Monday, December 30, 2013

Once is enough

Every legal document I read this year had at lest one (1) set of numbers in which the authoring attorneys deemed it necessary to give me all the numbers two (2) times.

It is an insulting practice.  Anyone expected to separate the subrogee from the legatee is certainly capable of understanding the word “three” or, more concisely, “3”.  They don’t duplicate everything else in legal documents.  At least, I don’t think so.  I can’t say as I fully digested every contract I had to review recently.  Ever.

Anyway, two times the word doesn’t make your document twice as official.  If your brief already contains at least one “whereas” or “whereof” you’ve puffed yourself up quite enough.  No need to push it.

It is a waste.  Let’s say there are 1,100 characters on a page of an average document.  The American legal industry generates about $209 billion annually.  If only 10-percent of that is issuing contracts and briefs, the industry could save about $57 million a year just for trying, in a very small way, to be more clear and more polite.  That is not counting the bottom line of all the poor shlubs wasting their time reading a word twice twice for no reason.

Join with me.  Please.  You only live once.  Don't spend your time reading something twice (x2).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gerbils, towels and things you learn at a con

One can learn a great deal from science fiction conventions.  Plotting, characterization, common pitfalls and basic craft – a well-run con can always teach you something.  The trick, as Spock tells you in The Wrath of Khan, is to remember.

I did not.  My first mistake stemmed from lingering too long after a reading, gabbing away as they moved the chairs in the room from stadium style to circle.  The alarms went off in my head.  Run when they circle chairs.  Run.  I did not do this, either.  Two minutes later I found myself in the far corner of an improv lesson.  Yes.  A comedy improvisation workshop designed to God knows what at a sci fi con.   

The session made me laugh.  Everyone in the room had a quick wit and, by nature of the convention itself, a general understanding of the audience.  I sat, trembling at the thought of doing something and having it flop, or doing nothing and being one of those guys who doesn’t participate, who thinks himself above all this.  As a ‘starship captain’ and ‘Klingon’ searched the ‘mall’ for a ‘rouge gerbil’ I realize this is my moment.  I scampered across the floor, chirping “Oh no not again,” until stunned by a ‘phaser.’

For whatever reason, everyone laughed, the workshop soon ended and I got on to the business of science fiction business.  Midway through the next day, I decide to go for a swim.  The hotel pool is gorgeous and I had a lot of toxins to work out of my system.  Because the pool is nine floors down and through the lobby, I wear my street clothes and change in the changing room.  I do laps for 20 minutes, get out and . . . drip.  No towels.  No lifeguard, no humans, no towels. 

I can’t dash through the lobby and up the elevator sopping wet.  Nor can I put my clothes back on.  I take the only other options I see available.  I get naked, smack the big silver button on the hand-dryer, crouch down and slowly rotate like gyro meat on a spit.  I turn and turn squeegeeing myself for what feels like 30 minutes.

Then another guy walks in.  I stand up.  He looks at me.  Confused.  Then he tilts his head a bit and asks, “Aren’t you that gerbil?”

The sad thing is that anyone attending a science fiction convention must have read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  And anyone who as read that book – even just the first few pages – knows that, and I paraphrase: A towel, the Guide says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.

Never forget what you learn at your next con.  Never forget your towel.  Oh, and don't panic.