8.29.2010

Long weekend

My hypothesis is that the perceived length of a weekend is directly proportional to the number of activities accomplished during said weekend.

In English: Busy weekends feel longer.

So this weekend, I:
  • had a beer with co-workers
  • attended a bonfire with friends
  • watched TV with Mr. W
  • drove to Columbus
  • got a pedicure with my mother
  • ate lunch at a nice little pub
  • attended a wedding
  • drove to pick up my brother-in-law for the reception
  • shook what my mama gave me at said reception
  • ate a leisurely breakfast on our host's patio
  • drove my mother back to Cincinnati
  • met friends at Head First
  • adjourned to Dickmann's for wings and cornhole
  • drove to Eastgate for True Blood fun
Next weekend is three days (Labor Day, doncha know)! I hope it feels as long as this one did.

8.23.2010

Twitter, in slightly more than 140 characters

My sister posted to Twitter a while ago:



Six months later, she has more than 11 followers!

... She has 19 followers.

So I figured I'd post a few basic things I've learned about how to use Twitter effectively if you are a person and not a company or brand.

(Note that when I say "use Twitter effectively," I don't mean "get lots of followers." If you want followers, go on a reality TV show. These tips are for using Twitter to build relationships with your followers, no matter how small their numbers. The best tweeters I know think of Twitter as "that place where all my friends hang out," not "that place where I have 1,300 followers.")


- Have something to say. Twitter has a rep along the lines of, "Why would I want to know when someone I've barely met is eating a sandwich?" Well, yeah, you wouldn't - unless what that person has to say about the sandwich is really interesting. This "what I'm eating" tweet of mine got some responses (and Facebook likes), so it's probably a passable example:



That's a better spin than "ice cream for lunch ;-)" - right? Here are a few examples of Twitter superstars making everyday stuff interesting:





When you sign into Twitter, you're asked, "What's happening?" When you ask yourself this question, make sure you add: "... and why should anyone else care?" I love Twitter because it's forced me to distill and clarify my writing into a very small space, while still making it interesting. It's a fun challenge for a writer, but it's one that anyone can rise to.

- Start with people you know. Family, friends, your favorite co-workers: These are the people who will constitute your follower base. Follow them, and make a note of whom they seem to be tweeting with. If those people seem cool, follow them as well. Think of Twitter as a tool for expanding your circle of friends.

- Follow locals (or those who share your interests). I doubt Cincinnati is unique in this respect - we have a huge base of awesome, engaged Twitter users devoted to exploring and promoting the city. If you want to learn more about cool restaurants or fun things to do in your town, follow your local food bloggers (@winemedineme) or social butterflies (@mojojacob). If you're tweeting about your city as well, this group will embrace you. (If, like my sister, you live in Columbus, I recommend my friend @ShelleyMann, editor of the Columbus Alive arts weekly.)

You can do something similar with shared interests or hobbies - but please do not be one of those people who does a daily search for "Paramore" and starts following everyone who shows up. If you're involved in an online community or a fandom, by all means, reach out to its members on Twitter so you can connect in a new way.


And here is the big one, the real key to Twitter - I dropped out and nearly deleted my account before I figured this one out.

- Use the reply button. Without the engagement of replies, Twitter is just a bunch of narcissistic shouting into the ether. If someone's tweet makes you think, reply and tell them! (You can also retweet them, but use the retweet button sparingly lest your followers think you have nothing original to say.)

I told my sister this once, and she said she felt like it would be rude or stalker-ish to reply to someone she didn't know. Heck no! I judge my success with Twitter not by how many followers I have, but by how many replies and retweets I get each day. All the people I've mentioned in this post so far have Twitter feeds that are just crammed full of replies, and many power users (myself included) have an unofficial policy to only follow back people who reply to them.

Reply. Reply early and often. Replies beget other replies. Replies turn into conversation, which then turn into virtual and even in-person friendships.


That's me with Katy and Laura, two Twitter pals whom I now occasionally hang out with in real life. And I'm on the outskirts of local Twitter society; I know other people who get together with their tweeps just about every day.

Hope this helps you understand Twitter a little more! Oh, and one more tip:

- You can follow celebrities if you want, but don't expect them to reply to you. There are only a few celebs on Twitter who actually reply to their fans, and they tend to be of a cultish, geeky sort. We're talking, say, @ZacharyLevi or @wilw-level geeky, and they will @ or RT you only if you are intensely funny or pithy. If you sign up for Twitter because you want a direct line to @OGOchoCinco, you will be severely disappointed.

8.19.2010

Thursday

My kitty has never really photographed well. She always looks crabby.


But a few weeks ago, I must have caught her in a good mood or some good light or something, because I got some total glamour shots. In celebration of this fact (and in recognition of how much I like 5chw4r7z's "Sid Saturdays"), I'm reinstating the Thursday Open Thread so I can show her off.

(Can you reinstate a feature that you've only posted one installment of? These are the questions that keep me up at night.)

8.14.2010

Ride with the Devil

The best part of going to see Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World last night actually occurred before the movie.

We were sitting in the darkened theater watching the previews, and a trailer came on for some sort of horror-y-suspense-ish-thriller-type flick. There were some people who got stuck in an elevator, and for some reason they couldn't get out and rescuers couldn't get in, and strange stuff was starting to happen to them and they didn't know who was behind it ...

And suddenly, I realized what movie trailer we were watching. And I knew exactly what was about to happen - not in the trailer, but out here in the theater.

Not a moment too soon. A split second later, the screen flashed the words: "From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan." And - exactly the way it's been happening in movie theaters all across the country - the entire audience groaned in unison, realized everyone else in the theater was groaning, and started laughing. At the end of the trailer, a few people even applauded (I like to think they were saluting the audience's good taste).

It was awesome. We as an audience would go on to watch Scott Pilgrim and formulate opinions of it ranging from "rocks" to "sucks," from "perfectly envisioned love letter to the source material" to "ugh, why did they change the final battle so much?"

But for 45 seconds or so, we were all on the same side. We were all fighting the Devil.

8.11.2010

BFF: a comedy in two acts


ACT I.

By the time Stacie, Chele and I pile into the car to hit Chipotle before True Blood comes on, I've made at least three cracks about Stacie and tried to put her in a headlock while she ran around the living room. ("Get off me!" she yelled. "It's like you're a weak midget trying to bring me down!")

As the car backs down the driveway, I say, "You know, I was thinking this week about how I try to be nice to everyone -"

"Whatever - you're not nice to me!" Stacie retorts.

"That's what I'm saying," I continue. "I try to be nice to everyone, but there are only a select few people I'm mean to. That's how you know I like you."

Amazingly, no one compares me to a 12-year-old boy.

----

ACT II.

True Blood has become a Sunday ritual at the McKissick home, and besides Chele, Stacie, and myself, three people show up this week for our regularly scheduled dose of camp and gore: Corrie, Alicia, and Cati. Cati brings with her a bag of produce she picked up for me at the farmer's market (including a cantaloupe that I've dubbed "the magic melon." It is seriously the listening-to-the-Shins-in-a-doctor's-office-waiting-room of fruit), and I exclaim over its delights before the show.

After the show and a few comments on how our old friends Anna Paquin's breasts are back after a short hiatus, we rise to leave. I ready my farmer's market bag for departure.

We're chatting just inside the door when Stacie looks at me and says, "Did you forget your farmer's market bag?"

I did! I race to the kitchen for it, and when I return, Corrie is exclaiming, "How did you know that, Stacie?"

"Corrie," she replies, "Kelly and I have been friends since junior high. I just know these things."

8.08.2010

Board breaking, addendum

After the board breaking was over, National Training wrapped and I reported back to the office to help with our big warehouse sale. My partner was a warehouse staffer named Dawn, and as we boxed up products and printed receipts, she told me about an idea she had.

It was brilliant! I ran back to Cubicle Alley to tell someone before the idea evaporated. 15 minutes later, I returned to tell Dawn I had checked with some people and everyone thought it was a great idea.

Dawn beamed. "No one's ever told me I had a good idea before!"

So much better than breaking a board.

8.07.2010

Sometimes, the board breaks you

(Alternate title: "How a Board Brought Me Down a Peg.")

-----



"I don't know what to write on my board!"

In half an hour, my first National Training would be over. Our annual three-day training event always closes out with "Breaking Through," a session where you actually break an inch-thick board as a metaphor for what's holding you back in life. On the side that's facing you, you write a fear, an obstacle, or something else negative that you want to get past. On the other side, you write your goal.

I knew it was coming, and all week the question "What should I write on my board?" had flitted through the back of my mind. Now it was time. I had listened to everything speaker Brian Biro* had said - but I still hadn't decided.

(*Small tangent: Can I just say how impressive a speaker Biro is? Every now and then, you'll see a speaker who starts out the session by having everyone stand up, stretch, and shake themselves out a little, "so you're not falling asleep when I give you the speech." Biro, on the other hand, has constructed an entire presentation around physical exercises to build the energy in the room - his thesis is basically that energy breeds success, in business and in life, and it's one I completely subscribe to. At one point, he asked people to think of someone they know who always seems filled with energy; I hoped a few of my friends at work were thinking of me.)

What could I write on that board? Kari, who had broken a one last year and was taking us through the session, grabbed a small plank off a chair and wrote "FAILURE" on it in big letters. "This is what I wrote last year," she said.

I wasn't at all afraid of failure. In my core, I knew I could do anything I set my mind to. I ran a half marathon, dammit! Still, it was something to write, at least. I grabbed a promising-looking board and wrote "FAILURE" on one side.

The other side, where you write your goals, was easier. I wrote "LEADERSHIP" on that side, and when Biro asked us to make a dedication, I added "for Mr. W,"* because he's always encouraged me to recognize that I have what it takes in that arena.

(*Almost immediately, I decided that the phrasing of my board was awkward and that I should think of some other way of writing it, prompting Ellen to remark that maybe I should put "second-guessing myself" as an obstacle. That's not second-guessing - that's editing!)

So, I was all ready to break my board - but the presentation kept going. I started to get anxious. Earlier, I had told Bob I would work the room with him for video of the presentation - him with the camera, me with the microphone. How could I be standing here, ready to selfishly break a board for no reason other than I thought it would be cool, when I had made a promise to help someone else out?

... I picked up my board again, crossed out "FAILURE," and wrote, "DISAPPOINTING OTHERS." Now that's a fear I can relate to.

Finally, it was time to start breaking. I posed in the stance I had learned, with my dominant hand back in my armpit and my other hand in front of me in a "stop" position. Sweet! I was going to be a ninja! I had no fear of failure. I knew I was going to break that board!

Until I thrust my hand forward - and felt it meet solid, unyielding wood.

Shit. All of a sudden, I had plenty of fear of failure.

I dropped my arms and looked at Kari, who was holding my board. "It didn't break," I said. "It was supposed to break for me on the first try."

Kari said, "That's OK! Let's try again!"

No, you don't understand, I wanted to say. It was supposed to break for me. I succeed at everything I put my mind to. Everything. And that means breaking this board on the first try.

But I didn't. Instead, I reset my position and tried again.

And again I failed.

My hand was stinging. I knew that participants who failed five times were sent up to the stage to have Biro help them break their boards personally, and now I was 40 percent of the way there. "Don't make me go up on stage!" I begged Kari.

"You don't have to go on stage," she assured me. I readied myself for the third try. Nearby, Jessica and Ellen chanted, "Kel-ly! Kel-ly! Kel-ly!" I was grateful, but would have preferred a quiet room where I could have attacked the board on my own.

Possibly with a chainsaw. You know, if one happened to be available.

I failed a third time. "Maybe we need to take a break," Kari said. I was trembling. By now, I was supposed to be halfway across the room, interviewing women who had just broken through their fears and felt the exhilaration of sudden, extraordinary success. Instead, here I was, failing over and over in a way I didn't consider possible before this. (And it was taking way too long - I had a job to do, dammit!)

On the fourth try - finally, miraculously - the board gave way. Relief and gratitude flooded through me, and I grabbed Kari and hugged her for dear life. Then I cheered on Jessica and Ellen as they broke their boards (no, neither of them on the first try, either), picked up my microphone, and went - still shaking slightly - to do my job.



As far as I could tell, my fourth hit wasn't much different from my previous three. I have no idea why it should have caused the board to break that time and not the others. I can only assume that Kari picked up a tip last year - something about how to hold the board or maybe a way to push it towards me at the last second so that our combined force causes it to break - that made my attempt a teensy bit more effective. I don't know what she did, but I thanked her for being there for me about 12 times throughout the evening.

I don't think anyone else in the room reacted the way I did to the board breaking. For all the other women, the crucial moment was that of finally breaking the board, of suddenly knowing they could do it. I remembered only the three failures that came beforehand. I remembered the certainty trickling out of me and being replaced by cold dread. I even wondered if there was something wrong with my hardwiring - was I supposed to doubt myself at first and then triumph? (Thankfully, Mr. W told me he would have felt the same way. He theorized that it comes of being editors: "We expect perfection." If that's weird, at least he and I are weird together.)

But while board breaking was not at all the experience for me that it is for most people, it was still valuable. I learned that sometimes, I will not live up to my own expectations. When that happens, it's good to remember that I have friends who will be on my side - who might even help me out during uncertain times in ways I don't always notice. I want to be more constantly grateful for those people in my life.

Not exactly a breakthrough, but it's something.

ShareThis