Atlanta Garden cherry blossoms

Atlanta Garden cherry blossoms

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Monday. What's on your plate today?

Napping in the sunshine?
Friends for breakfast?
 Maybe some pensive and reflective "me" time?
What's out there in your world today?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Analyzing blogs: What will it say about me? Or, what will someone think it says about me?

Last week, I was contacted by a researcher and invited to participate in a study related to people who write about experiences in their personal lives in their blogs.  In the process, the researcher informed me that the project would include analyzing my public posts.  While we all know that what is posted on any social media, especially the Internet, is not private, and indeed, one assumes we want others to read it or we would not be posting it publicly, it has still been unsettling, and I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons for that feeling.  I tend to want to help PhD students with their dissertation research, having myself depended upon people's willingness to help me with mine.  I clicked on the survey link to just see what it said, not at all certain that I would participate, and got an error link, so that solved the question for the moment.

I suppose part of the discomfort for me is that I do not consider this blog a personal journal--said she who is writing some pretty personal stuff here right now.  I do, obviously, write about my personal experiences, and from my perspective, it is usually to inform, educate, address some inequality or injustice of the system, bring issues to light, and yes, to connect with other like-minded individuals.  I like that the stories and experiences we share connect us with each other, and that we learn from each other, and it humanizes us and our experiences to share those.  I do not think of that as a personal journal--that is the one that I write in my own handwriting, and no one sees but me until I die and will probably be trashed by my unemotionally-attached-to-sentimental-things son, no doubt while rolling his eyes if he perchance even opened one of the journals that occupy a full shelf in my bookcase.

So, in my thoughts these past few days (especially every time I think about posting) is the question of "Will this get analyzed by a piece of software, trying to ferret out some pattern?  Will a human being read it, and think thoughts about the questions raised, and will it matter that said human being read it?"  And then, what is it that bothers me so much about this, if indeed I am posting these essays, or stories, or experiences in a public space on which people can comment?  Obviously, it cannot be my sense of "privacy" or some concern about having my thoughts, words, and analyses on issues scrutinized, because that could be done without my even knowing about it.  Is it the knowing?  Is it like when we do not know something is happening, then it does not enter our conscious thoughts to concern us?

Or is it the software angle?  That my life and words and experiences and thoughts and analyses of important-to-me and sometimes to the world issues gets relegated to an impartial, inhuman analysis to determine what it says about society?  Is it the thought that something that matters to me gets chunked into the categories determined by a computer program, and the conclusions of an academic who interprets those computer-generated categories, but that human eyes have not observed the content nor construed meaning nor participated in understanding that world and its relevance?

Now as one of those academics who has done qualitative analysis and published from it, I fully understand that you cannot analyze massive amounts of data solely with your one brain.  It takes too long.  I am old school, and was trained on qualitative when it was new to my profession, and not very highly thought of by some academics.  We did not have software--we had to do the painstaking coding and categorizing and pattern seeking and understanding from the standpoint of the population and their lived experience all by hand and human critical thinking.  And that is how I still do it.  I think of the police officer I worked with back in Texas who once opined that yes, there were computers that could generate profiles and tell you about the likelihood of what your "perp" was going to do next, etc., but that he did not think there was a substitute for reading it, looking at your clues, thinking like the "perp" might be thinking, and trying to put your human self into solving the problem.  Remember the movie Three Days of the Condor when Robert Redford is an analyst (using computers) that analyzes books to locate code for the CIA (or whomever it was) and he goes out for coffee and comes back to the office to find all of his colleagues dead?  The story then revolves around trying to figure out (as a human) what had been uncovered in the computer analysis that made someone think they were on to the plans to do whatever foul and evil deed it was that was a big enough threat to kill an office full of computer analysts.

Yes, that is probably a bit overdramatic, but then, there was that whole actress gig in my early life, which is also probably interwoven throughout my blog posts along with the serious essays and stories about Rio and my family, and of course, that the Lottabusha County Chronicles was born because of the experiences of moving to Mississippi and at mid-life, having my ideas upended in unbelievable ways due to those experiences.

I am probably way over-estimating the importance of either the research project or my tiny little spot in it.  So, on that "experience" I have to go to my day job--researching evidence-based assessment.  Ironic, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Yeah, like these are going to last until 2017...

"Best Before 2017 JAN"...yes, of course they let me get this straight, these could last for an entire year...I love me some optimism.

Monday, January 18, 2016

We are in this hole together

I absolutely love reading Infinity Farm's Anna Blake talk about positive training and relationships with horses.  I not only enjoy reading her work, I relate to it and learn from it.  Frankly, I can apply it to my relationships with humans and dogs equally well.  Most recently, she did a follow up to her earlier "When your horse falls in a hole" and provided some really helpful training about leadership when the horse is afraid and responding to that fear with loss of control.  Anna wrote:
If you’re looking to return to your usual sweet conversation/work with your horse, you have to accept him where he’s at. Fighting his behavior when he’s stuck doesn’t give him a way out. Less correction, more direction. You have to go into his hole with him and lead him out. That’s why they call it leadership.
Then let the transition-cycle work: Cue to connect with him, let him answer, and then reward his response. Politely ask for a bit more, reward that connection again. Perfect or not, now he starts to feel better about things and he tries a bit more. Reward his bigger effort, continue the cycle, and before you know it, it’s all hearts and flowers again.
Positive training works; it’s the difference between partnership and dominance; the difference between putting the horse first or having your own tantrum.
I had just read that earlier in the day, and having arrived home after being gone for a two days, I was sitting in the living room with Abby.  I do that often, so it was not unusual, but two things disrupted the routine and sent her into an out-of-control cycle of bouncing off the walls, furniture, my lap.  Normally, she has her chew time with her little bone, one of her favorite pleasures.  Alas, she was out of her chew bones, and nothing could console her.  I would redirect her to her chew kong, filled with a treat but that did not hold her attention long.  On one of the last jumps to my lap, obviously saying, "Hey, mom, I am not getting what I want here!"  her toenails got entangled in the fringe on my sweater, and then panic set in, and she was really out of control and anxious. 

I took a cue from Anna's training, and got Abby's attention--she responds very positively to touch when she is excited, so I touched her, and began to talk to her.  It was about redirecting her focus from "my toenails are caught in something horrible and I am struggling to escape" to something pleasant and calming.  Abby is not as big as a horse, but she is big enough to cause pain or injury.  I understand her impact; Abby does not.  So, as Anna said, I had to go in the hole with Abby, and acknowledge that I was part of the reason she was in the hole.  Ever so calm, ever so rewarding her for responding to my cues, and gently, finally, releasing her toenails from the fringe was simply having calmed her enough that she was lying still on my legs, enjoying the petting and attention, and thus, allowed me to untangle the fringe.  My next step was to wrap the fringed ends of the sweater close to my body, and cover myself with a throw to prevent another mishap. 

It is an important remind: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Check out Anna's advice on getting your horse (or dog, or student) out of a hole and displaying leadership.  After all, the burden is on the one with the awareness.
That's why they call it leadership.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Generations: The best is yet to come

 Drumroll, please!  And the second lesson from The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinner... I correctly guess the ingredients, including those little caramelized onions on top, and applauded the presentation: food should be pleasing to the eyes as well as the palate.  Sis reported it was delicious, and I will say that pork chop's lovely browning just makes me want to drool on the computer.

I have been reminded of several things during this time of transition in the family, and that inter-generational relationships (as LindaRe pointed out in comments on the earlier post) were the norm, not the exception.  The whole idea of "independent" living in little nuclear units of husband wife and 2.5 children came about during the affluence post World War II.  I for one, love intergenerational living and the benefits it brings to all the family--the passage of history, tradition, and skills, help with the overwhelming tasks of keeping up our enormous houses and all of our gadgets, child care, elder care, and learning to share and contribute.  What could be better?
A bit closer to home, I have been in a creative mood of late and have now expanded into yard art decor...of sorts, anyway.  It did not turn out exactly as I envisioned (it is always way better in my head than it is in reality!) but I liked that it adds some color and definition to Libby's kennel until it is time for flowers again.  I did plant a few pansies along what I have come to call my "cliff" but the deer are eating them and digging around in them, so that isn't going to work for now!  I started the second weaving yesterday, this one to hang inside Libby's kennel.  After all, if one's view is the inside of a dog kennel, it should at least have something to enhance the view.

Happy Saturday all--cold front's coming and the sunshine is gone for now.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Becoming a pioneer woman, part 2: They have arrived.

 The new family arrived at Sis' Tuesday afternoon, and spent a couple of days getting their things settled in and doing copious amounts of laundry.  Yesterday, K began work on menu planning, perusing her new cookbook.  At 3:30, she began prepping for dinner.

Sis said K was really tired by the time dinner was ready: Spanish rice and enchiladas.  I reminded her it gets easier and faster the more you do it...well, unless you are doing labor intensive things like enchiladas or tamales, that is.  Nonetheless, C pronounced them the "best white-made enchiladas he ever had."  After all, he is from San Antonio.

It will be fun, I hope, watching them maneuver into the routines they develop for themselves.  Sis told K she could bring her own new cookware and dishes and use them if she wanted--she had been kind of downhearted not being able to use them yet.  Seeing the turquoise cooking utensils, I see what K decided.
Meanwhile, Great G-Mama J was helping out in that way that only GGMs can do.