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Posted on Dec 13, 2013 in How to simplify

Crisis Control

Scientists in the dark

Scientists in the dark

Credit card debt? Holiday stress?  Sriracha shortage?

We have all experienced crises, and have had to find our way back to equilibrium.  Two weeks ago, I attended a symposium in California, during a big storm.  On the final evening, as we traveled from the meeting site to dinner, the electricity went out all over the area.  The meeting organizers were frantic that we would not get to eat, would not be able to see our food, or would insist that our substantial registration fees be returned.

The catering team was remarkably calm.  Even though we arrived only a few moments after the lights went out, they greeted us at the door with candles and flashlights and escorted us across a courtyard into the dinner hall.  They served us our whole dinner by the light of hundreds of candles (like a Harry Potter movie!)  They managed to serve us cheese and bread for starters, and cook our dinners on a wood-fire grill.  They simplified everything to what was at hand, and it was delicious.  The servers were downright serene, and the hundred-or-so participants happily ate what was described to us as they set the dishes down.  I think they may have been overly generous with the wine, but that put everyone in an even better mood.

What is it that separates the panicked from the calm during a crisis?  Is it just the crew had seen it all, and knew they could handle it?  Did they have amazing leaders who showed them the way through the darkness?  Was it that they saw the power outage as a relatively small detail in the challenge of feeding an unruly group of scientists?

How do you stay calm when people around you are freaking out?


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Posted on Dec 11, 2013 in Inspiration

Wordless Wednesday: California Christmas




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Posted on Dec 9, 2013 in My Journey

Having It Both Ways

Photo credit: A. Lillie

Photo credit: A. Lillie

My dog has taught me many valuable lessons.  This week, we had a new one.

We are struggling with each other over boots.

The record low temperatures have me putting his boots on every time we go out for a walk. He hates them.  I can understand this, since he uses his feet to feel the ground as he walks.  It looks pretty funny to watch him trying to shake them off each foot every step he takes.  It’s not funny how frustrated he gets with these boots, and they prevent him from doing those outdoor tasks he needs to perform.  Without the boots, he is in real pain and at risk for frostbite.  When he goes out bootless, he tries to walk with as few feet touching the ground as possible. This would be funny if it didn’t worry me so much.

Short of learning to fly, he has two choices, boots or no boots.  He can’t have it both ways.

This has me thinking about my own choices.

  • I would like to be more fit, but don’t want to do the work to increase my activity many days.
  • I would like to have more time to relax, but don’t like to say no to people.
  • I want to save money, but also love to travel.

I have been able to get around some of these limitations by increasing activity for everyday tasks, limiting the evenings I go out to help prioritize what activities to say yes to, looking for bargains.

But sometimes it boils down to boots or no boots.

How do you handle these choices in your life?

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Posted on Dec 6, 2013 in My Journey

Advertisements Just For Me


This month, my email inbox is full of messages just for me. So many stores and websites are sending me special notifications of special deals that they thought I would like.  It’s like they know me. Each one refers to items that I have researched or purchased in the past several weeks. Depending on the day or the ad, this can be funny, or pretty creepy.  I have a habit of looking up things online as I am watching a movie or reading a book.  Usually, I’m just curious what something is used for, or where a city is located that is mentioned in the news.  Since I allow cookies to be placed on my computer by websites I visit (and it is difficult to do many things online without this feature enabled), many companies are collecting information about me.

Just in case any actual people are looking at this information, I’d like to explain a few things.

1. I read an article about truckers who sleep in Walmart parking lots, then checked the website to see what the store policy is.  This does not mean I am homeless.

2. I watched a movie about a woman who was on the run from her abusive husband and wondered if it was based on a true story.  I am not a fugitive from the law, or looking to hide any mugshots.

3. I bought copies of Goodnight Moon and Stellaluna as gifts.  I am not in need of pregnancy services.

4. I was reading the funny reviews of How to Avoid Huge Ships and sugar-free gummy bears with a friend.  I am not currently having a tummy ache on a cruise.

Just as an experiment (I do this for fun AND at work!), I did a comparison of two queries on Google and (a search engine that does not do targeted advertising).  Here were the queries:

  • Does Wikipedia collect information about me (I often throw questions about life out to the universe), and
  • Wikipedia privacy policy

Ironically, the top response on the first Google search (after the targeted ads) was a Wikipedia article about privacy rights and how to protect personal information online.  The Duckduckgo top return was another Wikipedia article on how the website works.

For the second search, both Duckduckgo and Google sent me right two Wikepedia pages, one on what a privacy policy is, and one on their own policies and practices, what data they collect, and what they will and will not do with it.  On the Wikipedia policy page, there was also a section on how other sites should use this clear, understandable language.

Two surprises: Duckduckgo looked strange to me without the ads ubiquitous on other search engines.  A simpler page, and nice look, if you ask me.

Wikipedia has a request for donations to support their site this time of year.  That is an ad I am happy to respond to.


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Posted on Dec 4, 2013 in Inspiration

Wordless Wednesday: Opening This Spring




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