Tuesday, December 09, 2003

To complete that thought

Didn't want to leave out today's musical selections:

"Mbube," by the Mahotella Queens
"Mbaqanga," by Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens

...From the truly excellent album, entitled South African Legends.

My moment of truth, wherein I finally conclude I have to read the directions.

I am not the world's most patient person. I do not like reading directions. For the most part I have gotten away with it, and have felt vindicated when people I view as 'real' experts have told me they, too, learned by fiddling with things, breaking them, then figuring out how they worked.

However, it appears I have attained my level of incompetence in two arenas.

1. I just got a new cell phone. I insisted on one that has all the capabilities of a rocket ship, or possibly more. The manual is 99 pages long. I really, really wanted all these features, but I have no idea how to use them. Actually, I have no idea how to even answer the phone if it rings. (Fortunately it hasn't. I am afraid to give the number out.) I attempted to complete a Bluetooth file exchange between the phone and my computer yesterday. Although I was able to make the connection, I couldn't figure out how to input any text to send. Oh dear.

2. I just received a massive data file for a very important client project. It is an SPSS file, but I only know how to use Statview, the user-friendly version of SAS. Oh, did I mention that SAS was eaten up by another company that has decided not to support Statview? That it is, to my knowledge, impossible to exchange files between SPSS for OSX and Statview(which only operates on OS9)? I know, because I tried repeatedly! So, it appears I will need to learn how to use SPSS. It is a really, really powerful program and thus the tutorial/manual/directions are completely overwhelming. But I just tried to just fiddle and putz my way through the data without consulting them, and 10 hours later I was still in nowhere-land. In short, it's time to face the music.

I think that at some level I fear I'll be sucked in by the directions and never emerge. I'll never figure out how to use these things, but I will fall into a cycle of reading teensy weensy print that makes very little sense, forever.

I doubt that Eleanor Roosevelt was referring to tasks like reading the directions when she said,

"You can gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

...But I don't care. If reading the directions is my personal "frontier," so be it.

If you hear nothing from me for the next six weeks, please send in a search party. Oh, and don't bother trying to call. My silence probably means I still haven't figured out how to answer the phone.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Thought fragments

1. I'm reading Quicksilver, the latest novel by Neal Stephenson. My favorite is still Snowcrash, which is edgy, brilliant and fun (for instance I know all too many people who live in burbclaves--even de facto apartheid burbclaves-- and drive bimbo boxes). I liked Cryptonomicon a lot. There is one particular scene that I adore and which I alone (among the extremely limited audience with whom I discuss these topics) find totally loopy in an incredibly insightful way. I am currently waiting for Quicksilver to take off for me, but it hasn't happened yet.

2. It is imperative that you check out The World Cafe hosted by WXPN's David Dye. Yes, I mean you!! Don't delay! Listen to everything available and file a full report as soon as is humanly possible. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

To Blog or not to Blog

Here is a quote that nicely characterizes my point of view:

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."

- Cyril Connolly

As long as I'm in quotation mode, here is one more I really like:

"We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects."

- Alexis de Tocqueville

Geez, I wonder if I can find an "enterprise" where I can succeed by distracting myself and everyone else, have a lot of fun doing so, and end up making a great big but somehow beautiful mess..................

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Greet the Day

It is a beautiful day here, after many soggy, gloomy ones. And, there is a new Van Morrison album out.

A quick thought, courtesy of Mark Twain:

"You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus."

...And another, courtesy of Joseph Campbell:

"The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature."

Enjoy it!

Sunday, October 26, 2003

'Fright Night' on the Hill

"Seeing the adults dance was really scary," commented my 12-year old upon returning from a black tie benefit. As she tells it, she and her two buddies looked on in mortification as the over-the-hill crowd engaged in "spastic gyrations," which were rendered even more appalling by too-tight, shiny clothes that emphasized their lumps, bumps, and bulges.

With Halloween a full five days away, I shudder to think what's next.

Quel horreur!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

....A wonderful poem, to picture, to ponder, to contemplate.

The Door

Too little
has been said
of the door, its one
face turned to the night’s
downpour and its other
to the shift and glisten of firelight.

Air, clasped
by this cover
into the room’s book,
is filled by the turning
pages of dark and fire
as the wind shoulders the panels, or
unsteadies that burning.

Not only the storm’s breakwater,
but the sudden frontier to our concurrences, appearances,
and as full of the offer of space as the view of a cromlech is.

For doors
are both frame and monument
to our spent time,
and too little
has been said
of our coming through and leaving them.

Charles Tomlinson 1927-

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Musical Interlude

Tonight's Picks:

Hey Ya! OutKast. Click on "The Love Below" and you'll find it.
Ekwa Mwata (Affirmation of the Spirits), Richard Bona
Itche Koutche, Angelique Kidjo
Tabou, Les Princesses Nubiennes. (Find it in "albums and videos" by clicking on the album cover for "Les Nubians." It's number 7.
Where is the Love, Black Eyed Peas. Click on audio/video, and you'll see the album cover for "Elephunk." It's at the bottom of the list. Stream it--you won't regret it!

Friday, October 03, 2003

This morning's lecturette

I just sent this in to "Bloggercon," the site for a conference I wish I could attend. I just get so frustrated by the U.S. press's coverage of the rest of the world that occasionally I have to issue a proclamation!

I agree with Dave about the disturbingly high level of distortion in big-time press reportage. Add to that the binary, ideological manner in which it is organized and presented, and one wonders how anyone in the U.S. could possibly discern what is going on "out there."

I do think it's a mistake to attribute primary responsibility for this to individual reporters, since they are not the people who choose to hire, fire, print, or broadcast their work. The network brass are the people who do this, and if you want to see whose world view they don't want to feature here in the U.S., try watching the news at 3:00 am or even going to the CNN International web site. (These are just two examples.)

It appears to me that the U.S. media are so dominated by money, especially big money, that any view--no matter how ridiculous or uninformed--will get ‘play’ as long as people will pay attention. The "marketplace of ideas" is a nice phrase but is misplaced since we are not talking about something as simple and straightforward as buying and selling.

In this world, not everything is for sale. Experience is infinitely more colorful and nuanced than is the calculation of media market share. Moreover, I believe that ideas, yes-even ideologies--should exist in relation to empirical reality and to experience rather than being overlaid onto them. Tolerating the silly and pathetically limited coverage we get from so many of the major media outlets only hurts us in the end, since it keeps us ignorant.

That is one of the reasons why "newsblogging" is a good thing. Yes, some of the "newsbloggers" are just as ignorant and limited in their thinking as are the big-media outlets. However, because there are many, many voices, we have a chance to stumble on one that conveys a different view than our own…. But that in presenting things differently, imparts wisdom. When these views are "edited out" because they don't sell, we are all the poorer. Note that poverty--especially poverty of thought-- rarely brings out the best in people.

Monday, September 22, 2003


.......and minor thoughts on technology.

Isabel came to Philadelphia on Thursday night. Per usual, the local news stations were downright hysterical in their reportage leading up to the event. We scoffed at them, having noted that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of weather-related hype and the severity of actual weather conditions.

Indeed, Thursday evening was windy but not very rainy. I slept through the entire storm, but upon awaking noticed that the yard was littered with tree-related debris. We got the calls indicating that schools were closed. More scoffing. Then, at about 9 am., we heard a loud crash. "That's a tree falling," said my husband. Then, an even louder noise that sounded like a truck crashing........"um, well, maybe it's not a tree."

As it turned out, it was a tree, knocking over a major power line as it fell. The lights went out, the clocks stopped, and all those wretched hand-held phones went dead. At first it was an adventure, but there are a lot of trees nearby, and as the day dragged on into night we learned that ours was one of many neighborhoods that lost power--one of the ones at the bottom of the electric company's "emergency repair" list. All scoffing mysteriously ceased.

You never realize how dependent you are on electricity until you have none. For instance, it never before occurred to me that electricity fuels the hot water heater--and I really, really don't like cold showers. I love my WLAN--but as wireless as it is, it cannot work without electricity. I've attended any number of first-rate technology conferences where there were great WIFI connections for all to use---and enough electrical outlets to provide power to about 5% of them. Sub-optimal to say the least.

Hmm. It appears that Bob Freling has a point.

Friday, September 12, 2003

"The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is 'look under foot.' You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world."

John Burroughs

Saturday, September 06, 2003

True Confessions

I'm in a bad mood. So, when this happens I don't feel like talking. Or writing...about technology, deep thoughts, amusing trivia, or anything else.

For some unknown reason, I always feel the need to be relentlessly upbeat when I write in this blog. But it's too much pressure, especially when I'm not feeling even remotely "perky" or "chipper." Actually, "taciturn" is a pretty good description of my current mental state. Thus my silence.....which I just stepped out of .....temporarily.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Monday, August 04, 2003

Vocabulary Builder

I'm feeling dialectical tonight...possibly even labile....

Much to my amazement -and possible chagrin, since I'm no Freudian- I'm thinking admiringly about Freud having made the comment, "One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful." And I'm trying to remember that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Why follow the money?

When we sit inside an organization, it is very difficult to diagnose our problems accurately. In my experience, most companies contact a consultant with a fairly specific service request (e.g., team-building, market analysis, strategy development, technology audit, etc.)--one that is based on a faulty diagnosis. For the consultant to take this at face value is usually a mistake. Few among us, no matter how smart or skilled, are able to be objective about our own lives. Why should we expect a CEO, director, division head, etc. to be any different? In other words and more succinctly: "A fool is his own lawyer."

The question then becomes, what is the problem and what lies at its source? Following the money is a superb diagnostic tool, because money is in some ways the most tangible manifestation of relationships--within the organization and with the outside world. It is not the only tool, of course, but it has an incredibly useful way of clarifying the reality that underlies the verbiage. It's like a road map, but one with special powers. Once you have used it to track a problem to its source you find, lo and behold, that you have in your hands an essential lever for positive change....which is a fine thing indeed.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Song for tonight

Nora Jones, Come Away With Me

A meandering tale wanders back to the topic at hand

What a meandering tale this is turning out to be. But at least I'm amusing myself, and I'm chipping away at that encrusted fork.

The main point of "Follow the Money" is that we (humans) invented money, that it is an expression of who we are, and that the nature of economic relationships between people or groups of people tell us an awful lot about the nature of their relationship more broadly. Moreover, it suggests that when organizational relationships are dysfunctional, there is often a corollary dysfunction in the financial relationships and that to 'fix' one, you have to 'fix' the other.

For instance, I once consulted to an organization where the "presenting problem" was weak revenue in a particular division. The CEO believed that they simply needed some market research so they could better position themselves in a tight market.

In fact, after many months of interviews, market scans, financial analyses, etc., we concluded that the CEO's diagnosis was incorrect: the market was huge, underserved, and anything but tight. The requirements of the most attractive market segments were clear, and meeting them was entirely feasible - if - the various divisions could collaborate to deliver what they wanted.

As it turns out, the primary obstacle to success lay within the company. The divisions were so busy bickering with one another, thwarting each other's efforts, and generally working at cross-purposes that the market barely made it on to their mental radar screens.

Seeking to understand the source of the problem, we learned that the conflict was neither personal nor a matter of corporate culture. Rather, it had to do with financial and structural differences in the relationship between the executive office and the various divisions. Some divisions operated as little mini-companies: they had almost complete control over their own finances, and could keep most of the money they brought in to reinvest in the business and to incent performance. Others were expected to bring in profits, but were not allowed to keep them. In other words, they were expected to produce, but had little or no control over the means of production. The autonomous divisions tended to bully the non-autonomous ones, while the latter group invested its energy finding work-arounds that provided more control (another word for this is subterfuge). Oh, by the way, the division we were hired to help was the most extreme among the "low autonomy" group.

Obviously, this is not a recipe for collaboration. No amount of team-building would have been enough to change the built-in imbalances and conflicting incentives between the different divisions. I shudder to think of the grueling months, weeks, and years of retreats, "sharing" sessions, and the like that could have resulted from the belief that the lack of collaboration was personality- or communication- driven.....Or of the endless data presentations that would have been endured by all if we had stuck with the original "market research" diagnosis.

Incidentally, the "every division has its own deal" financial structure was a vestige of a past era, when authoritarian leadership was the model and silo-ism was in the ascendant. So, in a sense the problem we encountered was much bigger than financial arrangements, communication, the market, and/or leadership style. The point is that without following the money and addressing the dysfunction located there (which was not easy), it would not have been possible to move forward in any of these arenas.

In all fairness,

Non-profits are not likely to be much different. Speaking one's truth at work, when someone else calls the shots, is always risky--no matter where you are or what type of work you do.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Still following the money (but looking for the train of thought....)

Perhaps I overstate the case. No one really ignores the numbers in a business. In fact lots of business people don't merely attend to them; they anthropomorphize, reify (which means, to regard something abstract as a material thing and in so doing distort its very nature) or even deify them. The numbers become more important than the economic engine of which they are a by-product. Keep in mind that the numbers are as much outcome variables as they are input variables. Yes, you input (invest) money, but that is merely the most easily quantifiable investment. The most important "things" you invest in a business (time, passion, energy, ideas) are much harder to measure.

Those with backgrounds in finance might assert that it's best to "manage by the numbers." This world view could best be described as a form of wishful thinking wherein one assumes it is possible to wield power and control over life's vicissitudes if one is only smart/disciplined enough to figure out and enact the formula. Of course, mad and reckless spending, investing, and saving are ill-advised--who doesn't know that?

But I digress. In the field of organizational development, we have a different problem. In contrast to finance types, many of my pals in the OD field believe it's all about relationships, group process, or other economics-free theoretical models wherein the recommended 'treatments' ultimately devolve to a Baba Ram-Dassian "be here now" experience of life, coupled with National Training Labs (NTL) group process methods and a slew of self-awareness techniques that assume once a person "owns up" to whatever their hangups are, the truth will set them free.....except, for the most part, it doesn't--especially in a corporate setting where it is more likely to get you fired.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Follow the Money, continued.........

Except there was one small thing: I could not get a job doing this kind of work to save my life. I was 28 but I looked 21, and I had no work experience outside of the mental health profession (nonetheless, some of my early clients prepared me very well for later ones--see note below). However, I could get corporate work doing that which I had done in my many moments of anxiety/boredom: playing with numbers. I was hired as "consumer research manager" in a large bank, and given my generally high level of anxiety/boredom, I was pretty good at it. Within three years I was a division head, managing the whole market research function and calculating away with reckless abandon. I still wanted to do organizational consulting, but in the mean time rather enjoyed crunching numbers.

Fast forward to 1994: I finally do get a job at a firm where the focus is on organizational consulting......And discover, in doing the work, that ignoring the numbers in a business is a bit like trying to help a family have better relationships while ignoring the economic engine upon which they depend. How silly.

The "Follow the Money" approach to organizational consulting

Prompted by the gentle goading of my friend/colleague Meg, I will attempt to briefly describe what this is all about. I know I've been avoiding the subject, even though it's incredibly interesting to me, because I imagine it will be a challenge to present in a way that makes sense. Yet, in the spirit of my original courageous endeavor to wash one fork, here goes.

When I was in college, all I wanted was to be a therapist. I thought human emotions were completely fascinating and hoped to have some one day myself. I had no interest in organizations or finance or anything of the like--although when anxious I did like to balance my checkbook, then hand-calculate regression equations to estimate what my bank balance might be in a week or a month (no comments on this are solicited or will be considered!). Then, as I neared the end of a lengthy and expensive stint in graduate school, it dawned on me that I would need to support myself and that I preferred to do so in style. Given that newly minted social science Ph.D's do not usually receive lucrative job offers, I decided to go to business school....Sort of. I attended a program at Wharton that was, in effect, a combination finishing school/boot camp for Ph.D's and ABD's in non-business fields who wanted to get jobs in the business world. By this time, I had shifted my fondest hopes and aspirations to doing organizational consulting--in other words, corporate therapy.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

A propos de quelque chose ou rien:

Early warning signs that a career in consulting was in the cards for me:

1. Since I was a small child, I have been genuinely motivated both to achieve conventional success (good grades, good schools, good jobs, etc.) and to express my equally powerful subversive/creative tendencies.

2. I came of age (no, not that kind of coming of age) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1971, a city under siege. Other than being marginally-to-quite terrified at all times, I had fun water-skiing on the Tonle Sap river, learning to speak French, and squabbling with my equally adolescent brothers. Banality amidst mayhem became quite comfortable for me then, and my view of what constitutes a crisis was forever calibrated downwards.

3. My first job after graduating from college was on the all-male locked unit of an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After the initial shock, which was considerable, I found it quite interesting.

4. When I was nineteen years old, I travelled with a friend to Timbuctou, Mali a) because it was in the 'neighborhood;' b) because it seemed worth doing; and c) because everyone said it couldn't be done. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, if not the most sanitary.

5. I wrote my doctoral dissertation in ten days (didn't want to miss a 'client' deadline). Note to all present or future doctoral students: I do not recommend this approach.

................seems pretty consistent.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Stay tuned for the next topic:

The 'Follow the Money' approach to organizational consulting.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

A Promise to Myself

If I ever again feel tempted by the extravagant claims on the covers of self-help books, I will turn away. To free associate, this genre's salient descriptors seem to include: maudlin, lugubrious, platiudinous, formulaic, artless, drek. I wasted about an hour and a half on a 'self help' book this afternoon, which I now regret. Contrary to the claims of the publisher, it was a complete bummer--encouraging readers to wallow endlessly in their 'pain' so they can be freed from it. The question is: does the 'implosion' theory of 'personal growth' (e.g., if you want to be free of something, go farther into it) hold water? This n=1 study (sample size: me) suggests "no."

By contrast, I spent one particularly bleak Thanksgiving vacation during my junior year in college reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. When I finished, I cried like a baby for two straight days. The book was poignant--beautiful, sad, and uplifting. My tears notwithstanding, I felt wonderful after reading it. Many years later, I can still feel the lesson.

From now on, I think I'll stick with fiction.

Words and Music

Summertime......we had a tiny taste of it today and hope to have a lot more, soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Reunion Oblivion, Part III: The Denouement

By the time I picked up my daughter, I was ready to ditch the $100 I had paid for my spouse and I to attend the class dinner. I just wanted to go home, get in bed, and pull the covers over my head. I consoled myself with a large snack and a nap.

Feeling much revived, I headed off with my husband to the class dinner. It was a good move. Held in the lovely new performing arts center, the ambience was low key; I saw people I knew (more or less-as introverted as I was in college, I didn't know very many people well); and the food was outstanding. Also plentiful. This went quite far in resolving my earlier crabbiness.

I saw very, very few people who resembled Dick Cheney. Also, given that Swarthmore was once known as "the little red schoolhouse," I found not one single person who admired, or could even abide, Mr. Cheney and his 'posse.' So in that regard it was a homecoming of sorts, certainly a case of "all's well that ends well."

With that, I must return to my 'day job,' which I cannot afford to forget even though I might like to at this particular moment.

Reunion Oblivion II

Finally, I saw a few people I recognized and who recognized me. One Fred Wasserman (now a curator in NYC) was kind enough to give me a leftover nectarine and that, combined with a stale pretzel, kept me from fainting dead away. (Geez, this is really melodramatic.)

At some point during the 'entry process,' I remembered that when I had attended the Jonathan R. Lax Conference on Entrepreneurship, my laptop had detected a wireless network that I was unable to access. So, hoping that being an alumnus might give me a teensy weensy bit of pull, I went to the front desk and asked for the network name and password. (Yes--I brought my laptop to my college reunion. No comments on this topic are solicited or will be accepted.)

The front desk didn't seem to know (!) and sent me over to the library. There I discovered, lo and behold, about 5 different wireless networks, including an open one, upon which ran about 50 servers. "This is great," I thought, before realizing that the thrill was in the chase and that having gone on-line, there wasn't anything I particularly wanted to do there. With my daughter playing at a friend's in the town of Swarthmore, I was stuck there until 4:00 pm. So I sat by myself looking out the library window at the rain......just like I did so many times as a student. I tried to take a nap, but the armchair had pointy arms so it was sort of painful.

To top it all off, I was so busy staring out the window in an anomic state that I actually forgot to attend the one event that held any interest for me: a panel discussion entitled "What did you do during the bubble, Mommy/Daddy?"....Because I was so busy putzing around trying to get into a bunch of wireless networks for no particular reason.

Reunion Oblivion

In the context of college life, "oblivion" often connotes intoxication, mischief, and mayhem--in short, fun. However, my entry into the 'reunion experience' conformed to the more conventional definition of the word. Per Webster's:

Oblivion: 1. the fact or condition of forgetting or having forgotten; especially : the condition of being oblivious 2. the condition or state of being forgotten or unknown.

Just to set the scene, it was about 57 degrees Fahrenheit and pouring down rain. It was raining so hard that driving there, I could barely see and the windshield of my car kept fogging up. Upon arrival, I learned that the 'luncheon' would take place in the field house (lunch in a gym, just what I always dreamed of!), about a fifteen minute (read: cold, rainy, miserable) walk from the main campus. Also, it had been constructed as a test of one's ability to plan ahead (I flunked). Unless you had ordered your solitary sandwich about a month in advance, you couldn't get anything to eat for any amount of money. Access to the line was strictly policed.

Did I mention that at first I barely recognized anyone, and that no one recognized me? As I--freezing, wet, hungry, and very cranky--looked on, my classmates huddled around two rickety tables (for warmth, no doubt). I thought to myself "This is horrible. What am I doing here? At least as a student I was warm and got to eat lunch."

Monday, June 09, 2003

My College Reunion

As mentioned, I went to Swarthmore College. Despite the idyllic setting, the place is an intellectual pressure cooker of the first order. Having gotten decent grades in high school despite an almost total lack of effort, I assumed college would be more of the same. I could not have been more wrong. I have never felt as stupid as I did during my freshman year at Swarthmore. It's bad enough being a geek, but being a not-particularly-bright geek is pure humiliation. Such was my lot.

Fortunately I got the hang of the academics early in year three, so the stupidity 'thing' began to fade. However, I continued to be a slightly overweight, maladroit introvert. This did not begin to change until well into graduate school. All of this is a long way of saying I didn't feel too worried going back to my reunion, did not feel compelled to go on a diet, etc. etc. because given my general state at the time, the only way to go was up!

Slightly unnerving, however, was the invitation, which implied that as a group, we were likely to occupy the dumpy/frumpy end of the personal sleekness scale. I immediately took the opportunity to inform my reunion chair that I have never, ever, not even on the worst day of my entire life, looked like Dick Cheney.

PC Forum, Day 3

The earlier claim about my wonderful memory turns out to have been more wishful thinking than reality. I just re-read my notes, and can make few connections between them and a visceral memory of much of anything. But I need closure. Thus, for your edification, a few snippets:

The social software panel was, to be perfectly honest, less interesting than I had hoped. Some of the panelists were interesting, but some struck me as a bit arrogant. Somehow that seems antithetical to the notion of social software, but then again, people often pursue things that reflect more personal dilemmas, who am I to judge?

Two new companies, Meetup and Socialtext, had created web-based services that seemed simple and smart. I am going to pilot Socialtext on one of my projects, which is about connecting social systems and computing systems to facilitate a more organic (and presumably more effective) approach to IT strategy and systems implementation. I'll let you know how it goes.

One of the products, nTAG, was just plain frightening. Essentially, it is a name tag that is supposed to facilitate conversation by locating similarities between people so they don't have to poke around until they find something to talk about. It just struck me as a product developed for people who are socially inept in the extreme. Simultaneously funny and pathetic. Not that there is anything wrong with social ineptitude........having spent at least a decade that way myself, I am again in no position to judge--only to commiserate.

Apparently nTAG was developed at MIT. During the presentation, I thought to myself: "There are only two places where such a product is needed: MIT and Swarthmore College" (The latter is my undergraduate alma mater, the complete antithesis of the 'party school.')

....and this permits me to drift on to the next topic.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

A few quick things

I had a great day yesterday. The furniture factory was up and running, although if I never have to saw anything ever again it will be too soon. My family made me a wonderful dinner, and they were very nice to me. My husband buys me the most thoughtful gifts--things that are so perfectly calibrated to who I am. It's really neat.

A high note, or at least a funny, synchronistic one: the quote for the day for my birthday on Refdesk was:

"When all else fails, read the directions."

.....and related to that quote, pls. ignore the 5/23 post--it's a defective duplicate. Try as I might, I cannot get it to go away. When and if I ever seek help--either from a person, or *gasp* by reading the directions---it will disappear.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Update and *new feature*

The big day: well in truth it was very big, in ways both hoped for and not predicted (and some, yet to be implemented). Kind of a 'sweet and sour' experience. Overall, whether you knew it or not, your wishes made a difference, a very positive difference. Thank you.

Sort of, kind of related to this, I would like to propose a very counter-cultural approach to change (personal and otherwise)--pointilism. Yes, a' la Meurat and etc. Ponder it if you so choose--and then think about the the movie "What about Bob?" (Richard Dreyfus, Bill Murray). Then recall, if you can, the title of Dreyfus (the shrink)'s best-seller......... Perhaps this film was a source of deeper wisdom than I ever imagined. It (pointilism) is kind of digital, too. Think about it.

And on to the *new feature:* a short list of my current fixations.

1. Musically, I am blown away by Angelique Kidjo's new album "Black Ivory Soul," especially the tune "Afrika." It is purely outstanding. I would also like to recommend Citizen Cope. You can stream his entire album from his Web site.It's mesmerizing, soulful, and catchy, too. After listening to it, see if you can refrain from repeating the lyrics over and over and over ("$200,000 in counterfeit fifty dollar bills" being an example of such a lyric.)

2. I am reaching the point of formal addiction to Haagen Dasz Macadamia Nut Brittle Ice Cream. I don't want to be cured--but I do think it would be better for my personal aesthetics if I could cut down to three nights a week of HDMNBIC consumption, from the current (egregious) frequency of seven nights per week.

3. I am very enamored of all my new computer equipment, which has amazing capabilities. I am just kvelling.

Also, tomorrow is my birthday. I love that I was born in May, one of the nicest months of the year (although not currently...) but I never know what to do with myself. It's an awful lot of pressure on a person, since it's just one short day.

Enough for now. Basta!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Big day today

I have a big day today. Hope I'm ready; hope I can do it (do what? This, I ask myself). I want to be my best self--every day, actually, but today is especially important. I'm awash in anxiety, excitement, fear, hope, memories, pictures of an imagined future, and lots of facts. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 09, 2003


1. PC Forum, Day Three (ok it took place 6 weeks ago, but I have a good memory....).
2. My inadvertant launch of an iTunes server at the office today (I didn't even know I'd done it--but I'm still impressed with myself).

PC Forum, day 2.5: Will Wright's speech

Will Wright is, of course, the creator of 'The Sims'--including Sim City and its many spinoffs. The main things I remember:

1. I thought, to myself while he was speaking "Wow, he's really bright. How refreshing." The reason I thought this is that he seemed to understand that paradigms (as the word is used in Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions) are not right or wrong. That is, they are not binary--each has its virtues and its failings. They represent a range of choices, each with its own implications. They are in some ways interchangeable, like a set of clothes....except that when you 'change your clothes,' so to speak, you change your reality.

2. Speaking of clothes, I really liked the dress I was wearing. It definitely improved my reality, even if the PC Forum photographic team, in a momentary lapse, neglected to take my picture. (Thematic note: refer to 1/13/03 for more on the parallel paradigms of computing and clothing...).

Saturday, May 03, 2003

I took a break

....Not that I intended to. April just got away from me; it was a flash in the pan. And now it's May, just about my favorite month of the year. What's new: actually, my computer is. I have a new Mac G4 titanium Powerbook, the 12" model. It is a very cool item on all fronts: power, speed, beauty, style, etc. I got it last Wednesday and am still getting to know it. In the mean time, I am shuttling back and forth between the G4 and my trusty 'old' G3 Powerbook. Since the old one uses OS 9.2 and the new one uses OSX (10.25), and some of my software doesn't work on the new one, I set up a little wireless network right here in my living room. I am very proud of myself, since I am not a 'computer person' (whatever that is), but I manage to figure out how to do things using my little noggin.

Topics in my writing "to do" list: Sims creator Will Wright's speech at the PC Forum dinner, Day three of the PC Forum, movies, esp. Standing in the Shadows of Motown--to name just a few. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 07, 2003

"I hope you get your life together.....

.....because it sure isn't now."

These were my mother's parting words after a four-day stay this weekend. She and my father came up for Grandparents' day at our childrens' schools. For me, it was an experience of chauffeuring people hither and yon, while attempting to work and running a slightly scruffy B&B. Any further commentary on my part will just make me feel guilty, so I'm just going to leave it at that. Grrrrr. Clenching of teeth. Internalization of hostile impulses (not healthy).

Sunday, March 30, 2003

A stab at the topic of idiot-proofing

When I was a child, my mother used to refer to the best, most trustworthy, robust appliances as "idiot-proof." This meant that using them was simple and straightforward, and that someone with no mechanical aptitude whatsoever could employ them as intended. "Idiot-proof," in this context, is not an insult--to the appliance or the user.

I started to think about idiot-proofing as I pondered Bob Frankston's request for access to source information, (see my "PC Forum, Day 1" post). The dilemma is, when does idiot-proofing constitute help or support for the user, and when does it constitute obfuscation? For instance, I am a person who doesn't like to read directions. Yet, I often choose to try things that are new and difficult, where I have limited background knowledge. I end up learning more than I had intended, mainly by trial but mostly by error. Ultimately I am better off because by the time I've made a big mess and cleaned it up, I've had to learn how the thing works. However, there are many, many people who either do read the directions or are not the slightest bit interested in doing something over and over until they get it right, or both. They don't care how something works, just that it does and that it's easy. This is entirely legitimate, however alien it is to me personally.

Hmmm. Why can't providers make available both the idiot-proof/user-friendly version for those who want it, and the source information for those who want that? Obviously some companies don't want the end user to have access to source data because they want to protect their intellectual property. This is short-sighted and impedes innovation, but I grasp the logic.

On the other hand, it is my impression that some companies' leaders don't understand their 'product' well enough to know the difference between help and hiding. They have a knack for selling or for managing, but no particular expertise in the domain. How can you develop a viable business model if you lack a fundamental grasp of that which you are selling? This is just plain disturbing, and all too common when the product is highly technical.

[The common practice of weaseling bizarre and ridiculous rights into the user agreements we're required to sign in order to gain access at all is a separate topic, which I'm mentally bookmarking for a later date.]

Comments anyone? (I put that in to trap myself into learning how to do this.....)

Saturday, March 29, 2003


Nota bene: not all reporters covering the current conflict are sycophants........

Blank Stare Redux

I'm starting to think my earlier screed may have been a tad bit misdirected. Just now, I was sitting here listening to my spouse read aloud from Google Hacks (isn't that romantic?). As he read the preface, which addresses questions of ontologies, precursors to the World Wide Web, search strategies, etc. it suddenly dawned on me that much of the discussion at the PC Forum pertained to secondary or published information, of the type that is found in libraries. What I was talking about, however, was primary or raw data--the kind upon which one can reasonably test hypotheses, perform statistical analyses, etc. So now I sort of understand some of those blank stares. A quote from Adlai Stevenson seems appropriate at this juncture: "Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them." I'm not eating all of my words, mind you, but perhaps a snack is in order.

Idiot-proofing: Pro's and Cons

It's Saturday afternoon, it's raining, and I just ate. I'm too drowsy to write anything now.....but this is my topic of the moment.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

PC Forum Wiki

Here's a link to the PC Forum Wiki, a good source of a lot more information about the conference

PC Forum, Day 2 (Monday): A minor screed on using one's noggin

Somewhere leading in to the 10:50 a.m. panel, I started to think about the value of using one's brain. My musings began with someone's statement that it is possible to develop “classified” information by aggregating and making sense of unclassified information. In other words, if you use your head you can take data sets that seem quite neutral and piece them together with other neutral data sets, only to see a fuller picture emerge. All of a sudden, it becomes information you're not supposed to have. In other words, using your brain is subversive?! Well, of course it's subversive. It always has been. This is one of our greatest sources of power as individuals.

During this particular panel, I noticed that the gentlemen on the stage were speaking from a set of assumptions about data that were (in my opinion) rather ill-informed. For instance, they seemed quite pleased with themselves because they look at "links" in the data (whatever these are, mathematically speaking--correlations? path analyses? what?) and this helps them identify consumer behavior patterns, potential miscreants, etc. This really started to get under my skin.

In a sea of data, how do you know if a "link" is important or meaningful? It is very easy to achieve statistical significance at the p<.05 level if your data set is large enough. But, how do you know what-if anything-it means, and whether or not it is important (back to Gilman Louie)? Suppose you interpret a 'link' incorrectly? Notwithstanding the fact that being wrong is expensive and inconvenient, who will be hurt by your mistake? How do establish or test meaning when it is likely that--at least in matters of race, age, or nationality--there is a good deal of bias involved? There are known ways of doing this, but they are not widely known in this setting. Not that there's anything wrong with that--at least it helps me stave off feelings of personal irrelevance.

To borrow from the title of the meeting, making "data come alive" should be about far more than managing, sorting, or even conducting significance tests on massive piles of data. Good data and lots of it are necessary but not sufficient conditions. One's ability to develop and test hypotheses, and one's skill at interpreting results, are the primary differentiators between a pile of data ressembling (along numerous dimensions) the Herculean stables, and a thing of functionality and beauty. This complex interweaving of art, science, ethical judgment, commerce, creativity, and more is fundamentally a human endeavor.

I said something to this effect on day two and was greeted with a sea of blank stares and an awkward silence. I don't know that I said it as clearly as I did just now, and I certainly wasn't as succinct. But at least I knew what I meant.............and I felt compelled to say it. Etiquette tip to panels--you need to develop a PC Forum equivalent for "thank you for sharing."

PC Forum, Day 2 (Monday)

I'm actually posting this on Thursday. The conference ended yesterday and per usual, I had a blast. So much so, in fact, that I didn't have time to blog. I was finding that if I wrote during the proceedings, I missed them because I was paying attention to my writing, not to what was going on before my eyes.

The 8:15 am panel, moderated by Esther, was "Watching the World," with Robert Carter of Fedex, Mark Cattini of Mapinfo, Jeff Jonas of Systems Research and Development, and Gilman Louie of In-Q-Tel. Gilman Louie in particular was very impressive. Speaking about security and identifying 'suspicious' individuals, he noted the many and varied opportunities (and some terrific/horrific examples) for computer-assisted versions of 'racial profiling.' As an Asian-American, he spoke poignantly about his own personal experience as well as that of friends and family. There's nothing like taking a walk in someone else's shoes to sensitize you to their concerns.

Monday, March 24, 2003

PC Forum, Day 1 (Sunday)

The first interview is titled “Inside Intel,” with Esther Dyson and Paul Ottolini of Intel.

Here's what I thought/wrote:

I feel incredibly sleepy. Melllow, but sleepy. I’m sure there is some importance to this, but I’m not an industry insider, so I don’t know what it is. Lots of discussion of WIFI—something tells me it is viewed as potentially subversive; there are lots of questions about security, as well as one about “whitebox” desktops (what are those?).

Bob Frankston: speaking slowly (for Bob) and clearly, asks a question about individuals' access to data and protocols as compared to corporate access. He seems to be advocating giving individuals access to raw data/other information direct from the source (raw data are the only really useful kind, in my opinion)—asks (to paraphrase) "Are you going to shape it for me; are you going to control what it is/what it looks like? Or, will you give me access to the real thing?” It appears to be a concern similar to that which was widely expressed about Bluetooth.

To the extent that the data have been pre-cooked, they are no longer usable—they have already been manipulated. The problem is not just that the individual has been patronized. The person has also been robbed of his or her power. He or she can no longer ask the kind of questions or develop the kind of solutions the provider didn’t anticipate and/or might find challenging.

You go, Bob!

Friday, March 21, 2003

Arrival in Scottsdale

We came for the conference, but we came a bit early....3.5 days to be precise. It's such a great place and is clearly worth visiting even without any professional self-improvement initiatives.

My first item of business is to get the family unpacked and organized. I don't know why, but facing this prospect I suddenly feel incredibly drowsy.

I keep thinking I should post deep thoughts about technology, data, data interpretation, finding the meaning in the numbers, blah, blah, blah. That's the focus of the conference, after all. It's what I do, I know a ton about it, and I really enjoy it. Why, then, am I so completely unmotivated to post any pithy, well-informed screeds? It's especially odd since I am a person of many opinions and this is one of those delightful cases where I actually know what I'm talking about.

I guess part of the problem is that such opinions are best expressed in the context of a conversation while this blog, to date, has been largely descriptive. I hope to change that soon.

Incidentally, the backdrop for all of this is our unprovoked attack on Iraq. What a dark day. I'm embarrassed to be associated with it. I'm devastated thinking of all the innocents whose lives will be snuffed out by the USA. I can't help but think that with this attack, we've become what we oppose. I am sad and angry and scared.

Monday, March 17, 2003

The Furniture Factory Re-opens

Yesterday I spent a good four hours in the garage, stripping a 125-year old Chinese Wardrobe. What a mess! It seems that the original owner may have stained it with something akin to maraschino cherry juice, then mixed egg yolks into the varnish. I kid you not!! Totally vile.

Eventually it will be worth it. There's part of me that likes stripping away layers and layers of gunk, to the point where all the corners and crevices are clean, the grime is gone, and the grain of the wood begins to show through. Then, something another person thought had little value is revealed as a thing of beauty and utility. I note that this is a theme for me. It's the same trait that drove my choice of profession...........

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Onward and Upward: an Arizona Geek-fest

Next week, I'll be at the PC Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is a very cool technology conference that I've attended for the past 7 years. I always take my family, so it's a vacation and an adventure for the brain rolled into one. The forum is run by Esther Dyson, a leading technology pundit and someone who was into technology before (also during and after) it was cool. Esther really knows how to make an event happen. The meeting is a combination of abstraction, innovation, and gritty reality that is completely unique in my experience. One encounters everything from neat new gadgets, to company "debutantes" seeking funding, to discussions about the relationship between the music industry establishment and file-sharing afficianados, to broad scale consideration of the role of national government in a world not bounded by geographic borders.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Russia in February

I had gone to Russia in late October 1997, to do a banking consultation. My primary memories from that trip are: darkness, cigarette smoke, and excellent dumplings.

It seemed much different this time. Perhaps it was the wonderful light, bright "Kremlin view" room, overlooking St. Basil's cathedral (for which I paid a whopping $3 extra). Perhaps it was the incredible Georgian food I had one night, or the walk through Red Square at midnight during a light snow. Perhaps it was the fact that it was both warmer and less snowy than Philadelphia was that week, and/or that none of my colleagues smoked. Whatever it was, I had a blast. Now I'm back, and I need to do my homework--develop some proposals that will turn into projects that will allow me to return.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

I went to Russia!

Several weeks ago, I went to Russia on business. What a trip. Unfortunately I couldn't write about it when I was there. The internet connection was fine: I found an ethernet port in my room at the Rossiya. However, my blogs were all messed up and I couldn't post. Also, before I found the ethernet port I wasted a ton of money (almost $200--argh) attempting to connect via international telephone. I know, I know. I should have just let it go, but I couldn't.

In any event, my friend/colleague Pat, with whom I went, kept me so busy I could barely breathe. We met with such interesting and accomplished people. We are working on setting up an exchange program for Russian and American entrepreneurs, with a special emphasis on the collection of market data. Among others, we met with one Mikhael Fridman, chairman of the Alpha Group. What a charming and accomplished man, and only 37 years old.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

A breakthrough

I finally wrote in to "blogger support"--and they fixed my problem! It all works now.

When I was a child, if we got lost in an unfamiliar place, we would drive around and around, because my father was never willing to ask for directions. I have *just a little bit* of that in me. Fortunately, at the end of the day, there is someone who knows their way around and can help. Thank you blogger support!

Monday, March 03, 2003

Ok, progress. The page no longer is listed as "not found." Now if I can only post.......I've been unable to do that, too. Here goes!

(That was written day before yesterday.) Now I'm trying a work-around. Actually read a pile of directions in the last 24 hours--to no avail. I won't give up, however. I'm post-obsessional. The obsessional phase was merely the entryway (see "The Door" poem I posted on 12/31/02). I'm beyond that now, somewhere into a 'grim determination' phase.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

fiddling with technology; have to write something to get something else to work.......

I wrote that almost a month ago, and yes--I'm still fiddling with technology. I hope that ultimately I learn something. Now I am almost desperate enough to read the directions.

Monday, February 03, 2003

We celebrated my father's 80th birthday yesterday. Drove to Washington, frantically wrapping his gifts with Christmas wrapping paper (Hey, it's what I could find!) as we flew down I-95.

I got him two books, one on architecture and the other on the oppression of left-handed people (as a leftie, he's always felt strongly about this). Also I made an electronic birthday card he really liked. He seemed touched that we had made the trip.....and he is a man who is not easily touched.

At Friday's parent-teacher conference, the teacher said about my son, "he knows he's a little different." In fact, that could be said of each and every member of my family--both the one I come from and the one my husband and I have created. Yesterday, sitting next to my father, I was grateful for that. There he sat, at 80, looking dapper in blue jeans, sneakers, and a Brooks Brothers sweater. He is a primary source of our collective and slightly twisted sense of humor.

My parents are anything but conventional. As a child, it embarrassed me. Now I see it as a gift. I don't want to be unconventional in the same way as they are (that would be a contradiction in terms). But I sure do appreciate the lesson. Their lives demonstrate the wisdom of living by the dictum, "to thine own self be true."

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Horrified to learn of today's Challenger disaster. Feel sadness, especially for astronauts, their families and loved ones. Send prayers far and wide. Feel lucky to be here and hold my loved ones closer.
Minor screed:

At minumum, 70% of business books are drek. And I'm talking about the bestsellers. I think of them as "self-help for people who have jobs but want careers." On average, the self-help books I've read are 70% drek too. So at least the genre is consistent. Both sub-types share this virtue: they give you a way to feel like you're doing something on your own behalf by investing time and energy in reading them--even if the ultimate 'message' is just an assemblage of familiar platitudes that you'll never act on anyway.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Here it is, the last day of the first month of the new year.

I had intended to focus this blog on my 'deep thoughts' about technology, psychology, and economics. Instead, it's turned out to be something quite different. In any case, I am posting (below) a poem I found in the Oxford Book of English Verse. It is a wonderful poem, and while its title is "The Door," it could equally refer to portals, which takes us to the Web (and thus may represent my opening volley into the playing field of 'deep thoughts' about technology, communication, and culture).

The Door

Too little
has been said
of the door, its one
face turned to the night’s
downpour and its other
to the shift and glisten of firelight.

Air, clasped
by this cover
into the room’s book,
is filled by the turning
pages of dark and fire
as the wind shoulders the panels, or
unsteadies that burning.

Not only the storm’s breakwater,
but the sudden frontier to our concurrences, appearances,
and as full of the offer of space as the view of a cromlech is.

For doors
are both frame and monument
to our spent time,
and too little
has been said
of our coming through and leaving them.

Charles Tomlinson 1927-

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Tout d'abord, j'ai trouve' que mon Francais n'est pas aussi mauvais que j'avais autrefois cru.

This sentence, to a native French speaker, may prove itself to be utterly incorrect. However, it does accurately represent my conclusion after attending this excellent class. (BTW, what I wrote, or intended to say, was: "First of all, I found that my French was not as bad as I had thought.")

Did I ever mention that I spent my fifteenth summer (1971) in Phnomh Penh, Cambodia? That's where I learned French.

Quite the experience, je dois dire (I must say). The city was surrounded much of the time by the Khmer Rouge. We had no TV, just a few books (primarily cookbooks), no telephone, and my three brothers and I had nothing much with which to entertain ourselves--although I did have some fun conducting 'chemistry experiments' with U.S. Army K-rations. My parents were desperate to find something for us to do (think about it: they had four irascible children, ages 9-14, in the house--in the middle of a raging South Asian war).

My father then came up with the brilliant idea of sending me to 'une Francaise de Provence' to study French. Halfway through "Le Petit Prince," I caught on. After a few weeks, I was dreaming in French.

Re: my brothers. One was sent after a few weeks to an English missionary school in the Himalayas. The other two continued to pitch rotten eggs at the Soviet embassy residence, situated katty corner to our house. Note that this was not done out of patriotism. Au contraire, it was the somewhat unusual 'treatment' for a very particular form of ennui.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

I am off this morning to a full-day French immersion course at the Alliance Francaise. At one point in the distant past I was almost fluent in French. Now, my knowledge extends primarily to just how far my skills have fallen. I almost feel tempted to study, but somehow that just doesn't feel very French. Since drinking a glass of wine at 7 in the morning might improve my willingness to take risks with the language but would also send me right back to bed, I will turn to plan B. That is: I'll listen to "Les Nubiennes" in the car on the way into town. There. That's the ticket. (Voila. Cela, c'est le billet. ??)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Lest anyone wonder why Refdesk is, in my view, one of the best sites ever-- I offer the following from its featured 'thought of the day':

"A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own." - H.G. Wells

Yes it's a quote--but the choice speaks volumes about the sensibility of the chooser.

Monday, January 20, 2003

It's MLK day: The Martin Luther King day of service. Soon, my son and I will go out to volunteer. My husband and daughter have been out since 7:30 am (given their traditional orientation to early morning commitments, this is truly a statement!). I know a lot of people are at work--mostly people who have a choice in the matter. I think they (at least the ones I know) believe it's a testament to their superior work ethic. Other, lazier, people are taking off, but these conscientious souls have their noses to the grindstone.

Well I beg to differ. They might think they are being virtuous, but in my 'world', they are being insulting. More than most national holidays (with the exception of Labor Day and Memorial Day) Martin Luther King's birthday has real meaning to real people now. (This is not to say that George Washington was not a laudable person or that he didn't do important things. I just doubt that most people feel a close personal connection to him based on the direct impact he had on their lives.).

I really don't care whether people go out and volunteer, or whether they sit at home enjoying a day off. I just want us all to take the day seriously, and to say a quiet "thank you" to King. He gave his life to a cause that matters to all of us--whether we know it or not. He and all members of the Civil Rights movement, whether tragically martyred or alive and thriving, demanded that our country behave in a manner consistent with its public statements.

I was just a little kid, but I feel thankful for their sacrifices every single day. I do want to live in a world where people are judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," where there is equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal access for all. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights matter. Now more than ever, it's clear that we need to fight for them, defend them, and demand that those in power adhere to them. Words matter, but actions speak louder.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

It is completely frigid here in Philadelphia. I do not like living on the tundra and far prefer a tropical clime. The French West Indies hold a great deal of appeal for me on numerous fronts: the language, the food, the Caribbean sea, and so forth. I once spent a week on the Ile des Saintes, a teensy French Caribbean island so far out of the mainstream that the airport staff in Antigua had never even heard of it. Almost no one spoke English. It was sublime.

Back to reality. My son, age six, fancies himself to be a pro skater--a la "Tony Hawk, Pro Skater Two." He is "grinding" (sans skateboard) here in the living room as I write. Just a little bit distracting......

Meanwhile, I am planning to start up the furniture factory. I bought a garage full of decrepit antique Chinese furniture for ridiculously low prices--mostly in the low two figures but I did buy one piece for $3. Yes, the low price is in direct proportion to the high degree of decreptitude. But when they're done they will be beautiful. It's kind of therapeutic to work on this stuff, and besides, I love wielding power tools.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Well here it is, January 13. My 12-day hiatus is due primarily to a major snafu. I completely scrambled my own hard drive, just as my office was shutting down the server, changing the phone system, and moving to a new address. Not a recipe for system coherence. Because I was too embarrassed to ask for help, given my pack-rat tendencies (yes, in cyberspace as well as RL), I tried to fix it myself and made it far worse.

However, because each new crisis in my life seems to result in my developing new computer skills, I became obsessed with redressing the situation, to the extent that I was a) partially successful (successful enough, in any case) and b) I learned a lot about how the system is configured. For instance, I did not previously know that folders could have particular properties in their own right(s) or that to be able to work properly, certain files had to go into particular folders, or that libraries were not just a bunch of old books but that they actually contained necessary instructions. (You can see from the detail in this description just what a total mess I made!).

I am quite completely disorganized in RL, although I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to organize myself. The last six weeks have been particularly bad. During my computer crisis, I somehow started thinking, "I wish there were such a thing as file compression for my closets." (I have some really nice clothes but many of them are currently lying in a tangled mass on the floor).

This led to a startling revelation. I (cerebrally and organizationally) have a system configuration problem! The 'operating system', 'applications,' 'extensions,' 'folders' and 'files' are all jumbled up. Instructions (e.g. "put your sweaters on a shelf.") are issued, but the files aren't in the right places, so the 'orders' are filled partially if at all, with a good bit of energy wasted churning in wrong directions before any connection is made.

That doesn't necessarily improve the state of my closet--but it makes me feel better to have a framework for understanding my dilemma. Very nice, too, since it is not based on the medical model (focused on pathology) or deep Freudianism (focused on sexual repression).
"Nothing's too good for a man my age"

.....title of a song created by my six year old son.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

January 1, 2003.
This is the first time I've written that.
Weather is cold, rainy and utterly gloomy here in Philadelphia. The entire family is in a funk, mental, physical, and/or both. Yes, that includes me. I have just now retired to the living room to brood.

Moments ago I read Halley Suitt's proposal for "re-branding" 2003 and, for the record, I completely endorse it. For me, 2002 was a roller coaster ride through the Divine Comedy (Dante's) during an earthquake. These piddling year-to-year (2001, 2002, 2003, etc.) incremental changes are insufficient. I would prefer to radically improve the frame. While I ponder the question, "to what?"-- which could take some time-- I will make four notable observations about my day.
1. I fixed the dryer. [Very impressed with myself over this].
2. I went to a party even though I didn't feel like it (normally I would just decide to not go and make up an excuse). I had a pleasant time.
3. I made a phone call I was dreading, without procrastinating, and it turned out to be quite benign.
4. A man at the party asked me "are you one of those geeks?" and I was totally flattered.
Bonne Annee