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Archive for the ‘Art of Communication’ Category

TOP 10 ‘Practical’ Valentine’s Day Gifts

In less than one week another of those often pressure-packed, gift giving days arrives: February 14th, AKA Valentine’s Day.

I can recall as a child in elementary school filling out sweet and simple cards to be given to classmates.  Starting even at such a young age, the message sinks in: this is a day to try to treat at least one other person in a special way.  Of course, as one gets older, effort and expense become more integral parts of the equation.

While an unofficial holiday of sorts for many, in terms of time spent at some point during the day, not everyone will feel motivated to treat this as a special occasion.  Particularly, those living alone will, justifiably, exhibit a wide range of inattention or involvement.  Those of us with some variation of a ‘significant other’ will likely be committed to action, although this can translate to quite a spectrum.

Furthermore, like all aspects of modern life, there’s an ever-expanding kaleidoscope of manner in which to recognize any special occasions.  Some options are more subtle or refined than others.

Let’s consider some practical gifts to bask in the glow of Valentine’s Day, 2019:

  • Mini-telescopes, to be warned of first-hand conditions of sidewalks and other pedestrian thoroughfares
  • More fit-to-size pockets, to put omnipresent mobile devices out of sight, albeit ever so temporarily
  • Artificial flowers with switches, to change the shapes and colours to the recipient’s preferences
  • Elegant appearing candies with dark chocolate coatings and inedible, collectible fillings, to satisfy both passions
  • Gas station cards with incrementally adjustable amounts, to cover swings in gasoline prices   
  • A mobile device for historians, to record the exteriors and home pages of devices the recipient has had over the last decade
  • Mini-facial expression masks, which can be applied to the face replacing the effort of displaying actual physical reactions
  • An invisible shield, which can be secretly draped over one’s body in tight crowd situations to avoid direct contact with others’ germs or prying fingers
  • An update version of the ‘cone of silence’, so that one can get away for awhile from all except one other person
  • A mini-garbage compressor one can carry, to get rid of those bits which accumulate when not around a waste bin

After all, this should be time for giving someone a gift with memories lasting beyond the end of the day.  

When le Mot Juste Collides with KISS

Recently I received negative feedback from a close relative concerning my alleged tendency to use elaborate, perhaps obscure, words where simpler words would do. 

I was taken aback: I have long felt the richness of the English language is greatly underutilized.  Indeed, many writers, such as detective story master Ellery Queen, have often dropped in uncommon diction.  I have deemed this as opportunity to expand my vocabulary.

Moreover, the incident with my relative referred to a selection from the word library built up over years in our Toastmasters club.  The introduction of such ‘words of the day’ has been and remains a regular feature of our meetings, intended to help members expand their bank of language.  In this case, the controversial word was EXORDIUM, which is another way to call the introduction or preamble of a story.

One can test one’s familiarity with some other words presented in our Toastmasters meetings over the years through this test (I used a slightly longer version of it at a recent club meeting); while occasions to include them in daily speech or communication need to watched for, when apropos they should be available options.  Correct responses follow below.

  1. COLLOQUY    Is this likely to involve people dealing with each other verbally or in writing?  
  2. CHOCKABLOCK    Is this a noun or an adjective? 
  3. BEDAUB     Does this verb indicate acting lightly, normally, or excessively?  
  4. ANAMNESIS    Does this refer to a physical or to a mental body function?  
  5. GELID    In which of the 4 seasons is this adjective most likely to apply?     
  6. IRENIC    Does this term relate more to an outcome that’s good or that’s negative?
  7. GALUMPH    Does this verb imply moving slowly, moderately, or quickly?   
  8. EXCOGITATE    Does this verb imply a quick response or a more measured one?   
  9. KAIROS    Would you be more likely to employ this noun when asking a question, making a decision, or declaring a stalemate?  
  10. RAILLERY    Is this more likely to occur among people, with animals, or involving objects?   
  11. CORNUCOPIA    Which of the following would apply to this noun: a ‘mother lode’, an ‘angry mob’, or several close calls?  
  12. RISIBLE    Is someone exhibiting this behaviour sad, happy, self-absorbed, or angry? 
  13. SCHADENFREUDE    Does this noun apply when trying to trick others, enjoying misfortune of others, or feeling wary about others?  
  14. COMITY    Is it likely to be a pleasant experience or an unpleasant one if this noun applies?   
  15. PEREGRINE    Is someone acting this way more likely to be standing, sitting, or lying down?  


  1. verbally: conversation, or high level discussion (noun)
  2. adjective: brought close together, very full
  3. excessively: to smear over, to ornament excessively
  4. mental: recalling from memory, reminiscence (noun)
  5. winter: extremely cold, icy
  6. good: favouring, conducive to peace or moderation (adjective)
  7. slowly: to move with a heavy, clumsy tread
  8. measured: think out, devise
  9. making a decision: an opportune moment for decisive action
  10. people: good-natured jest or banter (noun)
  11. mother lode: an abundance
  12. happy: disposed to laughter, laughable (adjective)
  13. enjoying misfortune: enjoyment gained by others’ misfortunes
  14. pleasant: friendly social atmosphere, social harmony
  15. standing: having a tendency to wander (adjective)

Writing Blogs vs. Writing Books

I’ve written quite a wide number of blogs.

I’ve also recently finished the last draft of my first book.  (I did craft a full length screenplay years ago.  Perhaps deservedly, it’s sitting in a file drawer; a worthy effort, but some re-work from exhibiting film-worthy credentials.)

While it is probably obvious that there are meaningful differences in the approach and execution of the short, to-the-point, blog versus the wide, hopefully well-structured arc, of the full-length story, these are not all necessarily obvious.

Each blog, at least that I’ve written or read, tries to focus on a particular theme and mood.  Some exhibit a fairly consistent point of view.  The majority are variously effected in approach, via an extensive range of subject matter. 

For instance, I’ve posted blogs relating to financial planning and insurance; to keep the messages credible, these have had a consistently serious tone, at least overall.  These feature occasional bits of humour or a lighter touch.  On the other hand, I have also have a strong drive to incorporating humourous comments and satirical ‘tips’, such as relating to holidays or other times of the year, as evident with many other blogs.  Indeed, postings covering subjects with non-fiction themes have frequently ended with a list of twists and turns on the central topic, wherein I endeavour to be clever and amusing.

The key point here is that the blog author has a short window of fine tuning the balance of meaningful and non-serious phrasing.  Including such see-saws keeps the mind-set less confined, willing to explore a wider pool of, perhaps less defined, viewpoints.  

One of the offshoots of cognitively having such a writing mindset involves the handling of ‘Top 10’ lists.  While some of my entries have been identified as such, I have tended to move away from the ‘Top 10’ per se, in favour of simply concluding posts with this type of list, but not necessarily ten options, perhaps more, perhaps less.  This approach also means the blog can address a topic with a more worthwhile message than just a series of point form tangents.  Whatever the dimension, infiltration of humour is usually tangible.

The length of a book obviously allows for multiple variations of a theme, largely by exploring its angles and alleyways.

That said, it is also clear that some unifying direction is core to the end product. 

Many of the comments I received when sending out portions of an earlier version of my book draft identified that having a clearer understanding, or at least intention, of who is the target reader, helps define the structure.  Appropriate language and terminology provide threads holding the structure together.  Anecdotes provide reinforcement.  Revelations which move the story forward provide glue.  In other words, part of the final blueprint is likely attributable to feedback.

Valuable additions to the blueprint – so as to be easier to the modern reader’s more time-sensitive attention and discernment span – can arise from judicious subheadings and chapters.  The angles explored in these building blocks make it easier to re-set to the big picture, when diversions supporting the general direction have been explored.

One of the best illustrations of the latter comes from inclusions of episodes which are not aligned exactly in chronology, but serve a greater purpose of layering the side road taken.

Whatever forks in the road of the novel-length effort are pursued, it remains pivotal to have any such twists and turns stay in sight of the main journey.  This way, the reader has a better chance to arrive at the destination enriched, rather than unrewarded.

Indeed, one of the greatest rewards for the writer is the feeling that the reader closes the last page happy for having invested in your effort.   

In summary, if a blog likely is focused on shining light on fenceposts, a book ideally diffuses the light to lead us on a shifting path to somewhere that glimmers.   

The Write Way

I have finally finished the last draft chronicling my career in the financial services industry.  I have committed to this being the final revision: sooner or later you have to pronounce it so.  (Unless it were to become a screenplay, which would mean no end to potential changes.)  In addition to the months needed to sort through my files and records, it only took me almost five years to complete this project. (more…)

Toast Time

A mini presentation that the vast majority of us likely have to make at one time or another is the Toast.

Whether it’s at a family gathering, or at a send-off for a friend or co-worker, this mini-speech is one where we want to make the best impression possible: on the person or group being saluted with the Toast, and on attendees who depend on us to elevate the occasion with our words and gusto. (more…)

Socially Correct Holiday Season Slogans

Let’s put out to pasture the term ‘political correctness’!

Not only has this expression increasingly fallen out of favour based on its accumulated baggage, built on decades of use, but the word political doesn’t stand up anymore as encompassing enough to cover the inexorable intrusion of social media and expression.

Therefore, let’s henceforth categorize any relevant references under the theoretically broader, more modern term of ‘social correctness’. (more…)

Reaction Times


Anyone able to reflect on this, based on years of personal experience or through research, knows that one of the biggest evolutions since the latter half of the twentieth century has been the speed of communications. Technology has become an indelible, intrusive catalyst of delivery; combined with more recent omnipresence of the internet and social media, has meant being part of a revolution in daily life around the world. (more…)