Stumptown, what it is

6pm on a Saturday. Here it feels much later, since I attribute later hours to this level of darkness. Three weeks in, I am 5 weeks past the solstice. Between that and the uncharacteristically warmth of La Nina, I’m acclimating to these environs just fine.

I got my bike today. Two weeks after my first ride, yet only my 3rd day of recreation. Being back in a day job has been an adjustment by giving my daylight hours away to someone else. I’ve chosen to exchange my time and labor for the dynamics of office politics, a desk job, the predictable of payroll, and (ultimately) the travel to the Southeast. Or Deep South, in the office lexicon.

Deep South has been ‘up the coastline from Louisiana to Georgia plus Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee,’ as I’ve been describing it. And Monday at 7am we depart for the hub known as Atlanta’s Hartsfeld-Jackson. To drive west to Montgomery, southwest to NOLA, then north to Jackson.

Out of 8, 3 states I’ve ever been to. Not how I imagined visiting down South when I’ve dreamed of North Carolina since 2008. But, this has been an exercise in not being too fixated on a single plan to not heed the opportunities of misdirection.

Not fearing money, emotions and cizzacash

I am reading The Soul of Money after a colleague initiated a reading group. It names the tumult that arises with cash, class, and money. The blind propensity of chasing money for money’s sake, or the sake of the chase.

Growing up middle class in the ’80s and ’90s, I, too, was spoon-fed the dream, somebody’s dream (though I’m not quite sure who’s it is), of money money money. I remember being flown to NYC in college — all expenses paid, posh midtown hotel, dinner at some Afghan kebab house — by JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley or another of the robber baron institutions on the 1990s. I was the sole Economics major, cuz they were trying to recruit more people of color. The other students included an English major, a bio major, and some others. Few, or none, had done classes in economic theory, history. But, not one of us was offered an internship after our incessant questioning about the social good, the social impact, and the ends that that I-bank was amassing oodles of money. Though I was little versed in issues of workers, we still asked on who’s back was all that investment wealth being amassed.

So, we were quite relieved when we weren’t offered said internships. Instead, we had to find other options.

But I look within my family at who has money, how different people talk differently about their relationship to money.

And, it is a relief to NPR be making decisions for work, and career that aren’t driven by my own messy understanding of money’s dual roles: in my life, and in society.

Books at the decade’s dawn

Of all the books on my nightstand, there’s currently plenty o nonfiction:

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
I Will Teach You to be Rich, by Ranji Sethi
Post Traumatic Slave Disorder, by Joy DeGruy Leary
Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist
The Summer of Black Widows, by Sherman Alexie

Ambitious to read books simultaneously, but it works better for me. It’s kinda like when I have an abundance of groceries in my kitchen rather than not enough. When I haven’t been to the grocery store, I end up glossing over the hunger I do have. And I hastily buy food out, which is rarely as tasty and satisfying nevermind nutritious and filling as what can be prepped or cooked at home. Similarly, too many books keeps my mind/soul in a literary state. I read more pages per week, or month, than when I stick to reading a single book that can stumble along, bore and lead me to putting that book down for days. And I avoid other books because I inhibit myself from picking up a different genre or author.

Here’s to reading more and more. Both online, on my mobile tech, and on the written and typed page. Back to Joy DeGruy to help me rest my eyes…

Representation, corruption

What does it signify when elected officials in Europe more accurately reflect the interests of the American public than our own electeds — either the POTUS, one or both Senators and plenty of members of Congress?

If there have been few strings attached to the AIG bailout money, why should there be accountability or transparency around the litany of expenditures in the ARRA law? Even a summary of ARRA, from law firm Patton Boggs is 129 pages. I have yet to look at the webinar on their site.

If U.S. electeds are so out of touch, then who in the U.S. will pay attention to the London Declaration from the Trade Union Advisory Council to the OECD. [Note: in Europe, they wholly engage the unions, as the essential voice of workers, in the policymaking and regulatory bodies]

If the incumbents refuse to reflect our interests — as they have this week when they’ve pandered for the war profiteering military companies insisting that the Pentagon continue to buy armaments that the Pentagon has decided it cannot use in urban warfare and distributed wars — then how difficult will it be to remove them come mid-term elections in 2010?

death of my doctor

i just called Tamarin’s office about an old old appointment.
i was told by the young woman who answered the phone — in a somber tone rather than the typical harried one — “Umm i don’t know if you know, but Dr. Tamarin passed away last week.”

he was the only primary care physician i have been to in the last five years. maybe the only one that i’ve known in NYC.

whenever i had to go — when i did have insurance — i learned to schedule my appointments early in the morning. the earlier the better. because, any afternoon appointment at the offices of the esteemed Steve Tamarin required an hour-long cushion. there may have been a time that i sat in his waiting room for two-plus hours before passing through the little white door to the inner hallways of his practice.

yet, with those long hours and lags, i didn’t doubt Doc Tamarin. he had a bedside manner — jovial, concerned, patient, straight about health and sincere, [as well as critical of over-prescriptions and the pharma-consumerism of what passes as U.S. corporate-medicine] — that i haven’t known since i had a chain-smoking British doc at 13, or my pediatrician from my 0-6 years, Dr. Ginsburg. Tamarin was running late, but i learned that i could read the magazines (and rarely, take one home with me) if i had to spend half a day in his office. his hands, stethoscope and, more than anything else, his demeanor set him apart from any quick-operating office. i’d rather have the patience for healthy and loving medical attention than have my doctor’s check-up or diagnosis happen like it was a business meeting or transaction.

the delays and the indifference that Tamarin and his exceptional staff (who always had to endure the whinny of a chorus of patients) exuded was always worth it to me. a few friends derided the inefficiencies of the office and nonprofessionalism, but i learned that there is no rushing good care.

i googled him, and learned a few more bits about him, his impact, and (dare i say) his legacy:
http://autismsedges.blogspot.com/2008/12/autumn-of-eulogies-steven-tamarin-md.html
http://www.prch.org/dr-steven-tamarin

hmm, is there another doctor in the house who can fill those shoes?

Gettin out the way.

Any society functions due to culture, assumptions, norms and habits. Within our society, the cultural norms  of work and ‘professionalism’ include: being docile, agreeable even if requiring dishonesty, and avoiding confrontation and discomfort at any cost. As a result, we have entrenched individuals and interests, where fear of change either in reform or revolution is distanced. The cultural values upheld … result in a stagnant, anti-innovation organizational culture which festers into social values. Jane Jacobs writes about the effects of similar values creep in Dark Age Ahead – a more recent book capturing how the rise of corruption and disregard for the public good has led to broken social systems, a defunct education system and desensitized people.

Increasingly, I attribute many of these dynamics to the capitalist work ethic: of putting in far more than 40 hours a week, continuing to work in spite of ineffectiveness or lower quality and therefore efficacy. The capitalist work ethic blindly assumes that more is better. Another instance where quantity is better than quality, where we place dollars over human beings, where money and the power derived from it dictates the systemic order. Even those of us with a severe critique of capitalism – in theory and in practice of globalized neoliberalism (which in some ways is rabidly anti-capitalist) – suffer from it. Look at rates of burnout amongst our elders and our young people.

Though the Gen X, Y and Millennials have a coherent analysis and critique of the values permeating the jobs, homes and consumption levels of our Baby Boomer elders, we have few viable alternatives of how to live, how to work and how to responsibly use our money as a tool.

Money (or income) can be a tool for sustainability, justice and democracy just as easily as it can be used for consumption, self-medication or excess. The purchase of vegetables through a family farm’s vegetable coop cannot be more different than getting celery, tomatoes and potatoes at Safeway or Wal-Mart. It all depends in how we view greenbacks, and therefore the relationship that we have with our money. It is our relationship to money that construct our own concepts of privilege, power and wealth.

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The danger and power of language is how certain words creep into our everyday language, informing not only how we label, define and understand the world, but also what we communicate to our peers and validate or reaffirm by repeating without question – think of the explicit differences between terrorist and freedom fighter, as well as the images that ‘The War on Drugs’ conjures up instead of rehab. How often do you uphold someone who works 50 hours a week as being a harder worker than someone working 35? How often do you assume that someone working 40 or less has a cush job rather than considering that they know how to limit how much of their week and life their job consumes?

By assuming sole responsibility for our work load, we validate organizational habits that over-burden people with unrealistic expectations dooming us to inadequacy if not failure. If we are to increasingly be change agents and realize more of our dreams as well as fulfill our ambition and workplans, we have to better manage: time management, and people management by delegating work. These are Organization Development issues. Getting better at these lofty notions of management, leadership and vision require three things:

  1. knowing what we know,
  2. figuring out what we do not know and therefore who we should ask,
  3. posing questions to those people that will reveal answers that we do not even know exist.

The ultimate in DKDK: don’t know what I don’t know.

Rather than judge ourselves as inadequate, misinformed or lacking, we need to shift away from the ego-driven paradigm of knowing everything or pretending to know everything. It is much easier to i) figure out what I know, and ii) admit all of what I don’t. And then go figure out who to ask.

We need more GTD and 43folders, and less founder’s syndrome.