Friday, June 29, 2012

Cheese moving. CHEESE. MOVING.

There's a very popular book called "Who Moved My Cheese?" that tells the story of how to deal with change.  I won't go into the whole thing, click on the link if you're interested.

Anyway, I'm much more the "MY CHEESE MOVED I'MMA PANIC" type of person.  I dislike routine, but I dislike surprises even more.  Once I get used to something, there had better be a really good reason for me to change my ways.

That being said, I always find it amusing when other people lose their minds at change.  So often they're lost in the same kind of morass I get into when confronted with something unexpected, new, different or weird, but it's funnier when they're in it than when I'm in it.  Why is that, I wonder? ;)

Case in point- yesterday, the Volvo Ocean Race moved the sail racing world's cheese by announcing  that for the next two races, every team would use the same boat.  Not the exact same craft, but all the boats would be built from the same model, no differentiation save paint scheme.  In the past there have been parameters that the designers and builders worked with, coming up with similar, but not identical boats.

This setup worked, but it favored the syndicates with deeper pockets.  More $ meant more research, design etc.  The new setup levels that playing field. 

Not surprisingly, some people are displeased with the change.  A few of the comments I've seen:
  • Perhaps the clue that the Volvo Ocean Race would introduce a one-design format for the next two races lay in the brand persona of the title sponsor itself. Volvo is not a racing brand at heart.
  • Unfortunately, future legends regattas will not feature a diverse fleet of boats that show different approaches to the design problem of racing around the world, but instead will include boats that are indistinguishable except for their sponsor brand decals and livery. This is a huge price to pay for the survival of the race.
  • Volvo way to cow down and kill a good race. So you only had 6 boats this race.... with the world in the state it is in that's huge. Yea Southern Ocean breakages, its the Southern Ocean it is meant to break boats. Cost what type of racing doesn't? Go back to an open design and stop trying to screw up a good thing!!!!!
  • A sad day for our entire sport. Monopoly never leads to something good... This is the end of the Whitbread/Volvo as we knew it.
Not everyone is crabbing though:
  • love the new boat!!!! I think its the best thing they could have done for the race!
  • How can you make something, so beautiful, even more sexy??? I love it!!!! Formula one car of sailboats.
  • The argument about Farr vs JuanK is moot when it's a OD format. It's a format for the times we live in and puts the sailors front and centre. More teams racing, more sponsors involved, more live media off the boats - this is not OD in the Volvo forever - it's for the next two races... and with the economic climate the way it is we should be glad its going to exist at all!

Of course, I have my own thoughts.  To those that complain that the one boat format limits the race, I ask is the race about the boats or about the people who sail them?

With a one design field, it will be the skill of the sailors (combined with some luck) that determines the outcome, rather than the boat. We can see from this race alone how the boat developments help or hinder a team- Team Sanya has outstanding sailors, but with an older boat, they just don't have a chance to keep up with the newer generation.

I think that this can only HELP the Volvo, as it will become a true sailors' race.  They'll be competing against the sea and against each other, not against the other teams' designers and checkbooks.

I admit that this change does adversely effect the design houses, I'm guessing that the VOR was quite a budget booster for Juan K, Botin, and some others. But this change is only for two races, other houses will get a chance later. Maybe? I don't know.

But just as in my post "To Be A Great Commander" I talk about killing the Whitbread to save the Volvo, I'm all for this change.  Let's move this cheese!

Cross your fingers that I get to see it all move in person!

(Photo Credit: Farr Yacht Design)


Friday, June 22, 2012

Do The Math

I'm going back to school to finally earn my bachelor's degree.  It'll take me a while, I get one free class per term by virtue of being a University of Kansas employee, and I'm not interested in incurring any more debt, so I'm looking at about 6 years.  I can handle that.

What I cannot handle is this- When I started my math class this summer, I went to the bookstore and found out that a new math book would be $111. I didn't buy it, I got a $40 used book. Turns out the used book doesn't have the access code for the online portion of the class, so I have to get that separately. OK- fine.

As recommended by the math department, I went to the bookstore on campus to purchase my access code. They do not have the separate access code in stock, but I could purchase the package of access code + new book for $111.

I have already purchased a used book for $40. I can’t see any reason to have two books, so I looked online, to purchase it from MyMathLab directly. $95.80. NINETY FIVE DOLLARS AND EIGHTY CENTS.

This is ridiculous. What possible reason is there for the code to cost that much, beyond the fact that MML can charge it? What if I don’t pay? What if I choose to NOT do the MathLab portions of Math 101 for the rest of my class? How badly would my grade suffer?

I'm guessing it would suffer quite a bit. ( actually- it turns out I'd lose 13% of my grade) So I'm stuck having to drop $95 on a stupid access code for a class that will be over in a month. I was furious to the point of tears.

Welcome to the world of "Why Students are $50,000+ In Debt When They Graduate."  My "free" class (for which I really am grateful) would have cost me over $250 if I hadn't been able to borrow a graphing calculator.  ($119 at the bookstore, for the cheap one at that!)  As it stands I'm down $135.

Why is this accepted?  Why is it ok for textbook companies to charge exorbitant prices, and then more often than not, not allow a decent return rate?  I can't tell you how many times I've tried to return a college text only to be told the edition had changed, the prof decided not to use it again, or just flat out "no." 

And this brings me to another point.  Part of my job is to educate people on the 3 Rs of sustainability- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  By purchasing a used book, instead of a new one, I felt I was upholding the "Reuse" part of all of that.  But, to put it bluntly, I got screwed.  I tried to save money, I tried to do the right thing ecologically, and I was smacked for it. 

What does that say about the sustainability movement?  To me it says "We'll pay you lip service, but we're not going to cut into our profits to save the environment or anything else."

Richard Branson quoted Gro Brundtland (the first female PM of Norway, and one of The Elders) recently, while at the Rio+20 Summit:

“We must break away from our sectoral ways of viewing economy and ecology. We must learn to accept the fact that environmental considerations and economic growth are parts of a unified management of our planet. The one is dependent on the other.”

I'm pretty sure what I experienced today was the opposite of what Brundtland has been advocating.  And that's a problem.

 Richard Branson and Gro Brundtland at the Rio+20 Summit. 
June, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Enthusiasm in Liberty

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism. ~Alexander Hamilton

I'm hoping that by the time I finish writing this, I'll be incoherent.  See- I went to the dentist today, and had a tooth extracted.  A molar.  A molar that was not inclined to leave the safety of my head.  Not that I blame it, I spend a great deal of time in my own head, but still... it was time for the molar, and it's accompanying root infection, to leave.  So the good doctor numbed me up and wrenched it out.  Now the numbness is wearing off- I can only hope the pain meds I took will kick in before I'm completely un-numb, so that I can, well, not hurt.

So- if this gets rambly- blame the hydrocodone.

Now, on to the post. 

I've been really brave this past week.  I've faced some fears and took some steps forward.  

First, I've started seeing a counselor.  I've been diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), and will be beginning both CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and meds.  The irony of all of this is that I'm terrified.  Anxious, one might say.  While I understand that GAD is a legitimate disorder, and millions of people are diagnosed with it, I've always felt that this is the sort of thing that I should be strong enough to handle on my own.  If I can't, I must be some sort of loser.  I know- this is not accurate.  But still, there's that little voice...  That little voice gets louder when Big Brother Depression backs it up, but as we all know- depression is a lying m'fer.  

I'm hoping that by beating back anxiety, depression will also take a hike.  But I'm still really really scared.  However, when I break down in tears in my boss' office during a meeting, because I'm terrified I'm going to get fired for doing something wrong (when I haven't- and boy was she surprised, luckily she's really nice), and I can't close my eyes when Bo drives home because I'm afraid we'll hit a deer, and I call my trucks whenever I hear a siren because I'm afraid one of my students has been hurt- well... that sort of thing gets in the way of my life.  I need to break that cycle, and reclaim my liberty.  Enthusiastically.

Second, did I mention I had a tooth pulled?  I also learned a new word:  odontophobia, or "dental fear."  Boy howdy do I ever have THAT.

All my life I've had lousy teeth.  I can remember going to the dentist as a child and getting drilled and filled every time.  Dr. Laird.  I guess he was a nice enough guy, but he had an ANCIENT drill, it was belt driven and I think was one step up from using a pedal to make it go.  The noise of the drill still resonates in my head.  Add four years of orthodontia and I'm really leery of people poking around in my gob.

When I was pregnant with Kate, I was working at a movie theater.  All the popcorn I could eat and all the soda I could drink.  I'm surprised she didn't come out looking like Orville Redenbacher.  But she's fine, the only casualties of the time were my teeth.  The combination of pregnancy, poor diet and an excess of Wild Cherry Pepsi took a toll on the enamel, and I could flake it off with my tongue.  I ended up with a beautiful daughter, and more teeth with cavities than without.

I've tried to go get my teeth fixed over the years, but now, instead of just drilling in my gob and making me crazy, dentists were lecturing.  They were mad at me!  Like I was totally insulting THEM by bringing my horrible teeth in to their shiny offices.  So I was afraid and ashamed.  So I stopped going.

Last week, one of my molars started waking me up at night.  You know that feeling, when you chew on tin foil accidentally?  (or on purpose- I don't know what you do for fun and I'm not here to judge)  Well, amplify that, and add to it the feeling of your heart beating.  Every.  Single.  Heartbeat.  Woom.  Woom.  Woom.  A stabby bass drum of heartbeats, all in my tooth. 

I had to do something.

So I made an appointment with Kate's dentist, and walked in today like a man walking to his execution.  I sat in the chair and asked the nice dental assistant to please not yell at me, I know my teeth are bad, and I'm really, really scared.  Oh- and please don't take it personally if I cry.  She must have relayed that to the doc, because when I told him the same thing he said ok.

Then he started poking around in my gob.  And I started crying.  But I didn't run away, and half an hour later, the offending tooth (hate the hateful offending tooth) was gone.  I could have had a root canal, but I told the doc that it was enough that I got in there to get the tooth yanked- I don't think I could have managed anything more.  Maybe next time, because I have a mouthful.

So where was I?  Oh- right.  Being brave and reclaiming my liberty.  Two steps forward.