Posts Tagged with “life”

Taking a Vacation

August 18th, 2009

I’m leaving tonight for a vacation, so I’ll be pretty quiet for the next couple of weeks. Maybe a few tweets here and there, but probably not a lot more.

When I return we’ll be close to Mozilla Service Week, which should be a fun and interesting way to kick off the fall season.

A Different Way of Working

November 23rd, 2008

Friday night I worked as a drone building a temporary competitive gymnastic facility on a local high school basketball court.   My son participates in local gymnastics, and so the parents at the gym have an allocation of work hours to be completed.  These hours are mostly spent setting up, cleaning up and staffing gymnastics meets, whether or not your kid is involved in that particular meet.    Sometimes the meets are at “our” gym.  Sometimes, like this weekend, they are somewhere else.

The Queen Bee instructing the 30 or 40 drones runs a business doing this.  She arrives in a 50 foot long truck that is packed with gymnastics equipment.  She gets out, starts giving orders and continues doing so until everything is set up, the packing materials are back in the truck and she allows everyone still standing to go home.  She appears at the end of the meet to repeat the process in reverse.  We constructed a modern gymnastics floor (springs, floor board strapped together, rolls of bouncy foam taped together, rolls of carpet velcro-ed together), as well as setting up the uneven parallel bars (stablized by 8 10-gallon water containers), vault and beam.

I quickly learned that there is one correct way of setting anything up.  It reminds me of sailing, where there is a correct way for handling everything.  Most other ways are wrong and have to be undone.

This leads to the rule :  Do NOT show initiative.  When you’ve completed a task, go hover around the Queen Bee until she gives new orders that you understand and can execute.  When you’re done, go hover some more.  Standing around waiting between assigned tasks is the most effective thing one can do.  Trying to be more helpful is usually wrong.   Even the coaches — who are the experts with the equipment at their gym — hover and obey.  The Queen Bee has done this a million times with different sets of novice parent drones.    She knows exactly what she’s doing and how to get it done in the allocated 3 hours.

This is so far from my work life that it took a while to adjust.  “What should I do now?  Oh yes, go wait to be told exactly what to do and follow those directions exactly.”

I have to say that sometimes I found this oddly relaxing :-)

Voting in Awe

November 7th, 2007

Yesterday was an election day in the part of California where I live. It was a small, municipal election (city council, city clerk, local school district), but still.

I am left in awe every time I vote. The idea that large groups of people can construct and maintain a society where every adult can participate in a peaceful decision-making process, and one that actually governs a stable, productive society is amazing. The fact that it works is breath-taking.

When I see the “vote here” symbol at a polling place it takes my breath away. That small symbol — often a picture attached to a window, or mounted on a small, portable stand — is so quiet and yet profound beyond words.

I imagine that several hundred years ago the idea the idea that people would willingly, peacefully live with decisions they disagreed with passionately because everyone had the opportunity to participate by voting would have been laughable. It’s not an obvious idea. But somehow it came to pass.

Flying Out of Lines Again

October 11th, 2007

A while back I hurt my shoulder a bit falling off the flying trapeze. It wasn’t a bad injury, but it was noticeably uncomfortable for a few months. I knew I should take it easy. My compromise was to stop catching tricks out of lines. Catching them in safety lines, yes. The discomfort wasn’t enough to make me give that up. But catching things out of lines adds another level of risk.

If a catch is good then it doesn’t matter much if one is in lines or not, the stresses on the shoulder are about the same. But if the catch isn’t quite right then the flyer tends to drop down towards the net rather than swing through a nice arc. The drops can be tough on sore shoulders. Or if the trick involves spinning, it’s easy to spin a bit too far or not quite enough, and then there is some sideways stress as well at the moment of the catch. If the flyer is using safety lines the instructor “pulling” the lines can do a lot to take this unwanted energy out of the system.

So I threw everything to the catcher in safety lines for several months. Looking back I think it was the right decision. But one side effect is that the lack of regular practice allows the fear to creep back in. I knew this, I could feel it happening.

A few weeks ago as my shoulder got better I realized it was time to start working my way through the fear and start catching out of lines again. So the first week I started with the most basic trick that people do out of lines. It’s not hard, I first did it years ago, but still my heart was pounding. had to work hard to remember basic things like “breathe!” and “watch” and “wait for the catcher.”

A few nights ago I started with that same trick and went through 3 or 4 others. Four of the more simple tricks I know how to do, but out of lines to the catcher. Nothing fancy, but a lot of mental content.

I remembered the fear, and knew I would have to deal with that. But I had forgotten the *fun.* I had to stop for a while and then come back to flying to realize this. It’s not just adrenaline, or overcoming fear, of accomplishing something that makes flying great. It’s all of that. But it’s also just fun. Moving through the air, being high above the ground, the solidity of the catcher’s arms at the moment of a good catch, hanging comfortably in space as the trapeze bar swings back to me, knowing that the end-game is perfectly set up. It’s a great feeling. And one that just isn’t the same in safety lines. The sense of being tied to something through the safety lines is unconscious for me but it’s there. I notice it when the lines come off: once I stop being so afraid, the experience is much better.

I happened to be flying to a catcher who is really good at helping flyers get lift as they leave the catcher. Lift is important because one needs to be high enough to get the trapeze bar on its return swing and then high enough to return to the starting platform. So even though I was out of practice, I was still really high leaving the catcher, maybe higher in the air than I’ve ever been at that point. Did I have fun. I can hardly wait for more. And mostly, I’m trying to keep the sensation of that much fun in my mind so that I don’t forget it’s out there waiting, if only I push myself to go find it.

Falling Again

September 6th, 2007

(I started writing this to write about the return to flying well rather than the fall. But this part came out long enough as is, and I’ll put the rest into another post.)

I few months ago I hurt my shoulder on the trapeze. Well, falling off the trapeze, actually. And it’s probably more like 4 months ago, but who’s counting? It wasn’t a bad fall or a bad injury. My rotator cuff muscles complained and my arm ached for weeks. But still it counted as an irritating setback rather than a scary or serious injury.

In hindsight, I can see that this fall was exactly like the last time I did something scary and fell to the net. In both cases the underlying problem had been identified by the instructors repeatedly. In both cases I understood I should fix the problem. But in neither case did I understand that fixing the problem was a safety issue.

In this case the manoeuver is known as an “uprise.” it’s a move where one starts out hanging on to and below the trapeze bar and ends up with one’s hips resting on top of the bar. The clearest video of an uprise I found of an uprise is actually a woman I fly with, although this video was taken in sunny outdoor southern California and not in the old warehouse where I fly. Here’s a dark, harder to see video of an uprise by a classmate of mine in the facility where I fly. In both these videos the flyer is wearing safety lines; these allow the instructor to help the flyer if something goes wrong.

I’ve done many uprises without any problem and stopped using safety lines for this trick a while back. Recently my instructor has been telling me that I’ve been too upright on the bar. The correct position has one’s shoulders in front of the trapeze bar, and one’s feet behind. It’s obvious to me now — the correct posture distributes the weight so that the flyer stays put on the bar as the trapeze moves through the arc of its swing. But since I had never had problems with the uprise I had never really understood the mechanics of what can go wrong.

Then one evening I do an uprise. I feel the lift I’m accustomed to as one floats up over the bar and I think to myself “great.” Then suddenly, unexpected, I am falling off the back of the bar. I’m still holding on with my hands. But I’m no longer a fulcrum balanced on the bar — I’m a weight still attached by my hands but otherwise sliding off the back of the bar. I don’t think even the strongest person can hold on in this setting. The physics make it tough. I’ve never done this before though, so I don’t realize this. My left hand slides off the bar. The right hand holds on for a while longer, still hoping to recover my grip. There’s a lot of stress on the right shoulder and rotator cuff muscles at this point. Lots of forces, pulling in different directions. The force of coming off the back of trapeze bar badly, the force of swinging through the air with my body out of position, the twisting forces from one hand sliding off first. Eventually the right hand peels off near the bottom of the swing and I careen downwards into the net.

I land fine in the net. This is nice and a bit surprising. My first reaction is shock — what happened? The next is fear, and the knowledge I have to get back up and do it again. Then the realization that my shoulder isn’t quite right. I ignore that long enough to do another uprise or two that night. Then I have to admit it, especially when I need both ice and ibuprofen to be able to sleep.

Then I had to admit that the warning signs had been there. My instructor had told me more than once to fix my upright posture. I had not understood the importance of this, but I hadn’t asked her to explain it either. She’s a great instructor. She doesn’t say things without a reason. I simply didn’t ask why being upright mattered. All the clues were there. I just didn’t focus enough to put them together.

It’s really a blessing in life to get warning signals. It’s really dumb to ignore them. Now I’m paying very focused attention to anything that sounds like it’s a safety warning. And looking at other aspects of life to see what signals I see there as well!

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