Musings from George

Mini-me and bouncy houses
June 26, 2007, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We scheduled chaos for last Friday. Chaos involves small children (I counted seventeen, eight of them months either side of three years old) and inflatable objects (I don’t know who created the bouncy house, but what a godsend!). Attending to those many children were close to twenty adults, because we invited our son’s teachers and several only children had two parents along.

Expecting our three-year-old son to melt down when the hordes trashed his toys, we had tried to prepare him for the onslaught (remember that first dent in your new car? don’t we all have a certain sense of “Mine!” that never really goes away). We told him that everyone was going to share, and we hoped for the best.

I was pleasantly surprised (bordering on shock) how well-behaved he was, and what a gracious host he was. As a couple of boys attacked his Matchbox cars and toy parking garage, he ran past them and encouraged them to come try the bouncy house. He ran around the yard offering every kid a juice box. He shared his mini-sofa with a couple of other kids. There really wasn’t any conflict through the evening, which included a couple of cases of beer and a half-dozen bottles of wine to wash down the curry (my wife is a great cook, something I try not to take for granted). We sat in the long warm evening and listened to the sound of calories melting away in the bouncy house ,and enjoyed the food and drink. The whirr of the air pump keeping the house aloft is about as loud as a vacuum cleaner, but I have never praised a vaccum cleaner in the same manner.

Saturday the rental company was late coming to get the bouncy house, so we burned off a few more calories out in the back yard. Yes, I broke the rules… I am somewhere more than three times the “maximum” sixty-pound limit…but no damage was done.

When they did pick up the house, we again expected our son to melt down. Instead, he ran after the guy taking it away to yell “Thank you!” I was as surprised as the man from the rental company — and proud, too.

The little social experiments that we call children continue to age, and so far I am pleased with the result. There’s no telling what life holds for us, but I hope some day that my son can read this somewhere and know how proud he made me, if only for a weekend.



Odd collection of thoughts
June 25, 2007, 7:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The old Chinese proverb “may you be blessed to live in interesting times” is real. Global warming is real, and we all know it — yet we don’t change our driving policies, we would never support a gasoline tax or serious mileage targets. We send 150,000¬† citizens to fight in Iraq, yet most of us can’t even tell you where Iraq is or why we care… Sudan is likely the source of more terrorists, and more people are dying there. But our investment in Sudan is zero…

I’m just curious as to what we are doing in this world, and I’m trying to figure out what I can do that actually matters in the world. Energy choices, p0litical structures, business environments…. there are big issues out there that no one is dealing with. How can any of us change that world?

Dick Cheney claims to be above the law, as a member of the executive branch when it suits his needs or a member of the legislative branch when that fits his needs. Isn’t the opposite true? Can’t people ask for his records as an executive, and subpoena him as a legislator?


When virtual becomes personal and then real
June 8, 2007, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Desiderata, OCU2007, Serenity Prayer

I attended an “unconference” this week with a number of like-minded online community enthusiasts. Notes from several of the events are here (three of the documents are mine, so I’m not going to re-post here). Sean O’Driscoll from Microsoft made some insightful comments about where companies focus their resources vis-a-vis support, and in that breakout session we all agreed that tagging and filtering need to advance quite a bit before the user community can really support users (tools and usage). General agreement that a wiki is only useful for shared purpose / single truth projects (ownership & authorship are lost), whereas discussion groups are useful for opinions / many truths (authorship is preserved). Blogs have the odd attribute of being one person’s perspective (by definition not the one truth?) with one author…a subset of both.

The people I meet at these events make them worthwhile for me. Many socially conscious people (producer from KQED, manager from indie films, two people from different organizations focusing on making our schools better) looking to adapt and adopt the best of these tools and practices that have their roots in philanthropic / community efforts but have been co-opted by corporate titans. From the Well to a dozen competing platforms for your community; from online text bulletin boards with a single heroic moderator to the unorganized chaos of Yahoo!Groups; from hundreds of communities of interest to millions of micro-communities (even the ephemeral communities of Facebook).

Changing gears, a few more good people have left our company. I’ve reconciled myself to doing a good job for the sake of helping our customers, and cherry-picking the projects I put my “good” energy into so that I am learning and growing. It’s not my dream situation, but I have to admit that I get a lot done and a lot of people appreciate what I do. Online I found the Desiderata (below), which is a wonderful exhortation of “carpe diem!” and realized that I had been mis-attributing a famous poem for quite a while. What is properly called the Serenity Prayer more concisely summarizes the daily challenge we face. I offer both here, culled from the wasteland of the Internet.

The Serenity Prayer (often attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr)

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Desiderata  by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.