Saturday, May 26, 2012

D16 - Creed

Long ago I adopted the personal creed "Do interesting things, go interesting places, meet interesting people."  It may be time to finally start living up to that saying.  That is not to say that thus far I have been a wallflower in the dance of life, but I am still far from cutting-a-rug.

Traveling to India to pursue the love of my life was a good start.  Never could I have dreamt that, even if I wanted to, I could have made it to India in my lifetime - that is until I had the best reason in the world.  Jessie pulls me, both literally and figuratively, out on the dance floor and gives me a sensation that I have only felt a few times before in life; anything is possible in this world.

Alongside her I feel as though I have the courage to fulfill the creed I set out for myself years ago.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 15 - Pulling metaphorical teeth

Some days it is like my mind is swimming through a vat of molasses - so it is easier to avoid the vat altogether.  My avoidance hammer is an important implement in my toolbox.  I place it right beside my procrastination timer and my guilt ruler.  When I equip myself with all three, there is literally nothing I cannot put off doing and then feel bad about not doing it.

These tools, when used often, actually strengthen each other.  I can hammer away at the timer to make it more accurate, then measure my hammer and watch its length grow.  Carrying them around all day makes for burdensome work, but somehow I feel out of sorts without their weight around my belt. 

Maybe that is what I need, to feel out of sorts for a while.  Maybe I should do something else so that my life will not proceed so predictably.

Day 14 - A journey

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Even when you have no idea where you are going and even if the steps are so small it seems you are moving backwards.  It is important to keep moving.  Keep moving and have faith that things will work themselves out in the end.  Do not stand still.

Moving, thrashing about in ways that sometimes feel fruitless and pointless is an important skill to learn in life.  The stronger you can flop about on suffocatingly dry land, the better your chances of flopping back into the water.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 13 - Impressions

The world can be divided into three kinds of people:

The first kind are those people who are less impressive than their resume makes them out to be.  These are people who overemphasize (and this does not mean it has to be overt or entirely intentional) how extraordinary their experiences with life have been and try to pass off as being humble.

The second kind are people who are much more impressive than their resume makes them out to be.  These one-page resumes fail to mention the full compliment of skills they bring to the table.  It is not just that there are omissions, but that to these people, it would not even occur to them to mention these things because they are not relevant.

Then there is the third kind of person, who I identify with.  This is a person who puts down exactly what their life has been on their resume without reservation or embellishment.  You can hear the regret of opportunities past weigh down their voices as they introduce themselves, hoping to make better of the situation at hand.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 12 - Summer of Ska

Everyone has their own rituals that mark the beginning of summer.  For me, it is the first day I feel the need to walk around in the bright sunshine listening to the Ska bands of yesteryear.  Brass horns and upbeat reggae guitar riffs summon the memories of high school summer vacation and long drives in hot cars.

It seems that every season has music indelibly tied to - music that seems out of place any other time of the year.  Sufjan Stevens makes for great autumn music.  The Clash "Sandinista" must be listened to exclusively on rainy, spring nights.  Jay-Z seems well suited for the cold winds of winter.  Living in an area where all four seasons are free to exercise their extremes makes these impressions exceptionally salient. 

People who live in mono-climatic areas don't know what they are missing. 

Day 11 - Bathroom at work

I hear stories that the Japanese are so modest in public restrooms that often machines are installed to drown out any unpleasant noises that may arise.  The bathroom in the second floor in the adult workroom at the library could stand a little Japanese modesty.

The bathroom in the workroom on the library is directly beside the communal computer workstations.  The combination of having no fan and a hard, tiled floor turn this room into an amplifying echo chamber of uncomfortableness.

I try and use the large restroom on the first floor as much as possible.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 10 - Teaching as talking

In the course of everyday life, I tend to be quiet and reserved.  When I teach it is quite the opposite.  I often over-explain.  Maybe it is my need to continually reassure myself that I know what I am talking about.  I keep explaining as a way of demonstrating my knowledge thinking it will increase my credibility.  At best, this need to over-explain wastes precious rehearsal time.  At worst, it makes directions and corrections unclear.

My focus this coming year should be to increase my effectiveness as an educator by talking less.  A goal of speaking one sentence for every direction given, or correction made is, I believe, quite achievable.  This will force me to be more economical and precise with my word choice, which should make it more clear what I am instructing the students to do.  Also, this have the added effect of increasing the number of repetitions the students perform during rehearsal since I will be doing less talking.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 9 - You can never go back

What was life like before Facebook?  I don't remember.  And it is not that I just don't remember, it is that I have trouble even conceiving of how life was lived before Facebook.

What about cell phones?  What was it like to live in a world without electronic access to people at all hours of the day?  Or television?  Where did people turn to get their information?  How did civilization continue without the constant comforting assurance that there is a bigger world outside of our immediate reach?

Much more time must have been required to tend to the various relationships that bind our lives together.  Letters, lunch dates, and parties must have served critical roles in our social structure beyond simple luxury and leisure.

It seems simpler.  There were less modes of communication and less room for uncomfortable, murky social grey area.  These days we tend our relationships in a kind of interpersonal purgatory filled with Facebook friends and twitter followers.  More than acquaintances, not quite friends, our access is both voyeuristic and isolating.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 6 - In which I channel Dave Barry to discuss phone calls

There exist in the universe only three acceptable locations for one to talk on a phone.

1.) Outside.  When I say outside, I mean in the middle of a fallow field, on top of a mountain, or in the middle of a vast ocean - someplace where your dramatic conversation about who can pick up Little Timmy after soccer practice will not disturb me as I read during my lunch break.

2.) In a car (ideally, alone).  This should probably not be while the car is moving down the highway, but I'll take what I can get.

3.) At home. 

Unless your side of the conversation entails asking how quickly the contractions are arriving, there is never a reason to be talking on the phone in any other location at any other point in your life.

I propose our elected officials works swiftly to curb the threat to our happiness as perpetrated by cell phones.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 5 - On Rational and Irrational Fears

All of my fears are completely rational and I pride myself this fact.  Spiders are unpleasant. Heights are unsettling. Darkness can be confusing.  All of these opinions are completely rational responses to these situations.  For some people, these things are monolithic concerns in their lives that warrant sometimes ridiculous patterns of behavior in order to cope with.  They are not, however, things that inspire an irrational or crippling fear in me.

While I do not have irrational fears about real objects, it is possible that my biggest fears are rooted in abstract concepts.  Is it irrational to be frightened of social conflict?  What special accommodations do I make in my life to keep awkwardness at bay?  How many roadblocks do I create for myself in a quest never to appear foolish?

Day 4 - Two paragraphs on the narrative of life

Reading a lot of non-fiction today - about mothers grieving after tragic accidents, about the baby who fell down the well, about serial killer truck drivers - and it got me thinking about the narrative structure of life.  It strikes me that life is never lived in anything close to a traditional narrative form.  After the fact, people change things around to fit the story we want to tell ourselves, or the story we can live with.

The very act of reporting a story changes the narrative in important ways.  Asking people to recall memories of events - especially the emotionally charged ones that make for good reading - forces people into descriptions that would have gone otherwise unsubscribed.  Language will always fail expressing the bundle of feelings that shoot across our brains as an event unfolds and, at best, we get a vague approximation of the event that occurred. 

It is a wonder that we successfully communicate anything of substance to other human beings.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 3 - Obessive? Yes, but it is warranted

I am obsessive about my environment in certain ways.  For example, in coffee shops I will compulsively look around to ensure I am in the most optimal seat - ideally back against a wall next to a window, but also a clear view of the interior. I often bounce around to different, and in my mind more desirable, seats as they are vacated until my brain is satisfied I have found the optimal arrangement.

Obsessive or not, a successful coffee shop should exhibit certain attributes of comfort and warmth.  Of particular interest to me is the lighting.  Too often dim overhead lighting produces sharp vertical shadows that amplify small motions into gigantic distractions.  Worse than that is if the establishment has ceiling fans placed below the lights.  The sheer stupidity of this arrangement - which throws out unsettling, choppy vibrations of light - makes me wonder if people take time to examine the environments they create for themselves and others in any meaningful fashion.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 2 - We need an adult (pt.1)

Today I wish to think about the difference between adults and children.  Children are impulsive beings trapped inside their own selfish worldview unable to think outside their immediate needs and wants.  That is OK.  They are children and that is what children are.

The process of becoming an adult, among other things, one overcomes the shortsightedness of childhood and accepts that there exist multitudes of competing perspectives in the world.  As we age, ideally we continue reassessing the size of the world and our place within it - gaining wisdom in the process.

My vote this presidential election will go to the candidate or party who acts like an adult.  This will prove to be  much more difficult than one would expect considering that they are competing for the office of the most powerful man in the world.  With accusations of "wars" on various people, places, and things spewing anew every day it seems like this election season is unfortunately stuck on the playground.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 1 - I am Peter Gibbons

Every staff member at the library in order to maintain their certification must acquire, every five years, 90 "contact hours" of "Continuing Education Units (CEUs)."  90 hours every five years may not sound like a lot, but it is more challenging than one would think.  I am on year 4.  I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 hours.  The library has encouraged everyone to use an online staff training program known as "Skillsoft" to gain CEU's to supplement the conferences and trainings that traditionally provide those hours.

"Skillsoft" involves spending an hour or two staring a screen flipping through what are essentially poorly designed powerpoint slides relating to a specified course.  Occasionally, these are broken up by brief quizzes to test your ability to remember what your glazed-over eyes read on the previous slide, or view a brief and completely not-contrived-at-all vignette starring an aggressively multicultural workforce who interact with all the dynamism of a 1960's Turing test.

After taking several courses with lofty titles - "Generating Creative and Innovative Ideas," "The Individual's Role in a Team," and (my favorite) "Knowledge as Strategy: Performance Improvement" - I am now (over)qualified to converse with members of the grown-up corporate business world.  I can blend right in with the insight that "knowledge management is the ability to create value from a company's intangible assets;" or I can offer the advice to "tailor your technology choices to your own company's knowledge requirements" to a fellow co-worker before asking if their SDL (self-directed learning) strategy fits in with their IDP (individual development plan).

"Learning" in this context seems more like "corporate indoctrination."  It feels useful to me only in the respect that it gives me an insight that people out there actually think about business in these terms, and that I, if I find myself sharing an elevator ride with a man in a dark suit and a heavy briefcase, should be prepared with small talk about how essential it is to "distinguish between the target and source domains of specified analogies."