Monday, July 26, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quote of the day -- Jimmy Carter

The test of a government is not how popular it is with the powerful and the privileged few, but how honestly and fairly it deals with the many who must depend on it.

-- Jimmy Carter (Governor Inaugural, 1/12/71)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't confuse me with facts

"’s never been easier for people to be wrong, and at the same time feel more certain that they’re right."

Interesting article in the Boston Globe that talks about the relationship between our beliefs and opinions , on the one hand, and our ability to incorporate conflicting facts and possibly change our opinions, on the other hand. Bottom line, we rarely change our opinions, especially when confronted with evidence that contradicts them.

Read the article here

Quote of the day -- Frugal Traveler

To travel well, you need to pack an open mind, a lot of energy, infinite patience and a willingness to embrace the awkward and unfamiliar.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Not-so-trivia for the day

From Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity taught by Professor David Christian

To put timelines in a perspective that we can more easily grasp, try compressing the 13 billion year history of the Universe into 13 years instead:
  • Earth would have been formed about 5 years ago.
  • The first multi-celled organism would have evolved about 7 months ago.
  • The dinosaurs would have flourished for several weeks and then be wiped out about three weeks ago.
  • Our species would have appeared about 53 minutes ago.
  • The first agrarian civilization would have appeared about 3 minutes ago.
  • And industrial societies would have emerged in the last 6 seconds.

Touring Target Field -- an unexpected treat

Most members of my family (husband, son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, one daughter, and even my mom) are avid baseball fans. I'm pretty lukewarm about baseball. I go to the occasional game because my spouse LOVES baseball, and I try to share his interest. I can even keep an accurate scorecard with minimal assistance. (It's a good way to pay attention to the "action" that occurs sporadically in a typical game.) So when I joined spouse, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson for a tour of Target Field (new home of the Minnesota Twins) yesterday afternoon, I was truly surprised at how much I enjoyed it and how impressed I was. (There I am, smiling at a seat in the press box, almost 90 minutes into the tour.)

The designers of Target Field have built a venue that has broad appeal -- to avid fans and to the more casual attendees who just want to enjoy a good time without watching every single pitch. It's a great field for watching the game, and it's a great place for taking a break from the action to wander around the park and absorb the atmosphere. Constrained by the space available for a downtown park, the designers couldn't build an adjoining "Twins museum," so they sprinkled history and memorabilia throughout the park instead. Here we have the three generations of Heidelberg men (boys?) posing in front of Harmon Killebrew in the Legends Lounge. The attention to every detail (like the original flag pole from old Met stadium, a golden glove sculpture on the plaza at exactly the distance of Harmon's longest home run, gates numbered for all the "retired" Twins numbers, and much more) rival a Disney theme park. During a typical Twins game, the public concourses are clogged with fans wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere (and buying tons of concessions).

And the park is an architectural marvel -- a 10 acre park sandwiched into 8.5 acres of space at the edge of downtown. The plaza leading to the park is built over a freeway. Some of the stands are cantilevered over adjoining streets and the freeway, as well. While it can't rival the view of Lake Washington from Husky Stadium at UW, the view of downtown from Target Field is pretty impressive.

And the designers have included lots of exclusive places for extravagant fans --- clubs, special seats, even a display case with World Series trophies (yes the Twins have two of those) -- while still ensuring that the average fan has a great time. I will probably still scoff at the idea of outdoor baseball in Minnesota when the temperature dips to 40 in late September or the snow flies in mid April, but for now, I'm convinced this ballpark is a great thing for the Twin Cities and Minnesota.

Quote of the day -- Jeff Yeager

"The Joneses can kiss our assets"

Heard in an interview on public radia with Jeff Yeager (author of The Cheapskate Next Door).

I'm not a cheapskate and, in fact, excessive frugality really annoys me. On the other hand, I also get annoyed at excessive PDA (public display of assets), which is why I enjoyed this quote.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trivia for the day

The magic decoder ring of motherhood or supermom is a myth

I'm a voracious reader of fiction (and an increasing portion of non-fiction). I'm not particularly envious of novelists because I've never had an illusion that I could write the great American novel. But when I read a truly excellent non-fiction essay, I exclaim or mutter "I wish I'd written that," with a definite twinge of envy. In the middle of my current fiction read (House Rules by Jodi Picoult) is this wonderful "essay" written by the heroine, who is a newspaper columnist. I want to capture it in its entirety because I doubt I'd find it anywhere on the web to link to. (Thankfully, I type pretty fast.) It definitely made me exclaim -- I wish I'd written that!

When did they stop putting toys in cereal boxes?

When I was little, I remember wandering the cereal aisle (which surely is as American a phenomenon as fireworks on the Fourth of July) and picking my breakfast food based on what the reward was: a Frisbee with the Trix rabbit's face emblazoned on the front. Holographic stickers with the Lucky Charms leprechaun. A mystery decoder wheel. I could suffer through raisin bran for a month if it meant I got a magic ring at the end.

I cannot admit this out loud. In the first place, we are expected to be supermoms these days, instead of admitting that we have flaws. It is tempting to believe that all mothers wake up feeling fresh every morning, never raise their voices, only cook with organic food, and are equally at ease with the CEO and the PTA.

Here's the secret: Those mothers don't exist. Most of us -- even if we'd never confess -- are suffering through the raisin bran in the hopes of a glimpse of that magic ring.

I look very good on paper. I have a family, and I write a newspaper column. In real life, I have to pick superglue out of the carpet, rarely remember to defrost dinner, and plan to have BECAUSE I SAID SO engraved on my tombstone.

Real mothers wonder why experts who write for Parents and Good Housekeeping -- and, dare I say it, the Burlington Free Press -- seem to have their acts together all the time when they themselves can barely keep their heads above the stormy seas of parenthood.

Real mothers don't just listen with humble embarrassment to the elderly lady who offers unsolicited advice in the checkout line when a child is throwing a tantrum. We take the child, dump him the lady's cart, and say "Great. Maybe you can do a better job."

Real mothers know that it's okay to eat cold pizza for breakfast.

Real mothers admit it is easier to fail at this job than to succeed.

If parenting is the box of raisin bran, then real mothers know the ratio of flakes to fun is severely imbalanced. For every moment that your child confides in you, or tells you he loves you, or does something unprompted to protect his bother that you happen to witness, there are many more moments of chaos, error, and self-doubt.

Real mothers may not speak the heresy, but they sometimes secretly wish they'd chosen something for breakfast other than this endless cereal.

Real mothers worry that other mothers will find the magic ring, whereas they'll be looking and looking for ages.

Rest easy, real mothers. The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you already are one.
Well said, Jodi! (And it's a great book, by the way. I'm 3/4 through it and will write more about it when I finish.) BTW, if you're looking for this quote in the book, it's on page 156 in the hardcover.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Place to visit -- Northumberland England

In her congratulatory note about my retirement, long-time business associate and friend Deni invited us to visit her neck of the woods -- Northumberland, England. Looks lovely, doesn't it?

Reflections on OTTO

IBM, the acronym king, coined OTTO (other than traditional office) for those of us who regularly work from our homes. IBM has itself been the subject of many pet acronyms over the years -- I've Been Moved, I Bring Manuals, and most recently, I'm By Myself, which is a reflection of how many IBMers are now OTTO workers.

I was one of the early pioneers of telecommuting at IBM, starting my first OTTO job on August 1, 1990. Since my last day working at IBM will be July 30, 2010, that makes me a 20 year OTTO veteran, which is most likely close to a record.

I could probably write a book about what works and what doesn't when you spend a huge chunk of your career as a telecommuter, but at this point, I'm more interested in the impact when you retire.

First symptom of a bigger issue -- where's the retirement party? Even if my frugal employer would spring for a party (or my friends and co-workers would throw one on their own nickel), where would it be and who would come? For the past 20 years, I've had a number of different telecommuting jobs at IBM, all of them rewarding and all with many great colleagues who have become friends. None of my jobs has involved coworkers who live less than a 90 minute drive (at the least) or a 3 hour plane ride (more typical) from my home office. I keep in touch regularly with electronic means (e-mail, Facebook, instant messaging), less frequently on the phone, and occasionally in person (when I'm "on the road").

As I approach retirement, I'm discovering that some of the characteristics that have made me a great OTTO worker have also left me with a shortage of friends or even close acquaintances who live just around the corner or within reasonable commuting distance for a retirement party.

Characteristic #1 -- I'm an introvert. My friend Kelly continues to question this because I can comfortably present to a room filled with 1,000 strangers. But despite her skepticism, I'm definitely an introvert. That means I do well working at home. I don't crave constant social interaction (although I do notice that if I go weeks on end without a business trip, I get a bit squirrelly). Unfortunately, introversion also makes me less likely to actively seek out new people in my community who can be my local "friends."

Characteristic #2 -- A demanding and fulfilling personal life. I started my first OTTO job when I returned from a long maternity leave after baby #3. Christie was about 18 months; Cindy was 6 and Jeff was 9. The opportunity to work part time from my home was HUGE for our family. I am eternally grateful for the many years I was able to "be there" for the kids and still have an interesting and exciting career. Employers certainly benefit from people like me who are highly motivated to prove that telecommuting can work, and who produce great results so we can hang on to those OTTO jobs for dear life. But that juggling act didn't leave me much time for activities that didn't revolve around either work (with my remote colleagues) or family.

This isn't a moan and groan story. I have some great friends and acquaintances, and I'll make the effort to find a few more. But it is a cautionary tale for others who have spent a big chunk of their work lives in OTTO mode. We used to scoff when Bill Gates built his all electronic house and talked about virtual "dates" where people sitting in different cities would watch the same movie together and chat about it afterwards. He proved prescient, as usual. I've actually started to adopt the practice of scheduling virtual lunches with some of my remote colleagues so we can catch up on each other's news.

I'm very grateful that I have many friends and acquaintances across the country and around the world (many of whom we hope to visit in person on our travels). But I'm also very aware that as a long time OTTO worker, I need to make a conscious effort to get out there in my own community.

Trivia for the day

Quote of the day -- Ernie J Zelinski

Retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you.
-- Ernie J Zelinski

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Place to visit -- Ardeche France

We already have a travel wish list a mile long, but we're always on the lookout for new possibilities. My friend Marc just returned from a visit to The Ardeche in the south of France near Avignon. It looks fabulous!

Quote of the day -- Albert Einstein

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
--Albert Einstein

Trivia for the day

Let the retirement countdown begin! T-30

I've known my retirement date (July 30, 2010) for about a month. So have my family, a few close friends, and my boss (of course). But today, we "went public." My boss sent out an e-mail. Then I sent out a somewhat more expansive e-mail and posted to my Facebook status. It has been fun and exciting (and a bit sad) to receive so many responses already. I'll miss the work a little, and I'll miss the people a lot!
Blogging has been on my "to do" list for quite awhile. I was all set to blog professionally awhile back, but I'd reached a stage in my career where I just didn't feel that I wanted to strongly align my identity with my job and my "products." (Perhaps my hesitancy about doing that should have been a clue that the retirement glimmer was glowing brighter than I realized.) So here I am on the brink of retirement, ready to start blogging.
So why blog now? Because I think writing is a good way to capture ideas and clarify thought. But then why not just write a personal journal? Because I've enjoyed reading blogs of people who do a good job of discovering things that I might not have found myself. Or who start a conversation about interesting topics. Now that I'll have more leisure to "find stuff," I hope that I can eventually start to provide that same service for my busier, still employed friends near and far.
Enough for day one. Soon it will be T-29!