I before E

It seems as though most people I know have written the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) at some point in their lives, sometimes more than once. It even shows up in brief form on the Web and via Facebook. It used to be very popular with prospective employers. The one time I took it in full, I think it was through some sort of career placement centre at Radcliffe College. It was quite a long time ago, probably one of those times when I didn't know what I really wanted to do in life.

The MBTI is very popular. Everyone wants their MBTI label so they can say "I'm INTJ" the way they would say "I'm an Aries." I think the MBTI is a wee bit more reliable than astrology, but it does suffer from one thing that all type inventories do: it relies on self-reporting. The full test is set up in a way to try to preventing gaming the test, but it's still more about how we see ourselves than how we might really be and how others might see us. We can answer completely honestly, but it still comes from our own view of ourselves. And especially at certain times of life, we don't always know ourselves as well as we might.

I remember my result from all those decades ago, because of course it was my personal label: "I'm INTP." That stands for "Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving." When I learned that, I didn't balk. I thought it described me pretty well—introverted as opposed to extraverted [sic], intuitive as opposed to sensing, thinking as opposed to feeling, and perceiving as opposed to judging. If you Google Myers-Briggs, you can find more than you ever wanted to know about what each of those categories means. "Introverted" in Myers-Briggs land doesn't mean shy and withdrawn. It's about how you recharge your batteries. An introverted person regains energy by being alone, whereas an extraverted person regains energy by being with others.

Since type inventories are about our basic temperaments, they're not supposed to change. But since they're self-reported, and thus about how we see ourselves, then perhaps if we see ourselves differently than we once did, we'll get a different score. As well, maybe we do change somewhat as we, er, mature.

That seems to have happened to me. I haven't done a full MBTI recently, but I've done one of the brief online ones. The result was no longer INTP. It was ENFP.

The F didn't surprise me. I am and have always been a thinker, but I over time I have found more of a balance between thinking and feeling. Thinking no longer always wins out, and I have become more of a consensus seeker, more sensitive to the needs of people and not just concerned with abstract principles.

The E, however, really threw me. Me, recharging by being with other people? The one who telecommutes to work, spends too much free time in front of her computer, and tends to stay home with her sweetie watching DVDs on Friday and Saturday night?

I had a suspicion that might have changed as well. Must of that time spent in front of the computer is interacting with other people via email or chat. I'm a total Facebook addict. I look forward to getting out and getting together with friends, which for me doesn't happen often enough. I love meeting new people.

One thing last week really brought it home to me. I was in the office for the first time in four and a half years. We finally had the travel budget to bring in many of the people who work remotely, on both coasts. We were in to meet people face to face, to do some work that's much easier to do when you're all in the same place, to attend meetings, and to participate in "craftsmanship day," a day of practice and learning for software developers. Having been working in my home office for all this time, often in my jammies all day, I wasn't sure how I'd like being in the office. But I loved it. If I were there on a daily basis I might wish for some time alone and to be able to work in my jammies again, but for the duration anyway I enjoyed being surrounded by people and interacting with them.

The incident that struck me involved an after-work thing. I was giving one of my colleagues a lift back to our hotel. On the way out the door, we ran into another colleague, who said that there was something going on at the pub where people commonly hang out. We had recently lost one of our senior people under somewhat mysterious circumstances (I'm not privy to that kind of inside knowledge). Because it was abrupt, there had been no send-off at work. I had never met him, but I knew his voice from countless meetings, and I liked how he ran things.

My fellow remote colleague remarked that he was beat and wanted to head back to the hotel. I thought about turning around after I dropped him there and heading to the pub, which wasn't that far away, but I decided against it. I should have gone. I realized that even after a long day at work, I could have used the social interaction. I would have met this guy, if only to say goodbye, had a drink and some appies, and hung out with other people from work. Once upon a time, that would have been the last thing I wanted to do, but now I realize that I would have enjoyed it. Now I will never meet this person with whom I once worked, and I regret that.

Not that I was anti-social. Four of us remote folks got together later on for really good Mexican food. I wasn't sorry about that. But I still should have followed my first instinct, an instinct I'm not quite used to yet. That's not only to go for social gatherings. It's also to say yes to opportunities and new experiences.


Resistance should not be futile

I don't try to blog every day. I want to write only if I have something to say, and that's just not every day. But every two weeks isn't often enough!

I have been felled by a cold again. I think it's my third of the season. I don't remember having this kind of trouble in the past. My immune system has usually been quite strong, and often when my sweetie would bring home a virus I would successfully resist it. But this winter has not been good. The previous disease lasted for more than two weeks with a persistent cough. Could the viral Borg really be after me?

So far this cold feels more typical, mostly a stuffy head and no energy. I've been getting as much extra rest as I can. Nyquil has been failing me! I slept last night, but not well. I woke up several time completely stuffed up. So much for relief of symptoms. Non-drowsy cold pills have been doing a little better. They used to keep me awake, but not this time. Slept this morning. Slept more this afternoon.

Everybody has their favourite sure-fire cold remedy. Oil of oregano is a new one. Sweetie has been taking Cold FX, the efficacy of which supposedly hasn't been demonstrated, but she says it's helping her. Some people still swear by echinacea. Others are still plugging Vitamin C, even though that one was always more about faith than medicine. The old stand-bys seem to be best: rest and stay hydrated. And pretend you're not sick. As I should have rhymed in Facebook yesterday: if you feel like poo, you can still look faboo!

If my immune system is not what it used to be, I want to find out why. I eat a very healthy diet. I don't get enough exercise, but that's not unusual. I get almost enough sleep. My immune system should be as robust as it ever has been. But maybe I need to look more closely at any changes. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I need to play drums more!


Great leap forward

I skipped on Windows Vista. I couldn't see any reason to "upgrade" to a system that many were quickly undoing so they could get back to Windows XP, a reliable operating system. Sweetie had her share of problems with Vista, and if reports were correct, many had it much worse.

So even when I got a new desktop system a little over a year ago, I had them clone my disk (shhh) so I could keep running Windows XP Pro until I was ready to bite the bullet and upgrade. Which turned out to be never, really. Because going from XP to 7 isn't an upgrade. Vista to 7 is, but not XP to 7. It would have meant buying the full operating system as well as an Office suite. Which I avoided. I'm good at avoidance.

Then along came the technical writing program at BCIT, and the need to take an elective. One choice was writing for the web, and I've done that for years. Another was Office 2007, and I really didn't feel like a course on dealing with the previous versions of Excel and Powerpoint. The only other choice was Word 2010. I have always been kind of a dumb Word user, doing things the hard way and getting inferior results when I could have saved time and got better results. So I went for the Word 2010 course. Which meant no more procrastinating on upgrading to Windows 7.

I know I bought the desktop only a little over a year ago, but there were several reasons I bought a laptop rather than the necessary software by itself. One is that laptops are relatively inexpensive even with the software included. Upgrading my desktop system would have cost plenty, and I would still have been left with a high-powered but non-portable system sharing a keyboard, mouse, and monitor with my work computer via an Iogear KVM switch that is dying. They all die, far too quickly. I've had it with KVM switches. I also decided that I wanted portability. I don't travel that often, but when I do it's gotten so I want my own machine with me rather than borrowing Sweetie's (when she is not busy using it herself). And when at home, I want less clutter on my desk, which is a disaster area and has been for some time. That's not really because of having two computers, but it doesn't help.

I got a nice Samsung RF710 with a 17.1-inch screen, discontinued and also the demo model, so the price was reduced. Reduced price on the Windows and Office licences. And now my desk has gone from disaster area to being elegible for federal disaster relief! Three computers! It's that time when I'm moving what I need from the old machine to the new, not wanting to shut down the old machine too soon lest I leave something behind.

I'm getting used to a laptop keyboard, Windows 7, and Office 2010 all at once! Worse, with the track pad. See, there's no room yet for the mouse. I'm getting pretty good with the track pad, but it's not easy. And Win 7 is making me a little crazy. It thinks it knows what I want, and it's pretty much always wrong. Like, if I hover over something for a little too long and it acts like I clicked on it. And sometimes something will happen and I have no idea what key I pressed or button I clicked. Things seem to happen on their own, like out of control scrolling and disappearing windows. I'm hoping this gets a little less weird when I find room for the mouse.

This weekend, I bring in the backhoe and clear stuff off the desk. OK, maybe I'll just rearrange the piles. But something has to give. In the end, I'll have just my work computer and my cute little laptop, which is almost set up with all the stuff I want.


Test your sexuality!

The Georgia Straight is the so-called alternative weekly newspaper in Vancouver. This week's edition came out yesterday. It's January, shortly after the holidays when so many of us indulge in many more calories than we normally do. Time to hit the gym! So it was not surprising to see a fitness babe on the cover.

The Straight has done this sort of thing before. I think this cover is a recurring theme. And I wondered (in my best Carrie Bradshaw voiceover): Why not a fitness hunk?

It didn't take long for me to figure that one out. If anyone saw a fitness hunk on the cover of the Straight, they'd think it was Xtra, the gay and lesbian weekly.

Weird, eh? A fitness babe showing some skin on the cover implies heterosexuality. She's there for the boys to want (you'll find her at the gym) and the girls to envy (you can be like her if you go to the gym). A fitness hunk showing some skin on the cover screams homosexuality. He's there for the boys to want (you'll find him at the guys-only gym), girls not invited (because you just know he's gay). The only way you could put a fitness hunk on the cover and not have it scream homosexuality would be to pair him with a fitness babe—which the Straight has also done. Then you'd be safely in heterosexual territory.

I suppose lesbians could also want the fitness babe, so the hetero cover would be for them. Which in itself is curious. A fitness hunk alone would be very specific to male homosexuality, whereas the fitness babe would cover all the rest—including those of us who are more generally sexual, no prefix required.

I'm not usually into deconstructing the implications behind media images, but this one caught my attention. It's kind of fun to find the hidden messages and the assumptions behind seemingly innocuous displays.



A friend posted something recently in Facebook. It was a "pay it forward" message. The first five people to comment on it would receive something that my friend made, on the condition that we each do the same on our status lines. I hadn't been on Facebook for a while (meaning a few hours), so there were already several comments. I posted a comment about being number six. Then someone pointed out that one of the comments had been from the original poster, so I was in fact number five.

Oh dear.

I'm all in favour of paying forward to others. In fact, I think it's a great idea, and I'm happy to do so. But something made by me? I am perhaps the least crafty person I know. I can't knit or crochet. I can't sew (though I would like to learn). My drawing ability is marginal. I don't know how to do calligraphy. I can fix things (mmmm, power tools), but I'm not a builder. If you look around our house, you won't see anything that I've made.

I lack crafting skills. I even lack skills in The Craft. As a practitioner, I'm kind of a squib, so I won't be casting spells for anyone. You'll have to find love on your own. :)

I know how to cook. That's something I really love to do, and I do it pretty well. So depending on where my first five responders live, I might be able to create something food-ish. My only real artistic skills are writing and playing music, neither of which are particularly well suited to this kind of exercise—although I'll think about it.

Again if my responders happen to be local, I could always offer services. I have self-taught gardening and landscaping skills. I actually built a stone path once. I call it my "hobbit path," because it's somewhat irregular and now rather mossy, but it has held up for years. I made some raised beds for vegetables, which is about as basic carpentry as you can imagine. I created a rock garden.

I'm a good listener. I'm not sure if that counts in this case!

My thinking process tends to have six walls around it, if you get my meaning, if you catch my drift. I'm pretty good inside there, but outside, not so much. I wish I were. Maybe someone in comments will trigger something that I'm just not seeing at this point. I owe something good, something cool, something thoughtful to five people. I'm going to deliver one way or another, because I really want to.



I remember when the turn of the century seemed far in the future. I was going to be all of 46 when that happened! And here we are into the second decade of the 21st century, and I just turned 57. We still don't have transporters or replicators like Star Trek or flying cars like The Jetsons, but there's certainly a lot of other stuff we never imagined a few decades ago.

This year will bring more school. My next course starts on the 12th. I'm taking only one this term. My tech writing program requires that I take one computer elective, so I'm going to learn to use Word 2010. I've always been kind of a hack Word user. I guess that's not unusual, but I'd like to know how to get more out of the program and maybe even learn to do fancier things. I imagine it will be required for other courses. The course will go a lot better if I can find a laptop I want before it starts. I could always upgrade my desktop system, currently running Windows XP and Office 2003, but for the amount I would spend on buying Windows 7 and Office 2010, I would rather get a laptop. I'm feeling the need for more portability.

I would like to have a laptop to take with me on my first trip into the office in four and a half years. I telecommute to an office in suburban Detroit, and we haven't had the travel budget to bring the remote team in from the cold. Or in to the cold, more likely. It feels chilly to me here at 0°C, but they have real winter in Michigan. I like my boss and the people I work with, so I think it will be a good trip. More and more products are being migrated from the legacy servers I maintain to our new system, so part of this trip will be to discuss our future. Whether that's with the company or not, I don't know, but I don't think they're flying us for layoff notices. We shall see.

I don't know what kind of trips Sweetie and I will be taking this year. Perhaps not Maui like last April. I'm sure there will be a road trip to Portland—or two, or three, or more. We'd like to visit the west coast of Vancouver Island finally, one of the many places in British Columbia where we've never been. Sweetie's sister and her wife live in New Brunswick, so maybe that will be a summer destination. I will be making a trip to New England at some point, although that will probably be solo. And it's been too long since we've been to San Francisco. There's also a remote friend I'd like to meet farther south in California.

I have a new year's resolution, which I generally don't make. But this one is to put my garden back into shape. That means cleaning up the (mostly) native perennial garden, ordering and laying down a lot of mulch to keep it nice, ordering in some more garden soil to fill the raised beds, and planting vegetables at the right time. The pesto supply in the freezer is dangerously low! We can't have another year without enough basil. This project will also entail trimming back the large maple tree that is current casting too much shade on the vegetable garden. And that will mean either me on a ladder, which I'm not crazy about, or hiring some tree people.

I hope my schedule will allow me to work at Girls Rock Camp again. I haven't yet signed up for spring Ladies Rock Camp in Portland. I'm not sure if there is still space, although I imagine there is. If I don't go in spring, I would like to go back in the autumn. And no matter what, I am going to be practising on my drum kit. Maybe there will be musical possibilities in 2011.

School, garden, and music are probably enough to keep me busy. I imagine there will be more happening that I'm not thinking of right now. Whatever happens, I know I'll be writing.

Hope your 2011 is a good one!