gurustu's muse the daily thoughts of an every day guru
Daily Guru Thoughts
Saturday, May 31, 2003 Where the two ends meet... Today starts a week long visit from my friends Tony and Judy from New York. He's the one who's rebuilding after going through Sept 11th a little too close for comfort, and she's a supporter and great friend, to both he and I. Normally I see them when the West goes East, but now the East has come West. It's always 'odd' when people so familiar in one world, comes to visit the world so familiar without them. They see everything you've grown used to, all with new eyes. In a way, you become both a host and a tourist to your own neighborhood.
It's back to those same ole 'hot spots' we took our last visitor, so this blog is short, because the night is about to be long.
Friday, May 30, 2003 Anything but silent... Yesterday's blog was about silence... today I was anything but...
Taught a web design class at work, which is basically 8 hours of improv... so the actor in me kicked in. Much of the time I teach is spent making jokes and being all over the room, with an occasional lesson thrown in for good measure.
I've been co-teaching the class for the last two years, since this odd pinched nerve in my neck or back (or someplace) causes my leg to go numb when I stand too long. I've been to several docs, who found nothing, so I'll just adjust my life to a new set of doctors and sitting alot.
Of course that doesn't stop me from butting in all over the place. It's always a tricky thing when co-teaching, especially when your partner is relatively new to classroom teaching. You really have to try hard not to overshadow them, contradict what they say, or impose your own style onto theirs... all the while trying to make sure the students are getting the lessons they need. I think we just need some more practice, so it looks more like we're working together and I'm not just being the class-clown/know-it-all.
Overall, I think the class went well... the students enjoyed themselves... my co-teach did an excellent job... and the class was able to stand me for 8 hours... even if I couldn't stand for myself.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003 Take two... OK, enough talk about watching movies... today I got to make some. Actually they were just videos, but it felt good to be behind the camera again.
I taped two presentations that will be shown in our All Hands meeting. What we lacked in equipment, we made up for in creativity. The first guy used to be a song-and-dance man, while the second one rarely did anything in front of a camera. It showed. The energy, the personality, the timing; the overall quality.
The lesson for the day: Take the time to prepare and then just give it all the creativity you've got.
The more you give, the less "takes" you end up with.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003 Praying for Power... Yesterday I talked about Bruce Almighty and how he prayed for power. Today kind of felt like I needed to do the same. Not Power, like Bruce got; but rather Empowerment, which we talk so much about at work. Being empowered to think and act inside a box is not real power. Responsibility without the resources does not equal results.
Today actually reminded me more of The Matrix, where Keanu Reeve's character is told, "there is no free will... the ones with the power control the choices."
There's so much of "coulda's" and "woulda's" floating around the office. People making suggestions on three year old projects, that I made three years ago; but gave up when I wasn't empowered to make it happen.
Some days it's doesn't feel like Bruce Almighty or The Matrix, but rather Groundhog Day; where I keep asking... haven't I done this already?
Monday, May 26, 2003 I wish I may, may I? Tonight I went to see Bruce Almighty, where God gives Jim Carrey His powers (well, you know, Jim's character the power, not Jim himself... you know what I mean.)
I hope I won't spoil it too much, but there's one point where Bruce is just inundated with holy emails, so he grants EVERYONE their wish. Naturally, a big mess results because everyone's wish conflicts with everyone else's...
It got me thinking. if I had gotten my wishes at different parts of my life, how totally different my life would be from the one I have now. Then why am I here? Is my life NOT what I want it to be? It's not what I imagined it would be. Yet, in many ways it's better than plenty of what I had in the past.
So maybe this Life is really something I wished for, only from some other world so bad, that I wanted out?
Sunday, May 25, 2003 Bad weather makes for a good day... The best laid plans for beach and bikes were clouded into obscurity today. So the apartment is clean, the clothes washes, the groceries stocked and the closet cleared of one third too many clothes. All that and I was able to finally see the Matrix Reloaded.
So this alternate reality was far more productive than the one with the sun out. At least it seemed that way.
Saturday, May 24, 2003 In Search of Relevant Life in the Used-to-Be Today I went to see Lily Tomlin in I guess what should be considered a revival of her one-woman show "In Search of Intelligent Life in the Universe" at the Ahmanson Theater. I gre up watching her; the reviews were good, and the tickets half off... so I looked forward to going.
If you had the power to pop in a DVD to watch a live performance from almost 20 years ago, you'd have this performance. You could tell the audience wanted to, since most of the people there were well into their 60's. Judging from their laughter, they loved to reminisce about women's liberation, free love and floatation tanks.
For me, I felt she missed out on a wonderful opportunity... to make it more relevant to the 21st Century. Comedians are often the commentators of the times, making us think of things we're often too busy we overlook them. If she brought in some of those references, I think she might have brought in a whole new generation to really enjoy the wonderful talent that she is.
Some lines that are still funny after all these years:
Reality is nothing but a collective hunch
Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it
I wanted to be somebody when I grew up; now I realize I should've been more specific
If I knew this was what it was like to have it all, I would've been willing to settle for something less
Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world
In the future, there will be a law that requires all self-help gurus to help themselves
Friday, May 23, 2003 Nothing can change the world... The last couple of days, I've written about anything, something and nothing at all. Today's lunchtime conversation got onto the subject of "zero." We really don't think much of zero; yet did you know that the concept of zero has only been around for a little over a thousand years? It was invented by Muhammad Bin Ahmad in 967 AD. Before we had zero, we actually had nothing to mean "nothing." That is such a simple concept, which had such a profound change in the world as we know it.
Personally I would love to come up with something that profound... not for the personal recognition, but just the personal satisfaction of having such an impact. Not that I'm not thrilled with the impact I've had in my own little world, but something that big would just be "cool."
Everyone thinks of Thomas Edison's Electric Light that keeps us up at night, or Alexander Graham Bell's Telephone which give telemarketers something to do during your dinner time, but here's a few of my favorite huge changes:
Thursday, May 22, 2003 Sometimes nothing can happen too... I worked out of another office today, and hardly anyone noticed. Someone who sits only three cubicles away from me said in an instant message that he'd be by my desk "in a sec" (I told him it'd be more like an hour to get to me, but who's counting?) Today the blank horoscope would've seemed more appropriate... since "nothing" really happened today.
I like the quiet days away from my main office; it gives me a chance to do a lot of little "somethings" .. even if it seems like "nothing" is happening.
I mean, it's not like today meant nothing; it's just not "anything" to write about...
... but I'm writing about it, so obviously it's not "nothing" ... so then it must be "something."
Wednesday, May 21, 2003 Anything can happen... This morning I checked my email and saw my horoscope that comes in daily from some spammer somewhere. Today mine was blank; completely blank. Every other sign had their message. So I figured it meant one of two things. Either I had no future, or today was whatever I was willing to make it.
Well, it was one of those days where anything could happen. I hit a plastic bucket on the freeway on the way to work. I wasn’t quite sure what my fate was going to be when I saw it fly across the lanes in my direction.
Then at work, my team finally got approval to attend a conference that I’ve been trying and trying and trying again to get. I had sort of given up some hope on that, even though I had no intention of giving up. The fact that we get to go as a team is also a sign that anything really can happen.
The newsletter from yesterday generated a couple of responses shortly after launch. Some pointed out that it was too big for their screen, and my article about making a first impression certainly did. On the other hand, several more people signed up for more newsletters… and the web class we’re teaching is now sold out. Hmmm, so there!
And finally the Film Festival met tonight, after a complete overhaul of its directors. It too seems more organized, more serious about making things happen.
So you see, today really did start off with a blank message… just waiting for me to make it happen.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003 Against all oddballs... For this blog, you have to start humming Phil Collin's "Against All Odds" to get started where my head is at. Although it has nothing really to do with the song, or the movie by the same name.
I just starting thinking about what today meant to me and it sort of crept up on me.
Today I went against some oddball rules, as usual, in order to get stuff done at work. No place to charge my time to in order to sell our services; but no selling, nowhere else to charge. Again, I have to just take the hit, if we're ever to hit the mark. So tomorrow we'll see if my non-charged newsletter brings enough people to our non-charged web site, in hopes of bringing some real-charged projects.
And then tonight, the festival wanted their non-finished web site to go live, despite my advice not to go out without all the i's dotted and the t's crossed... but they have their oddball reasons to go live... so we went live.
I'm not going to try and make any sense of it; it'll just be like watching "Against All Odds" ... I'll just sit back and enjoy the show.
Monday, May 19, 2003 Being proud... I was out all day yesterday and didn't get a chance to blog. It was a basic time to be out and about; and naturally I got burned despite UV 35. No matter... a day away from the computer is a good thing, every once in a while.
Today I played catch up by finally finishing up my newsletter, which was scheduled to go out on the 15th. This one was about being proud. And it just made me proud to write it... because after all, the thing I'm very proud of is the site itself.
Pride is powerful... it can lift us up to do better; it brings us pleasure when we've earned the right to be proud.
And from the time I started writing this entry to now, an hour has gone by. I was on the phone with a friend of mine from New York. He's been talking about how his life is falling back into place, after the devastating downward spiral of Sept 11th.
After my last trip to New York last November, I got him to stay in touch with my friend who started a rehearsal studios/theater complex. He'll now be renting out one of the studios to teach his ballroom dance classes again. Success for both dear friends; and I was able to be in the middle of it.
Saturday, May 17, 2003 If I only had a Brane... Read a fascinating story in the LA Times this morning. It was all about "Branes," which is short for Membranes.
Basically the theory goes that reality as we know it resides on a "top layer" like the top of a pond... with clumps of life everywhere... but unbeknownst to us, there's a whole new world underneath... one we can't see, or hardly understand. It's very much like the Matrix... and also very much Zen like as well.
I just like it for two reasons. One, because I just like mind warps, where everything you THINK is real, might not really be. Secondly, and probably more importantly, it validates some of the lessons I had as a child in the "Library" while I slept.
It's just so interesting because its getting serious consideration from the scientific community, which is usually very skeptical about something as seemingly esoteric as multidimensional existence.
I've been meaning to put all that material online here, but haven't gotten around to it yet... but basically, I have a whole passage about the nature of the atom, and how its subatomic particles reside in our "reality" only part of the time; the rest is spent in other levels of dimensions.
I suppose in some other Brane, I've already written it all up. In this one, I'll just have to wait until it rises to the surface.
Friday, May 16, 2003 Digesting the Past... After work I went to see a play that an old friend's daughter directed, at the Moving Arts Theater. Several other friends from a previous job (life) were there as well. Over dinner we caught up on where everyone is these days. You try to remember so-and-so -- you know, the one with the mustache -- then try to picture them 100 pounds lighter, or heavier, or balder. You marvel at how well the surgery worked for your friends, then try to figure out how 12 years some how just went by (I didn't start the job that long ago, did I? It was in nineteen... ninety... oh man...).
You sheepish try to excuse yourself for missing the party, not returning the email... somehow letting two years go by, while you realize you've been living closer to each other for the last year than where you ate dinner last night.
You vow to never let it happen again. You exchange cards and kisses again.
You drive home, look in the mirror... and get on the scale one more time before bed.
Thursday, May 15, 2003 That's entertainment It's highly recommended to schedule all out of town guests on the weekends, when you can sleep in the next day.
Tonight I'm not following that, because a friend of mine is simple "passing through" on the way to Oakland tomorrow.
So naturally you have to put an entire vacation into about five hours... the local "hot spots" that are only luke warm on a Thursday night and a digest version of the history of your town, your life and what you plan to do with either one of them for the next several years. It actually helps you to re-evaluate just exactly what choices you've made and why. Plus you realize that your evenings aren't usually spent at the hot spots and you wonder when did staying at home and getting to bed at 10 pm turn into such a treat?
It's nearing midnight and I think I hear the bell toll... or is that the bed?
Anyway, time to cram an entire evenings worth of sleep into a few hours as well.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003 Better defibrillate than never... You ever see how those TV doctors use the defibrillators on flatlined patients? I learned that it actually doesn't work that way. Turns out you use one of those devices only when the heart beat is erratic and needs to be shocked into a regular pattern (read about it).
I looked it up because that's exactly what kind of day I had. Outside of today I've let a few things slip by, get out of hand, get lost somewhere under the sofa... and my life's been getting a little erratic lately. Sooooo.... I took the day off. Not a "I'm working from home today" kind of day... a "I'm taking the day off to do my stuff" kind of day.
It wasn't very exciting, it wasn't restful in the slightest... it was chock full of mundane... tedious... tiring.... "stuff." A lot of it. Unfortunately, the rest of the week is calling, so I can't do this again for a while.
It was sorely needed to get me back in the groove. I could still use another dose of it.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003 And if you're not completely satisfied... In a meeting today I mentioned that I would be happy with an 80% satisfaction rating if I held a customer satisfaction survey. Another manager remarked that they expected 100% satisfaction; and it just reminded me of what I talked about yesterday.
Of course I strive to satisfy my customers to their fullest. Of course I expect my team to work at their best at all times... but expecting 100% perfect results 100% of the time eventually burns out the entire system. There has to be a difference between goals and expectation. Otherwise, you eventually lost both.
Raising the bar is great; rewarding the successful ones are fantastic; punishing them when the bar is too high, disastrous.
If you start out with a bar at 6 feet and someone clears it by a foot, you praise them. You give them merits and accolades for "exceeding your expectations" ... so next time you raise the bar to 7 feet (you are continually improving, right?) This time they barely make it, but still they make it over... so you give them a "good" score, and no rewards... and you raise the bar to 7.5. They miss. What a disappointment...
It's here at you make the biggest difference. This person is now clearly not meeting your 100% satisfaction rating. Do you encourage them? Do you give them the training and the practice and the opportunities to make that 7.5... or do you lower their score further... take away their merits, put them on an improvement plan?
And when you raise the bar to 8 feet, what then? Typically, they just walk away.
I EXPECT best performance... I AIM for best results.
Monday, May 12, 2003 The Hypocritic Oath... Throughout the day there were these little hints of what appear to be hypocrisy. Oh, they've been around for a while... but I think because it's been rather quiet lately that I just sort of noticed them.
All around me are these "attempts" at great virtue. Flipcharts line the wall with slogans of how we strive for quality, customer focus and the like. Professional posters adorn the lunchroom with how we're doing everything faster and easier; and all these little conversations about how innovative we are, with buzzes of "proactive" and "driven" flying about like little gnats.
Yet talk of "new technology" and the room sputters into moans and hesitant mumbling. "We need to wait on that" usually comes the answer... so much for innovative proactive drive.
Ideals are great. They're what we all strive for, but don't just say it and be done with it. It is easier said than done to be sure, but if it's never done, then saying it again means less and less each time. I guess what it comes down to is WALK THE TALK.
Walking takes steps. The first of which is to recognize that these are the ideals, and that we have a ways to go before we reach them. Then we have to map out the way, with specific, measurable details.... not just "customer driven" but rather "we will address our customers needs in xx amount of time".... We need to come from the reality of where we're at ... from our reactive, hesitant reality; not just slogans on the walls.
Only then can we take an oath to the ideal we already claim as our own.
Sunday, May 11, 2003 A mother of a day... Today is a day to honor mothers. I called mine today, who received by picture box gift I ordered online. She told me I ought to mail her a new pic of me. You think I should send her the copy of us, when she was grabbing the Rock's wax figure? Perhaps I should have bought her a candle instead?
The affect of Mom's day was apparent all day... the restaurants I ate at, or passed on the street, overflowed onto the sidewalks. Yet the beach was practially empty. You think it's because mothers know not to go swimming till an hour after you eat?
As a tribute to the day, here's the poem that was on the picture box I sent:
You gave the gift of life to me. And then in love youset me free. I thank you for all your tender care. For the deep warm hugs and always being there.
And then I signed it the way that my Mom always signs her cards:
Love All Ways Always
...which is something I always found endearing about dear ole Mom.
Saturday, May 10, 2003 Shaken, not slurred... Went to see a friend's son in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer's Night Dream" tonight. We're talking 7th, 8th and 9th graders, so I didn't expect too much. Overall, it was a fairly enjoyable evening.
Shakespeare is one of those funny writers... if you take him too seriously, and start speaking SHAAAAKESPEEEEEARE, then you've totally missed the point. When you see someone who just "gets it" you understand everything they're talking about. When they don't, then you just stare at them going "huh?" (thou art most confusing!).
A smattering of the kids "got it" ... especially the girl playing "Helena", who not only made every point understandable, she made it her own. She had ATTITUDE and just played it to the hilt. My friend's son, playing "Flute" also got it pretty well. Though not many lines, he made it understandable and fun.
A number of others slurred, mumbled and stumbled and reminded you that you were sitting on a hard metal chair in a middle school's makeshift theater.
So it helped that I've seen this play performed well before, by the Royal Shakespeare Company an at Shakepeare in the Park. It kept me following along and prevented me from drifting into my own Midsummer Night's Dream on a Hard Metal Chair.
Friday, May 09, 2003 Dirty Laundry... The day was winding down, sending an otherwise quiet evening into night, I was at my computer when I heard this awful scream outside. At first I didn't know what it was; laughing? someone calling to someone outside? or were they in trouble? The woman's voice got louder and more excited. By the time I got to my front door, several neighbors had already come outside and had gotten involved.
The preacher's wife from downstairs was shouting loudly; and the neighbors were trying to calm her. Was her husband alright? I heard his voice, so I knew his health wasn't the issue. It seems that this ordinarily charming, gracious couple were airing their problems in public. I couldn't make out all the details, nor was it really any of my business... but after they went back in and the nosy neighbors began their speculations on this juicy fodder, I couldn't help but think of those nice people who now have neighbors who know more than they should. Even though the neighbors sounded positive out on the balcony, behind closed doors what further damage will be caused by the snickers and retelling of tonight over coffee?
Dirty laundry. Something to be kept indoors.
Except for MY dirty laundry, of course... which I took to the laundromat after everything settled down.
Thursday, May 08, 2003 When the wind stops, row! I've been trying to put my finger on the feeling that's been coming on the past several weeks actually. It's been "drifting" ... that's the feeling I haven't been able to put into words exactly... but those are good words now... drifting.
It's been relatively quiet at work, at the festival, and at gurustu.com... things have been moving along, but it's been on an event by event basis. It's been "living for the moment" so it's not like "nothing" has been happening... but there's been no wind lately. The winds that have fought against me in the past have died down; and there's been no wind at my back that I can speak of... so it's rocking slowly, just drifting with the current...
And I believe it's all because we've run out of plans. I reached my initial goals for Gurustu that I laid down last November. At work, the people and projects are gone; and the projects that're coming aren't huge, directed ones... they're all quick "down and dirty" jobs that my team can handle in a snap. The festival is regrouping and getting their act together before our next meeting; and I'm to just hold tight until they do.
So what's missing are the maps... the guiding stars to give a goal and a direction to all of this.
Which leads me to what I have to do next... make those maps! Find those stars!
Wednesday, May 07, 2003 Time has turned me into a hypocrite... It's Wednesday night and the time has been flying by faster than I can keep up. Some of it left during busy times, but a lot of it just wasted away... too much quiet... too much noise... too many distractions... not enough to keep my interest... Just Time going by, with me just watching it whirl by. And this right after I wrote a newsletter that talked all about using time wisely!
Sometimes I feel like I don't read my own stuff. It makes me feel a bit hypocritical when I don't follow my own advice. I need to change that...
Maybe when I get a free moment, I'll check it out.
Monday, May 05, 2003 The things you change as you stay the same... You ever feel like your life in one big tv hiatus, where there's nothing going on but reruns?
Welcome to today...
9:30 am: The phone call came in from E. with her story and plans for our next meeting.
12 noon: Had yet another salad for lunch (though it was very good it was, after all, a salad)
4:00 pm: I realized that I had spent the entire day working on requirements for a web site that I first designed three years ago; watched it go through countless politechnics; and just grew to feel like this thing is one giant hamster wheel. I'm planning to get this thing right for once... no excuses... not even being without an analyst to do the paperwork for me. So we go for one more rerun.
7:00 pm: I changed that little plunger doohickey in my toilet to keep it flowing. Since this is the second time I've had to do this in the last couple of years, I guess you can consider the toilet "re-running" too.
Sunday, May 04, 2003 Another W**K*ND Is it better to be reliable, or just consistent?
Every weekend, it starts out the same. My friend "E" tells me "we're DEFINITELY getting together next weekend... and then the plans begin; times and locations are all set... and the next Saturday rolls by.
11 am: (to answering machine) Hey, E, just checking in to see if we're on for today. I'll be around.
12:30 pm: Well, E, gonna head out for a couple of hours, but I'll have my cell phone on in case you want to reach me.
4 pm: Gonna have dinner at such-and-such around 6, maybe catch "X-Men" if you're around. cell phone's still on.
9 pm: Well, sorry to miss you today; call me tomorrow.
11:45 pm: (on my answering machine) I had a bit of drama today, we'll DEFINITELY get together tomorrow... for sure! Call me in the morning.
Sunday, 10:30 am: (on her answering machine) Happy Sunday, I'll be around doing some chores around the house til noon, maybe early afternoon...
1 pm: OK, heading out to the gym, then maybe something to eat.
3 pm, check machine for messages.... 5 pm, check machine for messages... 9 pm, just for the fun of it....
The usual silence until Monday, I suppose... where the stories and promises of next week begin again.
Oh well, another w**k*nd, without "E." I just smile, and play along...
Saturday, May 03, 2003 Since when did Niagara come to Southern Cal? I opened my door this morning to rain coming off the roof in a solid sheet of water. It reminded me of my visit to Niagara Falls when I was just single digits old.
I remember getting all suited up in bright yellow to walk behind the falls. You'd go down this tunnel, to a cave with a giant opening underneath the fall. The thunderous sound was awe-inspiring. You could hardly see out... just this giant wall of water pounding down.
My mother clutched her purse tightly to her body to keep it dry. No luck. Half of the falls ended up in her bag.
It's a good thing they couldn't get her for stealing.
Friday, May 02, 2003 Loving you... I spoke with a friend on the way back home this evening. He's been building his life back from many years of poverty, addiction and the horrible effects of living around the corner from where the twin towers once stood. His on-again/off-again relation was temporarily off again and he was just asking me for some friendly advice. After talking about respecting self and how to deal with selfish people, I summarized the situation like this...
"You have to find someone who will love you for YOU, not love you for THEMSELVES."
It's always wonderful to be loved... but sometimes that love isn't there because they actually care about you and your needs; they're there for themselves, for whatever reason. Maybe they just want to be loved, or they want to control other people, maybe they have low self-esteem and need to hide it inside some apparent stable "thing" they call a relationship.
But Love is a two way street. I know that's a cliche, but trying living with only one lane and see which road you'd prefer to travel.
Thursday, May 01, 2003 Map please! It's very important to know what you want before you begin the journey. It's not so much HOW you'll get there, but rather, "where the heck are you going?" Without it, the wandering will cost you time, money and above all, your sanity...
OK, I'm condensing for clarity, but the conversations have been going like this...
Me: So you want it to look like Outlook?
Client: Right. But with Mac buttons.
Me: I thought you didn't want Outlook.
Client: I changed my mind. lol.
Me: The rounded clear buttons.
Client: Only flat on the bottom.
Client: The top ones flat, the bottom ones flat on top.
Me: Like Burger King?
Client: LOL. Like buns, yes.
Me: So if we have four buns in the column and you click on one, you get one top and three bottoms?
Me: OK, I think I got it.
Client: Um, no. The middle ones should be rounded on the top and bottom.
Me: Not buns?
Client: More like buttons.
Me: So you have one top bun, one bottom bun and two buttons?
Me: What about the icons, you want those to be buttons or buns?
Client: Icons? I want them to be mini-buns.
Client: Like bottom buns only smaller.
Me: Flat on top?
Me: One top bun, two buttons, a bottom bun and three mini-bottom-buns.
Client: I think so. What do you think?
Me: Do you want fries with that?