Houston, We Have A Challenge*

low fruit

In modern tymes, it is difficult to avoid corporate jargon invented by management smoothies who write books. This invasive lexicon trickles down via Meetings and Presentations to people that have not read the books. Like a parasite, it penetrates each Host and rewires his brain, implanting annoying phrases and replacing perfectly good words with bogus ones, such as “utilize” for “use,” and “impact” (as a verb) for “affect.” A “platform” is always “robust” — when a number of other adjectives would suffice. A “problem,” apparently a dirty word, is reduced to a “challenge.”

I’m not sure why corporate language is grating, but it makes my friends insane. I suppose it’s because the speakers of this terrible language are parroting management smoothies — instead of using their brains – because they think it sounds more sophisticated. Yes, that’s what it is. Dumb, over-repeated phrases are Downloaded, Integrated, and Utilized by the speaker to sound more articulate or techy.

Thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope, and being on the same page, now 20 years old, cease to amuse. But the newer ones, often hyphenated, remain rich. The white space. Multi-tiered. Value-added. Portal-based. Drill down. Impactfulness. Granular.

BINGO Tech-industry-buzzword-bingo1Hilariously, a founder of Silicon Graphics invented Buzzword Bingo, to be played surreptitiously at meetings where it is likely that speakers will deploy buzzwords or arcane business concepts rather than supplying actual information. Bingo card squares come pre-loaded with corporate jargon, and you get a dot each time some silly lingo on your card is spoken in the meeting. The various ways to announce that one has achieved BINGO are mouth-watering. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such a meeting, mercifully, but I’d suggest alternate mischief wherein contestants randomly combine buzzwords in nonsensical ways to jar deeply tranquilized meeting-goers out of their fog, e.g., “Drilling down to multi-tiered value-addedness was impactful,” or “His low-hanging fruit is right in my wheelhouse.”

The Corporate BS Generator, a fun online pastime, takes 2 “corporate” adjectives and randomly pairs them with a noun. Synergistic, results-based solutions. Top-down, client-driven transparency. Go ahead, make your own. What’s more fun than spewing twaddle?

I asked some of the brilliant cynics I call friends for their most despised terms. Their choices:

From CT: Alignment – when all divisions of an “enterprise” need to buy office furniture in the official corporate color palette. Branding – see above regarding the color palette. Re-branding – new colors.

From VT: Silos (not the farms). Organic (not the food). Cross-pollination (not the bees).

From NY: Reaching Out – “I thought I’d reach out” rather than “I’m contacting you.” Disintermediation – eliminating the middle man. Multi-sourcing – code for outsourcing. Business Development – a.k.a Sales. Market Development – a.k.a. Marketing.

It makes me wax nostalgic about another form of invasive language, one I welcomed as Host, probably because I was an unsuspecting child at the time. It remains a part of us. Yes, television advertising.

Wessonality. Certs with Retsyn®. Figurines (“Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch.”) “I’m Rula Lenska.” (Alberto V05). Kind of wow, kind of now (Charlie!). “She conked out, but her hair held up,” (Final Net). “…and my dress is vivid red,” (RCA). I miss the flagrantly untrue, now-illegal product claims (Mark Eden’s “bust enhancement”) as I miss TV in general back then, when snow shoes were always falling out of closets, people were routinely shot out of cannons, and “the old switcheroo” prevailed.

For good or bad, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Now TV shows are based on doctored “reality,” and the ads are all for prescription medicines (“side effects may include new body hair, sleepwalking, swollen tongue…”), or class-action lawsuits (“Were you or a loved one exposed to…THIS?”). Just as Fab detergent had an intoxicating secret ingredient (lemon-freshened Borax), today the power of suggestion secretly leads us by the hand to litigation and a cascade of daily pills. Well, at least the car commercials remain. A comfort. Until they start driving themselves.

cannonLet’s face it. Sometimes a problem is not a challenge; it is a bloody problem. It may not be fun or solvable. I had so many “challenges” outside my “sphere of influence” recently that in the ocean I was momentarily afraid of my own shadow — thought it was some kind of ray, poised for attack. My advice: when the going gets that rough, get yourself on a robust platform that can withstand the weight of a cannon, get a cannon, climb inside it, ask someone to spark that baby up, and just get the hell out of there. Good day.

 

*This title written before Harvey hit Houston.

** Cannon photo credit and interesting column here.

The Froth of July

OarSometimes I hear about people following their Bliss, Mainly I see people struggling to manage their time between their jobs and home lives. Which begs the Seinfeldian question, “Who are these people … who have time for bliss?”

I’ll be a on a date where we part at sunset – to go back to work. Our parents did not do this. Holidays, weekends, while making dinner or getting dressed for work … we’re answering work calls and email. If you’re an on-call neurosurgeon, okay. Most of us are not. In New England you see elderly workers, who cannot retire, in physical jobs. Where’s their bliss? Their feet hurt. My grandmothers worked only because they wanted to.

There are few chunks of time off for working stiffs. With puny or nonexistent raises, there is no disposable income to vacation – or to pay helpers (to clean, babysit, shovel, mow), that could free up that elusive little minx, time. The self-employed Vermonters I know work 7 days a week just trying to keep it afloat.

Our “free” time is gobbled up by work, social media and, sometimes, compensatory overparenting. Vermonters who’d rather support local businesses order goods online instead because they have neither cash nor time for local shops. Despite a screwed-up economy with gross inequity of wealth distribution, it’s not money that’s often the issue, it’s time. Retirees and people living off of other people, and those rare birds that live for their jobs, they have time for bliss. Not that I begrudge them that.

Ryan Seacrest, when 20 years ago a funny DJ in Cali, said on air once (I paraphrase): “I thought the weekend was supposed to be for fun. Basically you’re just trying to catch up on everything you didn’t get done during the week.” This was 20 years ago.

I remember summers as a young child. Lazily swinging on a tire swing, at the pool with friends, with cousins in Vermont, household chores, but often lost in rumination, reading, or bored. Kids today aren’t bored. They are whisked from appointment to appointment, Snapchatting feverishly in between. No time for tire swing. No time for deep thots.

Boredom has merits! It means time to imagine (what might be) and review the past (what happened). Social media, alternatively, has algorithms that withhold your incoming new followers then deluges you with them all at once — to make you feel good … to flood your reward circuitry and hook you. My tire swing never did that. Bottlenecked the fun, to affect my neural wiring in a way advantageous to the tire.

But God Bless America; the Fourth fell on a Tuesday this year. A 4-day weekend! I hope yours was fraught with burgers, water sports, sun, mayo, time, and the lifting of nothing more taxing than a fork, paddle, or leash – and that you could hear the Vermont Symphony Orchestra cranking out the 1812 Overture’s timpani, which can and must be felt by the people of the Land, even as it depicts Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s French army, not the U. S. victory over Britain but hey.

Back to the future. Sure, modern tymes have advantages! You can’t touch Al Gore’s Internet for convenience and kicks. And that iPhone secretary, Siri. “Siri, find a driving range near me.” “Here are driving ranges near you.” Wow. Of course, I never have Location Services on because I’m the OP (old people) wary of surveillance … evil forces tracking us … unlike the YPs who don’t seem to care … so I can’t ask Siri to find stuff near me because she doesn’t know where I am. (Good!) Yet it’s a modern option that’s there for me. I turned Siri into a male a week ago (in, naturally, Settings) because I wanted a man working for me, but he was bland. I’ll try the Australian version. Keith Urban working for me. Yeah, Baby (rather, “Bye-by”). I’ll have to learn his vowels.

Alas, also in modern tymes, low-water-use washing machines, as my sister noted, do not clean your clothes. When the indicator says six minutes remaining, it’s like football minutes in the 4th quarter. Also: you can’t sit on closed toilet seat lids; they’re too flimsy now. Not that I’m complaining.

mayoWith malevolent algorithms, diabolical surveillance, dirty clothes, misleading time indicators, buckling toilet lids, little free time, and way too much mayo, in July people are frothing at the mouth, forced to meditate the hell out of themselves. After work I recline, plug in my headphones and select something promising from a meditation app (Insight Timer). I’m asleep in five. I’m not meditating, true, but I’m not panicking watching the news either. Religious services can be meditative. I don’t hear the prayer words or scripture sometimes, but I am thinking deep thots, like why do humans worldwide kiss and why do we super like to watch others kissing, or how a friend offhandedly described his son’s friend’s mother as “drunken Catholic awesome.” Not that I’m condoning anything.

Movies in VTModern tymes, oof. Try to tune out the noise. Eat something health-giving, then do something life-giving, rest, go to the actual movies, laugh. This is one short summer, bye-by, and you need to recharge to face yet more modern tymes come fall. And, taking the longer view, one day you won’t be in an office chair, you’ll be in far more permanent furniture. So fill what remains of summer with fun and peace. Mop your brow. De-froth your kisser and plant one on a creature you love. Not that you asked. Good day.

Procrastination’s Destination

easter tableDear Reader, I‘ve done it again. It’s gorgeous outside and everyone is strolling or gardening and I’m inside. Doing my taxes. At the last minute.

Generally, it seems, humans love to get away with something. Like when my mommy would say I could have “a couple” cookies and I’d take three. A friend still has a stapler from our first job together 30 years ago, technically white collar crime; I’m pretty sure her family would have given her a stapler had she asked. Tax advisors to corporate giants find secret, magical tax loopholes, and their clients are rolling themselves in wallpaper paste and 100-dollar bills, having gleefully denied Uncle Sam his due.

My current scam is the Substitute Task System. Say, I’m supposed to write my column. I don’t feel like it, so I scrub the tub. It’s productive but it feels like I’m getting away with something. Later, when I am to vacuum, I’ll sort a drawer. Write birthday cards? Clean the dashboard with a toothpick. All less of a yawner because they’re not the thing I’m supposed to be doing. Then, when I’m supposed to do my taxes, I’ll write my column. You get the picture. By not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m doing something measurably less pleasant, I think I’m getting away with something. Delicious.

Back to taxes. Why do I put this off? Because every year I can’t find some document, or I think the accountant is going to ask me for a document I don’t have and I’ll never get through to the people that can get me the document, lost in an endless loop of recorded phone options (“Press 9 to hear these options again”) as the grains of sand cascade hopelessly through the hourglass’s waist.

Or: kindly people at the library, paid by God, are helping me at no cost in a super lean year. They examine my documents and murmur softly, “Uh oh. She has to file a 27-K19…” because of some 75-cent “dividend” I got in a way I don’t understand. They can’t find the 27-K19 form and the good citizens on line behind me begin melting as their kids circle the library in a frenzy. A hole starts opening in the floor and through the smoke I can see the gates of Hell and I’m going down. I am a bad person. I’m unprepared. I never got rid of the thing producing a 75-cent dividend requiring a 27-K19. I’m inconveniencing the hard-working Americans on line behind me. Run.

Weirdly, I’m not by nature a procrastinator. I dislike putting things off. I could never understand college friends concocting cockamamie excuses to get an extension on a paper – why prolong the agony? An inveterate list-maker, little gives me more satisfaction than (a) lining tasks up and (b) knocking them down. Saturday morning is my favorite. A whole DAY to check items off the list. Brilliant!

TurboTaxBut filing taxes is simply, for many, an odyssey fraught with peril. One wrong move and it’s Hefty Fine City plus Audited For Life. I’ve done my taxes last-minute in all ways: on paper with an instruction booklet, via affordable accountant, via pricey accountant avec late filing fee (his idea), via kindly people paid by God to help those in a super lean year, by phone (before Al Gore invented the Internet), and with TurboTax (after Al Gore invented the Internet). My suggestion: TurboTax. Start it, ignore it for a few days, and they’ll halve the price to lure you back. Score.

That lucky reward aside, procrastination is ultimately unsatisfying because you’re not getting away with something. In the end, it has to get done. All the sweating and hair pulling and the crying and the bloodletting wreak yet again their senseless damage when you could easily have dealt with things earlier during a blizzard instead, and gone frolicking outdoors with everyone else on a gorgeous Palm Sunday.

StyxCould it, Dear Reader, have been gorgeous that earlier weekend, and a snowstorm this? No, it could not. Mother Nature collaborates with God at tax time to punish human laggards for dillydallying. Hades is the only stop on this terrible annual journey across the River Styx aboard the S.S. Procrastination. It’s not a local, it’s an express. The doors will not open until the last stop and you cannot get off and you know exactly where you’re headed and it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you got on board. Good day.

HOT TIP FROM A LOCAL:  A tax-prep service apparently accessible to 70% of Americans, but only 2% use it because no one knows about it: irs.gov/freefile.

Erin Go Braless Revisited

I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.

But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.

A Taste of the Tropics in Winter

jellyThe advantage of being friendly out in the world, aside from generally vexing your friends, family and boyfriends, is that you learn a whole lotta interesting stories and facts wherever you go.

This from a hotel’s front desk clerk: she saw a box of guavas on sale at such a price that she couldn’t possibly turn them down. But what do ya do with that many guavas? Boil ’em down, of course. Five hours later, a jelly like no other. And the color!

Thank you, Cindy. Enjoy your nor’easter.

Last-minute Oscar Viewing?

lionHigh time for a shared visual experience, always a delicacy.

I saw several Oscar contenders and I suggest:

Lion, Hidden Figures, Jackie, LalaLand, Manchester by the Sea,  more or less in that order. If you don’t want dire, go Figures or Lala. If you hate musicals, skip Lala, tho it’s an unconventional one. I missed Moonlight and Fences, alas, so I can’t factor them in.  This Lion poster is misleading, in my opinion.

See you…at the movies! Report in as able.

Two K-cup Waste Alternatives

Since Keurig was bought by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006, the K-cup waste issue has been a long and local one. Here are two alternatives that work. Aside from, obviously, not using them at all.

Problem is, many workplaces have this as the only coffee maker. And I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most re-gifted items ever. People get one as a gift, re-wrap it, pass it on, and on and on, until it finally makes its way to someone who says, “Okay.”

First, if you’ve got a bunch of K-cups you already bought, you can cut the lids off with this little baby and recycle the plastic housings. Not perfect, because recycling is a dirty, energy-consuming process. The recycle a cup® , available all over the place, is fun to use:

recycle-a-cup

Second and better, the reusable  Solofill Cup® vastly improves the “coffee cage” that had in past incarnations brewed a terrible cup of coffee. Available all over the place. Brew on.

solo-fill

 

Sign, Sign, Another Week of Signs

p2Another week, another protest. This one against the “non-ban.” Alt-facts and the temporary lift of the “non-ban” aside, Winooski gathered for the smallest, proudest protest of the Land, held in the center of its infamous rotary. Even the sun participated.

True fact: the Burlington area is famously refugee-friendly, has been for decades. That’s Vermont for you. First in so many things, including outlawing slavery, allowing blacks and women into its (first in the nation) private military college, first state college, and of course the first rope tow. Let’s not forget: first in civil unions. Yay, ‘mont!

Here’s some more signs, mostly last-minute, with heart.

 

 

Be Counted if You Marched!

img_4655Concord, NH clocking in. If Daniel Webster doesn’t know how to rock a Pussy Hat, I don’t know who does.

Click here  to report where you marched via text or email. Be counted!

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