Saturday, November 7, 2015

Great Expectations

I was writing an email to my soccer team on the Friday before Halloween and I was having fun with the words because in reality I was very frustrated. I didn't want the email to be filled with a negative energy and so I attempted to be funny and hoped that my teammates would enjoy it. That did nothing of course to resolve the source of my frustration: how to motivate a group of adults to improve their participation and involvement within the team. Adults have many conflicting priorities that can and will take ascendency over attending a scheduled practice. Finding/paying for childcare, attending classes and professional development events, work shifts and self-care particularly as age slows down recovery times. The difficulty, as it was pointed out to me, is managing expectations.

My expectation when joining the soccer team was that the time commitment was two days a week: one game on a weekend and practices on Mondays. During my time with an adult team we have never had the full roster show up for games or for practices. Indeed, we would not really want a full roster to turn up for a game since we’d have a lot of time managing substitutions with a full team on the bench and on the field. The need for that large a roster of course is due to the schedules of adults who are recreational athletes. Particularly when the season runs from September through all the rain Vancouver can throw at us till March. The conditions however, should come as no surprise to anyone who does anything outside in the fall/winter months of the Pacific Northwest.

So we come to expectations. We have accepted players on the team who are unable to attend practices due to other commitments because we need the numbers for games as the weather and time wears down our attendance numbers. This is a compromise that we have decided to make as a team in order to play games. So an expectation is established that for some members of the team, practice is optional. There are also players who must work or attend classes or have no childcare, obviously they are unable to come to practice so it is once again optional. At this point, how much of the team has been told practice is optional? Perhaps a third.

Then we come to new players who are available – keen to get back into the game and perhaps also use the sport as a portion of their personal fitness regime. These players come out to practice and make it fit into their schedules for perhaps a few weeks. And then the consistently low numbers reduce that enthusiasm and they begin to look for other means to maintain their fitness. Or perhaps they begin to make plans on the date of practice assuming that it will be cancelled. Now another third of the team believes that practice is optional.

Even so, with our roster of twenty-four this should leave us with the meagre eight we have set as our minimum to hold a practice. Yet that does not account for an incidental illnesses, last minute work projects or injuries from the prior weekend’s games. In the end we have three or four individuals who make the time to participate in practice.

If we were to use negative consequences for poor attendance, such as the common linking of game time to attendance at practices, we’d run the risk of being unable to field a full team. Also, these consequences could not be applied universally as it would be unfair to punish those whose work/school/childcare schedules cannot be changed. Our team is not a competitive team – we are in one of lowest tiers of the league. Some may expect that a recreational team will not always or may never hold practices but there are other leagues which are strictly recreational with only games. 

The first positive reinforcement that I thought of was something straight from third grade – an ice cream social. Which probably isn't very motivating for adults so then I thought perhaps a few drinks covered by the team budget for those who regularly attended a set percentage of practices and games. However not everyone likes to drink and I wouldn't want to put pressure on folks for whom this in not a good fit. 

In reality, such a “prize” isn't the motivator that I am looking for. We need to address team expectations and also what the players ultimately want to get out of being a part of the team. It makes me think of what my friend Jean, a certified life coach, is always asking – where do you find your joy? I think there has to be a meaningful conversation had with everyone on the team about what they want to get out of our team. And a part of that conversation has to be a reflection on whether we are a team that practices or a team that doesn't. If it is the latter then we don’t need to throw away a quarter of the fall budget on a resource we don’t use. The practice pitch we have, while gravel, is still not free and becomes more expensive the less we use it.

Of course, I'm doubtful that we could gather the team together for such a conversation so I think that the best bet will be an anonymous survey. It would allow people to speak their minds freely without concern that there will be negative repercussions towards anything reported. There needs to be a metacognitive approach to the questions so that people take them seriously and hopefully it will promote more honest and thoughtful responses.

Why do you play soccer?
How do you perform differently when taking part of a team sport or a solo sport?
What qualities does a good team exhibit?
What do you like best about playing with our team?
What do you like least about playing with our team?
If there was one thing you could change about the team, what would it be?
What is a reasonable expectation for player attendance at games? At practices?
What would motivate you to attend more practices?
What do you want to achieve at practices?

I think I’ll try answering these questions later and see if in so doing, I can refine them or find other questions that might be more appropriate.

WC: 1,066
NaNoWriMo WC: 2,214

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bring on the KITTEHS!

I've always been a cat person. When I was a kid I chose to subscribe to Cat Fancy over any other exciting publications like Scholastic or Dinosaurs. I wanted every book on cats I ever came across at garage sales, book stores or pet stores. It was the best moment of my life when I finally convinced my parents to take in one of the kittens from a neighbour's recent litter. I purchased buttons that said "Destined to be an old lady with 99 cats" and wore them unironically and with pride. That sounded like a great future to me!

Of course, friends and family could hardly mistake my enthusiasm for our feline friends. I've received several toys, figurines and cat related emails over the years. Here's the classic "crazy cat lady" figurine and two cat sculptures from France:

Of course, cats and kittens have taken over the internet much to my eternal joy. I can't say that I agree with the need for box services -- companies that will send you a monthly box of....stuff that is related to a general interest: beauty supplies, health food snacks, and the many and varied "geek" fandoms. All of the contents are unknown to the recipient so there is a high likelihood of these services just contributing to the overall production and consumption of items doomed to ensure our landfills spawn ever larger. However I have to laugh at the fact that there is now a "cat lady" box (LINK HERE) service! It is an injustice to all the people who don't identify as "ladies" that the box is thus particularly labelled. I imagine that if you are a collector of such things, ahem see picture above, that you would be interested regardless of identifying as a "lady" or not. We should just all work to find a new title.. cat minions perhaps?
Photo Source

After many months of exclaiming to Awesome!L about how adorable our cats are, we have decided to share the cute with the world wide interwebs. That's right, last night while watching BBC's Life series we created a Tumblr for our cats. Peak cat minion achieved. After reviewing many delightful cat puns, we decided on the Meow-nificent Duo! (Linky-linky)Also, did you know that there is a website that will take your text and fill it with cat puns??! Seriously, check it out! (LINK HERE) Don't worry, I'll wait. Copy some of your current reading material into the site and just let the awesomeness wash over you.

One thing that has always surprised people about my affection for cats is that I'm sadly quite allergic to them and have asthma. This has never deterred me; in my teenage years I refused to not allow my cat in my bedroom although I did eventually train her to stop sleeping next to my pillow. After university when I lived in apartments with "no pet" policies I would frequently be found catsitting for friends with my handy bottle of Benadryl. That stuff works wonders for me! (Unless you take it with alcohol. Don't do that. Even if the bottle of beer in your hand is a liquid, it is not the RIGHT liquid to use when taking medications. You're welcome internets.) The reason I bring this up is because sublingual allergy treatments are amazing. No waiting in doctor offices to get a shot and then waiting again to be sure you don't get an anaphylactic reaction. I took a regular treatment over the period of three years and have recently stopped. The theory is that my immune system should now be good for three to five years without any further treatment. My Costco bills reflect this -- over the last three years I've only had to buy one bottle of Benadryl! This would not be the case without the effect of my sublingual allergy treatments. For those with asthma in particular, I found this information (Study here) very interesting particularly for us animal lovers.

Tired of all these kittehs? Don't worry, go give your screen a nice scrub...don't forget to expand that window so you get every corner! helpful! (Nom nom nom)

WC: 681
NaNoWriMo WC: 1,148

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Washrooms: Situation...Dangerous

My office washrooms have always been a point of contention. There is a guessed at seat tinkler and one time I fear that someone may have experienced one of those dangerously long periods. Yet these aren't public bathrooms in the sense that multitudes of people are using them each day, perhaps with children in tow. So it is therefore all the more perplexing when a shitsplosion occurs. We're all adults here. Now, I have - recently! - been at the not so tender mercy of my bowels due to a packaged salad. I set an out-of-office alert, called a cab, crossed my legs and HOPED everything would be okay until I got home. I was lucky and was subject to the hellish whims of bacteria from the comfort of my own bathroom.

I understand that not everyone may be able to have that kind of time. Perhaps you're just trying to make a dash to the washroom and hoping it all works out. But my friends, would you not heed the warning rumbles of your tumbly all the more when you are using a shared washroom? A shared washroom that first you must exit your office to access? Because the only thing that makes sense of the FIRST shitsplosion I saw in our office washrooms was that someone dallied too long. They finished writing that email. Sipped those last dregs of coffee. Fake laughed at a colleague's joke too long in the hallway. How else can you explain diarrhoea dregs on the back wall of the toilet stall??

Or who in their right minds would attempt a hover squat with the dark waters flowing from you!??! And granted that perhaps the person misread their body's cues the first time around...would they not be leery of something the SECOND time around? Yes, that's right -- not one, but two stalls were defiled! The second time the person responsible didn't even attempt to tidy the toilet seat. And the poor cleaners! They thought the worst they'd face was perhaps an overflowing pad/tampon box but at least they'd be safe from some of the messes that children can make.

You can excuse children, they're legitimately still learning how to control these things. Although I guess we're all still learning or else there wouldn't be all those jokes about sharting. Still and all, I have no idea how one would begin to address this issue. Perhaps as a medical one? Maybe the person has a nerve problem which means they can't feel anything. Or maybe the person decided they had a superpower to give literal meaning to "shit storm". Did we need that superpower? MCU, I'm looking at you. Saturating pop culture the way you have...perhaps we should have seen this coming. The writing, as they say, is on the wall.

WC: 467
NaNoWriMo count: 467

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Reading

The Birth of Venus - Sarah Durant
Ysabel - Guy Gavriel Kay
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent - Galen Beckett
The Cat Who Played Brahms - Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Played Post Office - Lilian Jackson Braun
The Last Unicorn - Peter Beagle
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Animal Dreams - Barbara Kingsolver

Friday, March 7, 2014

Safety First

It has been a year since I went to East Van Tuneups and purchased a used mountain bike. My previous mountain bike, which was a really lovely one, died a horrible death when I moved from UBC to Kitsilano well over 10 years ago. And although it was a good bike and I brought it to Vancouver in 2002 I can't say that I rode it all that much. It spent most of the time languishing on the communal bike racks at UBC...which is why someone stole my original seat. I suppose I should be happy that they at least left their crummy seat.

In any event, thanks to Amazing!L's influence, not to mention that of Shaun and Joe!, I started commuting around Vancouver by bike. Not all the time, sometimes a friend is driving so I can carpool with them. But for the most part where I used to walk or take the bus, I now ride my bike. Amazing!L and I even spent last Thanksgiving on a bike trip from Nanaimo to Victoria -- taking it easy on me and only riding about 50 - 60km a day.

Because this is Vancouver, the fall/spring attire of choice is rain boots and foul weather gear. My rain boots are a Costco special – only $20! – and certainly keep my feet dry though without the best treads to be found. Slick surfaces are consequently treacherous and the main foyer of my office is a prime candidate for disaster. Every day I walk to the elevators of my fancy building in my helmet because I figure if I go down on the slate or tiles, at least my head will be safe. I know I must look like a dork or that I'm trying too hard to be "biker chic" but the sad truth is that I'm really just a klutz. But I'm a klutz with a reduced carbon footprint! Huzzah!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Office 2010 - Excel formatting: brackets do not appear for negative figures

Okay, so this has nothing to do with anything creative but a lot to do with creative frustration! When I got my Windows 7 machine with Office 2010, I noticed that my worksheets no longer formatted negative numbers in brackets with the "accounting" setting. Instead, the only option I was given was a dash and black text or a dash and red text. I personally find it very easy to overlook a dash when scanning a page and red text just means that it costs 8 - 10 times more to print that document because you have one red number. Boo.

So aside from the many people whose only answer was to custom format the sheet cell by cell to give me the brackets I desired, Bernard from Nova Scotia solved my frustrations. It's not a setting local to the Office software, but the whole computer! (Go figure.)

If you too are having this problem, follow these steps:
Go to your start menu (bottom left of your main task bar)
Select Control Panel
Select Region and Languages
Under Formats tab, select additional settings
Under BOTH the numbers and currency tabs, change the negative number format to a bracket
Select apply then ok until you are out of the window
Close whatever Office document you want to format
Reopen the document and format the cells to "Accounting"
Presto! You have your brackets back.

An accounting world sends its silent thank you's into the atmosphere.

Here's the linky link:
Microsoft Forum

Microsoft Excel Office 2010 Windows 7 accounting formatting negative numbers brackets dashes settings 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pre-Shred - T-2 days

I love a challenge, as do my friends. For several years we trained for events based off the motto “How Bad Can It Be?”. Sometimes it could be pretty bad, occasioning the second motto – “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time”, but the experiences and memories all have that nostalgic glow of a good time shared with good friends.

Some challenges were sillier than others: I hiked the Grouse Grind wearing a Minnie Mouse outfit, although not in the high heels original proposed (those were for the photos at the top).

Other times it has been signing up for a marathon because friends were joking around:

But for the most part I seek out challenges because I like to test myself and the feeling of achieving goals or breaking personal records is awesome:

"Meanwhile, in the Sport Athena category, Vancouver’s Kirsten (50:55) was over three minutes clear in claiming victory [at Buntzen Lake], and completed a clean sweep (of four wins in 2010) to earn overall series glory, ahead of Shayla Richards (Maple Ridge), who was third at Buntzen (58:57)." Source

I have always felt mixed emotions about bootcamps because while I think they can be a useful tool to jumpstart a stalled fitness regime, they are also far too heavily marketed towards people whose base fitness levels are not sufficient to prevent injuries. I'm sure that many, hopefully most, instructors will offer modified positions for all exercises but I've found that someone has to ask first. For those new to bootcamps, perhaps intimidated not only by the workout but also by appearing "too weak", they might not think to ask for modifications or be too embarrassed. Down that road lies many an injury that can stall or halt an individual's journey.

I have attended two bootcamps run by different organizations. The first I attended was Booty Camp Fitness, a women's only bootcamp. Coworker!A, her sister-in-law and I all joined up for one of the soggiest spring outdoor sessions. I went into it knowing that there would be exercises that I would find challenging and so had no problem being the one to raise my hand and ask for the modified version. Quality over quantity -- that was the general idea anyway. Still, I pushed myself hard and didn't always have the best form. I remember one rainy day doing a set of pushups and watching the river of rain water crest over my yoga mat to run under my nose and between my legs. My arms were shaking, safe to say that muscle fatigue had set in!, and all I could think was that if I didn't finish pushing I'd wind up swimming! The following day I went to work as usual thinking I'd come through pretty well as my 20 minute walk from apartment to office didn't take me any longer than usual. That illusion disappeared the first time I had to use the stapler -- my arms were so sore that I could not clench my hand hard enough around the stapler and paper to make it function. I had to stand up and push down from my shoulder to get it done! (After doing that a few times, I just took my papers to coworker!A's automatic stapler.) Did I see drastic results from my attendance to that bootcamp? Not particularly. But it was a nice change from my existing fitness routine and it kept me doing something.

The second bootcamp I didn't wind up finishing. I purchased a Groupon for the bootcamp held by West Coast Fitness because even though it was held at o'dark thirty (aka 6am), it was also only 3 blocks from my apartment. Doable. I really liked the instructor and I found the exercises reasonable challenging with enough modifications. The only downside was that it was held in a squash court so the size was restrictive. The class was a choose-you-own-adventure setting with regards to hand weights. Although I have purchased various stretching aids over the years, which I'm sure the dust bunnies appreciate, I did not have any free weights. So prior to the first class, I went to the Canadian Tire by transit and picked up two 5lb hand weights. I know, I'm an animal. En route home, I called Amazing!L to complain about how I thought my shoulder was going to fall off from carrying 10lbs in my bag. Yes, there was definitely whining to which she, appropriately, wondered how I'd get through the class with these oh so heavy weights?? The answer to that of course, was that I didn't. Yep, I got those weights home, I brought them to the first class and then left them in a corner until Amazing!L got home that summer. I didn't finish the bootcamp because mid-month I moved to a friend's house to catsit and it was just too damn early and too damn far (i.e. ten more blocks away). Look, I'm not a morning person alright?!

Of course, I always hear about what a good idea it is to workout first thing in morning: it gives you lots of energy for your day, you get it done and don't have to worry about it later, it doesn't interfere with your social life...blah blah blah.... I cannot drag my ass out of bed. That does not stop me from buying fitness dvd's with the grand plans of how I will reform my behaviours -- and I'll start using those stretching props too! I've worked with personal trainers before and I know that I respond best to the ones that push me to try harder, try the higher weight and the extra set. That's why I figured that $5 for Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred was worth a shot. The ethics of "The Biggest Loser" aside, Jillian's coaching style is right up my alley. I purchased that dvd last year and to date I have done the workout twice -- and one of those times was this week when my soccer practice was cancelled.

First impressions? Well, two days later -- ouch. Yesterday my quads were a bit sore but today is the cornucopia of muscle groaning. Walking I can feel the shortness of my muscles as they remain gathered in tight little knots. Sitting down in my office chair or the washroom reminds me of the squats that seemed so easy 2 days ago. So to sum up -- ouch. However, as I spent most of 2012 recovering from a prolonged foot injury I am interested in regaining some of that lost fitness. I've set some goals for myself: run 15km/week and create soccer drill time if my practices fall through. In March, I'll be adding the 30 Day Shred dvd to that regime. I'll post here my thoughts and experiences during the month. I shall endeavour to be entertaining. Tomorrow I'll post my initial thoughts about the program, the assets and drawbacks as well as if I can go to the washroom without resorting to using the handicap stall with that handy railing. (You're welcome for the parting image.)