Carleton College Senior Art Show

I lost myself in the Carleton College senior art show, Composite, last week. I’ve visited a couple times now, and have only gotten more impressed by the quality of the work. Every piece is worth savoring, and the pieces in the gallery fit wonderfully together. Here are a few of the more easily-photographed pieces.

Paintings by Soren Hope
Paintings by Soren Hope


Graphite Drawings by Avery Johnson
Graphite drawings by Avery Johnson

The artist says these pieces, “are a reflection on a human’s physical relationship with technology, especially the mobile phone. By creating huge drawings of human hands grasping for and poking at the viewer as though they were a phone, I hope to evoke a the sense of greed and desire that we feel when interacting with something designed as a multipurpose, interactive tool.”

Metal Body Ornaments by Zoe Abdel-Moneim
Metal body ornaments by Zoe Abdel-Moneim
Hanging sculptures by Ellen Louise Kwan
Hanging sculptures by Ellen Louise Kwan

And then there were Chloe Mark‘s amazing oil on Plexiglas paintings. She sliced them up and hung them in such a way that you could walk through them and watch some of them move almost like a video.

Chloe Mark
Paintings by Chloe Mark

Listen, Don’t Fix

I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, but I’m more and more susceptible to being inspired or at least informed by quotes on the internet.

This week’s example comes through my wonderful coworker Dee from the thinker and speaker Parker Palmer, which she shared with me in the course of a conversation about raising kids – a topic on which Dee has a deep well of wisdom.

In the face of our deepest questions… our habit of advising each other reveals its shadow side. If the shadow could speak its logic, I think it would say something like this: “If you take my advice, you will surely solve your problem, If you take my advice but fail to solve your problem, you did not try hard enough. If you fail to take my advice I did the best I could so I am covered. No matter how things come out, I no longer need to worry about you or your vexing problem.”

The shadow behind the “fixes” we offer for issues that we cannot fix is, ironically, the desire to hold each other at bay. It is a strategy for abandoning each other while appearing to be concerned. Perhaps this explains why one of the most common laments of our time is that no one really sees me, hears me, or understands me. How can we understand another when instead of listening deeply, we rush to repair that person in order to escape further involvement? The sense of isolation and invisibility that marks so many lives is not least the lives of young people, whom we constantly try to fix. It is due in part to a mode of “helping” that allows us to dismiss each other.

When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved; you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored…so the best service I can render when you speak to me about such a struggle is to hold you faithfully in a space where you can listen to your inner teacher.

(The emphases are mine.)

Spring Thursday

Today was just one of those days that went right. Perfect weather. Lots, but not too much, to do at work – including doing off a few to-dos that had been to for too long. A hard workout at noon. Some Carleton silliness: free root-beer floats at the library.

Root Beer Float Line
Root Beer Float Line

A task at the end of the day that turned out to be easier than I thought. Wonderful floral smells in the humid spring air. A great bike ride home, seeing a half-dozen friends and acquaintances and met a new fatbike. A gorgeous sunset. A pleasant few minutes with the girls when they got home, jazzed up, from tae kwon do. Now, a good new book to read and a delicious beer…

Trapped in D.C.

My conference trip to Washington went well until this morning. I made it to D.C. without any problems, found the conference itself very useful and interesting, and enjoyed hanging out with friends and colleagues. With a forecast of snow for Saturday, though, I expected delays in getting home, even though the snow wasn’t really very heavy:
Morning Snow

And that’s exactly what’s happened. My early-afternoon flight home was canceled, and the airline rebooked me for Sunday morning. (Though I was assured that the airports are shut down, I heard airplanes taking off just a few hours ago…)


So I went for a little trip over to DuPont Circle, one of the places in D.C. that I know slightly. I took the Metro, which is always fun:
DuPont Circle Metro Stop

I stopped in a burger joint to get lunch when I arrived at DuPont Circle. I was the last customer of the day: the girl behind the counter told me that the shop was closing "due to the bad weather." I ate a delicious cheeseburger and fries while watching one person after another ignore the sign on the door announcing the closure, walk in and up to the counter, and then be told that the place was closed.

Sated, I went down the street to Kramerbooks, an excellent indie bookstore. I couldn’t find the book that our waiter had recommended the night before, but I browsed for a while, then decided to find a coffeeshop to check email. Though I wanted something local and cool (Kramerbooks qualified on both counts, but I didn’t want to wait for a table!), I settled for a Starbucks, partly because the sidewalks were so awful that I didn’t want to walk very far. I saw people shoveling their sidewalks, but they were putting the snow in front of the next businesses over, not in the street!

Just after I got my order, the very crabby manager announced that he "had" to close the shop – due to bad weather. Why a coffeeshop has to close because of snow, I have no idea: he was doing a booming business. When I tried to take a picture of the scribbled sign in the window, he flipped it over so I couldn’t!
Closing Starbucks

With two strikes against me, I decided to just head back to the hotel. On the way, I took a picture of the DuPont Circle fountain, since everyone else was, too:

DuPont Circle in the Snow

Standing in the park, I noticed that it’s apparently part of the national park system, which means I’ve set a new personal record for national park properties visited in one year, at three – Yellowstone and Grand Teton last month, and now this one.

Then I took the train back to my hotel. The cars were packed with hockey fans and discomfited tourists, so it took a long time. And even though the sidewalks in Potomac Yard were awful, too, I enjoyed the walk through the snow – one of my few outings this winter in actual snowfall. The streets were even worse than the sidewalks:

Jeff Davis Highway

I totally understand now why snow is such a disaster for cities any further south than, say, Philadelphia. They’re not ready for it and can’t handle it.

Apparently, neither can the airlines. When I got back to my room, I had a voicemail informing me that my Sunday-morning flight, too, had been canceled. Now I’m supposed to leave Washington on Sunday evening, getting back to Minnesota around midnight.

Sigh. Oh well. Like Chesterton said, an adventure is just an inconvenience rightly considered.

Oakland C-A

One of the high points of most summers at work is a conference for other grantwriters at liberal arts colleges. The conference moves around the country each year, and this year was held at Mills College, a beautiful little institution in Oakland, California.
Mills College Views

Mills is crowded with amazing eucalyptus trees
Eucalyptus Trees

and gorgeous buildings
Mills Views II

with wonderful art.
Lion Sculpture

I enjoyed and benefited from the meetings themselves, which were held in this great room:
Mills Views III

I also enjoyed staying at an amazing old hotel in Oakland, the Claremont – to which I took my first-ever Uber ride, making me feel very urban, and which afforded incredible views of San Francisco:

San Franscisco from the Claremont

We also took a nice trip to the Wente Vineyards, an old vineyard southeast of the city. I’m not much for wine, but vineyards are apparently always spectacularly gorgeous.
Vineyard Magic Hour

Plus I got to see my cool cousin Sara, though we didn’t remember to document our meetup with photos. All in all, it was a pretty wonderful trip. I’m lucky to have such great trips to make for my job!

Entertaining Facebook Spam

Today I got spammed through Facebook’s chat feature by someone who hacked a former colleague’s account. A few choice excerpts from my conversation with the hacker, which ended abruptly when I said I’d be reporting the exchange as spam to FB.

"Have you heard the good news,about Mark Zuckerberg facebook founder who help deafs,Hearing,and retired on facebook? Oh i thought you heard about it,its a lottery promotion he made to few people on to benefit from the gain of the company $150,000.00 did you get yours?"

"Ups delivered the money to my door step. I saw your name on the lucky winners list, so I thought I would see if you have gotten yours?"

"Anyway i think you should contact to the clamming agent right now so that you can be able to claim your own win money because i saw your name on the winners list when my own money was deliver do you know how to do that on facebook ?"

" click on the link it will lead you to the agent facebook page and sent him friend request. Tell him you want to know if your name is still on the winner’s list he was always online there to attend to the claiming winner ok?"

Business Trip Lessons

My trip to a conference at Wesleyan University in Connecticut went well overall. First and foremost, the conference was great. Second, my air travel went smoothly, with no major delays or other trouble. Third, I had a good time hanging out with new and old friends at the conference.

But I also made a pretty bad choice as to the hotel where I would stay. I picked the cheaper option, when I should have done more research to figure out which of the two had the better location.

So – three tips to find a better hotel next time:

First, heck the distance from the hotel to the conference site, and choose the hotel with the shorter distance! The cheaper hotel this time was miles from the conference site, and though the hotel furnished a shuttle, walking the half-mile to campus each morning and evening would have been great.

Second, use Google Maps to figure out where nearby stores and such are located, but also use StreetView to see if I can walk to any of them.

Before this trip, I could see that my chosen hotel was less than half a mile from a mall with a grocery store and several restaurants, but I didn’t see that that half mile could not be covered on foot, thanks to a ridiculously narrow overpass.

Third, ask at the front desk about the view from my room. This time, I got this, which isn’t much of a view at all:

View from Room 260

Standing Up

Standing Desk

Back in April, I changed from working at a regular desk to a standing desk (a switch I blogged back then). About five full months later, I can report that the change has been a very positive one for me. I won’t go back to the regular, sitting desk – unless They make me, and who do They think They are?

Some of the benefits relate directly to productivity. A trivial example: the smaller surface area of the standing desk (really, just a cafe table) means I can’t pile as much stuff near, on, and under my keyboard and trackpad, which in turn has forced me to be more cautious about what I print or take back from meetings. I’m hardly "paperless," but I’m leaning further in that direction than I had been.

A more important productivity payoff from being upright all the time: better concentration. It’s simply easier to pay attention when I’m standing up. I’ve found it’s especially easier to proofread text and check budgets when standing up – though I do get many more fingerprints on my monitor now. I have to keep one of those cool microfiber cloths at hand all the time.

A third positive effect relates both to productivity and to health: I move around a lot more now that I’m not sitting down. "Standing" really means constantly shifting from foot to foot, leaning from one side to the other, turning around to retrieve something from my old desk (which is now just twelve square feet of filing surface) – in short, anything but standing at attention. All the movement is good in and of itself, but standing up has also made it much easier to get up and move further – to cross the office to talk to my boss, to grab something off the printer, to go see someone down the hall instead of calling or emailing. Simply being folded into my office chair had been a huge impediment to movement.

Relatedly, working at the standing desk has entirely eliminated the low-level but annoying aches and pains of desk work: aching shoulders, sore wrists, even eyestrain headaches. I was lucky never to suffer anything even half as serious as a diagnosed repetitive-stress problem, but now I never have even a little twinge. This is clearly an effect of never being frozen in a hunch over my keyboard.

Finally, and most surprisingly, I’ve been happy to note that standing up all day has helped with reecovery from workouts, too. Sitting, it’s clear, was a horrible way to recover from a noontime workout at the gym or a bike ride the night before. Standing is much better. I never hop on my bike to ride home and feel like I’ve been tied in a pretzel all day.

Stand-Up Guy

Last week I fully joined the standing-desk trend. I had bought a tall “cafe table” for my office a couple years ago, and intermittently used it as a desk, but last Tuesday I finally moved my computer to that table.

Standing Desk
Standing Desk

A week into the experiment, I’m ready to say that it’s been a great arrangement. About the only problem so far is that my table doesn’t have enough surface area for much besides the computer and my iPad, which I use as a second screen. I can’t, for instance, easily put a printout or a magazine on the tabletop to consult while I work.

On the other hand, standing has already had several benefits. I’ve found that I’m much more likely to move around more, whether walking across the suite to get a glass of water or just to pop out of my office to chat with someone else. Even when I’m at the desk, I’m hardly stationary: I’m constantly shifting my weight and position. Being upright seems to help a little bit with my ability to focus on my work, too, but that might be due to the fact as that I’m closer to the screen than I had been while seated at my desk.

The biggest payoff, though, is that I am far less sore and achy at the end of the day than I had been after a day of sitting. Even on days when I go to the gym, my legs and back feel good – warm, loose, energized – when I pack up to head home. That’s a pretty nice surprise.