One Hundred Words

one hundred words

What if you were limited to speak just one hundred words each day? A non-removable metal counter on your wrist tracks the number of words you utter, resetting to zero each midnight. If you dare speak word #101 within each monitored 24-hour period, you are delivered an electric shock. Word #102 earns you a stronger zap, and well, you’d better shut up before the thing gets serious.

This is the opening of VOX, a novel by Christina Dalcher. Oh, and only females are required to wear the “bracelets” which is what the marketers in the book term the shockingly restrictive counters.

The story takes place in the near future; the US President (basically a puppet run by a maniacal religious zealot) has created an “earlier times” culture in America. Women are expected to obey men; women are not permitted to work, they have no access to any reading or writing materials or electronics, and they have no money of their own.

This audiobook fell under the category of thriller which is how I found myself listening to its first five minutes as a sample. Otherwise, I would never have found it as this type of story isn’t something I’d normally listen to for entertainment. It did, however, qualify as a thriller.

VOX (all caps) is a telecommunications term for “voice operated switch.” In Latin, vox popoli translates as “the voice of the people.” In music journalism, it means vocals or simply voice.

I ended up enjoying the audiobook in part because the main character, Dr. Jean McClellan, works (or worked) in the field of neurolinguistics as a cognitive linguist in the DC area. Her specialty had been working for a cure for stroke-induced aphasia. I’ve always found the topic of neurolinguistics (and words themselves) fascinating.

The author Dalcher herself earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University, so the book had the feel of “she knows her stuff.” And also, narrator Julia Whelan gives a true voice to each of the characters.

But the story also poked at me to consider this question: If I had just one hundred words allotted to speak each day, how would I choose to use them?

Well, I assume I’d stop talking to the dog. And surely I’d have to relinquish talking to myself. And say goodbye to singing in the shower since the first three lines of I Could Have Danced All Night take up eighteen words. There goes (thankfully) complaining about trivial circumstances.

Perhaps I would begin to hoard my words, being frugal earlier in the day in order to say them all at once in some (albeit short) conversation.

The average number of words Americans speak in a day depends on which study you agree with. Linked In refers to a 2003 study that says the average person uses around 7000 words each day. A University of Arizona professor’s study found that both men and women speak around 16,000 words each day. While that’s a huge differential, either one is still a long way from one hundred.

So now YOU can ponder what you would say in a day’s time if you were limited to just one hundred words. I know this much is true; I would save three words each day to say I love you.

~~~

An overview of the novel by the publisher with an opportunity to listen to the first five minutes of the audiobook

University of Arizona study on word usage

An interesting behind-the-scenes peek at Lauren Ambrose and orchestra at Lincoln Center theater recording I Could Have Danced All Night

 

The Missing Link(s)

missing links

Those of you who receive my posts by email may have thought I disappeared after the November 8 post about beagle time. Nope. Due to some glitch between WordPress (which maintains my website) and Jetpack (which works in conjunction with WordPress to customize my site), the process where the system automatically sends my posts simply stopped.

After discovering the problem and discussing it with my website designer, it turns out there isn’t an easy fix to send out the missing posts to you. Can you believe it? There is no Staples-like “easy” button that says RESEND THIS POST TO YOUR READERS.

I’m trying an old-fashioned fix and I hope it works.

Below are links to the three November posts that weren’t emailed to you. By clicking on them individually, they’ll take you to the posts. Since you’ll be busy reading, I’m not going to send this week’s post until tomorrow.

I apologize for not recognizing the issue immediately. And as always, thank you for being a faithful reader. Look for my post With Open Arms tomorrow afternoon.

Experience with a capital E, post from November 15, 2019

Mentoring is not a new idea, post from November 22, 2019

The color of Christmas, post from November 29, 2019

 

Mentoring Is Not A New Idea

Mentoring

In my mid-20s I began working as a secretary for an office furniture and supply company. When I was transitioning into my first middle management position, I had an amazing mentor named Ann.

This was in the late 70s and the business world was still very much male-dominated. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, in 1980 only 25% of managers in the US workplace were female. So for Ann to hold the Vice President of Operations title was anything but commonplace.

The advice she provided to my younger self likely seems ridiculous viewed through the lens of today’s world. But since I still vividly remember it today means it had quite an impact on me.

Since the company sold both office furniture and supplies, we had a warehouse. Its workers were union employees. Around 10:00 am each workday, the alarm bell rang signaling break time for the warehouse. Some of the office employees had gotten into the habit of taking our coffee break along with the warehouse workers; I was one of them. Ann suggested that as the newly promoted office manager I should stop reacting to a break bell. She encouraged me to start developing more of an executive presence.

Ann also pointed out that more conservative clothing choices would be appropriate if I wanted to be taken seriously and advance in the company. While I never wore anything that would be considered inappropriate, my wardrobe had consisted of very feminine clothing.

The best advice she gave me was in handling men with their own agendas. I know with the Me Too movement’s push for bringing sexual harassment and assault into the light where it belongs that most people are aware that things used to be very different in the workplace. But unless you lived through those times, I think it might be difficult to believe or understand.

There was this one guy who was also a manager at the company. In the language of the day, we women referred to him as a male chauvinist pig. To my knowledge, he never actually took any physical action against women, but he was the master of manipulating language to create double entendres as well as pretending innocence while lecherously staring at women.

At one management meeting, he kept turning the conversation to a well-endowed young woman I had just hired as the receptionist. No matter how I tried to steer the conversation back on track, he persisted with comments and jokes.

My inexperienced self (rattled, mad, and unsure of how to take back control) took the only action I could think of. I ineffectively stormed out of the conference room, got in my car, and drove away. Where was I going exactly?

When I slunk back in the front door an hour later, I found my way to Ann’s office and slumped into a chair. Her only admonishment was this: “When you allow him to get to you, he wins.”

So yes, things are different now (thank goodness), and yet younger people can still more easily navigate through this world with a mentor. I see this happening in the county where I live with leadership programs and a course called Be the Change for women who want to start a business or build an existing one.

Ann was a wonderful mentor and I’m quite sure that I never thanked her enough. But by serving as a mentor myself to others through the years, that is a form of thanks in itself.

 

Advice From An Unlikely Source

advice from nature

My guess is that at some time in your life you have read something written by a company called Your True Nature. I gave one of their bookmarks to my son-in-law a few years ago, and my best friend sent me one of their cards that currently is displayed on my bulletin board. But I had no idea the items were from the same company until today.

Your True Nature believes that all of nature gives the best advice to humans. The company creates clever wording to create sage adages that might be provided by various aspects of nature to help us through life. Here’s a partial list (they have over 100) of one snippet from fourteen of them.

Advice from…

Trail – Find inspiration at every turn.

Owl – Be observant.

Pumpkin – Be well rounded.

Lilac – Be scent-sational.

Osprey – Dive in.

Huckleberry – It’s ok to be a little wild.

Mermaid – Don’t get your seaweed in a bunch!

Coffee bean – Break out of the daily grind.

Elephant – Look after your herd.

The forest – Breathe deeply.

The night sky – Expand your horizons.

Lizard – Appreciate stillness.

A sled dog – Mush on!

And my personal favorite from Sasquatch: Live a legendary life!

The founder of the company was originally named Scott Alyn but in 1992 he legally changed his name to Ilan Shamir which means protector of the trees. He had nearly always had a deep love of nature. It was truly bonded when, at the age of 11, he received a magnolia tree from a favorite aunt and uncle. He planted it and cared for it for as long as his family lived at that house.

His nature connection was nourished by spending eight formative summers at camp, both as a camper and later a leader. Ilan was a guide and photographer in the Swiss Alps for some time, and he also spent a month alone in Iceland. His career decisions have always been slanted to “do what you love” and not “do what will earn you the most money.”

Ilan shares the story of how Your True Nature came about. In 1992 in the midst of some difficult times, he leaned against an old cottonwood tree and wondered about what advice the tree might give. Thoughts came to him: Stand tall. Go out on a limb. He wrote down the thoughts into a poem. From that he created a bookmark and then a postcard Advice from a tree. The first store that sold his work reordered within a week.

And the business branched out, just like that tree. In addition to the bookmarks and postcards, the company sells magnets, books, T-shirts, journals, wooden signs, and other related products.

The company appears to be quite mindful of the earth and its resources. They are active in planting trees (over a hundred thousand) and intentionally leave a small footprint by making sure their company is environmentally friendly and has sustainable practices such as printing only on recycled paper.

You know, I just might need to buy that Sasquatch t-shirt.

~~~~~~~~

Your True Nature’s site

The Luminosity of Friendship

luminosity

One of the many issues I studied while we were building our own house was that of interior lighting; how will the home be illuminated at the dimming of the day?

Like most knowledge learned for a limited slot of time for a specific purpose, I’ve forgotten most of what I took in. What I do recall is the recommendation of having various types of lighting; mix it up. For instance, instead of limiting lighting choices to downlights, use some wall sconces for uplighting to create a softer glow. You can also let a spotlight highlight a focal point.

And think creatively about the intensity of your wattage and bulbs. Interior lighting strength is one aspect that should be varied to create interest.

I was reminded of the “mix it up” advice at a craft show last week. A crafter had the most unusual lampshades on display. The shades, done up in various lovely designs such as flowers and leaves, had pinpricks applied strategically to enable tiny points of light to shine through.

Even though I’d never seen this type of work before, apparently it’s an older art form called picotage.

Look at the photo at the top of this post to view the shade I purchased. As you can see, those pinpricks provide the illusion of raindrops or ice crystals on the evergreen bough. For whatever reason, I feel a sense of peaceful well-being looking at this shade that’s lit with a “soft” lightbulb.

It’s all very Zen.

And I got to thinking about how some of my friends are bright spotlights. They’re intense and you know the moment they enter a room. Then some of my friends are the wall sconces in my life; they never draw attention to themselves but instead cast a soft glow on others.

And a few special friends are like my new lampshade. These ladies are quietly beautiful, seemingly lit from within with a certain warmth and radiance. And yes, I feel that same sense of peaceful well-being just knowing they’re in my life.

If asked to give advice on choosing friends, I’d say do the same as in choosing lighting. Mix it up. How boring life would be if we chose to surround ourselves with just one type. Trust me…I know that my life would not be as full and fun without those spotlight and wall sconce friends. And I hope you are blessed to have a few tiny-points-of-light friends in your mix.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Forbes.com article on lighting your house

New York Times piece on picotage

 

Hook, Line, and Stinker

banana

If you go online at all, I’m sure you’ve seen the hooks to get you to click on a story. You know…hooks like these:

See for yourself why What’s-his-face’s last video is cringeworthy!

Remember What’s-her-name? You won’t believe what she looks like now!

When this photograph went viral, it sparked major reactions!

Experts insist that you need to STOP doing THIS right now!

In my head the hooks, said aloud, would be in the over-the-top perky voices of female early morning newscasters. May I just say those voices get on my last good nerve? I usually leave the room when my husband insists on watching early morning television. The news people want us to believe that anything else that’s happening in the world is much more exciting than our plain vanilla lives.

One titled something like “20 Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing!” tricked me into reading it the other day. I stopped at #3 because the myths were so ridiculous that no one in his/her right mind would ever have believed any of them.

My friend Stephanie announced this week that she deleted the Facebook app from her phone. Since she is a social media consultant, this was a brave step for her. Facebook is important to her business and to her clients’ businesses. So she hasn’t given up Facebook; she simply went from being tied to it as close as her phone might be to checking it just once a day on her laptop. Stephanie says it’s a great relief and that she feels a sense of freedom. And PS – she hasn’t missed anything of earth-shaking importance.

If you want to have more time in your day for what’s really important, just stop clicking on these trickster headlines. Although when I was searching for headline examples on MSN, I did come across the nutritional value of eating a banana every day and it’s included here. Just because!

If You Don’t Eat a Banana Every Day, This Might Convince You to Start

Give Me Time to Adjust, OK?

change

Sedum image by Mabel Amber on Pixabay

Tomorrow is September 1st. Although we’re back to rather warm weather right now in northern Virginia, fall is not far behind. If you don’t believe me, just pop in to any store and you’ll find sugary-to-a-fault candy corn, costumes scary enough to make grown men wet their pants, and hideous spider-related decorations for your home.

I’ve written before about transitions being helpful when designing a home (see link below). And audiences are more able to follow and understand a speaker who gently leads them from one topic to another by using transitional words and phrases. Similarly, the mid-Atlantic area weather helps us prepare for what’s coming next by gradually lowering the temperature.  We gradually become used to shorter days since the amount of daylight has been decreasing by about a minute a day since June 21. The flowers that flourished in the summer heat have now waned, while the sedum that blooms late summer through fall has begun to strut its stuff.

Yes, autumn is on the way.

A transitional season is a wonderful time to reflect on personal changes as well.

Here’s the thing: I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. My 69th birthday isn’t far off, and so you’d think I would be pretty settled by now. But I have all these ideas in my head about what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I’m having difficulty in fitting them all into a seven-day week.

The biggest “for instance” is named Grace. We just adopted her, a sweet beagle mix, from the SPCA.  Just having this three-year-old added to the household is taking up a lot of time because she acts like a puppy when it comes to playtime demands. Well, also she is cute as a button and I can’t resist spending time with her. One of the reasons I chose her is because I recognized she would be perfect as a Pet Therapy dog. Our hospital’s program is in dire need of more therapy dogs to visit patients. Getting Grace certified will take some intensive training time for both of us.

Meanwhile, I have been seriously considering closing down my speaking business at the end of this year. If I close the business then I shut down my website which means I don’t have a home for this blog. Then earlier this month I heard from two business professionals who engaged my services. The calls came within days of each other. God, is that you saying not yet?

Here is my compromise for the short-term: Instead of two posts a week, you’ll be hearing from me just once on Fridays. I do love writing and keeping the connections open with all of you. And I am so grateful for all of you, my readers. I enjoy reading your comments and hearing in-person feedback.

Change is good. It builds new neural pathways as well as character. Change brings new people and ideas into your life. Thanks for traveling with me as I embrace some life changes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leaving the Outside, a 2016 post about my home’s transitions

Article on building new neural pathways

Say It Again, Sam

word laziness

image by Timothy Paule II on Pexels

I received my weekly report card from Grammarly yesterday. If you don’t already know, Grammarly is (according to their own website) “an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform for the English language developed by Grammarly, Inc.”

Even though I consider myself above average in spelling, punctuation, and word usage, I use Grammarly as a second set of eyes.

But you know that little dog that you just can’t trust NOT to nip your fingers or ankles? That’s how I feel about Grammarly. I use it, but don’t trust it 100% since sometimes the suggestions it makes are flat out wrong.

My recent report card (which compares my writing to every other person who uses the program) stated I was:

92% more productive, 82% more accurate, and that I used a whopping 95% more “unique words.”

I’m most happy to see the percentage of unique words. Why? Like many people, I can slip into being a word-lazy person in my writing and speaking.

As I wrote in my June 2018 post Searching for Just the Right Word, it’s oh-so-easy to slip into our own private reservoir of words we’re comfortable using. (Did you notice how the phrase reservoir of words was more entertaining than if I had said group of words?)

Some years back there was an article called Is Google Making Us Stupid? The jury is still out on that one, but I believe the Google keyboard for Android (called Gboard) is adding to our word laziness. This is due to its predictive nature. It remembers phrases you’ve used before and offers them up for you to choose instead of typing the actual words.

As an example, if I am texting someone and type “I hope that you are” it offers a choice of next word(s) of “having” or “doing well” or “well.” When I choose “having” and add “a” then it offers the adjectives “great” or “good” or “wonderful.”

No wonder our messages sound like blah-blah-blah.

With the recent back-to-back mass shootings, some people were upset with those who posted the phrase “thoughts and prayers” in response to social media articles about the horror. While thoughts and prayers is a sincere response from many, the rampant overuse of the phrase has made its online response seem meaningless.

You don’t need to be a professional writer or speaker to pepper your spoken or written words with out-of-the-ordinary ones. There are some how-to suggestions in my former post I’ve linked below.

I’m going to issue a challenge to my readers: The next time you want to wish someone a happy birthday (whether in person, or on social media, or by an actual birthday card sent in the mail), say or write something other than the words Happy Birthday. And no, the happiest of birthdays is not an alternative.

Even if you say or write just one sentence, make it personable; say something fantastic.

And by the way, did you know the original late 14th century meaning of the word fantastic was this: existing only in imagination.

So yes…make it fantastic!

~~~~~~~

Lifted Up post “Searching for Just the Right Word” from June 26, 2018

Understanding predictive keyboards

Grammarly’s post on the top ten overused adjectives

Graphic from GrammarCheck.net

Five Bucks, Two Hours, and Three Minutes

Five Bucks Two Hours Three Minutes

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Legendary Stanford professor Tina Seelig posed the following assignment to teams of students in one of her classes: How profitably can a team run a (very) short-term business with $5 in seed money?

The team could spend as much time as they wanted in the planning stage, but could actually “operate” the business for a total of just two hours. They had from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday evening to complete the project because by Sunday night Seelig expected one slide from each team detailing what they had come up with.

At Monday’s class, each team had three minutes to present their project to the class.

After you read the question in bold, I want you to stop and close your eyes to consider your response: What would YOU do to make money with five bucks, two hours, and three minutes? (Go ahead. Close your eyes and think creatively. I’ll be right here when you get back.)

If we’re being cognitively lazy, we might say to use the $5 to buy lottery tickets and hope for the best. (The older we are it seems the easier it is to jump on the first answer that comes to us.) Seelig says another common response when she poses the question to adult audiences is, “Set up a lemonade stand.” But how much lemonade could you sell in two hours? There’s not much profit there.

The creative responses from her students will blow you away.

One group, recognizing the frustratingly long wait at college town restaurants on Saturday nights, booked early reservations for two at a number of the restaurants. As their expected arrival time got close, they’d approach couples at the end of the line and sell their reservation for $20 each. If the restaurant had handed out pagers to the folks in line, the team now had another spot to sell to people who were farther back in line. Within the two hour period, this team generated a few hundred dollars.

Knowing how many bicycles are used on campus, another team bought a tire pressure and a pump for air. Setting up in front of the student union, they offered to check bicycle tire pressure for free, and if it was low, charged $1 for adding air. Then when they saw how grateful students were to have this service so handy, they asked for donations instead. They too made a few hundred dollars in the two hours.

The highest profit generated by one team was $650. Before this team did anything, they evaluated what resources were available to them: five bucks, two hours, and three minutes. They determined that the $5 and the two hours would restrict them; both are very limiting. The students recognized that the most precious asset in their hands was the three-minute timeslot.

They “sold” the three-minute slot to a company that wanted to recruit the students and created an infomercial for that company. That is what they played during their three-minute presentation time.

Seelig says she used this exercise to demonstrate what you can do with an entrepreneurial mindset. But she wanted to make sure her students learned that financial reward isn’t necessarily the primary value over everything else. So the next time she ran the exercise, instead of $5, the students received ten paperclips. (She had been inspired by the story of Kyle MacDonald, link below.)

If you want to read how her students assigned amazing value to paperclips, you’ll just have to buy Seelig’s 2009 book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.

~~~~~

Seelig’s website

Kyle MacDonald story

Guilty As Charged

Guilty as charged

One of the questions on the VA application for a REAL ID is this: Have you ever been found guilty of a crime other than parking violations?

The phrasing indicated to me that the government wanted any speeding or moving violations included. So I had to fess up. Yes, I am guilty of the most heinous of all moving violations: Evasion of a traffic control device.

Let me state for the record, your honor, that until I committed this infraction, I wasn’t even aware there was a law against it.

Several years ago I visited a friend who had recently moved. When we talked about how navigation had brought me to her home, she nodded and said there was a great shortcut that didn’t usually pop up because the road had just recently opened.

So when I left to return home, I took the shortcut. Unfortunately, traffic was backed up at the one traffic light in the town. Needing to turn right at the light, I saw I could cut through a small shopping area’s parking lot to reach the road. And I did just that.

Suddenly a police car with lights and siren was behind me. Figuring the officer was responding to an emergency and with no shoulder for me to move over onto, I turned right into a side street so he could get by. Uh, yep, he pulled in behind me.

Apparently, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, traffic code 46.2-833.1 states that, “It shall be unlawful for the driver of any motor vehicle to drive off the roadway and onto or across any public or private property in order to evade any stop sign, yield sign, traffic light, or other traffic control device.”

This moving violation cost me three points on my license.

Clearly, I didn’t intend to break the law. And now, with the REAL ID paperwork, it’s back to haunt me. I can only hope that my REAL ID (assuming I eventually obtain enough decades-old documentation to prove who I am) won’t identify me in some way as a violent offender.

~~~~~~~

Read about the VA REAL ID in my Who Do You Think You Are? post from July 30, 2019

Virginia is one of several states that prohibits evading traffic control devices.