September 14th, 2009

DITA, signs of dementia, a confluence of cohorts, sports metaphors, and a workout...

~Monday~  I caught the "short bus" today, meaning I only traveled four stops instead of the fifteen or so I normally do to get to work. And that's because I attended the first day of a DITA Conference, which was held at the McKimmon Center, which is very close to my house, which is one more "which"—make that two now—in this sentence than I'd prefer there to be.

I caught up with the keynote speaker, Julio Vazquez, before his keynote address, as he is someone I used to work with at IBM years ago, and it's been years since I'd seen him. I was glad to hear that he was still doing some of his personal writing, albeit not as much he he'd like to be, which is probably the case of most writers who have a corporate job during the day.

While we waited for the keynote address to start, my manager told me about three ways that the staff at an assisted living place at which her mother is living detect whether the residents are starting to get dementia:

  1. Wandering off. ("Excuse me. Do you know what time the next bus to Garner leaves?")

  2. Putting on layers and layers of clothing. (This one was so, so interesting to me, as it's pretty much a "one of these things is not like the other," to me at least.)

  3. Self-policing by the residents themselves. ("She's crazy.")

I grabbed a cup of complimentary Port City Java coffee, whose cup said on it, "Hand-crafted beverage is extremely hot." My beverage was hand-crafted??? Really??? Marketing schmarketing!

There was a little bit of networking time during lunch, and it was interesting to see an intersection of people that I've met over the course of my career and schooling. Since I've been in a Venn diagram-y mood lately, here's a representation. (My "manual dexterity" wasn't very good in manipulating the "fill in" paint brush to make that blue spot in the intersection.)

STC stands for Society for Technical Communication, and technically there should be yet one more circle and I should have broken up STC-NCSU Student Chapter and STC-Carolina Chapter.

I enjoyed my lunch at a table of mostly students currently in the MS in Technical Communication program. Twanda, my colleague at NC State, also joined our table.

There was a session after we ate, but part of the lunch, which didn't really appeal to me. It wasn't the session that didn't appeal to me, but the fact that it was sort of "included" with lunch. Yet another body of evidence that there really is "no free lunch."

The presentation was about the "Agile development process," which I had a little bit of experience with right before leaving IBM. There's a term used to describe team meetings associated with the process, and I asked this question about it in the Q&A section of the presentation:

"This may seem like an aside, but it will help me remember the word. The term scrum that you've been using sounds like it's stuck somewhere between scrub and scum. What's the origin of the word? Or, perhaps I'm the only one who hasn't heard of it."

The response: "It's a rugby term." No surprise there that I didn't know it, then.

Not to get all soapbox-y and pedantic or anything, but you know I'm going to. I have a little bit of a problem with the use of sports as metaphors in business, mostly because it's very male-centric and it somewhat arrogantly assumes that everybody knows everything about the sport being used in the metaphor.

I particularly hate business metaphors involving football, because it's a game I've never understood nor cared enough about to learn. I don't know the various positions and I don't know most of the rules. (I know what a touchdown is and that it's six points, who the quarterback and center are and what they do, and I get the gist of "blocking" and "tackling.") But whenever I hear an allusion like, "It's like a tight end who tries to..." I'm quite sure that I'm missing the intended point, as my mind immediately wanders to a tight end that usually results in a non sequitur—for some queer reason. I'm just saying...

Know your audience for Pete's sake! You don't see me using line-dancing metaphors in business, as I'm quite aware of the fact that most of my audience would not know what a jazz box, grapevine, or sailor step is.

Okay, done with the soapbox, now on to the pedant. I also have a little bit of a problem in picking just one esoteric term—from a rather obscure sport, at least in this country, in my humble opinion—to use to describe one step of a process, and not carrying the metaphor all the way through. To my knowledge, there are no other allusions to rugby, or rugby terms used, to describe the Agile process.

But I digress... along with the Kansas City Business Journal's Fumbled! Misused sports metaphors in business, which ends with: "My plea is simple: Feel free to tackle your business problems head-on, be thankful for the slam-dunk transactions even as you pursue the grand slam deal. But if you want to talk about spiking proposals or hiking prices, you'll be striking out with me."

I had a late workout tonight, arriving at the gym at 8:00, where I was shocked to see boxes and boxes of free pizza on the table by the entrance. When I first started going to Planet Fitness, a couple of years ago now, they had free pizza on the first Monday of the month (at dinnertime) and free bagels on the second Tuesday of the month (in the morning).

This stopped some time over the last year, due to the economy, I had assumed. So, that's why to see it tonight was such a shock. I hadn't seen any announcements about it coming back. Plus, the pizza used to arrive at 5:00 and was gone by 6:00. So, to 1) find it there at all, and 2) to find so much of it left at 8:00, really caught me by surprise.

I did 300 (12 sets of 20 reps) of ab crunches, followed by a brisk elliptical workout to the tune of 555 calories burned. I got to watch the final minutes of the U.S. Open tennis match to see Juan Martin Del Potro (love his first two names) win the title. Adorable.

I actually skipped the free pizza after my workout, since I'd already had dinner and was planning to snack with Joe later when I picked him up at the airport. And to that end, I ran into the grocery store next door where I bought an 8-ounce block of Havarti Cheese ("rich and smooth") for $9.29, because it's that good.

At Joe's at 11:30, we had cocktails, ate snacks, and he caught me up on his wild and furious several days home in Erie with his family.