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Your Amazing Brain

December 2, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Recently, I received a variation on an old email chain letter:


Here’s one of the originals:

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.” 

While it’s true that there was never a study at Cambridge or any other university that can be verified, the sentences are rather simple and it is another email hoax, it is amazing that our brain easily organizes the jumbled up letters.  Experts argue that this is not a real test of the mind as the patterns are predictable and reorganizing the letters of a word greatly slows down our reading speed.  Even so, it is still an amazing triumph of the human brain that it yearns to make sense of a topsy-turvy world and fill in any void.

Memory – We like to believe that our memory is accurate and cognitive.  We think of our memories as a sequential recording rather than a collage of experiences, but the collage is more correct.  Our brain despises an enigma and will go to great lengths to fill in the gaps when pieces are missing. In filling in the missing information, we are very susceptible to outside suggestions.  Partially or completely false memories can be formed that are as real as actual experiences.  For instance, eyewitness testimony is highly regarded by juries, but many studies have shown the vulnerability of memory especially in the presence of outside influences and long periods of time.  Memory is affected by telling the story again and again.  We tailor the story to our listeners and embellish for effect often so subtlety that we don’t even realize it.

Learning – If you have spent time with a three-year old, you have certainly been amazed at how human beings learn.  In three short years, they become masters of their universe and expert in analyzing the actions of adults.   There are many different learning styles. We all learned by the rote technique with alphabet flashcards and times tables, but we experience learning in many different ways.  We explore, evaluate, conclude and revise throughout our lives.  Sometimes unconstrained imagination gives us the greatest results, but other times conforming to convention works best. There are numerous models that attempt to combine our senses and intellect into a coherent basis for learning and each has merit.  Most important is to be a lifelong learner.  See wonder, explore and share just like a three-year old.

Perception – Perception is the brain function of understanding environment through sensory information.  It is reality as what we perceive in our mind’s eye can be as real as reality. In fact, our brain makes the world stable even while being bombarded with sensory input that would otherwise confuse us.  The modular structure of our brain allows our senses to feed each other without being overwhelmed which can cause a full or partial shutdown.

Self-Awareness – “I think, therefore I am” Descartes’ famous quote has become the definition of personal identity.  From the beginning, philosophers have mused over the concepts of existence, self and infinity.  You don’t have to be a philosopher, scholar or psychiatrist to understand self-awareness, we all experience it and observe it in our children.  It is a fascinating journey that continues to delight and baffle.

My three-year old granddaughter likes it when I say the wrong word to describe something.  She knows it’s a game.  Each time she patiently and enthusiastically corrects me with a laugh and a smile.  She doesn’t realize that she is using all of her amazing brain talents – she just thinks she’s having fun!

Share your comments or amazing brain stories and we’ll compare notes.

Social Media Tactics: Part 2

May 6, 2011

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]By Katie Sewell, TAG and Mary Hester, LAN Systems

social_media_tacticsThe second part of our tactics for social media includes LinkedIn and blogging.  LinkedIn is widely used by business professionals to promote their business and to job search.  It’s easy to set up  a personal and/or business LinkedIn page and you can keep it current using built in tools that won’t take too much of your time.

Upon creation of your LinkedIn profile, be sure to craft a flattering position summary for your company to promote.

Deciding how you will accept connections is important, as well. LION (LinkedIn Open Network) members connect to almost anyone that requests whether they know them or not. More conservative members only link to people they personally know. This is your choice and you can adjust your settings to share or hide your connections. There are many security settings that control how much or how little of your information is shared. If you are concerned about sharing information, start with very secure settings and adjust as needed.

On to business promotion:

  1. Create a company page with your logo, overview, specialties and statistics. Make sure current employees link to the page and that you have included your website.
  2. Look for groups to join that are of interest to your customers. There are many groups on LinkedIn that you can easily reach the 50 limit set by LinkedIn. Of course, you can join groups that are of personal interest, but if you are promoting your company the best groups will be those of interest to your customers.
  3. Create a group based on your subject matter expertise and promote to your contacts. It is best to approve new members rather than have an open access.
  4. Start group discussions and keep the conversation going. Some groups will be very active and others will need prodding. Be sure to monitor messages for appropriate content and spam. You can remove abusers.
  5. Look at the open Q&A discussions. Even if you choose not to participate, take a glance at the types of questions and answers that are being posted. You may want to experiment in this open forum before starting your own group. If you are (or want to be) a subject matter expert for your company, search this forum for questions to answer.

Blogging  – Choose the type of blog and your voice.  Try to be consistent in your post frequency and blog personality.  Remember what’s said on the Internet stays on the Internet!

  1. If you’re not ready to start your own blog, contribute to others.  This is an easy way to get started and test if you really want to be a blogger.
  2. Pick a schedule and try to stick with it.  If you have lots of demands on your time that are not blog-related, you may want to start with a monthly or weekly blog.  Entries can be informal or traditional depending upon your style and your business.
  3. Use your blog to point readers to your web site, Facebook or Twitter account.
  4. Try to engage your readers in a dialogue by encouraging comments and feedback. Respond to comments and questions quickly.  Many readers will not post comments, but will correspond with you privately.  If it starts as a private conversation, keep it that way unless both parties want to go public.

Hope that you have enjoyed our short series on Social Media. Please share your experiences, ideas and comments!

What hackers want

November 5, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Especially after someone has been the victim of a hacking attack, they want to know why. Hackers have many motives and trying to decipher their behavior is complicated. The classification of white hats, black hats, grey hats and such is an interesting attempt to legitimatize electronic spying and sabotage.  Perhaps there are “good hackers” that perform a valuable service, but most attacks are malicious in nature.  Generally, hackers want to take something from you, teach you a lesson or show their programming skills.

Taking something from you.  This can be financial information, social media login and password, your time or your peace of mind.  Many victims of infections that cause pop-ups with objectionable material are traumatized.  They often react like the victim of a physical crime.  Anyone that has been hit with difficult to remove malware knows that it can be time-consuming and expensive to remove the infection.

Teaching you a lesson.  Hacking may have started as practical jokes that exploited vulnerabilities for pleasure and recognition, but it has grown into an industry that steals billions of dollars of productivity each year. The pranks of today can cause great harm, intended or not.  A recent Twitter Prank illustrated how disruptive it can be to “play around” on the Internet. Some may find justification for causing disruption in that they are just exposing vulnerabilities, but it is harmful and illegal.  Malware is vandalism.

The best defense is a good offense.  Implement appropriate protections for your electronics.  Computer or cyber security takes many of its strategies from the physical world.  You use locks for your house and car.  You may have an alarm system, but the amount of protection is related to the value of the property.  For instance, Fort Knox has fences and armed guards that protect the fortress.  You should use the same strategy to protect your computer systems – the more valuable the information, the more you should invest in protection.

Vulnerabilities, Threats and Consequences (VTC).  Determine the assets to protect and then analyze the vulnerabilities, threats and consequences. Just like with your physical property, use your assessment of the risk to determine the protection. Start with a review of your firewall and make sure you have a good backup of your system.  Backups are an essential part of a disaster recovery plan and are especially economical if you ever have to restore.  Also, use a malware protector in addition to your spam and virus protection. You may want to double-up on the malware protection.  For many companies, enterprise level protection is essential.  Protection includes content filtering in addition to the essential spam, virus, spyware, adware and ransomware protection.

It is difficult to stay ahead of the hackers.  There are so many of them and they spend a great deal of time working on the next attack.  Certainly, if that effort was put to positive use, we would be on the way to solving world hunger.  But meanwhile, use practical computer measures to protect yourself, your company and your family.

If you have suggestions or comments, please contact me at:

October Puzzle – Math is for Everyone!

October 24, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]The Postmaster is trying to save money by reducing the number of stamps needed to send letters.

Postage for an item can be anything from 1 dollar to 15 dollars and you must use exact postage.

The new requirement is that you can attach a maximum of three stamps.

There are only three different denominations of stamps.  What are they?

On a scale of effortless to diabolical, this rates use your math brain!

Send your answer to  All correct answers will be entered in our monthly drawing.

Microsoft Office 2010: The best new features in Word

July 13, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]Word has become the standard for creating and formatting documents of all types from simple letters to documents with a table of contents, index and glossary. Word has made the task of creating and editing documents easy.  Tools like spell check and thesaurus have made us look smart and polished.  Thankfully, long gone are the days of typewriters, carbon paper and correction fluid.

Word 2010 has bold new features to enhance your document-formatting.  It also bundles mobile features so you can take your documents with you almost-anywhere.  With just a little practice, you can impress everyone with content-rich, visually compelling, professional documents for home, school or work. 

Add flair to your documents and get noticed!

Transform with photos – New and improved photo-editing tools let you transform pictures right in Word 2010 – no extra software needed. Change color saturation, temperature, brightness, and contrast to turn a simple Word document into a work of art.

Turn text into visual effects – Add more visual impact with enhanced text effects and SmartArt graphics. Change basic bullet-points into compelling visuals and add text effects like shadow, glow, reflection, and 3-D in just a few clicks. From Font, choose Text Effects and make your choice.

Work with anyone – anywhere, anytime

Easily co-author documents – Word 2010 redefines the way people can work together on one document. With co-authoring, you can edit at the same time as others, even if you’re working from different locations, and keep versions in sync with version control.

Access your information from more places – Microsoft Word Web App is an online companion to Microsoft Word that enables you to extend your Word experience to the browser. View a high fidelity version of your documents and make light edits as well. Access some of the same formatting and editing tools that are in Word 2010, and work in a familiar editing environment, from almost any computer with a Web browser.

Microsoft Word Mobile 2010 gives you a lightweight editor for your documents that’s especially designed for easy use on your Windows phone.

For more technical notes and information go to:

If you have any questions or need help with the instructions, email me at:

Jazz up your LinkedIn profile in 5 easy steps

June 1, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]If you are going to use your LinkedIn profile to promote yourself or your business, be sure you jazz it up a bit.  Make sure your content is informative and interesting and that you use the new features and tools to add color and content.

Even if you don’t want to spend much time on LinkedIn, try our 5 easy steps. They will give your profile depth and make you more interesting to your connections.

1) Make sure you profile is complete with present and previous positions, education, awards and specialties.

2) Give and request recommendations.  Write thoughtful recommendations for connections that point out an exceptional or unique circumstance or attribute. Don’t be shy, request recommendations from connections that will share your talents and achievements.

3) Add your Blog. Under More… go to Application Directory and add your Blog.  Use WordPress or Blog Link to display your Blog on your LinkedIn page.  You can show the recent posts or choose those that will be fed to LinkedIn. Blog Link will allow you to add blogs from your connections. If you don’t have a Blog, add your Tweets to LinkedIn.  If you don’t have Tweets, you better get with the social media program!

4) Put a couple of interesting books that you have read in your Reading List.  Choose books that are unique and distinctive to add depth to your online persona.  Books with lively covers will add colorful graphics to your profile.  Change your books periodically to keep it interesting.

5) Upload a presentation about you, your company or a topic you have presented. Use Google Presentation to upload or create presentations in .ppt format.  Google Apps  costs $50 per year there is a trial version available. But if you don’t want to buy anything, use Slideshare to upload up to three presentations – it’s free.

These are 5 easy steps to jazz up your LinkedIn profile. For more ideas, go to the LinkedIn Application Directory. Experiment with the other applications like Polls and Events.  If you don’t like the result, applications are easy to remove.

If you have questions or suggestions for other topics, please leave a comment or contact me at

For more technical tips, please visit our website:

Using newsletters to reach customers

May 4, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]Keeping in touch with customers is more than sending sales offers.  Good correspondence should include items that are of interest and benefit.  Be sure that the format is pleasing to your readers. Often less is more. Don’t clutter your newsletter with ads or marketing material.  Spend time to optimize your content and format so you get more readers that look forward to each issue.

Choose a format

Format is a personal choice, but be sure that you choose a format that is pleasing to your readers.  Depending on your industry and customer base, you may have long or short articles. There are many ways to test format, but be sure to test and modify.  You can test with a select group of customers or you could create several formats and see which one works the best.  Both of those strategies take time.  At a minimum, track the opens and clicks from each issue of your online newsletter. If you use a newsletter service, it is easy to get these metrics.

Layout – Carefully choose a layout that is attractive and suited to your readers. Putting your logo at the top and information about your company and offerings on the sidebar is a classic format.  You may want to experiment with some more daring themes, but once you choose a format stick with it so your readers will recognize each issue.  Newsletter format is branding.

Article length – The length of articles not only depends on the topic but your readers. If your readers are computer programmers and your article is about specifics of programming, you can write long informative articles that are well read.  If you write articles for business people, you have to quickly get to the point. For your online newsletter, use links so the reader can learn more about a topic. 

Testing length and content – Make sure that you are tracking clicks on the links.  This way you will know the link popularity by the number of clicks.  When a customer clicks on the link, you can track by email address and make a sales follow-up call.  But don’t tell the customer that you are calling because they clicked on a link.  That’s a sure way to turn off your prospect.

Use pictures and graphics – People like to look at pictures.  In each issue, be sure to include a couple of attractive pictures that match the content.  There are several royalty free sites where you can get pictures, illustrations and videos for a reasonable cost. 

Add Content

Use real news, tips and offers. Examples are: company and industry news, business tips and advice, money saving offers and announcement of new products. Don’t use filler, it will be obvious to your readers.  And once you start, you have to be consistent.  If you have a quarterly newsletter, be sure to publish it quarterly!

Company news – Give real information about what your company is doing for employees, customers and the community.  Press releases are valuable for promoting your company. Use the content created for press releases for your newsletters. Press releases are written in the third person, so be sure to change to first person narratives for newsletters.  First person articles are more personal and allow you to connect with customers. Be sure to include any events or activities that you are hosting. 

Industry news – Let your customers know about industry news that you find interesting.  This requires that you keep updated on what is going on in your industry.  Make sure the news is relevant. If it’s not informational, don’t use it.  

Business tips and advice – This is the most important content of your newsletter as it establishes you as the expert.  Use time-saving and money-saving tips that have step-by-step examples or specific case studies. For business advice, be clear and concise.  Give examples on how you have achieved benefits.  These types of articles can be used for your blog, technical notes or web page content.

Article reprint and guest contributors – These are easy ways to build content.  Be sure you have permission for reprints and that guest articles are relevant to your content.  Inviting guests to submit to your newsletter can be good for partnership building. 

Money saving offers – Use special offers in your newsletters that are really unique.  Offers should be a good value and relevant to your market.  Don’t use the same offer over and over. Make sure that the offer is targeted and special. You don’t have to include a special offer in each issue of your newsletter.

New products – Whether your own product or a partner product, add new products that help your customers be more efficient and productive.  In general, the case for products should have a value statement that shows how you can increase revenue or reduce costs.  Some products have a “cool” factor that you may want to include even if you can’t quantify the benefits.

Before you publish – proofread!

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