Lessons from Dulles

I’ve never been a fan of Dulles International Airport (IAD). If it weren’t enough that it takes forever to get there, there’s also no public transportation, you can only use their brand of taxis or shuttles when leaving the airport, transportation between their parking lots and the terminals is slow, the lines are always long, half of their gates require boarding a bus after going through security, and they seem to have a religious objection to moving sidewalks. In addition, because it is so difficult to navigate, they have one of the earliest baggage cut-offs in the area, meaning that I’d your bags aren’t checked in at least 45 minutes before your flight boards, your luggage will NOT make it to your plane (at most airports it’s 30). Yes, good ol’ Dulles is quite a pain, but today I found a whole new reason to hate flying out of this airport.

This morning I’m headed to Houston. Last night when I tried to check-in, there was a note saying that my traveling companion, who’s never been in trouble a day in his whole life but has the distinct disadvantage of having a name that sounds “foreign,” could not check-in online.

We got to the airport two hours before our flight, and by the time we parked and got to the terminal there was still an hour and 40 minutes before our flight. After telling a staff member that we “could not check-in online” we were sent to line 3 of the United counter. Now, it’s important to note here that this was our first mistake: we chose the wrong words. When hearing that you cannot check-in, United staff members assume that you are an idiot and incapable of using the Internet. We were unaware of the idiocy presupposition policy, so we stood in the long, winding line to which we were assigned, only to be ushered to a computer kiosk where someone was going to “teach us” how to enter our name on a terminal.

After several moments of going back and forth about how it wasn’t a knowledge gap that was preventing us from checking-in, the rep ushered us to the back of another line which they call “additional services.” It would be more appropriately labeled “rejects.”

Again we waited — in a line that was somehow simultaneously shorter in length and longer in delay — growing increasingly wary of the rapidly approaching 45 minute cut-off.

Finally, we get to the front of the line and my companion pulls out his Federal employee ID — awarded only after successful completion of a DHS background check — and she sends us on our way. Clearly there was no problem with our itinerary or any of the other possibilities they list on the web. Nope, this was a case of SSSS: Selective Security Screening Selection. Seems he was guilty of flying while Muslim.

My favorite part of the whole ordeal, however, was that after we took our bags around the corner to be scanned (because the folks at Dulles don’t do that for you), we walked around to the backside of the United counter where we’d just spent all that time in line, only to discover that there is a whole other United counter on that side, complete with shorter lines and additional staff. Seriously?

Whether our bags made it remains to be seen. I’m writing this on the plane.


Spanx for weight loss

I have this theory: I think I lose more weight, when I regularly wear spanx. Okay, before I go on I must tell you that this is not based on any scientific evidence or knowledge, whatsoever. This should, in no way, be taken as advice or a suggestion, but I honestly believe that I Spanx help me lose weight.  Here’s why:

  1. Spanx make you look good.  I find that looking good makes me feel good, and feeling good makes me eat less.
  2. You can’t over-eat when you’re wearing tight clothes. You’d never wear tight jeans to Thanksgiving dinner, would you?  Of course not. No one wants to be in constricting clothes when they’ve eaten too much, so when I’m already being constricted, I’m less likely to over eat.
  3. Spanx are similar to compression garments, and compression garments help reduce swelling and water weight. Once when I had swelling related to a minor surgery, my doc suggested that I wear them to reduce the swelling. They worked really well, and were way more comfortable and easier to find than medical compression garments would have been. I swear that when I wear them, I have to go to the ladies room all the time.  I probably go as frequently as a pregnant woman!  And while it’s true that both increased water consumption while dieting, as well as weight loss (i.e. burning fat), increase urination, I swear that there’s even more of an increase when I regularly wear Spanx.

So there you go.  One more reason why I love Spanx — possibly the most awesome invention ever.

(This post is in no way sponsored — I just like the product.)

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Science Writers 2010

I’m at the Science Writers 2010 conference, my favorite meeting of the year, because I always leave feeling inspired, and rather empowered to try all kinds of new, writing-related things.

One of my favorite things about this conference is the people.  They are all non-scientist, science nerds, like me. People who can appreciate a really cool scientific finding, but can talk about it without feeling a need to make sure you know how important they are. 🙂

The conference started with an entertaining welcome session.  Here are some of my favorite, nerdy bits:

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Oops. My last post was in January. Crap! I was supposed to keep this thing up, but like most other good intentions, life got in the way. Much like dieting (which I actually have managed to keep up with this year) I think it’s probably best to just put the past behind me and, rather than lament the fact that I haven’t been doing what I should, just jump in and start again. Here I go…

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Using WordPress

This morning I gave a presentation to a group of communications directors from some of the NCI-designated cancer centers, about how we used WordPress to redesign the NCI Benchmarks website.  I also discussed the differences between WordPress.com, and WordPress.org, the latter being what we used in the office.

Here’s a copy of the presentation:

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My #SocialMedia New Year’s Resolutions

In addition to the traditional resolutions of a personal nature, the turn of the year is also a time for examining professional goals — or at least it is if you are a federal employee and (at least in HHS) required to participate in the Performance Management Appraisal Program (PMAP).  As I think about the things I’d like to learn in order to improve my job performance, productivity, yada yada, this year I’ve come up with this list of social media-related New Year’s resolutions.

1. Choose and commit to using a proper RSS reader

I use twitter, almost more than any other source, to get my information, and often come across tweets about useful blog posts regarding social media, public relations, and/or health news.  If the blog seems particularly interesting, I will bookmark it in my browser, but to be honest, I NEVER go back to those bookmarks.  I use google desktop, which has a “web clips” feature that pulls RSS feeds, someone randomly it seems sometimes, into the side bar, but it isn’t at all organized and it’s easy to miss things.  I’ve decided I really need to find a RSS reader and use it to organize all these great information sources that I come across and subsequently forget about.  I’m thinking I’ll use Google Reader, but let me know if you have a better one.

2. Conquer my fear of social bookmarks

StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg and the other social bookmarking communities are completely foreign to me.  They all have these intricate subcultures (David Harris said being popular on Digg was like being in a gang), and I find the whole thing overwhelming.  When they first started popping up, I was certain that they were a trend that would quickly fall away, so I didn’t bother learning much about them.  Well, clearly they are here to stay, so I feel that I must learn more about them — if for no other reason than to figure out how to use them to disseminate information/articles for my employer.

3. Become more active on LinkedIn

I know people who LOVE the site, but for me it still seems pretty useless.  I feel like it has potential, but I haven’t had the time (or desire) to truly explore it, other than finding people I know and posting my résumé.  I’ve joined a bunch of groups (probably too many), but I never actually read the postings.  This year, I need to explore the usefulness of that platform.  For now it just seems like Facebook, but way less fun.

4. Continue to share with and learn from others

Okay, maybe this one is cheating, but I always like to include a resolution that I know I can meet because I’ve already been doing it.  It makes the list seem more surmountable. In this case, I want to continue to seek out people who are doing exciting things in this area and learn from them.  At the same time I hope, through this blog, twitter, and the various other channels, that I can continue to be a resource to others who are learning along the way.  That is, after all, kind of the point of social media, isn’t it?

Happy New Year and Best wishes!


New Trailer for Alice in Wonderland

Wow, I think I might want to see this!

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