Posts Tagged 'collaboration'

Little Ironies

collaboration pieces

It is one of life’s ironies that we are often called upon to do exactly that which we personally find least appealing. I am a collaborator, not a competitor. I made that decision many, many years ago when I realized that I was a very poor competitor. If I was in anything that could be considered a contest, I HAD TO WIN. If I didn’t win, life was sour, the sky was dark, there was no joy in Mudville. Not only that, but I found that if I was in a contest but not really caring for some reason, it made me nuts to be playing with other people who HAD TO WIN. (Remind me to tell you the story of the time I attended a class in how to play Bridge.) I basically stopped playing games altogether, with the exception of computer solitaire. 🙂 I don’t care if I win that or not – I mostly use it to go into a zen state of reflection. It isn’t the winning – it’s the semi-automatic, mindless movement of cards, while I let my brain wander. As a matter of fact, if I find myself starting to really pay attention to what I’m doing, it’s a bit disconcerting. It feels like I’ve wandered through the looking glass because it LOOKS familiar but with a different light and perspective. 🙂

So I’m a collaborator. I realized with my latest project at work that I’m a certain kind of collaborator. I want to collaborate on MY terms. I’m a collaborator who does not actually like working with other people. *grin* I HATE group projects. I hated them in school, loathed them in graduate school, and had issues with them at work if my work depended on what someone else was doing. Yes, I’m a collaborator who doesn’t like to collaborate. *grin* What I like doing is teaching and helping and explaining and figuring out what I might design to help others do their work more productively. I burned out teaching, however, so I can’t do that full-time. I knew that the day I stood in front of my (paying) students and literally said “I KNOW how to use this system. I don’t need this class. You all can either pay attention and I’ll teach you or you can waste the time and go back to your jobs and explain that you don’t know how to run the system.” After that class I went to my manager and said that perhaps it was time to have someone else teach the clients. *grin* I’m a teacher who only wants to teach if I can wash my hands and walk away when the students get too annoying. (I won’t argue if you are starting to think I’m a bit of a princess.)

Someone asked for my “help” in running his project this year. It was about communication and collaboration and data storage. Okay, I can do that – I’m all about those things (on my terms, of course). Huh. It turned out that his idea of “help” meant running the project. Running a project means my work is dependent on what other people do. Even worse – it means that I am also, should the need arise, the one responsible for inspiring the others to do work. Now did I say ANYWHERE here that I am a LEADER??? NO, I did NOT. I am NOT a leader and I am not a visionary. I think I may have mentioned once that the best compliment I ever received was back in my SecondLife/OpenSim days when my mentor told another that I “made things happen”. Yes – that’s me. I’m an engineer. I make things happen. I solve puzzles. I am not inspiring, I am not a leader, I am not a visionary. And oh my word I absolutely hate waiting for you to get it done. Or when you ARGUE with me about what should be done. In the famed words of my father, the engineer: WHY do you ARGUE with me? Or as my pillow says “Never but never question the Engineer’s judgement.”

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The cat hair was an add-on feature. 🙂

So here I am, leading a project. There is actually a great deal more I’d like to say about that but I don’t talk directly about real things in this blog. 🙂 All I’ll say about it is that part of the project has to do with communication with dispersed team members and creating a feeling of unity. We are living in the time of covid19. We are all working remotely. We are all practicing social distancing (well except for the lunatics down in Florida on spring break who are determined to party in each other’s faces no matter what the law or warnings might be). We are all being isolated. This means that every single organization in the world is trying to figure out the most productive way to keep everyone working while maintaining distance. Oh hey! Look at what Ahuva is doing. I bet SHE has ideas. I have found myself pulled into some interesting meetings about communication.

I AM an extrovert. Heaven knows I like going out in the crowds, with people, partying, the thrill of the crush. I’ve written on how I love NYC at Christmas. I can get a thrill out of shopping at the mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Contact! But honestly – I really don’t like being deluged with emails and messages and texts that are all assuring me earnestly that they are thinking about me, and primarily about me, and my well-being, and I should KNOW that they are ‘only thinking of me’. I have gotten emails from every online company with which I have ever dealt, every charitable organization, every site that has my email. They are all fervently telling me how my health and the health of my loved ones is their utmost priority. Really. That’s all they care about. The well-being of everyone. My mailbox fills every day with these sincere thoughts. Imagine my chagrin, therefore, as I am asked to participate in the development and creation of such communications. Or as Pogo would say “we have met the enemy and he is us“.

Collaboration Pie

img_0022There are many good things about posting about food and cooking. Even if people disagree about my recipes, my tastes, my process, the comments and reactions tend not to get personal or nasty. 🙂 If I’m thinking about food, I’m NOT thinking about other aspects of reality. On many days that is the REAL reason I write about food. I like creating things and cooking and baking are creative. My friend Honour talks about the difference between cooks and bakers, that one has more leeway and room for error than the other. I’m still not sure I’m convinced about that, but again, it doesn’t (usually) get personal when we discuss it. *grin*

Today I want to write about leftovers and collaborating and when cooks and bakers work together. img_0023My husband does not bake – he cooks. Oh wow, he is SUCH a great creative cook. I love to bake and while I enjoy cooking now in my new kitchen, I’m nowhere near as innovative as he is. I’m getting better, but I’m not at his level by any means. I mentioned he brought home a store-cooked chicken the other night. That meant we had leftovers. We also had rainy cold weather all day Sunday, as well as other annoying reality. 🙂 I started thinking about cooking. I decided that a chicken pot pie would be perfect for dinner. I mentioned that to my husband and he agreed.

Now *I* was thinking more of the kind of pot pie I had growing up – basically a white creamy inside. I found a picture of one online to show you what I mean but we grew up on frozen pot pies, not home-made. It was something my father would make for us for dinner when my mother was at rehearsal. img_0024As we don’t mix meat and dairy, we use coconut milk to get our “creaminess”. I also thought I’d take my leftover steamed vegetables and throw them in too – sort of a vegetable chicken pot pie. I’d already decided to use the coconut oil for that hint of flavor while making the pastry crust. I was browsing recipes online and thinking about concocting when my husband came down with a piece of paper and said “This is what I plan to make for the pie.”. *grin* Of course his recipe looked nothing like mine (his had curry and more asian flavors) and he had no intention of putting in the leftover vegetables, only the leftover chicken. I told him his concoction sounded great to me and I’d make him a crust.

That’s what we did. I made up my pie crust using margarine and coconut oil (remember, no dairy). It was a beautiful flaky crust. It’s interesting – I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem making pie crusts (except for 2 crusts for our New Year’s Day party, but that’s a different story) since I first began. I use the recipe in The Settlement Cookbook. img_0025It says that the key to a good crust is very cold ingredients and as little water and handling as possible. That very morning as I listened to the radio talk show host, she was talking about making pies and bemoaning how difficult it is to make a good crust and how it took her so long to learn. I’ve just never had that particular problem and I know people love the pie crusts I make. Thank you Lizzie Black Kander and your fantastic cookbook (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, my #1 go-to cookbook).

The new kitchen gets another rave review here because while my husband was working on the stove, there was room for me to be rolling out the top crust. That NEVER would have been possible before the renovation. 🙂 I probably should have ‘over-ruled’ him about temperature and time (I’d have picked the higher temperature and the shorter time, which is more typical for pies) but dinner was delicious. Yay us!!
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Collaboration

It’s odd, I suppose, but for me the first association with the word “collaboration” brings up thoughts of WWII and “collaborators”. No, I’m NOT that old, so I don’t know why that is what comes to mind first. The first associations SHOULD be with business, work, buzzword. Ah well, the human mind is a very strange place.

Another strange place is my office. Last Monday I was at the office and all was fine. Last Tuesday, I was at the office and became ill. By the time I got home at the end of the day, I was very ill: headache, sinus pressure, scratchy throat, upset stomach, aching eyeballs. Sounds like allergies or sick, no? So I worked from home on Wednesday and all cleared up. Back to the office on Thursday and wham! I could smell the chemical smell the moment I walked in. Discussed it with some coworkers and some could smell it, most couldn’t, two others were suffering almost as badly as I. Apparently I am their canary in the coal mine. It seems to hit me first and hardest. I tried to go back to the office yesterday but I could smell whatever it is as soon as I walked in the door. I tried sitting in other places in the building but it was there too. So I’m home until they fix it. (Supreme irony: my next-door-neighbor’s lawn service came this morning. The ride-on mower was spewing gasoline fumes and gray clouds for 30 minutes, not to mention the NOISE.)

You know that I am a strong advocate of collaborating in virtual worlds. I helped create a collaboration tool for use in opensim. I suggest that we hold meetings in SecondLife. I helped furnish and customize virtual spaces for business conferences. I believe that the workplace is international and virtual. But….. I miss my coworkers. 😦 Despite all my support and belief that work can be done productively and effectively from non-co-located collaborators (ouch, that word) I miss my office mates. I believe that being in the same space, face to face, improves the working relationship. Improved work relationships lead to greater productivity. Synergy. Most of my work depends on consulting with my team mates. While I CAN do that at a distance (email, phone, IM, virtual world), sometimes there is no substitute for strolling over to someone else’s desk and saying “heya, I have a question”. For my “real” job, I am more effective if I can corner my coworkers when need-be. *grin*

I’m torn on this issue. Whereas I love the ability to work from home (avoid that awful commute, sleep a bit later, roll out of bed and workout instead of racing to get out of the house), I love going into the office and laughing and talking and solving problems with my coworkers. I need that socialization. I need to know their faces, the inflection of their voices. On the other hand, Oura and I helped out a friend of mine this past spring. He makes many presentations on software architecture. He likes to use SecondLife for these presentations as otherwise he’d be traveling all about the world non-stop (literally). We built an image of a computer for him to use in his presentations, to help provide greater immersion and detail for his talks. The 3 of us live in different locations, different time periods yet this made no difference to our ability to work together. We met in SL and had no problem meeting (exceeding) the goal. So not all work needs co-location.

My work is creative in a sense – I’m in a software development group. We are always adding new features, developing new ideas. But not all creation need co-location. (I wonder if I could copyright that as a slogan?) I needed to sketch out some ideas for work, draft a picture of how *I* would like a user interface to appear. I sent out a call to friends asking for recommendations on drawing tools. Several people suggested artpad at art.com. This wasn’t exactly what I needed, but by the time I went to look at it, I was on Skype with Oura and Shenlei. We collaborated on our drawing. *grin* We each took turns, adding to the same picture. Different locations. Working together. Producing masterpieces. *grin* What’s really cool about artpad is the ability to see what the other people have added. If you click the link, you can watch (at any speed) as each stroke is added. Here – go try it yourself and let me know what you add.

Co-location – the best way to share donuts, but not always necessary for creation.


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