Portugal Travel Log: Part 1, Lisbon and Coimbra

Generally I travel on short notice and with little planning. For me, aimlessly wandering secreted urban streets and directionless forest paths is the true appeal of travel. Metered hours in an unknown landscape leaves little time for the majesty of the unexpected. It was in this spirit that I set out for Portugal, with dreams of old-world charms ripe for exploration. Visiting the hub of new world discovery as one of my first European forays added to the appeal.

Elegant residences line the streets around the Baixa Pombalina (or Pombaline Lower Town), rebuilt following the devastating 1755 earthquakeElegant residences line the streets around the Baixa Pombalina (or Pombaline Lower Town), rebuilt following the devastating 1755 earthquake

My itinerary was, perhaps, rather ambitious: three cities, one of them the metropolis of Lisbon, in a scant five days. Alas, the timing was beyond my control, so smooth traveling was subject to capricious winds of fate. Fortunately, Portugal boasts something all too lacking from my past travels: a first-world transportation system. While not France’s TGV or Japan’s Shinkansen lines, Portugal’s aptly named Comboios de Portugal (Portuguese Trains) is an easy, if leisurely, way to traverse the country without risking life and limb on the nation’s precarious roadways.

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Five Lessons from the Success of the Nintendo Wii

Humanizing Gaming - The Nintendo WiiAlthough I have never been a big fan of console gaming, it has nonetheless been interesting to watch the latest crop of consoles come to market. What really struck me is, even though I don’t intend to buy any of these consoles, I found myself hoping the Nintendo’s Wii would be the big winner. It is certainly not the most powerful, I’ve heard griping about the graphics and the better reviewed games are generally not in genres that interest me. Yet, despite this, I wanted the plucky little upstart to be win the day over the leviathan Sony and Microsoft’s entrants.

Why? Probably because it seems the most “human” of the three. I could easily imagine Nintendo developers actually having fun designing and testing the system. At Sony and Microsoft I could imagine, at best, nameless engineers spending long hours wringing one more frame per second out of the hardware – heat/power-consumption/cost/gameplay be damned.

For this reason, it was fascinating to read an extensive set of interviews with the system’s designers and developers, all on the Wii’s home page. It is an absorbing look into the creative process at one of the most clever companies out there.

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Tips for giving a good presentation

Here are some key tips for giving a presentation (as shared with me by my manager at work). Some of these may seem obvious at first, but once you start pulling material together they are easy to ignore.

  • Main points are stronger when the audience can both hear and see it. This is especially true when you are talking about something abstract, such as a technical issue many people may not be familiar with.
  • It is important to first connect with the audience, to get them to understand why they should listen to you. Tell them what is in this for them but also begin with some interaction, asking them questions, getting their input.
  • A good rule of thumb is that, when speaking, you lose people every two minutes. So, it is important to come back and say, perhaps only implicitly, why this is important to them. This is especially true when they don’t know the subject or the relevance may not be clear.
  • Bring them back with, “and this is a lesson for all of us” for example.
  • Encourage participation, ask them for their ideas when you are finishing up. Invite them into the presentation, invoke their participation.

And, lastly:

  • If possible, test your presentation (if you are using Powerpoint/Keynote/etc) on the computer or broadcast system you will be using for the actual presentation. This is important, particularly for video conferences since some designs and colors may not show properly to all those connected (for example, yellow won’t show up).