Sunday, March 14, 2010


Fallow [noun] (faa loh)
  1. Dormat
  2. Unused
The last word I would ever use to describe Austin is fallow. It is not idle; it is not inactive.  It is not unseeded or unused.  It is alive day and night.  The enthusiasm that exists on the streets around midnight is contagious - even when Daylight Savings steals away another hour of our rest in the next morning.
The only time I have felt fallow in this town is during conference panels - but that's a good thing.   While the city vibrates with energy and excess, I can sit in my panel on user experience or unplanning your business or using cartoons to find innovative and just ...  think.  And learn.  And - dare I say? - mellow?  

Instinctively, the (blurry) picture on top looks more exciting than the one below.  Instinctively, you're wrong - if this were the Neolithic era, that wild boar would have maimed you.  The left is equally exciting as the right, if not more.

Austin may be known for its active lifestyle, but the silent, quiet underbelly is just as appealing to this Green Mountain gal.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Wraith [noun] (rayth)

  1. A ghost or spector
  2. A ghost of a living person seen just before his or her death
When death knocks upon one's door, it is said that that person may appear to those most important to them in life as a wraith.  To wish them farewell, to bid them warning, to whisper secrets that had always meant to be shared but somehow laid dormant: These are things those on deathbed come to tell the living.

These are also things one's luggage would tell its owner as an apparition before it disappeared from the airplane cargo - swept into that world the airlines call "lost baggage."

As I flew into Austin, Texas on Thursday evening, I hoped beyond hope not to receive a vision of my dear Maurice (AKA the China bag the size of Vermont).  I had seen Maurice board the plane to O'Hare by chance, but through the next 4 hours, not a single vision was spotted.  This could only be good news, as I feel Maurice would try to contact me if he were to be forgotten on the tarmack.  
Upon descending into the baggage claim area, a parade of baggage floated through my mind's eye.  Beneath the guitar-dazzled carousel, black, blue, yellow, Army, beige, and pink bags flew by and then, suddenly, there was Maurice - not his wraith but the mesh-and-thread reality.
Maurice made it to Austin.  I made it to Austin.   Time to unpack and enjoy the show.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Wily [adj] (wie lee)

  1. Clever
  2. Deceptive
Not feeling wily today - working away from work is proving to more difficult than initally imagined.

Where's an ACME bow and arrow/100-ton weight/rocket-powered bicycle when you need one?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sycophant [noun] (sih kuh fuhnt)

  1. A self-serving flatterer; a yes-man
I need a sycophant by my side when I pack.  While I swim amongst piles of shirts, shoes, toothbrushes (yes, you need more than one), chargers, powerstrips, books, and reservation print-outs, there are few things I want to hear more than, "You're doing well, kid."  
Even if I'm not.  
No need to worry- I'll figure out that I'm sinking into a bottomless pit of "over-sized baggage" (read: lots and lots of money) sooner or later.   Later if you tell me I'm doing it wrong and I feel a need to be right; sooner if you applaud my efforts, commend my folding technique, and listen silently to my diatribe about whether the floral print Wellies have more merit than the zebra pumps.
As a result of a rather patient sycophant, I have once again managed to pack my entire life into two pieces of luggage in preparation for a journey to South by Southwest.  It's a long trip from packing to conference, but worth it.  

Right? (Your response should be in the affirmative, FYI)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Erratic [adj] (ih raat ihk)
  1. Wandering and unpredictable
Time for a little lesson in erratic behavior:
Lesson one: Make sure it makes no sense.  
Lesson two: Never make sure it makes no sense. 
Lesson three: Ignore lessons one and two and make this instead:  Take one part Cool Whip and stir in two parts chocolate sauce  - preferably Fair Trade.  Enjoy the almost-mousse.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Sully [verb] (suh lee)
  1. To tarnish
  2. To taint
Does it sully the act of blogging to force yourself to blog?  When you come home late, hungry, tired, and generally lacking the creative spark, does the act of crushing thoughts into a keyboard for the sake of the act tarnish the purity of having a web log?

I wonder this as I continue my New Year's experiment - 365 Words, 365 Days.  Some days, I stare at this screen for minutes on end thinking, "What am I suppose to say?"  Occasionally inspiration strikes but more often than not I fake inspiration - "Oh, I had a salad for lunch.  Salad is crunchy.  So is snow - let's write about snowball fights!"  It's a sad, sad process, but it is mine.
Unless, of course, you'd like to take it on?  
In the end, I feel horrible crushing thoughts to the screen - but once I do it, I feel relieved.  I'm not sullying the blogging process - the art of self-reflection with a silent crowd - as much as I am perpetuating that process.  Blogging is not simple; it is a discipline, like any other. 
So, in that regard, let the tarnishing continue.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Lavish [adj] (laa vish)

  1. Extremely generous or extravegent
  2. To give unsparingly
Sticky notes are not a lavish office supply.  In fact, one could argue that little yellow pieces of paper with a touch of adhesive on one side are one of the least extravagant things one could find in one's desk.
Sticky notes are not lavish - but there are things that serve the same purpose that are much less lavish  than they.

Take hands, for example. 

I write everything on my hand.  Reminders, phone numbers, my to-do list.  I do so with Sharpies or ballpoint pens - nothing too sharp or too light - and scrub my hands daily to erase my fleshy equivalent to a whiteboard.

"... but, why?  Ever heard of a sticky note?" they ask with a latent smirk on their faces.  Almost on a daily basis.

Yes.  Yes, I have heard of a sticky note.  But sticky notes, counter to their name, do not stick to me.  The ideas I write down on them drift away like so many leaves on the wind.  And, quite literally, the note itself disappears, whether it be in a pile, under shoe, or  attached to someone else's notebook.  
My hand, on the other ... well, hand, does not disappear and, as such, does not allow for me to forget.   One glance down and I remember to call the doctor, e-mail a reminder, or pick up Fluffy at the vet.

[Full disclosure: Fluffy is fictitious.]

Perhaps the next big office supply will be that which we all have: hands.

Or, you know, not.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Latent [adj] (lay tnt)
  1. Potential that is not readily apparent
On occasion, latent potential reveals itself without assistance.  And, on occasion, it takes a creative engineering team, $150,000 from a large insurance company, and 60 takes to bring that potential to life.  

Friday, March 5, 2010


Eulogy [noun] (yoo luh jee)

  1. Speech in praise of someone
While holding open car doors, packing up church flowers, and warming up the hearse, I've often heard family members, friends, and mourners wish they could be at their own funeral just so they could hear their eulogy.  

As a former funeral attendant, I find this to be an ... unfortunate desire. 
I've heard a number of eulogies in my time: some short, some long; some funny, some heartbreaking; some uttered in conspiratorial tones for those in-the-know, some pushed through sobs, tissues, and snot.  Most speeches are glowing - highlighting the best aspects of the person as if a postmortem halo will magically appear over all the darker, sneakier, and self-serving acts in that person's life.  But that's to be expected - we're taught to never speak ill of the dead.
As if those six-feet under would die all over again to hear a negative word uttered about their former existence.   But, perhaps, the opposite would be truer  - they'd die to hear nothing but the positive. 
It is that consideration that makes me cringe when hearing mourners wish to listen in on their own eulogies - because what they would hear is neither about the person they were or even the life others thought they lived.  What they would hear is a Sainthood that never existed; perfection that can only exist in death.

If I heard nothing but my praises, in my semi-zombie-ghost-possessed-angelic state, I would think, "Well, I guess no one really knew me at all."

And that is no way to start an afterlife. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Repast [noun] (rih paast)
  1. Meal or meal time
Noting the number of Girl Scouts I have seen stationed around malls, events, and polling stations in the last week, I feel it is my duty to remind everyone that cookies are not a repast.
Cookies with milk, however, are a completely different animal.  Meal.  Whatever.  


Zenith [noun] (zee nihth)
  1. The point of culmination 
  2. Peak
The word "bandwidth" needs to reach its zenith sooner than later.   

"But do you have the bandwidth?"
"I'm not sure if my bandwidth can support it."
"I have the bandwidth."
"Good, I'll meet up with you after so our bandwidths will be in sync."

I'll be frank: My bandwidth for bandwidth is shrinking at an exponential rate. 
Until I started to work with MBAs, I never heard of "bandwidth" in any other light other than a rate of data transfer for computers.  Then I heard the piece of business jargon - meant to describe the resources needed to complete a task - tossed around the conference room and I thought, "What a niftry phrase!  I shall use it daily and call it mine.  And I will braid its hair and paint its nail and we'll gossip on the phone all night long..." 

[That last bit might be a lie.  Or a half truth.  You decide.]

I took up the "bandwidth" mantel with vigor, but now I am putting it back down.  But more so, I am putting it down, placing it on the curb, getting into my car, running it over, backing up and repeating until all that's left of that word is "and."
[I like "and" - it's a useful conjunction.]
Overused pieces of jargon - like bandwidth - need to be shelved for the sanity of the workforce.  Or, more specifically, my sanity.  If I respond to a question like, "Can you work on that?" with "Yes, I have the time." and receive a retort of "And bandwidth?" it's likely I will collapse in a heap of disgruntlement.  A twitchy heap of disgruntlement.   A twitchy heap of disgruntlement with absolutely no time, resources, or energy to do anything but mutter about bandwidth.  
No one wants to see that.
Help the working population: Have yourself purged of bandwidth.  

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Ingratiate [verb] (ihn gray shee ayt)
  1. To gain favor with another by deliberate effort
  2. To seek to please somebody so as to gain an advantage
When bloggers share content made by others - specifically companies - on their blogs, it's of little doubt they're doing so in an attempt to ingratiate.

Perhaps they post the media because they legitimately like it or perhaps they have an agenda behind the action, but either way, it's an intelligent move.  With Google Alerts proliferating the marketing departments of many a corporation, the chance of someone at the company seeing the entry is substantial.  And, heck,  if a company can provide something to the (occasionally) open and echoing space that is a blog and please an audience, than why not re-purpose it?

By my own conclusion, by sharing a favorite Old Spice commercial with the Blogosphere, one may assume I'm angling for something.

In this case, I'm not - I just like it.

But, if I found myself suddenly in possession of a half-dozen or so Old Spice products to share with my XY-chromosome compadres, I wouldn't complain.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Legerdemain [nout] (lehj uhr duh mayn)
  1. Trickery

I was never very good a legerdemain, particularly when done with the explicit purpose of entertaining others.  A deck of cards, a few cups with a ball, a multicolored scarf - all props intended to supply an easy dose of amusement with a few motions, a wave of the wand, and a magic word.  Simple to learn; simple to execute.

Or so they said.

I recall a night spent trying to teach kids how to do a card trick when I was no more than tot myself.  Volunteering for the event had seemed like such a good deed, but when confronted with my inability to master the trick ("Was it the ace in front or the 8?"), my choice now seemed like a voluntary trip to purgatory.  Barely held back from the stage by their fatigued parents, the crowded room of pixie-stick laden elementary school children waited impatiently for the magician to perform the trick and quickly turned their hungry eyes towards the helpers - at me.

Imagine a herd of wildebeests coming at you.   Now imagine you having to teach those wildebeests how to tapdance and you don't even have the right tap shoes.  Then picture the wildebeests picking up the steps on their own and looking at you as a lion would.

Welcome to my evening.

To say the least, I didn't master my legerdemain that evening, or even the next.  But I worked on it  and one day, I did it.  I made the trick work.

Houdini I may not be, but for a moment, at least I had found my tap shoes.