Tuesday, May 03, 2022

doing hard things

a moment of serenity in the greenhouse when i got home.

dang, today was hard. a very long project is about to come to fruition. a year and a half of work. and weirdly, today, one day before launch, we found ourselves in a holding pattern. there was a major bug and the development team was working frantically, and the rest of us just had to wait. finally, the decision was made to just roll back, without really figuring out what the hell caused the bug. and although most of the day was spent waiting and not really doing all that much, damn, it takes a psychological toll. i swear, we're all going to need therapy after this. i am completely wrung out this evening. i was going to keep editing and checking pages, but instead, i'm telling myself that no one will actually read all. the. pages. tomorrow when we launch in the first two languages, so, as the danes say, "det skal nok gå." (it'll be all right) and i'm taking myself off to bed after a long, hot shower and a rather large glass of wine. i'll put a cozy mystery (this time, the royal spyness series by rhys bowen), curl up with a cat and fall asleep. the hard part isn't over yet, but it will all be easier after a good night's sleep. and thank odin for good colleagues. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

of data mirrors and a sense of belonging

part of the dataspejlet (data mirror) project at trapholt museum is small piece of personal embroidery. you actually download your data from facebook and your search history from google chrome and send it in to a model/algorithm that the museum has created for the project, and it returns a quadrant diagram with circles on it representing the words that appear most frequently. if you click on the numbered circles, the words change, so you can select the ones you wish to think of while you embroider and create your personal "data mirror." 

i think because the algorithm is surely set to danish, it has returned some weird words for me - like "lov" which is surely actually "love" in my posts and not "promise" if it were danish and the "ll" that's surely from "we'll" and "it'll" and other contractions. i have no idea what the placement of the circles on the quadrant means. 

the museum had kits available in set colors - you get two colors to use, plus white, which you should use for the words that appear a lot, but which you don't want to count in your stitched picture of your data. unfortunately, i didn't get my hands on a kit, not imagining that there were only a few available, but i suppose it makes sense since the artwork can only be the size it can be. i have felt more disappointed than is warranted that i didn't get a kit. i plan to work with the graphs on my own anyway and this way, i get to keep them. and decide to use as many colors as i wish.

and i am getting to participate in the woven part of the work, so i am still a part of the larger work. in my disappointment over not getting a kit, i realized, once again, that being part of a community is important to me. i wanted to see my stitched data mirror in dialogue with all the other stitched data mirrors - to have a visual depiction of how and where i fit in the scheme of things. to contribute to something beautiful that only becomes more beautiful in dialogue with everyone else's work. i feel genuinely sad that i don't get to be part of that. and it triggers that old familiar feeling of being on the outside (i really should get therapy for that).

i think i also wanted something beautiful to come of all that data i stupidly gave to facebook all those years. it was nice to think that something good would come it somehow, when they've used it for nothing but evil and nefarious purposes. 

my chrome history diagram is much less interesting since it's so full of work-related stuff like kitchens (in no less than four languages) and dashboards and the project management software asana - which i visit regularly. i wanted to submit my blog data, but their algorithm couldn't handle the amount of data. i don't think my google visits say that much about me as a private person, but they do say something about me as a work person. 

but i guess that whatever i make of it is for myself. and maybe that's ok. but i would have liked it to be part of something bigger. sigh.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

dataspejlet :: weaving community

i spent the weekend at the loom. our weaving group is part of an art project at trapholt museum. fiber artist astrid skibsted is working with trapholt on a project called dataspejlet. it's in two parts - one is woven and one is embroidered (i'll write more about it in another post). for the woven part, our weaving group was chosen to participate. we received all the yarn we needed in colors that were chosen for us and a warp that was ready to put on the loom. when i arrived at the museum on saturday, it was already nearly ready to start weaving. 

it's strange in a way to write about weaving, as it's something i learned in danish and therefore, i don't really know the terminology in english. so i don't know how to express the part of threading it and putting it into the comb. and on some level, i don't really want to even google it, as it's something that danish and i have together.  i realize it makes me sound like even more of a beginner than i even am (and after ten years, i still feel like a beginner), but that's just how it is. 

the last thing that needed doing was the fishing line along the sides. it's there for stability, but plastic fishing line is very different than the linen threads beside it, so we struggled a bit to get it right. luckily, there's a facebook group where everyone who is part of the weaving is helping one another and we learned that we needed more weight on the fishing line at the other end.  but on saturday, we didn't know that and we struggled with the fishing line and keeping it taut so it would lay nicely on the edge.

we were given a cream colored yarn to use as a test section. it's this very cool japanese yarn that's actually flat, rather than round. and it takes working with it a bit to get it right. and that fishing line teased us.

but on sunday, after following advice from others in the group, we put on more weight and we got weaving in earnest. our edges looked beautiful and i got to weave the whole first section. the whole pattern is prescribed and since we are quite a large group, everyone needs to have a chance. i did a small timelapse of my weaving. my phone was fastened to the loom and it slowly turned over the course of the timelapse.

as always, i feel like the loom teaches me lessons that i can't learn anywhere else. it's the most honest thing - you can't trick it or fool it or hide anything. it will show clearly any tricks you try to pull on it. it will always be totally honest with you - and show you clearly your mistakes. but when you correct them, it will also show you all its beauty. and when it does, there's really nothing like it. tiny threads, woven together, become something strong and beautiful. it rather takes my breath away. and to be part of a larger work that is the work of so many others gives a real sense of community. even solving frustrating problems is part of the story that we're weaving into the work and it will all be there in the threads when it's done. what a privilege to be part of it.

Friday, April 01, 2022

how we make decisions or how do we make decisions?

i started a new job nearly two months ago and two weeks ago, when i got the opportunity to return to my old job, i accepted it. i hadn't made the decision to leave lightly and when i made it, i felt it was the right decision. some very big things changed at the new workplace in the interim and when i got there, i discovered that it was very much not the right decision. i am privileged to be able to go back to my old job, where i know that i have great colleagues and where my work is appreciated and makes a difference.

i'm finishing up at the new job this week and trying my best to finish up all the projects i'm involved in. it's so disheartening to have the reasons that made me regret the new job underlined for me again today. the main person that i have to work with (not a co-worker, more the client) seems to be actively working against me. i've asked her multiple questions today and she hasn't answered any of them. i can't finish today's work without her answers. i even tried to book her for a quick teams meeting and she suggested a time tomorrow, even though she wants the article i'm working on today. it feels like she wants me to do a bad job so that she can be confirmed in her opinion that the agency i work for doesn't provide good work. 

i'm trying not to take it personally, but i really don't understand it.

* ~ * ~ *

and this stupid blow-by-blow timeline is boring the hell out of me. i should find a way to tell it in metaphor. or as a fairytale. if i did, it would undoubtedly involve a naive, well-meaning character who trusts too much and a dragon that turns out to be an ugly troll. and who will indulge in even more intense troll-like behavior the next day, though i didn't know that at the time i wrote the paragraphs above.

* ~ * ~ *

but it all has me thinking about decisions and how we make them. we make them with a combination of thought, cost-benefit analysis, and excitement with a bit of gut feeling thrown in. and in any decision, one of those will weigh a bit more than the others and be what tips the scales. in this case, i made a big list of pros and cons of each job, thought about it endlessly, discussed it with husband even more endlessly and then went with my gut, which told me to take the new job. but it seems my gut didn't know the whole story. 

but was it my gut? any decision is a complex thing. i got the new job through a headhunter who contacted me last summer. at that time, things were a bit rocky at my job, my boss was going down with stress and making himself and everyone else miserable and i'd spent that first year of covid doing a whole lot of things that were not what i was hired to do. and i'll admit, it's awfully flattering to be contacted by a headhunter. and i'm susceptible to that sort of flattery. it's always nice to be wanted. 

but was that it? i think it was part of it. the other part was some baggage created by the aforementioned stressed manager. he had done his best to convince me that he doubted my abilities, though how he knew what they were when he hadn't let me do any of the tasks i was hired for, i don't know. he even criticized me for how many tabs i kept open on my computer, as if that was any of his business. or as if it had any meaning whatsover. he actually wanted to use that fact to deny me the chance to actually start doing what i had been hired to do. he also spent half of my development talk waxing on and on about how awesome my colleague was. so yes, there was baggage. and despite him actually having left the company by the time i accepted the new job, it was still a big factor. carrying all that baggage around is hard work.

so what about my decision to go back to that job? that's a complex thing as well. it's partially the danish karen who was my main client at the new job and it's once again, a bit of flattery. it's flattering when your old boss calls and asks if you'd like to return. and if you're in the middle of something that wasn't what you expected it to be and you don't think it looks like you can actually do anything about making it better, it's that much more appealing. i'll admit that i was also missing my old team - we were close and it felt so comfortable and fun. i missed laughing and having a good time with them (hmm, i wonder if that's the most important factor in decision making? feeling like you belong?). and so i said yes.

and today, i started anew. and it really did feel like a fresh start. like i could leave the baggage of the old boss on the platform and start anew, on more secure footing and feeling like i was appreciated for what my new boss (who was the old boss' boss) knows that i can do. it also helps that i have a proper job description this time and that i find all the tasks in it to be right up my alley.

and so, it feels like the right decision. for a whole variety of reasons. and time will tell if they hold up. but for now, my gut tells me that they will. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

war in ukraine :: do what you can

i've been thinking a lot about my russian friends and how they must be feeling. i wonder what they're thinking? what news they have access to? what they believe? whether they have children who might be sent to putin's folly of a war. i'm friends with one on facebook, but she hasn't answered my message. she might not be able to now, if putin turned it off. so terrible what he's doing and how those who will suffer from his actions are the ordinary people in both ukraine and russia. such an amazing culture, with so much of the world's best literature and music and art.  

since i wrote this a couple of days ago, my friend in russia has answered. she's ok and though she's vague in her posts, she actually still has access. and she said we must all hope for peace. what else can we do?

i'll tell you what i did today - i bought some prints from a ukrainian artist. it's a small gesture and probably only significant to the artist who i bought them from, but it made me feel like i was doing something. and i don't want it to be in some fortunate western kind of way, but maybe it is. but still, i hope it made a difference. please support yulia if you can. her illustrations are lovely and she has a cat. you may have to print yourself at the moment, but honestly, isn't that the least you can do?

Friday, March 04, 2022

studying russian at the wrong time

on the train from moscow to kazan with my dad in 1994

the past week or so of russia's agression against ukraine has me pondering my past. i studied russian, mostly literature and quite a lot of russian history. of course i studied the language as well, but i was never a great talent. i could always read it better than i could speak it. but i did ok, and most importantly, i loved it. 

i studied russian at precisely the wrong time to actually get to do anything with it. i began studying in 1989, just as the berlin wall fell. it took a couple more years for the soviet union to dissolve, but dissolve it did. and by the time i finished my bachelor's degree in 1993 and my master's in 1994, academia didn't really know what to do with us russian majors. 

looking back, so many of my professors were former military, harry had been to the defense language institute in monterey and then princeton (possibly not in that order). the head of our department at iowa, ray, was also former military, as was kit, whose last name i don't remember, though polish was his specialty. later, at asu, the head of the russian department was also former military. they were surely all tapping people on the shoulder to join the cia or fbi or nsa. but that tap never came for me. perhaps because of the aforementioned not being a language talent, but i think it had even more to do with timing. i simply studied russian at the wrong time. fellowships dried up. slavic departments shrank and merged with other "minor" languages. i met a nice danish boy and followed him home and love sent me in another direction.

and i believe that today, we're seeing the result of that. putin and his cronies felt humiliated at the dissolution of the soviet union and now he's taking the first steps towards getting it back. and because no one kept studying russian and slavic culture, it seems like the world is rather blindsided by it all. maybe they should have tapped some of us on the shoulder after all, even if we weren't brilliant at russian, but just had a deep and abiding interest in it and the culture. 

as usual, at moments like this, i wish i could still sit across from my dad and ask him what he thinks about it all. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

we made it this far

what a weird week. already on tuesday, it felt pretty long, though in honor of the auspicious date, i was determined to look at everything from a positive perspective. then wednesday came along and it only got longer. it wasn't a great day. i got a reminder that when you switch jobs, you will be surprised and maybe even blindsided and you will have to adjust to the new situation. i also sent a silent prayer of apology to anyone from an agency that i had worked with and who i hadn't treated very well. i'm so sorry! but then i picked up the positivity again and reminded myself how much of a difference i could make if i looked at it from a different perspective. 

that's what changing jobs was about - learning new things, stretching myself, thinking in new ways, doing things from a different perspective. and that's what wednesday gave me, so i can't really complain.

and then on wednesday evening, i went to an amazing event in a small castle turned school that's in the area. i heard very interesting, experimental music from two up and coming young artists - one who performed in the beautiful setting of a church from the middle ages and the other, which was accompanied by a most amazing set of synesthetic visuals. and an established artist, teitur, whom i didn't know before that day. he's from the faroe islands and his songs all tell a story and he performed at a grand piano in an amazing room of the castle and was so authentic and down-to-earth and lovely and genuinely talented and it was bliss. seriously, look for him on spotify and definitely listen to the song called clara. he told the story behind it and it was lovely, but you'll get it even without the story. it's a song of our times.

for most of the day on thursday, i thought it was friday. alas, it was not and that was a disappointment. world war 3 started, for no reason that anyone can discern, other than that putin has gone completely mad. i'm certain he has issues at home that no one knows about. and i think the only way to stop him will be for the west to freeze all his bank accounts, take his yacht and his house(s) on the french rivera. make it hurt. but i fear many innocent ukrainian citizens will be hurt before it works.

and now it's friday. and we made it. and the weekend is ahead. and despite learning that an old colleague is unexpectedly a trumpanzee, and world war 3 has begun, and gas prices are skyrocketing, we will go on. and i will get up and go for a long walk and then i'll settle in to work. and maybe do a bit of sewing and or weaving. and probably feel like crap about the lot of it, because of the aforementioned ww3. what can we do? if i knew, i'd do it.