On heroes

I read this post from Sigrid Ellis today, and it reminded me some parts of Enrico’s last Debconf talk. This is Sigrid’s post:

Source: reblog by The Badger’s Smial

Enrico talked more broadly about relationship dynamics within Debian community members. He focuses on consent as the most sustainable strategy for long-term collaborations. Where consent is not a priority, heroism has space to grow, but this can also mean that heroes could maintain or even create new emergency situations to keep themselves active and important. The long-term strategy of preventing emergencies by continuous (albeit less visible) care requires another set of skills, but is ultimately more efficient. Isn’t there a say that goes like “doctors should not focus on healing the sick, but on educating the healthy”?

There is definitely something about the continuous celebration of heroic deeds that shadows care continuous successes, but I don’t want to just hold the media responsible for it. I think that recognising the usefulness of maintenance routines (housekeeping, nature conservation of non-charismatic endangered species and ecosystems, education (of any kind), care of one’s physical and mental health) would take us very far and will still leave space for heroic acts. One thing I would work on is to underline the intermediate steps between indifference and emergencies. I don’t want to either destroy nature or save a rare bird (or worse: do both!). I want to be aware of smaller and useful actions that I can do before heroes need to be called.

Book recommendation: “Ce n’est pas toi que j’attendais” by Fabien Toulmé

I read this comic yesterday at the library, in its German translation.

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I have been moved by the story of this father and his family, who discover that their newborn baby has Down syndrome. Fabien Toulmé includes the hard moments as well as the happy ones, his doubts, his difficulty in accepting his daughter, the various degrees of help he receives from doctors, colleagues, family and friends. He doesn’t hide that it took him weeks to take his daughter in his arms. He tells how his wife and older daughter reacted, and how they all took care of the newborn baby.

I found that this story portraits ordinary people, not heroes, facing difficulty, and overcoming it with their own forces and with the medical support available to them. I have thought myself what would happen if I become the mother of a special child, and I felt so unprepared. I wonder how many people feel this too. I am glad that Fabien shared their journey so honestly, and especially happy that he did it in a comic: emotions and feelings pop out of the pages more strongly than printed text would do. I recommend this book to everyone, not only future parents: knowing a bit better what journey it is to raise a special child would hopefully increase empathy and support.

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Watercolour: first negative space painting

Yesterday I gave a try to the negative space technique, and this is the result:

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I picked Horsepower by Chad Hanson on Flickr and drew the minimum amount of lines needed to reproduce the scene. I then put one layer of watercolour after the other. I suspect that the paper had to be prepared before painting, because it bent a lot and made a strange effect on the left side. Maybe I used too much water. As a first result, it is not so bad! For sure I need practice in painting uniform surfaces (not like the darkest layer, where you see all brush strokes 🙂 ) but this painting encourages me a lot.

Thanks my fellow bloggers for your inspiring posts about watercolour, and I hope that some of my readers feel like trying watercolour as well!

Music recommendation: string instruments day!

Today I wish to share two videos: the first is Bottesini‘s Concerto for double bass N. 2, played by Principal Double Bass of the London Symphony Orchestra, Rinat Ibragimov. The video’s comments are gold 🙂

The second is a song by Loreena McKennitt, recommended to me years ago by a fellow software developer:

I keep finding music that speaks to my soul in ways I could not imagine. I turn to these sounds and voices in the times I feel discouraged and low. I hope some of you will like these songs, and I wish you to find more gems while travelling the wide ocean of the Internet 🙂

Learning to learn (from now on)

A few days ago I read this tumblr post and resonated with it like a gong:

Source: Tumblr

I have the sensation that in my childhood I found either things I could master right away, or things that required me some practice. I suspect that I received a lot of encouragement when I did the first kind of activities, and something in the lines of “don’t bother to practice that, you’re not as good at it as with the other things you can master right away” when I tried the others. I think I missed the opportunity to learn that some things are hard to master, and that I could not avoid practice forever.

I’m not a fan of the “if you ain’t sweating, you ain’t doing it right” either; but rather of a reasonable amount of practice, mistakes and lessons learned, that make the goal worth reaching. I feel like I am learning how to learn only since last year or so, because I had the privilege (or curse?) of mastering enough necessary skills without (perceived) effort, and I lived off this treasure until recently. The downside is that I am a bit old to start learning how to learn, so it looks odd to most other people who encountered this hurdle in their childhood, and I get more puzzled looks than helpful hands. Anyway, now that I realised where I am, and which path I want to follow, I can start walking.

Source: The Latest Kate

Book recommendation: “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo

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I bought this book a few years ago and I cherish it, as a call for more clarity, simplicity, lightness in life. There is something deeply liberating in trying out KonMari‘s advice to gather all items of a specific type, see them all together, see the different ages of your life from where they come from, and decide to keep the ones that sparkle joy. This is a very condensed summary of her method, that she explains in detail in the book, with a great deal of thoughtful tips. I am aware that this book is very very popular and that countless reviews have already been made; still, I wish to shout my little +1 for it. One can decide not to answer the call immediately, but could consider specific tidying advice, and improve one thing at a time.

Shopping strategies: focused and scanning

I noticed I have two main strategies while grocery shopping, that strongly depend on how much time I have and how much optimisation I need to achieve. When I’m in full focused mode, I set up a kind of filter and I only pay attention to what I have to buy. On the opposite extreme, when I’m in scanning mode I am looking at everything with interest.

OK, this is barely new information to anyone. What I want to share is the surprise I felt when I thought: when I’m commuting, am I more focused or more scanning? And when I’m in a queue? When I’m home? I realised that I tend to travel around in a very focused manner. I wait at the bus stop with only my destination in mind. I check the phone to see if the bus is late. Only few times I have managed to look around in a more scanning-like way, and I discovered a woman on the balcony, reading among her flowers; the different greens of the trees above me; a crow walking across the street; the nice evening light.

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Source: my Flickr

This way of looking around didn’t take long, and filled the few minutes of waiting time in a very enriching way. I want to practice it more often, especially when I feel that the focused mode can be switched off for a while.

Planning activities: today or never…

I was crawling through my long to-do list (that sadly doesn’t look like the Pink Panther’s):

Source: novaplanet.com

… and I noticed that there are two main categories:

  1. things I do every day/immediately,
  2. things that I postpone.

A handful of activities (luckily for them) fall into a third category of properly planned items, that are to be done regularly (often thanks to a calendar reminder) or at least in the near future and with a good certainty.

I don’t like the prevalence of the first two categories. It basically means I’m not properly planning, so I simply improvise, picking things from the to-do list depending on the current mood/energy level, and leaving all the rest to wait forever, like dogs in a shelter. The only time I plan is actually today. This of course can’t work for any activity that has a longer cycle (cleaning, for example) or lasts more than one day. I manage to do these things too, but more because their urgency makes them finally eligible to be done today, not because I planned them. On the opposite extreme, I have had planning-intensive moments in the past, but I tended to over-fill my schedule and it was simply exhausting.

I would like to find a level of planning that is right for my current energy availability, while allowing me to set goals in the future. A reasonable balance is to plan activities for a few hours of the day (around half of the day is OK) and leave the rest free for improvisation (for example it is a sunny day and I can spend the free hours at the park with a book; or it’s raining and I can do the house cleaning I planned for later). It would also work to leave one day per week completely free. It is also meaningful to coordinate activities with a partner, so that the common free times are planned together. On the longer run, I tend to plan a week ahead in detail (write down all planned activities), two weeks ahead in less detail (intentions, but no fixed dates), and occasionally plan events for a more distant future. I think this somewhat short planning is able to give me positive feedback when I manage to complete my weekly items, and motivate me to continue, and plan more accurately according to my energy stock.

How do you process your to-do list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!