Surviving cubicle life

By MATT WIXON

Congratulations on landing your dream job. You'll tackle new challenges, pursue higher goals and cash a check big enough to make super-sizing your value meal a no-brainer. Make sure to focus on that your first day, when you get locked in a stairwell looking for the restroom.

The second day will be better. But the first day is like transferring to a new school, where the other children stare, nobody sits with you at lunch and you get stuffed in a trash can during recess. Thank goodness that won't happen at work. The people are more mature and the trash cans are way too small.

More important, unprofessional behavior is prohibited by most companies. You would know that had you read your employee manual instead of using it as a coaster on your coffee table.

But don't feel bad. Most people don't read their employee manuals, which rarely reach the literary heights of the instruction booklet to George Foreman's Lean Mean Grilling Machine. And while employee manuals are valuable, they're not survival guides.

So here is an office-life survival guide, with tips never found in
an employee manual:

Cubicle etiquette

The easiest way to create an efficient work space is to locate it in a large corner office with an inspirational view of the city and a door that locks. Of course, if people refer to you not as "The Boss" but as "Employee 4725A-2TI," this might not be possible.

In that case, you probably work in a cubicle. And in that case, you need to remember that cubicles offer as much privacy as a thong bikini. That's because cubicle walls absorb almost no sound, especially when they are plastered with Post-it Notes, calendars and a picture of a kitten hanging from a tree with the inspirational phrase, "Hang in there!"

The result: Sound travels through cubicles even faster than a stolen stapler. So avoid having confidential discussions or making personal phone calls in your cubicle. And if you listen to music, keep the volume low as a courtesy to fellow employees who want to work in silence or are trying to eavesdrop on conversations in surrounding cubicles.

Relating to co-workers

Getting along with fellow employees can be easy if you are friendly, courteous and show respect for your co-workers. Every employee must play a part in creating a cubicle community full of good neighbors who help one another and support the vast differences in employee work styles.

Be sure to remember that when your cubicle neighbor uses his speakerphone to have conversations that include the phrases "the naughty one with the tassels" or "searching for a colon polyp."

Obviously, patience is important. Loud arguments with co-workers, especially ones where personal insults, foul language and office furniture are thrown around, might lead your boss to brand you as "confrontational." A fight could also sever a relationship with a co-worker who might help advance your career in the future.

Every employee is bound to annoy another at some point. The key is to accept, and even embrace, the idiosyncrasies of your co-workers.

For the guy who forwards you a link to every Web site he thinks is funny, try to appreciate his sense of humor. For the co-worker who can talk for an hour about a cat, a ball of string and a pair of broken glasses, admire his or her endurance. For the co-worker with the collection of Star Wars figurines on his desk, reject impulses to topple Obi-Wan Kenobi with an urgent memo.

Memos and meetings

Ah yes, memos. They now come mainly in e-mail form, but they remain the primary communication medium of the modern workplace. Unfortunately, the deluge of memos -- Re: timecards are due, Re: changes to company 401k, Re: lost pair of sunglasses in the bathroom -- can be overwhelming.

But even the most cynical office workers should appreciate the importance of memos. Memos keep employees informed, keep employees on their toes, and when printed out, can keep employees warm in the chilly areas of the office. If you literally bury yourself in paperwork, you'll stay warm while showing your willingness to take on heavy workloads.

It's also essential to bring a few memos to meetings. They might have nothing to do with the meeting, but the memos show that you are serious about your work. They also provide something to doodle on when meetings drag, and that is inevitable.

Then again, who doesn't get fired up for a meeting on how to write
effective memos?

Post-it Notes, squeaky shoes and Brut by Faberge

Another tip for employees hoping to succeed is to never use company-owned office products for personal use.

Sure, it might seem harmless to take home a pack of Post-it Notes or a couple of highlighters. But why risk all the hard work you've put in, as well as an honorable reputation, just so you can make 100 free copies of a flier for your garage sale? It simply cannot be justified -- unless you have confirmation that the boss and the office manager are gone for the day, as well as a minimum of two trustworthy lookouts. After all, you want to be known in the office as a dedicated worker, not a petty thief.

Likewise, you want to be known as an employee with common sense, not an uncommon scent. So go easy on the Chanel No. 5 or Armani for men.

Colognes and perfumes often irritate people with allergies. Almost as important, a distinctive scent allows the boss to track you in the office. "How many times has the Drakkar Noir guy gone to the vending machine today?" he might wonder. "How long was Ms. Lady Stetson chatting at the copy machine? Why is the scent of Jovan Musk so strong every day at the office-supplies cabinet?"

For the same reason, don't wear squeaky shoes to work. You might as
well wear a cowbell around your neck.

***
To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail mwixon@dallasnews.com. Have a great week.

The dreaded job evaluation

You walk into the boss's office and feel the first beads of sweat
on your forehead. You heart begins to race, your mouth gets dry,
and you feel like an 8-year-old facing interrogation over a broken
lamp.

It's the annual employee evaluation, a time for paranoia, sweaty
palms and painful silences that stretch out longer than the
director's cut of Apocalypse Now. But relax. These answers to
common evaluation questions will help you get through it.

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. Taking on bigger challenges, expanding my role with the company
and helping the company strengthen its position for the future.

(Strategically vague, it's the perfect answer to an evaluation
question because it says nothing.)


Q. How do you feel you benefit the company?

A. I'm a team-oriented person who works hard and wants the company
to improve.

(Important note: Never say you are willing to do "whatever it
takes" to help the company improve. "Whatever it takes" would
include working weekends.)


Q. In what ways do you think the company can improve?

A. By dedicating itself to improvement, nourishing an environment
that allows for improvement and taking bold steps toward
improvement.

(Exquisitely nonsensical. You might sound like a politician, but at
least you're playing it safe.)