last day of leave

I’m about to set up my home-office desk again after taking three weeks’ leave from work. Proper leave; I haven’t checked my work email for two weeks (except briefly and by accident), and I’ve only responded to questions that have come directly to me through personal social media channels (I don’t think I’ve had a single work-related phone call).

Lessons learned

  • getting out in nature is important
  • minimising screen time and notifications (except perhaps the “this is how long you’ve been on your phone today” type) is important
  • I’ve enjoyed the time that I made to spend in prayer and Bible reading, but it wasn’t anywhere near as much time as I was hoping to spend on that
  • Having days where I didn’t plan anything, especially during the school holidays, resulted in fewer activities completed, but a higher quality of time spent with the people I saw on those days
  • Making sure I wasn’t trying to spend one-on-one time with people every day was important to being able to actually recover
  • By recover, I am talking about quieting my mind, and improving my ability to direct my attention to something in particular without my mind buzzing with a hundred different priorities
  • Even when I’ve set sleeping as a goal, it’s hard for me to sleep more than 6 hours per night, but there are benefits to sleeping seven hours in terms of mental clarity: this is a difficult concept for me to grasp when I am carrying a chronic sleep debt, but even a single day of less than 5 hours sleep means a big step backward for mental clarity, and for ability to stay alert for the whole day
  • I really enjoyed being able to spend time with Kel and the kids (and with each individual kid) with a greater ability to concentrate on what they were saying
  • Yet again, there was a lot of uni reading to complete (I spent last weekend in a uni intensive learning to negotiate better) but that’s the stage of life I’ve opted for. Had I not needed to complete a few hundred pages of uni reading and an assignment, the break might have been better
  • Much gratitude for a friend who let us stay a few nights at his place in the country – getting out of the house was a much needed tonic, and a great chance for some family adventures

Time will tell how much this leave helps me become better at my actual job, but I’m optimistic that it will help me go the distance better.

assumptions made about communication

Much has changed this year in terms of communication norms. I think I’m reaching a point where it’s not entirely awkward not to shake hands when I see someone, but there are still times where even that lack of contact is a window into all that has been lost.

While zoom fatigue is increasingly documented, and people are a little exhausted at the thought of another video-based conversation, the one article that surprised me (and didn’t) was this one on teaching teenagers to make phone calls.

having a conversation online

Much has changed in terms of how we move around in the world at the moment. What does this mean for the way we communicate? We’re doing a lot more communication online.

Here are a few resources that might help you improve your skill at communicating online, especially in a video conference setting.

7 Hints for Speaking to Camera from Olive Tree Media on Vimeo.


Also, tips on video conference meetings from Seth Godin.

flickr was down for thirty minutes

Flickr was down for about 30 minutes. I think I might be the only person on social media who noticed.

I spoke too soon. It’s down again, or was mostly down the whole time.

flickr was a social media site for sharing photos before Instagram and before facebook; they never really embraced mobile photography, and so were left behind. Actually, this is flickr’s instagram account, which is more stable but only has a few hundred posts. 

Flickr takes me back to a simpler time of the web, when there was more content sharing and less endless tracking of users.

high school reloaded

One of the familiar science fiction (and even Harry Potter) tropes is for a scene to play out, and then the same scene plays through again from another character’s point of view.

This week, it was starting high school, but this time I was the parent. What did I remember about my interactions with my parents that I remembered fondly? How can I create those kind of memories in my son, and one day my daughter.

Hopefully I did a good job: I’ll find out in 30 years or so.

fundraising lessons learned

It’s been a long time since I have participated in any formal event, or fundraiser, but we had the opportunity to go along to the Sydney “walk to d’feet MND”; my sister and I decided to frame our fundraising as a competition, rather than a collaborative effort, and that seemed to resonate with some of my friends and family, even if their response wasn’t to support the person I was hoping.

Having said that, we raised quite a bit of money, and so I was surprised to hear the CEO of the MND association say that the event was raising $70k for the cause. Perhaps that was funds raised after the cost of the event was factored in, but it still seemed low for the number of people in attendance.

They were using as their platform. which would have had a level of percentage overhead, but would keep staffing costs down. The event was well organised on the day, even as a few opportunities to raise more money from the people in attendance were missed – there were quite a few people over at the kiosk, when the event started before 9am, and while there were food trucks, it wasn’t clear that people could further support the charity while they were there.

Perhaps it was available somewhere, but I still didn’t have a clear sense of what the charity did, nor did I see an opportunity to sign up as a one-off or regular donor for people who were walking past and looking at the event, nor to learn more about MND.

Finally, it would have been good to have had some mechanism to be able to connect with people who were in a similar situation, and wanted to stay in contact, but it’s not clear if that’s something the charity facilitates.

I regret the missed opportunity that the CEO was there at the start of the race, but I didn’t take the opportunity to chat to him as I was there for a family day out, and so it didn’t seem appropriate to miss the walk to have that conversation.

Oh, and it’s quite difficult to ask people for money, even when it’s not for you, but people are incredibly generous.

lessons in balance from law and ethics

I’m studying a subject on law and ethics at the moment, and we’re trying to work out answers to complicated questions. What does it take to keep people doing the right thing? What consequences can be built in to a system so that people are motivated to do the right thing?

We build giant, unaccountable companies that scale up at a tremendous rate, based on the concept that there are infinite resources, or infinite customers, or infinite computer power, but of course, on a finite planet, there are finite resources, finite customers, finite computing power. 

Finding a short-cut to making money, or to growing, companies will take that short-cut, and pay the fine, or take the penalty on the chin, whatever that may be. The challenge with regulation seems to be balancing the cost to the public purse of operating a regulatory body, with the benefit of regulation – keeping groups honest, making a level playing field, and seeing justice carried out.

More disturbing is watching the human consequences when these power structures fail the vulnerable people they’re meant to be caring for. How do you keep people safe, while still running activities that pose a non-zero risk? 

Do you cut down all the trees, so that no-one is hurt climbing them? But what if the trees are full of drop-bears? And is there even a way to present this argument in a way that people will be able to hear it, rather than staying with their particular tribe and automatically take their side?

near end

Near end

There is much to be grateful for in the palliative care ward, which makes those moments that deviate from this path the more noteworthy. Take, for example, this interface decision that was taken on the display of this morphine pump: essentially, a device that pushes down very carefully and consistently on a syringe until the syringe is empty.

This pump is only used – as I understand it – on patients who are very near the end of their lives. And so, I was surprised to note that the wording they have chosen for the error message that indicates the syringe needs to be topped up is “near end”.

As it turns out, these words were not entirely accurate, and yet, as a wise friend said to me, any acute illness will seem – looking back at the end – to have progressed very rapidly indeed. In the throes of caring for someone, it seems to be going for a very long time, but looking back, everything happened very quickly indeed.