Monday, July 31, 2017

When Your Coworker is a Cat

1. They will never clean up after themselves
2. They will expect you to refill the water and the food. 
3. They will nap at will. 
4. They will demand pets at will.  
5. They will curl up in adorable and distracting poses. 
6. They will listen to all your complaints without interrupting. 
7. They may jump in front of the webcam when you are on a videoconference and just walk across like nothing's happening. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Belated Three Interesting Things

1. A friend pointed me to this story of women who dressed as men to fight in the US Civil War. It also mentions that the same thing happened in the Revolutionary War.
2. I'm behind, but have been enjoying "The Bold Type", and found this discussion of one of the love interests intriguing.  (Spoilers if you hadn't seen the writing on the wall for this relationship.)
3. Exotic is a fancy way of saying foreign, and not really correct in the case of Asians or even Asian Americans, as this woman pointed out.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Diverse is Like Alternative

I remember when alternative music was the new kid on the block, or more appropriately, the new genre.  Of course, at the time most of the acts falling into alternative were new acts, who really were doing something distinctly different from the other stuff on the radio.  (Yes, this does mean probably lots of people had been doing that stuff not on the radio for quite some time, and the naming of the genre was just some bigwigs at the music companies figuring out how to monetize it.)  But then you get far along enough in the game that the new people coming in, grew up hearing that stuff on the radio, they don't enough know what it used to be like, you guys. And you start to wonder, why do we call this alternative anyway, alternative to what?
I think we're getting there with diverse, and getting there with things like own voices.  Partly it's just the nature of words, they evolve, or the group being labelled with that word evolves.  Code Switch did a story about the predominately white historically black college in West Virginia. So, when we call books that feature characters of color and/or LGBTQ characters and/or disabled characters diverse, we are trying to say that these are groups that generally in literature are not as well represented as straight, white, able-bodied, cisgender characters. But yes, referring to such characters themselves as diverse, implies that they are other.  So we can recognize that this is the term that people understand, while also realizing the term itself is problematic, and stating that a book contains diversity, is different than saying people - actual living people - are diverse for being non-white or non-straight or disabled or non-cisgender. 
Good stories are good stories.  But the lens and interpretation on that story does change it.  That's why there's so many versions of "A Christmas Carol".  That's why DC has two theaters that do several Shakespeare plays every year, changing the setting and time period. I saw a version of "Much Ado About Nothing" set during the DC Caribbean Festival that was amazing. It was the same and it was different.  And that's the point.  Getting more stories, more music, more voices, more things for us to consume might all make us better people (we can hope) but it also gives us more stuff.  And given both the music industry and the book industry are trying to sell us stuff, the more stuff we have, the wider our range of choices, well, that helps everyone.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

RIP Mr. Vance

Growing up we watched ABC news usually.  We had a small connection to one of their reporters, so that's just what we did even after that connection broke.  But the elementary school that I and my siblings went to was right next door to NBC4.  My mother worked at that school even after we had all aged out. My brother and I both worked there for a bit.  The school shared the parking lot with NBC, and the security guards would let the teachers come over and make use of the cafeteria. It was also where "It's Academic" was filmed, so I spent a lot of time in the NBC building, at least compared to the other stations in town.
Jim Vance has been a steady presence in the DC news all this time.  Others have moved on to bigger shows, some left and came back, some hopped to new networks.  Jim Vance has been there.  Steady, calm, and just a delightful, reliable reminder of what a good news anchor is. 
I am so mad that cancer took him away from us, even though 45 years of providing news to us at the local news desk is honestly plenty.  I am heartbroken for his family, and colleagues, and know that even those who moved away from DC are sad to know he's no longer holding down that newsdesk. 
Here is my favorite video of him unable to maintain his composure.  Know that it is funnier for it's being the exception. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Nicole Chung wrote about the simple magic of being able to take your kid to see a Shakespeare play where the actors look like her
2. You may have heard the President golfs.  This discussion about usage of a river is fascinating to me because it expresses how the small choices that presidents make encroach on the ability the rest of us have to just, like kayak down a river or whatever.  We never got that stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue back for cars, it sat this year with security fencing pushing people even farther back for months.  
3. I try to resist the hype machine somewhat.  Movies that are not out until 2018 can take a seat.  But.  But.  This description of the "Wrinkle in Time" trailer.  Well.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why Just Say No Doesn't Work for Drugs or Sex

Friendly reminder that I teach comprehensive sex ed in my spare time. I was the beneficiary of comprehensive sex ed starting in fifth grade. I believe that sex, sexuality, and sexual expression are natural parts of our lives, and the idea that children will be magically provided the necessary information at the point they are emotionally and physically ready without any prior preparation is ridiculous.  
Drugs are a little different. But at some point in most everyone's life whether it's alcohol or prescription meds, most people will encounter drugs in some form.  So, again, I do think learning a little about how different substances act on bodies is useful so that you don't go off what some random person tells you.  Ideally this would - just as comprehensive sex ed does, look at consequences. Not just legal, but how these various drugs act on your body not only through the high, but also through the withdrawal or hangover.  And talking about what responsible and legal drinking looks like so that we don't learn all of this through trial and error.  
One of the things we talk about in our sex ed curriculum is that substances you are not familiar with can affect your decision making, and talk with the students about why that might mean getting drunk or high at a party where you don't know people might not be a great idea.  What to do if your friend suddenly seems out of it, and is being led away by someone you don't know.  
This is a common refrain for me, but we insist that to be useful adults, teenagers need experience learning languages, math, and science, even if they are planning a career that doesn't require all of these things.  We require it not to torture them, but because the critical thinking skills and language affinity skills are useful in a lot of ways later.  
I think dealing with sex and drugs is similar.  We don't expect high schoolers to be ready to be translators at the UN without further study.  But we are stuck on this idea that teaching kids about sex or drugs with any sort of depth or nuance means they will think we are telling them they are all set to go.  It ignores the idea that part of what we should be teaching is how to make the best choices for themselves, how to practice having tough conversations, and how to have discussions about what healthy boundaries look like for them.  Adults often have trouble with this.  Partly because it's hard.  And partly because we don't practice. We teach kids CPR in case they could help someone.  Teaching them how to say, I am open to this but not that is just as important.  
So, the suggestion we revive the DARE program saddens me.  We already know telling kids all drugs are bad doesn't work.  Because even if they believe it in the moment, they will go home and watch someone drink a beer and not die.  What it instead teaches them is that adults are not trustworthy sources about drugs. And that helps no one. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. You may have seen the story about 80 some beachgoers who formed a chain to rescue folks caught in a riptide.  One of the key things was that lots of people saw the problem, since the lifeguards had gone off duty, some folks tried to head out with a board, and another realized the issue and started calling for a chain, encouraging others to join.  Many people often want to help, but don't know how to do it without getting themselves in trouble to.  Having someone make a suggestion that everyone could help with worked. 
2. There's a lot of scoffing these days about safe spaces, but these two young men got married after meeting in a fraternity that catered to black gay men, and reminds us all, that spaces where we can be ourselves can provide all sorts of lasting connections. 
3. Book Voyagers created book lists based on Camp Half Blood cabins. There are some great books in some of these cabins, so there are quite a few more I need to look into. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Knitting in Meetings

I am a fan of the Ask a Manager blog, and it will not surprise you and as I was catching up that this question about knitting in meetings caught my eye.  I am a big believer that many of us focus better when our hands are moving, and there are all kinds of meetings and no one (I hope) wants to be that person who has to get asked a question three times.  I recognize given the internet's fairly vicious response to fidget spinners that we are still in a very early phase of recognizing that people process information differently, and there is work to be done.  The OP, in my opinion, did everything necessary to explain why the knitting would be beneficial to their listening.  And I found the response - not what I would have wished.  
I am not saying it is wrong, but what really fascinated me as I dived through the comments were the number of suggestions that people made, or their various rankings of things that are less distracting in meetings. 
I'm a big proponent of the popcorn rule.  I have, as an example, knit in church. My church wearing shorts to service, or sipping soda, or bringing popcorn are all things that would not be considered out of place.  I would not assume that all churches are therefore knitting appropriate. I am also aware that non-knitters think knitting is me not paying attention, rather than the opposite. I can attempt to combat this by only knitting on conference calls where they can't see, demonstrating through my participation that I am engaged, knitting for co-workers, or deciding I have enough seniority that I get to.  Obviously not every employee is in a position to do all of these things.  
In the comments a short listing of things various people said would be less distracting that knitting - texting, doodling or writing non-work things on a notepad, working on a laptop or tablet, playing with a fidget spinner or worry beads, eating lunch. 
None of these things are actually less distracting than knitting.  But they are more common in meetings so we have built up a tolerance for such behavior.  Or we haven't but we have accepted that we need to.  
One of my friends was a late college returner.  And she found sitting between two people surfing on their laptops was incredibly distracting to her.  She wanted to start leaning over, suggesting the blue dress would look so much better on you.  I was in a training where we were using a computer lab and the desks were so close together that I knew one co-worker was refinancing their mortgage and the other was checking on their child's soccer.  We've learned to develop, not blinders really since I still saw all of that, but filters because a lot of us together in one room where almost everyone is multitasking means you have to so you don't overload.  
I understand that for me knitting provides that focus and it can simultaneously distract the people to either side of me because it provides one more piece of stimuli that they have to attend to or ignore. I'm not saying that my coping mechanism is more important than yours.  But what the many, many people suggesting alternate forms of distraction told me is that there is great acceptance for distraction, but knitting is not one they are used to.  
And look, depending on the place, it may never be acceptable, but the meetings where half the people are crushing candy or slurping lunch, I don't buy that my knitting is more distracting.  It's just different. 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. This article took a look at the changing math that current college students are facing
2. I try to make it a practice to go through and regularly report online harassers, because I tend to face far less harassment than others so it's not as triggering for me to read all that.  But I have to set limits.  This explanation from a programmer who had created a Wordpress plugin that caught a lot of the crap for why he had to quit made sense.  Giving social media and web based companies all the ad revenue and letting them off the hook on the bad things that happen on their platforms mean a lot of their users take the hit, often for free. 
3. The Arena Stage Director talks a little more about her consensus organizing process, which was used, for example in "Smart People". 

Monday, July 03, 2017

Raise a Glass For Freedom

Things are not great.  But in this week we think of summer, and loud explodey things, and are reminded that a determined group of people can reform the government if they are willing to work hard for it. 
Oh and pools.  We think of pools, and beaches, and other bodies of water.