Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Larry King Interviews Den

If you're not a regular reader of the WWDS blog, you probably had a hard time following the meaning of my comments when Larry interviewed me.  I hope it was clear that I didn't want to throw anyone under the bus, he just kept picking at the scabs until I bled.

Larry King Interviews Den
by: dfortier

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Multi-tasking Edge

As far a words and terms go, "multi-tasking" is a fairly new one. It didn't really enter the daily vernacular until personal computers came along in the 80's. Given the relative youth of this term, we are still grappling with its meaning and it's connotations.

I think most would agree on some loose definition of multitasking that refers to engaging in multiple activities at one time. It is often used in a manner that communicates optimal efficiency. Like when a mother moves clothes from the washer to the dryer, while she is on hold with the doctor's office, and she's keeping a watch on the 1-year old in the jumpy seat. Or when a student sends a text to their fling, while on the phone with their squeeze, while watching a movie with their ex.

Of course, there are also times when such efficiency is not appreciated.  Like when someone is checking their voice mail and sending texts during a meeting we called to make sure they are focused on identified priorities.  Far from singing the praises of their productivity, we say these people have ADD and we mock them.

Therein lies the usual contradictory interpretations that so many "new" words embody.

As for me, I do not enjoy multi-tasking and never really have.  Mostly, this is because I know that most of my intellectual strengths are maximized when I am allowed to focus.  I am more of an information processor than I am an instant reactor.

My job demands multi-tasking now to ensure that our organization is firing on many cylinders, but  I don't think I am personally, optimally productive in an environment where I must constantly shift my focus from matter to matter.  I also think that most people, despite a common tendency to brag about multi-tasking abilities, are not nearly as productive as they might be with a more sustained focus on one task at a time.

So if you brag to me about your multi-tasking habits, I will probably conclude that you have over-estimated your own productivity.  And if you disparage me for my penchant to focus, I will probably conclude that you have under-estimated mine.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What is Your Favorite Word?

I like words.  In fact, I like them a lot.  Two instances from my childhood suggest that I had this trait from a fairly young age.

I fondly recall the year I got a small, paperback dictionary in my Christmas stocking.  I remember lying in bed and reading it, discovering new words.  Of course I also remember hunting down some mysterious words with known reproductive connotations, most of which I had heard my older brother utter but not define.  This was shortly before we both got into trouble with the parents for referring to our younger brother as an "ovum".  Such were our insult skills at that age.

I also recall earning the family nick name "tech peck".  "Tech" was short for "technical".  It referred to my very literal respect for the meaning of words, and how I was prone to correcting family members for improper word choice and/or ambiguous phrasing.  I have no idea what "peck" meant, but I suppose it was chosen because it rhymed with "tech" and seemed demeaning when pronounced with a tone of disparagement. 

In the span of a couple days last summer, two different people spontaneously told me about their "favorite word".  One mentioned during a hike in the Maine woods that "verdant" was her choice, seemingly because it described a particularly pleasant aspect of nature.  The other, for some reason, was fond of the word "rogue".  I understood this was partially due to the fact that it is a short, unique word that seems to sound exactly as a word meaning "rogue" should sound.

These back-to-back experiences set me on an introspective course to determine if I have a favorite word.  I have pondered this many times over the past months, in the shower, on long runs, while driving, and whenever I encountered good words.  So far, I guess I don't have a favorite.

Today in the Huffington post, blogger Marc Middleton wrote that his favorite word is "mindfulness".  He explains why he likes it; you should click through and read his post if you are interested.

So anyway, now I am wondering; does everyone have a favorite word, except me?  Did I somehow not know that, in addition to a favorite color, a favorite baseball team,  and a favorite Victoria's Secret model, we are all also supposed to have a favorite word too? 

Let me know where you stand on this one, imaginary readers.  Wait a minute..."imaginary"...that's a nice word..