Good things

When your job involves a lot of finding where things are broken and fixing them, it’s easy to get in the habit of only paying attention to broken things. To help me offset all the criticism I regularly pile on my own head (there’s a lot), a friend recommended a simple little app called 3 Good Things.

It’s so basic that it seems absurd to have an app for this, but the design is friendly and spare, which I like. You set a time to receive the prompt, “What went well today?” And then you can journal about the high points of the day. On some no-good, very bad days, I confess I just write things like “had a nice cup of tea” or “tv on the couch” or “my socks are warm.” On better days, there’s better stuff, like “great conversation at dinner” or “the kids’s joy at the trapeze lesson.”

A mobile screenshot of the 3 Good Things App Store listing

It’s silly and minimal, but it helps me notice where hope, love, and sometimes even joy, are hiding in my life. You might like it too?

Dancing with production

I always enjoy the excellent podcast Hurry Slowly (hat tip Josepha Haden Chomphosy for the recommendation), and a recent episode called “Are you Satisfiable?” really resonated with me this week. The episode centers on the ideas of writer, facilitator, and activist adrienne maree brown, who recently published the book Pleasure Activism.

The whole interview is wonderful, but this particular passage caught my attention:

I think in the workplace, it’s been interesting to see how that kind of thinking, like “oh everything should be scheduled and controlled and managed,” moves us further and further away from the natural and organic rhythms at which creativity and miracle actually want to happen.

And I’m getting curious and interested about spaces that are starting to adapt to… what does it mean to acknowledge that we have organic human beings, um, in these places, and that there are processes that have an organic pace to them….

There’s something about being in right relationship to change that acknowledges that not all change is mean to be driven; some of it is meant to be experienced in other ways. And that perhaps the changes we’re in now, which are climate apocalypse changes, perhaps those changes are only happening because we’ve been trying to drive production, and instead we need to slow down and learn to dance with it, dance with what’s happening in the world, and I’m really getting curious about that.

adrienne maree brown, on the Hurry Slowly podcast “Are you Satisfiable?”

Personally, I am very comfortable when everything is scheduled and controlled and managed, but have found that I am much more able to think creatively when I am not scheduling and controlling and managing.

Likewise, I frequently find myself with a seed of an idea, that escapes me when I try to force it into being. If I leave it alone, though (I think of it as allowing the idea to gestate in my “back brain”), the seed is much more likely to grow and bear fruit. It resonates with me that my organic brain might best create on an organic pace.

I also love the idea of dancing with production, rather than trying to drive it. So much of technology work — development, design, documentation, support — is creative work. What could happen if more respect and space were given to the non-linear, non-schedule-able process of creation?

Innovation and Empathy for Loss

In reading Megan Risdal‘s excellent article, Reflections on Stack Overflow: Building Successful Communities, I was struck by a particular passage:

Have empathy. Loss aversion is a very real thing. Even if simplifying something is the best thing for users by all other accounts, taking something away still hurts. And this impacts not just end users, but the people who originally worked on a feature. You can have empathy by understanding how they use the feature and asking about the historical context around its original creation.

– Megan Risdal, Reflections on Stack Overflow: Building Successful Communities

Here’s a good definition of loss aversion: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-loss-aversion/

I think technologists in particular — because we are so fond of innovation — tend to look down on people who express aversion to loss. That disparaging attitude isn’t very respectful, and thus doesn’t lead to very respectful or productive conversations.

Certainly, change is a part of life, but likewise every change is a kind of a death — perhaps the death of something that should die, but any loss can cause deep sadness… and even a crisis of belonging. When innovating, it’s worth asking yourself whether you can find a way to give people the space to grieve the loss associated with the change, holding space for their pain, rather than just brushing them off as short-sighted enemies of progress.

Talking leadership, events, and open source with Cory Miller

I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with my friend Cory Miller about leadership, event organizing, and open source today. Check out that conversation if you’d like to hear about the three epiphanies that have changed the way I think about my work!

Cory has a ton of great content on his Youtube channel, too — he’s a wise leader with a strong sense of ethics, who has also shared some important insights around mental health in the tech entrepreneur space. If you care about those things too, check out his body of work; it’s great.

Post-summer camp study hall

After I pick the kids up from summer camp every day at 4, I still have an hour of work to do (at least). If the kids want to watch some tv, they have to spend some time with their workbooks. So our afternoons frequently look like this, with all of us working at the kitchen table together. 

I wish I could say they smiled all the time while working. Heck, I wish I could say that about myself. 

Worth reading: The Skamania County Pioneer

I spent a weekend on the Columbia Gorge recently, and happened to buy a copy of The Skamania County Pioneer, the local paper, in a Stevenson, Washington. 

1. There are still local newspapers in small towns; isn’t that good to know?

2. This paper has a Sheriff’s Incident Log that is pure, unadulterated GOLD. 

Out-of-towner subscriptions are only $35 per year. If you want to help support local papers, and can spare the cash, you can call (509) 427-8444 to subscribe and keep up to date on the happenings in the Gorge. If you also like to use story prompts for writing exercises, you’ll be quite pleased with the Pioneer’s Sheriff’s Incident Log, as you’ll see in the photos below. 

That green trailer haunts me to this day.
“covered in red paint for some reason.”
Horses. Always skedaddling when you least expect it.
Relax everyone. The goats are ok.

Cauliflower and Rutabaga Curry

img_7318I really like eating vegetarian lunches, to cut down on my meat consumption, and also because most vegetarian meals are high in fiber and low in calories. This usually means that I cook a big pot of something over the weekend that I eat for lunch all week. It might sound like a lot of work, but when you tend to forget to eat lunch until you’re starving past the point of thinking straight (cough), it’s really nice to know exactly what you can eat to fix that calorie deficit, pronto.

Andrea’s Lunch Dish is also handy for getting my fix of foods that the rest of my family doesn’t much like. The kids aren’t about to start eating spicy Thai red curry anytime soon, and it would just be a misery for us all if I asked them to. So last week, my pot-of-lunch was a cauliflower and rutabaga curry, over wilted spinach and quinoa. A friend mentioned wanting the “recipe” and voila! a blog post is born.

This dish is dead simple, if you have the ingredients handy. I started with 1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets, and 3 rutabagas, peeled and cubed to about a 1/2 inch size. I minced up about half a small onion and sauteed it in about a 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, until it was soft. Then I tossed in the cauliflower and rutabaga and sauteed on medium for about 5-10 minutes, until it was starting to soften. Then I tossed in about a tablespoon of red curry paste — Taste of Thai is easy to find at most grocery stores, but that’s an affiliate link if you need to mail-order; it keeps forever and is very versatile — and move that around for a while in the pan to try to coat the veggies with the paste. This is just to avoid having big chunks of curry paste hiding in the dish, ouch. You can use more or less curry paste, depending on your heat preference. 🙂

Once the paste has kind of melted around the veggies, toss a can of coconut milk on top — can be light or full-fat coconut milk, as you prefer (I prefer regular coconut milk; the light version tastes thin to me), and mix it all up. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Hopefully the veg was mostly cooked before you threw the coconut milk on, but if you underestimated and you need to simmer it for 20 minutes longer, that’s fine. When the veg is soft enough for you, take the whole thing off the heat. I let it cool on the stove for an hour or two before I put it in the fridge, to keep my fridge from having to work too hard.

I happened to also make a big pot of quinoa on Monday of the week that I was eating this, so this week I ate the curry over that. But it could have been nearly any kind of starch — rice, noodles, etc. When it was lunch time next, I just put a few handfuls of  fresh baby spinach on about 3/4 cup of  cold quinoa, and microwaved that for about 2m to wilt the spinach. then spooned about a cup of curried vegetables with sauce on top of that, and then microwaved another 2m or so until hot. Toss some chopped cilantro on top if you want to be SUPER fancy.

You can make this same kind of curry with practically any vegetable. Cubed butternut squash with broccoli, cauliflower with potato, rainbow carrots and kale, japanese eggplant and snap peas maybe. If you keep a few cans of coconut milk in the pantry and curry paste in the fridge, you also have the base ingredients for a delicious coconut curry soup made from pureed squash, potato, cauliflower whatever. Many yummy dishes await you! Enjoy.