This is, sadly, a boon that will disappear when I go to grad school, but I’m really enjoying it right now. Whenever I turn in a paper – doesn’t matter what class it’s for – everybody is just so damned impressed. “It looks so professional and pretty.” “You must have spent way too many hours on that.”
No, I used LaTeX. I forced myself to learn it when I needed to do electronic submissions for a math-related class since the equation editor in Word is hell. It atrophied, but then I took a linguistics class and I probably spent a LOT less time on my papers simply because of the TIPA package for IPA. I’ve had a few error or difficulties in getting what I want to happen but overall it’s great. So overall I expend less effort than most of my peers (neglecting the effort it took to get used to it in the first place) and get papers that everybody gushes over just using the default article template or a slightly modified version (to meet margin requirements or whatever).
So what do you do that makes everybody positively impressed that has a really boring secret behind it?
Making graphs in R that look like xkcd (so far haven’t gotten to impress many, but I will…)
Any suggestions on how to learn LaTeX? How many hours did it take you until you felt competent?
Also - for me scatter and bubble charts (when used properly) will impress. It still amazes me that many people have never seen a scatter plot - for these type audiences it is best to do a 1d version before going two and then 3d.
It’s my secret super powers, of course.
Similar to the OP, the ability to create a flowchart in MSVisio and stick it into a Word document amazes those poor people who have only ever attempter to use Word’s own flowcharts (which seriously seem to get less flexible with every version).
My near professional quality dvd menus. Granted, the software was something like $800 bucks and it took me weeks to really learn how to use it, but it was worth every dime and hour spent.
I recently learned how to use Prezi. It blows people away.
I was a graphic designer prior to grad school and professorshipness. I can make docs, forms, and flyers look incredible with minimal effort.
My secret, on the occasions when it occurs, is that I have obsessed on it, often having thought of that exact solution independently and it only seeming spontaneous. In high school and once or twice in college this happened in academia, but today it mostly happens with puns. Now granted, they still don’t think my puns are funny, but listeners are sometimes impressed that I’m so quick with them (when I’ve really thought of them before.)
It’s always about having lots of practice. Back in college, when I took handwritten notes all day, my handwriting was so nice people often mistook it for computer printouts.
Alas, that atrophied reeeeeally fast after school was over.
I just learned about Prezi. A guest speaker in my class used it and I was very impressed. I need to learn how to do that!
I am told I am articulate. People seem impressed that I can speak extemporaneously in a clear, logical and articulate manner. I am often asked to be the spokesperson for a group or to be the one to broach administration with concerns that faculty have raised.
It’s not something I think about. It just seems to come easily for me.
People at work are always asking me technical info about stuff. I amaze them by coming up with good information in very short order.
I am able to do this because I am [del]a certifiable genius[/del] skilled at performing google searches. I know how to pick good key words, use quotes, use advanced search, etc. All of them seem clueless on how to perform effective google searches. I profit from their laziness and ignorance.
I learned how to write with a square-tipped pen. It turn ordinary handwriting into pseudo-calligraphy. I used to write the name tags on my Christmas gifts this way and everyone was impressed by the elegant appearance. They swore that I must have spent a lot of time on them.
Whenever I’m on a new tech support/admin contract, when they teach me how to do something, I write it down. Later I transfer it to a Notepad document, which gets stored in a folder on my c: drive. Whenever I have to do that thing again, I open the document and do what it says.
This, apparently, makes me a miracle worker. Not really sure why, but so long as they’re willing to keep paying me to do it, I’m good.
I also create subfolders in my Inbox, and rules to distribute incoming mail so that it gets grouped together in meaningful clumps, rather than just a huge flood of email. I usually have about 3 emails in my Inbox at any time; it’s just confusing to me to see other people’s inboxes and they have hundreds of unread emails…
Lots of times it’s easy to look impressive when all you’ve really done is stopped the bleeding and wiped up some of the blood.
When everyone else is just standing there, that’s enough to be impressive!
Practice, practice, practice!
In my case, I can and do make stumbling and outright face-planting not only look purposeful, but a graceful tumble back into an upright position, continuing on with what I was doing like nothing ever happened. I make my CATS jealous with this, and have had perfect strangers look around and ask if we were on camera. Of course, I’ve had decades of experience with weak ankles and general clumsiness, so it was ‘learn how to fall or be in pain for days’. I learned quick!
All you need to do is to know something, however trivial, that people around you don’t know. For instance, those whose only way of doing data analysis is using a spreadsheet find it miraculous that people can handle million line files easily with short Perl scripts.
Also, you get better at things and seem more impressive. After 16 years I can write a humorous 550 word column on anything, including things I know nothing about - and I can do it in a few days. It has let me keep my columnist job for the munificent salary of one free dinner a year.
I have a freakish memory for facts, have been trained to research like a fiend (librarian) and can BS like a motherfucker, either extemporaneously (good word, btw) verbally or in various professional written forms with just a few hours notice.
This has made me into a really impressive psuedo-genius, even among friends who ought to know me well enough to know better.
My secret? I dunno - I’m shameless?
I mention that I’ve kept a diary every day since December 25, 1962–the day I turned eight.
Five minutes a day for almost fifty years, and people’s jaws drop.