Tag Archives: conference

Food is Food

Washing machineSo I know you have been waiting with bated breath to find out how things went in Denver and I thought I would use this space to fill you in. First, and I’m going to come right out and say this because it’s my blog and I can say what I want to, it seems to me that the right guy won. Second, the whole “birthday away from home” thing went better than expected with lots of people buying me drinks and making quite the fuss but most importantly, reacting with disbelief when I told them the milestone I have reached. I know! I don’t believe it either! And last but certainly not least, I learned some more stuff at the conference. And here’s a tidbit I would like to share with you.

On the last day of the conference I decided to go to a talk on how to make engaging presentations. Having attended numerous other sessions over the first few days I wondered to myself why this particular topic hadn’t been scheduled much earlier in the program however I figured it was better late than never and entered the room. Now please don’t misunderstand. If I have to say so myself (and sometimes I do) I am a pretty awesome presenter but I also know that there is always room for improvement so I listened intently to what our speaker had to say. While there were lots of good tips and tricks provided the one that really stuck with me was her suggestion that in order to create a connection with your audience it is important to share something personal to help people get to know you. In essence, you want to make yourself “real” to those who have taken the time to listen. And as she said that I thought, maybe that’s what I need to do on the blog. Maybe I haven’t become “real” enough to my readers. And so today I want to tell you something about myself that you may not already know. Here it is.

My one and only household responsibility is doing the laundry and I’m really good at it. Every Sunday you will find me and the cat in the basement sorting clothes into neat piles of colours, whites and delicates. I know what goes in the dryer and what needs to be hung up to dry. I know exactly how much clothing I can safely add to a load and how it needs to be distributed in the washing machine to prevent it from sounding like a mild earthquake is taking place in my basement during the spin cycle. I have detergents for regular washes, detergents for delicates and detergents for keeping black clothes black. I have fabric softener. I check pockets carefully to ensure there is no homework left behind. I will admit that very occasionally I discover, after the fact of course, that I missed finding a tissue that lay in some deep recess of someone’s clothing and when it happens it is enough to put me into just a little bit of a funk for the rest of the day. Most often however all goes well and there are no serious incidents to be reported. And that’s all that I do around the house. I don’t clean and I don’t cook because there are other people who do that for me. Which is a good thing. And here’s why.

I’ll start by telling you that the cleaning part is not the real issue. I’m a pretty good cleaner when I have to be but I just don’t like it. So best to let someone else take care of that. It’s the cooking that really becomes problematic because, as a shallow person I have for some time held on to the somewhat admittedly draconian belief that “food is food”. If someone cooks it for me, I’ll eat it. Because I have to. To me the whole concept of  eating is rather utilitarian and not something to be fussed over. I mean if a little cheese and crackers will do the trick, well get out the cutting board and make some. If it’s greens you need, chop up a lettuce, add a couple of carrots and you’re done. If it’s a lack of fibre that’s got you down, eat some bread. And in this house that’s how we would all be eating if it was left up to me. And that’s why it isn’t.

I know it’s hard for you to believe that someone like myself, someone who is otherwise so sophisticated and discerning, would feel this way about food so perhaps to alleviate some of your dissonance I should let you know that there are a few things I don’t like. For example, butterscotch always seems to give me a headache, and I have developed a distinct and surprisingly ferocious dislike of coconut which perplexes me a little because it wasn’t always this way. Not to mention that rather deadly MSG allergy I need to contend with. And it’s not like I don’t eat good things. Why just the other night I had an opportunity to sample “duck fat fries” and not long before that a rather pleasant helping of “fish in a bag” which, for those of you who don’t know, consisted of gulf fish, caramelized onions, fennel and crab fat  all steamed in a parchment bag creating a rather delicate and delightful sauce. And I eat sushi for lunch at least once a week. And while it’s all good, to me it’s still just food that does one thing. It fills me up when I’m hungry. And no one wants someone who feels this way about food cooking for them.

So that’s why I don’t cook. And that’s why you’ll find me in the basement on Sunday doing what I’m good at. And with any luck, my sharing of this otherwise little known personal tidbit about myself has made me feel just a little bit more “real” to you.

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The Big Day

By now you will note that my customary “Sunday” post has this week moved to Tuesday. That’s because days like today don’t come around that often and I wanted to celebrate, and to share my thoughts with you on this rather auspicious occasion. There’s an excitement in the air that you can feel, almost touch, as the anticipation builds with a new optimism for what’s to come.  Today we look forward to resurrecting possibilities, and once again to the promise of hope and change. Because on this day our dreams are rekindled and we believe in a brighter future, one that is being reconstructed with new ideas and new potential. It’s time to stop peering through the rear-view mirror on what has been, and to begin to focus on what can and will be. There has been much fanfare leading up to this event, so much that I am hoping for all of our sakes that the outcome is not anticlimactic. And while I know that for some this day, like any other day, may bring more disappointment than joy, more sadness than happiness, more tears than laughter, as the evening falls upon us let’s all raise a glass to new hope, new beginnings and to good times for the coming years.

Yes, November 6, 2012 is a big day because (are you ready?) it’s my birthday! Happy Birthday to me! For those of you who know me well you are aware of just how big a day this is. For those of you who do not, may I remind you that ignorance is indeed bliss. In either case please rest assured in knowing that I love having birthdays if only because the alternative is not all that appealing to me.

And now I am off to a conference in Denver where 5 to 6 thousand people will have the chance to celebrate my birthday with me.  Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I’ll probably drop by the local pub tonight to see who’s going to be the next President of the USofA because I guess this is going to be a big day for one of those guys too.

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Things I learned at the Conference

Just back from a hot time in the “Big Easy” and I mean that in the most literal way. Boy, was it hot! It’s been more than thirty years since I have lived in a humid climate and I was painfully reminded of why I left. The oppressive heat hits like a brick each and every time you walk outside while the blast of cold air as you enter the always over air-conditioned buildings sends shivers up your spine. You change your clothes multiple times each day knowing that after a few short minutes outside you will feel the need to change them again. Although you have every intention to drink in all the sights, sounds and smells of this truly amazing city, you find yourself longing for the comfort of your hotel room, a cold drink and some rest for your tired and blistered feet. And while you would think that together these harsh realities would be enough for me to find myself craving the cool, dry air of my prairie/mountain town, none of it holds a candle to the real reason for my discontent. No, the truth of it is, the most distressing part of my stay in the deep south was my inability, no matter how hard I tried, to maintain my naturally curly locks in the manner to which they and I have become accustomed. I’m afraid there is no product, no appliance, no amount of effort that would allow me to recreate the no fuss, straight bob I so enjoy when I am north of the 49th. And that, my friends, is possibly the most important thing I learned at the conference. Indulge me while I reflect on some others.

Things I learned at the conference in New Orleans:

  1. Vegan food is only meant to be eaten by vegans.
  2. When visiting Youngwood, PA drop by TGI Fridays but be on the look-out for long, pointy things. (Thanks to Annette for the tip.)
  3. Got a bookshelf to fill? Try using the colour block method of selection. Your room will look great, you can buy in bulk for less than 2 bucks each, and you may even find a good read among the bunch.
  4. Quote from a presentation: “Starbucks is more than coffee; Amazon is more than books; iTunes is more than music.” Wait, I tried the smoothie at Starbucks. Take my advice and stick with the coffee.
  5. Who would have imagined that talking to a 17-year-old kid from Flint, Michigan would be the highlight of my three days among the eLearning elite. Okay, so that’s not such a stretch after all.
  6. 1600 sorority women at your hotel, all dressed in blue and yellow, is not “a good thing”.
  7. Some of the toughest looking people are really nice and some of the nicest looking ones are not.
  8. Apparently there are still people who don’t know the difference between SWAG and chotskies so I’ll explain. SWAG is good. Chotskies, not so much.
  9. While southern hospitality is divine, my hair and I will always have a strong preference for the west coast.
  10. What’s so magical about the number 10 anyway?
  11. Even a shallow person knows that there’s no such thing as a “free drink”.

Oh, you thought I was going to talk about the sessions? Come on people! Have you not been reading this blog?

While I’m here I’d like to give a “shout-out” to designer extrodinaire Wade, for the nifty new logo.  Let me know what you think.


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You don’t say!

Since I am currently on my way to a conference and facing the “goes without saying” obligation to network, I thought this would be an appropriate time to introduce one of the key skills I have cultivated as a shallow person. Wait, perhaps I should take a step back and admit that this one characteristic, which I have spent many an hour perfecting, has perhaps done more to cement my status as a shallow person than almost anything else I have done. I can confidently say that mastering this skill has served me well in a multitude of situations I have encountered over the years. I know you are wondering what in heaven’s name I am talking about so let me explain.

As I see it, no matter how hard we try, in everyone’s life there comes a time when it is necessary to engage with people we have no real interest in. Now I may be shallow but for the most part I like to appear to be a decent human being. That doesn’t always come easy so I have developed a mechanism by which I am able to appease both others and myself as I make my way through the maze of unavoidable interactions. Some of these are simple encounters; it’s summer and you’re out gardening and you know your neighbor is going to come over to talk about your current crop of dandelions and how you might try getting rid of them and you really have no intention of ever doing so. Others are more complicated; like when a person that you vaguely recognize walks up to you and starts talking about your kids, job and mother-in-law and you are pretty sure that given the depth of their knowledge you must know them but can’t recall how or why or, at this particular moment, even their name. And then there is the apex of all encounters, the conference, where there is more than a little expectation that you will meet, greet and not only have conversations but intellectual ones with people you have only known for moments and more than likely will never set eyes on again, and all you really want to do is sample the hor d’oeuvres and hightail it back to your hotel room.

So how does a person such as myself navigate through a world of social obligations without losing their identity? In the shallow vernacular we like to call our technique “feigning interest” and while I am sure it is not unique to our world I think it is fair for us to take credit for openly recognizing and naming this most useful of all skills. Yes it’s true, I have perfected this art and without further adieu I’d like to share these tricks of the trade with you.

Feigning Interest “how to’s”:

  1. It’s back to the mirror (remember Forgetting…it’s an art) to practice your “I’m excited to see you and make you think I want to learn more about you” smile.
  2. At the same time you’re going to need to acquire a complete set of verbal and nonverbal social cues. You might want to start with: “uh huh”, “yep”, “you don’t say!”, a cute little chuckle, and a knowing nod of the head.
  3. Those verbal cues work especially well when the interaction takes place on the telephone. Used right, you should be able to get oodles of work done with minimal interruptions.
  4. When faced with someone whose identity has eluded your memory you’re going to need a believable greeting . Try, “Long time, no see” or if you suspect you may have bumped into them more recently go with “So how’s it going?” even though you have no idea what “it” is.
  5. Prepare some generic questions that can be used in most every encounter. Be careful though as a wrong turn here may cause you to appear more interested than you actually are, resulting in a prolonged and completely meaningless conversation. You will never get that time back.
  6. If you have to network at a conference, always keep your eyes open for someone you vaguely know, gesture them over while mentioning how much they know about whatever it is you are talking about, enthusiastically introduce them to your new friend and then quickly excuse yourself leaving the two to carry on without you. Consider it a win-win.
  7. Always have an exit strategy in your back pocket. You can prepare some closing remarks in advance or feel free to use this tried and true favourite of mine, “This has been great and I’m really sorry I have to scadoodle. Let’s do lunch sometime”. Word of caution: Some people will take this to heart and actually try to call you for lunch. Unless you are a glutton for punishment you better have a contingency plan for that as well.

As with all things worth doing, this too will take some time to do well. My advice is to stick with it and it won’t be long before you too can enjoy the advantages of uninvested engagement.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that my dear friend Kev (remember Kev? The shallow guy I had lunch with for all those years) helped me to elucidate the aforementioned steps. This is the first time we have worked together on the blog and, as usual we laughed until we cried . And, of course, we talked a little:

Me: So Kev, looks like we did pretty good with this one.
Kev: Yep.
Me: Maybe we could do this again sometime.
Kev: Uh huh.
Me: You know now that we have actually worked together I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that while we are equally shallow I just might be the nicer one in this duo.
Kev: You don’t say!


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