Tag Archives: Denver

Friends, Links and Twits

linksIt seems to me that these days there’s a whole lot of connecting going on. By now you understand that as a shallow person I don’t like to judge or make pronouncements about what’s good or bad, right or wrong. But there are simply times when something needs to be said and while I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade or seem like the proverbial party pooper, I am beginning to think that this whole social media “get together” thing is just a tad overrated and perhaps, getting a little out of hand. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m probably as connected as the next person (provided the “next person” isn’t your average 18 to 24 year old with 510 “FB friends”), with active accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn and yes, even Twitter. To tell the truth, there’s nothing I like more than sitting in my chair, looking at pictures of my friends’ travels to exotic places like Africa about two minutes after they take them, which sure beats having to sit through those interminably tedious “vacation travelogues” where the world travellers struggle to remember which lake provided the backdrop to the “most beautiful sunset they had ever seen” or whether the magnificent stained glass windows were in St. Pauls or Westminster Cathedrals, or possibly taken during a previous trip to Mexico. Besides, there’s nothing better than engaging in an online, challenging game of WWF with one of my “real” friends. Not to mention that I always post this blog to my FB page. So I guess I get Facebook.

But then there’s LinkedIn which is a horse of an entirely different colour and from where I sit, one of the busiest sites on the WWW.  I’m on it but unlike Facebook, I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing there. From what I understand this is supposed to be a more “professional” oriented social media space where I get to showcase the talents I have acquired over the many, many, (do I need to add another one of those?) years I have been working. Once I do that I “link” (get it) with others who, apparently, do something similar to what I do during my working days. They in turn link with others and together we grow a long list of people we know or, more accurately, might know. After that I can’t say I can tell you what happens because so far, nothing really has. Unless of course you think that having people who have a rather spurious knowledge of your accomplishments endorse the skills that you have attributed to, you guessed it, yourself, is something. I’m not sure that it is and yet I am there, with you, checking out your connections and, on occasion even endorsing your skills. Which is ok with me because, when push comes to shove, it’s not really all that intrusive and I can do all this from the comfort of (have I mentioned it?) my chair.

This may not be the case once a new technology I just read about gets off the ground because it takes connecting to a whole new level. Before I get into it I should tell you that I have pretty much perfected the art of making myself invisible in a crowd which, in my estimation at least, is a skill that I can legitimately be endorsed for. In fact, I’m so good at it that I can actually attend a five day, in person conference without anyone knowing I was ever there which is why this new app sends veritable shivers down my spine. What it purports to do is allow you to figure out which of your connections (yes your “friends” and “links” and probably your “twits” too) are actually in the room at the same time as you are. You heard me! No more hiding in the farthest corner or sprinting to the nearest exit when someone you really didn’t want to see comes your way. Mastering the art of, what I like to call, “eye contact avoidance” isn’t going to get you anywhere. There’s no getting away from them now. Those virtual friends of yours will be connecting with you in real time and real space because that app is going to let them know you are there. But what seems odd to me about this “whole new thing” is that if I had wanted to connect with someone I likely would have contacted them ahead of time and made arrangements to meet. And if I didn’t do that, well you get my point.

Next week Wade and I are off to St. Louis to speak at an eLearning conference. Funny story. We were walking down the streets of Denver trying to figure out where we were and this lovely, young woman approached us and offered to let us use her phone. After some chit chat she decided to join us for the evening’s activities. Turns out she organizes a conference for a group of eLearning professionals in Missouri and, after a while, mentioned that she would be needing some speakers at their upcoming event. Now we are on our way. And that, my friends, is what I call a great connection!

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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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Up in the Air

I travel a fair bit for both business and pleasure but as much as I like the “being there” I’m not quite as crazy about the “getting there”. There’s just something about being locked up for hours in a very large metal tube that is wholly dependent upon a multitude of computerized parts that I find disconcerting. It’s not that I really think space junk will fall from the heavens and hit us smack on the nose, it’s just that if it does it has occurred to me that I don’t know how to fly. And at 37,000 feet off the ground that’s not, as Martha likes to say, “a good thing”. Nonetheless, for much of my adult life I have ignored these rather inconvenient thoughts, pulled on my lucky jeans, said a few prayers and made my way to the airport. Oh yeah, and popped a little white pill.

You see for the past 20 years or so I have been reliant on “a little something to keep me calm” as I make my way across the big blue. Now I don’t really have a problem with altering my state of mind for this, and only this purpose. As a matter of fact, the first time I went to fill my newly acquired prescription at the pharmacy the conversation went something like this:

Pharmacist: So have you ever taken this medication before?
Me: No, I haven’t.
Pharmacist: Are you certain you need to take this?
Me: I’m only taking it to get on an airplane.
Pharmacist: Oh! That’s different! We all take it to get on an airplane. Have a good trip.

I’m not sure that made me feel a whole lot better but I took some solace in knowing I was not alone in my plight. And since that day, although things usually go well in the air, they sometimes fall apart at the far side as, depending on the length of the trip there are times when I am not quite my rational self when we land. And that’s when the problems start. Like the time I had to pick up a rental car in Vancouver and when told I had been allocated an Impala, which in retrospect I know to be a fine car, I leaned over the counter, looked the poor unsuspecting clerk in the eye and without even the hint of a smile said “nice try my man, but I like small foreign cars”. Or while unexpectedly grounded in Denver with nothing much to do but shop, I came to the rather expensive, as it turns out, conclusion that my next cup of coffee would taste much better in a $20.00 Ferrari mug and the cat would look smashing in a Harley-Davidson vest.

So a few months ago I made the rather courageous decision to fly “au naturel” without the assistance of any synthetic aides. Surely I thought, there are skills I have honed as a shallow person that could help me deal with this situation. And that’s when it came to me. Maybe this is the time to exploit my propensity for small talk, my uncanny ability to carry on a conversation about essentially everything and nothing because honestly, that’s what shallow people do most of the time. Want to talk about your kids? I’ve got some too. Interested in politics? How about that Obama! Going to university? I work at one. Don’t like flying? Boy, do I know how you feel!

And so it was that on my first foray into substance-free travel I was fortunate enough to sit beside a woman who not only had children attending university out of town (mine too, and can that ever get expensive!) in Ontario (hey, I used to live there) but was also employed by the same institution as I am (let’s see, who do you know?). And it worked. Four hours later as we touched down at our destination I realized that not once had I thought about the possibility that a bolt could come loose on the left wing causing it to fall off in mid-air. Of course there is no way of knowing who you’re going to get so you have to be flexible and roll with the punches. And since you may have to be the one that initiates the conversation take my advice and have a quick peek at Yahoo News just before you board.

Yes I know some people use their travel time to do a little work, lose themselves in a good book or just catch up on some well-deserved sleep. But the next time you find yourself sitting in the seat next to a “Chatty Cathy”, be kind. Because although they may not be as interested in you as they appear to be, you just might be their “little white pill”.

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