Reconsidering

ConsideringReconsidering

consideringReconsidering
"My present wealth stands atop almost endless reconsidering."

You makes yer choice and takes yer chances. Beginning, one never knows where their journey might end. The best of intentions (as if anyone could discern 'best' from any preliminary set of choices) won't guarantee much more than a temporary cessation of stasis, if that. One moves toward a presumption of forward, hoping that purpose might somehow emerge from the cloud of initiation. "Here we go again," I subvocalize, though I know this start won't qualify as a do-over or even a genuine new beginning. This tension seems familiar, though, and a certain reassurance accompanies it. I've grown increasingly familiar with the unfamiliar, and even the completely novel carries some patterns I recognize, or imagine I recognize, from some time before.

I proposed Reconsidering as the underlying theme of my considering this quarter. I was at the time teetering on the forward edge of Christmas, beginning my annual poem cycle, uncertain of my capacity to complete the blessed damned thing, as usual.

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Homeostasis

balancingrocks
"The new homeostasis seems simply homeless."

I live embedded within mutually compensating systems, largely notional, which seem to strive to hold each other in balance. I shiver and sweat not as ends unto themselves, but to rebalance when my temperature falls out of whack. These actions seem to exist within a terribly narrow range and find success only when rather quickly succeeding. Continual sweating suggests an imbalance, not an added feature. Shivering seems exclusively a short-term solution, not an alternate lifestyle choice. Homeostasis might stand as a strived-for hypothetical, a state eternally in a state of becoming without ever actually achieving itself.

The older I become, the creakier my aging homeostasis balancing seems to become. My blood pressure's been out of whack, or, more properly, recognized as having been out of wh

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Flyring

flyring
"I believe that the human soul moves at about the speed of a walking horse."

Airplanes seem the most brutish invention of man, engineering raised to the level of degradation. Just the thought of leaving the familial bonds of earth to "float" (flout, more like it) into the clouds, smacks of a most grievous violation of the human contract. It veers us out of our lane, into the space intended for the birds. Jousting with the wind. Collective pretending that we are not miles above the ground, blindly zooming through unpredictable turbulence and worse, proceeding into turbulence we know damned well lurks there. I try to distract myself through the worse of it, that being the brief period between wheels up and wheels back down again, but the chop renders my book unreadable. I try to swallow my complicit arrogance, and fail again, for I am inescapably a part of the problem.

I know, modern society could not survive without cheap air travel, which might just be the strongest argument against buying into the plot.

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Trans-planting

annual-flower-transplants
"We can still prune and stretch and scratch a fresh surface into our encrusted topsoil."

I become root bound by the end of Winter, just as if I had been in the same pot too long. Born bi-pedal, if I hang in one place too long, I become bi-polar, faunching in my cage. The days grow longer, ably assisted by daylight savings' quick hand. I understand that the changes amount to sleight-of-hand. They still catch my eye and convince me that I must have been standing here too long, staring into the middle space just beyond the window glass, seeing almost nothing anymore. I have transformed into a genuine bore.

The Muse must drag me out of my cave.

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SnowSense

snowshoving
"This snowfall seems every bit as false as the Pseudo-Springtime sunshine felt yesterday."

By this late in the season, I recover my full fluency in the art of conversation with snow cover. The wet Spring snow completes the cycle, which started with piddling pretenders to snowfall and persisted through weeks of fine powder varying from light dustings to significant dumpers. The mid-March snow weighs tens of times more than the earlier fine powder. Each snow variety requires a unique strategy, though I only rarely ever shovel any of it. Shoveling powder snow's like shoveling air. It's easy enough but tends to blow everywhere, rearranging it more than moving it out of anyone's way. Wet Ides' snow like this can only be shoved. It's too heavy to shovel and just clogs a snow blower. It aches to be nudged aside.

March snow needs early and frequent attention.

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LeftBehind

leftbehind
" … there's no escaping."

A decade ago, I sold our second car to a grand nephew for a quarter and The Muse and I embarked on a great adventure we're still engaged in today. We became a one car family. At the beginning, we relocated into a neighborhood where five bus lines passed within two blocks. For a six week period while there, we even went completely carless. No big deal. The Muse, in the seven years we lived there, drove the car to work exactly twice. I'd usually drop and fetch her at the mile away Metro station and other than those excursions, the car mostly sat unless I was restocking the larder. Now we live in a neighborhood that fancies itself a village. Bus service almost doesn't exist, so we maintain a fresh tension in our little one car family.

I still usually drive The Muse to work, a quick seven mile sprint down tight S turns, the alternative being that I'm stranded for the day.

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KnotNo-ing

knotnoing
"I think of the experience as like starting an avalanche …"

Once my son learned the word 'maybe,' I never again received a definite answer out of him. Every response came filled with potential but no resolution. Jerry Weinberg came up with a dandy definition of who's in charge. "Whoever can say No! and make it stick." The one who brings maybe to a conversation might not be in charge, but they carry almost as much control as the sticky neigh sayers.Yes, on the other hand, sometimes requires some formal authority or a treasury to back it up. Worst of all might be those who agree to anything but waffle on delivery.

No-one can accuse me of being impulsive.

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Ashes

doingwithout
" … we might just might be pretty much plenty just as we are …"

I fancy myself as having been raised right. Not that I experienced a care-free upbringing, more that I was blessed with parents who steadfastly refused to care very much about how I felt. My mom especially seemed to take a certain delight when denying my wishes. Like yours, my folks were just kids when I was small, still learning their way into their role, so we experienced a certain equality within our inexperience. Some kids could pout and get their way. Pouting around our place could be grounds for an even more gleeful denial than usual. I hail from a Like It Or Lump It family. I learned early to do without.

These skills have served me extremely well.

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WriteWright

Wheelwright
" … one should never attempt to engineer accidents."

Nearly a hundred and ten years after the publication of Frederick Winslow Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management, we're witnessing a resurgence of artisanal craft. Taylor's book deeply influenced the way people thought about work, encouraging mass-produced uniformity, the underpinnings of our modern economy. Now, we hardly think in other terms. He argued that tightly regulating the means of production would result in the holy grail of any industrial-scaled economy: cheap but good. His Scientific Management concepts were even adopted by housewives and ministers. One would be hard-pressed to find any segment of the industrializing world uninfluenced by his rational perspective. Industrialized food production injected itself between the farmer and the table. Centralized production facilities vaporized smaller-scale local producers. Much in the same way that Amazon has undercut local retailers, Scientific Management insisted that big was necessarily cheaper and so somehow better.

Carried to illogical extremes, to ultimate scale, industrial production seems to produce more to an ever-shrinking market.

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FallowTime

fallowtime2
"I have not quite yet turned into dust."

The Muse bought a seed catalogue, a certain harbinger of Spring. I've been dreaming of hop vines shading the south side of The Villa this summer, wondering how I might protect them from the hungry, hungry deer. I spotted the remnants of last year's garden peeking up through its snow blanket. I wondered what might volunteer from under there to seed itself this year. It's still FallowTime, but our minds are projecting forward a few weeks. I shoved the final inch of overnight snowfall off the driveway, figuring that might hasten the melting recovery from the weekend's snow. By noon, that pavement might be bare and dry again. The season will scrape back to reflect the metrological season before another rebutting snow falls five days from now. We're imbedded in the tussle season now, no longer winter yet not quite Spring.

In FallowTime, I find little to amuse myself.

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ThreatOfSnow

threatofsnow
"A perfect place to remember and anticipate."

The rumor started two full days ago. Snow overnight Friday. We'd heard this story before. Sometimes it came about, sometimes not. With a two day window, nobody flinched. The day before, most remained sanguine. By the day of, I started taking the warnings seriously, but the prediction proved false. Two cold fronts, meant to meet and party over us, had slowed. The northern contingent decided to hover over the Wyoming/Colorado border overnight, the southern one still hounded Las Vegas, and had a lot of territory to traverse before bothering us. We headed out the morning after, keeping a weather eye on every horizon, for this storm would approach from at least two directions at once.

We managed to successfully restock the larder before anything but freezing fog fell.

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Overwintering

overwintering-red-poinsettia
"Fresh food seems just as scarce as it is this morning."

This late into the season, its damage has already been done. Those plants unable to adapt to living inside have already died. We've either given up on the stragglers or simply let them go, setting them out into the snow figuring that the cold would at least rid their carcasses of the dreaded white flies which seem to thrive inside in spite of the gooey traps we set. A skeletal poinsettia or two, leftover from Christmas before last, still hang onto existence in the shadowy, cool daylight basement, sucking in the meager northern light that suffocated the nasty little lime tree we nurtured from the brink last summer. It's a genuine gonner now, just waiting for us to snip off the carcass and recycle the soil.

The humidifier is such a complicated machine, hanging onto the side of the forced air gas furnace, that I cannot determine whether it's working or not.

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Constulting5 - Don'tKnow

dontknow
"It will either work or not …"

I eventually came to describe myself as an expert at not being an expert. This label resulted from my serial inability to become a genuine expert in something, anything. I'd read and study and practice and seek out acknowledged experts, only to find myself (and the sought-out experts) still somewhat short of full expertise. I could have turned cynical then, but chose to re-frame instead. If I could not master any alternative expertise, I might, perhaps, have a shot at mastering not being a master; after all, few ever achieve full mastery. I should not let my experience discourage me in what I seem to do best, which is falling somewhat short. Becoming an expert at not being an expert reeks of paradox, perhaps the unacknowledged natural state of pretty much everything.

Who needs a master, anyway?

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Constulting4 - Reframing

reframing1
"It's the client's choice and The Consultant's responsibility to remind and Re-frame."

Never once in the history of the world so far has any aspiration been born well-formed. Each tends to begin rather light in the head, altogether too attractive and relatively vacuous. Not that they don't also inspire, for there's the rub. Inspiring vacuity has been the primary cause for the downfall of generations of dreamers, schemers, builders, and feints. Attracting a supportive mob turns out to be the easiest part of any undertaking, for people seem naturally keyed to follow any fluttering flag. Satisfying that mob seems infinitely more difficult, especially when one reflects on the fact that even if the original fuzzy promise were delivered as the promiser intended, it wouldn't very closely resemble what most of the followers envisioned as the deliverable. I call the first iteration of any effort's vision The Bright Idea, and Bright Ideas might be the most dangerous substance known to man.

President Trump's confident promise of a wall attracted xenophobes left and right.

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Constulting3 - ParodyPathology

ParodyPathologies
"Perhaps the parody of a parody lies closest to some fundamental truth"

I started becoming a Constultant after utterly failing as a consultant, primarily due to my apparent inability to properly promote, diagnose, and prescribe for the popular pathologies and their presumed cures. When I first became a 'consultant', or first carried the title, my mom asked me to describe what I did for a living now that I'd joined a consulting firm, and I chose an unfortunate metaphor. In the last fifteen years of her life, my mom grew to love being diagnosed. Actually, she loved visiting a doctor, though she also sincerely enjoyed having hunky EMTs come to put her back into bed at night after she'd tumble out onto the floor. The doctor would in the process of the customary (and pleasurable) laying on of his hands, invariably find something remiss and prescribe something. She'd return from her visits beaming at the fresh prospect. I chose to explain that I had become a sort of doctor for organizations. They'd invite me in, I'd poke around a bit, lay on my hands, then prescribe a curative regime.

This was a lousy metaphor, not because it misleadingly describes how consulting works but because it so poorly described how I worked.

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Constulting2

Constulting2
"The frequent flier program knows me better than almost anyone in my private life."

People who work for others seem to pine after the freedom working for themselves might bring. They imagine self-determination elevated to full liberation: no time card, no mindless meetings, no clueless supervisor, no stomach-turning Tuesday special in the company cafeteria. The other side of that equation struggles to equal its counterpoint. Liberty's not always all it's cracked up to be. In practice, independent contracting not quite like what it seemed to promise. The cost of that liberty comes out of the shallower pockets, those you hardly noticed when still laboring under that much-maligned thumb. Most prominent, the isolation mocking the once-aspired for freedom. One learns to accept the freedom to arrive long after a Sunday sunset, to find the rental car agency unaided, to navigate the dark, damp freeway to another anonymous exit, to gratefully accept the 'free' upgrade to a swankier room, to decide that supper won't seem worth stepping out into the dankness again. The 'free' breakfast following the pre-dawn stint in the 'executive' workout 'club' might garner a couple of almost heart-felt "good mornings" from a fellow guest or an over-enthusiastic staff member. Time left to knot the necktie, grab the knapsack, and try to remember what rental car you parked in that lot last night and where you parked it.

You join the commute, identical to every other commute you ever made except you have little idea where you are. Is this Cleveland or Omaha?

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Constulting1

constulting
"Clients do not like to be told what to do, no more than any sentient adult does …"

I left The Best Of All Possible Mutual Insurance Companies In The Greater Portland Metropolitan Area (Bar None) after fifteen years of dedicated service to their policy owners, to join a small boutique consulting firm in Silicon Valley. I was unqualified for the position, but didn't know that yet. In that first year, I learned that my new consulting firm sported a phony Sanskrit name which we'd translated as "crossing the great water with balance." Since Silicon Valley was then and probably still is pre-literate, clients there were very attracted to magical-sounding names. We took full advantage of that. A native Sanskrit speaker workshop attendee informed me of the deception during a break. I swallowed hard and carried on. Much of the consulting company's material was of questionable heritage. It started as a genuine survey by qualified questioners, but the distributed materials, I learned during that first year, had been crash-developed over a weekend by a very skilled HR professional who had never actually practiced the profession the material purported to teach. I do not imply that the material was worthless, for it seemed to induce a shift in the manner in which participants thought about project work, which was a subtle, perhaps even unintended consequence, but a nonetheless valuable one.

By the end of that first year, I was the only consultant in the firm that brought in more revenue than I cost the firm in salary and expenses, this no doubt due to the fact that I had negotiated a starting salary about twenty thousand dollars less than I would have made had I stayed at the insurance company.

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IncompetencePoint

IncompetencePoint
"I have nothing to show and almost everything left to discover."

Having sat through just as many PowerPoint® presentations as the next guy, I took the news to heart when I saw Edward Tufte report that they tended to "lower the ceiling." I swore to myself to move that technology to the Avoid Learning side of the ledger. Who wants to lower any ceiling? The Muse works in a world where PowerPoint proficiency stands well up on the hiring criteria chart. Her slide presentation served as a significant part of her initial interview. She could not have been hired without demonstrating her skill as a graphic artist, a field of study not listed on the position description and one she never pursued. Even the PhDs hired there must demonstrate this odd ability, regardless of how many advanced degrees they hold. I still think Tufte was right, the mere presence of that fateful projection screen sets a context where one might reasonably expect that nothing very surprising will happen.

These sessions sometimes seem like competitions to see who cam cram the most unreadable words onto a single slide.

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Insecurity

insecurity
"Who else was I supposed to be?"

The older I get, the less secure I feel. I realize that this statement hardly qualifies as profound or even identifies me as in any way special, but if I followed the cultural tropes, my surprise might prove excusable. Some significant part of the media machine seems determined to enlist me in a few of the endless streams of self-improvement schemes: exercise, diet, investment, lifestyle, each promising to leave me better off than before, except the nagging insecurity seems to stand to one side, leaning against some darkened doorway, chuckling to himself, mouthing, "There's no such thing as security here."

Rather than live in endless pursuit of an unlikely security, perhaps my time's better spent learning how to better cope with insecurity.

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8- NotSupposedTo

NotSupposedToTalkAbout
"If I won't say it, who will?"

As a part of our initial client interviews when consulting, The Muse and I would eventually get around to asking what we could not talk about. Recognizing that we were aliens in each client's organization, and as aliens, we were likely to violate at least one invisible rule, we asked. Most hiring executives would quickly respond that anyone could talk about absolutely anything in THEIR organization, but even the client knew that was bullshit. Often, the hiring executive had no clue what couldn't be talked about. The smokers on the loading dock know only too well, for they carry more experience talking big, at least as long as the executives aren't in earshot.

My Eighth Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work, one I include at The Muse's emphatic insistence, reminds me that I have to Talk About What I'm Not Supposed To Talk About.

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7- MakeInformedChoices

Informed-Choice
"Make The Best of the curious choices life brings you."

My Seventh Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work insists upon my Making Informed Choices. This one might require a bit more explaining than any of the other Responsibilities because it's subtle and tricky. Enjoining anyone to make only informed choices seems like a double binding insistence because how could anyone possibly determine that they were properly informed at any choice point? Choices, like so much in 'project' work, seem to come at inconvenient and inconveniencing times, insisting upon a snappy response, the kind that generally obviates the ability to fully consider alternatives. Only scant information seems available and a decision needs to be taken. What kind of informed choice could that situation produce? The answer is: the usual kind.

Almost nothing decided in the course of any 'project' benefits from full discovery. Partial pictures produce fragmented understandings which unavoidably generate crappy options from which to choose.

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6- SitWithTheMess

sittingwiththemess
"It's still a wrestling match with myself most every time …"

'Projects' tend to spawn messes. What might have been envisioned as a straight-forward, even trivial effort manages to somehow find its share of complications. The easier it seems to be at first, the more complicated it's likely to become, if only because the expectations we set couldn't help but leave everyone wide open for some big surprises. Almost any hill looks less steep from the foot of it, also less tall. It's not until one gets about halfway up that any truer nature of the effort comes into focus. Mentioning these likely complications at the beginning will usually earn one the label of Chicken Little. Nobody will fondly remember your earlier cautions later, either.

Some new mess seems to be delivered to your door with each fresh dawn, each pleading for a speedy response. Few deserve a quick, reactive intervention, though, and not just because these tend to complicate messy situations.

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5- Work The System

workthesystem
"Had I expected the system to work without me working it a bit?"

No system ever devised worked as intended. Each embodied some flaw or feature producing different than intended responses. We adapt around these shortcomings until we become largely unaware of their presence. Encountering any new system inevitably becomes an at least somewhat frustrating series of learnings which we experience as mistakes until we figure out the fiddles and somehow seamlessly incorporate them into our repertoire. Some systems seem especially blessed with a seemingly intransigent nature. These, we never completely learn and so we struggle with them. Math was like that for me. So is the thermostat with the inhuman human interface. Each encounter with these systems involves essentially starting tabula rasa all over again.

We develop shortcuts and co-opts over time. We come to more deeply understand a system's tolerances, those points where a corner might be successfully shaved.

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4-GenerousInterpretations

generousinterpretation
" … never ascribe to evil intent what simple incompetence might explain."

My fourth Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work encourages me to at least consider Making The Most Generous Possible Interpretation. My natural interpreter tends to lean toward the more scathing, if only because scathing interpretations generate more entertainment value. Scathing interpretations rarely well serve any relationship. Unless you're surrounded by limping battalions of demonstrated sociopaths (see 3-ExtendingTrust), scathing interpretations seem imprudent. Was that component delivered late because of incompetence or a bit of bad luck? You decide, but you must decide with inadequate evidence. Will your collective effort be better served by a scathing or a more generous interpretation?

The rub, of course, seems to be that most of a 'project's' conclusions must be drawn with less than sufficient evidence. If there's no such thing as a 'project', there's also, usually, no such thing as a real root cause.

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3-ExtendingTrust

extendingtrust
"I might better serve myself and our collective effort
by sharing the benefit of my initial uncertainty …"

Lore holds that people must prove themselves trustworthy before one should extend them trust. This notion can easily complicate any 'project' assignment as everyone eyes each other suspiciously at first. I never could figure out what might constitute the appearance of trustworthiness, though. If a team member pulls off some selfless public rescue, I suppose that I might find it easy to trust them, but most team members keep their heads down and I'm unlikely to glimpse them demonstrating heroic behavior, so how might they prove themselves trustworthy in my eyes if I'm uncertain what trustworthy even looks like? Besides, the mere absence of evident behavior says little about anything.

I believe that the lore mistakes a sort of naive hopefulness for trustworthiness.

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2-PurposefulPursuit

purposefulpursuit
"I need not become an obsessed true believer …"

I find it extremely difficult writing about PurposefulPursuit without resorting to hackneyed synonyms. The term dredges up determined, recalls resolute and resolved, and sings of steadfastness and single-mindedness. Sticking no more than a toe in that water seems to infect me with a full-blown case of OCD, and I want to avoid that end. Of course 'projects' would operate more smoothly if everyone involved in the effort would become obsessed with achieving the objective. They will not. Contrary to popular conviction, one cannot drive any 'project' to a successful conclusion. Driven behaviors, whether exhibited by the 'project' leader or a particularly compulsive individual contributor seem more akin to bullying, a form of public self abuse.

When I speak of PurposefulPursuit as the second of my Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, I am most decidedly not merely trying to egg myself on by whispering a motivational mantra.

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1-ConsciousBlindness

consciousblindness
"I feel better informed when I presume that I'm less than fully informed."

This posting represents the first of seven (or maybe eight) pieces reconsidering my Seven Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work.

In the beginning, I understand that there was nothing but The Word, which could not have even been a thing since words have no existence without several sorts of context like paper, screen, speaker, listener, alphabet, and history to hold meaning. Though there were apparently no observers present, save The One, certainly no journalists or diarists, the story stuck. Later, light emerged, attributed to an early act of God, back when he was still building his vitae. He, the Creator, proclaimed light good, though later reviews were mixed. All this occurred before God even married the first time. God's second wife, certainly significantly younger than he and probably uncomfortably closely related, was beautiful, but they lacked a shared experiential history. They struggled with metaphors, he continually referencing outside her cultural experience, she insisting upon quoting younger notables that he considered mere wannabes. That marriage, too, was fated to fail.

God's third wife came along just as he began to come into his Almighty phase, having by then fathered a son by his second ex-, Mary.

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ProjectPhD

ProjectPhD
"I suspect that most ethical lapses emerge as sins of omission …"

Whenever I ask a 'project' worker about their philosophy of 'project' work, I almost always receive a long stare in reply. A few, like me, might fumble for our little laminated card which holds our intentions in the odd chance that they might be of some practical use, but most, if they've even thought about their personal philosophy of 'project' work will offer no crisp response. Some might offer a variant on The Golden or the Platinum Rules, do unto others as you'd like to be done unto or do unto others as they wish to be done unto, but little practical light will shine from beneath their bushel baskets.

I'll quick draw my Seven Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, an explication I developed with considerable effort.

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ProjectManagement101.4-TheInvisibleWhole

bmate
"The object might not be to know better but to get better at not knowing."

Nobody ever sees (or really understands) the operation of the 'project' as a whole. Some mug as if they did understand. The most dangerous of these firmly believe themselves meta to the effort, occupying the objective observer role while also contributing to the cause. Most identify with some aspects without concerning themselves about others. Asking after the purpose of the 'project' can spark theological skirmishes since everyone inescapably perceives their 'project' quite differently than anyone else. This situation qualifies as a case of the normals without an ounce of pathology, with the possible exception of the perception held by those characterizing themselves as objectively meta to the effort.

'Projects' might be best described by employing metaphors.

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ProjectManagement101.3-Someone Elses Dream

someoneelsesdream
"Remember the caterpillar who somehow managed to choreograph his footsteps until some observer asked him how he managed to do that."

When The Muse asks me, as she has many, many times over the years, about my purpose, I respond with a heap of silence. I understand that almost every self-helpless manual insists that one must get in touch with their purpose, and even dress up that knowledge with a brief but compelling introductory elevator speech, the question reliably renders me speechless. It might be that my purpose is so subtle and compelling that it transcends language itself, but it's more likely that I hold so many competing compelling purposes that I simply cannot quickly choose from among them at a moment's prompt, though I doubt it. I manage to get out of bed every morning, but I do not very often rise with a full head of steam to charge off toward some alluring horizon.

The subject of motivation has already filled more essays than I'll ever read, or care to read.

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ProjectManagement101.2-Unavoidable Misunderstandings


"The difficulty with communication might be the illusion that it occurred."

Was it Churchill who claimed that Brits and Yanks are one people separated by a common language? The observation could apply to any two people, too. My daughter Heidi, who owns a small business providing translation services, can testify that no Rosetta Stone exists, for no one-to-one correspondence has ever been found between any words in any two languages. Nuance bridges the gaps. Interpretation, patience, and MISunderstanding seems to be required for any communication to ever occur.

Even in mature, routinely replicating manufacturing processes, miscommunication intrudes.

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ProjectManagement 101.1-TheEarliestResponsibleMoment


"
all promises are implicitly contingent."
ProjectManagement101

'Projects' exist as networks of explicit commitments, promises to produce something within some time frame. These promises might be represented as tasks on a timeline schedule, but often exist as no more than verbal agreements. Even when a promise is responsibly made, by which I mean uncoerced, it represents no guarantee, but rather a statement of good intentions. Good intentions might not even qualify as necessary but certainly can't be sufficient to assure expected delivery, and everyone should properly acknowledge this inescapable fact. By agreeing to fulfill the assignment, an individual commits to two apparent contradictions: 1) They confirm that they believe themselves capable of delivering as expected and 2) They agree to renege upon that promise at The Earliest Responsible Moment, which means just as soon as they realize that they probably cannot make the expected delivery.

The Earliest Responsible Moment will not come after weeks of painstakingly pretending that they have not blown the opportunity to deliver as expected.

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ProjectManagement101


"It's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful ... and a little lonely."

Project Management is a fundamentally fraudulent profession in that it purports to deliver something that cannot be delivered: the on-time, on-budget, and on-spec performance of a temporary, one-time enterprise. Because of this, it traditionally attracted more than its fair share of touts and bullies, those with little compunction, much self-confidence, and small appreciation for conventional definitions of what constitutes fact as well as fiction, trading almost exclusively in 'believable fiction' and arguable fact, routinely over-selling and under-delivering to the fading enthusiasm of their clients, so-called sponsors, the money-givers. Projects, too, represent as a popularly believable fiction, an enterprise lacking most of the attributes of any more conventional form of organization. I've long held that there's no such thing as a project because projects aren't things.

Their context seems as perfect for misconceptions as a steaming swamp might be for encouraging bacterial growth, though not all 'projects' are the same.

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Closured


"I might just as well consider the illusion complete."

As I explained in my Pipeline post, I recently started focusing upon clearing out my backlog of nearly finished pieces. I consequently posted nothing new yesterday because I was inhabiting last winter instead, sorting through the nearly one hundred small chapters, performing my final edit. I read almost as slowly as I write, and I seem to find myself easily distracted when editing, perhaps because it doesn't feel like real work to me. I'm neither creating nor recreating then, but cleaning up. I should dress in a janitor's coveralls and wear rubber gloves. The work feels just that glamorous. It requires genuine dedication to get to the end of it. It requires real dedication just to get started, so when I discovered that printing it off erased some psychological barrier, I jumped right in.

I finished the scrubbing today. A little picky piece work remains around the edges, but it feels done enough to supply a shot of closure.

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ThePipeline


"I feel as though I'm unclogging ThePipeline for a change."

The phrase 'It's a process' has always annoyed me. Back when I helped develop software systems, the phrase was employed as an intended subtle scold by those Systems Thinkers who always not-so secretly consider themselves possessed of superior perspective. They could put in its place most any bit of otherwise good advice by reminding the suggester that "It's a process," at least in the Systems Thinker's mind. The phrase still seems vacuous to me, either blindingly banal or wholly presumptive, for if it's really all process, it's really nothing at all. Some of the supposed flow must stick somewhere, if only to qualify as a thing. Granted that much of what passes for systems hardly pass any thingness test. Still, evoking the process claim seemed to predictably premise some hollow process improvement suggestion.

The process mavens rarely seemed masters of any actual skill.

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SelfPromotion


" … my SelfPromotion gland still quakes at the thought."

The thought of SelfPromotion turns me into a quivering ninny, so I engage in it surreptitiously, hoping nobody will notice. I post unrequested pieces on Facebook, quietly hoping nobody will see, let alone comment, on them. I feel that I need to keep up appearances but pray that I won't appear too awfully forward as a result. The Muse insists that I sometimes expose too much, which might be a counter phobic reaction to my sincere hope that I won't expose too much. At the same time, I'm convinced that the most personal turns out to be the most universal, so I figure I broaden my audience by focusing upon my personal experience. I live a fundamentally paradoxical existence.

I have not yet learned how to tell what a reader might want, much less what any market desires. I struggle to read my own mind without expending much energy trying to read anyone else's.

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IrishTwins


"I figure that my statistical innumeracy produces the bulk of my good fortune."

My father and my nephew were born on the same date, January 15. A favorite musician's wife and father were born on the same date, too, a fact that seemed downright synchronicitous to the wooing couple. My family always thought it a form of a miracle that my nephew and father were born on the same date, a terribly special blessing, though the probability of that occurring hovers at 365 to one, hardly long odds. Genetic family patterns might have significantly shortened those odds. Many families produce what are sometimes referred to as IrishTwins, and I suspect that each feel the warm hand of a reassuring fate caressing them when that happens, too.

I'm rather blind to probabilities. I do not naturally carry a sense of them.

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Sifting


"Their home seems more like a castle somehow."

Once every fifty million years or two, some cataclysm besets this world. In between times, change seems to occur exclusively via insignificant increment. A snowfall starts as a sifting whisper, like wrens' pin feathers floating by outside, barely noticeable through the window. By the next morning, a foot of accumulated insignificance blocks my drive. Then, all my attention focuses upon digging out from under the insult. Before, it's eminently ignorable. Were any of us more activated by whispers than hollers, we might manage to keep up with the blooming significance and never face the back-breaking digging out, but we usually don't. We feel dumped upon instead.

As a species, we seem attracted to BIG things, as if true significance came only in volume and mass.

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Morningtown


"It's a fleeting place"

I'm down to two, perhaps three days each week. Some mornings, I feel no real need to get out. Others, I wrestle with accepting the necessity of it, unable to justify the drive. Guys like me, in the isolating profession, rarely go out simply to get out. Even then, I tend to end up at the same destination, the library, where I don't know anyone, anyway. It's a simple matter of being alone by myself or surrounded by strangers, each more similar than really different. I sometimes shop, thereby justifying my presence out of the hermitage neighborhood.

On rare mornings, then, I enter Morningtown, a small American city waking up.

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NaiveUse


"I think the universe remarkably forgiving."

Any first use constitutes a naive use, but then so does the second use, and the third. At what point does experience erase the naive underpinnings? I propose never as a reasonable response, for each subsequent use occurs in different circumstances, the subtlety of which probably distill into undetectable, yielding an unsuspectedly different situation. After over fifty years of shaving, I still manage to nick myself sometimes. You'd think I would have learned how to avoid those nicks by now.

Heraclitus had something right when he declared that nobody ever crosses the same river twice.

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Anticipating


"I remain much better at Anticipating the past
than I'll ever be at accurately Anticipating what's next."

Checking the weather report, I learn that a mighty windstorm is predicted for the foothills West of Denver. Expected to arrive around midnight, our flight's scheduled to land a scant half hour before its arrival. I've seen this movie before. So has everyone who's flown into DIA. The airport's located in a notoriously windy weed patch of a place, more Kansas than Colorado. The Rockies' Front Range regularly funnels slight breezes into full blown gales. Every flight locks down forty-five minutes before landing, the pilot apologizing in laconic tones for the impending inconvenience before the plane commences to terrifying rolling and yawing, inevitably catching one careless passenger on the way to the facility. That passenger receives a stern chewing out from a strapped in flight attendant while the rest of the passengers white knuckle their way past this latest portal into eternity. Landing always feels like salvation.

A veteran of an indecent number of Denver-inbound flights, I start anticipating early, before the plane even leaves Seattle. I once again convince myself of the absolute insanity of air travel as the plane taxis through heavy rain toward the darkest end of the departure runway.

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Homelessness


" …our heart understands that it just needs to keep playing along."

If home is where my heart is, I've been homeless for the last decade because my heart has been living far away from where it "is." Long story, often repeated, best left unsaid, we left our home for a lengthy exile which felt like an ancient form of punishment for having successfully made our dream come true. We lived in a house of our choosing, one endlessly challenging us with needed paint and repairs and a yard and garden always trending toward chaos had we not been there. We loved our lives there but found them unsustainable, so we went in search of some sort of grail, I guess, believing with all of our hearts that one day we might regain the ability to again inhabit where our heart lives. We figure that a few more years might do it, but we really, truly do not know for sure.

The tenuous space between anything and a heart's desire contains mostly Homelessness, however otherwise well-appointed it might seem.

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Ex-


"What was once done was never really finished with me."

The language of my culture allows permanent separation from my past, just as if an act, any act, might be undone by merely invoking a linguistic scalpel. A wife might become an 'ex-'. Ditto for a business partner, an employer, or a friend. Some infraction, a defection from the originating covenant, and the perpetrator might become an 'ex-'. Exes often carry a strongly negative, often derisive connotation, perhaps for the primary purpose of preserving the other party's self image. The ex- becomes the permanently losing party in the affair. They fell short or fouled out. The ex-er somehow holds himself blameless, at least stiff-arming culpability. Ex-s seem to become ditzes.

But no act can be undone. Each success and failure permanently echoes throughout time, recoveries sometimes more reaffirming than any success.

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Mapsing


" … a fate no Muse could ever sanguinely agree to accepting."

The Muse insists upon holding a paper map when we travel. Even so, we often leave The Villa having forgotten the requisite charts, which starts the explanation of why we have so many maps in that box in the garage. Before we're very far down the road, she'll notice the absence and commence a small fussing. My job if I'm driving will then become to find some place for her to purchase a map of the territory we're fixing to traverse. Gas stations, once reliable sources of high quality roadmaps, have become iffy outlets. Variety stores, drug stores, even supermarkets will likely disappoint. The essence of any search seems to lie in the unlikelihood of ever successfully concluding it. We search anyway.

The supermarket clerk expresses its regrets while I wait at the Starbucks counter where they're "pouring over" our choices for the day.

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Passing

passage
" … one of those ex-stage stops where the exit sign proclaims No Services (for me)."

The Muse and I have been traveling the last three days, reaching our destination yesterday and readying to head back to The Villa early this morning. We've passed scores of small towns and former stage stops, most hardly warranting a glance, let alone any deeper inquiry. We found ourselves fortunate to on the way overnight in a formerly unknown little town, one originally founded with the unlikely name of Hole In The Ground, though the founders later upgraded it to something more conventional. Today, it's a proud little place mostly off any well-beaten path, the sort of town that time might have not completely forgotten, but one where its name comes begrudgingly to even time's lips. It's not entirely anonymous, but might as well be for most passages and travelers.

We passed through Las Vegas, overnighting there with one of The Muse's gracious nephews and his family. Vegas, as it's generally referred to, seemed the perfect peek into an apparently not so distant dystopian future.

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DrivingCrazy


"Maybe we were both crazy beforehand."

The Muse and I drive each other crazier every time we drive. I'm amazed that we still consent to enter the car together and head out onto the road. Around town toodles never rile us much. It takes a freeway for our true insanity to emerge. You see, we do not now nor have we ever shared what she calls a threshold. This threshold delineates the speed one considers prudent. To her, I always drive like an old Italian woman, lacking only a few pounds and a black dress from fully embodying the look. To me, she drives like Mr. Toad on his famous Wild Ride, apparently distracted while madly passing everything in sight. I never, ever, even in my wildest dreams exceed the speed limit. She considers it perfectly prudent to exceed it by five or more miles per hour. She spends her passenger seat time distracting herself so she won't notice that we're making a whole lot less headway than she'd projected. I spend my passenger seat time frantically hanging on with both hands while pleading with her to slow the you-know-what down.

By the end of the day, we're exasperated with each other. I've developed a charley horse in my thighs from hours of fruitless bracing for impacts that wondrously never came. She notes that I seem all shocky.

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EmptyNesting


"I suspect that those magpies will miss that cat every bit as much as I will."

The Muse and I escorted Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat out of this shop-worn world. Rose, skittish to the end, peed all over The Muse's lap on the drive over to the vet's. I'd pleaded for just wrapping the cat in a towel to save her the indignity of riding in a cage, and The Muse assented. Her's was a tearful parting for us, huddled as we were like refugees over her silken body. We returned to an EmptyNest, a house demonstrably less home than the home it had been a short time before. The Muse was working from home. She returned to her laptop and I retreated to the master bedroom to read or pretend to read. My reading companion, my lap robe, was no longer there, a catnip mouse in the middle of the floor evidence of her recent tenancy.

She'd imprinted on a calling cue. I'd tap twice on my lap and she'd show up, yawning and tousle-haired from some semi-secret lair, and mount my lap, there to survey the surrounding territory as I read or fitfully reflected trying to connect with another elusive idea.

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Christmas'Eve


"Christmas will be here by then and a fat goose will be sputtering toward its eventual demise."

Christmas' Eves seem to meld into a single contiguous memory, overall indistinct. The traditions overlapping, sometimes contradictory, because everyone's in a blended family now, in-laws, out-laws, jurists, and priests. More a convergence than a celebration, another attempt to fit orthogonal expectations into a single place and time. I earlier spoke with my brother and he was expecting twenty. The Muse and I expect the usual two. We've hosted a few slightly larger gatherings since we left the hometown, so-called exile Christmases, but we usually settle on the same old two. I'm distracted writing my Christmas poems, so she takes the lead cooking something special. She decorates the tree which typically won't have any presents beneath it. Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat, under the weather this year, usually pokes around the edges, imprinting on one or more of the lower-hanging ornaments. The Nakamichi will knock out very traditional Christmas tunes, Rosemary Clooney and Barbra Streisand. A fire will warm the place.

This year, I finished writing my Christmas poems early, so I can take the evening off. I've spent so many Christmas Eves locked in mortal combat with the written word that I feel like an alien in my own home this evening.

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RealMagic


"When she finally accepts that you genuinely want to help, RealMagic occurs."

RealMagic seems so subtle I might miss it. It never pops up out of a spot-lit top hat or suddenly surprises anyone like that! It slips in almost always unaware to utterly change everything after there. It's like that first glimpse of Vienna through jet-lag amplified fog, a quiet mental jog, an irreversible changing of tracks. One never goes back after RealMagic visits, nor wants to. There's never any saying, "No," because it's hardly a choice. Even should some selection get involved, every alternative appears as a relative slog when compared. Usually, though, it just slips through and utterly changes you.

RealMagic seems to exist most intensely in language.

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Soytenty


"I remain almost certainly uncertain."

I've grown to deeply suspect certainty of any stripe. My skepticism about even death and taxes sort of drives me forward or at least seems to sustain me. I use the word 'seems' more than any other, for I sense a lurking uncertainty behind my every observation, my every utterance. I dread the day that I might be called to tell 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' because I deeply doubt my or anyone's ability to satisfy that injunction. I might at best prove capable of telling the story as I believe at that moment I witnessed it, but I should remain uncertain if I saw what happened or some mix of projections of what I expected to happen and what never really happened at all. On the face of this confession might lie a tragic disconnect or a godsend of an appreciation. I can't be certain which or even if either might be the case. I suppose that this means I get to choose.

Earlier in my existence, I thought that certainty lay near the purpose of my existence. I might accumulate knowledge such that most of my experience would be wrapped in some form of sure bet. I'd have learned where to walk and where to avoid, what to eat and what to decline, who to associate with and who to shun, but this operation has never actually run that way. The examples I employed to guide me always seemed sufficiently unique as to leave a rather glaring gap between what I knew and what I wanted or needed to know. This apparent feature confused me for the longest time. I vacillated between believing myself rather stupid or terribly insightful, again uncertain which pole to properly classify my confusion. Only the absence of certainty seemed defining, and if certainty served as the success metric, I could only properly classify myself as a serial failure.

The Muse can testify to the number of situations I shrink from.

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CastlesOfCards

castleofcards
"I seek not to undo my past, a genuine fool's mission,
but to better understand and more deeply appreciate it as well as my present."

By the time anyone lives to my advancing age, they live in a CastleOfCards. Construction started long before the builder could comprehend that they were building anything, let alone the philosophical, moral, ethical, and logical foundation of their later life, their later lives. Key stones laid with little appreciation of the global ramifications of their local choices, the place ultimately gives a bad name to the term 'hacked.' Even the more thoughtfully-designed pieces stand atop elements never intended to support more than an odd adolescent notion. Habits replicated across decades pulled large portions of the construction out of true. When I abandoned one or another habit in favor of one better suited to then present circumstance, walls supporting the new focus clearly never foresaw that shift. As one ages, whole wings might simply crumble into useless piles. The laird hardly abandons his castle simply because it's started crumbling out from beneath him and his court. Nobody ever starts over again, demolishing what was built in utter ignorance of future needs. Everyone lives in a hacked CastleOfCards.

It's not until older age that most will consent to a general reconsideration of the place.

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