An Illustration of Live Site Practice, Featuring My Eyeballs

Congratulations to me, as I’ve got a new job, and I’m in a new team here at the ‘soft. Specifically, I’m in Azure, in the Internet of Things space, working on a Thing. I can’t talk about the Thing. Some day I will talk about the Thing. But not now.

This means I’m back on a live product (or a product that will be a live product, it’s all very complicated) and that means I am on a Live Site team and I’m pretty happy about that. I enjoy the Live Site process because it’s basically enforcing a culture of learning from mistakes.

What is Live Site Practice

Generally speaking, Live Site means that your site is… live. Meaning when something goes wrong (and there are varying levels of wrong to Wrong to WRONG to WRONG!!!) you have a person responsible to fix it, you have expectations of how quickly it gets fixed, you put a plan in place to make sure it never happens again and monitoring to catch it when it inevitably does. Live Site incidents can be singular (this one experience happened this one time) or multitudinous (cascading incidents, parallel problems, etc.) or chronic (a liberal application of the philosophy of Live Site could categorize a series of data breaches or questionable data sharing practices by a given company, for example, as a very large Live Site Incident).

Measuring the Live Site Response

There are four major ways to measure the response to a Live Site Incident. These are: Time to Detect (how long it took you to figure out something is wrong from the time something actually went wrong), Time to Engage (how long it took you to start trying to fix it from the time it was detected), Time to Mitigate (how long before the customer stopped having the negative experience), and Time to Resolve (how long before the actual problem was fixed).

General prudence means I don’t illustrate this with an Actual Thing From Work because I like my job and I want to keep it, so I’ll use a recent personal experience to illustrate.

At about 8am on August 25th I went to the gym and my contacts clouded over. It was annoying so when I got home I took them out and put them in a fresh solution/case and went about my day in glasses.  At night we had friends to dinner so I wore my contacts with no trouble. At about 9am on August 26th I went to the gym and my contacts clouded over. It wasn’t horrible, just annoying, and so when I got home I took them out and put them in a fresh solution/fresh case and ran around with my glasses.  No problem.

  • By 4pm that afternoon my eyes were itching. Because we’d had smoke issues lately coming in from the Canada and Eastern Washington fires, I figured my eyes had got irritated from that, and put some drops in.
  • By 5pm my eyes were uncontrollably watering and itchy.
  • By 8pm I had to stop watching Aliens, one of my very favorite movies, because the following hurt: opening my eyes, closing my eyes, and having my eyes closed. Thinking that eye irritations usually resolve themselves with a good night’s sleep (hello, morning eye crud) I went to bed (yes, at 8pm). The software equivalent of this is turning the machine off and turning it on again.
  • By 10:30pm I woke from a dead sleep feeling like someone was stabbing me in my eyeballs and asked my husband to drive me to the ER.
  • By 11pm they had put numbing drops in my eyes. Ensuing investigation showed my corneas had all kinds of pitting all over them and possibly dual infection in both eyes.
  • By 12:30pm they discharged me with a Percocet (to help me sleep and ignore the pain), antibiotics (for my eyes) and an instruction to see an eye doctor the next day.
  • By 10:30am the next day the eye doctor confirmed the infection, noted some abrasions, and said I’d self-heal in about five days.

Time to Detect

This one is tricky, because on one hand you can say I “detected” it at 9am when my contacts clouded over… but on which day? As nothing hurt and I wasn’t inconvenienced and I carried on with my day.  So I’ll say I detected it at 4pm.  But it’s likely the problem actually started at 9am on the Saturday, so my Time to Detect was 31 hours.

Time to Engage

Again, it’s not a clear line (and I’ll point out these things are hashed over in the Live Site world a lot as well). I started “engaging” with eye drops at 4pm. I didn’t request professional help though until 10:30pm when it got really bad. I’m calling it 6.5 hours (4pm-10:30pm).

Time to Mitigate

Mitigation is all about the customer’s perspective. How long from the time the problem started actually happening (and the customer was inconvenienced) to the time it got fixed from the customer’s perspective. For me, that’s from 4pm (eyes watering) to 11pm when I got my first numbing drops. Seven hours. If you want to be really specific, my eyes had stopped hurting mostly by the next day, *without* numbing drops, so a more conservative mitigation time would be from 4pm Sunday to 10:30am Monday – 18.5 hours.

Time to Resolve

Resolution is about the actual problem being fixed (perspective or otherwise). In this case, five days from Monday the 27th, or September 1st. Time to Resolve: a little over six days.  As part of resolution I had to throw out all open saline/lens solution containers, contact lenses, etc.  As a “customer” of this experience I also took the added step of “re-architecting” my framework: I went and got a different brand of contact lenses (that change out more frequently), and started wearing my glasses more often.

Measuring the Impact

Money

The Emergency Room is not cheap, although by comparative standards I got off easy. My bill, after insurance, was roughly $700 (not including the follow-up eye doctor visits, new contact lenses, replaced makeup, etc.).  The bill sent to the insurance company was roughly 3 times that amount.

Time

Money isn’t everything, and time is more precious: I lost about 4 hours’ sleep, I lost 6 hours’ quality time with my husband and a favorite movie. I lost another 2 hours or so to the ER and another 2 to/from the eye doctor.

Peripheral Impacts

I had to work from home on that Monday, and that meant even though it was my last week with my old team they didn’t have me right there to help with my transition; that’s 4 people impacted. My husband had to take time from his evening and next day to take me to appointments, which he was super supportive of and insisted upon, but it also meant he couldn’t do whatever it is he should have been doing during those hours.  Rarely is it just one customer who is impacted in Live Site.

Post Mortem

Yes, post-mortem means “after death”, and no one died. In the Live Site world, no one dies. (Well, we hope no one dies). The Post Mortem is when you look over what and how it happened, figure out how to keep it from happening again, and figure out how to detect if it does.

What Happened – also known as the Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is the review of what instigated the problem. In this case, what happened was that I somehow (?) got either smoke between my contact lenses and cornea, creating a corneal abrasion that then lead to dual infection, OR the I got an infection, which led to corneal abrasion. The experts weren’t really worried about which came first, and if I had wanted to spend lab money to dig into which came first, I don’t know that they would have been able to figure that out. It is, in fact, a moot point.  If it was smoke from the environment, that’s how that could have happened. Or it could be infection from saline solution, eye rubbing, random bacteria, etcetera.  It could have been from contact lens over-use. If they would have been able to tell me definitively the root cause that would be great, because it would impact my next two steps, but rarely do you get a clean root cause.

How to Keep it from Happening Again

As we read up above, I trashed all of my eye-based items (including, incidentally, my mascara, every one of my eyeliners, etc.).  I washed all of my makeup brushes and sterilized them. I got a new brand of contact lens that is changed out more frequently.  I got new glasses and wear them more often than I used to. This may be overkill, but it is everything I can do to ensure I don’t have to miss one of my favorite movies.

How to Detect if it Happens Again

In this case, my first clue was my contact lenses clouding over on the Saturday. At that point I should have quit wearing contacts for a few days and thrown those lenses out instead of trying to disinfect them. My second detect point was the second day of clouding lenses — those two combined should have sent me to the urgent care or an eye doctor, which would certainly have been more cost-effective than the ER.  Uncontrollable eye watering, foggy lenses, and/or gritty pain when opening, closing, or having closed eyes are all reasons to see a professional right away.

Coda

You’ll notice in most of this I’ve not beaten myself up about being stupid, making poor choices, etc.  That’s because it wouldn’t help (either me or the situation) and it’s entirely beside the point. I can’t go and change what happened, so the best practice is to learn from it and ensure others do, too. *That* is what I like about Live Site. If your Live Site culture feels like a giant finger-pointing exercise, then it isn’t being implemented properly, and it’s time to do some Root Cause Analysis.

Ragnar, Continued

‘”A wizard is never late… ” he arrives precisely when he means to.’ The first half was emblazoned in chalk pen on the back of a van. I spent many minutes reading the rear end of vans this weekend.  There was the “Team which Shall Not Be Named” with full Harry Potter references, and “Worst Sleepover Ever”.  There were ultra marathoners (where instead of one van of 6 runners for this 200 mile relay race, they only had one of 6 (or 2 of 3)).  There were Unicorns and tutus and T-rex outfits and Nacho Libre vans. There were Runners Against Humanity (a play on Cards Against Humanity) with unique magnets (a Rangar tradition of tagging other vans with magnets about your team) for everyone. There were missed directions, weird road closures, and trains of chalk-painted vans between Blaine and Langley, WA, this weekend. This was my third Ragnar.

I didn’t do well.

I didn’t do crap, either; but having thought I was in better shape for the event I was disappointed when on my first leg I had to walk one of my miles (I had trained in heat. I had trained hills. I hadn’t trained in heat and hills and full sun, and so I had to walk). Fortunately, I was in a van with people who were supportive and encouraging without being condescending or smarmy.  I was able to text for help and get Gatorade, wet wipes, and body glide on demand. (Those didn’t happen all together. Different stories, and all). (Wet wipes for sunscreen that had sweated into my eyeballs — not fun at all. Gatorade because I hadn’t chugged enough and found myself dizzy on run 1 about halfway through.  Body Glide because my shorter shorts had only been with me on a 3-miler and apparently at 4 miles things start chafing).

I enjoyed it, for the most part (not the chafing, the event).  Our van was a homogenous blend of analyst-program managers with a penchant for the same podcasts and excel spreadsheets, decent food and a discreet understanding of what happens when six adults get into a van and run… and get back into the van. Wet wipes and deodorant were our dear companions. We attempted to sleep in LaConner (shoutout to LaConner Marina where the bathrooms at dock B are locked but the ones at dock F are not) and Coupeville High School (where the south side of the basketball court is shady in the morning if you need some sleep… watch out for the goose poo). We had local support (shoutout to the many Whidbey Island residents who had their sprayers out along the course — when it’s 85 degrees and full sun and you’re running, an open hose sprayer is amazingly wonderful). I was introduced to the magic of Cloud City Coffee in Seattle (before we departed), Port of Subs in Bellingham, where my turkey avocado sandwich was more than I could eat in a sitting and helped fuel the day; Panera Bread Company in LaConner with their Orange lemonade. Special shoutout to Coupeville High School and their flushing toilets.

I believe I ran the fewest aggregate miles in my van (more than a half marathon, but only just); you wouldn’t know it by the support and encouragement (and regard) of my teammates. I kept apologizing for the stretches I had to walk.  They kept being supportive. This sort of thing usually serves to make me feel more guilty but in this case it made me feel supported, and made me try harder. K-tape, Ibuprofen, and Gatorade all helped, too.

I want to do this again. I want to do better at it. And I want to do it with the same team.

 

Fallout

Today’s the day: I click the “delete account” for Facebook in about fifteen minutes (hey, I have it on the calendar at a specific time, okay?). I’ve lived the last week without Facebook and it’s been pretty good.  There’s only been a little bit of fallout, which I share here for those thinking about deleting your Facebook.

Interconnected Communications Feeds

I don’t use my Facebook login for most anything else (except Scrabble, see below) but there’s interconnected feeds between Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, OpenTable, etc.  I hadn’t realized until I posted something via Twitter and the Editor saw it on my Facebook account (he was all excited I wasn’t leaving Facebook and I had to burst his bubble). I’ve spent part of the last week disconnecting things and rerouting.  My previous content strategy was to tier posts based on audience — most “close” audience was Facebook, next ring out was Twitter, next ring out was LinkedIn. (In effect: everything posted to Facebook but only very carefully thought about things posed to LinkedIn).  I’m sure I haven’t caught all of the entwined feeds and I did discover my Klout and Foursquare accounts were still (somehow) active, so I’m deleting those, too.

Facebook App Dependency

The Editor and I have played Scrabble nonstop for ten years now via Facebook.  It started actually with Lexulous, and then we moved to Scrabble when Lexulous was shut down.  However Scrabble requires one of two log ins – Facebook or EA. With me killing my Facebook, I went and created an EA account, only to find that I can’t link up to my former Scrabble opponents and with the EA account I can’t go search for the Editor. Words with Friends has a similar problem.  This problem remains to be fixed and so if you have an app dependency on Facebook you’ll want to figure out a Plan B.

Keeping Up with Friends/Family

This has become an old-school effort.  I’m texting more (and using Signal, if you’re interested in peer-to-peer), emailing more, and generally putting in more effort. I *think* that’s a good thing.  I still need to set up the photo sharing for family/friends.  I’m relying on Twitter and LinkedIn more.

Keeping Up with Communities

This was briefly touched on in a Marketplace Tech podcast (here), of how Facebook isn’t just used for peer-to-peer but also for businesses for their customers and communities (nonprofit and otherwise). Most of the nonprofits have a Twitter presence and I can keep up with those, but for example the group of people I’m doing Ragnar with are on FB as a group, and the same with Tough Mudder; I’m not going to get those updates and I’m relegated to the old fashioned email/direct communication.  On the flip side, I’m finding more use in some Reddit communities (r/running, r/learnprogramming, etc.) and will probably interact more on that platform. If you have a lot of community ties through your Facebook account, you’ll want to think about this if you pull the plug.

 

Goodbye, Facebook

I’ve been on Facebook for the better part of 11 years. In that time it has afforded me the opportunity to keep in touch with friends, old and new; to see the immediate impacts of world events through a local lens; to ensure my family knows I haven’t fallen into a puddle of stress. In return, Facebook sold my data to various marketing endeavors, so I’d get served up “relevant” ads for Stitch Fix, Starbucks and You Need a Budget. I was fine with this arrangement.

I am not fine with them selling my data to a firm that will target ads to me in order to change my voting behaviors or my social views. I’m fully cognizant that they already have my data, and my deletion of my content on Facebook the site – which I’ve mostly done thanks to a script referenced in this article – is an academic exercise for those wishing to mine it from Facebook. The deals are done, the data is out. (Note it’s not technically a data breach, because Facebook gave the data freely away.) This is me, voting with my keyboard: they don’t get any future data.

Not directly, anyway.

Facebook still creates ghost profiles, still uses cookie drops through scores of sites on the internet, leverages publicly available data and sells the cooked product. It will still sell the cooked product. I will not help them do it, though. I am deleting my Facebook entirely March 30th. I have already deleted WhatsApp and Instagram (two Facebook properties). I am retaining Twitter (for now) and LinkedIn.

Things I Recommend:

  • If you remain on Facebook, I recommend using FB Purity.
  • If you want to delete your content (after downloading) I recommend Social Book Post Manager.
  • If you want to keep the cookies at bay, I recommend Ghostery.
  • If you want to listen to some great podcasts about the latest Facebook data sharing issues (because this has happened before), I recommend this and this.
  • If you are more of an article-reading person, read this and this and this.

Keep in Touch:
If you have my email, or we’re linked on LinkedIn or Twitter, that works. If you have my phone number we can totally text. My friend K has set up a private photo sharing process in his family that I will be pinging him shortly on how to do the same, to make sure my son’s grandparents get the latest photo evidence that he’s still growing and healthy and making bland sartorial choices. And if a more responsible photo-and-update sharing platform arrives on the scene, I’ll have a look.

New

It’s been three and one-half months since I last blogged. I know this because I forgot my password to this blog and my computer didn’t recognize me as its author and so it sent me to my own front page, which was about Tough Mudder. It seems fitting, because Tough Mudder was a Thing that I did to challenge myself and was new for last year.  I know I said I wasn’t doing it again, but…

GUESS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR?

Yeah. I did.  And Ragnar.  And CC and I will be running the Dark Side Challenge in April in Disneyworld.  I’m considering doing the Seattle Half this year, because it would be the ten-year anniversary of my first Seattle Half. It’s official, I’m doing these Things.

I know that the new fashion is to not have New Year’s resolutions, because after all if you’re resolute you can as easily be so on October 1st or April 4th or September 23rd as you are on January 1. As human beings, though, we tend to like starting new things at the arbitrary start of things: new weeks, new months, new quarters, new years. Some of my resolutions for “this” year I figured out and started on early (better eating, etc.), but I saved one to truly start on a Monday, 1st of the year, 1st of the month, 1st of the quarter: I’m not going to complain.

My good friends know that I don’t actually genuinely complain a lot — mostly because genuine complaint doesn’t seem like a useful thing to do. Since becoming a Real Adult™ I’ve been one to go do something — anything– than sit and whine. (Although on reflection yesterday I publicly whined about my inflight Wi-Fi being slow. So maybe I’m not as virtuous as I’d like to believe). It’s mostly a superficial whine, like that irritating hum your fridge makes but you’re not going to call the warranty repair because it’s not bad enough to warrant the inconvenience to call someone and deal with them.

At any rate, I have a tendency to gripe while training — any kind of training. Weight training. Running. Spin class. That I signed up for a bunch of events and then have to train for them. That it’s too cold out. Too wet out. Too hot out. Too dry out. Too hilly. Too far. Too boring. It’s not limited to voluntary improvement training; I whine during PT, the train of which I’m back on (remember Tough Mudder? that shoulder injury came back to bite me in a really crappy way).

Mostly the bitchy whining has been to myself — an inner monologue that drills through my head, making the training that much more hard or boring or arduous.  When I work out with my Weight Dudes (yeah, they won’t like that moniker either) I cheerfully whine; it’s all part of the hour (sometimes hour-plus) experience of lifting with David the Trainer and T and J.

It’s ceasing to be cute, for me. (I have no idea how they feel about that but they keep inviting me so it can’t bother them too much. Or maybe they find it entertaining. Or distracting from their own inner monologues.) And it doesn’t make sense: these things are voluntary. No one, absolutely no one will be let down if I stopped tomorrow.  I would probably have to watch my diet more, but I already got that news courtesy of genetics and ageing. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.

One day has become day One.

Tough Mudder: “How are we doing this?”

-me, after looking at pretty much any one of the climbing obstacles in Tough Mudder, of which there are several.

Yesterday I “did” Tough Mudder. I write that “did” in quotes because I skipped four obstacles of the 24 on the course, and it’s a coincidence that there were two planned skips (arctic enema and electroshock therapy were listed verboten by the doc) and two were unplanned skips (Everest and Stage 5 Clinger).  Arctic Enema is where you dive down a tube into water that has floating ice in it and is shockingly cold, and have to swim under an obstacle to get out of said water — so you are completely submerged.  Electroshock therapy is walking through about 15 feet of dangling electrical wires that will zap you.  Everest is a 20′ high slippery slope that you have to run at, run up (hope you don’t slip), and grab your team’s hands so they can pull you up.  Stage 5 Clinger is an inverted ladder (so the base is farther away from you than the top) that you have to climb and then pull yourself up and over.

I tried Everest. I tried it three times, and the third time I landed square on my right shoulder, and told my self enough was enough.  I’ve got an impressive welt and a jammed feeling; I can lift it but it hurts when I lift it just so.  I should have tried Stage 5 clinger more than the bit that I did.

My pull up game is *not* strong, although it’s getting better, and I struggled with many of the other obstacles that required me to do various forms of lifting my body weight with just my upper body.

Which gets me to this point: unless you are the kind of person who can do 25 effortless pull ups from hanging on your fingertips to pulling yourself up and over something with  no foot support, you will have to rely on other people in Tough Mudder.

This is hard for me (and others), and there’s usually one of two competing reasons behind it:

  1. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t find others reliable.
  2. You don’t want to rely on others because you don’t want to inconvenience them.

I don’t have the first problem and once you finish your first few TM obstacles you won’t, either.  Random strangers will pull you up, grab your leg to help you get over an obstacle, come to help you, and encourage you to overcome your fears.  Yes that was me whimpering at the top of an obstacle because I couldn’t get a toehold and some completely strange person came up and coached me where to put my foot and reassured me he’d catch me if I fell.  Your team will also be there for you; I had only met one of my team members before this but every single one of them gave me a folded hand or a leg up at one point.  This was not my problem.

My problem is that I kept feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight (no pun intended). I’m still not sure I did.  The Abseil and similar exercises– where there’s at rope or rope ladder — were no problem.  But anything that required team-provided-footing left me to feel guilty, like I hadn’t trained enough.  And in theory I had “trained” more than my team — following the guidelines, doing the runs (mostly — I only got two 8-milers in), etc.  As mentioned previously I can’t do a pull up but I was doing weight-assisted ones in the gym; that proves to not have been enough.

I can say with absolute and utter confidence that I would NOT have signed up for Tough Mudder if I  had known the volume of obstacles around heights.  Heights for me — particularly ones where I’m sure I’m going to injure myself but not die — are a trembling phobia that surfaced about twenty years ago and hasn’t gone away.  (For those of you worried about enclosed spaces: there’s a few of those, too, but they aren’t bad at all– not even MineShafted).  Had someone walked me through the course in advance I would have bailed, then and there. But having spent the last 3 years regretting the Tough Mudder I didn’t do, I’m very glad I didn’t talk myself out of this one. I’m glad I had to work through a series of heights challenges, I’m glad I had a supportive team and was reaffirmed in the kindness of strangers, and I’m glad to be back in “regular” training again. Except this time maybe I’ll do some more upper body work.

Those who know me are probably shaking their heads because they think this means I signed up again for next year: NOPE. This was one of those beautiful, shining days that sits on its own. My legs and forearms are thoroughly scratched and bruised, I have the aforementioned shoulder welt and a matching one on my hip. I have met new and awesome people. I have my orange headband.

tm
Yes that’s a massive bruise on my right shin. A lot of our course had berry bushes and straw packed in to the mud.

I’m good.

 

 

Intermezzo

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and there’s a few reasons for that.  I’ve been busy (well, who hasn’t been?).  I’ve been without useful ideas to share (maybe untrue, but…) I’ve been censoring myself (yeah, that).

As to self-censure: there isn’t anything I can add to the yowling atmosphere of today that someone hasn’t already said, and so I’m doing the “actions speak louder than words” thing and redoubling my efforts in the places that I think I can help and letting much more eloquent people say much more specific things to much greater effect.

But Happy Pride, everyone :). And Happy Ramadan.  May you find joy in the celebrations of things that encompass your values and in the Italian-Argentinian spirit of “do what makes you happy” — which is the way I was raised — be happy and move forward.

I’ve been trying to do that.

I went to visit my mom this weekend; she lives south a bit from me in a small town that’s bordered by other small towns.  If you want to go to Starbucks it’s 2.5 miles away, and I know this because I run it occasionally.  I ran it today.  It’s a nice, flat run, past a firehouse and many farms and one big intersection.  They are just as busy and popular as any other Starbucks anywhere.

There are no sidewalks on the way.  If you run, you run on the side of the road, and if you’re smart, you run opposing traffic.  The beautiful part is everyone moves waaaaaaaaaaaay over for you.

Everyone.

Big semi trucks, regular trucks, SUV’s, vans, motorcyclists, people driving Hondas and Kias.  Folks in vintage cars taking them out for a sunny day (at 9am it was already 85 degrees) and folks in their beater cards headed wherever a Sunday morning took them. Every single one moved well over the meridian for me.

As a 5’10”, more-than-150-pounds-but-less-than-200-pounds woman, my personal meatsack existence would do nothing to their vehicle at the current speed limit (35-45, depending). Their vehicle, on the other hand, could do quite a lot to my meatsack.  Unpleasant. They weren’t moving over for themselves, they were moving over for me. I like that.  That was nice.

I’m running again.  Real running.  From about November to about two weeks ago, my running was almost exclusively indoors and on a treadmill (with the exception of a two-month break for injury and two outdoor events).  You know what you get when you run on the treadmill? You get the treadmill running you.  I’m fast (for me) on a treadmill. I go at like a 9:30 pace. Go me!

You know how fast I run in the real world, on real pavement? 11:15 ish.  There was a time where 9:30 happened in the real world. I lost it, and I need to find it again.

So I found myself running in the early morning heat, out in small town Washington, waving to each and every car and bike and truck that made way for me (and most of them waved back), because that’s what I need to do. I need to do more, and I will.

That’s what I’ve been doing, mostly. See the goal, focus on the goal, follow the goal. And this was a check in from that goal.

Let’s see where I’m at in a couple of weeks ;).

 

Facebook: Am I Doing this Right?

I am about a month into this Facebook experiment and I’m finding it alternately interesting and a chore.

The interesting parts come from the content that my friends and family post; it’s a real variety, as I’m sure it is for everyone on Facebook. There’s pictures of the kids’ latest games or school accomplishments, laughable moments when someone paints the family dog or puts make-up on a parent; there’s work rants and engagement notices and of course the ubiquitous happy birthday notices that scroll.  There’s tirades against the tyranny, protest against the patriarchy, support for soldiers and friendly philanthropy. I see windows into hobbies (miniatures, comic books, quilts, photography), windows into travel (Spain, Japan, England, Australia), windows into houses (parties, selling-of-the-house, buying-of-the-house, the ever-popular remodeling-of-the-house — oh, and the building-of-the-house).

I de-muted a lot of folks shortly after the election because, like everyone else, I was in a bubble; however I note that I wasn’t missing the political posts so much as the non-political ones.  I can get my politics from the Economist and NPR, but the Economist and NPR can’t show me the progress my friend has made on her garden.

Which brings me to the chore: curation. What should *I* post on Facebook, to show that I’m engaged? Am I doing it right?

The concept of Facebook curation is not new and it’s been studied (particularly as to its impacts on mental health). The idea that I should/will consider what I post, the varied audience, etc. before I post means I am not being my “authentic” self and thusly am showing only the “best” side I have, therefore setting a higher standard for others.

This sounds so impressive, except that I’m pretty sure that my quest to find the very best protein powder, or inability to fire the correct muscle groups in my left butt cheek, or continual surprise at insomnia when it decides to rear its ugly head, all of which are authentic, are not my best side.  Perhaps I’m not curating correctly.

I therefore started to look through my feed to see if I could find an example of curation. I believe the point of curation is to show your very best self, so the criteria I used to identify curation was that the post itself had to be positive or show the post-er in a positive light (not neutral or negative).  The post couldn’t be commentary on a news item *unless* the poster had an accompanying lengthy position statement to demonstrate knowledge of the space.  The pictures must be flattering, if there are/were pictures.

I found three genre of possible curation: My Life is Instagram Fabulous, I Have a Lot of Friends, and I am a Positive Person.

My Life is Instagram Fabulous is the person who takes great pictures.  Either a set of three or four, or a polite collage, all framed properly and tastefully filtered or cropped.  Some of them are actual photographers so this makes sense,  and generally speaking their content is mostly photo and a little text.  Often this links to their Instagram account (I don’t yet play there but maybe I should). These are some of my more artistic friends.

The problem with pointing a finger and saying they are curating is that 1. they are expressing themselves in the medium to which they already have an affinity (these are the folks who were running around with actual film cameras back in the day and were probably the school photographer) and 2. I know them and have seen how/when the pictures get produced; yes there is forethought and planning but it’s mostly to capture the *feeling* of the moment and not to convey something artificial.

I Have a Lot of Friends is the person who seems to be permanently at parties and gatherings.  As an extroverted introvert this exhausts me but I can see they are having fun.  Usually there are large group photos, group selfies and photos of tasty-looking food and/or the theme of said party. I have more than a few green pictures right now thanks to St. Paddy’s. The pics seem to be taken early in the party (everyone fresh!) and midway (everyone having fun!) but not towards the end, which we all know is when your mascara is running a bit and your lipstick has worn off and everyone is exclaiming that they don’t usually yawn at 9:30/11/1am but they got up early that morning. (A note about the photos:  one of my friends is a beauty queen — honest to goodness, complete with the sash — and never, ever takes a bad photo. Ever.)

The problem with pointing a finger and saying they are curating is that 1. when was the last time you went to a party and took pics at the end? You didn’t. You were having too good a time, or you rationalized that you already took all of the pics and there wasn’t a point in doing more.  Secondly, the whole point of Facebook is to network among friends, so naturally events that tie two or more people together within the platform would be appropriate to post.

I am a Positive Person is the person who posts a lot of life-affirming, positive statements.  They can either be the someecard style, or the motivational-poster style. They tend to be posted in fits and spurts, leading me to believe that there is some aggregator of these things that people can pick one or more at a given time and simply share to their wall.

The problem with pointing a finger and saying they are curating is that 1. these tend to be something that everyone could benefit from (or get a laugh from), so from the “my life is more wonderful than yours” aspect — which honestly seems to be the sort of curation that is criticized — it doesn’t add up.  If you want your life to be more wonderful than mine by comparison then don’t share a great lifehack about gym prep or affixing importance to given events (don’t sweat the small stuff). Secondly, I get the impression that the Positive Person is trying to boost themselves and others as an aspect of this, and that isn’t curation so much as it is, I think, affirmation.

As I review this list and attempt to see if I am Doing It Right it occurs to me that I’ve fallen prey to survivorship bias. If we posit that “bad” curation (the kind mental health researchers are rightfully worried about) is the act of displaying only a competitive, positive slice of your life at the expense of other parts of your life — I’m thinking teen girls mostly thanks to the literature around this — I don’t have many friends (even Facebook friends) that fall prey to this. (You could argue I don’t have many friends. That may be true.)  The sample set weeded itself out before I sent (or accepted) the invite.  You could make the argument that you pick friends and don’t pick your family — but my family is the one that helped create my mindset (think lots of Nova/Nature shows, learning to balance a checkbook at 10 and do my own taxes at 14, and a severe distaste for bullshit) and so they don’t tend to share this predilection.

So I think I’ll just keep posting whatever I think is appropriate to share on Facebook — with “appropriate” defined as probably not the contents of the morning’s bowel movement or things of a similarly super-private nature — and we’ll see if someone gets jealous of my insomnia or failing gluteus minimus sinister.

 

 

 

 

7 Days

I’m watching vintage Anthony Bourdain — 2003 — and he’s in Vietnam and being very Anthony Bourdain.  He’s a fish out of water, but eager to learn; he’s caustic and classic but a much younger version of the person we see today. It’s fun to point a finger and say “ha, ha, isn’t he awkward!”, right up until he gamely eats the half-matured duck egg (complete with duck fetus) and can appreciate it as a culinary event instead of the classic “ew!” that 99.9% of folks I know would engender. Including yours truly.

It’s been a busy week.

A week ago tomorrow, I sat in a large dining hall at the Seattle Westin.  My brother and husband were there. My best friends were there. Some of my more colorful (and worldly) friends were there.  While I’d love to say they were there for me (and in a way, they were, and it’s wholly flattering), or that they were there for Team Read (and in a way, they were, and that’s wholly heartening), they were there for Nancy Pearl. Nancy Pearl was our guest speaker and let me tell you, it’s one thing to hear her on NPR. It’s quite another to see her in person. But of course, the real stars of the show were our teen tutors, who consistently impress me with their maturity and aplomb.  At that age I was snarfing pop tarts and hiding my grades from my parents. These kids are getting work experience and teaching 2nd and 3rd graders to read; they are looked up to not only by their tutees but also by a room of 300 adults, none with a dry eye at the end of their presentation. I’m proud to be a part of the Team Read team and looking forward to my next role as I step down from chair to secretary. And I’m eternally grateful to M who introduced me to this organization.

Last weekend, I had dinner with friends at my house — relaxing and informal; I also learned to do a gluten-free chicken parmesan (hint: garbanzo bean flour) and my sister’s banana nice cream (OMG coco whip is the secret!!)– and then on Sunday my best friend and I decided to do the Hot Chocolate 15k.

The Hot Chocolate 15k promises a lovely hoodie and all kinds of chocolate-based goodies along the raceway. It also sends you smack up the 99, up three hills, and back down them (and up them). We were walking (thanks to my recent injury) but it’s a small solace. It is 9.3 miles of sheer discomfort and as we got to mile 6 and saw the uphill slant of Aurora (the last uphill, right after you have shoved 3 or 4 chocolate marshmallows into  your face and you’re ready to play chubby bunny and you’re feeling pretty good and then you see the last, huge, uphill of Aurora and you want to say the F-word but your face is full of marshmallows) and remembered that type 2 fun doesn’t come easy. You cross the finish line, get your medal, and then get a cup of cocoa, some chocolate dipping sauce, and a bunch of stuff to dip into said sauce.

But Candie made it up to me, because we got to have breakfast at the 5Spot.

The 5Spot is in Seattle and I couldn’t find it on my own because every time I go to Seattle I get lost (this is not an exaggeration).  Our waiter had amazing purple lipstick and beautiful eyes and there’s a shirt there I like; the food was wonderful and the coffee was intense and I will go back. I also heartily approve of their attitude.  I ate and ate and ate and yet came home with leftovers (which the boy promptly ate).

Tired yet? I was, but it’s only Sunday in this chronology. Yeah, I’ll speed it up.

Monday and Tuesday was all day in an Economics class: take people whose WHOLE JOB it is to do research (with an economics or machine learning bent) and of course they are world-class (the class was run by Glen Weyl and Preston McAffee had a prominent course) and put them into a 3-day course (yeah, I only got three) and add in snacks and coffee and Q&A and stick a fork in me, I’m done. The syllabus alone is enough to make me jabber at the husband, who still gives me that little smile as he listens.

And so we find me at today. Wednesday.  I had an all-day conference on Leadership, full of those cringe-inducing group efforts that somehow were ok, and I find I am glad.  Still so much to do, but all in all a good week. There’s no big political missive here, or commentary on the state of things. Just gratitude.

Except for that friggin’ hill on Aurora.  I could do without that again. I don’t care how many chocolate marshmallows are in the offing.

 

 

Unilateral Butt Syndrome

 

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Headed back home in the eerie light.

This time of year, the road to Spokane from where I live (just a little east of Seattle) is moderately nerve-wracking; you have to take one of three passes (North via the 2, South via the 410, or the standard I-90) and two are typically closed (the north and south). The 90 itself has a history of landslides and closures, and since my PT appointment was at 11am in Spokane this meant I needed to leave the house around 4am and cross the pass at night. (Actually it meant I needed to leave at 6am, but I didn’t realize the South pass was closed and so drove all the way down to South Auburn before I figured that out and had to double-back).

 

Once you get past the pass, though, it’s eerily beautiful in these cold winter months, with snow on the ground and overcast skies. I pulled over to take a picture on the way back, both to capture the light and also to stretch the legs; otherwise five hours in the car is a bit much, even for those of us who enjoy driving.

The question you may have that I haven’t yet answered is why I was going to a physical therapy appointment in Spokane in the first place. I live in the Seattle area, surely there are good physical therapists here? Yes, of course there are. But the very best physical therapist I have ever had (who managed to get me off of regular knee injections and back into running in my 40’s) moved to Spokane and so for things like orthotics and gait analysis and exercises I go see her. (It’s Kit Vogel at Tailwind Physical Therapy, if you’re interested– she also does bike fittings.)  Yes, I will take a day off work and drive 600 miles roundtrip to keep myself active. Quite apart from all this Kit is a wonderful person and fun to hang out with.

My knee, sensing an expert appointment was at hand, decided to go out three days before my planned appointment. It was my first outdoor run in months (not including the Disney Half) and I was sore post run — and then the next day — and then really sore the next day. So off to Kit I went.

After marking on my legs (with green washable marker) and measuring my gait in slow-mo and reviewing my shoes and my orthotics, she pronounced my problem: Unilateral Butt Syndrome. In short, my right cheek has been doing all the work for both cheeks (when running and working out), and so my left cheek is lazy. Therefore over time my knee has had to take up the slack for my left leg when running, and as my orthotics and shoes wore out (I use Hokas but because it’s for knee cushioning they don’t last more than about 6 months with regular use) my ankles and feet stopped doing their part and sent the work up to my left knee.  The left knee will only put up with so much of that bullshit before it screams and so here I am, with a busted knee. Apparently UBS is a real thing, as I was explaining it to a friend at the gym and one of the trainers chimed in with, “Oh yeah, I have that!”.

I now have nimg_0506ew orthotics on the way and new shoes, and a new set of exercises I’m doing probably less often than I should but probably more often than Kit thinks I am; and kinesio tape on the knee. That the exercises are awkward (see pic) and difficult is not unexpected. It’s also hard to tell how quickly I will recover. I’ve stopped running for now and am walking (on the treadmill at incline, outside with my best friend) to keep moving. I’ve figured out (finally) that I will not be able to continue running without the routine of floor exercises to keep my butt from being lazy and shifting all the work to one cheek; this is not a case of “ok the pain is gone now I don’t have to do clams anymore”.

If you suspect you have UBS, talk to your PT, and I’m happy to share info on the exercises I have to do. Mostly it’s clams (for the glutes), bridges, push me/pull you (as seen above), hamstring work, and balance work. It’s not particularly fun and for those of us who are impatient and just want to go do the run or walk or whatever it’s an extra series of steps. Considering that impatience got me here, though,  I shouldn’t let it keep me here.

Side note: if you find yourself alone in the car for five hours each way, the Rich Roll podcast is particularly good. Thanks to my brother and Havi Zavi for the recommendation.