My Word of the Year: Focus

It’s resolution time again, that time when people decide to change themselves in some way because the date starts over at 1/1.

I never really did much with resolutions, choosing instead to find new beginnings at any time they strike.

In November, I rediscovered Christine Kane‘s post on choosing a word of the year which I agree feels like a better alternative to resolutions. As I read it, I thought about what my word might be. While trying to find a word that spoke to me I was distracted by some other task and perhaps an hour passed before I realized I had severely veered off topic.

That’s when it came to me: Focus.

The possibilities were exciting, though committing to it for a year seemed daunting. I decided to give it a try, a little usability test of sorts. Deciding to put it to use immediately, I changed the title of my web start page to “FOCUS!” as a helpful nudge. Now, a few weeks in to the trial, I can tell you why this word is working for me.

I tend not to remember things. I think, rather, it’s a product of not paying attention in the first place. If I don’t catch something when I first read or hear it, it’s useless to think I will remember it later. But if I tell myself to focus on being actively present in the moment, I will have a better chance at recalling that information later.

I have bad habits (don’t we all). Sometimes I shake my leg, much to my husband’s irritation. Sometimes I cross my arms in meetings or during conversations likely sending a nonverbal cue that I’m disinterested when really I’m just cold. Sometimes (ok, often) I hunch over my computer, causing myself back pain and the potential for future problems from poor posture. When I catch myself in any of these bad habits now, I tell myself to focus on correcting my behavior. At times I might have to remind myself repeatedly, but over time, I hope these reminders will develop new good habits.

I imagine “focus” will prove helpful in all sorts of ways like strengthening my relationships, avoiding procrastination, finishing one task before starting another, living consciously. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

On a side note, as I just focused on the ache in my neck, I remembered to stretch, thereby relieving the tension. Focus worked. And think of the potential behind “stretch.” Stretching abilities, knowledge, creativity, limits. Maybe that should be my next word.

For now I will focus on focus. One thing at a time. See? It’s working already.


Hire Alicia Please

So there’s this femme fatale named Alicia who is relocating to Boston. She is a friend of a friend whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting due to locale. But since my friend speaks of Alicia both often and highly, when I had the chance to follow her on Twitter, I thought it a good opportunity to learn more about her.

Today, Alicia tweeted this: “Playing around and exploring Google analytics for” Since I work in the web world, I’m always interested to see how others promote themselves on the web. I followed the aptly named link.

After spending a few short minutes on her site, I absolutely can’t wait to meet her someday. Why? Because I can ascertain her personality from those pages and she is dynamite. This is a person I would jump to work with were I properly located. Unfortunately, Jersey is a bit far from her wishes of employment in Boston.

Getting back to the web discussion, there are lessons to be learned from Alicia’s site.

  • Know your audience and speak to them. Alicia’s audience is quite obviously potential employers. She speaks directly to the information they want and need to know: what she does, where she is located, what experience she has, who recommends her, and why she is the right person.
  • Don’t just tell what you do, show what you do. Is Alicia a good writer? You bet she is. She doesn’t just tell us she’s a talented writer, she proves it with standout prose. She shows examples of her work. She lets others help paint the full picture.
  • Share your personality. As any good employer can tell you, it’s not just the experience, but the person behind the experience and whether that person will mesh with the rest of the team. Alicia leaves no doubts about her passion, energy, and confidence. Her personality is right there in plain sight.

Alicia has nailed usability with a site that is purposeful, smart, and sassy. Now will somebody please hire Alicia?

Christmas Displays

When I was younger I used to ask my parents every year if we could go for a drive to see Christmas lights. To my delight, they always obliged.

We would wind our way through neighboring communities oohing and aahing at bright, creative presentations of lights, nativities, Santas, and reindeer. I get just as excited about seeing Christmas decorations now.

While I haven’t gone for a drive specifically to look at lights this December, I have tried to enjoy displays I see throughout my daily travels.

Following are a few of my favorites. Consider it your own little Christmas display drive (without bundling up and pressing your nose against a car window).

Merry Christmas! May joy fill your hearts and your homes.

Giant reindeer at King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania

Giant reindeer at King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania

Decorations in New York Penn Station

Decorations in New York Penn Station

The Christmas tree in the lobby of the building where I work.

The Christmas tree in the lobby of the building where I work.

Our family Christmas tree

Our family Christmas tree

I Know Why the Chicken Crossed the Road

That’s right. I know why the chicken crossed the road. I witnessed it this weekend as traffic came to a halt on Main Street in my small town to allow said chicken to cross the road.

This poor chicken has had its motives questioned for quite some time while speculation has run amok.

A quick Google search produces a list of potential answers from well-known figures, including these:

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Mr. T: If you saw me coming you’d cross the road too!

In the days leading up to the election, I received a jesting email detailing politicians, authors, and television personalities that seem to have evaded the question, including:

SARAH PALIN: Before it got to the other side, I shot the chicken, cleaned and dressed it, and had chicken burgers for lunch.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

DR. SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I’ve not been told.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn’t that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart-warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

Even Wikipedia has an entry explaining why the joke is funny (because “its answer is expected to be funny, but is not”) and where it may have originated.

Since I witnessed this fabled event with my own eyes, I will now settle the debate. Why did the chicken cross the road? It was, in fact, to get to the other side.

I also happen to know what was on the other side. An auto body shop.

So the real question is why did the chicken go to the auto body shop?

Singing Salvation Army Guy

The singing Salvation Army guy

The singing Salvation Army guy

Last week while leaving the train station to start my trek in to the office, I was roused from my grogginess by a new experience.

On the stairs leading to street level, I was met with a Christmas song. As I tried to remember if I had ever heard music playing in the stairwell before, I realized there was no music, only a single male voice. At that point I categorized it as a street performer, likely using Christmas spirit to make some extra money.

When I reached the street, I found the source of the jolly tuneā€¦ the Salvation Army guy? He didn’t wield a bell. He didn’t wear a Santa hat. Instead he had a microphone hooked up to a portable speaker next to the trademark hanging red bucket.

In that moment, I was mentally transported from a mobbed train station to a winter wornderland. Though I forced myself not to sing along, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I have now caught several of his appearances featuring such timeless classics as The Christmas Song and White Christmas.

What a way to catch attention. May the bucket overfloweth.

I Never Thought I Would Find a Table Saw Interesting

There are many things that have come to be common place during my relatively short life which I never would have dreamed possible: laptop computers, cell phones, iPods (or more generically, mp3 players), and the Internet to name a few.

Carrying music with you, without carting around a zippered case of cassettes (yes, I said cassettes)? Calling home from an overnight trip without calling collect? What an upgrade from my teen years.

Imagine this: a table saw that recognizes the difference between a piece of wood and a human finger. As my grandma sometimes said, “who would have thunk it?”

Why is this so interesting to me? I have two reasons:

  1. When my husband was a teen, he had a mishap with a table saw in which he cut off all of his fingers on his left hand and part of his thumb. Thanks to great doctors he is more or less in tact these days. I mean, nine fingers are better than five, right?
  2. Consider the machination required to first recognize that something is amiss, then to stop a rapidly rotating saw blade and drop it out of the way before it does any harm. That is an impressive feat.

You can see this marvel in action in the video below. It was featured on a TV show called Time Warp on the Discovery channel. In case you haven’t heard of it, Time Warp is a fairly new show in which various activities are video taped with special high-definition slow motion cameras making for very clear slow motion imagery.

This saw may not be common place yet, but it is an incredible piece of machinery if you ask me. I, for one, never would have thunk it.

Locked Restrooms?

Lock on an office restroom door

Lock on an office restroom door

I borrowed work space from my husband’s small business today, perching at a vacant cubicle with my little laptop. Midway through the day, I asked him to show me where the restroom was. He led me through a short maze of hallways and pointed at a door with keypad on it. The door was locked.

Being that this was well within normal business hours and a number of other companies on the floor were operating as usual, I found this curious.

This particular restroom is on the second floor of an executive office building. There are no vagabonds wandering the halls, no Christmas shoppers passing by towing frantically dancing children in search of the nearest pit stop.

As near as I could tell, there wasn’t anything worthy of stealing inside the restroom, so I remain perplexed as to the reason for securing the facility. Suppose there were an emergency, how would one get in to check for people?

Lucky for me, a maintenance woman happened through and let me in. I have also been given the code for future visits, if needed.

Adding to the mystery, the men’s room apparently does not have a lock on it. Very curious indeed.

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