Walking for Rhythm – Finding the step, step, step, step

I find walking rhythmic.

The step, step, step, step of a potter from somewhere to nowhere moves from my feet to my lungs.

In my lungs the step, step, step, step says “in, out, in, out”.

The in, out, in, out of my lungs say to my heart “pump-pump, pump-pump, pump-pump, pump-pump”.

Somehow that rhythm says to the rest of my body “calm, calm, calm, calm”.

When I’m walking up a particularly steep bit of a hill I’ll count each step in a rhythm – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1, 2, 3… – continuing my progress, slowly, and rhythmically. When my body says that it’s time to stop I’ll make myself continue to the end of the current set of 10 almost likes it’s a bar in music. When it’s really, really steep I’ll make myself stop every two or three sets just to keep the rhythm.

Step, step, step, step.

One of the reasons that I avoid the very popular mountain paths where it’s become necessary to put in rock steps is because the uneven rocks destroy the rhythm, particularly coming down hill. It’s difficult to keep with the beat when you have to measure your every step.

In, out, in, out.

My working life has very little rhythm to it, each day the meetings, the conversations and the emails are all on different topics. A working day is really a set of interruptions, even in meetings it’s difficult not to get interrupted. Sometimes the stack of interruptions gets so high that I forget what the one at the bottom is. Then when the interruptions stop for a few minutes I don’t know what to do because the rhythm has been reduced to a cacophony. At times like this a few minutes walking reminds my whole being of the days rhythm and the calm returns, I’m far more productive in the calm.

Pump-pump, pump-pump, pump-pump, pump-pump.

A joys of a walk before work is knowing that I start the day with a tempo set by the steps I’ve already invested. While I try to make my morning walk stretching I deliberately avoid rushing it, I like to feel the beat. Days without a walk always feel a bit discordant.

Calm, calm, calm, calm.

The daily rhythms build into weekly rhythms.

The weekly rhythms build into seasonal rhythms.

Perhaps we’ll come back to that.

How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are. How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk.

Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, “The Walk,” 25 October 1967

Teaspoons: A Story of Abundance and Scarcity

Earlier this year a colleague was bemoaning the availability of teaspoons in our office’s shared refreshment making facility. This had become a regular gripe, but not one that I regarded as critical or one that I should resolve.

This is the same facility that I wrote about some months ago in The Sub-optimal Kitchen – The 10 Steps to Getting a Cup of Tea where making a cup of tea is a challenge at the best of times.

One evening, however, a thought came to me: “I wonder how many spoons I can buy cheaply to resolve this situation for good, and perhaps I can have a bit of a laugh while I’m at it?”

Spurred on by this though I reached for my iPhone and discovered that I could purchase 48 teaspoons for the princely sum of £7. At 14.5p per spoon I decided that it was worth a giggle. I purchased the spoons and arranged to have them anonymously delivered directly to my colleague at the office. The delivery nicely aligned with a week of vacation and hence I wasn’t around when the cutlery arrived which extended the period of mystery. Returning from holiday I, of course, chose to stay silent on the matter which had clearly become a subject of discussion while I had been away.

What happened to the teaspoons?

Initially the teaspoons were retained by my colleague, but eventually a large proportion of them were placed in our Sub-optimal Kitchen for everyone to use.

For several weeks the spoons stayed where they were, in the Sub-optimal Kitchen, being used collectively as a shared asset. We didn’t monitor the number of spoons closely because they were just there. A few went missing, but mostly they resided where they had been placed. People weren’t great at washing them, but that was fine, a few of us undertook the duty of washing all of them from time-to-time. The teaspoons had become a shared utility which was being used as a shared asset for the benefit of all.

In recent weeks that situation has gone through a dramatic change and today there were just 6 teaspoons left in the Suboptimal Kitchen. Within the space of just a few days the abundance of cutlery has been transformed into an asset of scarcity. The occasional washing duty has been turned into a requirement to wash a spoon every time you want to use one. We have returned to bemoaning the lack of teaspoons.

Why the change?

I don’t know what happened to the teaspoons, for sure, but I have some theories.

Theory #1: I suspect that most of the teaspoons are now on people’s desks and they are taking them with them every time they make a cup of tea. They were initially comfortable to leave the spoons in the Suboptimal Kitchen because they were abundant. The abundance meant that they didn’t need to worry about whether a clean spoon would be available so they didn’t need to have their spoon – they had an Abundance Mindset. At some point the volume of spoons reduced to the point where people regarded them as scarce and their mindset shift to a Scarcity Mindset. This scarcity triggered a concern that there might not be a clean spoon available, and worse than that, there might not be a spoon available at all. Once this mindset shift had occurred in a few people it precipitated a rapid depletion of the shared asset as people sought to secure their own access to the facility for the long term and, in so doing, further depleted the asset.

Theory #2: Someone is a teaspoon hoarder.

Theory #3: Someone has taken the teaspoons home to give them an extra-special clean and forgotten to bring them back.

Theory #4: The cleaner has decided to throw them all away.

What are you going to do about it?

There are a few approaches available to resolve this situation:

Resolution #1: I could send an email to everyone in the office pinpointing everyone’s inconsiderateness and asking them to return the spoons. This would be a perfectly legitimate response to an obvious breach of office etiquette, but perhaps this is a little petty. This will be highly embarrassing if someone has taken the teaspoons home for an extra-special clean.

Resolution #2: I could spend another £7 and return the Sub-optimal Kitchen to a status of teaspoon abundance and reestablishing the shared asset. If my abundance mindset theory is correct this will enable the Sub-optimal Kitchen to function a little less sub-optimally for another period of time. If, however, we have a teaspoon hoarder, this approach will give someone the joy of extending their collection. If it’s because someone took them home to wash them, then we will have an over-abundance, but I doubt that will be a problem.

Resolution #3: Forget all about it and leave the Sub-optimal Kitchen in teaspoon scarcity.

What do you think I should do?

Walking? Why walking?

We have recently been on holiday in a beautiful part of England. It’s a place steeped in history with an abundance of places to walk. While we’ve been out and about I’ve been pondering what it is about walking that I love some much.

As I’ve mused I’ve realised how important walking is to me. I’m currently 90% of the way through a challenge to climb all of the hills in the Lake District that are chronicled in the books by Arthur Wainwright. There are 214 hills in this list and I’m down to the last 19. I do most of these walks on my own and whatever the weather I love it. I have no idea how many hours I have spent on this venture, but it’s a lot.

Most weeks I go out for a walk before work on at least three days. One of the privileges of my life is the ability to walk. This privilege is multiplied when the walking is in the countryside, something I can do from my house. If I walk a little way down my street there is a gap in the houses and a path. The path drops down to another path that runs alongside a brook. From this starting point the choices of route multiply like the branches on a tree.

Walking is so natural to many of us that we barely give it a thought. We put one step in front of another and move from one place to another. Sometimes I walk with a purpose, but more often I walk to walk, it’s the walking that is the reward.

Although walking is, for me at least, an ordinary activity I still love it, and that’s what I’ve been pondering? Why do I love walking? Why do I get out of bed on a cold, wet, dark morning, put on my waterproof clothing and walk with a smile on my face? I’ve never really given it much thought before, and I’ve not really written about it, so perhaps it’s time that I did.

Header Image: This is Embleton Bay looking towards Dunstanburgh Castle taken on a late afternoon walk during our recent holiday.

Because it’s Friday: “Transient 2” by Dustin Farrell

I find storms absolutely fascinating, but I still regard storm chasers as a bit mad.

This film that is a combination of slow-lotion and time-lapse sequences by Dustin Farrell (@duston_farrell) shows the power that storms contain.

Here is my second rendition of storm chasing with a Phantom Flex 4K. The best shots from two years of storm chasing jammed into 3.5 minutes.

Stats: 35K miles traveled, 30 terabytes of hard drive space, 300 hours editing/coloring, 3 speeding tickets

Via PetaPixel.

What do you do on calls all day? Version 2, but still lacking in accuracy

It’s been a long time since I’ve had quite so much feedback on a post as I have to my recent conference call posts:

Conference calls are clearly a huge subject, which I suppose isn’t surprising considering how much time many of us spend on them.

Given the volume and veracity of the response I suspect that someone who set up a therapy group for people suffering from conference call ailments would have a long queue of people wanting to participate 😉

In the last post I asked whether I’d missed anything, well clearly I had, there were 11 segments in Version 1, here in Version 2 we have 20 different segments, and some of those I’ve had to consolidate together to retain a level of legibility. These new segments have all come from people’s comments. I’m still open to further comments from anyone who thinks I’m still missing something.

The size if each segment is, as you may have guessed, completely arbitrary, but I have tried to reflect my own person experience a bit.

What do you do on calls all day? Version 2

What do you do on calls all day? A not so accurate analysis

Following on from yesterday’s post: The 10 Rules of Conference Calls – A Not So Definitive List, and the feedback that I received, I thought I would do a quick, not so accurate, analysis of what I did on calls all day:

A graph showing what I did on calls...
What do you do on calls all day? I think I may have over-estimated some of these.

Did I miss anything?

I think that there may be ways that we can optimise this process?

The 10 Rules of Conference Calls – A Not So Definitive list

The conference call is now ubiquitous in many working environments, but wherever I have worked a number of universal truths seem to apply:

  1. The number of connectivity problems that you experience is directly proportional to the importance of the call. This rule applies in most connectivity situations, but is particularly applicable in situations where connectivity is normally reliable.
  2. The key member of the meeting will join the meeting precisely 2 minutes after you decide to close the meeting down having made numerous attempt to try and contact that key individual. This is a two part rule. The moment that you close the call all other participants will become unavailable making reconvening the meeting impossible.
  3. If a colleague asks you how much longer you’ll be on your call and you say 2 minutes the call will last for at least a further 20 minutes.
  4. If you are on a call while working from home a delivery person will knock on your door at the precise moment when you need to be contributing to the call. Other distractions are available.
  5. If anyone is going to have problems going on mute it will be the person on the call with the most background noise.
  6. You will be speak whilst on mute when you have your best idea. When you repeat your idea once you are off mute it won’t sound quite as good as it did the first time.
  7. If a colleague asks you how much longer you’ll be on your call and you say 20 minutes the call will only last for a further 2 minutes. In these 2 minutes your colleague will have already left or become unavailable.
  8. The delay between the published start time and the actual start time is directly proportional to the number of people expected on the call. This has nothing to do with any technical limitation.
  9. If the conference call has an online Q&A capability your question will be answered by the speaker at the very instant that you post the question.
  10. Any meeting that finishes early will be closed with the words “I’ll give you XXX mins back.” This rule applies to any meeting that closes more than 4 minutes early, but may still be applied to meetings that finish up to 30 seconds early.

I’m sure I’ve missed some?

Heaver Image: This is the beach at Rossall, Lancashire which is a wonderful place to walk and watch the sun set over the Irish sea and across the Cumbrian Mountains.