Saturday, July 28, 2012

Worth Repeating: Esther Duflo

Alleviating poverty is more guesswork than science, and lack of data on aid's impact raises questions about how to provide it. But Clark Medal-winner Esther Duflo says it's possible to know which development efforts help and which hurt -- by testing solutions with randomized trials.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Worth Repeating: Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers ...

Monday, July 16, 2012


Yeah, every post now comes with the "It's been too long since I posted." note.  Bah.

I'm on vacation, sort of.  I took the week off from work while Lori and Rachel are at VBS because last year Ben did not do well in the nursery for three hours while I was at VBS in a role that didn't have much to do except during the opening and closing. (Attempts to find or make work didn't really amount to much.)

So this year, I decided I would take the time off, spend it with Ben and do therapy-type stuff.  I always say I wish I had more time to do that, so this was the perfect opportunity to do it.

And what a great day it was.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Worth Repeating: Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold and team's latest inventions -- as brilliant as they are bold -- remind us that the world needs wild creativity to tackle big problems like malaria. And just as that idea sinks in, he rolls out a live demo of a new, mosquito-zapping gizmo you have to see to believe.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


The break from this series was both ironic and way too long.

 I admire people who can wade right into chaos.  Not me.  When chaos strikes, I need to step back.  I need information, I need time to process it.  Otherwise, I'm overwhelmed and can become indecisive or unable to act.  This can even be as simple as being asked to make a simple choice about where I'd like to have lunch.  I've learned some coping mechanisms, such responding with a request for a finite (preferably 2) set of choices.

I've really seen this play out rather dramatically in my son who has autism - too much of anything can overwhelm him.  Noise, motion, light.  His hands go to his ears, or he'll bury his face in your leg or he may just lay down and refuse to move.

I can also be overwhelmed by chaos represented by clutter. Sometimes it manifests itself as claustrophobia and I feel an immediate need to escape and other times, it becomes a compulsive need to bring over from the chaos, regardless of how much more important some other thing is.  Other coping mechanisms can be the "dirty room" where everything goes until I'm in a better mind to deal with it.

During a session with our daughter's neurobehavioralist, my wife and I learned a lot about each other.  She does not see the clutter as a problem like I do and is a "spreader" - if she can see it, she can find it again.  I would frustrate her no end when I would move stuff from the kitchen to the dining room table in an effort to clean the kitchen.  It turned out that it wasn't the moving, but the piling and re-sorting I did as I moved, believing I was helping.  My wife's still not 100% happy that I move stuff, but now I keep things the way they were when I relocate and her stress level's gone way down.  (I move because the goal is always to then move on to the dining room next, though I'm rarely as successful there because there's no next place to move things that I don't know what to do with.  Except the family room, but we've already done that too many times and agreed not to put more in there until we've dealt with what's already in there.)

My anxiety around clutter and chaos fits so perfectly with my desire for simplicity.  There will always be chaos I can't control, but there's no sense in me adding my own, or adding complexity that can become chaos.  Remember the Milk and Evernote are two tools I use to keep my life straight in this regard, using principles from Getting Things Done - get it out of my head and confidently know it's stored where I can find it again.

Worth Repeating: Ellen Dunham-Jones

Ellen Dunham-Jones fires the starting shot for the next 50 years' big sustainable design project: retrofitting suburbia. To come: Dying malls rehabilitated, dead "big box" stores re-inhabited, parking lots transformed into thriving wetlands.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Holding Pattern

I realized late last night that I've been acting like I'm in a holding pattern - that I've been mentally "holding my breath."  I can't completely explain it, but I've been holding back, holding off, restraining myself.  I've been unwilling to do what I normally do, pursuing what I normally pursue.  I've been delaying, postponing, deferring, thinking "someday," and "eventually."

I've been trying to figure out the source and I've come up with quite a few.  First, there's my stupid injury.  Nearly two weeks ago I stepped on a child's block on the stairs, lost my footing and ended up falling.  I banged down a few steps before coming to a stop with that block lodged firmly in the small of my back.  For nearly two weeks now, my tailbone and back have been in pain.  Sitting hurts, laying down hurts, sneezing hurts, running hurts.  It's been pretty annoying and so I haven't run much.

Secondly, there's a new game for my iPhone/iPad that I've been quite addicted to called Grabatron.  You pilot an alien spaceship that has a giant grabbing claw on the bottom.  You pick up cars, tanks, rocks, sheep, mobile homes, etc. And then you throw them.  It's violent, it's cartoonish and it's actually quite fun.  You control the ship by simply starting with your phone held flat and then tipping it in the direction you want to go, tapping the screen to engage or release the claw.  The gameplay is fun and it gets intense when you have to make sudden moves to dodge gun fire from farmers, police or commandos and rockets from soliders, tanks, helicopters and missile launchers.  It has a 1950's feel to it, but it's a bit anachronistic when the sleek and deadly helicopters come after you.  So I've been playing that instead of reading.

Third, I've not been sleeping well.  So I end up staying up at night playing on my phone and then I sleep in and don't get up and do my morning exercise or listen to the podcast.  And then at night, all I want to do is watch TV, not really read Google Reader or post in my blog.

Fourth, I've been totally cheating on my diet.  Every time I've turned around, there's been goodies in the house - leftovers from baked gifts Lori's made for teachers, birthday parties, fourth of July, etc., etc., etc.  I've been unable to avoid all the amazing goodies and I have absolutely no willpower.  The way to keep me on my diet is to keep tasty treats away from me, the way to make me break my diet is to put tasty treats within reach.  Sadly, that's it.  So lately I've also gotten back in the habit of eating handful after handful of cereal right from the box.  It's a really bad habit.

There's been a lot of uncertainty at work.  There's a weird power thing going on above me between my former and again current boss and my most recent boss.  I feel like I'm caught in the middle and my current role means I have a responsibility to both of them (regardless of the org chart structure) and I succeed when I help both of them succeed, so it's kind of this weird dynamic.  I don't want to overstate my own role, but it's slightly undefined and so there's a lot of potential there to shine and that'll be the easiest when they are both comfortable with what I'm doing, but they don't have the exact same goals, so it's tricky to navigate.  Making it more confusing, part of my role is a role that's very slowly being vacated by someone who's leaving the company, but doing it very, very slowly.  His family's next chapter is elsewhere, but it's been a bit of a journey for them to determine exactly where, and then he's had to navigate finding a new job and buying a house and all the preparations for them to move.  So I'm slowly moving into his role, slowly exiting another role (complicated by stuff I can't talk about here) while keeping a few other roles, while he guides and coaches me from the sideline all while we're redesigning things as a result of the re-org we took the opportunity to do to align with his departure.

And this one is weird, but I think Ben's autism is also causing me to kind of be "stuck" - from the very few traumatic/painful experiences I've had to endure, you figure they have an end.  Whether it's a financial hardship, or even an injury or loss - you know there will be grief, a feeling out of the ordinary, but that at some point, things will change - that there will be a new normal, or you'll eventually pay off the financial problem or something.  But Ben's been diagnosed as "PDD-NOS" and the last part of that is "Not Otherwise Specified" which means that at some point we can expect a different diagnosis probably.  But I don't know when, so I feel like it's something I should be waiting for.

There's also all the stuff I want to do, ideas that float around in my head, unformed - like things in the yard and house to eventually do when we eventually have the money.  And then two other things I'm working on but not yet ready to talk about.  All this weighs on me.

And then there's the heat... that's making me sluggish and also makes it hard to sleep.

And email.  Both my work and home email boxes are overflowing.  It's bad.

I've also felt on the edge of irritability, that I'm bombarded by constant noise and demands and don't have a moment to myself to think.  Part of this is my own fault, like right now, trying to type this close to dinner time in the kitchen.  (It feels a bit selfish, too.)

But I've got to break out of it.  This post is helpful, but I think some good sleep will really help.  As will returning to my to do list and being productive and getting stuff done.  Also, writing down the other stuff, getting it out of my head, that will help as well.

So, as soon I'm done with this post, I'm firing up Remember the Milk and Evernote and getting to work.  This slump will end.  Already today I logged all my food in Lose It! and pared down my list in RTM to a reasonable list of things that are potentials to get to tonight.  And in the near future, it'll be time to weed my inbox.  And the yard.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

120: The Sound

As he got out of his car and walked to the track, he marveled at how spectacular a day it was.  Blue skies, a few wispy clouds.  Warm, but not overly so.  He walked onto the track and immediately broke into a slow jog to warm up.  His shoes made a soft and rhythmic thud.  A slight breeze created a headwind, but it felt oh so good.  The overgrown brush alongside the track and the trees amongst it rustled slightly and the smell of cut grass rose up to meet him.  In the center, two families played at opposite ends of the soccer field, joyful shouts.  As he picked up speed, he passed two ladies walking slowly and talking about their day.  White noise from the nearby road provided a backdrop over which birds chirped and the soft drone of a plane could be heard as it passed overhead.  Not by him, though, his headphones shoved in his ears and loud music cranked up robbed him of one of his senses on this fine day.