Monday, November 24, 2014

Train of Thoughts: Day One Homeward Bound

A very interesting day.  Arrived at the Office at 11 am and was meeting with a student at 11:30!  Definitely up and running. Didn't feel too much out of my league.  Need to get the process down so that I'm more focussed on the experience.  All good.  Made me appreciate my familiarity with how I do things.  Probably a good thing to step out of your comfort zone every now and then to reassess what you actually know.

Train of Thought: Launch

The week before Halloween 2014, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs called me to ask if I would have an interest in helping our colleagues at UC Santa Barbara by spending some time there helping them adjudicate cases.  I first chatted with the Associate Dean of Students at UCSB by phone from Hartford, CT and then later in person.  After speaking with my supervisors and colleagues at UCLA and then my family and friends, I agreed to take the train to UCSB 2 days a week and meet with students there.  Today is my first day traveling to Santa Barbara. 

As my daughter Ally asked this morning, it does feel like its my first day of school.  I wonder if they will like me, will I make any new friends, how long will I be the new kid, and when is nap time.  I have a feeling that nap time will come on the train on my way home. 

I'll wait until after today to determine who I should have brought the apple to.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Digital Civility

I was recently engaged in both a verbal and digital interchange with an old friend who asked whether my life was better through my constant access through a smart phone that twitters, messages, facebooks, emails, and ... oh yeah, is used as a phone. She wanted to know whether I really believed that my life was enhanced by such useage. She was also frustrated with friends who had to constantly be IMing over lunch and coffee. After giving a great deal of thought to her questions, I responded with the following email:

I think that you are responding to people's lack of civility and common sense more so than whether twitter or mobile access to communication is a good thing. I most assuredly agree with you regarding the frustration I experience when I'm with people who are constantly using their phones to check emails or tweets or the stock market or ..... I often bring it to their attention by suggesting that they may not know that they can turn off all notifications except for the phone. Since most phones have the ability to be specific about which notifications you want to receive, there is no reason to receive a vibration every time some someone tells you what they are eating.

I do think that civility has taken a downturn in the world. This goes hand in hand with an artificial sense of familiarity. Many students do not know how to address faculty and staff electronically since their primary form of communication is e-mail or instant messaging. Digital literacy is not something we teach and I'm reminded of this on a daily basis.

Returning to your questions regarding the quality of my life related to the availability of more up to date communications; I see it no differently than what advantages might be afforded when you compare reading news on line versus the daily newspaper. If the content is identical which is the case with the New York Times and the LA times, I believe the convenience of access has enhanced my life and made it more convenient to receive information. Similarly, the availability of email for communications has enhanced my access to my friends and colleagues over the use of the postal system.

There is no question that digital communication can detract from the here and now if we allow it to. It can also abuse the nature of a relationship when people choose to send so much digital spew that it truly does not feel like thought generated by the people we know. In fact, the vast majority of digital communication comes in the form of forwarding or retweeting content that the sender found amusing.

I have often shared the following with people who I like, but who feel it is essential to forward every funny thing they find:

If you think I would really like the 55th picture of a kitty on a piano, please print it, cut it out, put it in an envelope, and mail it to me with a handwritten note telling me why you think it's so special and why you believe I would like it. That makes it so much more personal and causes those people to think about whether it's that important for me to know about it.

In regard to the terrible things that happen when people message or tweet with no thought to what they should be doing, I can't agree with you more. I could say the same thing about passing the bag of fries or dropping a cigarette in the car. We've only just recently outlawed the use of phones while driving. We haven't done the same thing with food, smoking, looking back at your kids in the back seat or the 15 other things people do that cause them to get killed.

I believe that the availability of mobile devices has made it easier for me to stay in touch with people I care about like my family and friends. It does allow me the benefit of knowing about things in a more timely method than previously. Does it change the quality of my life? It enhances my ability to carry out things that I was unable to effectively do previously. Is my life better? I suppose I'd have to say yes because it allows me to stay more aware of things that are important to me. And that is a benefit.

The next time your friends at lunch pull out their phones, ask them if they could wait until after lunch to do it. If not, then schedule lunch with them when they think they can. The same can be said for people that take calls and then motion to you that it will be very very short. It's your time. You have a reason to be offended when they show a lack of civility.

Just my thoughts

Sunday, March 22, 2009

No Wonder the Film Business is Having Difficulty Fighting Pirates!

Last Wednesday evening I decided it would be fun to go to the movies with my daughter and her roommate. The only film we had an interest in seeing was slated to begin at 12:05 AM on Thursday, the 19th (later that night). I went on line to purchase the tickets for the 3 of us and I entered the necessary information for the purchase.

The system confirmed my purchase and then printed out the tickets... for 12:05 AM on Friday, the 20th (the next night and after my daughter would be leaving town).

I called the theater and ended up having to speak with two people. The second person, no doubt a manager, explained to me that this was an industry standard and a problem that the industry as a whole had been trying to solve. I calmly explained that there could be only one Thursday the 19th at 12:05 AM and that this was the one that was coming up in 3 hours, not the supposed industry standard of the one that supposedly was coming up in 27 hours.

The person failed to acknowledge that their website was incorrect and went on to say that this was the industry standard because it was the end of their business day. After the person confirmed that a credit had been issued to my credit card for my cancellation, I thanked him and wondered about the state of the industry.

If this is an industry standard, and an industry wide problem that many exhibitors are trying to solve, I no longer have hopes that this group of industry professionals will find a solution for piracy. At least not the ArcLight Theater in Sherman Oaks, California.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Shouldn't your Work make you Happy?

Yesterday afternoon after promising myself and my wife that I really would get out to the backyard to remove the cobwebs over our patio, I found myself running a hot bath and finishing a book that had 15 pages left. As I eased myself down, I thought about the amount of water that I was displacing and tried to calculate the percent of water that I didn't have to run because of the enormity of my body. I also thought about the percentage of the 600 page book I had already read and how long that had taken.

This of course led to my ongoing fascination with using percentages as mental and visual markers to help us better understand the significance of situations.

Take as an example your age.
If I believe that based upon my sex, body type, lifestyle, family history, and other variables, that I will live to be 90, then every 9 years represents 10% of my life. Being 54, I therefore have lived 60% of my life ((54/9) x .10). More significantly, I have 40% of my life left and a smaller percent of my work life left. WOW. That's a pretty eye opening percentage.

About 20 years ago (22.22% of my life ago) I found myself feeling unfulfilled, dissatisfied with what I was doing at work, and in general, out of sorts with the world. I started looking about for causes of this malaise and in the process starting thinking about those things in my life that had previously brought me joy. At first I looked at things in my recent past that brought a smile. The birth of my son, my wife, my accomplishments, time spent with friends. These were all in OK shape but then again, when you're feeling not quite right, everything is just OK.

I decided to dig deeper and go back as far as I could remember, posing the question: "As you look back, what comes up as something that made you happy?" One of my first "happy making" memories was making Batman for Governor buttons. In actuality, did I love "making" the buttons? NO. I made them with something called a Mattel VacuForm. I used to burn myself, cut my fingers, and I hated how long each one took to make.

But I loved selling them. I loved the excitement of kids running around the playground wanting them and buying them for $.25 each. I even enjoyed getting in trouble with the Principal who told me I couldn't sell them anymore because of all of the commotion. (He did end up buying the remainder of my inventory at retail and used them as incentives for "good" students).

I also had very happy memories of public speaking, acting, and performing in different bands. I even had a great memory of being asked to leave the elementary school orchestra (I played drums) because I chose to blow my nose at a somewhat inopportune moment with great volume.

When I looked at the list, I realized that there were a fair number of things that weren't part of my life at that time. I wasn't acting, I wasn't doing anything entrepreneurial, I wasn't doing very much public speaking, and I hadn't been performing musically, or even playing any music. As I kept looking at the things I wasn't doing, I realized that I could be doing a number of them at work.

My job at UCLA afforded me the flexibility of presenting workshops as often as I liked. And if the topic was of value to the community, I could write my own script and perform it. And if an idea took hold of my interest, I could develop it, find the resources for it, and turn it into something of value. I learned of the value of Intrepreneurship (operating like an entrepreneur inside of an organization instead of on your own). I also learned that by integrating some of the things that used to make me happy into my current life, I would find greater joy in what I was currently doing.

What percentage of your life is filled with things that make you happy? Wouldn't it make sense that if you knew what contributed to your happiness, and you were able to integrate that into your work life, you would like what you were doing for living.... or perhaps you might even think that it contributed to your life?

The next time you're feeling a bit out of sorts with the world and have enough energy left to look for the reasons why, look backwards instead of fantasizing about the future, and find those things that used to put a smile on your face. You may discover that they are simply missing from your current life and you need to find a way to get them back. To quote a great Beatles title, "Got to get you into my life" would be a pretty good directive for those things that used to make you happy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Things you should know about Digital Piracy

Some of you may know that I spend an inordinately large amount of my time dealing with UCLA students who have been caught sharing digital entertainment such as music and movies and software. Last May, I was interviewed for a podcast by my good friend Dr. Steven Steinberg for his Velcro Theory Podcast. I will put a link later to his podcast because you'll find it very interesting.

I have placed my interview here for your review and as they say, "your listening pleasure". If you think that it will save someone you know the aggravation of being sued by the RIAA, then please share. I'll have other things to say about the RIAA later. For now, here's my drone.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Importance of Mediocrity and Deserving what you're willing to accept

A few years ago, I found myself chatting with a soon to retire administrator at my daughter's school. I was expressing my frustration over scheduling conflicts for an important parent meeting we were hosting. As we walked to find an unoccupied classroom, the administrator attempted to console me by saying "you have to remember, it's just a public school".

One of Google's definitions for "just" is: "merely: and nothing more; "I was merely asking"; "it is simply a matter of time"; "just a scratch"; "he was only a child"; "hopes that last but a ...".

Using the first of the examples, that administrator was attempting to make me feel better by telling me that this was merely a public school and nothing more. Thus, in essence, stating that my expectations needed to be lowered because I had forgotten that public schools have to be accepted for what they are, and nothing more.

Asking me to accept a bad situation because it cant' be changed begs the question of accepting givens. If I accept what someone else tells me is a given, I choose not to vest myself in fixing the problem. If I accept someone else's report that "everything is fine", I am simply saying "I trust your judgment and/or I don't have the time or ability to check things out myself".

Let me pause for a moment and state unequivocally that this is not a treatise on the merits of micro management or promoting a strong lack of trust in others abilities or their intentions. I don't have time to do all of the tasks assigned to others, nor do I believe that this is ever healthy for organizations. That being said, I am much more interested in the concept of acceptance of bad situations, or as I like to put it, "the immutable nature of mediocrity".

Accepting Public Schools as being "just public schools", pays homage to their inability to change. If I don't challenge the position of a retiring administrator who has come to accept the immutable nature of Public Schools, I deserve all that comes with the sorry state of public education. And accept that my children will be provided with a mediocre education.

The next time someone uses the word JUST as a modifier, or asks you to accept the situation as a given and just, well.... immutable, you have a choice: Accept, or challenge and change.