Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I may be getting in over my head

I attended the last of the "Faith and American Politics" (Unitarian style) class last weekend. I'm still absorbing, integrating and figuring out where I stand on many (or most) of the issues raised during the class. The class isn't designed to resolve the issues for you - you have to do that for yourself.

I'm going to have to figure some of those issues out soon because the Unitarian minister who led the class asked some of us if we would participate in an up coming service centered on the theme. I'm either really serious about this or I'm a secret masochist because I volunteered to participate.

We met tonight to decide how we'll organize and conduct the service (May 11). We decided that three of us will speak for 5-7 minutes each. We will imagine we are a Unitarian Universalist who is running for President. Each of us will write a "stump speech" or "position paper" on a particular issue. We picked three issues: health care, separation of church and state, and war.


I chose separation of church and state. So I better figure out where I stand on this issue and put it in writing. Fortunately I did learn more about our US Constitution during the class and I have additional resources to draw on.
I picked the church and state issue because I think it will be a little easier for me to do. I think I have a fairly good idea of where I stand on that issue and why.

I'll post the finished product on or close to May 11.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lapses of Civility

I've become aware of a couple of lapses in my civility lately.

I was attending a meeting of about 15 people this week when I became aware that I had interrupted others more than once.

Last week I and a couple of colleagues were talking about the younger employees and their iPods. One of my colleagues said that they used their iPod to create an "acoustic island" (a private place) - that's when I spoke up and said "Oh! Oh! Maybe we could we get Keith his own island?" (Keith is one of those people who has a naturally loud voice.) Unfortunately, this was not only a jab at Keith but Keith wasn't there to defend himself. (Remember, "honor the absent.")

These little relapses of civility add up. They are not simply unkind and disrespectful - they are also unprofessional. Civility and civil conduct is something that I need to always be conscious of and constantly practice with complete awareness. I can not allow myself to slip back into old habits.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What is this goose thinking?

Have you been Phished yet?

I received a rather strange e-mail a few days ago, it read:

Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2008
From: support@YourSchool.edu
Subject: Please Confirm Your Account Immediately!!!

To complete your school account, you must reply to this
email immediately and enter your password here (*********)

Failure to do this will immediately render your Email
Address deactivated from our database as this is part of
our security measures to serve you better.

Thank you for being a part of YOUR SCHOOL COMMUNITY!

YOUR SCHOOL SUPPORT TEAM
From address: support@YourSchool.edu
It looks like someone is on a Phishing (pronounced fishing) expedition. They're hoping that I'm dumb enough to take their bait but I'm wise to this old trick. Someone is trying to trick me into giving them my password so they can take over my e-mail account and use it to send spam (junk) e-mail.

I'm not going to take their bait. I don't give my password out to anyone - ever! Besides, I know the support team doesn't need my password for any reason - ever! Unfortunately, not everyone is as weather worn as I am. There are people who take the bait and get caught by the Phishers and get their e-mail account taken over. They also get blamed for all the spam mail that gets sent from their account too.

A word from a tired old fish. Never give your password to anyone for any reason. Ever! If you were unfortunate enough to have been fooled by one of these scams go change your password right now!

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pictures of trees and flowers I took today

I took most of these pictures today while on a walk around the park. I included a few pictures that I took earlier.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Dedication of Children - Unitarian style

I am not easily moved. I tend not to get very emotional about things so I was a little surprised when I got all teary eyed during a dedication of children ceremony conducted at the Unitarian church I attend.

The ceremony was for the parents to publicly dedicate themselves to the welfare of their children, and for the congregation to pledge their support to the parents and children, and to welcome the children into the community. The children were defiantly not dedicated to any deity or religious doctrine. There were no magical incantations or pleading to a supernatural deity or spirit.

The ceremony started with an explanation of the purpose and intent of the dedication which included: "dedicating ourselves, acknowledging the worth and dignity of all people, a recognition of the miracle and mystery of life, the sacred task of caring for the children and their families, welcoming the children in friendship and community, teaching courage in the chaos of a troubled world, that wherever their journey takes them they travel alone only if that is their wish, and that they are part of this community." (Morran)

Each of the parents were asked to pledge themselves to their child (most had written their pledge earlier.) This is when I started to tear up. The parents pledge was followed by a Rose Blessing wherein each child's forehead and limbs were touched with a Rose then the Rose was given to the child. After the Rose Blessing the congregation was led in a responsive reading. Then, there was the laying on of hands!

After the responsive reading, other children in the congregation were asked to come and place a hand on the children in the dedication while the rest of the congregation were asked to all join hands and form a chain with the children so that everyone was connected together. A Unitarian prayer to the "breath of life moving among us" was spoken once we were all joined together. By now the tears were really starting to flow, but both my hands were occupied so I couldn't wipe them away, so I silently said to myself "Oh screw it. Let em flow."

The Rose blessing symbolized the solemnness of the occasion. It communicated to the children, their parents and the congregation that they should take their commitment seriously. It also added an aesthetic quality to the ceremony so that it was more than just speeches.

The joining together and laying on of hands served multiple purposes. It was a community building and bonding exercise, it added additional weight to the seriousness of the commitment to raising children, and it said "We are a community." Besides, it was fun.

The closing prayer to the breath of life was a message of hope and good will.

Each element of the ceremony built on the previous element and had a cumulative affect. The ceremony wasn't about theism, bible, salvation or the after-life. Very few people there, if any at all, believed there was any magical energy or supernatural spirit being conferred. It was about commitment, friendship, community and a celebration of life.

I really got into the spirit (mood) of the moment! I must still have a little breath of life moving within me.

An MP3 audio recording of the ceremony is available here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I can't do my Taxes myself any more


I've procrastinated doing my taxes again this year because doing them isn't exactly fun and it's not a very rewarding task (see previous post).

Tonight I decided I had put them off long enough. I got everything out (fortunately I keep all of my income and tax related stuff together) got last years tax information out and set to work. I didn't get very far. I got into the K-1 section and discovered that I needed to file two more forms which I didn't have. I went to the IRS site and downloaded the additional forms along with the instructions (which are a separate download) and started in.

My brain isn't working as well as it did last year and my brain wasn't working last year as well as it had the year before. I have to double check every morning to make sure I put on pants! At this rate next year I'll be drooling out of my mouth. So, even though the instructions were written in English there weren't three words together that I understood!

I've prided myself on being able to do my taxes all by myself by hand but this year I have reluctantly concluded that I will have to pay a professional to do them for me.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lesser known Work Avoidance Techniques

I was practicing some of my lesser used work avoidance techniques this afternoon when it occurred to me that some of my procrastination and work avoidance techniques may prove helpful to others.

I'm sure that everyone is already aware of, and has mastered, the technique of living in your e-mail InBox. This is probably the most widely used work avoidance technique in our modern world. You can waist countless hours reading, and acting on, every single e-mail message that arrives in your InBox. This technique can be further leveraged in two ways.

First, act on e-mail messages where you were a CC recipient and the subject of the messages is outside of your domain of responsibility. This is very effective at giving you a reason to leave your desk and throw your wait around. It also gives you a false sense of importance which really comes in handy when someone finally puts you in your place.

Living in your e-mail InBox can be further leveraged by creating two or three other e-mail accounts, say on Gmail and Yahoo etc., then you will be able to log in and check for e-mail in each of those alternate e-mail accounts once or twice an hour.

Another work avoidance technique that I use occasionally is to think up odd words and phrases to search for on Google. Not only is this a terrific waist of time but it's also a lot of fun! Any educational benefits are purely coincidental and should be discounted.

If you install an RSS news reader into your web browser you will be well equipped to subscribe to several dozen Blogs. I suggest picking blogs that are updated several times a day. The more petty and trivial the Blog the better. Reading Blog posting via an RSS feed gives you an ample amount of useless data to use while avoiding your important work. It also enhances the illusion that you're at your desk getting your work done.

I have, on occasion, resorted to reading the ingredients on my bottle of pop then looking up each of the ingredients on the Web, however this is only a one shot technique unless you have a poor memory.

As a last resort you can just sit and stare out the window. Fortunately I'm in a position where this is possible but I realize that not everyone will be as fortunate.

Why are good work avoidance techniques so important? In the Road Less Traveled the late M. Scott Peck wrote about self-discipline, procrastination and delayed gratification. He suggests that we put-off, postpone and procrastinate when we are faced with unpleasant or unrewarding tasks. He further suggests that, in our modern society, we have become accustomed to immediate gratification. It's like we want to eat our dessert before the main course or be rewarded for accomplishments we have yet to fulfill. His theory is that favoring immediate gratification over delayed gratification weakens our self-discipline.

I have developed a cadre of work avoidance techniques because much of my work deals with unpleasant or unrewarding tasks and I frequently work with people who are less than sympathetic with my duties. If I adopted Peck's recommendation to re-prioritize my work to put the unpleasant unrewarding tasks early in my day and put the pleasant rewarding tasks latter in my day I would accomplish more, strengthen my self-discipline and feel the reward of a job well done. The bottom line is I am solely responsible for my actions including getting my work done. Self-discipline is the foundation of personal responsibility. Rather than practicing my work avoidance techniques I need to be practicing self-discipline and personal responsibility.