Hare-Brained Cockamamie Scheme of the Week: Amy Ullman, Polyglot

2010
05.17

The motto of the Cambridge-based Lex Language Project is anyone can speak seven languages. The premise being that they are more easily acquired together rather than separately. I can see the proof all around me. My best friend is Korean, fluent in Italian and Spanish, conversational in French and Mandarin and is in the process of learning Greek; my couch-surfing buddy Marc could speak 5 languages by the time he had acquired as many years, and my cousin Daisy is planning on majoring in languages (French, Spanish and Italian) at Cambridge in the fall. Not to mention the countless polyglots that graced the Shays patio during my tenure there.

All of these people possess a mental flexibility and dexterity that I sorely lack. Although I find the process of linguistic acquisition fascinating in theory, languages have never been my strong suit. I am afflicted with horrendous performance anxiety in the classroom, breaking out in sweats and stutters whenever called upon to speak in anything other than English. Perhaps this novel approach is the answer to my prayers. I have wanted to join the Lex Language clubs for a number of years but always lacked the resources (temporal and monetary) in order to do so.

Last week I saw that they were in need of a marketing volunteer. In exchange for my time I may participate in their club. I am still waiting to hear back, but my fingers are crossed.

Just a Waitress Once More

2010
05.10

After four months of unemployment, countless cover letters and just as many rejections, I decided that I needed to mount a triumphant return to the working world. As much as I learned from my last two positions in the wine industry, I was quite reluctant to return to the world of working wacky hours and family holidays. Unfortunately, unemployment only supplied enough money to cover rent (not pesky things like food), so back into the fray I went.

I applied for a few positions but settled upon a newly opened restaurant called Bergamot, a 12-minute walk from my house. No lunches, a small easily navigable dining room, a well-selected, geekalicious wine list, and oh yeah, incredible food. I can now also add to the list: fun co-workers, a chef who doesn’t yell and an owner who indulges me in my love for social media.

So for the time being I am back to being just a waitress (slash bartender, slash social media ninja, slash blogger).

How I Took on the World’s Ugliest Bathroom and Won!

2010
03.25

I recently remodeled the world’s ugliest Bathroom (see before and after pix here). I wish I could say that I did it single-handedly. Unfortunately, my home improvement expertise does not extend to foundational issues and rewiring plumbing. The tub and toilet were both sinking and I had no choice but to call in reinforcements (a big shout-out to my beloved BF, darling twinnie, killer contractor and adorable plumber!).

Still, deciding upon the aesthetics was no small feat for a woman who can barely dress herself. All I knew was that I have always wanted a clawfoot bathtub, and that I was dealing with a windowless room of 45 square feet. Ikea took care of the rest, but I am still flabbergasted that it turned out the way that it did.

The whole process made me much more sympathetic towards people with remodeling woes, so please share your stories and your input.

Why I love Twitter! or My Adventures at #SMartCAMP

2010
03.11

For those not in the know, Twitter is a social media network of microblogs, and a universe unto itself. Participants are limited to posts, or “tweets” of 140 characters. The hope is that readers find these posts compelling enough to glance at on a regular basis, and thus begin following the writer in question. The home screen is a feed of all followers. Pithiness attains primacy: 140 characters does not leave a lot of room for excess verbiage. What also fascinated me is the potential for networking: Individuals can connect and converse with peers and colleagues across town, the country or even the globe based on interest in a common topic.

A perfect example of this occurred last week. I discovered that a few of my favorite people were all talking about SMartCAMP. The Roger Smith Arts Hotel in Manhattan were putting together a conference on Social Media in the Arts. On a whim I tweeted this:

@chrisbean I want to go to #SMartCamp too! @bsimi do you need volunteers or interns? have twitter will travel!

Bsimi is Brian Simpson, the Director of Social Hospitality at the hotel. I anticipated that my wishes would disappear into the cyber-ether. Within the hour I received the following:

@AmyUllman email Danika at roger smith dot com ! She is lovely and they could use some assistance ! ;-) Thank you

As per his advice I followed up with the lovely Danika and two days later was putting together conference packets, stapling and collating like a champ.

I was only able to make it the final day of festivities, but it was absolutely incredible. The morning began with a talk by Brainpicker extraordinaire Maria Popova, followed by Jane Park’s fascinating history of Creative Commons and the state of modern copy-right law. The morning finished up with a showcase of art start-ups, such as Art-sy and Toura. All of the talks were uploaded via UStream and can be seen here.

The most intriguing part of the morning, even more so than the speakers themselves was the real time communication among spectators. There were people taking notes on paper and laptops of course, but m0st were speedily tapping away on smartphones, sharing conference highlights via twitter. Not only could participants beyond the hotel walls get in on the conversation, we could engage one another in real time, discovering a like minded friend sitting on the opposite side of the room.

The afternoon session was broken into two groups. I chose the Social Media Bootcamp track. The title sounded promising and I saw that there was limited availability. Fearing that I might miss out on an exceptional experience, I signed up for one of the last few spots. I did not realize until it was too late however, that I was in the presence of greatness: a room of legitimate PR and marketing experts, professional artists and bloggers. I tried to slip out but was called out and required to say who I was and the organization that I worked for. Stammering and blushing for a solid 30 seconds, I managed to sputter out something about justawaitress.com (which garnered a few gracious giggles) and being on my third blog post. We were then subdivided into smaller groups, each led by one of the speakers at the conference. I was lucky enough to work with the aptly named MaryAnn Devine, Gallery owner and entrepreneur Anthony Walsh, artist and illutrator Emmanuelle Cunningham and badass box office manager Jessica Dulberg. It was so exciting to brainstorm all of the ways in which we might use social media to our benefit, be it to increase ticket sales, strengthen personal brands or publicize a new service.

For those who decry the use of social media as being anti-social, I beg to differ. I cannot imagine a more pleasant way to meet, greet and engage.

I am not unemployed! I am between projects!

2010
03.03

So I have been saying for the last 10 weeks, when I was let go of my Barbie Dream job as a sommelier for a French restaurant.  It was a title I had been working towards for five years, and in a matter of moments it was gone. Not to imply that my path was entirely linear, for years I juggled my undergraduate degree, various jobs and internships in and out of the wine industry, and my personal studies. I was afraid I would get bored if I decided to settle down and choose one area in which to specialize.

I was upset at first; reveling in the dejection and rejection that accompanies such news. Yet I also began to experience something new: relief. Gone was that desperation, the feeling that I needed to find something immediately or else find myself on the streets with a cardboard sign reading “will work for wine.” My job had ended on good terms and I was thus eligible for unemployment. Hot-diggity dog! My benefit from the State of Massachusetts might not cover pesky things like food or utilities or those wonderfully timed renovations (more on my sinking tub and toilet later), but I have enough to cover the majority of my housing.

So here I am 2 months 16 days later (but who’s counting) and what do I have to show for it? Certainly not a job but I have:

  • Learned how to tolerate cats (Thanks to my boyfriend’s roommate for that one).
  • Caught up with some amazing friends and made some new ones.
  • Found a hosting service for my websites.
  • Started blogging.
  • Become adept at using twitter (I am not an addict, I can stop anytime I want).
  • Started volunteering once a week at the yoga studio down the street.
  • Started actually going to yoga regularly.
  • Taught my boyfriend’s dog, Laszlo, how to snuggle on command (well almost).
  • Discovered the television program “Lost.” (Because that was a good idea – I needed another time waster)
  • Began reading 4 books simultaneously for pleasure again (The Story of French, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union).

What do I really need a job for? I have accomplished so much.

In all seriousness, my down time has taught me something: as passionate as I am about wine, I might be ready for something else. There are a number of things that I also find fascinating: travel, writing, reading, current events, photography, economics, psychology, public health, linguistics, neurobiology, movies, pop culture and music to name a few. Perhaps I was limiting myself by selecting such a specific focus.

I am now in the process of trying to discover what I want to do next. My work is cut out for me not only on account of the current economic conditions, but because I do not want to have to pick just one thing. What’s an intellectually curious, ADD-addled, recovering sommelier to do? I am looking at jobs in everything from social media to marketing to editorial work to consulting: something in which the goals, assignments and priorities are in a constant state of flux. Whatever the next project is, I am now ready willing and able.

Hello world!

2010
03.02

Hello, my name is Amy Ullman and this is my personal blog. Thank you for taking the time to visit!

I registered the domain justawaitress.com in 2005 when I was in fact just that.  The domain name was a cheeky retort to the often-asked question “what else do you do?” “Just a waitress.” No really, I am just a waitress.” “f’real, no joke, my email address is Amy@justawaitress.com!”

Unfortunately, my website did not quite take off the way that I had anticipated. I bought a condo, went back to school to get my bachelor’s degree , attained the rank of certified sommelier and continued to work anywhere between 30 and 90 hours a week. As it often does, life got in the way.

Now that I have acquired some practice writing, a bit more confidence and a lot more time, I am ready to start this up.  The topics will be diverse and, I hope, compelling.