Friday, December 31, 2010

More on Dopamine


I feel a bit like Robin Williams in the movie Awakenings having just discovered the miracle of dopamine, but I need to write down more of this great book, "How we Decide" before it goes back to the library. Earlier I wrote about how the author explained how when our expectations have been met, our brains dopamine neurons fire away to give us those warm and fuzzy feelings about our decisions and when we make mistakes, those same neurons make us feel discomfort and at the same time correct themselves to formulate new expectations, which explains how learning from mistakes work.

Well unfortunately there's a fatal flaw with this too. The dopamine hit you get when you've been rewarded is even greater than when you receive an unexpected reward. For example, in the case of Pavlov's dog once he's learned to expect a treat at the sound of a bell, the bigger delight is in receiving the treat before the bell is rung -- hells yeah! This is why gambling is so much fun. You pull the slot and out comes the money, unexpectedly. Our dopamine neurons automatically start trying to form patterns to predict when money will likely drop, but then we soon realize that it is completely random, so we give up. Unfortunately those with abnormal dopamine levels never surrender -- they are in a constant state of blissful reward. This explains why some Parkinson's patients who are administered dopamine altering drugs also become gambling addicts as a side effect. It also explains why that first kiss is so euphoric. Sadly, expectation kills the thrill of newness and surprise.
 
The fatal flaw is making decisions based on patterns where there are none. We think pro athletes have hot streaks or that we can beat the stock market when really the world is a lot more random than we think. This is the gambler's fallacy -- thinking that something is more or less likely to occur based on whether that event has recently occurred. It also explains stock market bubbles. When the market booms, investors keep investing because they don't want to regret not investing and losing out on potential gains. They keep investing because they think they've figured out the market and they ignore the possibility of loss. And when the bubble bursts (because it is after all random), these same investors can't wait to get out because they don't want to regret staying in -- they panic and run. Lehrer says the best way to beat the market is to accept that it's nothing more than a random walk with an upward slope. Pick a low-cost index fund and wait -- don't fixate on what might have been, just do nothing. You'll beat the average 'active' investor by 10%!
 
Lastly, the other faulty part of purely emotional decision making is being tempted with instant reward. Our emotional brain has a hard time dealing with long term consequences, so we tend to gravitate to instant gratification. We also over-value loss -- in fact we avoid it like the plague, which is why credit cards are so appealing. You don't really feel like you are spending money. The author quotes research that shows paying with cc's reduces activity in the insula, part of the brain associated with negative feelings. THIS is very telling. I have a hard time saving for my long term goals like paying off my mortgage or my retirement and am often tempted by the immediate reward (did I mention that I really want another pair of boots?). Learning to compensate for the deficiencies of my emotional brain might be my panacea! Perhaps I should try paying with cash this month? Yikes. I do love a challenge though ...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dopamine

Having just read "How We Decide", I'm scrambling to jot down a few take-aways for a book so chalked-full of fascinating bits of research. How come Pysch was not this exciting in university?

The author, Jonah Lehrer  talks about the role of emotions in decision-making. Down-played and misunderstood for many years in favour of the rational and logic-based decision model, emotions are finally given the credit they deserve. That gut-instinct can actually be physiologically explained. Here's my "tell it to me like I'm ten" version:
The neurotransmitter dopamine basically controls all emotion, including pleasure. Think of the crack addict who's just gotten a fix -- major dopamine OD. The dopamine neurons of our brains are generating patterns based on experience. We learn what will give us pleasure and it's the expectation that actually fires dopamine, as well as the reward in getting what you expect. I think of Pavlov's dog -- the bell that rang before the treat was given taught the dog to salivate at the sound of the bell. The pattern was learned by dopamine neurons.
 
When the expectation is false (there is no treat), the brain generates an 'error-related' negativity signal -- also known as the "oh-shit circuit". The anterior cingulate cortex where all of this happens, helps remember what the dopamine cells are learning so that expectations can be adjusted in light of new info (e.g. there is no treat now, so stop expecting it when you hear the bell). That is how we learn from mistakes. Brilliant.

Motion sickness is due to this dopamine prediction error -- there is a conflict between the rocky experience and the expectation of solid ground, which results in nausea. Thankfully the dopamine neurons revise their model and the sensation goes away. Of course there are some of us that never learn from our mistakes ... we continue to make the same bad choices ... sigh. Wait, this is not about me.
 
One of the best parts of the book was how the author related this to PRAISE. Remember that famous experiment in which young children were administered a test -- half were praised for their effort and the other half were praised for their intelligence? The first group went on to tackle more challenging problems without missing a beat while the ones who were told they were smart choose easier tests and their confidence dropped along with their scores. These children were afraid of failure -- they felt pressure to continue to show they were smart. The smart compliment was in fact detrimental. Whereas the students who were praised for their effort felt the intrinsic reward of success. The 'smart' kids tried to bolster their own self-esteem by comparing their scores to those who did worse. But the kids praised for their effort were interested in those who scored higher. They wanted to understand their mistakes and learn how to do better. OMG, this hits close to home ...
Learning from mistakes is crucial -- unless your brain experiences the discomfort from being wrong again and again, it will never revise its model. Before your neurons can succeed, they must repeatedly fail. There are no short-cuts to this process. Brilliant!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let Down



Today was rough. I kept waiting for that warm Christmassy feeling to come over me and it just didn't happen. I usually get it on the night of the 24th -- an incredible feeling of peace and gratitude. It's so uplifting and comforting. What happened? Maybe I'm just too old to feel the Christmas spirit. I can't help but feel like Christmas has let me down. Hopefully tomorrow will be brighter. Gotta keep looking for that silver-lining, even if it's not there today.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Economics 101


Interest rate ↓, savings ↓, but investment and spending ↑ → how does this impact the exchange rate, inflation and unemployment again?
Christ! I used to have all these economics basics down pat when I was in school. Now I just feel completely ignorant. Obviously I just memorized what I needed to know for the test rather than really learn. It's one of the reasons I ignore my investments and show no interest in financial news. I can't leave it all up to my partner either. The other day he told me that we should stay away from US investments due to 'quantitative easing'. I pretended to know what he was talking about, because I am after all a Business grad. WTF! This can't go on -- I'm almost 40. I fell like I've let parenting define my entire identity. Time to dig deep -- where's my Lipsey, Purvis, Steiner? New goal for 2011 D.

Androgyny


"Hi I'm Robin" he said with a big beautiful smile. It made me weak in the knees -- and not because he was good looking, he was average at best. It was just his name. I would have never guessed in a million years that he was a Robin. What is it about my recent fascination with androgyny? I never used to feel this way -- the sexes were divided. I wanted my men to be men. I thought femininity was just plain gay. My first boyfriend was an alpha male and we were at each other's throats because of it -- too much alike. Fast forward 20 years and I've settled on an incredibly docile and sympathetic partner who is the complete opposite to what I was brought up to believe is manly. In fact it's his gentle nurturing side that turns me on the most. Go figure?
I think this evolution can be explained by my acceptance of my own masculinity. I used to fight it -- the aggressive, domineering male in me. I believed that men desired feminine women and that I'd have to conceal my typically masculine tendencies if I didn't want to end up old and alone. Thankfully, I'm learning to appreciate that 'not so attractive' side of myself. I am unique and wonderful. Those same attributes that I was ashamed of are actually loved and appreciated by others even. That is why I love androgyny. We all have male and female characteristics -- the combination is just beautiful. xx

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Simplify


By all means, just stay healthy. It's the one thing my partner and I expect of each other because the minute one of us is down, everything falls apart at the seams. Sickness can't be helped for the most part, but then there are certain common-sense precautions that lazy people like myself tend to ignore when we're busy stressing out about every stupid pre-Christmas commitment, as I look at the smattering of used Kleenexes on the floor of my office...
 
This winter is not off to a good start. And I keep signing us up for more shit too -- like hosting parties and baking cupcakes for the needy (who will probably get sick and die in the streets, thanks to this head cold).  Here's a great idea to help counter the urge to do more -- play it out in your head -- how is this likely to ensue, is this a good move for my family, no? then FORGET IT. Move on, let go of your disappointment, stop trying to be Super Woman for fuck's sakes, it is not worth the stress. I've got to learn how to think like this BEFORE I say yes. This year was bad, next year will be better.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our mission


A colleague asked me this the other day. And I had to stop and think about it for a minute. What is my Team's purpose, really? Who do we serve? What are we trying to accomplish? Those are simple questions that should direct our every move. But somewhere along the way we've lost our purpose. And now we have a new big boss who sees our role quite differently than we see it. He's helping me realize that we exist to serve our clients -- in the FIELD. We're a small team and there's always been a lot going on at headquarters or even within my branch to keep us busy. We've never really supported the field, other than socially (they're a great bunch of people). And since it's only a functional relationship (they don't report to HQ), it's really not much of a relationship at all.

I used to always mock those corporate mission exercises. Talk about a waste or consulting dollars. The statement is never more than its fancy plaque. How do you actually implement a new mission -- how can you change the culture without changing the players? But maybe we need to take a closer look at this. Right now, we are falling way short of everyone's expectations and that is not a good feeling.
 
I've been thinking about it all weekend. None of the old priorities -- the EDRMS, Classification Structure or Retention Schedule -- the pillars of our existence up until now, seem to mean anything to our new boss. Good god, he wants us to pitch in and start boxing up legacy records! I know some of our team (myself included to some extent) think we are beyond clerical work. We're stuck in the theory and would rather leave the minions to figure out how to implement it. Well those days are over. I've gotta get all cosy with paper files again and start showing my new value or else we will no longer exist as a Team -- yikes!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Babies need to be HELD!

I don't like getting emotional and opinionated -- I just can't think or express myself clearly and I end up getting all railed up and both villainizing and insulting whomever does not share my view. Here's one such case. Babies are meant to be held -- not left alone for hours on end in their cribs, swings and other plastic baby holding contraptions. Constant human touch -- being carried during the day and slept with at night is what babies need to feel loved and secure. They will cry less when their needs are being met. They will be able to learn more as they get older because they are a part of everything you see and do. They will grow up to be more independent, intelligent, loving and social ... all because of human touch.

When I see a newborn lying helplessly in their crib, I can barely stand it. In fact, in most cases I just pick up the baby. It's such a natural instinct. I don't understand why some people still believe that you can spoil a newborn. They are so small for such a short time and holding a baby is so easy to do (especially with the plethora of baby carriers available today). There are plenty of years to screw them up with bad parenting -- why not start off by giving your baby your best?
 
I'm grateful that I can use this blog to get these kinds of things off my chest. Hopefully I'll be able to be able to choose my words better now that I've vented. I don't like judgy parents -- we all have our own style and it's not my place to preach. I know people who think my parenting needs improvement (and they are probably correct). But this one is so fundamental -- it's right up there with breastfeeding (if you can) and not hitting your kids. I'm going to try to be gentle in my approach if I have a prayer at influencing my loved one's behaviour .... this is SO not my specialty! Just gotta do it though.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Talking with Passion



Nothing turns me on more than to hear someone speak with passion. They're not reading from a script, they are speaking from the heart. They really know their material because they've internalized it and can deliver it at the drop of a hat. It's no wonder my old man is a televangelist junkie. I too am immediately drawn in by passion.
It was when I first heard my 'then' boyfriend tell me about what the environment meant to him, that I realized he was deeper than I had originally thought and that there something there worth getting to know. I feel the same way today about my friends and colleagues. My mentor had passion about our field -- I would spend hours listening to her talk at length about why information needed to be managed. I fell in love, took up the cause and am still preaching it.
 
Only like with religion, it's not easy to accept when your passion lets you down. I've been at this long enough to know that IM is not the answer I thought it was. I've drank too much koolaid. My passion has faded. I need something new to believe in, something or someone to give me hope.
 
Maybe I'm destined to become a motivational speaker ... or join a cult? Whatever my future, I know that I happiest when I surround myself with people who have passion and more importantly when I too believe that what I am doing makes a difference.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Child Abuse is No Cartoon


I'm going to weigh in on this too -- this weekend's FB campaign to change your profile pic to your fav childhood cartoon to show your support for ending violence against children. And yes I did it -- not because I actually thought it would help the cause, but because it seemed like a fun thing to do. And was there ever a backlash. Take this posting for example- http://www.balefulregards.com/2010/12/child-abuse-is-no-cartoon.html. I felt awful after reading it -- was I making light of child abuse by messing around with FB? What should I really do about it? There are millions of helpless children who have no one who can save them. And here I sit at my PC lamenting about how stressful XMas shopping is!
 
Well, with most things lately, the first thing I can do is look in the mirror. What kind of a parent am I? Not in "theory", but in practice. I may not hit my kids, but am I verbally abusive? How many times has my yelling brought them to tears? What about when I'm just a bit too firm when physically removing them from a fight with each other, or hauling their butts up the stairs while they scream and flail? This is what I have control over -- staying in control. And what about neglect? Putting on the TV or signing them up for yet another activity when I should just be playing with them. Feigning interest in my son's stories when I'm too preoccupied with my troubles? Or even not wanting to put in the effort in my relationship for the sake of the kids. *sigh* These are the things that that FB campaign made me think about. I know I can be the parent I want to be if I just dig deep and feel the love. I remember how impressionable I was as a child. I remember being afraid of my Dad and trying so hard to make him happy. I remember my parents yelling and screaming, name-calling, and threatening. Children deserve happy childhoods. If I haven't accomplished anything in my life, I at least want to say that I gave my three babies that much. xx

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Delayed gratification

I can't even remember what this feels like. I've become so spoiled with my "see it-want it-buy it" attitude. The last two weeks of Christmas spending is starting to make me feel nauseous. Where is the restraint? Do we even have enough money in our bank account to cover this? I haven't a clue and even if I did, it probably wouldn't stop me because this is Christmas after all and you don't get a second chance to get it right.... or do you?

I don't like feeling out of control. Remember the good 'ol days of saving up for something, and looking forward to getting it? By the time it was yours, it actually meant something. Or better yet, you realized that you really didn't want it and were strong enough to walk away. Take dessert -- it fails to satisfy. Too much of a good thing and in fact now my sugar addiction is starting to piss me off because I have not lost the pre-holiday weight I promised myself I would. I think it's worse this year because we seem to have no time to shop so everything seems like an impulse buy. We're buying gifts more out of obligation and guilt -- especially for our extended family, who really don't need anything they can't buy for themselves.

So what do I do when I feel this helpless? I desperately grab hold of spending I can control, like food. I have to pinch pennies somewhere to compensate. Of course I'm never sensible about it -- I just go ape shit on my family. Like this morning, I almost diluted the milk in my cereal with water. KD, hot dogs, freezer burnt leftovers -- these are next week's meals. Will this work to balance the buyer's remorse that I already feel? *Sigh* This is a first for me -- I CAN'T WAIT for January to get here. Deprivation, I'm yours.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nicole loves Liam



The other day, my six year old son was telling me all about the crushes in his Grade 1 class and I found it really endearing to hear about 'who loved who'. And when I asked him who he loved, he plainly said 'nobody', but that he knew who loved him. Phew, I'm an over-protective mother of boys and was not ready to hear about that. But then part of me, way down deep started to feel really badly for these little girls. And in fact my inner child rose up hours later and got me thinking about all the boys I had crushes on and how no one was ever crushin' on me -- NO ONE. By the time I was a teenager, boys were interested, but it's not the same as *really* liking someone -- usually from afar, dreaming about them, looking forward to your next encounter, wishing they felt the same way. No one has ever been completely ga-ga for me, not like I have been for them -- not even my own partner. He's told me as much -- that he just went along with it. We got along well, had common interests, the sex was good and he was ready to settle down. No baying at the moon, stalking, obsessing -- none of it. *sigh* He doesn't understand this business about being 'boy-crazy' or crazy for anyone for that matter. I guess it just takes one to know one. I'd like to see my son all starry-eyed for someone one of these days. It's a good feeling. I certainly don't want him to expect that it's only girls that should crush on boys. And will I ever stop being boy crazy? Nope. Never!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Staying Positive

Tony Robbins says that just thinking about how half the world lives off of less than $2/day should be enough to make you realize how fortunate you are. Thinking about what you are thankful for, thanking those who you appreciate and giving back instead of expecting to get are three other things that will snap you out of your self-loathing too.

What is it about this time of year that I despise? I can feel the stress already starting to build and it's still a month away. I know this post is supposed to be about feeling positive, but I've got to vent and sadly, I have no one to vent to right now. So here goes -- why I hate Christmas:
  1. wanting to buy my children the perfect gifts -- what they really want, what will give them tons of enjoyment, what will last and not break the bank ... and did I mention that I have no time to put in the hours of shopping required to find these perfect gifts?
  2. wanting to entertain my family -- amazing food, clean and cozy house, everyone happy and relaxed
  3. wanting to not gain weight -- but still indulge
  4. wanting to find interesting things for us to do rather then be bored being stuck with each other for 10 days
  5. wanting to be done with my shopping early and not running around at the last minute to find impossible to find items
  6. wanting to not feel like a complete fraud by going to church and acting religious
I think that's it. I have other stressors in my life, but thankfully most of those are work related and hey, at least I won't have to worry about work over Christmas!
What can I do now to prepare for the inevitable?
Plan, bake & freeze, hire a sitter so we can shop, lose a few pounds beforehand (yeah right), and above all ACCEPT. Like one of my good friends says, 'Christmas is all about being disappointed'. The kids might as well learn it now. I accept that some things will be last minute, some appetizers will burn, my partner's family will say something to tick me off, my partner will get me shitty gifts, and I will be tempted with rich fatty food and lots of booze .... lots of booze. Hey! maybe that's another way to handle the stress! Let go of perfection D, it's not worth the stress.
And as for Tony Robbin's advice, it's a good reminder and something I feel compelled to do something about. In fact I've been working on some love letters for each of my loved ones because I really want them to know what they mean to me and how grateful I am to have them in my life. I also want to cook dinner for a family in need -- not drop off a raw turkey in a hamper, but prepare a complete meal and nicky-nine-doors it. Gotta figure out the logistics of this one (stay tuned).

How do I ...

I've had it with our Intranet space and am doing a complete re-write of the content and architecture. Yet, I know that I am bound to come up against some major resistance from those on my team who love wordzzzzzzzz. Readers don't want to scroll through crap. They have a short attention span and want quick answers, so they can get on with doing their work.

How do I: ... organize my files
... describe my information
... handle personal information
... get rid of my files
... respond to this ATIP request
.... contact my IM Specialist
... get more training

Other than some basic info on who we are, what we can do for you and what's new, this is all we really need. Now, how do I .... convince the rest of the team that my solution is the way to do? Here's where my influencing skills need work. Maybe I should put it in front of a few end-users and share their feedback (which will be nothing but positive).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Writing

I'm always blown away by those who can write. It's a daily struggle for me to express myself the way I want to. How many times do my friends and colleagues hear me ask "what's the word for ... you know, when you're ... " Are you doing a cross-word puzzle over there, D? Nope, I'm just writing a fucking email.

Shawna Wagman is one of my heroes -- boy can she write. And about FOOD too! Take this snippet she recently wrote for Ottawa Magazine:

"When Ottawa chef-icon John Taylor announced that he was
opening a casual, seasonally inspired gourmet wine bar in
a converted corner coffee shop in Old Ottawa South, foodies
rejoiced. We couldn’t help thinking of it as “Domus Lite.” But
when Genuine opened, the tenor soon turned heavy. There was
a time when fine dining meant a night away from the kids, but
the saga of the breastfeeding mother’s right to include her baby
in an evening reservation revealed tension about whether we’re
comfortable saying some places aren’t for everyone. For me, this
episode points to a less political issue as well. It highlights the
increased importance we’re placing on hospitality. And in spite
of its name, Genuine gets demerit points on that front — the service
and attitude in the room run rather cool." ....

I don't know how to describe it, but its that subtle, indirect way she has that conveys her opinion, but not in an overly judgy (I know judgy is not a word, I admit I can't write) way.

Will I ever learn by just reading? Or do I need more practice. This blog has really helped me get my ideas out, but I'm impatient and want to see leaps and bounds of improvement. Maybe a writing course?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cheap Oil





No more burying my head in the sand. I'm finally starting to inform myself about why this crisis is just around the corner ... and it's depressing as all hell.
It's more than the fact that the oil taps are running low. We all know how deep our hunger and addiction to the lifestyle oil provides goes. Here are some other things I learned from reading Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization :

Demand in developing countries is off the charts. No amount of energy savings gained by tightening our belts or 'off-peak' discipline will ever counter the amount of energy being consumed in places like China and India. They finally get to have a taste of our lifestyle ... and all the problems that go with it.

Local oil is subsidized to make oil more affordable for developing countries, but it also hurts investment in the local oil industry. With oil consumption on the rise, there is less left to export and this causes oil export prices to rise even more.

I didn't know this, but OPEC countries are burning oil to produce electricity. Rapid population and economic growth means high power demand (again, less oil to export). Saudi Arabia is also running out of fresh water because they are draining their aquifers for irrigation. This means they are burning more oil for desalination plants, which of course are energy intensive. Thanks!

And then there's also the fact that there's more money to be made with oil as a petrochemical than just burning it (like our planet needs more plastic shit).... less and less oil folks.
More and more countries are repatriating their oil and kicking internationals out (except for Canada). Yes, the tar sands ... will not save us either. Oil sand extraction is COSTLY. It also requires an enormous amount of energy to process, referred to in this book as a low energy rate of return. What will happen when natural gas is diverted elsewhere to more financially attractive demands? And if and when environmental laws finally tighten up? Bye bye tar sands.Off-shore oil is not the answer. Fast depletion rates, costly rig repairs from severe storms and environmental devastation from spills make this a non-starter.

Forget about nuclear too. Too many years to become operational + costly + lots of downtime = disappointing yields. What about bio fuel? We've already learned that stealing from our food supply to feed our cars is utterly foolish. But what I didn't know was that the energy return from producing ethanol is almost negative -- planting, fertilizing, harvesting, processing, transporting all require a lot of energy.

Hydrogen? Not unless you can afford a million dollar car. It too has a low energy return because it takes a lot of energy to produce and is expensive (and dangerous) to transport. Surely solar and wind? Nope. Energy leaks don't make either particularly efficient. Plus you'd need to install panels all across a piece of land the size of New York State just to power the US vehicle fleet. It's certainly an 'alternative', but not a replacement.

And speaking of efficiency, I found it incredibly depressing to read about the rebound effect in this book. All of the technological gains in creating energy efficiency (following the energy crisis of the 70s) has actually increased consumption. Yep. Those Rabbits of the 80s used less energy which brought oil prices down so what did that afford .... bigger more energy consuming vehicles to fuel (and bigger houses to heat/cool to boot).

So there you have it -- things are BAAAADD. The rest of the book talked about how our world will get smaller. It reaffirmed everything I've already learned. Travel, exotic cuisine, year-round produce, bargain-basement prices, over-consumption, long commutes ... these WILL be history. I really can't stop thinking about this (wait, could this be a new obsession? :-P). What can I do now, this very minute, to prepare myself and my family? How can I wean myself off this lifestyle because I really can't ignore it any longer. xx

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Influence


Every time my partner and I get talking about what's wrong in the world, the conversation inevitbly ends with one of us saying -- what we desperately need is campaign finance reform. It's just too easy to judge corrupt politicians and greedy capitalists. However, I'm starting to see how preferential treatment influences my own judgement.

I'm building on the ideas I first heard Jesse Hirsh talk about this week -- the power of recommendations. I'm all about openness (to a fault). I love to share and see others benefit from any good deals or worthwhile local activities I've discovered. I also rely on my network of like-minded friends to share with me their fav books, movies, songs, recipes, restaurants, advice, whatever -- just give it to me baby! So what happens when a corporation thanks me for my recommendation? I'm invited to attend a focus group or asked to review some new products in exchange for a little pampering (a few drinks and nibblies to share with other Westboro Moms perhaps)? At that point I am no different than the bought politicians I abhor! And let's face I am a sucker for a pretty face. Sales people love me. So when someone hot shows their appreciation for my oh-so-discriminating taste and tosses a few freebies my way, bias has already been created. What harm is there in saying a few kind words or letting them use me to promote their wares. The obligation is there and who doesn't want a win-win anyway?

*Sigh* Everyone does indeed have a price. Maybe openness is how you counter this. A friend of mine said he recently read a review for a computer game and the reviewer explicitly stated that the software company invited him down to Disney World to review the game. Was his review biased? Probably. But at least he was open about it. Of course people don't want to admit that this is happening. In fact when talking about this today, this same friend said "that's really no different from being flown out to Seattle to meet with Microsoft" .... UGH!

Hell, at least I am aware. I can't stop this from happening. Nor can I judge the sytem. I will continue to offer up and seek out reccomendations (that's just who I am) -- but with a critical eye.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Used




My head is swimming with ideas after having the pleasure of hearing Jesse Hirsh speak at a conference this week. I haven't felt this inspired in a long time. I want to get some of these out of my head and think about them -- they really are golden. xx

Ever stop to think about what the Internet is? It's something we've come to rely on, but never talk about. How do you use it? How does it use us? The seduction is powerful, no doubt about it. What does Google, FB, Twitter really want to be? And what is our role in all of this?

In his presentation, Jesse started talking about Web 3.0. --the personalization of content to the point of it being able to anticipate your needs ... which is pretty scary when I stop to think about what that world looks like. Only give me content I'm interested in. No wonder we've become so narcissistic! In fact he went on to say that as a society we are experiencing insularity to the extreme. NO! Isn't technology supposed to tear down barriers and expose us to a world of diverse cultures and ideas? How did we even get here?

It started with Web 2.0. I can now create content as easily as I consume it and that's powerful. But how is all my precious content being used? Is it being used against me? Data mining has been around for ages, but now I'm hearing more about sentiment analysis -- scrapping tweets to predict things like box office success or product market penetration. Marketers are starting to figure out that if the masses are talking about them anyway, then why not pay them to keep talking? Such is the rise of micro-advertising and micro-celebrities which are spokespeople you don't have to pay. Just throw a few freebies (like concert tickets) their way and they'll keep influencing their social networks. In fact there are even tools now that claim to identify who has clout. But we're a savvy bunch and know when we're being advertised to, right? Not so much, because now my online network of 'friends' are trying to sell me shit I don't need. Nice. According to Jesse, there's power in recommendations. We are relying on our networks more and more to influence our buying decisions. ... which is not going unnoticed by marketers. In fact you can read more about Twitter's resonance algorithm yourself -- advertisers pay to elevate tweets that support them.

Why do I feel like I'm being raped? I innocently use these tools on a daily basis to stay connected to my family and friends. But really, I'm just feeding the machine. My privacy is just another commodity. I could choose to leave, but it's too late. The seduction is powerful and I am already addicted to social media. So come and get me. The Internet is really nothing more than a myth.
 
*Sigh* This reminds me of some depressing conversations I've had at work about the fate of the world. When is the peak oil crisis going to turn off my PC for me and end this parasitic maleficent relationship for good? Please, take me back to a simple and wholesome world where we were too busy gathering our own food to have time to waste trading our privacy for commodities. K, now I'm being tangential (new word I've been dying to use). I'll share more deep thoughts from in a subsequent post.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Remember



How can I express how I feel about November 11th without coming off like a complete ingrate. It's a day of mixed emotions for me. Part of me is loyal to my roots -- my Dad is extremely proud of his 35 years of military service, as am I. The Armed Forces rescued my Dad from a hopeless, loveless and poverty-stricken upbringing. The opportunities afforded by a military life is certainly what gave my sister and I most of what we have today. I am also incredibly grateful that my Dad did not see conflict overseas. I remember being terrified as a child during the Falkland Islands and also later hearing of how close Canada was to going to Vietnam. There's no question that my old man was ready to serve his country. Lucky for us, it never happened.

I also have tremendous respect for people who make it their livelihood to serve other people. The medical profession, enforcement, safety -- these are my heroes. It's clearly more than a pay cheque for them. They give WAY more than they receive. They are deserving of our respect.

And then there's the pacifist in me who has a really hard time honouring war. No one can argue about the death, destruction and debt that ensue and yet here we are being given a day off to 'remember'. There is no such thing as a noble cause. Why must we continue to force our beliefs and values on other cultures? What the fuck are we fighting for really? Money, pure and evil. I will not honour the military industrial complex. I just won't.

I feel sorry for the families of those who died in combat. They did not have a choice. But please, let's not put Afghanistan in the same boat. WWII was the last 'just' war -- our sovereignty was in eminent danger. Somehow by honouring world wars, the default has become 'homage to all combat'. I also make a distinction between inscription and voluntary service. If you choose to join the military then you choose to accept the risks that come with the job. It takes a brave person to put their life on the line for their beliefs, but let's not forget that they are the beliefs of the government and not necessarily those of its citizens.

Of course any criticism of the military that I express is perceived as treason. I wouldn't dare say any of this to my 'Support Our Troops' faring family. So I keep it to myself and every November 11th, I take a few quiet minutes to think about what the world would look like if we were all at peace -- peace with each other and most importantly, peace with ourselves. That's what I think we should be remembering. xx

Monday, November 8, 2010

Things I wish I had time for

This recent posting from one of my fav blogs gave me clarity.

Why is it I spend so much time surfing, blogging, face-booking ... wasting time!

The things that I really want to do take time, seem daunting and may have a low probability of success. Often I need a quick fix -- I've got to escape from life for 10 mins -- just enough time to pop online and connect with my friends, pop culture, anything but my mundane existence.

But if I add up all these little breaks, I'm wasting a huge amount of time that I could be spending doing what needs to get done -- things that will give me HUGE satisfaction. I need to break up the big things into manageable chunks. I hate leaving things unfinished, which is why I never start, but I've got to make progress.

So here goes, a new 'Things To Do (instead of surfing)' list:

1. READ - where did I leave my book? if I go looking for it downstairs someone will see me and want something; I wish that I could pull it out of my butt whenever I wanted; even reading 5 pages is better than nothing .

2. FINANCES - it's daunting yes, but I should start looking at things like how much $ I need to cash out to prepare for our solar project, if we're caught up on our RESPs this year, if we can dump something on our mortgage, etc.

3. PURGE - I'd love to do a clean sweep, but it's not going to happen. How about the office closet for starters? The kids room is jam packed with toys they no longer play with. There's also a pile of broken toys that should just be pitched.

4. EXERCISE - why not just drop to the floor right now and 100 sit-ups, lunges or squats?

5. RESEARCH - ideas for Xmas, new recipes, teaching tips and tricks for skating, reading, piano, there's any number of things I've been meaning to look up but never seem to remember when I've hopped online.

I'll leave it at that for now. Am thinking that if I'm truly serious I should go on a FB diet ....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It's the Thought that counts

My mom and dad were over the other day to drop off some gifts they picked up for us on their trip to Israel. The kids were pretty happy as was I to hear that they had a great time. A few days later, my mom asked me about my gifts -- "you didn't show much reaction, did you like them?" "Yes, of course, thank you." That wasn't good enough. In fact it was the tipping point. She proceeded to tell me that she was hurt that I never show appreciation for the presents she buys me and that she hoped I was not like this with my partner or my in-laws. Yikes!
 
I tried to give her the reassurance she was looking for, but I've been thinking about it ever since ... how did this happen? I think it's because we are not poor. Growing up, money was tight and gifts were rare. Whenever my sister or I got anything, it was a BIG DEAL. We were over the moon and would treasure even the tiniest package of gum. But now I have everything and things in fact mean very little to me. I buy myself stuff all the time and most of the time it actually depresses me because I have to find a home for it amongst the clutter, I have to dust it, I have to eventually throw it out and feel guilty for spending money on it in the first place. I didn't have the heart to explain any of this to my Mom. She'll never get it. Even though my parents are no longer poor, they will always be frugal.

So what does matter? Well I love it when my mom brings me food, when she plays with the kids, tells them stories about my childhood, goes running with me, irons my clothes, bakes me pies. Those are the things I am over the moon for. She wants to see a reaction out of me -- sure --- those are the things I will show her I am grateful for. Yes sirree!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sustained Attention

From an RM Job Description (CR-04): Sustained attention for short periods, averaging 2‑3 weeks per year, is required when developing technical specifications to accurately depict the information management structure; lapse in attention may result in missing or misunderstanding key information..

YIKES!

I have ADHD. Self-discipline is not my friend. I need to lock myself in my office, disable my Internet access and just get 'er done. Help!

Domineering, Direct, Demanding


I took some management courses last week and one of the activities was a personality/behaviour test of sorts. The idea being that you must know yourself before you can adjust your behaviour to interact with people who are not like you.

So here's me -- no surprises there. I was hoping that my softer side would start to shine through by now, but this is still my core being. I especially like these statements:

They tend to tell people what to do rather than ask them to do it.

They believe that their way is the best way and they tend to disregard the opinions and ideas of others.

They will tell it like it is and may come across as harsh or blunt.

Ahhh .... doesn't everyone love warm and fuzzy people like this? Thanks to all of my navel-gazing, I already know that I need to watch my tone, choose my words more carefully, ask (instead of demand) and listen. Alright, I get it already!

But enough about me. I made my partner do the test and he's the complete opposite. Although I disagreed with some of his answers, he's a type 'S' (slow and steady). Loyal, dependable, calm -- yep! He is the ying to my yang. And I would hazard a guess that my dearest friends are also Ses (that includes you too Steph). But this is the killer:

If there are changes to be implemented ensure you give them warning enough that they are able to prepare themselves for it
High S's need direction, they need to know how they are meant to do things and when they need to be done.
High S's respond well to constant appreciation, the more praise they receive the better they work
NO KIDDING!

We all appreciate a little direction to make sure we're likely to succeed. And you'd think this would work really well for my controlling style. But I hate being like this! Trust your intuition, figure it out, please -- no more questions. I also resent having to be SO grateful for every little thing. Of course, this is exactly what I need to work on -- showing appreciation.

If these are my partners 'faults' then hell, I would love to trade places with him. He is Zen and I am Piss and Vinegar (cider vinegar :-)). He could take a page out of my 'can do' book and I could learn a thing or two about letting things go.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Treat others as they want to be treated

A new twist on the Golden Rule. I like it a lot.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Awaiting Moderation, eh?



I'm not much of a contributor of knowledge, but at times I want to provide my two cents. I try my best to be polite and to the point, but sometimes my feedback is just not appreciated. Take this posting on what used to be one of my fav blogs about personal finance. It shouldn't shock me that yet another blogger is exploiting her readership by touting merchandise under the guise of advice, but that she's calling her frivolous purchase 'frugal' is enough to make me un-friend her blog.

I will not be shunned. So here are my comments out there in the blog sphere. Take that!
"These are definitely cuter than any grocery store cupcake I’ve ever seen and would probably rival most designer cupcakes that are in vogue right now. However I am surprised that you would advocate buying a single-use seasonal pan for this project. In fact most festive merchandise is a complete waste of money. Just walk through any craft store at this time of year if you want to be sickened by the amount of consumerist plastic garbage being shoved in our faces as essential housewares. I’m sure you could’ve achieved close to the same results by cutting out your cupcakes from a sheet cake. Or how about renting those shaped pans from the Bulk Barn for around $2/day? Think about it -- this pan will be used once and stored for 364 days. I think you’ve advised this before — the best way to be frugal is to just do without."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's Funny 'Cause it's True



Not sure how to describe my sense of humour -- wry, witty, dark? I'm pretty selective with what I find funny and rarely force myself to laugh. D says that I'm just too serious and need to laugh more. I'll take that. Trouble is, I don't go looking for humour. In fact other people's attempts to be funny usually just get on my nerves (I'm mainly talking about my partner here). But every once in a while I'm struck by something that is unbearably funny -- we're talking tears, rolling on the floor, about to pee your pants funny.

Here's such an example. About 10 years ago I was living near T.O. and when I'd take the DVP to head into downtown, I remember always being stressed about what road to take next -- the Gardner or Lakeshore, Gardner or Lakeshore ... which one is backed up? oh crap, I've got to make a decision quick, Gardner or Lakeshore, fucking hell, alright -- Lakeshore it is. I'd go through this rigmarole every single time I headed downtown. And sure enough, I'd always end up taking the wrong highway -- the one that was backed up with traffic. So one day while stuck behind a parade of parked cars, I looked out my window and saw a big billboard that read "You should have taken the Gardner". Holy shit! I laughed out loud -- I remember being all alone in the car but did I ever laugh and cry and laugh. I guess I found it funny because it was true. Ah -- just reminiscing about this incident is making me laugh again, lol.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Butterfly Story

Not a bad little story here to remind me of the importance in letting people solve their own problems, especially my children. I was in a mgmt course this week and the facilitator told a short tale of a man who was observing a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. When it looked like the butterfly was having difficulty busting out, the man decided to help by carefully tearing open the cocoon. Only this did not give the butterfly an opportunity to strengthen its wings, so it fell to ground and subsequently died. Yikes.
Stop telling the kids (and my partner) what to do and instead help them realize that they already know what to do!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

He's come alive!


Spending time with his family (parents, brothers and their families) is the one thing that truly makes my partner happy. He completely comes alive when they are together. It's nice to see him so elated and at the same time I feel like time with us must feel like a death sentence for him. Maybe it's an Italian thing, that deep connection to your family. Of course when I say 'my family' I think of the kids and my partner. Getting hitched meant officially leaving my folks and starting anew. Not so with my partner.

Maybe it's because there is no real obligation with extended family, not like at home. Everyday is a struggle with three young kids. There is no real break to be had. But with extended family, they take care of you and you don't really have to give back. Maybe he just misses being a kid and likes to have someone dote on him again? I feel that way with my family. My Mom is my biggest supporter. I know that she and my Dad will never let me down. I also know that they love me unconditionally. Whereas at home, we have to earn each other's love. Yeah, I'm starting to get this now. And there's nothing wrong with loving those that love you the most. I know I can't make him that happy and that's okay.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seething Mad

After hearing about the bail conditions placed on Alex Hundert (an alleged ring-leader of the violence that took place at the G20 demonstration in Toronto this past summer), I was overcome with anger. Telling my partner about it and seeing him react the same way just added fuel to our fire. The conditions go WAY BEYOND was is necessary to "protect public safety". No Internet communication, no expressing a political view, no talking to the media, no association with specific individuals (including his GF?)! All of this because he allegedly vandalized private property. He is clearly being made an example of in order to dissuade other activists. This is a complete abomination of his civil rights and I am utterly shocked that this can happen in Canada of all places. My partner and I decided to channel our anger into writing the Attorney General, who is being pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing.
But once again, here is the problem. I cannot write, especially when I am emotional about something. See for yourself, here was the opening of our 'letter':
"Alex Hundert's bail conditions, and overall treatment are preposterous. What country is this?"
How to write an eloquent letter of complaint that goes straight to the heart of the matter and shows that as a law-abiding (and voting) citizen you disapprove of your government and are demanding action? I need practice with this. Is there a course? Template? Help, someone!
IT-ish people just can't write. I see it all the time -- they have a deep-seated fear of writing and are too ashamed to admit it. I am obviously not ashamed to put my weaknesses out there in the blogsphere. Only I want desperately to change. Writing this blog is helping, but not fast enough (I'm all about immediate gratification, remember). Time to start taking some writing courses and finding inspiration from great writers.

A Bimbo Moment


I'm too shy to share this on FB but it'll make you giggle. I was having trouble with the new photo copier this morning and when a co-worked came by to pick up her print job, I explained that I kept getting blank pages after which she whispered "I think you're feeding it in upsidedown". WUPS! Good thing I left the IT world when I did!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vocab



I just learned that pedology is the study of soil and that heraldry is the profession/study of blazoning arms (as in coat of arms). These are words that I will likely never use, but I feel just a wee bit smarter every time I learn a new word. Who knows, maybe my writing will be past the Gr. 8 level by the time I'm 40!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I did a good deed


The fact that I want so badly to toot my own horn probably just negates it, but I want to type this out as a reminder to myself on how great I feel right now.

I suggested my partner spend the evening attending a political debate for city councillor. Not the most titillating event, but one I knew he'd get a charge out of. This would be the equivalent of me having my monthly Mommy night. For some reason my partner doesn't get together with his buds anymore. Team sports are also passé. So the only 'thing' he has is watching sports and managing his various pools. And now he's back, happier than a clam. The kitchen is cleaned up, lunches are made, kids are bathed and in bed. Ahhhh, I ROCK.

As far as good deeds go, this is WAAAAYY down on the Mother Theresa Scale, but I feel really good about taking care of business and giving my partner the night off. Maybe other things are also making me feel good today too? Whatever the reason, I want to do more of it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coddled


I'm disappointed in myself today for not biting my tongue. I hadn't even spent five minutes chatting to my MIL before starting to spue my judgements of her. She was telling me all about how involved she is with my 18 year old niece who is away at university this year. The girl is being coddled like nothing I've ever seen! She's driven everywhere, told to give updates on her where-abouts. She even had to get her parent's permission to stay over at a girlfriend's place? Rather than get my sympathy on just how difficult and unreliable the bus systems is on the weekends, I couldn't bear hearing another word. I blurted out that it was ridiculous to treat her like a child and that hopefully the novelty would wear off soon. Of course, my MIL was shocked to hear me contradict her so sharply. She made some weak defense about doing her duty to look out for her grand-daughter and closed the door to her car and just left. Ugh.

Why did I react so strongly? Time to look in the mirror once again. I coddle our kids. I do everything for them and constantly tell them what to do. I want to encourage their autonomy, but I keep forgetting to apply my knowledge. Reminder of my role here: my job is to prepare them to leave the nest. I don't think my niece even realizes that she is being smothered, poor thing. She'll probably never know what it feels like to think for herself, find her way or make big decisions until after she's been married with kids for 10 years.

My parents coddled me, but they also let us have our freedom when we were teenagers. I was practically living with my boyfriend by the time I was 21 -- my parents saw me on weekends when I came home to do my laundry. If we needed to get somewhere, the bus was it. We were expected to work if we wanted spending money. My folks certainly didn't know anything about what I was learning at uni. They trusted me to study and attend classes as I saw fit. I want this for my children and more. If my daughter wants to go back-packing across Europe when she's 18, then I will support her all the way. If my son wants to start his own business or go work in another country, I will not get in his way.

My mistake today was in speaking out of turn. My partner was relieved that I said something because he too has been getting annoyed with the coddling. But just because it's not my way does not mean that I have the right to tell someone else they are wrong. Gawd, years of parenting and meeting others with different lifestyles should've taught me that by now! I am grateful at the reminder though -- my kids need me yes, but they should need me a little bit less each day or I am not doing my job.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Political Speak


I know that I'll probably never go further in my career than where I am right now because I am not a bureaucrat. I can't write or speak formally. In fact I can barely comprehend this type of communication. And yet, I want to know how its done. I was in a meeting the other day with people who speak this way. Someone asks a question and the answer sounds good, "Thank you Doreen. I'm glad you asked that question because I know that the user community has a keen interest in .... and our role is to ..... and it goes on and on and then my mind starts to wander about things you should not be thinking about at work :-P. But I digress. The long-winded spiel doesn't really answer the question. It's shrouded in management double-speak and leaves you wondering 'what was just said exactly?' Yet, no one is brave enough to speak up.

I don't think Toast Masters will help me with this one. Maybe I should spend time listening to CPAC or Meet the Press? Media training? I'm direct and cut straight through the bullshit which I think is a rare and beautiful thing (not so great in personal relationships though). But it wouldn't hurt if I could conduct myself in a more professional manner.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fake Boobs


I've often fantasized about getting my breasts done but never really thought I'd go through with it until recently. I half-jokingly suggested it to my partner the other night and he was all over it. Within five minutes he was on the net doing 'research'. Saline vs silicone, what are the advantages of each? what feels and looks more natural? what about the cost? Ugh. I'm really torn about this. On the one hand I miss my breasts. Five and a half years (and still counting) of breast feeding and losing 35 lbs have really wreaked havoc on my poor little breasts. I love my girls, but I can't accept them as they are. I want to restore them to their former glory. I'm not talking about blowing them up to mammoth porn-sized knockers, just respectable C-cups.
The other part of me feels like a complete fraud for wanting this. Surely the money can be put to a nobler cause! How will it feel not being 100% me? Will I really like my body more with alien implants floating on my chest? What will I tell my daughter (or anyone else for that matter)?
Lastly, there's my partner. He's a little too enthusiastic about it. I appreciate his support, but what about loving me as I am? Hell, he would've made the appointment for me last night, had I suggested it. Ugh -- I can just picture his greedy paws all over my fake breasts. The boy is already insatiable. The fake breasts will turn him into a crazed pervert. And how will I look when I'm 80 years old with stacked tits?

I don't know. The fantasy is nice... But I've got some pretty kick ass padded bras, so why do I really want to do this? My partner will be devastated if I tell him that I've had a change of heart. Although I'll probably change my mind a hundred times and he'll just have to live with whatever I decide. Right now, I'm still the 'milk lady', so the boob-job will have to wait. xx

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Apps


K - I still haven't logged off but I needed to rant just a little bit more while I have a buzz (this after having just posted a promise to not complain for three weeks which is nullified if alcohol is at play btw).
I'm startng to have i-Phone envy thanks to all the buzz about apps I'm exposed to like this one for finding recipes.
I used to love to gnaff at ppl who'd spend upwards of $100 for their cell phones each month to call whom exactly? I have a cell phone and I never use it. I don't text, I just don't feel the need to stay in touch when I am on the road. I like not being reachable. Freedom, baby. I'm never away for more than an hour and I do let the people who need me know where I'll be. It's just fun now and then to be able to pretend that I have no responsibilities.

But now I feel like I'm missing something. Arg! However cool these apps are, it's still not worth the expense, right? Financial independence. I can't forget that. Say no to the toys D. Just say no.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Refuse to complain for 3 weeks. When you catch yourself begin your 3 weeks over again. You will find that you complain about the same thing repeatedly


More uplifting advice here. I'm drawn to this in particular because I have a heavy heart. I find myself repeating the same patterns of complaining, blaming, judging at work ... making excuses instead of just making the best of it. This is not how I want to live.
Didn't I promise to check my storm cloud at the door once I was back at work? My partner recently told me that he hates having to listen to things he has zero interest in. No kidding! My work is my thing and I shouldn't bore him to death with the politics of my office. He certainly doesn't subject me to it. But come on, I'm female and I need to talk in order to feel better. Talking is one thing, but complaining ALL THE TIME is pathetic and when I really think about it, complaining just makes me feel worse instead of better. Change, leave or accept D.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Culture of insubordination


I think I've finally figured out why things are so dysfunctional at work. We survive in a culture of insubordination. No one respects authority, there's really no accountability. As my friend says, "the cheques just keep coming in no matter how much or how little we do." So nobody cares and it's contagious as all hell.

Take today for example, I heard my bosses' boss say that he wanted us to meet to develop a work plan that clearly showed what the priorities, time frames and persons accountable would be for each item listed in our Audit Action Plan. But my manager had her own plans. She wanted us to talk about a work plan she had consultants create for us two years ago. Yes, it was a good plan but OMG, this is not what your boss wanted!! Our priorities are his priorities! Of course, I am one to talk. I question everything that I am told to do because I know it will change like the wind and go no where. I remember a couple years ago I complained to a co-worked -- "why should I do that?" "Because she is your manager" was his response. It dawned on me then that I too had absorbed the culture of insubordination of my workplace.

Well, we've got to change. And it starts with me. I WILL step it up and help my manager develop this work plan dammit. I WILL take her requests seriously and live up to my commitments, no matter how frivolous I think they are. Like this classification project I've been bitching about. No, I do not believe in it. But who cares? That's not what they are paying me for. I've got to just follow my orders and stop faffing about. Bloody hell, I will NOT continue to contribute to the dysfunction. I will not.

When we fight


Thankfully, it's not often that my partner and I fight, but when we do, it can last days. The silent treatment is our favourite. We're both too old to yell and say mean things to each other (at least initially). Here's our pattern.

1. He does something to upset me. Remember my rejection post from a few days ago? Well he was not there for me when I needed him the most and it really hurt. So I told him that he let me down (in the most direct and honest way possible).

Mistake #1: Letting my partner know that he has disappointed me is the absolute worse thing I could've said. For us, it's the equivalent of telling a man his dick is small. Seriously. It goes straight to the heart -- he feels like a failure. He feels completely unloved and thinks that I feel he ALWAYS disappoints (which is not true).

2. He gets defensive and explains why I should not be upset. He makes perfectly logical excuses for himself and expects everything to be fine.

Mistake #2: I'm already feeling hurt and not cared for, invalidating my feelings more makes me even more upset. I need him to listen, understand my pain, give me a hug, show me that I matter to him.

3. He feels my disapproval even more now and blames me for upsetting him and expects an apology from me.

Mistake #3: I am now even more pissed off than before and there's no way in fucking hell I am apologizing. Now the gloves are off. Forget about enlightenment and biting my tongue. Anything that's pissed me off in the last month is about to come out. This is war.

On my bike ride in this morning I was thinking about how all of this could have been avoided if I had just lowered my expectations of him. Empathy is not his forte (he's even worse than me). He shows support through service -- taking care of the kids and our home and he does it very well. I have to keep reminding myself that I can't expect my partner to fulfill all of my needs. This is why I have my Mom and my girlfriends to turn to. They are not obligated to make me feel better and because of that I do not get upset if they are not available; they have their own loved ones that need them.

My partner wants to be my hero by fixing my problems. He's a bloody engineer! Like yesterday, I had to go downtown but didn't want to ride my bike in heavy traffic. So my partner suggested I bike halfway, bus it in and then bike back which was a brilliant idea. He was so proud of himself and I was genuinely grateful for his advice. I know this is a small example, but that's where his comfort zone is. Growing up with two brothers and a cold father hasn't taught him to be sensitive to women. In fact when I think back to when we were dating I remember him telling me what a relief it was to be with someone who wasn't emotional! He doesn't want to be my shoulder to cry on and I should stop wanting to change him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Karma


Probably the number one thing that keeps me out of trouble. Thank Gawd for Karma. When I contemplate doing something wrong, I immediately say "this is going to bite me in the ass -- is it really worth it?" And the best thing about Karma is that it won't hit you where you expect it -- it will be get you back ten fold and will affect something very dear to you. So the temptation is rarely worth the risk. It also works for little things. For example, lately I've noticed myself sneaking food -- a few cookies here, a few morsels of chocolate there. No one will notice. Who am I kidding? My waistline will notice and it already has. Karma baby. You can't get away with anything. You just can't. And I both hate it and love it at the same time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Glass Door


This is not about the ubiquitous 'glass ceiling', so you can breathe a sigh of relief -- I've got a feminism diatribe bubbling up inside me that I'll save for another post. This is about information management again, sort of.

Years ago I saw a demo of an in-production collaboration tool much like SharePoint. One of the things that struck me was how each 'site' had two views -- one was public facing and the other view was for those who belonged to the group. They called it a glass-door. You can see what's posted on our door and even look through the glass to see what we are up to, but we're not exposing you to all of the crap WIP material. Sure, you had to write special content for it, but you didn't have to maintain two separate sites. Brilliant.

When I look at our own Intranet site I'm disgusted. We're the flippin' IT group people! There is no information on who we are, what services we provide and how to use them, how to get in touch with us, what training is available, what projects we're working on, what their status is, what systems we support, what our technical environment is, what our priorities or strategic direction is .... I'm starting to get really pissed off as I type this. Bloody hell! DOESN'T ANYBODY THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO MARKET YOURSELF? I don't understand what the problem is. Technical people can't write? We're stiffled by perfectionism? We really don't know what we do and it changes all the time so we can't put it in writing? Wait -- maybe if we say it out loud, we might have to be accountable for it! JESUS!

I want to sit down and do this myself. Of course it's likely to be received with complete disdain because a) it is not my job b) nobody thinks it's worth doing. I don't want to work for an organization that can't sell itself. "Who are you, what do you do, and (most importantly) what can you do for me?" Everyone should be able to answer those questions in 100 words or less dia- bon!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why should I click on you?


I've been thinking a lot about the sheer volume of information out there and how it's becoming increasingly important to know something about the information you've found before you make the investment to actually read it.

We're all strapped for time and unless someone I trust tells me that I 'have to' read something, upfront, I want to know:

what it's about
why you think I need to read this
how long it is
what I will learn from it
if it's from a reliable source
how recent it is
where I can find more info on it

Back in the days of paper, your Librarian or Records Manager would help answer these questions. Today, it's not so easy. Thankfully websites provide some context with linking. But in my opinion, auto-tagging and summarizing with technology can only go so far. It has to come from the author. Really, people need to learn how to market their content. I want to start now by writing neat little abstracts that let the reader know why (or why not) they should give up 10 mins of their day to read my stuff. It doesn't have to be long -- just needs to answer the question "Here's why I wrote this in the first place". It's also a great way to bring meaning to my work -- D's own legacy.

How make this idea go viral...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I don't care


Sometimes I look in the mirror and don't recognize the person I've become. It's not a bad thing; it's just that the things I used to care so much about no longer matter to me. I'm not talking about my attitude towards my loved ones or my health -- those are still priority #1. It's about little things like decorating. I used to spend endless hours combing through designer mags and watching HGTV looking for inspiring ideas to make my house a home. Today, I COULDN'T CARE LESS. It is a complete waste of time and money. The house looks fine as it is -- bare.

I have become my mother, *sigh*. I remember being really pissed with my mom for having the same furniture as when she and my dad got married, for refusing to make holes in the wall by hanging art and for leaving the house boring beige. I couldn't understand why she didn't care! Well now I do. It's a rat race. Once you start, you can't stop. You end up with rooms full of furniture that you trip over on a daily basis and shelves full of chotsky's that you have to dust or repair all the time. It also fails to satisfy. The temporary high from a room nicely decorated loses it's appeal within days (yes, it's always about the Power of Now). In fact, if you're like me, it'll even start to piss you off -- why the fuck did I paint this room ORANGE?! It's too BRIGHT dammit! We could have taken a real vacation for what I just spent on new linens, frig! KIDS! STOP CLIMBING ON THAT EXPENSIVE TABLE!! etc, etc.

We all know know people who live for decorating -- they invest hundreds of hours painting elaborate faux finishes, scour antique markets for treasured nick knacks, and sew their own decorative throw pillows and draperies. It's quite impressive and at the same time heart breaking. I just want to shout "None of those things make a happy home lady!" That used to be me. If I could only get back all those hours I spent shopping at Home Sense and planning my designer projects in exchange for quality time spent playing with my kids or even exercising. Those are what matter to me now.

So where is this coming from? Have I matured, or just given up on life? My family thinks I'm depressed and perhaps they are partly right. But maybe I'm just finally learning how to be me. Endless conversations with my Mommy friends about renovations and decorating projects made me feel like I needed to follow the trend. Now I'm just more comfortable with the status quo. I mean, I haven't given up completely -- I still take pride in a neat and clean house. It's just that the decorating (along with the gourmet cooking) is no longer important. And that's OK.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Steppin' in his shoes


My partner is the dishwasher in our family and I never fully appreciated how many flippin' dishes we dirty until I had to be the dishwasher for two months (he's been doing it 80% of the time for 8 years). In fact, I'm ashamed to say that every time I came downstairs in the morning and saw that the gunk from the night before had not been cleaned out, I would curse his name and give him zero credit for doing the dishes. Rather than say anything, I'd just clean out the gunk (which is right up there with cleaning the toilets and mopping up my kid's barf, as far as disgusting chores go) and choose to be pissed off. I called this 'biting my tongue'. But really, I was just holding a grudge.

So now that I am temporarily the dishwasher, I noticed the other day that I too leave gunk in the sink all night long! It's so easy to forget to clean it out after you've spent an hour in the 'effin kitchen 'tidying up'. And because it was me that left the gunk there in the first place, it no longer bothers me. Amazing how stepping into my partner's shoes was the only way I could learn to stop being a bitch about this and to appreciate what he does around here. I'm very grateful for that. Let's hope there are more learning opportunities in store.

Hard Work


Having recently read the book Outliers which challenges the way we look at success (hard work and opportunity vs talent and luck), I was really struck by the effect of hard work. Apparently 10 000 is the magic number of hours you need to put in before you can be considered an expert. Most people fall way short of practicing anything -- an instrument, sport, computing even. It's got me thinking again about how I view my kid's free time. Right now they are still young -- I want them to play as much as they can and to enjoy the freedom of having zero responsibility. Family time is about doing fun things together, not schlepping them to endless scheduled activities. I want them to be generalists and be exposed to a variety of interests so that they can eventually find their 'thing'. But am I doing them a disservice by not helping them develop their talents sooner?

The book also examined the principals of hard work and discipline. It suggested that countries (typically Asian) that have a longer school year, produce smarter children. I've thought a lot about supplementing my child's learning with my own 'Mommy school' (I did teach my son to read after all) on weekends and during evenings. But then the whining starts and I feel guilty for intruding on their playtime. Plus I trust that our school is making the best use of time with my kids. And then I think about what a waste my own elementary school days were...

I'm beginning to think that this 'Kumon Method' of learning by wrote (for math especially) is the way to go. Math is just one of those things that you've got to practice over and over again in order to build confidence. You hear about it in Asian countries -- kids reciting their times tables and doing pages and pages of the same kinds of problems until it's embedded. My kids are going to hate me for this, but I can't get it out of my head. I don't want them to have the same fear of basic math that I have (you know the sudden urge to leave the room when the cheque arrives and you have to calculate the tip ... can't wait to start using the 'I forgot my glasses' excuse for that one).

At any rate, it's given me a lot to think about -- the value of hard work. Yeah, it's right up there with teaching my kids love and respect. I need to do something about this.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Information Management is Dead


I'm starting to read more and more about the death of my profession as an IM Specialist and rather than refute it or bury my head in the sand, I couldn't agree more.

I often get stuck on explaining just what IM is.  So I revert to a tired slogan for lack of anything else more concise -- 'it's about being able to make sure that the right information is available at the right time in the right format and at the right cost'. In the old days of paper, you relied on Records Managers to describe, organize, search and retrieve your records. But once digitial information arrived, the RM became obsolete. End users managed their own files at their desktop and the rigor of classifying and culling information was thrown by the way side, which is why shared drives are basically dumping grounds of poorly described, duplicate, and obsolete information. Enter the IM Specialist -- someone with the same organizational and analytical skills as the Records Manager, but who is comfortable with technology and can advise on how to navigate your digital nightmare using best practices (which are so pathetically obvious, it's hard to believe that someone actually pays me to do this). You don't know what to name your file? -- How about just calling it what it is? You don't know what information to delete in your email? Try most of what's in your inbox for starters.

One of the big responsibilities of the IM Specialist is to develop a 'Retention Schedule' which is supposed to be a mission critical document that says -- "this is what we keep information on and this is how long we keep it for". So if the company gets sued and can't come up with the documents or emails, they simply point to their approved Retention Schedule and say "too bad so sad, the information was deleted and this here Retention Schedule covers our asses". I won't bore you with how we come up with this magical schedule. In fact all I've done in my six years in this field is talk about it. We have yet to actually DO IT.

Corporate risk doesn't really resonate with end users, so I usually sell it with Search. If you keep everything, including the crap, it'll be harder to find the good shit, right? (of course I attenuate at work, just not in my blog). This is usually sellable because we all know how shitty desktop searching is -- if I search for 'information management', I'll get everything with the words 'information', 'management' or even fucking 'ment' in it. But thanks to advances in technology, namely Google, why delete anything? There is no master Retention Schedule for the Internet, baby! If you have a kick-ass search tool, the good stuff will float to the top and the crap info will remain out of sight. The only time we need to actually delete anything is if there's legislation that stipulates that you have to get rid of something after a specific time period. And really, there's NOT a lot of these out there.

So here I am once again working on 'the Retention Schedule', only I don't believe in it anymore. It's a bloody waste of time to go around asking people what information has value to them. If someone asked you this, wouldn't you think "everything I write has value, you dolt!". And then I have to ask: "How long do you need to keep it for" ... To which they reply: "Why not forever, isn't storage cheap? I can pick up a 1 TB removable drive for $40 at Staples, so don't tell me it's costly for you to store my files. Go tinker with some server in a closet and stop wasting my time, you idiot. Jeesh. How much do they pay those CSes, again?"

So between this and my rant about the uselessness of organizing and classifying information, my profession is already dead. Time for a career change. What though?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sorry doesn't cut it


*Sigh* I'm tired of apologizing. He's tired of hearing it. Sorry means you're going to change. Thankfully our partners give us many chances. But does that just give us a license to screw up? I know that I'll be forgiven so what motivation is there to really try? Well, even when my apologies are accepted, damage has still been done. A new tiny brick in the wall of resentment has been laid. Enough tiny bricks and ....

I remember when I was single, I tried a lot harder to get along with my boyfriends -- probably out of fear that they would leave me (yes, that is pathetic, but we were all stupid in our 20s). That's the thing about marriage, especially when you have such a loyal and devoted partner. He's not going anywhere, so technically I can treat him like dirt, if I want to. It's no wonder married folks are typically miserable.

Do I need to go back to dating my partner in order for us to regain the respect for each other that once was? I am rarely at the receiving end of an apology (that says a lot, yikes). Luckily, the magic of "I'm sorry" still melts the resentment and wipes his slate clean. In fact that is true of most of my good friends and family. So I guess I'll keep churning out the apologies until one day my partner says "save it, I've heard it before, how is this time different?". Whoa ... just typing that makes me shudder.