Saturday, April 28, 2018

Saving a Relationship

"Thank you for your honesty and willingness to speak your truth to me"

In my work as a volunteer, I have had to interact with many people on staff … you know, people whose job it is to contribute to the well-being of the organization for which I am volunteering. I get along with all the people very well … when problems arise that I cannot handle I usually communicate with one of them and things are made right rather quickly.

This is a story about an exception. And because it is an exception to that getting along with everyone, I am going to bend over backwards to tell the story and obscure the characters.

A software tool that I was using began to perform unreliably … sometimes it worked fine, other times it didn't. Occasionally it wouldn't even start for me. This same tool was used by other volunteers, in ways both different from and similar to the way I used it and they were experiencing the same issues I was. This wasn't the "only tool in town," so I spoke to others about using one of the other tools. This was not a decision I could just make and implement as it affected the other volunteers, as well as some staff.

The staff liaison ( Fran, not a real name ) wrote to me, "I'd like to communicate with you as soon as possible." I was with my wife and a friend at an orthopedic urgent care facility, to which we had taken our friend, when I got this email. We were worried about our friend, but this was urgent, so I responded immediately, providing information about the best way to contact me for the rest of the day.

Later, after a meeting in which we touched on this problem as one of several topics discussed, Fran asked me to provide some windows of time which would work for me so she could arrange a meeting with me and other staff people to consider possibilities. I responded by blocking out numerous 2-3 hour windows in the next few weeks and a day or two later sent that information.

"How can we give Pat ( name changed ) access to the tool so she can see how it works?" Fran asked about the S/W guru, who was becoming involved in the discussion. I responded that while I am an administrator of the tool, I cannot "give" her access; I can invite her but she has to respond to the invitation.

Still later, after inviting Fran to use the tool, Fran wrote, "I am having trouble getting to the tool." I verified that Fran did, indeed, have access. I spent some considerable time opening and using the tool and taking screen shots as I went. I e-mailed the screen shots, annotated with directions about what it all meant.

After each of these responses to Fran's email, Fran failed to respond. No follow up, no thank you, no acknowledgement, nothing. Being treated this way hurt, creating some animus. I considered giving Fran some feedback about how it hurt.

I found Fran one morning, and asked if the screen shots had I sent helped. "Yes," Fran said, "they did. I'll follow up with you, then, in a couple of weeks after this project I'm working on finishes."

I heard myself say, "No, Fran, I'm not interested. There has been too much time, too many failures to close the loop, too many failures to follow up. I am done with you on this topic. If you want to have a meeting, contact me at the time and we'll see." I realized my body knew it was time to give the feedback I had been considering.

"Evidently, I've let you down," Fran said; "I am very sorry."

"Yes, I accept." I believe I said that. And we went our separate ways. While I was glad to have said what I did, I felt a sense of disease. Unfinished.

Several days later Fran sent me an email; it began, "Thank you for your honesty and willingness to speak your truth to me." Happily, I think this is the beginning, or a continuation, of the reparation of our relationship. It bears watching.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Whole Plants

Years ago Penn Jillette started the Ray Cronise diet.  Simply put, he only eats whole plants, only in a 6 hour window everyday; adding no salt, no sugar, and only 1 tsp of oil per day.  He gave me a lot to think about.  That's when I realized I only ate meat because it tasted good.  That's when I stopped eating it.

But there is a bigger question here.  Why do we eat anything other than whole plants?  I'm sure now that the larger percentage of your diet that is whole plans, the healthier it is.  And it is of course better for the animals, and the environment.  The short answer is taste.  The larger answer is about social norms, the happiness that comes from eating, and social eating situations.  The list goes on.

I've decided to start an experiment.  With 73 days until Convergence, I'm going to see how many of them I can make plant days.  Today will be a successful day.  I'm eating nothing but whole plans, salt, and Diet Mtn Dew.  Essentially, I'm only eating steamed vegetables, with instant mash potatoes.  These will be low flavor days, but I won't go hungry.  You can fill your belly with veggies all you want.  It's actually work to get all of your calories in eating nothing but whole plants.

Category 2 will be a half success days.  That's where I eat whole plants, non-whole plants, salt, and Diet Mtn Dew.  If all goes well, these should be full flavor days.  I'm talking vegetable curries, and cheeseless pizzas.  I will have to watch what I eat, because a vegan diet does not mean low calorie.

And category 3 will be unsuccessful days.  I'll still try to watch my calories, but I'll eat my normal vegetarian diet.  Every day I spend out with friends will one of these days.  My goal is to make these less than half of the next 73.

Why salt and Diet Mtn Dew?  Because I am not prepared to give those up.  Not yet.

With the extra activity that comes with warmer weather, and the weather has actually warmed, I should see some good results before Convergence.  But that's really secondary at this point.  There are other fun costumes I can wear.  Hopefully I'll find a better way to live.  A better relationship with food.  There really is something lost with all of the cheap thrills of the salt, oil, and sugar of the standard American diet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Japanese is not Easy #4

I'm on the calendar.  My work has just approved my vacation.  I'll be going to Japan for 3 weeks, leaving the day after Christmas.  I can start buying plane tickets, and renting rooms, but should I?

As for the flights.  I've done a lot of shopping around.  The cheapest I'm finding tickets is $1,025 round trip.  I see cheaper flights in the next couple of months.  It makes me think I can get a better deal if I wait until it gets closer.  It all comes down to how much I want to gamble on it.

As for the rental place.  My cousin will be staying west of the city; about an hour by train from Tokyo station.  My cheap option is Funabashi, which is about a half hour east of Tokyo station.  I might want to split the difference, and stay around Shikoku, which is about 20 minutes west of Tokyo station, and 45 minutes from my cousin.  That's actually in Tokyo, and more of a touristy area.  It would be twice as much, but it's still quite reasonable.

As for learning some basic Japanese.  It continues to be slow going.  I need to sell that book.  It's not that great, and I'm preferring the apps and online resources.  Specifically, there is a youtube channel called Japanese Ammo.  I've been watching it, and taking notes with my fancy new tablet and stylus.

Another resource I've seen recommended is called Anki.  It uses some newer memory science to challenge you at the right time.  It turns out bombarding you with stuff to memorize is inefficient and sometimes counter productive.  Your brain doesn't "need" to remember something it sees everyday.  It seems good so far.  I'll stick with it, and report back.

I do need to get back into Rosetta Stone.  I did buy it, and it's clearly good.  I had not been using it as intended.  I was taking notes, and studying those notes.  It's meant to just quickly practice, and worm its way into your head.  Language is the kind of thing you can use intuitively without carefully dissecting it.  I think multiple approaches are worth trying.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Convergence 2018

On this snowy night in second winter, I'm reminded by my calender to request some days off.  That's right.  July 4th is only 86 days away.  Time to get crackin' on Convergence 2018.

I was never a Captain America fan.  He seems fine, if a bit plain.  Plain, mind you.  Not vanilla.  Vanilla is popular for a reason.  It's awesome.  But I do like his style, and I already have a great, very detailed, compression Captain America shirt.  I have a pair of blue pants, and some boots that will do.  All I need now is a shield, and a mask.

Marvel Classic Captain America Shield BackpackI could buy a $20 plastic shield, but Think Geek has a great licensed Captain American shield backpack for $60.  The plastic shield would do the job, but would be worthless outside of the costume.  The backpack should have year round applications, and looks a lot nicer.  Plus it comes with the straps to put it on my back.

And this mask seems fine.  They say it's a little big, but my head is on the larger size, and I'm sure I can alter it if I need to.

All in all, it's an $80 costume.  My budget is usually a couple of hundred.  But there is a hard part.

Convergence is only 12 weeks away, and I'm not exactly in super hero shape.  I have gained quite a bit of muscle since last year, and about 5 pounds.  Now, I'm not fat, mind you.  But I wouldn't feel comfortable in that costume at my current weight.

I can, and will, lose 5 pounds just before convergence through trickery.  That is, no salt for a few days, and going in with an empty stomach.  That sort of thing.  I would really like to lose an additional 15 pounds on top of that.  12 weeks is not enough time to expect to do that.  It will be nice weather (theoretically), so I'll be more active.  I will keep you posted.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Getting Political, an Update

"Talk is cheap."

In my last two posts ( involvement-with-politics and involvement-with-politics-ii ), I spoke of my plan to deliver text messages to voters in an attempt to influence the result of a close Democratic primary election and the frustration of miscommunication with No Labels, the organization that was organizing the effort.

As I suggested I would, I did send an email with feedback about how frustrating this was for me. The response was darn near perfect!

I didn't have to wait very long as the response was very timely, and included things like an apology, a thank you for the feedback, a narrative of how it was all supposed to work, an admission that generally, not just for me, things didn't go as well as they had hoped, they had such a response that they ran out of targeted voters to send everyone and they learned valuable lessons from working with this new tool. The responder also offered to call and talk to me if that would be more helpful than another email.

I asked for some detail and they, again, responded very quickly. The quality of their reply changed my unwillingness to volunteer for them again to being approximately where I was when I initially decided to volunteer for this effort.

I did wonder if I was too easily willing to give away my time to an inefficient and uncaring organization ... they had, after all, dragged me out of my comfort zone and left me hanging with nothing to do while I valiantly and fruitlessly tried to get help. "No," I answered, "I don't think I'd be too easily giving of my time."

There are a number of considerations that go into this decision for me. They include: the project is worth doing; knowing that nobody and no organization is perfect; how well the organization responds to mistakes.

You might argue, "Talk is cheap; all they offer is talk." That sounds cynical to me. I was the injured party, I spoke up, they satisfied my injury. Helen Prejean is quoted as saying, "people are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives." I believe a corollary to that is, "don't judge a person based solely on the worst thing s/he's ever done."

I would further suggest that judging either people or organizations based solely on the worst thing they've ever done will leave the person so doing with very few people or organizations about which to feel good. That is, of course, a choice anyone is free to make, and a topic, perhaps, for a different post.

I believe that about people and about organizations as well. No Labels behaved badly, but I won't decide future involvement with it based solely on that single instance.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My New Toy

I did end up buying the Apple Pencil.  I hemmed and hawed for two weeks trying to save a buck, so I didn't have to say I payed $100 for a stylus.  I ended up saving $5, but it seemed like a hollow victory, since it was still just over a $100 with tax.  But it is amazing for a stylus.

I can definitely compare it to my Wacom digitizer.  It seems to me it is as accurate with its location as my Wacom.  In addition to accuracy, it's better at detecting pressure, and it detects angle.  Both are functions the Wacom ditigizer would probably exceed at if I purchased their bluetooth stylus.

The one place it fails is traction.  The Wacom digitizer is much closer to the pencil on paper feel.  But I really can't imagine Apple competing here, when you're drawing on glass.  Wacom achieves this by having your nib wear down as you use it.  The Apple Pencil does have replaceable nibs, but I see no wear after two hours of use.

And the places it excels are visuals and interface.  It does have perfect palm rejection across every app I've used it, which is a non issue for Wacom.  But you can see what you draw, as you draw it.  It's also a hundred times as portable.  And you still get that great ipad interface.  You can quickly access menus, zoom, and rotate and such.

I think a serious artist, with an office to work, would stick with the Wacom digitizer.  Although, many are using Ipad Pros on the go.  I'm just having fun though.  My main plan for the stylus at the moment is to study Japanese.  Surprisingly, I found the best free tool is Microsoft Onenote.