Can’t be Contained

Murphy’s Cousin in action

So if Murphy’s law states that “if it can go wrong, it will,” then is his cousin the one that states “if things could possibly be incredibly frustrating, they will be?”

There are a lot of conferences every year, for all kinds of fields.  In academia, there are quite a few, too, such that overlapping or back-to-back situations happen a lot.  On the other hand, for the most part, I notice that conferences of the same type don’t usually happen at the same time.  So technical conferences – how to manage a lab, stuff like that – are in early summer, then maybe late summer, then maybe in the fall.  Management conferences – the big one in Educause – is in the fall, as well.  But people who go to Educause are not usually the ones going to the technical conferences.  

However, right now I am facing a situation where the Law School Admissions Council – LSAC – has started a new, senior IT-related conference called ESCON (electronic services conference) and is actually significant subsidizing attendance.  It’s a big move on their part.  This is law school specific, though, yet it’s also leadership/management related.  Lots of admissions officers will be there, too, but part of the goal is to get the two groups together.

Now, that is from April 1-3.  Of course, as Murphy’s Cousin’s Law dictates, while usually management conferences are going to be spread out, the ACM SIGUCCS Spring Management Symposium, which is designed for those aspiring to be higher-level managers/CIOs/etc, runs from March 30-April 1.  I have applied for a grant to attend – again, very generous and I would be incredibly grateful if I were selected.  

But…c’mon.  Seriously?  One ends on April 1 and the other begins the same day?  And I don’t find out about the SIGUCCS grant until February but I book airfare for the ESCON now, which means I might leave SIGUCCS a day early, fly back to the San Francisco area, then basically meet my wife at the airport to change the contents of my luggage and jump on a plane to fly back to the eastern time zone for the ESCON.  And obviously if I get the grant I will go to both (I also have been wanting to go to the management symposium for a while now).

And yes, both are in a the eastern time zone, so I have to factor in minor jet lag, too.


How to write an episode of 24

Just follow these basic guidelines:

  1. Have Jack Bauer look serious and angry at least 3 times per episode
  2. Mention either or all of the following topics at least once:  Jack being kidnapped to China, Jack’s wife dying in season 1, Jack’s daughter not talking to him, or the actions of the various Presidents that have either helped or screwed Jack over in previous seasons.
  3. Present the President with a major, international political dilemma that evolves and changes over the course of the entire day, making it seem like no one would ever, ever want to be the POTUS
  4. Have a questionable character do something that seems nefarious and perhaps bad yet turns out to be benign and borne from genuine and morally sound concerns
  5. Take said character and make him an important member of catching “the bad guys.”
  6. Have at least one major conspiracy that runs throughout the show.  Have that be the basic premise of each episode
  7. Plant the seeds then milk the possibility of a second conspiracy that basically questions the reality of the main conspiracy (thereby turning the secondary conspiracy into the real one)
  8. Make Jack either a crusader against the primary conspiracy or a possible pawn in the secondary conspiracy
  9. If Jack hasn’t gotten all bad-ass and killed at least 5 people in 3 or more episodes, make him do that.  Make sure that he has only X bullets in his gun and kill at least 2X people.  
  10. At the end of the episode, don’t end on a cliffhanger (because when do we have a cliffhanger in life that occurs right at the top of the hour, anyway?  I mean, this is supposedly to be realistic!)
  11. Instead, make it so that an important issue needs just 5 more minutes to resolve, but end it there.  

That’s it.  Follow those rules and you will have a basic episode of 24…

I’ve been meme’ed

I noticed that I had a new incoming link (I don’t have many, usually), this time from Debbie Schinker.  It is one of those rare “do this and pass it along” things that is actually quite productive and interesting.  (secret admission:  I like reading those items when I get them, but I don’t pass them along.  I must be slowly destroying all of mankind’s karma…).  It is a meme where I am supposed to list 7 things that the “royal you” probably don’t know about me.  Sounds like fun.  Fortunately, I don’t have to plead the fifth on any of these. (more…)

Different perspectives, same power to the message

Crip Chronicles: I Guess I’ve Been Holding My Breath…

I only today found out that one of my former colleagues at Stanford had a blog of her own.  I’ve always known her to be intelligent and witty and funny and a lot of other great things, and she is one of the people whom I always intend (but often fail) to find when I visit campus.  Every single conversation I have ever had with her has been a good one.  I am honestly pondering how accurate of a comment that is right now and stand by it.

So, it is entirely hilarious and appropriate that her blog is titled the “Crip Chronicles.” 

And it is not at all surprising that I am honestly, truly moved by what she writes in the linked post.

New Year’s Resolution – simple, and hopefully doable

Every year, I either make resolutions that I will never keep over the term of the year, ranging from the usual “I will lose X pounds” (only ever kept 1 year, really) to something more esoteric and/or personal.

I think I can manage this one, though, which took until this morning to really figure out.

I am going to say “hello” more often.

That’s it. Plain and simple. I walk by people everyday and just am not friendly enough. Sometimes I have reasons – stuff on my mind, I’m just cold, whatever. But this is too small a community at work and I need to make more connections.

So I’ve developed a policy:

  • If I’m sure I don’t know the person:  smile and say hello if eye contact is made
  • If I am not sure if I know the person:  say hello
  • If I think I know the person:  say hello with some energy and enthusiasm
  • If I know the person:  say hello and make sure to ask how they are doing.  

Obviously I don’t literally mean just “hello.”  It covers all kinds of greetings.  But the point is that I need to be more friendly at first meeting.

And suddenly I was a 14 year old fanboy

On Christmas Eve, while walking around San Francisco by the Westfield Center at Powell and Market, my wife suddenly pointed at someone who had just walked by us and said “Allan! That’s…the person…you know…the nurse from TV!”

Now, I watch a lot of TV. But there aren’t many medical shows that I watch, which meant ER. And if it was a nurse, that meant Linda Cardellini (wikipedia link, too), who plays Samantha Taggert (and was also great in Freaks and Geeks back in the day).

Suddenly, in a flash, I was 14 years old. I was jogging back to see if it really was her. As she and presumably her family struggled through one of the dumb “hinged in the middle” doors at the shopping center, I moved through another, conveniently turned to my right and verified that it was her.

Now, lest anyone think I turned 100% into a 14 year old and/or a crazed fan, I realized that she was doing some last minute shopping with people that I could only presume were her family (she’s originally from this area), so I just kept going, exited the building, and walked back towards my wife and in-laws.

I am not one to get caught up in seeing “famous” people.  I had a very calm and collected conversation with Dave Matthews while on the main floor of the Oakland Arena back in 1998 (Halloween show that year, approaching their peak performance level as a band).  I have hung out at the Fillmore Theater after shows with artists.  I also haven’t met that many people from TV, music, movies, etc, either, but am not usually one to go all gah-gah over such occasions.

But that was fun and kind of cool, I have to admit.  I really thought she was a great addition to the cast of ER (and I have watched every season of that so I am rather committed to the show).  And yes, I felt like a 14 year old fanboy.

The only saving grace was that I was wise enough to let it alone and not turn into a crazed fan when she was probably with her parents doing xmas shopping…

Technology is everywhere, and nowhere

I just came out of a meeting where the various deans at the School of Law met with directors of some of our major centers (Global Law, High Tech, and Social Justice) to talk about how the centers and the school might work better together.   It was a lively discussion, with contributions from just about everyone.

I did not say a word.

Why?  Well…because, when it comes to technology, it is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  Just about anything that anyone wants to do – connect with alumni, improve the learning experience, etc – can use technology.  And when I say technology, my job is to make sure that we’re doing technology the “right way.”  Not just throwing it out there, not just spend ing money on something that we think will work.  But putting a solution together that adds the most value.  That is compelling.  I define “technology” very broadly, from whiteboards to computers to smart boards to walls to…you get the idea.  Instructional technology, servers, e-mail, collaboration tools.  Technology, and my department’s area of jurisdiction, if you will, is very broad.

So, unless I am raising my hand for every sentence, I keep my mouth shut the whole time.  

Weird experience.  

ps – if I had felt technology was ignored or undervalued by any of the people in the room, that’s a different story.  But I think my colleagues all have a good understanding of what my department does, and where I do and do not fit in.  Just to be clear.

Maybe we should run our servers on Tivo Series 1 boxes

So after 7 years of nearly continuous uptime, with not a single soft reset that entire time, the primary hard drive in my original, series 1 Tivo is beginning to fail.  It’s possible the add-on drive, which is a mere 6.5 years old, is dying, too.  

The drive in our TivoHD lasted 13 months (with, of course, a 12 month warranty and no sympathy).  

7 years.  That’s ridiculous.

Things that keep us sane at night

I was lucky enough to be reminded about how important it is to have outlets to one’s everyday grind – hobbies, whatever – in order to stay sane.

I was at a photography workshop in Death Valley almost a month ago.  While I am not particularly happy that it took a paid, almost forced effort to get me back into “just for me” photography, it kind of put me back into a good groove.  I’m now carrying a camera with me everywhere and if not for the need to sit here waiting for the cable guy I’d be out shooting in this great fog we’re experiencing right now.  

With work during the day and night classes for my MBA, I just don’t have time for a lot of “me time.”  But I realize now how important it is to stay ahead of my work not just because it’s a good thing to do, but also because I need that outlet to keep myself level and balanced.

I’ve also unfortunately watched my wife struggle with this.  After being a full-time student for four years, she is now working again but, as a nurse, she works 3-4 days in a row and then has large amounts of time to herself (she is also working 2.5 hours away so it’s not like we can plan to have lunch together if she has to stay an extra day – she does come home between those 3-4 days of work).  She really went back and forth looking for something to occupy her time.  She did find a few things, and of course I’m not singling her out – I could be talking about similar issues many of my friends have dealt with.  But it really is important to keep something in one’s back pocket to keep things in perspective.  Especially considering the week’s events (see “In Memoriam” a couple of posts ago) I need that perspective all the more.