Friday, August 31, 2012

team?


I’m in holiday mode tonight.  Doing laundry, sipping fine Kentucky bourbon, listening to music, ratting around on the Internet, and planning for a fine 3 day weekend.  In fact, I’m planning to take tomorrow afternoon off and make it a 3.5 day weekend.  Hell yes.  It’s going to be good, even if it rains all weekend - and it's supposed to.


Gotta tell you what happened today.  I had to facilitate a big meeting this afternoon.  It’s something I’ve dreaded since the day I scheduled it.  It was a teleconference call with 15 invitees.  Anyway, the point of the meeting was to encourage 13 people to discuss and develop a test plan and a scorecard for evaluating a new software application.  I blocked a full hour, worrying an hour wouldn’t be enough time while knowing none of the attendees could afford to take a full hour of their schedules.  I know every member of this team well because I’ve worked with most of them (virtually, not face to face) for at least 10 years.  I expected lots of discussion, some push back, and lots of politicking.  Well, the shocker was that nobody said anything at all.  Nobody expressed an opinion or asked questions.  No collaboration.  Nothing.  Everytime I asked for comments or if anyone wanted to add anything or ask a question, it was silent.  I even cracked a few jokes, and still silence.  I almost heard the crickets chirping.  The meeting was over in under 20 minutes.

When I called an end to the meeting, everyone cordially said good-bye and hung up.  Really?  I felt like the meeting was a total failure.  No plan, no collaboration, no decisions.  I was totally bummed out.  Two of the invitees were co-project managers working on projects integrated with mine.  They both instant messaged me right after the meeting  - they were thrilled with the outcome.  They have been working this project unsuccessfully for almost 3 years.  Their take on the event was that people are willing to work with me.  All they’ve got from this same group is negative comments and complete refusal to consider change.  The result of today’s meeting wasn’t what I wanted, but they acquiesced to my proposal to distribute a questionnaire and develop a plan from the results.  I'm just not as optimistic as my colleagues. 

Hmmm...maybe I should threaten them with a face-to-face team building exercise.  That might provoke some willingness to cooperate and collaborate.  Show me some enthusiasm or it’ll be three days away from home and a night of bowling for you buster!  I sure hope it doesn’t come down to that!         
      

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

asleep at the wheel

It’s a long story about the past few days. Things seem to be back on track at our house and that’s a very good thing. Life is so much easier when one can live it in the deep ruts of routine. Not that I like routine so much, only that I like when life is at least somewhat predictable instead of being bounced around like the metal ball in a pinball machine.

I've been up late the past few nights tending to “issues” going on.  Last night, it just wasn’t enough hours of sleep so I’ve been dragging all day today.  On any workday, the afternoon 2:00 slump is always the worst time for me. This afternoon, I was typing a response to an email and zzzzzzz…I fell asleep right at my desk in mid-sentence. Embarrassing, and here I am telling on myself, but it was only a brief catnap.  First I misspelled a word, then it all became gibberish. When the crash came, it looks like I was backspacing with the wrong key.  I snapped a photo with my iPhone because...because I can :)  (If you want to see it, click on the image to enlarge it).

 

Erin took her road test this morning and passed.  She is now a licensed driver and extremely pleased with herself.  When she got the license, our car insurance doubled.  I'm sure she hasn't even considered the cost of insurance.  Last night, I had Erin put gas into the car that she and Emily will share (for as long as it works for them to share a car).  The pump shut off around $48 and Erin remarked "Driving is expensive.  I'm going to have to get a job."  She got no argument from me.


newly licensed driver

Emily is not ready to try for a license yet.  She needs more practice parallel parking and doing the ridiculous, but required, turn-about.  Both of these are mostly archaic practices in today's world.  Being able to parallel park is handy on very rare occasions, but I've never executed a turn-about in all my years of driving.  I don't know anyone who has.  Backing in and pulling out into traffic is supposed to be safer than pulling in and backing out into traffic.  I would only do either of those where traffic isn't heavy; otherwise, I'd just find a parking lot to turn around in, go around the block, or just do a big U-turn. 
 
I'm still waiting to hear from the board about my change request.   
 
 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

watermelon memories


Someone brought home a gigantic Georgia watermelon yesterday.  He was driving home and saw a roadside vendor selling produce out of a truck.  The watermelons were nearly twice the size of the ones grown locally, so he knew the produce was grown south of here somewhere.  He hoped to find peaches (his favorite), but alas no peaches.  Instead, he bought a monster watermelon for $8.  Great deal and it’s a wonderful melon.
 

 

I can hardly see a watermelon without thinking of my great-grandfather’s farm.  I spent lots of time there, nearly all of every summer and most days after school.  I had little appreciation for country living  in my youth.  It was a place where work never ended, where my brothers were my only playmates, where modern conveniences were few, and where time stood still on rainy days.
 
old house, St Paul, Kentucky
 

My grandfather grew watermelons, beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, and zucchini to sell to grocery stores in nearby towns, but most of his profit came from raising tobacco.  When the melons were ripe, we ate watermelon until it came out our ears.  I never tired of it though.
 

One Sunday afternoon when I was about eight years old, company came to visit.  My grandmother picked a watermelon from the field and set it outside on the picnic table to share with everyone.  She told me to go bring her a big butcher knife and reminded me not to run with it.  She worried about every possible mishap. 
 

Everyone was outside when I went into the kitchen.  I took the opportunity to fill my pockets with matches and stash away some cookies for later before opening the drawer to select a knife.  The drawer had many knifes and not being sure which was a butcher knife, I picked a big, long one.  Just as I turned to go out, the leather strop my great grandfather used to sharpen his razor caught my eye.  Many mornings I’d watched him sharpen his razor and shave right there in the kitchen over the sink (they had no indoor bathroom in this house).  I walked over, and just as I’d seen him do, I sharpened the knife.  I wondered to myself, “Does this make knives sharp, or just razors?”  I examined the blade closely and saw no difference.  A test was needed.  I ran my thumb down the edge of the blade and immediately realized I’d just sliced the shit out of myself.  Indeed, the strop worked on knives too.
 

Sometimes, my brothers and I stole a watermelon when the adults were occupied and we were hungry.  In these cases, we looked for a smaller melon that might go unnoticed, and we selected a melon from the part of the patch that couldn’t be seen from the house.  We couldn’t be too careful.  We were forbidden to steal melons.  With melon in arms (usually my oldest brother’s arms, sometimes mine), we ran to the back field or sometimes all the way to the riverbank with it.  We were forbidden to the go the river without adult supervision too.  I can’t even imagine what would have happened if we’d been caught with a watermelon on the riverbank (well...not true, I can imagine it). 
partners in crime
 
 
The three of us could almost eat a whole watermelon.  We’d just bust it open on a log or large rock and eat the odd shaped pieces as best we could.  No need for manners among thieves.  Sometimes we picked a rotten or unripe one, and that was always disappointing.  Whatever the outcome, we hid the evidence of our crime.  We buried the rinds and seeds, or threw them out into the river.  I preferred to eat our watermelon on the riverbank so I could wash the sticky juice off my hands and chin.  I’ve never liked being sticky. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

stages of change


In case there’s any doubt as to how much of a nerd I really am, I will write about Prochaska’s stages of change.  It amazes me that I’ve not heard of it until recently, especially since people in my field are expected to be change agents for our organizations. 
 

Prochaska conceptualized change as a series of stages or phases that an individual cycles through until he or she maintains the change for six months.  Why is six months a magic number that defines permanence?   I didn’t research that but I don’t believe anything in this world is permanent.  In fact, I would argue that change is the only constant thing in this world.
Nevertheless, according to Raymond and Lusk (2006), the stages are briefly this:
·         precontemplation stage – no interest in changing
·         contemplation stage – considering change
·         preparation stage – planning change
·         action stage – enacting the behavior change
·         maintenance – behavior change maintained for six months
Norcross, Krebs, and Prochaska (2011) went into greater depth with their explanation of the method and how it applies to change agents.  Not only did they identify roles the change agent should take on for each stage, but also they explained that to be successful at changing an individual, it’s important to correctly assess which stage of change the individual is in and set realistic goals.  We are also to expect the individual to cycle through the stages a lot; it’s not going to be a top down thing.  Relapse happens. 
 
So, Norcross et al. define these rolls for each stage except maintenance, which requires nothing from the change agent:
·         precontemplative – agent acts as a nurturing parent
·         contemplative – agent acts as a Socratic teacher, encouraging the individual to gain personal insight into the problem or situation
·         preparation – agent acts as an experienced coach, provides a game plan, inspires individual with confidence
·         action – agent acts as a consultant and provides expert advice and support 
All this is good background for my current problem of persuading Gracie to walk nicely on her leash when we are out in public.  Does Prochaska’s change method apply to training a dog?  Right now, Gracie is in the precontemplative stage – she’s clueless.  As her change agent, I’ve already moved on to the preparation phase (even though my experience is minimal and I doubt my demeanor provides little inspiration to poor Gracie).  How can I know what her insights are?  I can’t really assess her, other than to see what happens when I put her on a leash.  Maybe the change method only applies to people who think they want to change, and that would explain why they don’t teach IT folks about it.  Much of the time, we have to force change on people who don’t really want to change. 
References
Norcross, J. C., Krebs, P. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2011). Stages of change.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 143-154. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mnh&AN=21157930&site=eds-livestages
Raymond, D. M., & Lusk, S. L. (2006). Staging workers’ use of hearing protection devices: Application of the transtheoretical model, AAOHN Journal, 54(4), 165-172. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=20373153&site=eds-live
 


 

taking control

Gracie and I had a discussion yesterday regarding her inability to exhibit nice doggie behavior on our walks. At only about 40 pounds, she is surprisingly strong. When on leash, she tries to pull me around where she wants to go. I hold the leash in tight with two hands and lean back to add resistance as she chokes herself, coughing and wheezing for air. We go for walks at night when fewer people are out walking their dogs because Gracie’s manners are atrocious. She snarls at everyone no matter how friendly they are. It’s so unpleasant that we only go for 20 minutes. I would take her for long walks if she could be more civilized. I told Gracie this can’t continue!




I guess our discussion was really more like a lecture because she didn’t have anything to say about the matter. Her ears perked up and her tail wagged every time I said the word “walk”. At least she listened, which is more respect than the kids give me most of the time.

I watched dog training videos on YouTube last night. Training dogs seems like common sense – you need to be consistent and patient, and provide rewards for good behavior. Common sense, maybe. Easy – most definitely not. Last night, I put some dry cat food in my pocket to use as rewards. Gracie would rather have little bits of dry cat food than any other treats we’ve ever offered her.

So last night was our first training session. It was utter failure. We walked around in the house with her leash on for 15 minutes or so, and she was very obedient and well-behaved. As soon as I opened the door to go outside, Gracie morphed into a wild animal.  We took more than an hour to go the same distance we normally cover in 20 minutes. Every time she pulled on the leash, I made her sit. She had no interest in rewards, she just wanted to GO!!!  It was a miserable walk for both of us (usually, it’s only miserable for me). I think we will just train in the yard from now on until she learns how to walk with a human.  Her world will be smaller for a while (but hopefully not for too long). 

Monday, August 20, 2012

monday venom

It was a different sort of weekend for me. The whole month has been unusual and things won’t be getting back to normal until after next weekend. The details aren’t suitable for blogging, but the result of all the unusual goings-on is that…well, I guess I don’t even want to write about that either.

I’m kind of private about some things. I worry that someday I’ll want to get a new job and everything I put on Facebook, Linkedin, or my blog will be scrutinized for anything that hints of terrorism, or general craziness, skankiness, malfeasance, or any other undesirable traits. I’ve probably already written enough to hang myself.

incognito

The government wants to eliminate online anonymity, tax email, tax sales of anything sold via the Internet, etc.   If they succeed, the Internet won’t be as much fun as it is now. I kind of like having a social life where I can come and go as I please, where sometimes nobody knows who I am, and where I don’t have to concern myself about people’s expectations. In some ways, the Internet is way better than real life (OK, but that doesn’t make me an Internet addict).

So, I will write about one thing that’s been bugging me all month long (besides worrying about the government overstepping boundaries). I went to a funeral earlier this month. Funerals are primarily the only reason my family ever gets together.  I overheard somebody outside my immediate family talking to another person – they were talking about who the people in my family were, who is left, and what a mess some members are. The person said I am the “glue” holding us together. That comment just about made me come unglued, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I heard it.  I suppose it could be construed as a compliment, but I don’t like it one little bit.  Maybe the whole thing is that I don’t want to be glue for anyone else; people need to be their own damn glue.  It’s enough trouble keeping my own shit together.   And really, the only thing holding “us” together is the fact that anyone is left to die so that we can still have funerals.

OK, so that’s my Monday mood showing.  I’m trying to get in a better frame of mind for the rest of the week, given the IRB is still ignoring me, given that work has been a death camp lately, and given that I still have to get through next weekend before life can get back to normal.  End of rant.

On a happier and more positive note, tonight me and Someone went to the school open house where my girls are just starting 11th grade. Someone took Erin’s schedule and I took Emily’s schedule. We met teachers and heard a bit about the expectations for each of their classes. They only have two classes in common this year – physics and geometry. They will both have a tough year with lots of accelerated classes, and both are taking several classes for college credit providing they pass credit exams at the end of the year. Still, I think it’ll be an easier year than last year for them. Let’s hope it’s a better year than last year.

first day of kindergarten

Thursday, August 16, 2012

sex ed and what not

I’m done being glum and gloomy over the lack of progress with collecting data and my frustration with the bureaucratic review board. I could live life in a shroud of unhappiness for the next 28 days, but no, I will sweep that rubbage out of my brain manifolds and replace it with thoughts of sunny blue skies, fields of wildflowers, fuzzy kittens, and rainbows. Well, I'll try to, anyway.



Reading about Linda’s son’s interesting day at school reminded me of a funny story about my girls. Someone took Erin, Emily, and a friend to the Paranormal Convention around Halloween last year. Keep in mind that all three girls (15 year olds) have had plenty of sex education in school, and no doubt much more sex education absorbed from TV, movies, and their classmates.  Vendor tables were set up at the convention with all sorts of displays, brochures, and cheap trinket give-aways (pencils, keychains, flashlights, etc). They came to a table themed for Aids prevention. Emily said she recognized immediately what was in the large bowls on the table, so she walked on.  Erin thought the the items were candy and the friend thought they were Halloween charms or earrings.  Erin picked through the bowl, selected a package, then began rummaging in another bowl. The friend picked out two from one of the bowls. All the while, Emily hung back and hissed “Guys, come on, let's go.” One of ladies working the table spoke to Erin and said, “Honey, go ahead and take all you want. We have plenty.” Erin thanked her and cheerfully picked out several more.

So, Erin and the friend turned away from the table and Emily said, “Guys! Really? Seriously?” Erin was puzzled by Emily’s reaction and looked more closely. Horrified at what she held in her hands, she stepped back to the table, dropped all the packets into a bowl, and assured the lady she had no need for them (with beet-red face, to hear Emily tell the story). The friend was equally embarrassed and put them back.  The give-away items were condoms in Halloween wrappers.


Sarah got early sex education riding the school bus in kindergarten or first grade (I can’t remember). She showed me a picture of male genitalia scribbled in pencil on a piece of crumpled notebook paper. She asked me what it meant and if I thought it was funny.  I asked her where she found it (not quite sure if she had drawn it herself). She said she copied the image from the back of the school bus seat in front of her. She added that it appeared on the back of many of the bus seats on her bus.  Yes - it was very funny to see manparts so crudely drawn in such great detail, but I maintained a serious, adult tone and told her what it was and why she shouldn't draw anything like that in public. 

Changing the subject – I acquired a beautiful gargoyle yesterday. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it was the best of the three I could load by myself (they had nobody working to help customers load their merchandise).  Perhaps it's a good thing because the one I really wanted was much more expensive.  My gargoyle looks sad because they made him with chains and shackles.  I must now plan the perfect garden to set him in and, of course, do the work to produce the perfect garden.  I promised him he could be in the shade part of the day and I would pat his smooth little head whenever I weed around him.  What a lucky gargoyle!  What should I name him? 



This week, I entered an interesting discussion on Linkedin that quickly extended well beyond my knowledge base.  I will research the following things:

Prochaska’s change methodology
Universal conscience / super conscience / collective unconscious (these might be all the same thing)
Kolb’s Experiential Learning
Prediction management (Maybe this is the same as risk management??)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

maximized frustration

Dare I even start thinking about the current state of things?


I’m one of those people who sort of plows through life mindlessly. It works best for me most of the time not to get too involved in all the day to day business that goes on. Sometimes it’s impossible to stay out of it, but I manage most of the time.

Two nights ago, I got an email from the institutional review board (IRB) that things were about to happen for me. I wanted to think it would be good things. I want to be an optimistic person, but why oh why do I ever think being optimistic is something that can work for me? It just doesn’t! I hedged. I told myself that my wait is almost over, I did what they told me to do – trust the process and it will probably turn out OK. Probably. OK, for me, that’s optimism.

Being a pessimist is just shitty. Nobody likes to hang with a pessimist; I know that. I try to keep my shitty outlook to myself, but sometimes, the volcano erupts and shit spews everywhere. Yep – I’m about to blow again.


I got another email last night from the board. This one says “WTF did you do, you idiot? Put your original documents back out on our web site, fill out the Proposed Change to Proposal form and email it to us. We will get back to you when we damn well please, 15-25 days from the time you do what we’re telling you to do this time.” It was easy. I had everything they asked for THIS TIME already prepared.

Needless to say, I’m totally bummed. Bummed out. Disgruntled. Pissed off. Despaired. Depressed. Blue. Whatever else means not happy about the current state of things.

What can I do about it? Nothing. Wait, wait, and more waiting. Getting a doctorate has nothing to do with being smart or having goals. It’s all about persistence, tolerance, and money. Lots and lots of money.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

hair

For some strange reason, hair has been on my mind lately.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBIfWt3uiZ8


Ever since I wrote this post about a former flame, I’ve been thinking about his beautiful blond hair (and of course the divine beard and mustache that went with it). I can hardly think of blond-headed men without images of two other utterly perfect specimens coming to mind.  One was an airline steward, the other an engineer.  The former flame was good looking, but he really isn't in the same league with these other two. 

It’s not too often that someone is just so appealing that I lose all touch with reality. The steward was fabulous. Thinking back, he was probably gay, which is fine because I was married at the time and really, our existence together on the plane was a once-in-a-lifetime, temporary thing. I was on a business trip traveling with others. Apparently my co-worker sitting next to me saw me watching Mr Eye-Candy.  The handsome man walked passed my row and my co-worker said to me, “You can put your tongue back in your mouth now.” I was completely unaware anyone was observing my indiscretion. Why do I think he was gay? His clothes were perfectly pressed, not a beautiful blond hair out of place, trimmed mustache, manicured nails, shoes were shined, and even his belt didn’t have a scratch on it. Gay men tend to pay much more attention to their appearance, but maybe that's just my belief and there's no truth to it at all.

The engineer – sheer perfection. If we lined all the men up that I've ever seen in person with my eyes, he would get the gold medal.  I had a business meeting in Boston with Siemens Corporation – I was one of five people who traveled to the meeting. We got into a heated debate over their product so the sales rep called a design engineer into the meeting. Straight from Germany, in walks a tall, blond man with blond beard and mustache, and with eyes that were just spectacular, brilliant blue. It still takes my breath away to even think of him.  He wore a wedding ring, of course.   His teeth were perfectly even and white (a dentist's dream), and when he spoke, the accent was…well...what? German.  I was on another planet as soon as he smiled at us and opened his mouth to speak. I was so into just watching him talk with that accent that I didn’t pay attention to anything he said. He could have been talking about monkey balls for all I know. His fifteen minutes in my presence left a lifetime impression on me.  He definitely had the "exotic factor" going for him.

Those things happened long ago, when I was in my late 20s or perhaps early 30s. Things like that just don’t happen anymore. Maybe my eyesight is failing, or perhaps life has beaten me down so bad I’ve no imagination left for such things. It could be that I just don’t get out as much as I used to.  Maybe this is all the result of old age, or it's what we're all left with once reality really sets in.  But I'll keep my eyes open.  As Someone and I have said a few times, just because we've already ordered doesn't mean we can't still look at the menu. 



Monday, August 6, 2012

unusual waltz

video


We visited a historic district, Old Washington, near Maysville, Kentucky yesterday. It's right outside the town where Sarah lives. We looked around at an old log house and then sat under the shade of gigantic walnut trees talking about this and that. The subject of dancing came up and since nobody was around but us, Emily gave us a brief demonstration of ballet moves she remembers. Then Sarah began asking her to demonstrate other dance styles, like jazz, lyrical, salsa, jive, and then I suggested waltz. She asked Erin to be her partner. We caught this video on my iPhone.

Emily said that was the traditional waltz, and not nearly as energetic as the Vietnamese Waltz.  I thought for a moment and suggested she might have been referring to the Viennese Waltz.  J  We all had a smile.   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

practically perfect in every way

I took the girls to the grocery store with me last night. I know better, but did it anyway. As a result the tab was much higher than if I’d gone alone. Emily wanted to try new, expensive cereal. Erin asked for sushi. Of course I could have said no, but I’m a pushover when I’m tired (and I was tired). Then, we took a shortcut through the hair aisle and hairdryers were on sale. I bought one because heck, my old one is on its last legs, I don’t buy stuff for myself very often, and I was tired.

So this morning I slept in for an extra 6 minutes and that put me behind schedule. I whipped out the new hairdryer and WOW, it did a much better job. For the first time in nearly a year, I arrived at the office with almost dry hair, and it even looked somewhat styled. From now on, I'm sleeping 6 extra minutes every morning, and it only cost me $15 plus tax for that luxury!

I have little patience with my hair. Typically, I dry it until the top layer looks dry enough and then it air dries the rest of the way. It’s usually not that bad but if it’s windy in the parking lot, sometimes I look in the restroom mirror at work and it looks like I just rolled out of bed. (Where does that expression come from? I never roll out of bed).  It's not pretty. 


I really don’t spend much time on my looks because it doesn't make much difference.  Makeup can only do so much for this face.  When my girls get up for school, one spends nearly 90 minutes on her appearance and the other spends about 15 minutes. Both look very nice when they go to school. Of course, they are at the age where they hope boys will pay attention to them. The one who spends 90 minutes says she is homely and it takes a long time to look acceptable. The one who spends 15 believes she is pretty enough and she’s just adding icing to the cake.


I think all my daughters are beautiful, and I hope it’s nothing I’ve said or done that makes any of them feel less than beautiful. When Sarah was about 4 years old, I remember taking her shopping for a dress. It was evening and we were the only customers in the store. Clerks were very helpful and Sarah was pleased to have everyone paying attention to her. Just outside the dressing room, the store had a platform surrounded by 5 mirrors so the customer could see herself from all angles. Sarah tried on many dresses that evening and modeled them in the mirrors. She spent more time looking at herself than looking at the dresses; it was fun to watch her. She would twirl, curtsey, dance, skip in a circle, make faces and look at herself from different angles in each dress.  Finally, she set her heart on a dress that I thought was a bit above the acceptable price range. “But Mommy, don’t you think I look beautiful in this dress?  Don’t you think this is the most beautiful dress in the world?  Don’t you want me to look beautiful?” I caved in and bought the dress.

As for my daughter who believes she is homely, I wonder if she has somehow got that idea from me. As her mother I must somehow be guilty. My girls are all beautiful and I believe that with all my heart and brain. Even if reality is that they are all very plain and homely, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to me. They are mine and they are perfect (I’m just very possessive and biased like that when it comes to my children).