Thursday, November 15, 2007

Updates: nptech, music, volunteer work, mushrooms

Photo courtesy of MykoWeb

Some updates on my recent activities:

On the nonprofit tech career front: talked with S., to whom I was introduced by Gunner at Aspiration. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, his plan to bring on more people didn't materialize...however, he was friendly to talk with, offered to pass my contact info on to others, and at my request gave me lots of useful advice about the nonprofit tech sector.

I attended Gunner's talk on "How to Find Software for Your Nonprofit", the first Net Tuesday event I've attended. Pretty fun.

I got contacted out of the blue by D. who leads a major open-source nonprofit software project. He saw a message I posted on a discussion board asking about nonprofit tech career transitions and got in touch. I'm looking forward to talking to him later this month about his experiences.

I've also made some good progress on my volunteer web project for New American Dream on their Alternative Gift Registry. I emailed their IT guy an update and some screenshots. So far he seems happy with what I've done. He was also very appreciative, which I have to admit made me feel good. Money is great compensation, if you can get it...but appreciation isn't half-bad, either.

On the musical front: Whew. Busted my butt working on the pieces for the solo auditions for our December concert featuring the music of J. S. Bach and family. Just did the auditions on Monday night. Can't say that I covered myself in glory, but neither was it a train wreck.

I turned a corner during last month's voice lessons, making some good breakthroughs...but now I'm back to slow, struggling progress...

I got recruited into a small ensemble to sing the Liebeslieder Waltzes by Brahms at the Centennial Concert of the Fortnightly Music Club. It'll be a good opportunity to sing in a small ensemble, which I haven't done since college. And, I won't have to wear the dreaded blue dress!

I'm happy to report some progress tackling the subjects in my Music Curriculum for Self-Study. I've managed to pick up some IPA, and have internalized more learnings about German diction. This afternoon, I got worked over by the ear training software station at the Stanford music library. It kicked my butt. I'm drilling on recognizing chord progressions by ear. My brain is fried.

Attended a couple of concerts. One was the Stanford Symphony and Marching Band's annual Halloween concert. Very fun, but oh my god, after hearing the marching band drummers inside an auditorium, it took a few hours to get my hearing back. I also went to Sugar Daddy's concert with the HP Symphony, "From Schubert to Star Wars". Applause for Sugar Daddy - yay!!!

Other projects:

Went on an out-and-back day hike on the Rhus Ridge trail, looking for boletus mushrooms (to gawk at, not to eat or get high on :-) . Funny thing, we hardly saw any on the leg out...but on the leg back, along the same stretch of trail we passed earlier in the day, we started spotting them all over the place.

Finished reading the new book Get Satisfied. Reading this book actually made me feel serene. Highly recommend this book!

Got an update from Hands On Bay Area about sending volunteers to this Coastside Alternative Gift Fair. Turns out they won't be able to do it, since the fundraising aspect of the gift fair falls outside of their policy, and also due to low volunteer attendance for events in Pacifica. Too bad! I suggested to the gift fair people that they contact One Brick.

Made an executive decision to keep my personal & work-related blog reading down to five hours a week, max. There's lots of good stuff on blogs, but they're a real time suck (heh, do you enjoy the irony of reading that statement in my blog?). I need to prioritize.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Inspiring anecdotes: faith in humanity, fast-thinking bridge-building

Just read the fall issue of New American Dream's newsletter, In Balance, and found these two gems of inspiration in Sean Sheehan's "New Dream Community News" article:
Almost all people are genuinely good and want to leave the world a better place.

Sure I've heard celebrities say "my goal in life is to leave the world a little better than I found it," and I've seen polling data that the vast majority of the American public is on the same page, but the reason I believe it is because of a random conversation I had on a D.C. street corner five or six years ago. It was during a globalization conference and I had made small talk with a man standing near me--John. Triggered by a placard calling somebody "evil," John said: "I really don't know if there are any bad people in the world, but I do know this: I've never met a single one in
my life."

Never met a single bad person? Sounded like John was either born yesterday, living in a plastic bubble, or completely disengaged from social issues of consequence. Well, he wasn't born yesterday--John was easily in his fifties--and as we talked, I realized he hadn't lived in a bubble either. He had grown up black in 1950s America, experienced the horrors of war in Vietnam, and spent several harrowing years homeless on the streets of Philadelphia. An organizer with ACT UP, John was leading a large contingent to demonstrate against our government's inaction in the face of a global AIDS epidemic. John was definitely, passionately engaged.

But there
was one line that John wouldn't cross--to call any politician or CEO "evil." He was eager to share his experiences and concerns, but he was also ready for a true dialogue, not a simple dismissal.

I figured if John could have such faith in humanity, then I should too.

Prioritize a positive, bridge-building approach.

I first saw the power of our cross-partisan appeal when former New Dream President Betsy Taylor appeared on
Crossfire in 1997 to promote our Simplify the Holidays campaign. The other three participants, Geraldine Ferraro, Tucker Carlson, and Pat Buchannan, initially came out with guns blazing against the campaign, insisting it was bad for the economy. They also expressed particular furor over Buy Nothing Day, a complementary campaign run by the group AdBusters. Then Betsy noted: "We used to have a Buy Nothing Day" every week. It was called the Sabbath." Something clicked and Buchannan went from attacking to solidly defending the campaign. Weird, but cool!