Friday, July 29, 2016

Band Review: Partisan

There is a Forbidden Planet remix, "Tonight", on Partisan's Soundcloud. Its pronounced techno elements make it a departure from the infectious grooves of their previous songs, which tend more toward rock anthems.

Truth be told, I prefer the rock. Songs like "Grounded" and "Pushing Up Daisies" are hard to resist. However, a new song, "Juggernaut", was recently added. While it is closer in overall sound to the earlier songs, there are some synthesized accents that do not detract.

It seems reasonable to conclude that while Partisan is already a band that knows what they're doing, that they are still learning and growing and expanding their boundaries.

Coming from Manchester, Partisan plays frequent dates in the UK but has some US dates coming up in the fall.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Band Review: The Black Tubes

I had been thinking already been thinking that The Black Tubes reminded me of The Clash before I heard the "Oi".

That doesn't exactly explain it right. There are a lot of Clash songs that cover a wider range than the five tracks I was able to find for The Black Tubes. Thinking about it further, they reminded me of Magazine as well. Together that puts us in England (The Black Tubes are from Brighton), with both early punk and post punk, but giving us a time period that it was perfectly reasonable to greet with an "Oi!" It was good to hear.

I only really heard that chorus on "PDA (Public Displays Of Affection)", but it worked. It went with the sentiments and the guitar playing and the sound.

They're a young band, but they have learned some things from the past, and they can carry that forward in a good way.

Wishing them well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Naming and understanding

I am not proud of the following story.

When I was in grade school there was a girl who I believed was mentally disabled. This did not affect my interactions with her, because we never interacted that much. Somehow we never had a class together until 10th grade. For recess, I had already been burned by girls, so except for a brief period where I got into jumping rope I was either with my small and trusted group of friends or playing basketball.

Once we got into that first class together in 10th grade, she was really clever and funny. I'd had no idea. As time went on, I came to know many people with cerebral palsy, and I started to realize that's probably what she'd had, and it had nothing to do with intelligence. I believe that one class was the only one we had together, so we were probably never destined to hang out a lot anyway, but I always felt bad that I had assumed anything about her.

Thinking about it later, I realized that when kids were making fun of special needs students - which at the time we called retarded - the way they talked and held their hands was more reflective of cerebral palsy. This was not a mockery that I participated in, but I've seen it more than once. I suspect that when the R-word was thrown around, the people who were using it weren't too careful to understand the actual challenges being faced.

On a related note, I remember being really happy to learn about Asperger's Syndrome. I wasn't happy that it existed, but there had been people where there was something different about them that I couldn't place, and suddenly it made sense. It feels like it wasn't long after that we were supposed to move away from using that term, where it became preferable to refer to being on the spectrum.

I like understanding things. Sometimes being able to attach a name to something feels like a step in that direction. Okay, someone has described it, and figured things out about it, and this is what we call it now. That's great, until some knowledge of a condition becomes a way to write off a person.

When hearing "Asperger's" means the full set of symptoms - even if you understand those symptoms accurately (which is not always the case) - then it carries a set of assumptions about limitations for that person. But there is a spectrum, and you don't know the person's abilities until they are revealed individually.

That is true for many things that are broadly categorized as disabilities. Going back to cerebral palsy, I've seen a wide range of functions for both mobility and speech. Those are pretty easy to pick up on.

There are other conditions where it's harder. For people with Brittle Bone disease or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, people often question their use of a wheelchair or a parking permit, but it's needed.

To some extent, learning more about possible conditions is helpful; these are things that can happen to people. Knowledge is not enough when there is an attitude of always wanting to be able to easily label and cast aside.

It may surface as derision when learning of a new conditions, like sensory processing disorder. "Oh boy! Everyone's disabled now!"

It may surface as impatience with individuals or attempts to meet their needs. It may appear as a polite dismissal of hearing more. Maybe naming things as we learn about them adds to that, because that moves it into the realm of disability and an able person who is not affected can choose to stop caring.

Despite that, I know that one of the most important things humans do is getting to know each other. Part of that can be "These things are hard for me, but these are the things I can do."

Everyone has things that are hard for them, and has things they can do.

When we put that together we can help each other.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I am always amazed by people who have their Myers-Briggs type in their profiles. I can't believe they even remember it.

Of course, if you think it is important, then it is probably easier to remember it. It feels like the one I see most is INTJ, which is apparently rare, so if they got that one, maybe there is more motivation to advertise it. Personally, I kind of hate personality tests.

This may seem hypocritical. People-pleaser resonated with me strongly for the 9 Personality Types, as did Physical Touch for the 5 Love Languages. Clearly I can find meaning in systems of categorization and analysis, and in understanding motivations.

Part of my annoyance is that when you are taking the tests, none of the answers are exactly right. You have to make a choice, and if over forty questions you keep leaning one way then I guess meaning can be derived, but it doesn't feel truly reflective. And I say this as someone who after getting on Facebook created quizzes for both which A-Team member and which Ramone you were. (Facebook used to be more fun.)

That feeling that it isn't really the full picture is bothersome, but what gets me more is people being stupid about it.

One of the things I am working on now is transcribing my mission journal, so many memories are coming back. There was one missionary I knew in Fresno who was really fun-loving and cute in her personality - deliberately so. Her birthday was coming up, so I worked with some other sisters to arrange a surprise birthday breakfast for her, and it was at the breakfast that I noticed that she had a really hard time acknowledging me. That seemed odd.

It later became clear that she put a lot of stock into the Hartman Personality Profile, or Color Code. She was a Yellow, motivated by fun. She had decided I was a Red, motivated by power. Someone who explained the test thought that I was a red with some yellow (she herself was a blue/white), but the birthday girl was sure I was all red, and yellows don't like reds. I guess we are too bossy. In a case like that, organizing a birthday party was just a sign of my need to control things.

My first reaction was to feel really hurt and rejected. This was made much worse when the mission had a sisters conference shortly after that, and there was a presentation on the Color Code. I did not get much out of that conference.

Looking at it now, the Color Code does not seem particularly scientific, and the red personality doesn't seem like a fit for me. I didn't even know the deal was motivated by power then. It felt like it just meant that I was loud but not fun.

Mainly, though, I felt it was pretty rotten to pigeon-hole someone and reject them so quickly just because you had read a book.

I do kind of get it. As a People Pleaser, Attention Seekers are my kryptonite. You try to gratify them by paying them attention, and it can never enough, no matter how sucked dry you get. I do sometimes find myself shutting down around particularly needy people.

At the same time, I have seen many people called attention-seekers as a way of writing them off, being told that their issue is not legitimate, and their need is not legitimate. It's easy to throw labels around as a way of negating someone. It is also wrong.

I recently listened to a webinar on yet another way of categorizing people (Changing Minds). Here the whole point was to know what other people are so you know how to approach them: for this type it's important to socialize first for a few minutes, whereas with this other type you need to get right down to business. Of course, since people do not come with labels, you need to either figure it out or know from someone else.

It all seems so unnecessary. If we are going to pay attention to people anyway, do we need to categorize it? If you are going to analyze what is important to you and how you work best, does it need an acronym?

I guess I still think it's silly. Trying to study and understand yourself and others isn't silly, but, yeah, I think the framework that gets put around it is.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Odder jobs

When I wrote about writing out my job history as a story, I mentioned that I even included the earliest things like sport jobs. I did not get paid for managing the soccer and basketball teams, but for the track team I was officially keeping score, and I earned $12 a meet for that.

I also ran the clock for summer basketball, and that was a paid position. I scheduled McDonald's shifts around it, where I might have made more money just taking more shifts at the drive-through, but I liked sports, and I liked doing sports jobs.

That almost changed with umpiring Little League Softball. It was terrible.

This was a long time ago, and I know that it isn't like this anymore. This was over a decade before Mo'Ne Davis was even born. I don't know if some of the changes that have led to the players doing better have pushed out less athletic kids or if coaches are meaner - I hope it's still good for everyone. I just know that in the late '80s, based on the two games I did in this corner of the world, it was awful.

No one could really hit or pitch well. The most common thing that would happen was that there would be four balls so the batter would take a base, until that happened often enough to hit the 5 run limit per team per inning, and at that rate the games were never completed before it got called on account of dark.

That sounds really boring - and it was - but any time the monotony was broken by someone actually swinging and hitting the ball, no matter what happened, half of the parents would be mad at you, and there was no loyalty won with the parents who liked the call.

It sucked. There's really no other word. That being said, the guy I was doing it with kept doing it, so he obviously hated it a lot less.

That wasn't the best career fit for me, so I believe that not taking any more game assignments was a good choice, but I don't regret trying it. It is at least an interesting memory for me.

A more interesting story for me is the job I didn't get.

I always needed more money when I was in college. It didn't matter that I took time off to work; college was expensive and it was still much better then than it is now. Ways I earned money while there included working in the dorm cafeteria the first few years and the Science library my senior year, working at the Customer Service booth at the Albertsons on 18th & Chambers, and occasionally participating in lab experiments. I also applied for a lot of jobs that I did not get, and one of those was stand up comedian.

It was a bar that had live music, and they wanted four fifteen minute sets a night to give the band a break. I auditioned for the manager in the bar, but in the middle of the day when it was closed.

She really liked me at the audition. I think it was my first time doing it. I have done stand up routines at various talent shows, but that came later. For this I did pretty well. I realized as I was saying it that some jokes needed fine-tuning, but still she laughed and enjoyed me and it was great.

She did want me to audition again with new material, because I was geared more toward college students, and the main clientele here was actually truckers. You may think of Eugene as a college town, but outside of the immediate vicinity of the campus, it kind of isn't. I agreed to develop some material and come back, but she called me almost right away and it wasn't going to work out.

There was cash payment, but also a bar allotment. I don't drink, and could not have legally then anyway. She was going to see if they could pay a little more cash to compensate, but it turns out that my mere presence in the bar would have been an issue because of that whole minor thing. You can be there as a performer (including strippers), but only while performing. As it is important to be in tune with the crowd by being able to observe and listen, it again just wasn't a good fit.

I don't feel horrible about it, and it certainly wasn't something I would have wanted for a career, but it would have been a fun thing to have on my resume.

It's all been pretty conventional since then.

Did you know that I once spent a day cleaning 3-D glasses for a special train exhibit and preview for the Jim Carrey Christmas Carol?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Band Review: Boy from the Crowd

Boy from the Crowd is a London-based duo who plays a brand of rock that pulls from punk, blues, and the garage rock of the '70s.

In their own words, "One of the things that makes rock ’n’ roll great is its little imperfections..." They bring this into their own music with feedback and distortion, giving a roughness to the sound.

That may be best heard in "All I Need", but they have also recorded a single of "Johnny B. Goode". Hearing how they handle such a familiar tune gives a good idea of the band's aesthetic.

It would still not be complete without listening to "Where the Bees Come to Die", an instrumental inspired by the environment and man's relationship with it. By eliminating they typically hard-edged vocals, it shows a different side of the band.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Band Review: Jesse Quin

Jesse Quin is the bass player in Keane, and his own music was recommended some time ago by his bandmate, drummer Richard Hughes.

There is a lot to explore. Quin describes himself as "Amateur musician for hire", and gets a fair amount of jobs (calling the "amateur" into question). He has also played with Mt. Desolation, The Wedding Band, Laura Marling, and Jesse Quin & The Mets. For the purposes of this review, I have focused on his solo work, as found on Soundcloud.

"Still Life" opens up very quietly, softly winding its way into your consciousness. As personal and individual as it begins, it grows into something united and universal.

That pattern probably makes "Still Life" the most ambitious of the three tracks. "Another Year" has some similarities in mood, but then it becomes interesting to compare it, and then to compare the much more techno "Thousand Mile Stare".

The overwhelming feeling is a sense of intimacy. There are so many things that Quin can do, and so many places where he can fit it, but there is also this, just him, engaging peacefully in a beautiful way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Putting it all out there

One job type that I never look at is sales. Asking people for things is hard for me. If the specific goal is getting their money, that is even harder. (This is one reason that an agent would be a huge help.)

Selling yourself is part of job-hunting, and that particular aspect is difficult for me. I've never felt that I look good on paper, going back to when it was time to apply for college scholarships and I discovered that I had done my high school activities all wrong. That some of the best things I have done in most jobs have been outside of the regular job description has contributed. There are various positions that I can fill, despite having no history of it. Realistically, the lay off was a big blow to my self-esteem as well.

There was an exercise that I did to remind myself of what I was capable of, and what examples I could use for backup. I had been looking at transferable skills, and I decided to do a journal session telling my career history as a story. How did I find each job? What was it like there? Why did I leave? Often there were direct connections between jobs, especially for my Intel time. I left nothing out. I even wrote about my early time babysitting and picking berries, followed by sports jobs, all of which happened before McDonalds.

Some threads emerged. Yes, I found myself remembering things I had done and am capable of doing that I hadn't thought about for a while. That was useful for resume building and my LinkedIn profile.

I think it was even more useful to remember that I am competent and responsible. My job has never been the most important thing in my life, but I still do it well. People trusted me and gave me extra responsibility. When contract rules created time limits, people looked for ways to keep me. They believed I could do things that were new but built on what I had been doing. And they were right.

Let me add a couple of notes to that. Anyone who follows me regularly knows that writing comes very naturally to me. It's how I work things out in general, so there's no surprise when I turn to it for something like this. If that doesn't work for you, other things can.

I have a friend who needs to be talking to someone else to work things out. If that's what you need, there's probably a friend you can talk to. There are career and life coaches if you need it to be more formal.

If that doesn't sound right for you, try drawing your work history as a timeline and adding graphs. Chart out your skills as a map. There will be a way of tackling things that is more effective for you, and there is a lot of value in finding it.

The other thing that has been very helpful is that a long time ago I wrote up a list of jobs and kept adding to it.

Resumes would have a lot of information, but not everything that gets asked on a job application. It is common to be asked for addresses and phone numbers, and sometimes for supervisor names and starting and ending wages as well. That has been a very helpful reference all along, but it served as a good job for my memory as well. If you don't have something like that, think about creating one. Fifteen years later it can be hard to remember a supervisor's name.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Answering the calls

One of the worst parts of job hunting has been how it necessitates answering the phone.

Someone could be calling about a job; you can't risk not answering. That means hearing everything else that Caller ID previously told you to ignore:

"I am from Windows support calling about your computer..."

"You must call your credit card company now to inquire about lowering your interest rates..."

"The career politicians in Salem..."

It isn't just that I have to pick up on those calls, because job hunting also led to more calls. No. Not like that. Initially every time I completed an online application I would receive a phone call about getting me into an education program.

"I'm really just looking for a job now."
"But after you've been working for a few months, would you be interested in going back to school?"

Having aggressively asked to be removed from the list a few times, that one has stopped, but there are still all the others. I was almost deciding that they didn't matter anyway. Every time I have gotten any communication about an actual possible job, it has been through e-mail. Employers have probably gotten tired of call screening and phone tag as well. That was before the leak.

Just at the beginning of the month, we found a wet spot in the family room. That particular spot has been hit once before, when there was a clog in the drain line on the washing machine. It was the Friday before the 4th of July, and finding anyone to come at all was hard, but we did get someone to come and clean the line, paying steeply for it.

The wet came back. There was also a leak in the washing machine itself, and there was enough wet that there was water damage.

This means that we have needed to make and take many calls: warranty support for the washing machine, the insurance company, the water mitigation team, the abatement team, and there will still be contractors.

People have generally been helpful and kind. Safeco has my business for life at this point. Still, there are all of these busy teams with multiple places to go, and things that need to be done in a certain order, like you can't disconnect and move the washing machine to get at the wet floor underneath it when you are still waiting for the part that needs to be replaced to arrive and be installed.

Things can go wrong very easily. I gave the home number as the main number, but I also gave the cell phone as a backup number. This seemed reasonable even though I never hear it ring. One person got the cell phone as the main number, and gave it to the others to call. I got it corrected with one team, but another scheduler called the cell phone on Friday night fifteen minutes after I had checked on it and decided we obviously weren't going to hear from them that day. That set us back a few days for getting in.

It's nerve-wracking. You can't leave the house, because they might call. Wait, did the phone get knocked off the hook? Where is my cell now? It rings; is that them? No, it's usually one of my sisters, checking to see if we have heard anything. That usually accounts for about five calls a day.

And they're people I would have picked up for when I was still screening.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Linking up and in

I'm going to write about some aspects of job hunting this week. After all, I'm not the only one in this position, and there are some things that can be wise to do even when happily employed. One good project at any time is improving your LinkedIn profile. Here's mine:

I have added job history and training and even some test scores, but my big focus has been increasing my connections. I was told I should try to get to at least 500. I think I was previously at 85.

That makes my current number of 319 connections very impressive, but the early fast accumulation has petered out. At this rate, making it to 500 is very far away. However, I now understand why they give you 500 as a goal - after that your connections display as 500+. You appear to have a maximum level of connectedness then, even if the actual number is 501.

There is a value to having many connections beyond the appearance of being well-connected, and effective networking is its own topic. LinkedIn will do job searches, and when you are interested in one, they will tell you if you have connections or fellow alumni at the company. In addition, people try to fill jobs before they are posted publicly. When whom you know matters, knowing more people is helpful. That is not what I am writing about today.

If you are currently in the phase of trying to build up your connections, and need enough connections to be somewhat undiscriminating, I have made some observations on that process.

There are three options for growth under My Network: Add Contacts, People You May Know, and Find Alumni.

Add Contacts: This feature allows you to use your e-mail address book to find potential connections. It can be useful, but depending on your e-mail habits it may cast too wide a net. In addition to having made several agent inquiries recently, I have in the past been the administrator on different preparedness newsletters.

Find Alumni: I have not found a way to do this for my high school, where I would know lots of people. For my college, first it brings up all the Ducks I am already connected to - whom I do know - and then quickly goes to people who are completely unfamiliar.

It is handy that if you have a school in common that is enough to request to connect, even if you have no other connections in common. Some alumni may not remember you specifically, but still be willing to connect because of school spirit. I generally do not try and connect with people I have never met, but you can do it. This leads to our final tool...

People You May Know: This will contain a lot of people you don't know. There will be people that you know too, and you will click Connect, and if they check LinkedIn regularly your numbers will soon grow, but there will be many more that are not suitable for connection.

Initially this is pretty interesting. You see people you know, and then people who are familiar but not really known - like that guy you always used to pass in the hall on your way to the cafeteria. Now you know his name without ever having gotten close enough to read his badge.

There are near misses that give you an idea of the algorithm. Okay, I think that's Deanna's daughter-in-law, and that's Rachel's father. That is definitely my sister's manager's son's wife.

Then there are things that are more confusing. I know someone with that name, but this is not that person. This name is not familiar, but they look a lot like a different person I know.

Sometimes it can be very sad. One time a former co-worker and an old friend who both died of cancer came up right next to each other.

Generally speaking, these are not people you would not click to Connect with, but scroll past them and the list will keep getting longer. The task of going through them all grows, inversely proportional to the hope of finding other acquaintances.

You don't have to keep scrolling through the same unfamiliar faces. Clicking the X in the upper right corner dismisses them, at least temporarily. Do this a few times, and even previously populated rows will go away. "Fine!" the algorithm seems to say, "I guess there are no people you know."

I try and do a combination of both, scrolling far down looking one time, and dismissing early the next. At first I would feel guilty about clicking away these smiling faces, but I had to remember that I am not rejecting them as people; I'm just saying we don't know each other.

That leads us back to that question of connecting with people you don't know. You can try it. It might work. They might think they know you or decide more connections is good regardless. They might feel the attempted connection is an imposition too, but as strangers they will probably have forgotten you if you do encounter each other in the future. The risks seem relatively low, but it still feels weird to me. I need to have some memory of you.

But if you want to connect, and I don't remember you, but you seem like a reasonable person, I am probably going to accept that. And right now, I am on there every day.

And every connection increases the chance of me finding more people that I actually do know.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Band Review: Voltaire

Voltaire was recommended by Ray Toro, who was a guest on Voltaire's 2014 album Raised By Bats (despite a song plea from 2007's Ooky Spooky to "Bomb New Jersey"). In honor of Ray's birthday today, I decided to check Voltaire out.

Some works are listed under just Voltaire, and others under Aurelio Voltaire, an adjustment to finding other bands using the Voltaire name. That seems like a strange issue, because Aurelio Voltaire is one of a kind.

Pulling musical influences from cabaret and folk, songs come out as tangos and drinking songs and sea shanties. Also as country music, especially on Hate Lives in a Small Town. Then sometimes things come out surprisingly - almost conventionally - beautiful. I really responded to "Feathery Wings" and I can't compare it to anything.

His Youtube channel does not have much in the way of conventional music videos, but there are videos with career and decorating advice, as well as a pictorial narration of his book, Candy Claws, which shows off another side of how rich and smooth his voice is.

Melodies are often infectious, with easy cadences that seem to lend themselves to children's entertainment. This makes sense given Voltaire's collaboration with Cartoon Network and "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy". At the same time, some parents may be concerned about whether the artist's gleeful embrace of evil and the macabre is a good fit for their children. My only advice is a warning that he seems to get much dirtier when talking about both Star Trek and Star Wars. I don't know why; it's just the impression that I get.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Band Review: Direct Hit!

Direct Hit! are the most punk thing I have listened to lately: fun and obnoxious.

I was checking them out based on the recommendation of The All-American Rejects' Mike Kennerty, in commemoration of his birthday next week.

I appreciate the way Direct Hit! is capable of hardcore but does not overdo it; that can become old very quickly.

Their execution is fresh and enjoyable. Even looking at the tempo and length of most songs, it feels very traditionally punk, but nothing feels dated.

For the obnoxious part, you know, either it will bother you or it won't. If traditional punk sounds good to you, you can probably live with it.

I enjoyed the band.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Picture it

It makes sense - with such a colorful theme - that color would leave the lasting impression on me. That's what happened.

It was reinforced by later activity. I started feeling a compulsive need to color later as my subconscious was begging me to relax:

Those issues aside, it was a pleasurable thing to see the difference that adding color made to each design. I saw their appeal when they were just in black and white, but the color made them pop. 

Adult coloring books are really big now, but you will be amazed by the amount of free coloring sheets online. Also, some of the "adult" patterns take on a level of complication that can make the relaxation aspects backfire.

Even though I did not get to color much on karaoke night, I got to observe it then too. I could see what other people were coloring, but also, there was the mural.

When I first got the idea I thought it would be nice to have one really big sheet that people could work together on. I didn't know how to make that happen with some cohesiveness unless I drew it. (Well, I could have asked someone else to do it, but I don't know whom.)

My initial idea was the local landscape, but I was picturing all of these Portland things, and we are really Beaverton. Still, we do things in other locations. We had things planned in Lake Oswego and Hillsboro, and had done things in Portland in the past.

Anyway, I drew something, and it wasn't great, because I am not a great artist, but it still felt good to do. 

It became so much better as color was added. 

I feel good about that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Karaoke Coloring Night!

I don't remember exactly how we decided to put karaoke and coloring together. I know karaoke first started bouncing around because someone asked what kind of activity would get me there.

The thing is, I never went to single adult activities before. I appreciate them now, but once I am no longer on the committee, I may return to that pattern. It's not personal, but I am so busy all the time that I don't seek out additional things to do.

That's not true for everyone though, and if I am going to be involved I am going to do a good job, especially with karaoke. It can be hard to get people to participate. Outside of church activities that reluctance is usually being broken down by it being late at night with people drinking. That's not going to happen at a church activity.

I have been very familiar with the benefits of coloring; singing has some compatible benefits. I decided to frame things around that. Sing. Color. Play. Do the things that you used to do all the time without even thinking, but somehow getting older slowed you down. Maybe that's why these things are so good for you. Maybe they take us back to a time when we were younger, and more vibrant. More free.

Then it became a matter of thinking of all the things that could go wrong, and trying to fix them. They initially wanted to combine it with a dinner. That's a horrible idea. Getting people to go through the song lists, pick songs, get up and sing while eating a full meal, and get us out of there at a reasonable time is not going to happen. Karaoke food is finger food. Since we were focusing on color and good for you, the refreshments were colorful fruits and vegetables: strawberries, baby carrots, pineapple, kiwi fruit, and purple grapes. (Blueberries would have put me over budget.) Plus M&Ms!

Tablecloths would not be a good surface for coloring, but the tables at the church are a little bumpy too. Okay, we will put butcher paper across the tables. It is smooth, people can draw if they want, and it adds to the color, as we had tables that were red, orange, yellow, and blue.

One of the committee members had a karaoke machine and some music. Would it be enough? Initial e-mail attempts to get a list failed. It required a phone call, a hand off, and typing up the songs myself. It was not enough songs. That's okay; I ordered a 5-CD set. We only needed about two hours of music, but being able to find a song you like matters. That did mean typing up another hundred songs.

Would we have enough turnout? There are people who will be turned off by karaoke, associating it with late nights and alcohol. Also, they might be scared to sing. You can color without singing, but would that have enough appeal? I contacted several people directly to try and get them out, or at least make a case for why they should consider it. We didn't have as much turnout as I hoped, but we had some new people, and they may come to other things. In addition, those contacts were good, even with those who didn't come.

I wish I'd had a better idea of how many would have come. That would have solved the budget issue of both getting blueberries and being able to have 64-count instead of 24-count boxes of crayons, because I had eight tables, and we could have made it with four. But each of the eight tables had eight each of three different coloring sheets at various levels of difficulty. Oh, and there were colorful Life Savers to act as lozenges.

One thing I knew was that I would need to be willing to go first singing, I would need to have other people ready to go, and any other thing that could help loosen up people would be good.

I took some tips from the Sing Along Sound of Music. A coordinator there had warmed us up, singing one line and having the audience sing the next. We did that. I gave some tips (choose a song you love and own it, don't worry about your voice). We practiced giving a hearty round of applause, because anyone who came up was going to get one. This was going to be a supportive environment.

We also had group sings. Songs we had everyone sing together (with me leading) included "Sing" in the style of The Carpenters (easy chorus, very familiar), "YMCA" in the style of The Village People (familiar and hand motions so it really loosens people up), and "Stand By Me" in the style of Ben E. King (that was our closer). On my own I sang "Tainted Love" in the style of Soft Cell and "You Spin Me Round" in the manner of Dead or Alive. At the request of one friend, I was a backup dancer on "Fame".

I would have liked more people there, but I am so happy for everyone who did come and sing. I know it was hard for some people - it took some time and encouragement - but then it was good for us to share it.

And everyone colored well. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Day of Discovery

I thought I would focus this week on things that had kept me busy related to church assignments. I mentioned getting really busy a few months ago, but I didn't go into specifics. Two of the things keeping me busy were related to events that have now passed.

The first was a family history fair that ended up being called the Day of Discovery, but it took us a while to get there. My old seminary teacher (and bishop and home teacher, and parent I babysat for, depending on what life stage we focus on) was in charge and he requested that I be on the committee.

My first contribution was saying that there was no way I would be able to make 7 AM meetings. I was not the only one to have this concern, but I think it was important for each of us to say that. Sometimes that's the difference between one person being a spoilsport versus collective wisdom.

Family history fairs often consist primarily of speakers and workshops talking about what you can do and sharing inspiring stories, but in this case Bishop Brennan's priority was going to be on individual experiences. Attendees would get one on one time with family history consultants. Whether they were just starting out or experienced but hitting snags, they were going to get someone else to work on it with them.

The first thing that I noticed at the first meeting was that everyone else had callings specific to family history. I did not, though I have worked on it myself. I learned that my specific task was going to be working out the flow of the day - connecting visitors with consultants and keeping it going smoothly.

That seemed like an odd fit. I know people who have studied crowd dynamics and organizational behavior, and barring someone who'd studied that specifically, I would have thought maybe an engineer would be the way to go. Well, engineers sometimes think weirdly and I give the impression of organized. (That was the conclusion after some hinting around and finally asking directly, because I really wasn't sure I was the best person for the job.)

The carefully thought out plans did not work. My thoughts in terms of organization were that it would be better if visitors worked with family history consultants in their ward, and if visitors at the same level were in the same area.

We were going to have computer banks in three locations. If you had all of the beginners in one place, and advanced in another, it seemed reasonable that they could learn from each other, and we could have the consultants with the widest, deepest knowledge in same spot, collected with the toughest nuts. Then if a visitor is with a consultant from their own ward, whom they see regularly, follow up should come very naturally.

There was nothing wrong with the philosophy of that; but it was completely impracticable. To arrange that, you need to know who is showing up at what time, and what level they are at. Some time slots were filled out, but some visitors signed up in advance without it getting uploaded into the master schedule, finding out what they needed in advance added too much complication, and also an unexpected opportunity for leadership training came up that day that pulled a lot of people away.

Another thought I had was that the consultant could escort their visitor back to the spot they would be working at. That creates a glut of people at the entrance, assumes consultants will be done with their previous visitor at the start of the next hour (almost certainly not), and there's too much movement.

There were things I had to give up. Sending visitors on their own back to a specific area would not be good, but having escorts take three visitors at a time, match them up with their consultants, and then come back for more people worked well.

For matching people up, it did mainly go by availability, but as people came in I would ask if they had specific issues. If they did, I passed that on to the escort.

Starting with lofty goals and then adapting based on reality works. The first fifteen minutes was pretty hectic, largely because of people showing up early, but it worked out. People had good experiences. As we started getting visitors to consultants smoothly, I started having more time so I would visit with people as they were leaving. All of the visitors came away happy.

The most common deep technical issues were people having files in one format that they needed to get into another format; all of those were solved. There were people who weren't sure where to go next in their own research; they came away with ideas. Most of all, people who were intimidated at getting started had a friendly person at their side while they started, and it was confidence building.

That went for the consultants too. Some of them were very experienced, but others were less so. Getting a chance to see that yes, they do know what they are doing, and they know enough to help someone else, was meaningful, plus there was that boost that comes with helping someone.

The only way to feel about the day overall was good.

Finally, I participated in a meeting about a week later to go over what went well and what could be improved. At Intel we called these post-mortems. There's probably a better name for that, but the function of reviewing and learning from an experience while it is still fresh is invaluable.

The Day of Discovery was a win.

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Friday, July 08, 2016

Band Review: JG Beats

JG Beats is a producer and beatmaker, from whom you can purchase various beats to create your own tracks.

I have reviewed similar people, but they often had their own personal tracks as well, giving me a better idea of their specific tastes.

Here there seems to be some predilection toward big chained synth, and there is a lot to choose from, with 178 beats available.

I do not know enough about the process to know what to look for if you wanted to buy beats, but the selection and pricing look reasonable.