Desperate to read? Stymied by spatial direction?

Sure, I get sick of reading business cases and reports. Sure, I’m OVER PowerPoint presentations.

Yes, I look forward to getting in a few minutes of Infinite Jest before I keel over into unconsciousness each night. A little bit more literature in my day; is that too much to ask?

Apparently not. Click this link and then click on “NZ Book Council Guest.” Then doubleclick the folder of your choice on the left side of the screen…

All of my problems have been solved.

***

If you Google “spatial direction” you get some trippy quantum physics stuff and also an excerpt from Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: The Philosophy of the Grammarians (don’t ask me why I know this).

(without bends), and this action is one of going upward.

Does anyone else love fragments the way I do?

Oh word-based ready-made, I love you.

***

Direction differentiates material things (murta) in terms of nearness and remoteness, while time distinguishes them in terms of sequence of actions. Direction is the basis of the talk of contact and disjunction through the perception of occupied and unoccupied regions of the sky.

There is no fixed arrangement of spatial direction. The various compass directions, which seem to divide systematically, are mere names when they are divested of reference to things (for example, the sun at a particular time) with which they are associated.

Based on distinctions such as “this,” “that,” “eastern,” “western,” and the like, which are introduced by spatial direction, are the divisions seen in things from mountains to atoms. These divisions are characterized in terms of the accompanying entity (for example, presence or absence of light) or configuration, but the concept or capacity called “spatial direction” is their ultimate foundation. Things per se are beyond division, sequence, and fixation by region. Division with which the adjuncts invest them has no end and cannot be something inherent to them. Yet division cannot be avoided. Spatial direction is operational everywhere. Along with time, it is part of the very nature of living beings.

Okay, I’m back. Just ordered the book. How could I resist? Anything that instantly pops me into right-brain first thing in the morning wins my undying love.

This whole thing started because I was going to tell how The Cop’s parents sent us a GPS system for the car. They bought a new one and sent along their old one. I got home from work, and The Cop was looking at it with a bit of disdain. Easy for him to do, since he is not spatially challenged. My first thought? “Woohoo! I can program it with addresses I need to find when I’m in Minnesota!”

Yup, July 11-17 is Matthew Sweeney in Minnesota week. Turns out the hotel near the shala is bad, so I booked a room downtown. Which meant renting a car to get back and forth to the shala. Which also means driving from the airport to the hotel. All of these things are a huge challenge to me: as I mentioned, I have no sense of direction. And I don’t mean I have a poor sense of direction; I mean, I can get lost in my own neighborhood.

I do feel better now, though, knowing that “things per se are beyond division, sequence, and fixation by region.”

So there you go. An object lesson in what happens when I surf the web and try to tell a story at the same time. 🙂

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Open/closed, inside/outside

We are implementing social networking at work. We are a membership organization, so obviously the members will have access to the network. But what about non-members?

There is an easy answer (pictured here) and then a new question:

What about the blogs and podcasts produced by in-house experts?

Here’s my thought (another picture).

I wonder, does anyone know of a company that keeps its blogs and podcasts inside a walled garden? It seems like that’d contradict the nature of business blogs and podcasts, but maybe I’m overlooking something?

***

I just got my copy of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures.

I had to buy it, because I am a huge fan of pictures-as-explanations, and am curious about how the author will make his case and provide instruction about how to make and use pictures well…

The idea of giving a simple picture to the management team seems silly but you have to stop and think about it. They’re busy people. They deal with a lot of details over the course of a day. A lot of projects, a lot of people talking to them about a lot of different things. I know at the end of a busy day, when people are talking to me about something — even if they’re being cogent and describing things well — all I’m hearing is blah, blah, blah, blah. So, the answer is, if you wanna get through to someone you need a quick little soundbite like “cognitive surplus,” or an amusing story that will stay with them, or a little picture that explains really quickly what you’re trying to get across. Those are things that stick in people’s minds.

Getting there…

Still weird in the arms, but…

End of March

End of May

IPS, Lying liars, Practice note

Ideal Performance State

Check this out.

So what do you think:

Regardless of our profession or activity, adaptation is what separates peak performers from the rest. The way we think about pressure influences the way we feel and the way we react. Conversely, acting is adapting. If we act confidently and relaxed, our body tells our brain “no problem here” and we start feeling calm and controlled. The better we become at acting out the emotions we need to feel, the better we can adapt to pressure.

Sounds a lot like Ashtanga practice, yes? Interestingly, it also sounds like a high performer in a business organization.

***

I’m no fan of books about Washington, but I am strangely fascinated by what I’m hearing about Scott McClellan’s book.

Here’s an amusing item from a blog on my RSS feed:

Uh-oh. Scott McClellan has written a book. It’s called What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

The headline at CNN reads, “White House ‘puzzled’ by ex-spokesman’s book bashing Bush.”

Perhaps those of us in the reality-based community can help them out: Bush is the worst president in US history.

Okay, that’s pretty funny.

Here’s an excerpt from the book. Fascinating. Either McClellan is a very good writer, or he had an excellent editor (or both). I’ve never actually thought much about whether press spokespeople need to be able to write well — I’ve always assumed being thick-skinned and evasive was the main criteria for success…

And though no one has a crystal ball, it’s not asking too much that a well-considered understanding of the circumstances and history of Iraq and the Middle East should have been brought into the decision-making process. The responsibility to provide this understanding belonged to the president’s advisers, and they failed to fulfill it. Secretary of State Colin Powell was apparently the only adviser who even tried to raise doubts about the wisdom of war. The rest of the foreign policy team seemed to be preoccupied with regime change or, in the case of Condi Rice, seemingly more interested in accommodating the president’s instincts and ideas than in questioning them or educating him.

I am so interested to read about Colin Powell. He always seemed like a man of integrity who got put in an awful position. How I’d love to hear his side of the story — but of course that won’t happen. On the one hand, that seems regrettable; on the other, well, what good would come of it? McClellan will now be smeared by the White House, his integrity and honesty called into question, the political spin machine put to work to diminish what he’s written, etc. The same thing would happen to Powell, and to what end? Everyone comes out looking bad.

***

Quick practice note

Hard to get up for practice this morning. Allergies, maybe, or an oncoming cold? Very unmotivated and headachey. Still, on the second side of pasasana I was rewarded with the loudest, spine-shakingest craaaaack ever. If I’d been a cartoon character, I’d have slowly split in two and fallen apart. Left sacrum release in a big way. Unfortunately, The Cop was asleep. The crack would have been a bodily noise for the records — right up there with the very best of his loudest, longest burps. And as a special extra prize, when I got into padmasana, my left knee, which usually pops up more than the right, was on the floor.

Cool.

Union

The conference I just attended was held in Philadelphia. We were at the convention center, there was lots of physical labor to be done, and the unions were ubiquitous. I have always been sympathetic to unions. My grandparents were all immigrants (from Italy on my Mom’s side, and Ireland on my Dad’s). When they came to this country, working conditions in the Boston area were pretty dire.

My mother’s parents worked in the mills in Lawrence, MA, scene of the Lawrence textile strike. As the article points out:

The mortality rate for children was fifty percent by age six; thirty-six out of every 100 men and women who worked in the mill died by the time they reached twenty-five.

The mills and the community were divided along ethnic lines: most of the skilled jobs were held by native-born workers of English, Irish, and German descent, while French-Canadian, Italian, Slavic, Hungarian, Portuguese and Syrian immigrants made up most of the unskilled workforce.

The Italians had actually gotten there ahead of the Irish, but when the Irish came in, they were given the better jobs, since they spoke English. At least that’s the story I grew up with. It was the supposed explanation for why my mother’s mother never liked my Dad. I remember being told I had “mixed blood” when I was a kid. This is hilarious, of course, given they were all Roman Catholic Europeans.

The other story I recall growing up with was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York. This tragedy was mythologized alongside stories about extended family members who’d lost fingers and limbs in mill machinery in Lawrence to underscore the good things the unions had done for immigrant workers.

Hence, my sympathy for unions and my suspicion of corporate entities.

Fast forward to last week in Philly. The union workers were everywhere. We were briefed ahead of time that if, say, a loudspeaker needed to be moved, we were NOT to touch it, but rather, we needed to find a union worker and ask him or her to move it where we needed it. My company hires audio techs for the conferences, and they, too, were not allowed to touch the sound equipment. Rather, they had to show the union workers how to do what needed to get done.

Fine. I was willing to see this as an inconvenience that could be set aside in the interest of the greater good.

Except. Well, except that in the week I was in the convention center, I don’t think I saw a single person who actually looked like they had even the remotest joy or interest in their job. People looked utterly bored and miserable. No laughter, no curiosity, no joy. Nada. Everything was a big drag — I went into one room, where we were slated to have a panel of five experts talk to the audience. There were two microphones and five chairs jammed around a tiny table.

“Could we get a larger table for this?” I asked, “And a mic for each person who will be speaking?”

Angry gaze of the man I’d asked. Bitter discussion with his co-worker. One of my colleagues reviewed the work request, and indeed, we’d asked for five mics.

The thing that was kind of awful was the lack of communication. The union guys seemed to expect to be screwed over, and they weren’t even a little curious about what the equipment was for, or what we might be trying to accomplish. In other words, they were not interested in investing themselves in the broader vision.

Too pie-in-the-sky, my notion that they might want to collaborate?

I guess so. But really, that’s tragic.

At one of our conference sessions (which, rather ironically, focused on how to motivate workers), a speaker talked about how one significant aspect of compensation is the opportunity to develop and be exposed to new challenges. Yes, I know people can not be expected to savor a challenging work environment if they are struggling to feed themselves and their families. But I don’t think that is the case here. What seems to be happening is that the union is training workers to expect nothing from their work except a pay check. And no matter how nice that pay check might be, if your job has no joy, it’s a crappy job. Period.

Corporations, which I used to see as evil empires, are at least recognizing that workers want challenges and development. No, they aren’t developing people out of altruistic motives. Companies recognize that to cultivate high performers, they need to offer challenges and opportunities and training and support. They need to let people follow their bliss, to put it in the most liberal terms. It’s good corporate policy. Engage and develop and motivate your workforce and you’ve got yourself a competitive advantage.

Let’s contrast that to my parting experience in Philly. We are all sitting on the plane. Apparently the baggage workers are unhappy with the merging of their carrier with another. We hear the bags being tossed into the cargo space. Thunk… … … … … … … thunk… … … … … … … … … thunk… … … … … … … thunk… … … … … … … … … … … … thunk. Minutes between each thud. A work slowdown. Lovely. Ninety minutes to put the luggage on the plane.

I’m losing my religion.

Behance, perchance

Found some great notebook/sticky note/note pad products from Behance Outfitter. Geeky and designy. What more could I ask for?

They have an “Action Method” — 1) identify and document action steps, 2) document backburner items, and 3) document reference materials.

Very simple, yet few people seem to do it automatically. Action steps: what comes next, specifically — ought to start with a verb (e.g., “schedule meeting,” “draft proposal,” “send out status report”).

Documenting backburner items is a good way to prioritize: list action steps for in-progress projects and document less-pressing ideas as backburners. That way, they won’t be forgotten, but they also won’t gum up the projects that need to be attended to right now.

And then note all reference items: supporting info/articles/etc.

Simple. Low tech.

Nice.

Freedom

Practice in the quiet, familiar space of the yoga room. Took almost all of the session to finally start really breathing again.

Travel makes me stop breathing. New places; loud noises; the city; being somewhere different; strange food; unfamiliar noises; odd smells; being lost in a new environment; a different schedule; strangers; social events; staying in a hotel; trying to find cabs; attending a conference.

That’s what practice every day at the same time and in the same place solves for.

At the Kwan Um school, when you are first learning koans, your teacher teaches you that hitting your hand against a table or floor can be used as an “answer,” as a means to cut off discriminative thinking (or at least as an attempt). The hit brings you back to zero; it clears the slate.

So it is with morning practice. I am familiar with the yoga room; I am conditioned to breathe there. Deep breaths, unaffected by daily dramas, or by the circumstances of the moment or the day or the week. What incredible freedom.

Strange to finally get back to the breath, only to recognize how constrained it was during my trip. I practiced while I was there, but it wasn’t quite the same. I couldn’t quite wipe the slate clean, because I wasn’t in the daily practice place where I can actually SEE (day after day after day) the slate.