Saturday, December 31, 2011

Okay 2011, Let's Talk

At the beginning of the year I told 2011 what I was thinking.
In this post I've italicized my 2011 resolutions (also titles in bold).

Here's what I did and didn't accomplish this year.
And my excuses, I mean, what I learned in pursuit of these resolutions .

2011 Resolution: Listen/Follow
I need to listen longer to make sure I really hear what someone is saying (wait for the lead) process it (feel the lead) and then react (follow).

End of Year Audit 
I learned that part of listening is hearing what isn't being said.
Oftentimes the words that speak the loudest are those unspoken.

2011 Resolution:  Enter a Novice Jack & Jill

End of Year Audit
Done Jack.  Done Jill.

The first J&J was for "First Timers."  How fitting.
Last place.  
Almost unanimous.
(Can you qualify "unanimous" with "almost"?)

One judge gave us second to last place on account of our spirit.  Spirited and joyful it was and that's what dancing is meant to be.

My stated goal was to follow.  My insight was to delight in the dance.

Delight in the deliciousness of a swing out.  Craft one.  Towards the end of the year I took a private lesson (and then another) that synced up my body/mind in way I've not felt previously.

Fucking up is also more fun.  I don't want to make Lindy Hop sounds like a free for all but the more you embrace the improv, well, just remember:  Yes, And.  My favorite aerials are the ones where I fall on the floor

2011 Resolution:  Mindfullness
Re-channel Mindfulness about how I am perceived to mindfulness about how I communicate.  Recognize that mindfulness about the latter will mitigate concerns about the former.

End of Year Audit 
I'm always going to care about how I'm perceived (and even when I don't really care it's part of my persona to do so anyway).

The real concern lies in misperception.  I feel more confident in my ability to communicate and less concern about being misperception (or just flat out not making sense).

Not sure if that's a result of mindfulness or Xanax.  

Who cares? (now, that's the Xanax talking).

2011 Resolution 
Impact/Innovation/Extraordinary Creative / Geek Out + Enrichment

End of Year Audit
I invented a job.  Big fucking check here.
That's two resolutions resolved at once.

2011 Resolution Body
I don't want to lose any weight.  
I want to gain muscle, tone, strength and definition.

End of Year Audit 
Here's the visual on this one

I gained strength, lost my appetite, lost weight, lost strength, ate a lot of  junk food, gained some weight, regained some strength but at year's end I'm down a few dress sizes and pushups.  Woe is me.  

Just go to Anthropologie and find a new dress.

2011 Resolution:  Wake Forest Miles for Smiles 2011 Triathlon.
This was my first triathlon in 2009.  I'm going to do it again this year and improve on my performance in some way.

End of Year Audit 
I'm a really good swimmer.
My swim rank was 34 out of 152 women for this triathlon.
I steadily improved my times and stamina on two open water mile swims.
 I did two open water 


End of Year Audit
Got to the mountains with Crusty and Jon in the early part of the year.  We skied Mt. Baldy, which was quite bald, but fun nonetheless.

Ski trip for 2012 already planned.  Colorado.  March.

Whimsy, Purposelessness

It just wasn't that kind of year.

Oh well.

The Art of Upside Down

I love being upside down. 

Earlier this week at Cross Fit I hung upside down on the rings for 2 minutes.
I was pleased with the duration but around a minute thirty my form was shaky.

Form First.  

I love this about Cross Fit.  Form, form, form.  

And in the spirit of that I resolved to get my form perfect and bail the second it isn't sustainably so.  
Two minutes can wait.

Today, "Born Ready Missy Coach Paul" and side-kick Dave (owns the place) spent time working with me.  I love what they strive for me to do, the corrections made throughout my attempt without sugar coating but still supportive.  Taking video was most helpful as it looks much different than it feels.

My favorite part of this video is when
Dave says "Right there."
and Paul says "No, not right there."

The joint coaching in general is the most (only) entertaining thing about this video, actually.

I've enjoyed the recent gymnastics focus at Cross Fit.
I'm going to share some dancing aerials videos with Dave/Paul and suggest throwing (ha ha) them into skill practice.  The real plan is to find someone and seduce them (this isn't going where you think it is) to join aerials practice. 

Paul still hates Michael Kelley.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

But it don't snow here

It stays pretty green.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reason Why I Might Convert to Judaism

I could have stopped at Day 8 with med ball cleans.

Today's Cross Fit workout "The 12 Days of Christmas" was challenging.
For one thing, I'm not so great at counting when it comes to reps and rounds.
The workout is structured just like the song.
I started off using boxes to track but humming the song (to myself) proved more helpful.

Not all boxes checked.  But all rounds were done.

I didn't do anything close to as prescribed (Rx) but I did every last rep (and probably then some because of the whole counting thing).

Somewhere around "10 Jumping Lunges" everyone else in the session was done.
Someone inadvertently re-racked my supplies.
My initial thought was "This is the opposite of double vision!"

Somewhere around "11 Pushups" the session was over.
My supplies were gone again.  I was dizzy.  Before I could say Uncle someone handed me a kettle bell.

Thank you to everyone who helped keep me going towards the end there.
Whoever you are.  I was focused on trying to breath and not fall over and maybe doing something that resembled the move.

Coach Paul was way too quiet during this workout (probably had something to do with the fact that he was doing it, not coaching it).  Still, I need assurance that he still hates Michael Kelley.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why I Might Not Be A Good Social Scientist: Reason #2

Someone:  Where did you get this consent form?

Cut and pasted from the umbrella protocol for this survey.  
And did a little copy editing to clean it up, improve the flow.

Um, you can't do that.  
The consent form is pretty cut and paste.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

As part of a work project I'm attending a "Girl's Night Out"

But here's the catch:

It's through a church.  

I'll be sharing "fun, faith and fellowship" with Christian woman.

Oh, how I would love to attempt to corrupt them.
I'm more an observer than participant so I'll have to lay low. 

Either way, I'm intrigued and curious what I'll encounter.  

And I'll bring my price tag.  Just in case.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reason Why I Might Not Be A Good Social Scientist

Someone:  Should we word the survey question this way or that way?

Someone Else:  Hmmm, We could test it.

Jamie (joking):  Or maybe we could just make a fucking decision.

Friday, December 16, 2011

All major credit cards accepted.

In October my boss invited artists to attend a discussion about behavioral economics, dishonesty and cheating.  After the discussion they created work for an art exhibition called "Creative Dishonesty:  Cheat Codes."

Our lab is the gallery for the work.  Opening reception tonight.

A few hours prior to the reception the topic of attire came up.  One lab-mate mentioned a tux with tails. I don't think it was in the context of something he might wear for the reception but at that point the switch had been flipped.  What I was wearing just wasn't going to cut it.

I asked my boss if he was going to wear a tuxedo.  No he said, a jacket.

"But you should dress up" he told me.

"Um, I am dressed up"

"You're always dressed up."

"You're right.  I must up the ante."

And home to my closet I went looking for the perfect outfit.  The evening gown was a few sizes ago and looked baggy.  Dance and vintage wear?  Not quite right either.  Dallas cowboys cheerleader Halloween costume?  Wrong holiday.  But hang on, costume?  I can do better than costume.

I can be art.

And with that I made my self a last minute submission into the show.
And of course, like the other pieces, I came with a price tag.

The price tag was the nod to cheating and dishonesty.

The idea went over really well.

Imply what you will.

The curator liked it (though I wonder what the reaction would have been had I actually, um, submitted my art through same channels as the artists).

Yes, there were discussions about price (Duh, there were quite a few Behavioral Economists there and I guess this is how they party) and whether or not Diner's Club was a major credit card.

I quoted myself as "You can't afford it."  It was all in good fun except one creepy guy.  He offered me Diner's card.  That's when I made the determination it wasn't a major credit card.

Offers ranged from six figures to 84 cents.  I nearly smacked the 84 cents bidder until my boss pointed out that this person is typically paid large sums as a speaker (La-De-Da) and I should be flattered he offered me anything above a discount.

I guess we're all for sale.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What I do all day. Well, what I do all morning.

When I'm not looking for a stapler, having a nap or sending e-mails to myself here's a glimpse into what I do.  Much like advertising there's no such thing as a typical day but I'll invent a composite.

9:15:  Arrive
The lab doesn't seem to have hours.  You do what you need to do, wherever and whenever you need to do it.  Still, I've always been an arrive around 9:00 type of employee.  There's one guy who's regularly there prior to me.  Today we chat about the transformation of our space from a lab to an art gallery (hold that thought).

9:30: Think about Research Proposal  
At present, there's no one topic that consumes me to the point of dreaming about a PhD, book deal and dedicating my life to exploring it.  It's certainly not indifference but I do feel a little, um, out of place without the focus (and expertise, for that matter) others possess.  Regarding expertise, I trust my aptitude.  Regarding focus I trust that with time my curiosity will "settle" a bit.

I have areas of interest and I've been tasked with posing an empirical approach to a question of my choosing.  Within a few days of thinking about it, not thinking about it, observing behavior, listening in on conversations and just doing some of the regular things I do I had eight questions with underlying behavioral economics issues and some thoughts on how to explore them.  Shared them with boss and am proceeding with the one to which he responded "This one, I like."

We have lab meetings every other Thursday morning.  Two people share their work.  I'm on deck and my plan is to share my proposal with the team in whatever form I can get it in by that time.
Hello, PowerPoint, I've not missed you.

10:15 Turn down coffee 
By this point, more people have arrived and someone had definitely made coffee.  I don't drink coffee.  This is incomprehensible to some.  Boss says "We'll change that."  I'm not aware any behavior modification plan nor do I understand the desire for me to acquire a vice.

10:20  Think about corporate world + academia
Corporations approach the lab with business questions they would like to address through the lens of behavioral economics.  Some of these corporations "sign on" as sponsors.  Not entirely sure the criteria (outside of big fee) though I suspect mutual interest in the topics is one of them.  They are not Clients.  I am not an Account Manager.  It's a distinctly different relationship with company as is my role in it.

On my first day sponsor came to Durham with a list of business questions I've seen several times over in advertising.  We discussed the underlying issues, threw out ideas for probing them further/empirically.

Nerd alert:  I am giddy with intrigue thinking about a new way to approach longstanding questions

Ego alert: My years of experience in the corporate world serve me very well in this arena.  I immediately see the value of my experience and the unique perspective I can provide.

I have done an audit of corporate sponsor offering.  I am thinking about how to improve it.  The nature of my audit was qualitative.  I  need to think about how to quantify it so we can do a nationwide study.  That's nationwide with a lowercase n.

11:45 "Jamie, Come"
This is how my boss typically summons me (if that sounds obnoxious know that it isn't).

Walk to bosses office.
Boss:  I need some professional advice
Jamie: Er, you have advice for me?
Boss:  No.  What do you think of this?

Jamie (thinking):
Cool.  I'm a go-to for advertising questions.  My boss thinks I'm as insightful as I do.  I'm flattered.

12:00 Lunch
Where to go?  Everyone is already bored with all the options on Ninth Street.  Even though we can never remember them. If it's Cosmic, I'll decline.  Their burritos are all rice.

What I do after lunch.

1:00 pm:  Qualtrics
We do a lot of surveys.  I was peripherally involved in the development of Version One (V1) of a survey.  I am taking the lead on V2.  I started off attempting to revise V1 and take input from others into consideration.  I wasn't getting anywhere.  So I said "To hell with all that" created something fresh, cleaner and faster.

I like making things look good.  Provided I don't get too carried away and lose substance I think my aesthetic sensibility will be helpful.

One of my goals is to create better ways to test ideas (I think that's the art of this job/field).  I've been thinking about something in between survey and field work such as an experiential online experience.  "Experiential"is a buzz word I kind of hate but it does capture what I mean.

We are testing an idea for a retirement savings product we believe to be a significant improvement over an existing product.  At present, we're looking at "mechanics" of our product.  Down the line we'll look at how we might position it to financial advisors and consumers.  I'm curious what product development looks like in this world.

Are we going to actually "sell" this product?  Of course not.  We're a lab, not a financial services company.   So what happens to the idea?  I don't think we sell it to a company.  I don't think we're allowed to do that (something about not for hire).   I'm still trying to figure out the fate and purpose of some of the work we do here.  I completely understand (as well as appreciate and embrace) that the "point" of a lot of the work in academia is the study of the topic.  I also get the feeling that the Applied part of this field in kind of like Old navy and Theoretical = Banana Republic.

I'm entrepreneurial and often think "How could we make money doing this?  I really don't want to merchandise everything and anything (someone else will do it anyway) but I enjoy contemplating the question.  Maybe there's a happy medium, like The Gap.

When I think about product development I do wonder "Who's side are we on?"  I know that's probably not the right question or way to characterize the consumer/business relationship.  To the extent there's an answer it's not binary.

I'm not jaded to the point where I think all corporations are in the business of screwing customers to make a buck.  Many businesses are consumer advocates (perhaps I'm really naive) but at the end of the day they are just that: a business.  What are we? 

2:00 pm:  Snack
Need snack.  Walk over to bowl on table in kitchen area.  I consistently forget the bowl is full of "Predictably Irrational" condoms.   Those are for a different appetite.  Find snack.

Also, by 2:00 I will have definitely mentioned my advertising career, Cross Fit or Lindy Hop.  Probably a few times.  I've got to curb that a bit.  It stems from a need for credibility but could probably get obnoxious.

2:05 pm: Tag-Along
Boss has me tag along to various meetings, events or listen in on calls so I can learn and get exposure.   

3:15 ESL/Kids
Almost every day around this time G's kids come into the lab and sneak up on him.  It hasn't gotten old for them and surprisingly it hasn't gotten old or annoying to me.  Also, I have no idea the content of the exchanges that follow the daily surprise.  They're in Hebrew.  As are many conversations in the lab.  Turkish is also spoken.  Every now and then someone apologizes for it (I think that stems from a concern that speaking in another language makes conversations exclusive) but I don't mind one bit.  In fact sometimes I'm glad I can't understand what is being said because I won't be distracted or become engaged.  That happens with English conversations plenty.

3:30 pm:  Stress out about IRB proposal
All experiments involving human subjects require approval.  I believe this to mostly be a good thing through from what I understand the getting approval process isn't always smooth.

I am in the midst of authoring one for an experiment that I'm not done designing.  In order to complete the design I need X to happen.  And X might not happen until January.  And it might not help as much as I think.

There are some things I know I need to learn but have no idea how I will do so.  As much as I boast about my aptitude, experience I get a little anxious how I will figure things out.

Maybe staring at the proposal will spawn some ideas?

It doesn't.

3:35pm:  Statistics and Sex 
Initially many of my projects were in the finance category.  A lot of work in behavioral economics is in the finance category.  When discussing my workload I did ask to work on something in a slightly different domain.  Wanted to mix things up a bit.

I inherit a project about sex.

I have dozens of  spreadsheets containing sex data.  I'm tasked with analysis.  And that's stats.  I wrote my thesis on statistical reasoning and was teaching assistant for a psych stats class.  But that was 12 years ago.

So, I'm going to brush up on statistics.  And learn about sex.  At the same time.

4:15 Get distracted by interesting conversations / Goof Off / Feel Old 
Open setting.  Smart people.  We're not always at our desks immersed in our work.

We talk about our own work, work in the field, current events, philosophical questions, grad schools, conferences and other topics I know so little about I can't tell you what they are.

But sometimes we're just straight up goofing off doing things like watching dumb videos on YouTube and playing on the balance board.

I am at the higher end of the age range at the lab.  Sometimes these conversations make me feel old, sometimes they make me feel wise.  Sometimes listening to a twenty something talk about life makes me think "How naive.  Just you wait" (I mostly keep these thoughts to myself).

Usually I'm just engaged and enjoying myself during these conversations - come to think of it this is how I feel all day.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They tried to make me go to rehab but I said 'no, no, no'

I'll have been at The Center one month tomorrow.  I'm reconsidering referring to it as such because it sounds like I might be in rehab.  That said, the analogy might be apt, detoxification in particular.

I wouldn't characterize advertising as an unhealthy addiction.  I was* very well suited for the cadence of the work.  Maybe a little too well suited for it.

*Tenses (particularly regarding my advertising world) are inconsistent throughout.  Neither past nor present feels quite right.  I guess that just comes with writing about the world you're in, particularly when it's changing.

When I started at the lab, I had this low-grade concern I was missing something.  I mean missing as in "not there" (versus missing as in "I'm sad this thing isn't here anymore"- though that has come into play).  I'm not just talking about voicemails, e-mails and meetings (though I certainly have less of all those things). Deeper seated than that.  But not sad.

The feeling was first brought to the surface when my work required me to be offsite.  I felt I needed to tell someone I wouldn't be around.
But, I couldn't think of who to tell or why.
In fact, I was concerned that broadcasting my absence would be an indication of a false sense of self-importance rather than the intended reason of, um, being conscientious, habit?

A few days later I left the lab to go get my ID.  The whole ordeal took three hours (the reason it took three hours touches on bureaucracy, a topic for another post).  The relevant info:  I was gone for three hours.  Sans phone.

When I returned I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach I would be walking into a fire-drill (not that I have any idea what a fire-drill even looks like for my projects).  Or that a shit-storm could have happened and been resolved in my absence though I would still have to wade through the whole damn incomprehensible e-mail chain and reconstruct the situation.

Of course nothing had gone awry.

Nor was there any e-mail build up.
E-mail volume is such that sometimes I wonder if the server is down.
Once I even sent an e-mail to myself to check.

I totally understand my "I must be missing something" feeling has way more to do with my anxiety, ego, sense of responsibility (read: importance) than it does the differences in work responsibilities.

There were plenty of times I was stressed out about work while away from work (by work I mean advertising).  Sometimes the worry was needless, other times it was warranted.  My work has always been important to me.  On some level I've felt important to my work.  I've struggled with that because I know work is an entity.  It can't feel anything towards me.  The entity, however, is comprised of real people.  None of us, however, indispensable (the illusion otherwise is natural, necessary and probably healthy).  That's an equally relieving and saddening reality that could send me on an existential tangent from where I might never return.  If I was in a Facebook relationship with work I would opt for the "It's complicated" status.

It's too early to describe my relationship with my new work.  My sense is that regardless the level of importance we have to each other the nature and frequency of stress will be of a different variety than that of the ad world.  

So back to the de-tox analogy.  I've been a month without the cadence of advertising.  I didn't necessarily yearn for it or suffer withdrawal but I certainly feel the absence and know it's affecting me.  

I feel less anxious.

Oh, I'm still plenty anxious, but something is lifting.

It's good. 

"Relax" has been the resounding counsel of others and my counsel to myself (regardless the issue).  Trying to relax?  I don't have outline the circularity there.  Or get into the fine line between energy and anxiety, the former a quality I will always embrace.

This might be negligible, imagined or short-lived.  But, that's where I'm at after one month clean.

And because every post (especially touchy feel-y ones like this) needs pictures, here are a few shots of the calming environment we call "The Center" (Doesn't that sound like a line from the brochure you might hand a loved one during an intervention?)

Putt Putt
I brought in my driver and left it there for a day or two as a joke.  Either nobody noticed or nobody got it.

Door to boss's office.  Even when the door is closed, it's open.


  Duh again.

Comfy couches, massage chair like the ones you sit in when you get a pedicure.  A red-headed co-worker (he matches the couch) with a NewYork accent.

And yes, those are pictures of giant naked ladies in the background.

There's also the supply closet.  

And coffee.  And machines that make variations on coffee.  I don't drink any of that but it makes everyone else very happy.

And booze (not pictured).  No pub or beer on tap.  We go right for the hard stuff.

Update:  The day after I write this post look what arrives in the lab.  I must have summoned it.

Macrame would not have been my first choice for my cocoon but as long as I wake with youthful vigor, I'll tolerate it.

Actual content about what I'm doing at the lab (besides napping) is forthcoming.  I'm in the midst of crafting a few pieces for consumption here and elsewhere.  My goal is to write about the work in a digestible and engaging manner without oversimplifying or eclipsing content with humor.  

While this blog mostly serves as an outlet for self absorption, pith and online scrapbooking I am using it as both an exercise and counterbalance for other writing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

“Paradise? Paradise can go fuck itself.”

In this movie, Clooney's character, Matt, has to contend with feelings of both regret and betrayal towards someone who's alive, but doesn't talk back.

His wife is in a coma.  When she wakes up he's ready to talk about their relationship.  He'll ask forgiveness for crumbling of their marriage and the neglect of their children.  He'll do better.

She's not going to wake up.  And she was having an affair before she fell into the coma.

Matt's initial reaction is to throw on boat shoes and awkwardly run through the neighborhood.  
That was very funny.

But the real question is how he'll deal with the anger, sadness and issue of forgiveness.

Good question.  Good movie.

Friday, December 02, 2011

She said "Honey take me dancing" but they ended up by sleeping in a doorway

I wrote a post about the evolution of the meaning of Paul Simon's lyrics from the time I discovered him (early teens) to last night when he performed in Durham.

This post is about his music.  I know, lyrics and music are intertwined and the magic is in the blend, blah blah blah.  I'm not sophisticated enough to write about them together.

You know "Blister in the Sun" where it gets really quiet and then really loud "Let me go wild...."  I'm always the idiot who jumps up bellows out "let me go wild" too early.

In the case of Paul Simon I'm in perfect sync with every last drum beat, sax solo, whatever.

I know Paul Simon's music.  
Last night, I felt it.  
My body became an instrument.  
(That all sounds so incredibly corny but I'm coming to terms with the fact if I'm going to be "real" with myself and others I'm going to have to be corny here and there).

My kinesthetic intelligence is poor.  So, I've been working on improving it through a number of activities, most notably and frequently by dancing.

Last night, I moved to the music.  Within the confines of my back row narrow seat I felt like my body was doing the equivalent of "singing along" to the music.  I had diamonds on the soles of my shoes.

I've no idea what any of this looked like nor do I give a shit.  

It just felt good.

She was physically forgotten 
And then she slipped into my pocket 
With my car keys 
She said you've taken me for granted 
Because I please you 
Wearing these diamonds 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains

Paul Simon performed in Durham tonight.

For all the lyrics I don't know (plus the lyrics I don't know I don't know) I'm rock solid on Paul Simon.  Maybe more rock solid than Paul Simon.  He mixed up some lyrics during one song (it was not part of a new arrangement).

I discovered Simon and Garfunkel in a pile of records in our living room in the early nineties.  I was incredibly taken by the lyrics.  Just like any teen, I was looking for my voice. The words and stories in his songs were poetic, clever and insightful and became the "Chicken Noodle Soup" for my adolescent soul.

A few decades go by and it's tonight.  In one ear I'm hearing the words and remembering what they meant meant to me at 15.  In the other ear I'm listening to it as my present 34 year old self.

At times there is great harmony - The songs "mean" the same thing.  So much of it is timeless though I do wonder "Was I an incredibly wise teenager?" or if I just still think like one.

Other songs carry new and different meaning for me.  Probably has something to do with the passing of 20 years and all the life I've lived.

Past and present Jamie were most stirred by "Train in the Distance."
I'll save the reasons for my memoir.

The verse below was particularly poignant.

What is the point of this story 
What information pertains
The thought that life could be better
Is woven indelibly
Into our hearts
And our brains

The thought that "life could be better" is loaded with sadness and regret but at the same time it's incredibly optimistic and hopeful.