Categories
miscellaneous

Boy problems

I’ve been deep into a few books, so have let my stack of periodicals get a bit out of control. I decided to tackle it a bit this week and was reminded why I subscribe to The Atlantic: articles like this.

In The Miseducation of the American Boy, Peggy Orenstein chronicles her interviews with college bound / college enrolled boys about their relationships with other boys and how that informs their relationships with girls. The challenges she finds are existed on the edge of my awareness, but for a variety of reasons I didn’t want to stare at directly. Part of that reason is that I’ve raised my boy (and girl). They are both over 18 and doing well at adulting. I think we were able to give them a wider view and better models of masculinity/femininity as well as a basic foundation of respect with open hearted questioning on top. But I also know what this article represents is more representative of the water they swim in and that leaves me with a number of thoughts:

  • Not to sound old, but geez was it easier when I grew up. I have what I feel is a healthy dose of compassion and an inquiring heart/mind for the conversations around gender, identity and relationships that today’s youth get to have (I’m failing at not sounding old), but still it seems inordinately complicated.
  • I’m thankful for navigating this with our two children, now adults, in what seems to have been a healthy, effective way. Especially since I had no idea what I was actually doing at the time. At the same time I feel somehow responsible for providing something to those that are still trying to make their way through this, but am not sure how or whether to act on that feeling. Teaching the faith and sexuality class one way I am doing this, but that will only be a few weeks. Then what?
  • I do wonder if some of this is a (mostly) unintentional byproduct of the important work to build up female identity and power. In a well intentioned and much overdue attempt to right past wrongs, most recently in the form of the #metoo movement, have we built up and women, expanding the Overton window of what is allowable for girls, at the cost of tearing down and giving increasingly limited options to boys? This is not to say that I feel or have experienced anything remotely resembling a backlash for being a white, cisgendered male in my life. But the stories in the article seem to me to be related to not replacing all the things we rightly removed from masculinity (misogyny, patriarchy, etc) with something to aspire to. A model to emulate.
  • Now here’s the part that I will likely get into trouble for: I think that these boy problems will (or maybe even are) cause problems for girls, at least for hetero / cisgendered ones. This is totally colored (i.e. biased) by my own experience, but I have been made immeasurably better through the relationship I have with my wife. And I think she would say the same about her relationship with me. That improvement is not because we are the same, but in fact because we are different, we know each other and we see each other’s blind spots. It seems to me that the boys described in this article will struggle to be a good mirror to the girls they manage to build a relationship with. Those girls will miss the opportunity to see themselves through the mirror of their partner and vice versa.

In all of this, only one thing is clear: There are no clear diagnosis or easy prescriptions. I only hope we have reached some sort of local minima and can improve from here. I hate to think about what worse relationships between boys and girls could look like.

Categories
podcasts

What I’m listening to now

Here’s my current list of podcast subscriptions, with the ones I listen to most often in bold and newest subscriptions in italics. I’m still using the native Podcast app on my iPhone although I am interested to try out Spotify. Just need a reason to switch.

On average I listen to about 2-3 podcasts a week. Mostly when driving. More when I travel (on planes) or in the spring / summer (when I have to I get to mow the lawn). Fewer when I am working from home or in a mood for music. So obviously with this sort of feed I miss a lot.

Podcasts have been an important part of my journey. I find it to be the absolute best thing to have emerged from the web. They have reintroduced long form conversation and the best ones let you hear both all sides of important ideas and arguments in more than soundbites.

I do find it interesting that I had to compile the list above manually. I looked for a podcast app that would send data to a wordpress plugin, or at least publish a feed and couldn’t find one. It would be even cooler to have real time stats on what I had just listened to, similar to the Spotify social feed. Maybe spotify podcasts does do that. That may be my reason to switch.

Categories
books

When Things Fall Apart

I have been and still am a “fan” of Buddhism. I think I am allowed to be that and still be an Episcopalian. I think it started listening to Tim Ferris’s talk about the benefits of meditation. I’m not ready to fly to Tibet and renounce all of my earthly possessions, but I do think there are some interesting ways of thinking about things that the Buddhist tradition has to offer.

So it was when I started reading Reboot that I was interested in Jerry’s connection to what he learned from his teacher and added a few of the books he mentioned to my to-read list. It was only a few days later that I found myself in the place where the universe gives me a sign of what to read next when I saw one of the books on the shelf: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.

I am not struggling right with anything specifically right now, but that’s not what this book is about. While it can help you with a crisis, although probably not if you read it in the middle of one, the essays in this book more wake you up to the idea that things are falling apart all the time. That’s the way of things. Living is dying. It’s only our clinging to the way they are or the way we think they should be that causes problems.

We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.

There were a few essays that stood out to me. Three for ideas I found helpful and even comforting. And one that I am still struggling with.

The first in the helpful / comforting category is “The Six Kinds of Loneliness”. The message in this essay resonated with me since it gets right to the heart of how I feel before I start to subconsciously (although more a more, day by day I can at least notice it) look for a distraction.

Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we invite in….

…When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and rolling loneliness the turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

The 6 kinds of this cool loneliness are:

  • Less desire: the willingness to be be lonely without resolution when everything in us yearns for something to cheer us up
  • Contentment: giving up the feeling that there is being able escape from our loneliness will bring any lasting happiness, joy or sense of well being
  • Avoiding unnecessary activity: notice when we are keeping ourselves busy simply as a way to avoid the pain of being lonely
  • Complete discipline: being ready at any opportunity to come back to the present moment
  • Not wandering the world of desire: noticing when we look for food, friends, entertainment and instead relating directly to things as they are
  • Not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts: not hiding in the joy of our own inner dialog when things get lonely.

The second helpful essay was about Nonaggression and the Four Maras. This one spoke to me since it gave a label to all the ways I have tried to hide various fears and avoid what is in front of me. The four maras are:

  • Devaputura Mara involves seeking pleasure.
  • Skandha Mara has to do with how we constantly try to reinvent ourselves.
  • Klesha Mara is all about how we use our emotions to stay asleep.
  • Yama Mara is fear of death.

I have been visited by all of these Maras at various times and have not responded well. I think that knowing their names will help me see them more easily…and invite them to tea.

The final helpful / comforting essay was the final one in the book called The Path is the Goal. This was a nice wrap up that basically says…where ever you go, there you will be. The path is not preset. There isn’t a manual. The path presents itself in each moment and our only job is to be awake in that moment and do the best we can. Everything is a teacher.

The one chapter I struggled with was on Hopelessness and Death. Big surprise, eh? It actually wasn’t so much the death part as the hopelessness. Chodron seems to be arguing in favor of taking up the position of hopelessness, as it represents a rejection of how things are and/or a clinging to an idea of how they might be. Perhaps its my “American” showing through, but I struggle with the idea of hopelessness being a superior position to having and hope. How would anything ever get better if people had no hope. No clear idea of a better tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I also know that things are better by many measures today than they were 200 years ago largely based on hope and skill. Perhaps I am missing the point. Or I still have some more work to do. Both are probably true.

Overall, I enjoyed When Things Fall Apart very much and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the pathless path, the groundless ground and the ways we think ourselves into knots.

Categories
miscellaneous

Feb tech updates

Writing this from the simply amazing keyboard on the 16″ MBP I picked up the day they shipped to Apple stores. I have a 13″ MBP for work with the first gen butterfly keyboard and the difference is night and day. I had planned to get a dock setup at home with an external display, monitor, etc, but honestly the keyboard is so good on this and the display does everything I want that I’m sort of loosing motivation to spend the extra cash there. I waited a long time to upgrade and now that I have I wonder why I waited so long…but then again, not sure I would be as satisfied with anything other than what this.

I think I got the blog hosting platform on AWS worked out. The upgrade to the $5 a month plan seems to have worked out the crashing issues I was experiencing on the $3.50 a month plan. It’s still half of what I was paying for GoDaddy with better performance and more control (SSH access for instance). The addition of the certificate seems to be having some of the intended effect on search performance as well.

I switched my home video surveillance system up at the barn from Zoneminder running in a Jail on my FreeNAS to an Apple HomeKit based solution running the cameras through a homebridge instance I added to my spare Ubuntu server that is mainly running automatic ripping machine to post all my CDs and DVDs to FreeNAS for access via Plex. That seems to be working well also, although I found out after I did the conversion that while the cameras work for live viewing, they don’t work with the Secure Video features which means the video isn’t recorded and I don’t get notifications when there is motion. The home bridge guys are working on it, so may just be a matter of time.

Lastly, I switched up VPN providers, at least for the next month. I moved from Private Internet Access to Mullvad. PIA got acquired by a company with a less than stellar track record, having been accused of distributing malware, so I decided to look elsewhere. So far so good, with essentially the same performance on fiber as I had with PIA – about 220 MBps down / 110 MBps up on a 300/100 MBps connection. The switch over on pfsense was fairly simple although I did have to retrace my steps on how I had setup the partitioned my network and setup the guest network to get everything working the right way.

Categories
miscellaneous

The great divide

My wife and I “volunteered” (we might have been under the influence of a few cocktails at the time so the question of consent comes into play here) to help teach a faith and sexuality class at our church. All kidding aside about whether we were taken advantage of at a time of weakness, I am actually glad we are doing it. It’s a great chance to get to talk with some of the youth in the parish that I don’t know as well (and how better to get to know them than an hour long conversation about the terms we want to use as a group for body parts and “verbs”) and it’s also a great example of why I love my faith: the kinds of conversations we are having in these classes are both critical AND I just don’t see happening in many other faith communities.

What we discuss in these sessions is of course confidential, but there was one exchange that we had last Sunday that I can relate generally enough to keep confidence and explore the point here. It had to do with conversations that the youth are having with their parents. They expressed that although they know their parents are trying to connect with the times and be sensitive, sometimes they can say things that seem insensitive.

There’s a lot here.

One thing this makes me realize is the need for compassion when trying to communicate across generational divides. The older side of course needs to have compassion for the younger side by realizing that what defines them as different generation is a different set of foundational experiences. Growing up in the 70s was fundamentally different than growing up in the 90s which is fundamentally different than growing up now. These different experiences shape us in ways that most don’t even realize and are in fact what makes one generation different from the next. The younger side also needs to have compassion for the older because of this same difference. The things the youth today are sensitive to don’t occur “naturally” to those that grew up in a different time, so when something insensitive is said, the youth need to do some more work to not simply react as they would if one of their peers said the same thing. They need to get curios when they might otherwise get furious and ask what is behind what was said – what’s in their heart? This can be hard and painful because sometimes they’ll find something that is actually troublesome. Some real hate or disfunction. But I think equally often they will find honest intent and this can lead to learning.

And that’s the another thing this has made me realize. That while some portion of generational divides (and perhaps divides of all sorts) is a lack of compassion and willingness to go deep and mutually discover intent, another major portion comes from lack of interest in teaching and learning on both sides of the gap. The older side has to be willing to learn how things have changed and the younger side has to be willing to teach. Similarly the younger side has to be willing to learn from the experience of older side to avoid past mistakes. Both sides loose when they assume that they know it all and the other side has nothing to teach them. Both sides loose when they close themselves off to learning.

Categories
podcasts

Brave enough to stop clapping

While I was taking a bit of a blogging hiatus last year, I doubled down on reading and for a time I was rally focused on the Russians, reading Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn in a 3-4 month stretch last spring.

So I was interested to tune into a discussion of Gulag Archipelago on the Great Books podcast on my drive into and home from work today. I also read an abridged version based on repeated mentions of the work by Jordan Peterson when I was still actively consuming almost everything he put out. As an aside, that time has past, but I would still book time to watch / listen to his next bible series should he ever get back to that.

They recounted a story from GA that stuck with me from my reading, that of the endless clapping. It goes that there was some gathering of minor party officials and local business folk in some out of the way people’s hall. The leader at this event called for an ovation for Stalin at which point everyone started clapping. The problem was that no one wanted to stop for fear of being singled out by the secret police as not patriotic enough. After 11 minutes of enthusiastic praise a local business man sat down and was followed by everyone else. He was later arrested and sent to the gulag.

Humans are heard animals by default with incentive to stay with the group. Add in a little justifies paranoia and you have a recipe for unreasonable actions that everyone knows are unreasonable but no one can seem to stop.

This is an important book still because I can see myself in too many of the stories. Would I be brave enough to sit down and stop clapping? I’d love to delude myself into thinking I would. But when I’m most honest I know the truth.

I see this happening today between many groups: left / right, urban / rural, rich / poor. We all get caught up in story lines and don’t ask questions. We’re all afraid of stepping out of line and loosing the protection of our tribe. Solzhenitsyn makes us all think about what we would go to a Gulag for. Reading even an abridged version isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but at least take a listen.

Categories
miscellaneous

Anxiety Loops

I saw a few write ups of this study on test anxiety. The study itself uses some pretty technical language (perhaps an artifact of the “scientization” of the humanities), but here is the gist as I understand it:

  • The standard theory concerning the cause of test anxiety is that students both value the outcome of the test while at the same time feel they have less control than they would like in getting prepared (i.e. a lack of self efficacy).
  • This lack of self efficacy leads to procrastination resulting in a perfect storm / self fulfilling prophecy: I don’t think I will do well because I can’t learn the material and since I can learn the material, why should I bother to study, which of course results in…not learning the material.
  • The study found something that I think is a form of CBT called “inquiry-based stress reduction” (IBSR) as an effective means to overcome the feeling of non-effectiveness.

I read through the entire study since it reminded me of how I can feel when facing a big project. I have a perfect idea of what the result should be in my mind, but I struggle to start because I know that no matter how hard I work, whatever gets realized won’t be as perfect. Steven Pressfield called this feeling “resistance” and he correctly observed that you only really feel it for things you care a lot about. I’ve gotten reasonably good at noticing resistance, but I’m interested to try the ideas in this study to give me something to do about it when I do.

The two opening questions seem like CBT classics:

  • “Is this thought true?”
  • “Can you absolutely know that this thought is true?”.

But the follow-ups are a little more interesting:

  • “How do you react, what happens when you have this thought?”
  • “Does that thought bring peace or stress to your life?”
  • “What images do you see, past or present, as you think this thought?”
  • “What physical sensations arise having these thoughts and seeing these pictures?”
  • “What emotions arise when you have that thought?”
  • Do any obsessions or addictions begin to appear when you have this thought (e.g. alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, and television)?”
  • “How do you treat others when you have this thought? How do you treat yourself when you have this thought?”
Categories
miscellaneous

House Cleaning

The house cleaning of the blog continues. I finally went back and fixed the display issues that cropped up in one of my past WordPress upgrades having to do with the display of Latin-1 characters from a UTF-8 database. Followed these instructions and it seems to have worked like a charm.

I also went through and re-organized the categories, simplifying to the things I seem to write on the most: podcasts, books and a catch-all miscellaneous. I also set all of the work related posts I did here in the PLM category to private. I put them here at a time when the business wasn’t blogging, but now that they are I can focus on non-work stuff here, making the purpose a little clearer to everyone – most of all me 😉

Lastly I moved to the new default WordPress template which seems to have some cool things supporting blocks. I may eventually buy or build my own template, but this will do for now.

Categories
miscellaneous

Neil’s mushroom hunters

Love Neil Gaiman and love collaborations with his wife even more.

Categories
books

Reboot

I am going to attempt to keep better track of the books I have read with quick posts here. These won’t be full reviews per se, but rather simply a note (perhaps just to myself) that I finished it and a few of the things I am taking away. The idea is that a year or more into the future when I am trying to remember either the title of a book I read or where I picked up an idea, I can just search my own blog. Rather lazy I know and another outsourcing of memory to the machines, but what can I say.

A colleague at work reccomended the reboot.io podcast to me several months ago. It sounded interestin so I added it to my feed, but didn’t get around to listening to an episode until over the Christmas break. Wow. I was interested in the subject mentioned in the title (reclaiming the shadow) but didn’t expect to hear what I did. I had to know more.

Turns out the podcast is a promo for a book of the same name, so a few days later I was absolutely devouring this book. The big idea I walked away from is that many (all?) of us bring our unresolved childhood issues to work for the very simple reason that that’s where most of us are most of the time so where else do we have to work them out. I am a little learly of the line of thinking that blames everything on childhood, but the way that Jerry tells the story drew me in. It’s very personal.

Another amazing take away are the questions that are peppered throughout the book, some in line with the text and some at the end as invitations to journal. Here are some of my favorites:

  • What am I not saying that needs to be said? What am I saying (in words or deeds) that is not being heard? What’s being said that I am not hearing?
  • How would I act were I to remember who I am? What choices would I make, what actions would I take, if I regularly said the things that needed to be said?
  • When our employees and colleagues leave our sides and our company, what do I want them to say about our time together?
  • The question “Does my life have meaning” is really another set of questions “In what ways have I been brave? and “How have I been kind?”
  • How will I know my work is done?
  • What would it feel like to not have to know?
  • What might my reluctance about looking inward say about the protective patterns of my life? How might such reticense be shaping my organization and our ability to consider alternative possibilities?

If you are looking for something to shake you out of our ledership rut and set you in the direction of doing the hard, but meaningful work of self discovery with through an amazing combination of real stories from the front lines of startups, developmental psychology and budhism, then this is for you.