Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bits and Bobs

This will be a post of bits and bobs, as I don't have enough of one topic to devote a whole blog to.

Holiday Mondays mess me up.  I spent all day yesterday trying to figure out why I was in my Tuesday supervisor class, and then convinced myself to leave the truck at the warehouse on Tuesday like I was supposed to.  IT WAS TUESDAY, AND I DIDN'T LEAVE THE TRUCK BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WAS MONDAY.  Today was Thursday in my brain, and I was all excited about tomorrow being Friday.  IT IS NOT.

I propose that all Monday holidays be therefore moved to the previous Friday, so to not throw off my entire week.  Who's with me?

I gave a presentation about recycling to the members at the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence the other day.  I think it went well, I've heard nice things.  But really, who's going to come up and say "Wow, Aileen, that really stunk up the joint."  ??  Anyway- here are links to both the ppt. presentation and the pdf notes.   I'd like feedback, even if it is "That really stunk up the joint."

The 2009 movie "Up in the Air" features George Clooney as a guy who's job it is to go around the country and fire people.  Evidently he gets "grounded" and has some sort of epiphany.  I don't know.  I didn't see the film.  But at one point during the movie, he's doing his thing and says something to the effect of "I'll be back in a year and you'll be glad this happened blah blah blah."  Again- I don't know, I didn't see the film.

HOWEVER- a man who I respect quite a bit, and who's opinion I value very much did see it, and he told me about it one day as we had lunch (he was buying- yay!).  The fact that he told me about it soon after the company he ran laid me off was disconcerting, and it made me never want to see the movie, not even a little bit.

No.  What I wanted to do was punch the script writer in the face, and maybe have a go at Clooney with a stick.  I looked at my lunch partner and said something noncommittal like "I hope I get to that point."

Looking back at the time since I got laid off, I'm happy to say that...  well, if nothing else I'm on a different career path.  Getting laid off took me out of the "I want to be Ugly Betty and assist someone for the rest of my life" track and put me on the "I have to rebuild, I can be (almost) anything" track.  So for now, I'll take it.  I'm on a different path, one that might not be as clear, but it's pretty wide, so I've got that going for me.

Am I happy I got laid off?  Absolutely %$#^ not.  I wouldn't wish that, and the subsequent climb back up, on anyone.  I loved my job and my company, and I've felt like total crap since.  But at least I can say I'm no longer drifting.

I'll take that for now.

So.  Who's buying lunch??

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To Be A Great Commander

In the movie "Gettysburg" which is based on the novel "The Killer Angels," General Robert E. Lee says to General James Longstreet; "General, soldiering has one great trap: to be a good solider you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love."

I think of that quote often, both in my Drum and Bugle Corps dealings and in my Volvo Ocean Race dealings.  And interestingly enough, I'd only pass General Lee's "good commander" test in one.

I love Drum and Bugle Corps.  I love the thrill of the speed, the volume (MORE VOLUME) of the horns.  I love it when a corps teeters on the edge of chaos, loud and fast and crazy, but never falls over the edge.  I love old school corps- I love bugles, I love it all.

What I HATE though, is where drum corps seems to be going.  I was ok with the death of "march what you play" because it benefited me, in high school marching band.  I never would have been able to play xylophone and carry it at the same time, I just wasn't strong enough.  But I am soooo very NOT ok with amplification, electrification, the demise of the bugle (um- Drum and BUGLE CORPS MUCH??), the dancing hornlines, the seemingly forgotten basics of marching well, in step and in line when needed.  I hate the drive to be summer's version of Bands of America, and to wuss the old school right out. 

I cannot order the death of this thing I love.  By accepting the changes, I would accept something that is NOT drum corps, and is in my opinion, killing the thing I love.  So, sorry General.  I'm a lousy commander.

However, when it comes to the Volvo, I'm all for change, because I see that with change, the activity will survive.

I'm a member of a group on LinkedIn called "DARK BLUE BOOK - The Who's Who of Yacht Racing."  The Manager's Choice question this week was "In your opinion what should be the format and boat of Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-2015?"

I said: "I'd like to see longer stopovers- it just seems so rushed now between arrival, in-port and departure. I'd like to see a US west coast stopover, but I'm not sure how that would work.
As to the boats themselves, I like the 70s, but I worry about their suitability in hard conditions. From the first edition of the race that featured the 70s, and continuing to this race, there were just so many catastrophic failures. I'd like to see something that delivered the excitement of the potential speed of the 70, without the excitement of the potential damage." 

Well, that went over like a lead balloon.  That's ok though, I didn't expect my amateur opinion to weigh much with the pros, but at least I'm in there.  Once they got done either ignoring or picking my answer apart though, people started in on the "It should be the way it was" vs "We need to change or we'll die" argument.

I followed the back and forth for a while, and sent this to one of the discussion members: "It appears that you and I are on the same (pardon the pun) wavelength re: the VOR. While I understand the appeal of "let's go back to Maxi's" and "let's just go for speed not points" I fear that doing so would mean the death of the race. Like it or not, the VOR NEEDS the virtual race, it needs the corporate sponsors, it needs the casual interest generated by the plethora of non-sailing bits and bobs that are associated with the race now. Or it will die."

Would a return to the hale and hearty days of champagne, caviar and Irish hand knit sweaters be better?  It does have appeal.  The gentleman sailor, the "any yacht" aspect of it, no multimillion dollar corporate sponsors, no having to dog and pony during stop overs.  Just the men, the boats and the sea.  Mano a... um.  Mer?  Sure.  We'll say that.  Mano a Mer.

But that would kill it, you see?  That age has gone by, and even men who sailed in the early Whitbreads have embraced and raced in the Volvo.  If a syndicate is willing to drop millions of dollars to develop a state of the art boat, with the best team available, why not encourage it?  If there are tens of thousands of fans playing the VOR game online, why not expand that for the next race?

There was recently an article released about the media reach for HALF of this current race.  "For what its worth, the cumulative TV audience as of February 19th was 880 million based on 1,200 hours of coverage across dedicated programming and news items. Those figures compare with a cumulative audience of 459 million at the corresponding stage of the last race, representing a 90 percent increase."  The article goes on to explain why and all, but NINETY PERCENT INCREASE.  Why?  How?

Because of the extras- the dog and pony at stopovers, the online game, the increased exposure in China.  All these things are giving traditionalists heart attacks.  "100000 players online is great, 6 teams is not. Even if you have a million players it is irrelevant to what the race should be. The number of virtual sailors is a great tool for showing increased marketing numbers, but has no reflection on the success of the real race."  I would argue that perhaps the focus of the race is changing.

Would I like to see ten teams, a dozen teams, battling it out across the globe?  Sure.  As much as the next zealot I've decried the lack of syndicates, even to the point of pitching to Richard Branson's Virgin that THEY sponsor a team.  (to no avail...yet)  But look at the NUMBERS- even with the measly 6 entries (all of whom I love, don't get me wrong) the overall marketing numbers for this race are skyrocketing.  I believe that if we (and by we, I mean VOR) keep going the way we're going, we'll have players AND teams.  I'd say that with reports like this, 8 to 10 teams in 2014 is an achievable goal.

So yes, General Lee.  I would kill the Whitbread.  Long live the Volvo.

(I used this photo because I know Martin Sheen's General Lee said the line.  I'm not 100% sure the actual General Lee said the line.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wherein I Disclose My Fangirl Tendencies

Ok.  I'll admit it. Every time someone from the Volvo accepts my friend request, or follows me on Twitter, or connects on LinkedIn, I squee.


I try hard to be blasé about it, "Oh, you worked the race too?  I never would have known." but inside I'm composing emails to friends that say things like "OMGOMGOMG!!  I KNOW HIM!  I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!"  Emails that, of course, I don't send, because as much as I love my friends, none of them are quite as obsessed as I am, and are probably soooo very over the VOR by now.  SHOCKER I KNOW.

So anyway- I have this incredible network of people now.  Sailors, both past and present, support team members, organizers, executives...  Now what do I do with it?  As much as I like to think I played a pivotal role in ASSA ABLOY's success, I know I was a bit part.  Sure- I can say I worked with Karl-Henric Svanberg, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't remember me.  Same with Helena, or Jason, or Mikey or any number of other people who graciously tolerate my mildly stalkerish attempts for contact.

I don't want to say I have to figure out how to "use these connections," because I don't think that's the right way to go about it.  A friend recently shared an article decrying networking because of the dehumanizing effect it has.  You "connect" with someone and immediately wonder "how can I GET something from this connection?"  According to the article:           
"Maybe it was just that we misheard the career advice. Somewhere along the line we thought that building relationships with other people meant simply getting their email address and guilting them into responding."
I don't think that's healthy, sustainable or what I'm going for.  What I want "from" these people (note: NOT from these "connections") is a true network.  A bunch of people, connected in a web, some who know each other, some who don't, but who can help one another reach their goals.  HELP.  Not GET, not USE, not WHEEDLE.  HELP.

So.  How can I help my incredible network, and how can they help me as well?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

And the entire campus takes a breath.

As I said in my Facebook status: "Made it through another Move-Out. Successfully recycled from all residence halls and appeased the Housing Powers That Be. My God. College kids get rid of a lot of stuff. "

I'm becoming used to the rhythm of the university year.  January to December doesn't mean much any more- my year is August to December, January to May, May to August.  (With a little of December to January thrown in for good measure.)

"Next year" doesn't mean 2013, it means August.  Or perhaps July if I'm going by the University's fiscal calendar.  "Spring" is usually a new beginning, but in my world, it's the end of a phase.  I'm losing 5 students to graduation (how dare they grow up and leave?).  We cleaned out the dorms, and will spend the summer luxuriating in their emptiness.  Summer means dormancy, time to step back, to take a breath, to both recover and prepare.  The traditional time of harvest is my time to plant new seeds, if you can call reminders to recycle "seeds."  I'll have a whole new crop of freshmen to educate come fall.

So my year is over, time for the champagne and the balloons, the songs of memory and of hope.  Happy New Year!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recovering, or PLSD

I've been laid off 5 times.

The first- my job moved to a different city, and didn't take me with it.
The 2nd- I was low on the pole at a business that experienced seasonal swings. They hired me back in a different position within 6 weeks. 
Third- poorly managed company closed.
Less than six months later:  the 4th- I have no idea what happened.  40 of us lost our jobs that day and I'm still not entirely sure why.
The 5th was the most painful- a job I loved, a company I would have worked for for decades if they'd let me.

Because of the number of times I've been axed, you'd think I'd be used to it by now.  That I'd be able to shake it off and move on, thick skinned and armor plating.

If anything though, each layoff made it worse.  The last one...  I wasn't sure I'd make it through to the other side after that one.  It's been over a year and a half now and I'm just starting to feel the fog lift. 

I was joking with a friend about "PLSD" (post layoff stress disorder) and by no means am I trying to trivialize PTSD, but the more I think of it, the more I'm convinced PLSD is real.  My fight or flight is on overload, any sort of job or work-related criticism (real or perceived) puts me in a panic, terrified at the prospect of another layoff, even though they were all out of the blue, sneak attack, ninja job losses and not performance-related.  I continually wonder if today's the day they'll decide to outsource, or condense, or switch or move or change and I'll be out.  If today's the day they decide I'm expendable. 

Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Degree of Separation

Other than my husband, my best friend is Drew.  We met in college, a hundred years ago, and have remained close ever since.

Drew graduated from college yesterday, and I couldn't be prouder of him.  I know it was difficult to go back after all these years, and he did it with a complete focus change- he was a history major originally, who went in to retail management.  Now he's the proud owner of a shiny new CIS degree, and is ready to wield it with a vengeance.

I'm also trying to get my degree, finally, I've mentioned it before.  I've always wanted to, but it wasn't ever a necessity until I moved to Kansas.  Well, more specifically- until I moved to Lawrence, KS, home of the University of Kansas and a pretty nice place to live.   Seems there's a glut of degree holders in the area, and those of us without... well...

It's very frustrating, why would anyone NEED a degree to do what I do? (executive/administrative assistant/secretary- not what I do now, but to be honest- IMO my current job doesn't need a degree either) If I did have a degree, I doubt I'd be a secretary. I'd be doing something IN MY FIELD. I don't know anybody who has a 4 year degree in secretary.  I have students right now who are graduating in a week who have NO clue what they're going to do and NO job prospects. But they're going to be able to go out and get a job that pays more than I get, simply because they have the paper.  It makes me question the value of a college degree.

So why am I proud of Drew?  Because I know he's going to USE his degree in the manner it's supposed to be used- as the starting point, not the end point.  That's my plan too, to use what I learn as a jumping off point in a career I choose, not just a job I can get.

Anyway- off to sign up for Algebra.  ;)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Toniiiiight... I'm Not Younnnng!

I work with college students. Well, I guess technically college students work FOR me, but we do a lot together during the week, I couldn't do it without them, they couldn't do it the same way without me.

Anyway- one of the things I hear over and over is that working with students "will keep you young!"

I call BS.

What it does is make me FEEL young, until it is obvious that I'm not. Once again- I beg your indulgence to stay with me.

I have some fairly hard partying employees, who aren't afraid to discuss their adventures with and around me. God help me- it sounds fun. "Let's do a Pedal Hopper!" "Let's go to martini night!" "Let's go out on a Wednesday night!" I want to go out on a Wednesday, without worrying about getting up at 5:45am on Thursday. I want to go to martini night without worrying about where Kate is while I'm at the Eldridge.

Heck yeah! Raise your glass!

But I can't. At least, I can't go out with my students. That would be frowned upon by the University, and it would probably skeeve people out.

So I sit at home and feel old. 9:00 on a Friday? BEDTIME. Crazy times on a Wednesday? Doing laundry. Never be never be anything but loud? Where are my earplugs??

Toniiiight... We're Not Younnnnng!

No. I refuse. I don't want to be old, I don't want to be stodgy. I want to be Magnus

Magnus is one of my favorite people, always at home in my heart, even though I haven't seen him in a decade. 10 years ago, Magnus was 53 (10 years older than I am now), and he sailed around the world with ASSA ABLOY. Four years ago, he sailed around the world with a crew so green they were practically fluorescent, and finished 4th overall, even after a disastrous run to Singapore.

After I got laid off (for the 5th time) in 2010, I was afraid. I've reached "an age" where one more layoff will effectively kill any career I've pursued. So I sold myself short, tried to get the "stable" job, the job that wouldn't challenge me, but wouldn't can me either. I got lucky with my gig, I am CONTINUALLY challenged. (Did I mention I work with college students??) and to be honest, I don't think I'm very good at it, but it is stable. I'm able to keep my feet under me, and look ahead.

Looking ahead now gives me hope. I may not be young, but contrary to popular opinion among my young coworkers, I'm far from old. I'm going places in my life.

But for now- anybody wanna go on a Pedal Hopper?

Pacific Vortex, More Than Clive Cussler Ever Imagined


This is why I want to get a degree in Environmental Studies, and this is why I want to apply it to the Volvo Ocean Race.

The "Great Pacific Gyre" or "Plastic Island" or "Trash Island."

I've facilitated the gathering, sorting, baling and reselling of over a million pounds of recyclable material in my time here at KU Recycling. That's about 702 tons of bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, plastic... stuff. The Great Pacific Gyre contains about 58 tons of stuff, but consider this: Most of the garbage patch is not visible to the naked eye because it contains particles almost too small to see.

Ponder that. 58 tons of stuff so small it can barely be seen.

Now- you might think "Big whoop. If the stuff is so tiny, what's the problem?" Well, think about what a whale eats. Think about what seabirds eat. Think about what would happen to you if you ingested tiny bits of plastic every time you ate. Plastic you can't digest, plastic that may still be outgassing. You'd eventually be killed by it, right? Well, so are the whales, so are the birds, so are the fish, so are the plants... This island is a killer.

So I guess what I'm really trying to do is stop a killer.

When I Grow Up

My future looks like a ball of yarn, post-kitten. Tangled and confusing, with the way through not always obvious from the outside.

But I think (I think) I might just maybe have found the actual string to follow.

Stay with me here.

My background is in administrative assisting. Basically, according to one boss, I'm "the duct tape and the super glue." I move, I groove, I shake, and hopefully when I'm done, the task at hand is complete to everyone's satisfaction. So there's one aspect.

My passion is the Volvo Ocean Race. ( If you know me at all, you know about that, so I'm not going to go into it right now. If you have questions- please ask.

My current situation is recycling. I run the recycling chunk of the Environmental Stewardship Program at the University of Kansas. ( I plan on using the tuition assistance program at KU to get a degree, and they offer Environmental Studies as a major. (


So I have three things:
  1. A background in making things work, administratively.
  2. A passion for the VOR.
  3. An opportunity to use my current position to advance my education, AND in a growing and exciting field.
What do y'all think of a "Sustainability Ambassador" or "Green" position within a VOR syndicate? The race is all about wind and water, there already is an emphasis on cleaning the oceans and saving the wildlife therein, I think it's a fit.

Now. How do I make it happen?