The Special Category

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An optional explanation about the anagram in green, the subject is in black, the anagram is in red.

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Here are ten brilliant tricks for quickly appearing smart at business meetings:

Like everyone else, the need to seem smart at meetings is my top priority. Sometimes this can be difficult if you start daydreaming about your next vacation, your next nap, or just bacon. When this happens, it is useful to have some tricks to fall back on. Here are my ten top tips for quickly appearing smart at meetings.

1. Draw a Venn diagram.

Getting up and drawing a Venn diagram is one highly effective way of appearing smart. It does not matter if the diagram is wildly inaccurate, in fact, the more off the mark it is, the better. Even before you have put that marker down, your colleagues will start to fight about what precisely the labels should be and how big the circles should be, etc. At this point, you can slink back to your chair and continue playing Candy Crush on your phone.

2. Pace around the room.

Whenever someone gets up from the table and walks around, don't you immediately respect them? In my opinion, it takes a lot of guts but once you do it, you'll immediately appear smart. Fold your arms. Walk around. Go to the corner and lean against the wall. Emit a deep, contemplative sigh. Trust me, everyone will be shitting their pants wondering what the hell you're thinking. If only they knew (bacon).

3. Encourage everyone to "take a step back".

There comes a point in most meetings where everyone is chiming in, apart from you. Opinions, statistics and milestones are being thrown around and you haven't the faintest idea what they all mean. This is the best point at which to yell, "Guys, guys, guys, can we just take a step back here?" Everyone will turn their heads towards you, amazed at your ability to silence the fray. Then quickly follow up with: "Let's assess this situation - just what problem are we really trying to solve here?" and, boom, boom! You've bought yourself another hour of looking smart.

4. Nod continuously while pretending to take notes.

Always bring a notepad with you. Your rejection of technology will be revered. Take notes by simply writing down one word from every sentence that you hear. Nod continuously while doing so. If someone asks if you're taking notes, say that these are your own personal notes and that someone else should really be keeping the minutes of the meeting. Voila! You'll have quickly saved your ass, and you'll also have got out of doing any extra work. Or any work at all, if you're really succeeding.

Then move smoothly through steps 5, 6, 7, 8, 9...

5. Repeat the last thing the engineer said, but very, very slowly.

Make a mental note of the engineer in the room. Remember his name. He will always be quiet during most of the meeting, but when his moment comes, everything flowing out of his mouth will spring from a place of unknowable brilliance. After he's uttered his exalted words, chip in with, "Okay, let me repeat that," and repeat back exactly what the engineer said, but go very, very slowly. Now his brilliance has been transferred to you. People will look back on the meeting and mistakenly attribute the intelligent statement to you. Great!

6. Ask, "Will this scale?" no matter what it may be.

It's important to find out if things will scale no matter what you are discussing. No one even knows what it means, but it's a good catch-all question that usually applies and drives engineers nuts.

7. Convert percentages into fractions.

If someone says, "About 25% of users click on this button," quickly chip in with, "So about 1 in 4," and make a note of it. Everyone will nod in agreement, secretly impressed and envious of your ready mathematical skills.

8. Ask the presenter to go back a slide.

"Sorry, could you quickly go back a slide?" They are the words no presenter wants to hear. It doesn't matter where in the presentation you say this. Right away, it'll make you look like you are paying closer attention than everyone else, because clearly everyone missed the thing you are about to point out. Don't have anything to point out? Just say something like, "It's okay, I just wasn't convinced about the accuracy of some figures," and sit back. You've bought yourself almost an entire meeting of appearing dogged and smart.

9. Step out for a phone call.

You are probably afraid to step out of the room in case people think you aren't making the meeting your priority and disapprove. Conversely, if you step out for a "very important" phone call, they will realize exactly how busy and important you are. They'll say, "Wow, our meeting's very important, so if he's got something even more important, we'd best not bug him."

10. Make fun of yourself.

If someone asks what you think, and you haven't caught a single word anyone said for the past hour, just say, "Oh bugger; sorry, I didn't catch a single word anyone said during the past hour." People love self-deprecating humour. Say things like, "Maybe we can just use the lawyers from my divorce," or, "God I wish I was dead." They'll laugh, value your honesty and consider contacting H.R., but more importantly, think you are far and away the smartest person in the room.

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[To celebrate Earth Day (April 22, 2015), Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem THE SPRING AND THE FALL is anagrammed into ECO-LOGICAL, a poem with two hidden constraints. The acrostic spells "EVIL CAN'T SET IN MY LAND" which is itself an anagram of the name of the author of the subject poem.]


In the spring of the year, in the spring of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The trees were black where the bark was wet.
I see them yet, in the spring of the year.
He broke me a bough of the blossoming peach
That was out of the way and hard to reach.

In the fall of the year, in the fall of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The rooks went up with a raucous trill.
I hear them still, in the fall of the year.
He laughed at all I dared to praise,
And broke my heart, in little ways.

Year be springing or year be falling,
The bark will drip and the birds be calling.
There's much that's fine to see and hear
In the spring of a year, in the fall of a year.
'Tis not love's going hurt my days.
But that it went in little ways.


Valley and shrub submerged at the start of the year;
I walked her path full of fear.
Like in her reply with the hymn of nihility
Came timidity at the start of the year.
As garbage stands in the babbling brook,
Now we both weep for the trees we took?

The winter is hellish at the end of the year,
She walked her path full of fear.
Energy bills pile up, there is no solution --
The pollution at the end of the year.
I inhale the air; hear the blind babies crying.
Now the frail people are rapidly dying.

Months are starting, months are ending;
Yesterday's high tide is fast ascending.
Little we learn, how much we fear
At the start of a year, at the end of a year.
Nights are dark, birthdays are bleak;
Damage is the dual rhythm we wreak.

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From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.


Sweet spring is in the air this time of year;
Pink flowers do break through winter's dreaded grey.
Rain falls upon the earth in droplets clear;
In muddy puddles youths will wildly play.
Now tulips fill up every shady bed;
Green turf ensued with shoots of timothy.
In far, wide opportunities ahead,
New upward growth with health, viridity.
Throughout the pretty trees around the lawn,
Hear honeybees resume their happy hum.
Embodied in the warmth of every dawn,
A hint of sultry summer yet to come.
It's time to dearly hail this season of
Renewal and rebirth of life and love.

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We are told the climate will change
But how far will parameters range?
For better or worse
Not knowings our curse
Sailing deserts may be very strange.


First we're struck by a game changer;
Our latest system becomes stranger.
Our planet called Earth,
Will we note its worth?
Now our sci-fi lives are in danger!

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No law shall prohibit or bless
Any creed; curb free speech or free press;
Or say people can't meet,
If in peace, in the street,
And petition the state for redress.

Republicans often appear
To act (center their interests) on fear.
They'll incredibly oppress
These free pieces, profess:
"To bear arms is the one we hold dear!"