Friday, July 27, 2018

Start Digging

If you're anything like me, you probably have some amount of trouble keeping up with your tasks. I usually fluctuate between being "moderately on top of things" and "OMG I am so not on top of things" and "I'm completely overwhelmed and can't do anything."

For many years I have used OmniFocus to manage my tasks, which has been a great help. Just getting everything I have to do in one place is the first step in tackling each item one at a time. Still, when the list of "To Do" items gets too large, it can get really hard to dig myself out from under the weight of all the obligations. It's hard to pick even one item to take a crack at.

When I'm in this overwhelmed state, it helps to think of myself as being buried in sand. An individual grain of sand is trivial to move, but the weight of a million grains of sand can make it feel hopeless to even try.

Imagine you're buried all the way up to your neck. Both arms are almost completely submerged, and only your hands extend above the surface. Take it a step farther: maybe only your little finger breaks the surface. The work of moving sand with that one finger is overwhelming, the results seem not worth the effort, yet the only way to make any progress at all is to keep at it.

Progress will be slow at first, but as you free up space to move, a second finger starts to pitch in. Pretty soon a hand, and then a whole arm, which proceeds to free the other arm.

Making progress frees up energy to make more progress. Eventually, you're scooping up sand, two handfuls at a time, and your torso is free. Time to start working on those legs...

Where this metaphor breaks down for me is I don't know if I've ever really gotten my legs free, but I keep trying. Merely gaining back the use of my hands and arms is an incredible feeling, and so much better than being buried up to my head.

Start digging.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Hour of Code

I'm a parent of elementary school kids, aged 6 and 9. I volunteer in many aspects of my kids' school, but among the most rewarding of these experiences have been the times I've volunteered for our school's Hour of Code event.

Lack of diversity in the tech industry is a systemic problem and nobody has yet figured out how to solve it. But events like Hour of Code seem to be doing a good job fighting for a solution.

The most amazing thing, for me, about volunteering for Hour of Code, is seeing the looks on kids' faces when they realize "they can code." They're invited to the party, and they know it. That's golden.

Having volunteered for several years, I've seen that look on the faces of kids of every gender, race, and cultural background. They all get it. They all feel empowered. They're all excited by the prospect of learning this skill, and contributing their abilities to the many problems that coding can help to solve.

My kids' school runs its "Hour of Code" event off-schedule, to avoid traffic conflicts with other schools who use the resources from the official home page.

I'll be volunteering next week, and I'm looking forward to seeing that look on the faces of kids in our school. If you have the luxury of offering some of your own time, I hope you'll also consider starting, or joining, an "Hour of Code" initiative at your own kids' school!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Not Me

Many women are chiming in for #MeToo, to raise awareness about the common experience of being sexually assaulted or harassed. It drives home to me how easy it is for myself and other men to remain oblivious about the problem.

Obviously, boys and men are also victims of assault and harassment, but the sheer number of women who are speaking out drives home the disparity.

This is not OK.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Apple Picking

My family and I went apple picking today.

I grew up in California, and apple picking was not a part of my culture. California is a very agricultural state, but there aren't many apple orchards. In retrospect, I don't know why I didn't do more strawberry picking, or for that matter artichoke picking as a kid, but "pick your own" was never a big part of my childhood.

When I moved to Massachusetts in 2005, I quickly learned that apple farms are a huge part of the local culture. After all, Johnny Appleseed was born in Massachusetts. Apples are kind of a big deal.

My family and I try to go apple picking at least once a season, but we flake out and miss some years. Every time we make the effort to drive out to a local orchard, and pay the fee for picking a bag-full, I think it was worth the cost and effort.

Today we went back to Carver Hill in Stow, MA. We had a soft spot in our hearts for this place, because our oldest son Henry, who is now 9, lost a tooth there when he was 6. Our younger son, who is 5, has a loose tooth. We wondered if he might lose it today while biting into a field-foraged apple, but he did not.

I love apple picking. I am always impressed by the fecundity of Apple trees, and by the taste of a fresh-picked apple. I feel while I'm roaming an apple orchard, that if I could only ever eat fresh-picked apples for the rest of my life, that I would always be in pretty good shape.

Today at Carver Hill, I tried many apples, fresh from the tree. My kids roamed the width and length of the orchard, excited to try to identify the breed of every tree they passed. I picked apples, some great, some good, some probably horrible. I put them all in my bag, satisfied that I was enjoying a bit of special New England culture.