Sunday, July 22, 2012

Renegade Craft Fair Finds

We took a few hours today to visit the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair, which was held at Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion today. The following places were super cool and we don't want to forget them.

The full list of vendors can be found on the Renegade Craft Fair site.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pro Tips from a Project Manager

As a project manager, my main job duties consist of being organized and communicating clearly. I pay attention to the reasons for mis-communication and have developed a mental catalog of ways to avoid them. Here are some organization and communication tips that will make your day easier.

1. One topic, one email

If you want to send a new email to someone, don't find an old one from them and reply to them with an unrelated item. Copy and paste their email address into a new email (if your address book doesn't automatically populate their info) and add a new subject line. This alerts them to the fact that a new issue has arisen, and also prevents old content from being shared with others who may need to be included on the new thread. Finally, you avoid "thread fatigue" in which the interest level of a recipient is inversely proportional to the number of entries in the thread. Intro email > response > final reply is much more effective than Intro email > response > reply > response > new topic > responses!

2. Write things down

It never ceases to amaze me that people will attentively listen to feedback, and walk away without having written any of it down. In a busy office environment, who has the mental capacity to remember important details despite the constant flow of cross-talk, meetings, context switches, and so on? Pretty much no one. Do yourself a favor and get a notepad you can comfortably carry, and a nice pen that you enjoy holding, and start writing stuff down. You can always convert the info into notes later -- having the ability to jot down notes and questions at any time will make a big difference in your ability to be accurate and complete in your work.

3. Ask questions

When talking with team members about a topic, don't just smile and nod when unfamiliar terms are presented. Instead, find a good time to ask what they mean. If you don't have an opportunity to ask at the time, write the issue down as a follow-up item on your handy notepad (see above) and pursue the answer later. It may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, because you are letting your team members know you don't know absolutely everything...but hey -- realistically no one can know everything. By asking questions you improve your ability to do a good job. Take the plunge and get the data you need to do a better job.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Another Really Weird Dream

Here's my weird dream:

It began with a journey to Montana. I was near a river, looking for someone's house. While outside, I took pictures of some bears that were nearby. They looked aggressive and I was frightened so I retreated to the porch of a house.

Entering the house, I felt a sense of foreboding; I knew it was haunted. I saw a bed and understood that a little girl ghost was lingering there. She showed me her long illness and eventual death from poisoning by her mother (who had caused the girl's sickness because of her own Munchhausen syndrome). I hugged the little girl ghost, to reassure her, promising I'd help her find peace. I wasn't sure how, but I knew I had to do it. (There was sequence in this part of the dream with paper airplanes but I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe it was a trick I tried to entertain her or set her at ease somehow?)

I left her and traveled to a small town - it was supposed to be the place where I grew up but didn't resemble it exactly. The locals regarded me with suspicion. In the main street shopping area, I entered a curio shop and asked for directions. The owner was a nice woman - we chatted a bit. I left and headed towards the hills to find...something. While there I realized that one of the local children was beckoning me, telling me to avoid the hillside. I noticed a militaristic compound with large bunkers, each with angry-looking people streaming out. At that point I knew that the people were separationists who thought I was encroaching on their land, trying to steal their stockpile saved up for the end of the world.

I headed back towards town where the local child lead me to her house. There was a large patio with a gazebo. Old picnic tables, piles of junk, rocks and plants were scattered about. Every usable space was covered with some kind of alchemical element - fleshy white nodules, empty insect carapaces, gems, dried plants, bits of bone and skin. The variety was stunning and I was confused. I explained to the woman, who was the mother of the local child, that I needed help. She instructed me to brew a solution to the problem. I didn't know what elements to mix, though it seemed I had some natural ability at selecting potential cures. The mixing vessel was a large, flat bowl under the gazebo on a large stone base. I attempted to craft a brew, but wound up sucked into a sort of mental vortex while gazing into the mixing bowl (which was vaguely like Galadriel's scrying pool from Lord of the Rings). I somehow shook free from the vortex and ran inside, feeling drugged and bewildered and definitely out of place.

In the foyer of the house was a chest of drawers against a wall. The piece was weird and organic - fleshy and somehow sentient like a Salvador Dali woman/furniture piece mixed with a David Cronenberg set piece from Videodrome. I contemplated pulling a drawer open but the chest of drawers started undulating and twisting, and I could see a head rolling forward, as though the woman has been staring at the sky in a yoga pose, and slowly brought her head back to neutral position. My companion passed by me and opened the front by pulling the whole face aside (like a cabinet door in which the drawers were falsely embedded). Together, we stepped inside the house. We hid in a dirty bedroom, just under a window which looked onto the hillside. I glanced into the sky, still in a daze from the alchemical mis-fire and saw a giant brain monster with glaring eyes. It was like a hybrid of a B-movie monster and one of the giant robots from the 50's version of War of the Worlds. It was gigantic and angry - a Lovecraftian Horror come to destroy us. I knew that looking at it would draw its ire, but couldn't help myself. It was miles away, but at its size it crossed towards us quickly, its evil eyes burning the scenery around it into a black cloud. At some point I mustered the willpower to break its gaze and ducked below the window frame.

I guess that this trick worked, because we weren't vaporized as I'd expected. Perhaps my magician-hosts had banished the brain monster back to the dimension from which it came? I didn't really care - I just knew that I could escape. I still had a vague memory of trying to help the little ghost girl, and brought with me from the house a sort of pellet gun that shot some of the magic white nodules. This would be of some use though I'm not sure what or how. I walked from the house along a pathway that followed the river. The fields that bordered the other side of the path were green and lush. One of the separationists was about to catch up to me, but I shot at him with the gun and he retreated; my magical host child was happy at this and we laughed.

Finally, I came to a driveway along the path, which was growing into a proper street as country paths sometimes do. I got in the car, a long black limousine, and started driving towards the bridge that would lead me back to where I started at the little girl's house (though it was far away). The car was stiff, difficult to drive, and as I approached the bridge which was off to my left, I was unable to turn effectively and slid into another house's driveway. I got out of the car and stared at the bridge.

That was the end of the dream.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lettuce Feeling

In my younger days, I experienced a strange phenomenon. When shopping at the grocery store, I would get a strange feeling when I looked at the lettuces piled up in the produce section. Kind of an internal shiver. It was worse with the darker leaf varieties - romaine, red and green leaf - but still happened when I gazed at even the iceberg or butter heads.

I call it "Lettuce Feeling."

My research has yielded few clues to the cause of this strange malady, and I believe I've only ever met another sufferer once. I wonder if there is a proper moniker for this condition.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year Resolutions for 2012

The title of this post is misleading. You'd think you would be seeing a list of things I plan to do in 2012, but it's not. Instead I'm going to write about what I am *not* going to do this year.

First, I'm going to stop worrying about "being someone." I already am someone--me! I don't need to worry if famous person A or famous person B knows who I am. I found out the hard way that even when they do know who you are, they usually don't give a shit. So fuck 'em. I am me and that's all that I need.

Second, and related, I'm not going to worry about my title. I always thought that a fancy title meant validation of my effort. But it doesn't. There is some correlation, to be sure, when a title / promotion is given to a hard working employee. Honestly, though, there are plenty of ways to get promoted without being maybe when I really think about it, there is no innate value to a fancy title. If I earn one, great. But no more chasing a title for validation. I will keep doing a good job regardless of what my role is called, and be okay with that.

Third, and finally, I'm going to use the knowledge I've gained from my time off to keep improving. I've learned that I can relax and the world won't fall apart. I can take a break and I'll still have energy and drive when I start again. That may be the best gift I've received in a long time, and I'm not going to forget it.

I look forward to a prosperous and fulfilling 2012!