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!

Activities: Week of July 9 2007

July 16th, 2007

Last week I participated in an online question and answer / discussion session called Air Mozilla. I thought someone might ask me a question like “Yes, but what do you actually do all day?” So I made some notes. If it’s useful I’ll try to do this periodically. Here are some of the things I spent time working on last week. There was also a bunch of product, organizational and other issues that are constant. I haven’t listed them, only listed the things that jumped out at me as particular areas of focus last week.

  • Mozilla Foundation Executive Director search. Spent time with the recruiter, potential search committee members and some resumes we’ve seen.
  • Mozilla Corporation General Counsel search. Interviewing, evaluating.
  • Speak at first Air Mozilla video broadcast.
  • Speak at Fortune magazine’s imeme conference.
  • Mozilla Foundation board topics in general.
  • Thunderbird. We know Thunderbird is overwhelmed by Firefox and web related work now. I’m convinced that’s the right priority. So, how to help Thunderbird? How to improve mail in general?
  • Caught up with Brendan on state of work in the standards bodies.
  • Community Empowerment / Giving review of recent proposals.
  • Finalized upcoming talk at OSCON (with much help).
  • Assist another open project on achieving sustainability as an independent project.
  • General management, product, organizational and recruiting topics (this covers a lot but is also true every week).
  • Stopped pretending my shoulder will get better without attention and started some minor physical therapy.

Living with Computers — the Morning Alarm

November 28th, 2006

When I came back home from some recent travels I learned that my husband and son had had some trouble getting to school on time. How did I know this? No one said much about it, but the family computer gave the secret away.

Our “family computer” lives in the kitchen. It’s a combination of a Mac mini (the little box) with a Dell combination TV / monitor. My husband has long wanted to be able to watch the football while we’re in the kitchen. So a year or so ago he hooked up this system. It turns out that we still rarely turn the TV and we use the computer a lot more than the TV. (It’s not enough to have both our work laptops in the nearly dining room and various other bits of computer gear through the house. No, we really “need” an extra computer 🙂 )

The morning after I got home I was groggily dragging myself around the house trying to wake up when a giant booming voice came rolling out of the kitchen. After a bit I realized it wasn’t my son yelling, it was a distorted computer voice announcing “School Departure Blast-off! Five minutes and counting!” Followed by a loud and perky version of Devo’s “Time-out for FUN.” After 5 minutes of Divo, it is time to get out of the house. Weeks later, it’s still working. Periodically we change the voice. My son is horrified by the idea of an alarm clock, but finds this approach completely natural.

Pain and my Keyboard

May 26th, 2006

So far, 2006 has been a year of intense arm pain. Last December the pain in my shoulders and neck shifted from the chronic, tense shoulder computer hunch so many of us experience to something different. To pain so sharp I would wake up gasping if I tried to role over in my sleep. I’ve moved the trackball to my left hand and that, combined with a lot of acupuncture and physical therapy, has improved things significantly. Now I’m back to a chronic problem, though in my arm rather than neck. I have a suspicion that I should stop typing altogether for a few weeks and see if that helps. Until then I’ll try to get more written about what I’m working on.

Learning from Falling

March 17th, 2006

This weekend I had a bad fall to the trapeze net during my flying trapeze class. I was lucky and didn’t get hurt, only scraped a bit. (A half inch cut starting at my eyebrow and a friction burn on my forehead). But it was the kind of fall where one could get hurt, and no good instructor would let a student continue to make the mistake that lead to that fall.

The root cause was a mistake many people make quite often with this motion, which is called a “layout.” Basically one does a backward head over heels rotation with a straight rather than a tucked position. During the first half one holds on to the trapeze bar. Then one lets go, rises above the trapeze bar, completes the rest of the rotation and is caught. The common mistake is to rush at the last minute, particularly when the catcher is there. One learns a flying trick first to the net before the catcher is there. In these cases, there is no possibility of a catch, the flyer knows she is going to the net. The layout is one of the hardest tricks to make the transition to having the catcher in the air. For me that’s because the layout it feels like the flyer is going to kick the catcher in the head. For others it’s a fear of actually knocking heads with the catcher. And for many of us it’s the feeling that the catcher is *right there* (!!!###) and so we need to complete the rotation quickly.

Like many others, I do nice layouts to the net and poor layouts to the catcher. I’ve probably caught 50 of these, and catch them regularly. But they are never good catches. They’re OK, or poor, or maybe better, but they are never good. I’ve heard the mistake described in many different ways and understand it intellectually, but have never been able to translate that into action. Over the weekend I rushed a lot. I also made an earlier timing mistake and the catcher was over-eager and tried to make the catch even though he should have let it go so I could land in the net safely. So I landed badly, banged my face up, and was lucky I didn’t break my nose or foot or pull a hamstring, etc.

This caused some suddenly clear thinking. I had to sit out a few turns to recover my balance and wait for the cuts to stop bleeding. During this time I had a revelation. My husband, in a comment breathtakingly like something my Dad would have said, noted that the fall had “knocked some sense into me.” Suddenly I put it all together.

I could feel the position of my body at the moment I made the mistake. I could see in my mind’s eye the visual cue at the moment I make the mistake. I could hear the instructor’s verbal command at the moment I make the mistake, and, most amazingly of all, I could suddenly feel *both* what I do next when the catcher is there AND what I do correctly when the catcher is not there. Suddenly I am holding in my mind both alternatives. The moment is frozen — the kinesiology, the visual, the audio — and I feel the two alternatives. One is panicky, rushed for time, racing for the catch. The verbal command to let go of the trapeze bar is translated into a rush to get to the end of the rotation, not enough height, too much spin, and ultimately the dangerous trip to the net of a few minutes before. The other alternative is free, open, floaty. The verbal command to let go of the trapeze bar is now the signal to *begin* the floaty second half of the trick.

Now I’ll have to wait for my next class to see if all this intellectual activity actually results in a change of behavior!

A demographic moment

October 14th, 2005

Every once in a while I realize that I am unquestionably part of a particular demographic group. This happens periodically as I look at our late 1990’s vintage Subaru Outback Wagon and realize how many gazillions of people in our area drive this car. I had another, odder moment a while back. In this case I’d call the demographic group “Silicon Valley Family.” My husband, son and I were returning from Calgary. At the Calgary airport, one goes through US Customs before getting on the airplane rather than when one lands. This particular day the airport was quite empty, there were no lines and we walked right up to the Customs Officer. My son is under 10 and so I was explaining that in some places crossing a national boundary is a very big deal, and talking to the customs officer can be very tense. Who knows, maybe he’ll be in a tense border crossing some day and understanding the value of behaving appropriately will be important.

The three of us arrive at the customs officer. He fiddles with our passports for a bit, then asks “Are you related?” What an odd question. After a moment I answer “Yes, we’re married and this is our son.” He looks at us for a moment and then asks our son “How old are you?” A moment of hesitation occurs, part shyness and part testing out a new idea since this is the first person to ask my son his age since his birthday a day or two before. A rather long series of questions follow, which my son manages to answer. It’s not threatening, but it’s odd. And it’s long.

Then the customs officer turns to my husband and asks “What do you do?” It’s a formal tone of voice, an Official question, not chatty at all. My husband answers ” I write software for Stanford University.” The customs officer turns to me and asks the same question. I start to answer “I run a . . .” I hesitate, as I used to say “I run a non-profit organization that makes software” and that response is not accurate enough for me now. So I end up saying “I run a . . . software company.” Now I feel strange.

The officer turns to my son and says “And what do you do?” He adds, in an iroinic tone of voice, “And are you working already?” My son thinks hard. He’s been following the conversation carefully and knows some answer is expected. After a moment he gets it, thinking I suppose to the educational games he’s been playing during vacation. His face brightens, his voice grows confident, and he announces “I USE the software!”

The Customs Officer has met his match. He almost even laughs, then ends the interview and waves us on. And there we have it. The Silicon Valley family — software everywhere.

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