More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

Why I like technology

iPhone 5s with MacBook Pro

You could say my gadgets are the Apples of my eye.

“I don’t have techno-fear, I have techno-joy!” — Eddie Izzard

I’ve been in the computer industry for nearly 30 years. Before that, I had experiences with mainframes at UCLA and a programmable Radio Shack calculator. Why do I like technology so much? For a simple reason: It enables us to do things.

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What the Federal budget crisis teaches us about power

Throwing in the monkey wrench

Monkey wrench throwers, unite! (Image from Leasing News.)

Too much has already been said about the shutdown of the United States Federal government and the even bigger crisis that can happen if the debt limit issue isn’t addressed. I also don’t want to add to the chorus of finger-pointing, because there is plenty of blame to go around.

Instead, I’m interested in the power of the individual, especially the power to obstruct. We can think about Senator Ted Cruz’s filibuster or the man who stood in front of the tanks in Tienanmen Square. Depending on how we feel about an issue, we can consider this power to be noble or obnoxious, courageous or egotistical, moral or self-serving. We can’t deny that such exercises show how much power an individual really has.

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How to avoid bad business communication

Another answer to your questionsHere’s an answer to another question I received: What are some examples of bad business communication? I assume that the person wants to avoid that type of communication, not emulate it.

Good business communication is clear, accurate, and timely. It provides recipients with the information they need to do their work. When communication fails to do that, work gets delayed or is done incorrectly because the information is inaccurate or misunderstood.

What are some examples of such bad business communication, and how do we avoid them?

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How to overcome nervousness when talking to authority figures

What to say when you talk to a boss

Image from Leadership Freak

Here’s an answer to a question I received: How do I overcome nervousness when dealing with someone in authority?

First, understand that it is natural to feel intimidated when talking to teachers, bosses, parents, coaches, police, and other authority figures. After all, your well-being rests in their hands. Also understand that their well-being rests in your hands as well.

When you speak to someone in authority, it’s because you have information they need to do their jobs. Teachers need to know that you’re learning the information they taught you. Bosses need your contribution for the company’s success. Even the police need your information so they can fill out that traffic ticket and go on to solve more serious crimes.

Knowing that you have some power in the situation should make communicating with authority easier for you. But before you approach your teacher, boss, or other leader, there are several things you need to do.

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Words that make us buy

Slim and Modern tags on pantsI was shopping for clothes, and I came across these pairs of pants. They were available in two sizes: “Slim” and “Modern.” “Slim” seemed obvious: They are for people who ate right and worked out. In other words, they weren’t for me. Then, what is “Modern” supposed to mean? If “Slim” is for slim people, “Modern” has to be for people who are not. This size was called “Husky” when I when I was a kid, before “Husky” became an insult. Since companies don’t want to insult their customers (although I can think of a few that do), they won’t use any term to call them fat. That’s why we get sizes like “Modern,” “Regular,” “Loose,” “Classic” — names that complement us for not being “Slim.”

“Slim” and “Modern” made me think about all the other words companies use to entice us to buy. Here are three of them.

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