Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Entries in things that happened to me (12)


Little Shifts

I serendipitously discovered Mark Williams’ and Danny Penman’s Mindfulness two weeks ago. It’s in the same tradition as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work, which I encountered at the beginning of this year and loved. I’ve been feeling my ability to be mindful and present slipping a little recently, so I decided to try the eight-week program the book lays out. Week one, which I started yesterday, is about waking up from autopilot, and one component of it is about breaking routines.

As you probably know, I fall into routines very easily. I find them comforting, in part because of their predictability. My senior year in high school, my friend Sarah and I stopped at the same deli for lunch almost every day. Every day, I ordered the same thing: Quick & Easy Corned Beef on wheat bread, sour cream and chive potato chips, and a Mountain Dew. She made fun of me for it — “Variety is the spice of life” she said — but I had a simple defense: “I know what I like best, and that’s what I want.”

The routine I’m focused on breaking this week is pretty trivial. I’m supposed to sit in different chairs than I normally do, or move those chairs to different places in the room. Seem pretty simple, right? Hah. Now, it’s important to understand: I have determined the best seat for me in the Starbucks I write at. If someone is sitting there, I hang out nearby, and as soon as they leave, I move it. So when I showed up today and realized I was supposed to break my routine, I started to get annoyed. All of the other good writing spots were taken. This wasn’t just my chair this was messing with, but my whole productivity scheme. If I couldn’t write over lunch, then…

And at that point I realized the best thing for me to do was not to try to write anything. I just got my cup of coffee, grabbed an overstuffed chair in the corner, and chilled. I noticed that the way the ceiling was hung was pretty cool, which was something I couldn’t see from my usual, favored location. I noticed a bunch of other things about the store that I hadn’t picked up on before — despite going there almost every weekday for the better part of six months. But most importantly, I noticed what was bothering me. I just sat with those things and let them pass. I took advantage of the moments of mental quiet that not-writing afforded me, and at the end of my cup, I found myself much calmer than I had been when I walked in.

Then I went back to work and ran one of the most effective retrospectives I’ve ever facilitated. There’s no way I would have been able to do that if I hadn’t been in the right headspace. And I only got there because came off autopilot, woke up to present, and did what made sense in the moment.

It’s funny what sitting in a different chair can do.


Fitness: Ran 3 miles

She's Right

The Boss
A play in one scene

The Players
Sarah, a barista
Paul, a regular patron
First Woman, a coffee drinker
Second Woman, another coffee drinker

The Scene
A Starbucks, at the end of lunch hour.

Sarah stands at the espresso machine. Paul sits at the bar, typing on his laptop. The two women stand, waiting for their drinks.

Paul rises, closes his laptop, and begins to put it in his bag.

Sarah: You can’t leave.

Paul: You’re not the boss of me.

First Woman: My daughter used to say that to her swim teacher when she was four.

Second Woman: I wonder where she learned it?

First Woman: I don’t know. But she still says it all the time.

Paul: I have to go back to work.

Sarah: I guess that’s okay.

First Woman: Because someone there is the boss of him.

Exit Paul


Fitness: Rest day
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 0 words, 173 seven-day average, 282 average, 54239 total, 761 to go for the week

Fishing for Compliments

I spend many of my lunch hours at Starbucks, writing. I like to perch at the end of the bar because it’s high, it’s got a nice surface, and it affords a good view of the room. I also get to chat with the baristas, which often leads to awesome conversations. Suffice it to say, I like it there.

Yesterday, I was randomly selected to fill out a survey online about how they were doing. It took five whole minutes of my time, and considering I was able to do it from their free wifi, I wasn’t going to complain. I got to say complimentary things about the people who generally make my lunch hours pleasant. In return, I was given a voucher for a free beverage.

Today, when I redeemed that voucher, I was again “randomly” selected to fill out the same survey…


Fitness: Ran 5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 314 words, 410 seven-day average, 283 average, 49869 total, 631 to go for the week; 16-day streak

When We Stopped Laughing, We Explained

As I was getting ready to leave work, I put together a Frequently Asked Questions document for the project I’ve been working on. Which reminded me of a moment last summer, when when I was in our office in Lausanne.

One of the developers there was getting ready to move to a new job, so he’d put together some documentation to help with the transition. Like the rest of the people who work in that office, his first language was French, so he spoke fluent but slightly accented English. As he reported out to the team he made repeated and punctuated references to the FAQ he’d prepared. I know some people who spell the acronym out when they say it out loud: “F-A-Q.” I tend to treat it as a word, one that rhymes with “back.” He did the latter as well, though with his accent the vowel landed somewhere between an “e” and a “u.”

I’m sure I’ve said similarly funny things in other languages.

As part of our Fourth Friday Challenge series, Becky says: “i want the funny! share with us a little gem from your happy memory box, a story or a visual or brief moment that always makes you chuckle.”


Fitness: One Hundred Pushups, Week 1, Day 3 (8-10-7-7-13)
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 362 words, 316 seven-day average, 262 average, 29846 total, 154 to go for the week

I Did Use The Phrase "Hiding Behind The Arras" In My Outline

On my way back from Nerdly Beach Party VII1, I listened to the Gamer's Haven Podcast's recording of the seminar Robin Laws did at GenCon about Hamlet's Hit Points. I hope that explains what happened tonight.

I've been working on a short story for my friend Valerie's anthology My First Time. It's a Raymond Chandler pastiche, and I'm having a lot of fun writing it. The last pieces of fiction that I wrote were for Finis, back in 2006, so I'm a little rusty. The ending of this story keeps changing on me: every time I write a bit more, I realize that it shouldn't turn out the way have in mind, so I need to rejigger it. It's getting close now, but it's not quite there yet.

It was after one of these writing/wrestling sessions tonight that I decided to go for a jog, hoping that it would give me some clarity. Instead, about a half mile in, the specter of Robin Laws appeared before me, like the ghost of Hamlet's father. "Mark me," quoth he. "Use the beat analysis system from my book to flesh out your outline. See how the audience moves back and forth between hope and fear, and modulate the tension appropriately. Notice where you have reveals and forget not to lay pipe to set them up. Your story begins with a question; be sure to answer it in the closing beat." And then, as the morn grew nigh, he vanish'd from my sight.

Or at least that's how I remember it.

1 Which, according to our established naming scheme, should be called Wes Craven's New Nerdly Beach Party