Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Performance: It's a Head Game

Building confidence always seems to be the crux of the job in my role as management consultant. In most situations different plans have an equal chance of succeeding, but the team has to get behind one plan and they have to believe it's The Right Plan. Belief alone gets you half way across the finish line.

This inspiring quote about the effect of training on confidence and peak performance comes from the book "Rocket Men" by Craig Nelson.

"I always find that when time came for a mission, there was just and incredible degree of just solitude. You just felt comfortable... The adrenaline's pumping, but you have this incredible confidence in your team and in yourself as a result of... training... (It's) given you confidence.... This instructor has given you this absolute confidence in your ability to get the job done. You never think about: 'If I get airborne I've got to get back to ground I may crash'." Gene Kranz, Mission Control Chief Apollo 11 flight team.

As a manager, coach or a teacher how do you give you kids, you athletes and your team members absolute confidence in their ability to perform during a competition or on a test?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tomatos, Joey Buttafuoco and the Buster Controversy

The neighborhood is abuzz about the new cat down the street. Buster. A big gray guy, wide in the middle, with a skinny short tail and muscles. You see him saunter down the street and you think: If Joey Buttafuoco were a cat he'd walk just like that.

Apparently Buster is quite a mouser, something we've needed here in Squirreltown. Just to give you a feeling for the squirrel problem, they ate all my tomatoes for that two years, and in the world according to Google, squirrels don't eat tomatoes.

Not being gardeners, no one else really cared except for the neighbor who hates the nests in the trees.

But I cared. And now Buster cares. For the first time in 3 years I've had tomatoes ripen unmolested on the vine. Sorry squirrels.

And sorry to the neighbors who own the house across the street where Buster deposits his kill. For some reason Buster leaves the bodies on the front porch right in front of their door. These squeemish people feel a total aversion to nature and it's causing quite a controversy. Frankly, I'd be glad to shovel the dead for them, but they are too proud to ask for help. Maybe they will accept a gift of tomatoes.

Note: Get the update on Buster here:

"Hope in aTime of Anxiety"

A remarkable man in our community has done much work in a subtle joyful way to improve our community. Standing back and looking with the eyes of heart you can feel the new energy without actually pinpointing the source; the place just plain looks happy and healthy. Trust me, this has not always been the case. What is so artful is that the man has created transformation with a remarkably subtle touch.

But, transformation is never easy and resistance is common -- as soon as some people perceive that their world is changing, even if it's a good change, they feel fear. They smell fear on others and they start to act all crazy. Mob behavior calls for a dose that wonderful poem by Ruyard Kipling "If"... Scroll down to see the guy who tattooed the entire poem on his back.... now that's a commitment to literature.

I'll monitor this situation and report when it settles out. In the meantime I'm reading Hope in a Time of Anxiety.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Four squares of bush beans planted in the watering trough around April 20 yielded a nice big handful of beans for supper tonight with more to come in the next few days. The square of snap peas against the fence are still offering up a crunchy little snack every few days and the leaf lettuce is promising a salad or two along with greens for sandwiches, but the baby romaine is just about gone. I'm vaguely thinking about cost per square calculations, but how do you factor in the romance of gardening and the lovely sense of anticipation, accomplishment and hope that a garden yields in addition to the odd tomato and the promise of crazy zucchinis any day now.

Language Learning Rosetta Stone Alternatives

My kids are learning Chinese. My husband and I are learning Spanish. I was using Rosetta Stone until they pulled the plug their online library program apparently putting the money instead into marketing. My husband being the pragmatic guy he is, just went out and bought Rosetta Stone instead of mounting an online search for alternatives. All searches point me to Live Mocha. It's just about the same as Rosetta Stone, with a little more complexity in set up.
I haven't tested it with a microphone so I'm not sure how it teaches pronounciation and I haven't tested the Chinese but if anyone has, please comment.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rules for Living

Recovering from CF meant learning a whole new way of life from the inside out (see my new rules for living below). With that said, a friend of mine is combating CF using drug therapy at Stanford Med Center. There is evidence that for some people anti-viral meds work... I can try to get the name of her Doc. for you, but I wasn't impressed by the preliminary results from the study she was part of, and I'm not convinced that's the route for me. rules for living:

(1) A Priori: don't get angry... nothing sends me into a relapse like anger. And I've learned that nothing is worth a relapse in terms of the impact on my family. So whenever someone pisses me off I have learned to ask myself: it is worth it? As a result I blow off a lot.

(2) Nothing is worth a relapse... nothing. I do less at work. I care less about volunteer positions. I make a lot of mistakes. I say I'm sorry a lot and move on. I blow off high maintenance people even if I love them. I define my responsibilities as being in a very narrow band. I mute a lot of emotions that would otherwise take over my life.

(3) Yoga, garden and walk. Limit aerobic activity to days when I feel marvelous (1x per year?). Gardening... some days it means dragging myself outside, sitting on the grass and scratching the dirt with a fork -- but touching nature is very healing for me.

(4) Art and dream therapy... both really work for me. My CF is exacerbated by emotions I feel in my body but block with my conscious mind. Art helps me release them. I draw impressionistic images that feel to me like the sensations in by body then I list words to describe what I see in the picture. This was really helpful early on. I made tons of progress when I was working with a dream group... wish I could find another one.

(5) Forcing myself to stick to a routine. Up by 8am weekdays, 9:30am weekends... no matter what. No naps. In bed by 10pm. No media before bedtime. If (when) I get into a cycle of waking up at night I just get up and read or practice mindfulness meditations lying in bed. I let go of my fear about being exhausted the next day... oh well... a slow day tomorrow... so it goes. Pasta for dinner again.

(6) Mindfulness, forgiveness and boundaries. Read a lot of books on these topics. Seek out experiences that bring them into focus for me. I really like the books "Boundaries" by "Townsend and Cloud"

(7) Speak like a preacher when necessary.... I find myself blathering a bunch of aphorisms from my youth like a mantra... They are very soothing. Other people look at me like I'm a nut case but so what.

(8) Get outside in the sun as often as possible even if that means sitting in a chair wrapped in a blanket. Direct sunlight helps me regulate my body clock.

With all that said... recovering from CF is a journey of learning to live in your body. Anything that helps you get to know your body is good.... sending you lots of good wishes....Keep me posted on your progress... any if you ever have time for a walk.... my shoes are always ready... Alexis

Monday, June 21, 2010

90 Days: Time to Replant

Musing on replanting... a kind of recycling. Recycling the space that has stopped being useful. Like cleaning closets. Letting go. Out with the old in with the new:

The Old (Planted March 13):
  • 6-7 sq. lettuce. Romaine 2-3 plants per square was enough to give us a daily salad for about 2 weeks.
  • 2 sq. snap peas. Enough to provide a morning snack every 3rd day for about 2 weeks
  • 2 sq. bush beans. provided about 2 cups of green beans. Very discouraging really.
The New
  • Lettuce growing in the great wall is useful as a source of transplants. I'm moving plants to the empty squares and hoping they don't bolt. They aren't really getting enough sun on the wall. Maybe 4-5 hours a day. The plants are spindly and sad.
  • 2 squares of pole beans planted in the watering trough.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Taking Spritual Guidance

In a un-straight line
Reaching out
Toward something
Seeking to reach the world... as if

The individual and society in an eternal unavoidable conflict.

Resolution is the only real problem in this situation
because resolution means that one side has lost.
And when one side loses,

the world goes sideways for awhile.

The individual fights for his values: the hero's path.
Society fights to establish common ideals.
The brave hero; the wise judge. This conflict keeps heroes and judges from turning into egoists-- from becoming criminals and dictators.
Everyone knows this fight, both in the heart and outside.
Day in day out.

The wisest words I've read in weeks or years. To hear intuition you must stop the conscious mind

Excerpted and paraphrased from the site Links to lots of great artwork too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Status Update June 4, 2010

The lettuce seedlings emerge. As of today, 16 pots are planted with a variety of Mesclun, baby romain, baby bok choy, mint, and rapini. The 12 bush beans planted at the bottom will soak up any water that splashes out of the gutter and provide more shade for the lettuce if they grow. This experiment, based on Mel Barthomew's square foot gardening techniques with a dash of hybred hydroponic gardening priciples tossed in for good luck is entirely ad hoc.

From Renee's Garden: "Mesclun has come to mean any mixture of young salad greens that is sown, grown and cut all together."

Little Heart

A friend of mine died this year. She was 50, looked 30. Her memorial service was lavish. The alter was obscured with 20 massive wreaths.

One of the speakers, using English that was clearly a second language for her, described my friend as having "Little Heart".

To my Western ears "Little Heart" sounded like a diss, but the speaker went on to define what she meant by the literal translation of a Chinese idiom. She used the term "Little Heart" to describe Nancy's most profound characteristic; the magical ability to use grace to transform small everyday work into something meaningful and beautiful for everyone around her.

So perhaps in our days and our work you and I can practice the art of "Little Heart" in the Chinese way and in memory of Nancy. Sending you love and light whoever you are, wherever you are on your path.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What did I plant?

Although I adore experimentation in the trial and error way, I've never been good at keep records. I did jot down a few notes about what I planted and when and even managed to get most of it written in the same book. Yesterday I tried to transpose it all into an excel spreadsheet, but forgot to save. Oh dear. We're back to the void.

Setting reasonable goals: How much to plant

Today I counted potential yield or perhaps more to the point, counted my chickens before they hatch.
  • 12 green tomatoes and a few blossoms on the celebrity and heritage tomato bushes
  • 5 hard peaches from the 2-year old tree
  • 0 raspberries from the 2-year old bush
  • 0 pea pods down from about 5-6 pods per day from 2 squares
  • 0 bush and pole beans from 5-6 squares
In a tiny garden what can be achieved. Including the great wall of lettuce, I have about 50 squares of plantable space almost all of it in containers. What can be grown in this area that will produce a useful yield. So far the successes include:
  • herbs: savory, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary
  • lettuce especially "cut and come again" types
The experiment includes
  • beans
  • tomatoes
  • peas
  • baby bok choy
  • red chard

Monday, June 7, 2010

Havesting Water

We live amidst the illusion of abundant water. In my garden water is used and used again whenever possible. Today I tapped the side of the bean trough to gather the run off and harvested about a gallon. This had the added benefit of keeping the ground around the pot from getting squishy. But still, I am so grateful for abundance.

Garden update June 7: First Green Bean Harvest

The green beans are coming but slowly. 2 squares of French bush beans went in (Harcort Vert) -- about 18 bean plants. 60+ days later, the first beans have arrived. Yesterday and today's harvest combined will be about 1 handful. Not exactly enough for a family of five, but something. Next year the first planting will include 4 squares and I'll start later. The cold spring had the beans shivering in their pots.

The 2 squares of bush beans planted 30 days later are climbing steadily. They went in on 30th of April when the days were longer but only somewhat warmer. They're growing in a homemade "earthbox" or self-watering container. Basically it's constructed from a plastic tub, filled with red lava rock and then a layer of "nuvo peet" (ligna peet, a red wood product). They get more reflected heat from wall behind them than the bush beans get. I only water them every 2 weeks and they seem healthy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Peat Moss Wars and other environmental gardening issues

Is there a difference between environmental gardening and organic gardening? Apparently peat moss is not PC. It's environmentally unsound. Details are available online at The Garden Rant.

The certified organic replacement I'm using for the Great Wall of Lettuce is called Ligna Peat made from chopped up redwood... new growth I hope. We'll see if it functions as promised without sucking up all the nitrogen.

The Great Wall of Lettuce

Creating the Great Wall of Lettuce has seen me through the dog days of Spring... and it's been a very cold Spring in the Silicon Valley.

The objective:
Use mostly recycled materials to create a very small footprint garden capable of producing enough greens for a family of 5 with low water requirements.

The design:
The space is 2 x 8 feet wide and gets sun from about 10am toabout 1-2 pm depending on the time of year... Hopefully that's just enough sun to keep the lettuce from bolting. Building it took about 3 days including a lot of trial and error. This is my 3rd design. The water flows from drippers into the top row and down to the lower rows. The runoff from the bottom row drains into a piece of vinyl gutter to water the raspberry bushes and peach tree. The vinyl gutter is ugly and truthfully, it wasn't recycled. I hope it doesn't leach plastic poison into the peaches. What do you think? Will the black pots leach BPAs into my lettuce?

The growing medium is based on Mel's mix updated for material availability in our area. The recipe is
  • 1/6 vermiculite,
  • 1/6 red lava rocks,
  • 1/6 chicken manure compost,
  • 1/6 worm castings,
  • 2/6 linga moss (a faux peat moss that's more environmentally friendly available at our local garden supply)
So far the project start-up cost has been about $75 not including cost of water. Probably more than the produce will be worth if you buy it at the store. If the project lives to see next year, the cost will be significantly less
  • $5 Chicken manure
  • $6 Linga moss
  • $20 Bamboo poles
  • $10 Gutter
  • $7 Vermiculite
  • $15-20 misc. drip system components
  • $5-10 seed packets

Status Update June 4, 2010
The lettuce seedlings emerge. As of today, 16 pots are planted with a variety of Mesculn, baby Romain, baby bok choy, mint, and rapini. 12 few bush beans planted at the bottom will soak up any water that splashes out of the gutter and provide more shade for the lettuce if they grow. This is all an experiment. It's based on hybred hydroponic gardening priciples with a dash of square foot gardening tossed in for good luck.