Saturday, October 18, 2008

Life in 'Kindle'garten

Late this summer I had the opportunity to use a Kindle . I had to promised to blog about it and not use it for a Frisbee. I agreed on both counts and here on my thoughts on that:

A Kindle makes you popular with people who are gadget nuts. They say, "Hey! Let ME see!"

A Kindle falls out of its cover a lot causing people who are gadget nuts to ask in alarm, "Uh, how much to they cost?"

A Kindle has an incredibly easy screen to read in all types of light causing the gadget nut to exclaim, "Whoa how do they DO that?"

I had the Kindle for about three weeks and I read two existing items that had been uploaded to it. I enjoyed the compact nature of the Kindle. It is wild to think that you can have so much reading material at the tip of your fingers as you go about your life. The problem is I don't live my life like that (yet, perhaps). This technology brings me the kind of refreshing joy the iPod did in that it happily minimizes the clutter by reducing material to bites and reduces the piles of paper in real time around me. However, unlike my iPod and music and audio files, I handle books and stories differently. I couldn't help but think if I read something on the Kindle that really floated my boat, that I would want to go and buy a copy of the title for my bookshelf. Perhaps this is just an adjustment I would need to make to evolve, it occurs to me.

I enjoyed the stories that I read on the Kindle and I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't take the online tutorial available at and instead choose to fumble around wishing there was an instruction manual. How dumb is THAT???? Of course, there is a manual ON the Kindle.

The positives are that Kindle connects to Amazon through wireless cell phone technology and there is no charge. If you come across a word you need a definition for it is very easy to look it up on the Kindle. With a simple tap on the line that has the puzzling word, it will take you to the definition of the most likely confusing words on that line. It does not translate languages, however, if there is something written in Latin, so I found out. Another positive is that you can highlight and save interesting passages to use in your blog later! Also if there is a concept that completely escapes you, there is free access to Wikipedia at your fingertips to help you sort it out.

The frustrating thing that I found with the Kindle was the design. I'm not sure what they were thinking when they put the whole thing together. There is hardly any place to put your hands without causing a page to turn or hitting the keyboard. I'm not comfortable putting my hands on any screen so most of the time I felt as though I was handling a porcelain Hummel. Also I noticed, in the helpful videos from Amazon, they didn't even show the outer book-like case that it does not fit comfortably in. Still, the case made it easier for me to handle the devise without turning pages. Would a back light option for reading in bed be impossible I wonder?

There is another issue however that preys on my mind about the Kindle package that I'm not comfortable with. The fact that one can only access items through one source "Amazon" is a flaw. To improve this item it would be available as an open source tool where a person could go to any site and upload whatever wares any artist was selling, including Amazon.

I think the technology of the Kindle is absolutely fabulous even if they need to go back to the drawing board in regards to the design of if it. I want to see this technology in every student's backpack with a full compliment of their textbooks therein. I want every textbook publisher to offer their product in this format and I want Western Washington University to be the first school to institute this as standard for every student. Something to lighten the student's load financially and physically would be a profound and positive change for everyone...except the lumber mills and publishers, of course...and maybe a Chiropractor or two. But perhaps they have had their day.

Zen and the Art of Service with Sincerity

My colleagues and I wanted to give a presentation to our students on customer service. We had a movie about customer service. I was thinking there has to be something more than following a set of good “practices” so I decided I would explore sincerity at work at a public desk.

One of my student’s requested a copy of what I wrote (sadly I am not a very coherent public speaker as I fight with the sensation of wearing a collar of bees as I speak, I sometimes can’t breathe) and so I thought I would blog about what I presented. I’m sure it will be easier to follow written down than how it stumbled out of me.

Be Here Now

I want to talk to you today about the work experience and I want to start with a few facts I wish someone would have reminded me about when I was in my twenties. Here goes:

  1. There is a voice in your head that will kill your courage and deprive you of every happiness known to humanity if you let it.

This voice is you and it is comprised of every sound bite your parents and the great American wall of advertising has hurled at you - amongst other things. The Bad News: it is the time of your life you can assimilate all that and default to becoming your parent's or someone else’s expectation of you. The Good News: this is the time of your life when you can choose to step out of that carnival of noise and decide what is true for YOU and decide what you want to think.

  1. Behold the self fulfilled prophesy! No one is doing your life but you.

The voice says: “ that person (situation, event…whatever) is making me crazy!” Actually you are allowing yourself to be made CRAZY by something. Everyday we get up and choose who we want to be, like it or not. The Bad News: we invite most despair into our life and we find it certain miseries comfortable; The Good News is we are in charge of our own comfort zones and we have tons of control over how our life plays out.

  1. Happiness and satisfaction is not contingent upon outside forces.

This one everyone gives lip service to and no one seems to actually understand how it unreels out in our heads. Everyday this voice blabs: I need to graduate! I need money! I need to loose 10 pounds! I need to gain 10 pounds! I need a boyfriend or girl friend! I need a boyfriend AND a girlfriend! I need to see if that person accepted my facebook invite! I need to be more! Blah blah blah…and when this happens I will experience great joy and be happy. Actually, happiness does not arrive as a contingency. Happiness is available to us all everyday in every way. It is totally provided and built in to every breath. Happiness does not evade us because of things that we are not – it appears to take its ball home and leave us to chase after it but, in truth, we remove ourselves from the game by not showing up or running away. We cannot be present to play if we are spending all our time cultivating the habit of listing out everything that we are NOT with everything that has not yet happened. The Bad News: We all want to be right more than we want to be happy. We have a lot more training in our culture in finding the right answer than we do in discovering what makes us happy. The Good News: we can all learn to recognize our habits of distraction and find what allows us great joy. We can be honest about why we are not playing.

Down with “THE MAN”: Transparency and Changes in the American Workplace

  • Nobody is asking you to be insincere.
  • How to apply the above to the task at hand.

Consider these Scenarios:

  • Someone approaches the desk and they are wearing a really neat hat. You think to yourself “MY GOD I love that hat! I wish I had that hat.” And then you fantasize a mini-sized fantasy about wearing the hat and your friend Sam sees it and cracks up, and you have a good experience thinking that…blah blah blah…by this time the person is at the counter and you smile and help them and you watch them walking away wearing the hat that you love. Then the phone rings – and you are off into the next thing - end of story.

  • Someone approaches the desk and they are wearing a really neat hat. You think to yourself “MY GOD I love that hat! I wish I had that hat”. You make eye contact with the person who is now at the counter and you smile and say, “I love your hat!” They smile back and maybe they tell you a story about the hat or just say thank you…any number of things can happen from this exchange. You helped them and you shared yourself a little in a sincere manner. At the very least you have initiated a positive exchange with another individual. You stepped up and allowed yourself to be present.

Both of these experiences are pleasant – both of these scenarios are correct. One, however, happens primarily in your head and one happens in real time with a real individual. Again, you are choosing how rich your experience can be. Your day is full of these kinds of choices. Get the dialog going with yourself about what you’re choosing to do in this way.

Being a library assistant is declared as your job but it can also be a part of your school work. While you are at University, you are formulating your pattern of approach to work and laying the foundation of how YOU do work in the world. I think it is important to remember that this is not something that magically happens LATER when you have a REAL job. That is what the voice in your head may tell you. The truth is you are doing it now. You are developing the habit of being yourself everyday – right now.

On the plus side this is a little easier to examine when you have just a few hour chunks of time to do so. When you work 9 hours a day (with commute, maybe 10) at a job and you find yourself in the mix of the life you have created, it is hard to find time to reflect on these things and fine tune your presence.

Consider your library assistant job as a lab.

You have an opportunity in this job to track the voice in your head and make choices that are better suited to the you you intend on being. Try and define what is performance from you and what is sincere in yourself through what you share with people as an exercise. If you are feeling forced with people, ask yourself why and answer the question honestly. If you feel stuck and stubborn, sometimes it is just a matter of putting habitual thinking of being distant on hold and smiling at someone to break out.

Being disinterested is a habit and possibly an ill fitting by-product of being a teenagerit is a valuable survival skill as a teenager to allow space to develop as an adult and it will mess you up in any attempt you make to leave its confines. It gets under control by our simply opting out and choosing an alternate behavior that satisfies. The dirty job in this is finding an alternate behavior to replace it that works for you and reflects a little more of who you really are. Start an adult dialog with yourself on these issues. Know you are choosing what you want to do - try and understand the consequence of choosing to stay disengaged and distant from what is going on around you and accept the responsibility for it.

Having said all of this, I hope we, as your supervisors and confidantes, do not let you down in your efforts. The work world is changing from a hierarchal system to a transparent one making the playing field more level and everyone’s creativity and input more valuable. Many of us are still not used to listening and we want to.

The workplace is going to be the structure of your work/playground where you make your mark in the world. This change is happening now in the library and across the campus. You have a unique opportunity to be involved in how this complex transition evolves. At the library we certainly invite you to do so! For one thing, you can make customer service videos on-the-fly that work better than what is available currently! You KNOW you CAN! There is actual support existing within the library to help you be involved that way, if you choose.

Then I thanked everyone and no one had any comments. Well, Jenny wanted a copy of what I said. That made me feel good and a small swarm of bees lifted gracefully aside to accommodate my smile. I find it truly sad that somewhere across the trajectory of my life I managed to loose my ability to speak in public and draw people out because much of what I spoke to the students about is what I am actually going through myself – only the 55 year old version. With all the changes in the workplace and inspiration rising from the upheaval of the existing status quo, I would have liked to have been persuasive enough in the sharing to have stimulated a conversation and had a chance to hear to what their experiences are. Perhaps they will share them with me in time. I hope I remember to listen. As it is, that was my 10 minutes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Share the love

I saw this today and I thought it interesting to share with all my colleagues. Surely we all know one or two sophomores who might want to jump on this bandwagon! This could be a terrific opportunity for our computer science students.

Google is offering summer internships for computer science students, specifically:
"students who are a member of a group that is historically under-represented in the technology industry are encouraged to apply, including Women, Native American, African American, Hispanic, and Disabled students."
Deadline to apply: October 10, 2008

More information here.

Thank you Jim Kloss of WWR for sharing this in his reader and Amit Agarwall for posting the article.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to School Sale

Something everyone can afford: the truth about attending school.

The more one listens to people telling the truth, the more one develops an ear for it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What is right with the world?

I received an interesting video feed from my friend, singer-songwriter, Esther Golton, today . She shared a clip that she found and I think I may be dropping the baton here if I don't share it in light of the Trust Workshop that was attended yesterday.

My co-workers and myself were treated to the consciousness raising experience of Janet Ott, writer, speaker and relationship coach yesterday. The focus was on issues of trust. One of the many things that Janet spoke about was our relationship to our stories or our perceptions of what we are seeing and how it is seen through a series of choices we make in how we look at it. This video clip that Esther sent seems particularly relevant in light of this subject. I feel compelled to share it.

It is a preview called Celebrate what is right with the world, by DeWitt Jones, photographer for the National Geographic. In it he shares his process of learning to see things differently and I found it quite illustrative of what happens when we trust to take something one step further and alter the perspective. The revelation one tiny twist of perspective can manifest can be quite astounding. I think it is interesting too that Mr. DeWitt comments that:
"'s a national sacrilege to throw away a Geographic because it celebrates what is right with the world and nobody wants to throw that away."
When I heard him say that, I realized he could have been talking about libraries just as easily as National Geographic Magazine. I don't think our culture wants to throw out libraries either because libraries, too, celebrate what is right with the world.

The video is about 22 minutes long and I don't think you will regret taking the break in such good company.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rod Picott Concert

One of the nice things about live music events is the sense of being with the musician in the same room. Doubly nice is the intimacy of a house concert where you get the feeling you have just gathered with friends to settle into hearing some good music. You cannot reproduce that sensation on a recording...even on a live recording. What you may not know is that you CAN share in a virtual real time house concert experience by attending a concert on line. It may surprise you how intimate it feels as you listen in real time. Check it out.

There is a good one coming up this Saturday on Whole Wheat Radio at 8pm (Bellingham time). Rod Picott.

Do this:

Listen by clicking here.

Open this page to find out about the artist.

Open this page to join the fun during the concert.

Settle in with a favorite beverage and try this experience. You may be surprised. There will be a little chat room to discuss what you are hearing as you will be with other listeners sharing the experience, should you desire or have any questions. It is fairly easy and straight forward. Seriously, the hardest part about the whole thing will be getting the cork out of your wine bottle.

I have picked this video to share because one of the things I love about a live performance is the stories that sometimes shake out. Enjoy and join me this Saturday evening.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Being the youngest in my family I'm not afraid to be bring up the rear on anything noteworthy going on anywhere in this world or even in nether worlds. It is what I do. So it is not beyond my type of person to be passing on to you something you have probably already heard about ad infinitum since December 2007 when it was presented. Most things I assume everyone is already aware of. Then I thought, "Gee, did I already, over the course of the last 5 months, hear about this somewhere and passed it by?" Actually, I think I did. Which just shows-to-go-you if it is something worth finding, it will find you spite of yourself...if you live long enough...

So I picked this video off WWR's Jim's Links (basically, his Google reader) and he got it from "Open Culture" by Dan Coleman (who may also be the youngest child - he posted April 20th) ...I would have no idea. I can't tell who he is. Perhaps if I spent an hour trying to figure out what 'track back' means but it sounds like something the FBI would use to send me to Guantanamo Bay
or if I kept linking and linking forever. I wont post this if I do that. Thank you Dan, anyway...My point is it got to me, eventually, and now it is my turn to play it forward because it obviously carries an extremely important message. It seems especially vital to anyone in the educational field...anyone who works with youth or, frankly, anyone who had a youth of their own.

It has been jangling in my mind to ask the students what they want in terms of library services but it wasn't until I saw the entireity of this presentation did I understand what I was fishing for in terms inclusion. I had missed the part where I actually have to listen...Okay...also, after I listen...THEN what? Embedding in this video is a map to then what for anyone who is willing to open up to it...for anyone who might toy with the thought they could make a small improvement in a student's life. Within is a clue to a place to stand and help.

The fact the man is dying notwithstanding, his entire life up to this point is a great gift to everyone who listens to what he has to say about what has worked for him in merging the creative with the technical - the artist and the engineer - the right and left brain - the past with the future - the us and the them. After I watched this I came to understand something clearer regarding my role in the lives of the people around me and education, in general. Embrace the familiar of what is like us, the predictable, the family, the known; for it is there that rest resides; and go ahead to encourage the opposites of what is love; for it is there that the creative spark of life brings motion, action and growth into our lives and into the evolution of humanity. A great gift, understanding.

Thank you Randy Pausch. May your light of a life lived well shine on.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Am I free?

"These eight qualities require a new skill set. Success in the free-copy world is not derived from the skills of distribution since the Great Copy Machine in the Sky takes care of that. Nor are legal skills surrounding Intellectual Property and Copyright very useful anymore. Nor are the skills of hoarding and scarcity. Rather, these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can't be replicated with a click of the mouse."
~ Kevin Kelly, The Technium

The above excerpt is from a blog entry that was brought to my attention by a co-worker and as I read it, I got really excited about the content.... This open sourcing business is on everyone's mind these days from libraries to artists to business people. Then I remembered how excited I get when someone tells me what I want to hear.

I think it wise to consider some of the points made by Prokofy Neva in the comments section below Kevin Kelly's blog entry.

Especially the part in mentioning that tired old saw that everyone keeps forgetting about in talking about technology. At the risk of being the kid shouting about the naked Emperor, what if the lights go out? Gas pumps pump on electricity too, you know. It's not like it could never happen! Everything just stops if there is no electricity. It is like the perfect storm for an end of the world scenario for the United States and makes me cloud over. I think we have all gone a little bit crazy living under the dark lord's reign of war terror. I think, too, there is a rat in the kitchen and no one wants to deal with the messiness of being self-sustaining. I see a two year old child frantically running away from a stern and over-bearing parent - off she scampers after the shiny free object with untied shoe laces - Untied States of America. In a decade, will people even know how to feed themselves if the power goes out? There are already some young people who do not know how to cook anything without a microwave. They have never even turned on a stove, let alone built a fire to boil water! We are doing ourselves a disservice in not understanding the value of balance and protecting our product; whether that product be art, democracy, our children or our ability to provide nourishment and care to our people....You know, the real ones who fall down and hurt themselves or are hit by a UPS truck delivering our Amazon order.

I think we get a little too excited and caught up sometimes. I know I do. The seizing of an opportunity and being the first and the best is both America's glory and her Achilles heel. We need to be tempered without being oppressed. We need guidelines and communication without banishment and berating for error.

There is a whole cross culture of people who get up everyday to an alarm clock and flesh out to make real what we take for granted like it just appears off of the internet! Billions of souls are maintaining the parts of the story where the rubber meets the road. It is a sorry statement of our values that we should forget that these people even exists. I think the second lifer fellow, Prokofy Neva, makes more than a few good points regarding our ease in accepting the concept of everything becoming free. I mean, seeing how good we all are in maintaining a democracy already! The quick fix if things run out of control is rather daunting and when you consider the consequences of just loosing electricity for 30 days ...well, Katrina and bin Laden spring to mind. Everything has a price in an economic based society. We ARE an economic based society, like it or not. It is a solid and fair question to ask and it requires debate: What will we pay for free?

Thanks to David Carmack Lewis for the use of the painting "Loser"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Stars at Noon

I haven't written in this blog for awhile mainly because I've not been very interactive with Web 2.0 but I do enjoy the posts that others are maintaining. When I have a minute, I pop on to read "the regulars". I'm glad they are there.

I was on the treadmill today and thinking about a book I just finished reading that Paul recommended to me months ago, Stars at Noon. I don't actually recall what brought the title up for Paul right now but it was something within our conversation made him recommend that I read it.

Stars at Noon is an autobiography of Jacqueline Cochran. A rags to riches story that unfolds from 1906 to the year I was born, 1953. This is not an easy read and I'm sure the difficulty for me was much different than Paul's experience reading it. I don't recall him sharing any information about the disturbing nature of it. Perhaps, this is because, from a feminist point of view it could be perceived as political nightmare. For some hard left feminists, no doubt, its a clarion call for everything that is wrong with this country. I bit the bullet, however; tended my wounds with Bactine ( a very 50's treatment for minor cuts and burns) and trudged through the tome as it unavoidably took me back to my childhood. I tried to maintain a perspective and, yes, appreciation for this woman who aggressively pursued her career as racing pilot; altered American aviation for women by establishing a woman's military pilot program; plundered her connections for political gain and piously took advantage of the poor while appearing to be benevolent. (Somewhat like McDonald's does today. Unfortunately an acceptable, if dirty and unimaginative application of democracy.) Her political enthusiasms and giant ego notwithstanding, I don't think it is fair to toss the woman's accomplishments aside in such a cavalier manner for the sake of current political correctness. I think we might be in danger of missing the point when we approach history without the consideration of the actual pressure of the"times" and the anecdotal information therein. I mean, overlooking the reality of the times in history threatens to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Thomas Jefferson springs to mind as a contradiction yet he's obviously a profoundly gifted person of historical merit.

Unlike our own media mavens of today like Ann Coulter who have nothing much to contribute but rhetoric and attention to themselves, Jackie Cochran actually manifested something and despite her huge ego, attempted to divert attention from herself in regards to the public eye on political matters. I grew up in the shadow of unbelievable stories of Americans like Jackie Cochran and the threatening propaganda of the cold war. I read about the war machine and great American heroes in little pamphlets that were supplied to me by the modern American educational system. Often reading them while I was waiting for a bomb drill in the perceived danger of a nuclear attack. Most of these stories were clearly American propaganda. I sometimes think my younger friends think that fear mongering in America is a current thing. It is not new; it's just tempered and more subversive. What was once dumped by little slips of paper on the unassuming public from low flying aircraft to find and read, is now fed to us via advertising and the media. Just to keep things in perspective, patriotism was at a fevered pitch in the 50's when this book was written.

In spite of the fact that Jacqueline Cochran claims she carried water for elephants while helping with the circus - alarming me and undermining her credibility, I still found her story interesting. I suppose the sucker punch in finishing this book is the fact I cannot wrestle free of the feeling that I may be cut from a bit of the same cloth as Ms. Cochran in terms of absent parents and having to live by my wits as a child. Foster homes and lack of a higher education are an intimate part of my personal history and I can wince at the fact that I sold koolaid at a fire in the 60's only understanding it was an opportunity to take advantage of a gathered crowd. (An event that made the local paper much to my dismay in later and more enlightened years.) We conveniently forget about these embarrassing incidents from our pasts and only an idiot would forget that they weren't good enough for achievement, right?

No one talks about this (an added taboo, certainly, within the university setting) but there is more than one way to gain knowledge and success in this country. There can be an advantage to living on the edges of society. You are forced to pay attention to survive and it gives one a perspective that the inner circle may not even consider. This information allows a person an arsenal of information and opportunity and, sometimes, enough delusion to produce an inordinate amount of luck. Subsequently a type of faith develops. It's the same faith as church and steeple but not delivered in the same way to those who live primarily with their feet on the ground. (I say this, too, with my privilege as a white woman, knowing full well the abundance of knowledge a woman of color may gather on the edges of society would not buy her a 10th of the chances I would have.)

I think the courageous tale that Jackie Cochran begs us to consider is underneath the ribbons and bows of her cosmetics industry ego/persona and aviation prowess. It rests quietly as a spawn of her own personal history. I don't even think hers is really a gender tale. Just knowing and applying what can be done when someone, for whatever reason, be it survival or moxy or hard-wired extroversion, are compelled to follow a hunch or a dream. At any rate, I think she would agree with me that it is sad that so much of American ingenuity is consumed by our own country's lack of imagination and compassion. Unlike me, she would do something about it. Jacqueline Cochran's real tale is about wrestling the finest aspect of democracy and liberty from the constraints of our own good intentions and filling ourselves up with opportunity and life. She lived a life of making things happen. She reminds us that, for so many of us, we have our stars at noon and they are still there but for the asking.