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Category: Observations

That’s a major deduction, Olympic announcers

I love the Olympics. Every four (or 5) years the world comes together to show off such immense and diverse talents across a mind-blowing array of sports. I love watching.

I saw a man take gold in a Triathlon he was never expected to win. I saw an Australian swimmer upset Katie Ledecky. I saw that same Ledecky out-swim a field of other world class athletes in 1500 meters like she was out for a morning warmup. I saw the world talk about Simone Biles take herself out of the team competition. (Good for you! Take care of yourself. You owe nothing to anyone but yourself.)

I love watching women’s gymnastics possibly the most of all. (But did you see the synchronized diving??? Those British lads were stunning!)

What I could not stand was the commentating for the gymnastics tonight. We saw Simone Biles take herself out of the competition. What we then saw was the rest of the team perform extremely well. Better than Biles had been up to that point. We saw young athletes with the weight of the world and American Media on their shoulders go out and deliver superb performances.

We saw athletes at the height of their sport.

But what we got from NBC was criticism and negativity. Nowhere was there a cheer of excitement or praise for a well-landed tumbling pass nor tricky maneuver. We got moans and gasps of disappointment as every deduction was dutifully called out. Every failure remarked upon.

And when they weren’t criticizing, they were silent. Terry Gannon, Nastia Liukin and Tim Daggett called the night and while I don’t recognize Tim or Terry’s voice. It was a male voice leading the complaints. They were no Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.

All three of them could take a page from Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines. They are calling swimming and doing a much better job. The excitement in their voices. Reminding us all of the amazing feats we were witness to.

I almost turned off the coverage after the gymnastics portion of the night. But the swimming restored my enjoyment of the night and the games.

Maybe it’s harder for the commentators to remember we are witnessing thrilling races head-to-head and stellar individual performances. But when we tune in to a sport for the first time in 2016, I want more than a frustrated sounding announcer to point out every little flaw and failure of these athletes.

Share the wonder. Marvel with us. This is a treat to watch. You have an opportunity to improve our understanding and enjoyment of an event. Or you can remind us how easy it is to fall into the trap of negativity and nitpicking every mistake and misstep. Choose enjoyment.

Who’s afraid of the Four Day Work Week?

Here’s an enchanting idea. Being able to go to places open the same hours as I work. Being able to make appointments during weekdays. Not always trying to manage the rest of my life around the time I spend yelling at computers and bending them too my will.

If you’re a “full-time” employee, your work week is likely five days (if not more), and spans 40 hours (if not more). You might be paid by the hour, or you might be on salary, but you probably have two days “officially” off every week (although work might slide into those days) and they probably land on Saturday and Sunday.

Now imagine that your salary and benefits stayed the same, your responsibilities at work stayed the same, but everyone at your company only worked four days a week. Think about your current life, and the current make-up of your week, and what you usually have to smush into the weekend. What would you do with extra day off, every week of the year, for the rest of your working life?

Who’s Afraid of the Four Day Work Week? – by Anne Helen Petersen – Culture Study

When you have time away from work, you’re able to refresh yourself and return to work with renewed vigor and focus. I work in a white collar industry that involves computers all over the place. My job isn’t physical. I’m not moving, lifting, running, or carrying things around. Thought that can absolutely be part of a computer job. Technical Support isn’t just 1s and 0s.

My job is mental. It’s keeping systems and information flows in my head. It’s remembering how different variables work together within a greater system to perform tasks. It’s knowing where the limits exist. And a simple Yes/No answer could be the result of an hour of work researching and testing.

Time away from work to unwind my brain and let is breathe and focus on other things is vital to my performance. I dive deeply into hobbies because I need the break. I need the time to unwind and unstressed and build up reserves for another five days of 8 (or more) hour days diving into complex problems and stuffing flowcharts, settings, variables and options back into my head.

Findings from Iceland support this. I didn’t read the full report (PDF) but the same answer appears whenever experiments like this take place.

Worn down by long hours spent at work, the Icelandic workforce is often fatigued, which takes a toll on its productivity. In a vicious circle, this lower productivity ends up necessitating longer working days to ‘make up’ the lost output, lowering ‘per-hour productivity’ even further.

Sound familiar? Replace Icelandic in this sentence with United States and the same applies.

And we don’t even have any of the following (emphasis mine):

But if you don’t have time for an 82-page report, the highlights are as follows: Iceland has a strong social safety net, with low income inequality, significant parental leave, and a robust universal health care.

How many weeks have you really only worked four days? Slow Monday. Taking it easy from a rough weekend. Friday hits and you’re so exhausted you coast through the day counting the hours until the salvation of a too-short weekend arrives.

This is the principle at the heart of the four day week: working less can actually mean working better. That idea is particularly difficult for Americans, who fetishize long hours for many ideologically tangled reasons, to understand. It’s true in knowledge work, it’s true in medical fields, it’s true in construction. You’re just a better worker — a safer worker, a more creative worker, a more astute and alert worker — when you’re not exhausted.

There’s so much in this article to unpack. But it’s time to start thinking about how we work and why we work like we do. Work has expanded through technology to reach into your homes, vacations and every moment of our lives. Long commutes take more and more of our personal time out of our hands and place them into the realm of working hours. But aren’t counted as such.

As a society, we’ve repeatedly shifted our understanding of the “standard” work week. We’ve shifted — through union force, through governmental edict, through business leadership — when it’s made sense. When the work could be done in fewer hours, when employees demanded it for their own health, when societies realized the way things are doesn’t have to be the way things will be. And now is one of those times.

Anne Helen Petersen has quickly become one of my favorite writers and Who’s Afraid of the Four Day Work Week? is this week’s reason to keep loving her work.

Doom Tree

Wasp nest in a tree.

Phone cameras are still magic. Portrait mode plus color pop. Chef’s kiss.

I took this photo of my neighbor’s tree with a terrifying collection of death bees. (They’re white and black and according to my wife’s research can remember faces.)

If I am never seen again, you’ll know why. I keep waiting for one if the servers thunderstorm warnings to turn into… a storm. I want it to huff and puff and blow this monster away.

But until then, I’ll walk across the street from them when I go on my nightly walks.

Zombie persistence

People said I did the impossible, but that’s wrong: I merely did something so boring that nobody else had been willing to do it.

Embrace the Grind – Jacob Kaplan-Moss

I was reminded this morning that much of technical support work is to continue trying something until it works.
“I rebooted already.”
Try it again.
“Now it works.”

My wife’s phone started booting in a loop this morning.
I held the power button down until it restarted and then it loaded properly.

I joked about it needing the hands of a seasoned technical support technician.
Likely, it just needed another reboot. More forceful than the last.

I thought about a recent post from Jacob Kaplan-Moss about Embracing the Grind. And I’ll admit I rolled my eyes a little bit. I thought it was going to be another missive about working hard and through hard work comes success.

And it was, but not in the way I expected.

I often have people newer to the tech industry ask me for secrets to success. There aren’t many, really, but this secret — being willing to do something so terrifically tedious that it appears to be magic — works in tech too.

I think about that a lot. Especially in my early days starting out when I would have computers running disk scans to repair issues, trying to recover deleted files without backup, or scanning to remove malware. Sometimes it took multiple scans that would run for hours, sometimes overnight. But eventually I’d find success.

There is magic in hard work. But it doesn’t have to be 90 hour work weeks or 17 hour days. Sometimes just persistence. A little bit of effort over a long period of time. A mundane task slowly worked through.

This is the grind I embrace. The slow advance of a tireless zombie hoard. They’re not fast. They’re not hard working. But their determined. And in the event, their simple determination is what makes them dangerous.

“good” reads

Books are amazing, but the options we have to buy books and track our reading are terrible. A lot of us are locked into the Amazon ecosystem – buying books on Amazon.com, reading them on Kindles. Sites like AbeBooks and Goodreads were quietly acquired by Amazon. Even LibraryThing is now part-owned by Amazon.

The new reading stack – macwright.com

raises hand I am deep in that life. I have a Kindle, subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and use that alongside the Libby app from my library.

The company started with books because they made business sense, and they acquired Goodreads for the reading data, and are now killing its ecosystem out of boredom or malice. Amazon has never cared about books.

I recently removed everyone but my wife from Goodreads and took the account private. Mostly because I wasn’t using (and never used) any of the social features on the site. I wanted a place to track what I read, when I started, and when I finished.

That’s it.

But it did such a poor job of that I’ve given up on the site.

Despite reading books from Amazon on a Kindle. It couldn’t even get that part right. Sometimes I’d had a start date from when I opened and synced the book and told Goodreads I was reading it. Other times I’d look back at the end of the year and half the books I’d read wouldn’t show up because they had no dates at all on them.

Amazon has all the data on every sync. But instead of using it for me, I’m sure it went into their recommendations for what to read next or how to sell me something else on Amazon.

I’ll keep an eye on the list that Tom lists this post, but I’m not sure any social reading thing will be easier than picking a text file to record what I read and move on with life.