Ping-pong power

I sprained my hammy. That was the only thought running through my head after over 3 plus hours of ping-pong this past Saturday night. Your only thought probably is how did I end up playing ping-pong for that long. On a Saturday night no less. Well it’s a story that started way back in high school.

High school was at times somewhat awkward for me and my friends. We were a group of immigrants, about 8 guys deep, one of the largest identifiable groups of colour that hung out at my high school by far. We all shared a passion for sports, with specifically soccer being number one, spending virtually our entire 4 years playing indoor soccer in the gym during lunch. Fun times and great memories for sure. However, there was another sport during this time that also had a grasp on me, ping-pong.

Ping-pong in my basement was less of a group affair that indoor soccer was and more of an intense 1 on 1 battle between me and my close friend. We would play a number of games after school, on days where he wanted to delay the dreaded long walk home.

The attractiveness of ping-pong, was simlar to soccer. Both are easy sports to get into. This allowed the competitive juices to flow quite quickly, and soon ping-pong became just as competitve as soccer, as we tried to hit a small plastic ball back and forth at each other, usually with it hitting each others groin or head area. Ouch. But it was fun. Throw in those teenage conversations about girls, the next dance, and the family and ping-pong days became great times to waste a few hours after school.

Now this past weekend, wasn’t like those days. It was way more intense. My friend and I had certainly improved. We both consistently could add spin to our shots, there was more trash talking, and we were even much more competitive than before. No one likes to lose, especially when egged on by a friend who celebrates every winner as the best shot they had ever hit. It was a battle of epic proportions. Even our gallery, consisting of two girls and one referee, were amused with the intensity and focus of our struggle.

After 20 games, with the winner having to reach 21, I surrended. Sore hammy and all I had won 5 of 20 games. A sound beating. However, you had to be there to witness how close the games really were. As well, you would see how my friend, had consumed much less beer than I had, to remain focussed to the task at hand. Nevertheless, a passion in ping-pong was reborn. Maybe the table that’s in the basement needs to be unleashed again, along with training sessions, so that victory will be within my grasp next time?

Night of Networking

Networking is something I simply love doing. With that said however, when looking back to last year and in particular to last summer, there were a lot of networking events going on but I didn’t end up attending any of them. Very strange for me. Apparently meeting people at a nice lounge that has a patio and drinks wasn’t that appealing for me. Normally though, time and money permitting, I try to attend a handful of networking events a year. Thinking back to last year though, I did attend one in particular that stands out. It was a networking event on social media, the Social Media for Government Conference, and I actually got to go to it for free.

The conference was last March and I won a contest, run by social media guru Joseph Thornley of Thornley Fallis (@Thornley on Twitter) who was giving away  2 free tickets to attend the conference ($400 value) to two students who could demonstrate in a written piece how attending the conference would benefit them. Here was my winning response. After making the cut it was time to enjoy what would turn out to be a great event.

The Social Media for Government Conference was a two day event. I remember being dressed up (wearing a suit on day one as most people were in business casual) honoured to be Mr. Thornley’s guest. I heard many great presentations about how businesses in the private sector such as Royal Bank of Canada and Microsoft Canada as well as those in the public sector such as government organizations like HRSDC and Parks Canada, were using social media to connect with those who use their products and those they serve.Simply put, It was a great experience  to listen to so many passionate speakers from these organizations. Now fast forward to last week, almost a year to the day of the Social Media Conference, I would find myself  getting ready to go back into networking, but this time at my university.

This past Thursday’s at my university I attended a networking event which featured professionals in the areas of writing, publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and public relations. It was a dream bonzana of talented individuals in fields that I have a lot of interest in. However, the way it was set up was a little different from the Social Media Conference. It was set up kinda like speed dating, with 15 minutes at each table, making things move much more quicker than the two day Social Media Conference. Luckily, I was still able to get a lot of great info though, which I will unpack in further detail for Friday’s post. What I really want to talk about are some of my observations of the event in general,  thoughts on networking and finally a couple tips that have worked for me and perhaps could work for you when you’re out networking.

Overall the event was a success. Hard not to be when everyone is looking so good, dressed to impress. But seriously there is more to that of course. The flow of the event, orchestrated by the sound of a bell indicating a table switch, and the excellent billingual moderator kept everything moving efficiently. Speakers were great and very attentive to me personally.  I asked a couple questions and engaged them for information so really made it one on one, just me and them having a conversation, amid a busy table of 6 other students. First quick tip, ask questions. Makes the conversation more personal and you will definitely get more from the experience.

Everyone at the event were students from the university from a variety of different programs. From programs such as Arts, French studies, and a few others I don’t remember. It really is too bad there wasn’t an organized after party, where we could have grabbed drinks and discussed our aspirations among each other. This is something I have to get involved in for future school networking events, being responsibile for the after networking get together.

Now onto what I think are three good tips that will aid you in your networking efforts. Hopefully you’re not like me and have to have a one year gap in between to use them.

Bring a notebook to write in

You are never going to remember what someone says no matter how great your memory is. They had given us a notepad to take notes but I found it too small. I actually don’t mind taking notes, so quickly I was scribbling down information. Came away with 2 full pages after the night was done.

Save the drinks

I always used to grab an alcoholic drink at the bar when everyone else did. Monkey see, monkey do. However, being the mid weight I am  and after a long day of work then settling into a networking event, it probably isn’t the brightest idea. Grab a ginerale or water and focus on who you meet. You can always grab an alcoholic drink after when things get more fun.

Ask for advice, rather than for a job

Networking is all about the exchange of information. What I have found in my experience, is that people are more than willing to give their advice, especially if you show a genuine interest or passion about what your asking them about.  It is your job to make the link as to how to go about getting the job after you’ve obtained the advice. Getting a job is very competitive and most likely these professionals, unless on a recruiting trip, will not be walking around with a list of job openings. So keep that respect in mind and ask for advice rather than pressing for a job.

Conclusion

Networking is fun. As long as you get into it! Listening to someone talk for hours is not your only option. Ask questions that relate to what the speaker is talking about, try and engage them. They will definitely appreciate your genuine interest. The results for you will be even greater as the more you know, the more opportunity you create for yourself.

Don’t be a Deer

I haven’t been in this position often. But it is one where time and time again I find myself observing others being in. Now the reason for me personally not being in this position is because of the tendency of both myself and my girlfriend at the time of sequestered ourselves from the outside world, hanging out together just the two of us, all the time. This leaves us far away from any outside distractions, able to do as we wish without being thrust into this uncomfortable position. This position I’m referring to is called being a deer caught in headlights, relationship version.

It happens when you’re at a social event, like a house party or a club, and you and your new girlfriend are enjoying a fairly good night. Being the savvy gentleman you are, it’s time to introduce her to your friends for the first time. You decide you will introduce her to your friends who are in relationships first, as you figure, since being locked down as well they get the relationship thing, while as your single friends are most likely looking for something and will be eyeing your new girlfriend.

However you just made a big mistake. Your friends, who are in relationships, see this as an opportunity to make passes on your girlfriend, which you thought would only be done by your single friends. Suddenly, they are talking with your girlfriend with ease, casually flirting, leaving you in the background, with only careful nods and a blank look on your face…the deer caught in headlights face. Your role has shifted now from boyfriend to deer. With little to say because of being in shock, you become insignificant wishing your friend would just shut up so you can spend time with your girlfriend. However, because of the “I have a girlfriend already so it’s not flirting” mentality of your friend (probably a “friend” at this point) he doesn’t get the cue to stop and your left helpless.

So what do you do? As I have said before, I have observed this on many occasions. So I’ve come up with a couple suggestions in hopes that this doesn’t happen to you.

Establish your ground

Did you hit on your friends girlfriends when they first introduced themselves? Probably not. The reason is they established their ground. Be a man. Give her a big hug and say: “Guys, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend _____?”. Seal it with a butt slap. Nothing tells another guy whose boss better than a butt slap.

Give her space

Sometimes the tendency to stop behaviour occurs when you leave the situation. By hanging around perhaps it gives your friend cause to keep talking together because technically you are right beside her (but are not particpating in the conversation). So leave them alone. Go chat with other friends for a bit. Hopefully she gets bored and decides to find you.

Say something

Say something to your girlfriend, to take the conversation back into your control, shifting  her focus back on you and not your friend. There’s no reason to be uncomfortable with your own girlfriend? She is your girlfriend remember?

Conclusion

No one wants to have the deer in headlights look on their face. It’s an uncomfortable and weird feeling for a guy. I’ve seen too many friends get trapped into this predicament. But there is a way out. Use my tips. If you choose not to, at least you were warned. Because having that deer caught in headlights look could last as your impression on your face for quite some time. Or maybe even forever.

Tech Review: Blackberry Torch 9800

Blackberry has finally joined the smartphone party. That’s the best way to put the arrival of their newest smartphone, the Blackberry Torch 9800. Having had the Blackberry Bold 9000 previously, 3 of them in fact, since I’m really bad with phones, the Torch is a huge upgrade. Honestly, having the Bold 9000 was like being in the Stone Age. Having a touchscreen phone is really that big of a difference. As well, the Torch is more compact, slick, and comes in a nicer form factor (slider) than the Bold, which allows great functionality for both the touchscreen and the iconic Blackberry keyboard.  So thats a little preview. I suggest you take a look at what GSM Arena (top phone review site) had to say about the Torch here. Now onto my review, on what I like, what I don’t so much, and final conclusion.

What I like

The phone is sexy. How about starting there. With a curved shaped body the Torch is stylish, leaving the simple rectangle of the Iphone 4 way behind. In fact if I didnt have this Outter box case on my Torch, you would always be able to notice the smooth lines on this pretty device in all seasons. However phone protection is key. Smartphones don’t come cheap.

Moving on from the looks, the Torch really is a great meld of  keyboard/touch capabilities all in one device. Starting with the keyboard, for longer messaging it is a must. Trying to type really long messages by touch and with T9 prediction can be a disaster. But when you start to look at web browsing, that  is where you really see the advantages of touch.  Simply put, touch was made for web browsing. Being able to minimize or maximize images on your favourite websites gets you really involved on the web on such a tiny device. It’s cool and browsing on the Torch is an enjoyable experience because of touch.

Before phones were made to surf or text, they were made to answer calls. Reception is clear, probably due to the Rogers network but nonetheless no concerns when calls are placed, local or longdistance (best friend in TO remember?).

Finally, the new Blackberry operating system (OS) is a welcome addition. All the top smartphones, the Iphone 4 and Androids for example have their distinctive OS’s. Now Blackberry is no different with Blackberry 6 OS. It does a good job and makes the OS on the Bold 9000 look extremely dated. Probably the best and biggest improvement for Blackberry were changes in the OS. I know owners of Iphones and Androids who rave about their respective OS’s, as they should, but with Blackberry starting from such a behind position, you gotta give them two thumbs up for this improvement in this area with Blackberry 6.

What I don’t like

Things can get a little sluggy. What I mean is when you are navagating through your apps, menus, or going through playlists things can tend to get a bit slow. These are the types of concerns I had with the Bold 9000 as well. Since I have a lot of music and apps on the Torch this is probably why this is the case. Hope things are a little smoother in the next Blackberry.

Lack of apps. Some of the apps that I was able to get on my Bold 9000 , Yahoo Finance and RBC mobile, crucial for a guy like me, aren’t available on the Torch. Sent a tweet to @Blackberry about that. Got no response. I had to use the alternative Bloomberg Finance to track my stocks instead as a replacement. Still awaiting to get RBC mobile on the Torch. Developers get on it!

The charger can get fairly hot when you leave your phone charging for a long time.

Conclusions

The Blackberry Torch 9800 is an improvement over the Bold 9000 or any other Blackberry available. This alone should make you want it and having the touch incorporated with it seals it. It measures out great in all the things that are important: text messaging, browsing, and calling, while still having everyone’s favourite feature and probably the reason they get a Blackberry, BBM. Its slick, compact and stylish so no complaints there. Even different colours such as white and red are available. Overall, grab it if you need a dramatic upgrade and are a lover of the Blackberry brand. You’re missing out if you don’t!