Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Stay tuned for the next topic:

The 'Follow the Money' approach to organizational consulting.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

A Promise to Myself

If I ever again feel tempted by the extravagant claims on the covers of self-help books, I will turn away. To free associate, this genre's salient descriptors seem to include: maudlin, lugubrious, platiudinous, formulaic, artless, drek. I wasted about an hour and a half on a 'self help' book this afternoon, which I now regret. Contrary to the claims of the publisher, it was a complete bummer--encouraging readers to wallow endlessly in their 'pain' so they can be freed from it. The question is: does the 'implosion' theory of 'personal growth' (e.g., if you want to be free of something, go farther into it) hold water? This n=1 study (sample size: me) suggests "no."

By contrast, I spent one particularly bleak Thanksgiving vacation during my junior year in college reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. When I finished, I cried like a baby for two straight days. The book was poignant--beautiful, sad, and uplifting. My tears notwithstanding, I felt wonderful after reading it. Many years later, I can still feel the lesson.

From now on, I think I'll stick with fiction.

Words and Music

Summertime......we had a tiny taste of it today and hope to have a lot more, soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Reunion Oblivion, Part III: The Denouement

By the time I picked up my daughter, I was ready to ditch the $100 I had paid for my spouse and I to attend the class dinner. I just wanted to go home, get in bed, and pull the covers over my head. I consoled myself with a large snack and a nap.

Feeling much revived, I headed off with my husband to the class dinner. It was a good move. Held in the lovely new performing arts center, the ambience was low key; I saw people I knew (more or less-as introverted as I was in college, I didn't know very many people well); and the food was outstanding. Also plentiful. This went quite far in resolving my earlier crabbiness.

I saw very, very few people who resembled Dick Cheney. Also, given that Swarthmore was once known as "the little red schoolhouse," I found not one single person who admired, or could even abide, Mr. Cheney and his 'posse.' So in that regard it was a homecoming of sorts, certainly a case of "all's well that ends well."

With that, I must return to my 'day job,' which I cannot afford to forget even though I might like to at this particular moment.

Reunion Oblivion II

Finally, I saw a few people I recognized and who recognized me. One Fred Wasserman (now a curator in NYC) was kind enough to give me a leftover nectarine and that, combined with a stale pretzel, kept me from fainting dead away. (Geez, this is really melodramatic.)

At some point during the 'entry process,' I remembered that when I had attended the Jonathan R. Lax Conference on Entrepreneurship, my laptop had detected a wireless network that I was unable to access. So, hoping that being an alumnus might give me a teensy weensy bit of pull, I went to the front desk and asked for the network name and password. (Yes--I brought my laptop to my college reunion. No comments on this topic are solicited or will be accepted.)

The front desk didn't seem to know (!) and sent me over to the library. There I discovered, lo and behold, about 5 different wireless networks, including an open one, upon which ran about 50 servers. "This is great," I thought, before realizing that the thrill was in the chase and that having gone on-line, there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to do there. With my daughter playing at a friend's in the town of Swarthmore, I was stuck there until 4:00 pm. So I sat by myself looking out the library window at the rain......just like I did so many times as a student. I tried to take a nap, but the armchair had pointy arms so it was sort of painful.

To top it all off, I was so busy staring out the window in an anomic state that I actually forgot to attend the one event that held any interest for me: a panel discussion entitled "What did you do during the bubble, Mommy/Daddy?"....Because I was so busy putzing around trying to get into a bunch of wireless networks for no particular reason.

Reunion Oblivion

In the context of college life, "oblivion" often connotes intoxication, mischief, and mayhem--in short, fun. However, my entry into the 'reunion experience' conformed to the more conventional definition of the word. Per Webster's:

Oblivion: 1. the fact or condition of forgetting or having forgotten; especially : the condition of being oblivious 2. the condition or state of being forgotten or unknown.

Just to set the scene, it was about 57 degrees Fahrenheit and pouring down rain. It was raining so hard that driving there, I could barely see and the windshield of my car kept fogging up. Upon arrival, I learned that the 'luncheon' would take place in the field house (lunch in a gym, just what I always dreamed of!), about a fifteen minute (read: cold, rainy, miserable) walk from the main campus. Also, it had been constructed as a test of one's ability to plan ahead (I flunked). Unless you had ordered your solitary sandwich about a month in advance, you couldn't get anything to eat for any amount of money. Access to the line was strictly policed.

Did I mention that at first I barely recognized anyone, and that no one recognized me? As I--freezing, wet, hungry, and very cranky--looked on, my classmates huddled around two rickety tables (for warmth, no doubt). I thought to myself "This is horrible. What am I doing here? At least as a student I was warm and got to eat lunch."

Monday, June 09, 2003

My College Reunion

As mentioned, I went to Swarthmore College. Despite the idyllic setting, the place is an intellectual pressure cooker of the first order. Having gotten decent grades in high school despite an almost total lack of effort, I assumed college would be more of the same. I could not have been more wrong. I have never felt as stupid as I did during my freshman year at Swarthmore. It's bad enough being a geek, but being a not-particularly-bright geek is pure humiliation. Such was my lot.

Fortunately I got the hang of the academics early in year three, so the stupidity 'thing' began to fade. However, I continued to be a slightly overweight, maladroit introvert. This did not begin to change until well into graduate school. All of this is a long way of saying I didn't feel too worried going back to my reunion, did not feel compelled to go on a diet, etc. etc. because given my general state at the time, the only way to go was up!

Slightly unnerving, however, was the invitation, which implied that as a group, we were likely to occupy the dumpy/frumpy end of the personal sleekness scale. I immediately took the opportunity to inform my reunion chair that I have never, ever, not even on the worst day of my entire life, looked like Dick Cheney.

PC Forum, Day 3

The earlier claim about my wonderful memory turns out to have been more wishful thinking than reality. I just re-read my notes, and can make few connections between them and a visceral memory of much of anything. But I need closure. Thus, for your edification, a few snippets:

The social software panel was, to be perfectly honest, less interesting than I had hoped. Some of the panelists were interesting, but some struck me as a bit arrogant. Somehow that seems antithetical to the notion of social software, but then again, people often pursue things that reflect more personal dilemmas, who am I to judge?

Two new companies, Meetup and Socialtext, had created web-based services that seemed simple and smart. I am going to pilot Socialtext on one of my projects, which is about connecting social systems and computing systems to facilitate a more organic (and presumably more effective) approach to IT strategy and systems implementation. I'll let you know how it goes.

One of the products, nTAG, was just plain frightening. Essentially, it is a name tag that is supposed to facilitate conversation by locating similarities between people so they don't have to poke around until they find something to talk about. It just struck me as a product developed for people who are socially inept in the extreme. Simultaneously funny and pathetic. Not that there is anything wrong with social ineptitude........having spent at least a decade that way myself, I am again in no position to judge--only to commiserate.

Apparently nTAG was developed at MIT. During the presentation, I thought to myself: "There are only two places where such a product is needed: MIT and Swarthmore College" (The latter is my undergraduate alma mater, the complete antithesis of the 'party school.')

....and this permits me to drift on to the next topic.