Pound of Obscure

This is one of my favorite Hugh MacLeod business card cartoons:


In his email message accompanying this doodle, Hugh says it took him “twenty years to get from the bottom to the top of the pyramid.” It took me about the same amount of time, a little more or a little less depending on how you count it. Since reaching that point, I’ve had several most excellent adventures. I’ve often wondered though:

How do you know when it is time to start looking for the next adventure?

It’s easy, of course, and incredibly fun when your next adventure finds you. But in the absence of that, how do you know when the current adventure has become just another project? When it is time to actively seek a new adventure?

Or at least let all those potential adventures know that you are ready for them?

The next adventure

Ounce of Perception

Of cruises and nursing homes

As someone early in the second half of my first century I, like many in my situation, have had conversations with my mom about how she wants to live out her life as she gets older. We (my wife and I) have had similar conversations with her parents. There are no easy answers, because you never really know what’s going to happen until it happens, but you do need to plan.

Earlier today my mom shared this video on Facebook. (A hint, maybe?)


Now I don’t know if the numbers in the video are accurate, and to a certain extent it doesn’t matter. What matters is the point that the video is making, that we can do better by our parents and grandparents than warehousing them in “homes” that are more hospital than home.

I wrote about this over ten years ago after hearing an interview with the makers of the film Almost Home. Here’s what I had to say about it then.

– – — — —–

On the other end of the age spectrum, adult children often must make care decisions for their aging parents. Many times this results in these elderly parents living out their final days in a nursing home, with every aspect of their lives controlled by the administrators of the home. Again, not a decision to be made lightly. (I think we’ve all heard the horror stories.)

The film Almost Home, recently aired on PBS, talks about a different kind of way to run a nursing home.

ALMOST HOME offers an inside look at the lives of these residents, their families and those who care for them as each adjusts to the challenges of growing older. ALMOST HOME filmmakers Brad Lichtenstein and Lisa Gildehaus introduce couples bonded and divided by disability, children torn between caring for their dependent parents and their own families, nursing assistants doing difficult work for near-poverty wages and visionary nursing home director John George, who is committed to transforming his century-old hospital-like institution into a true home.

Under George’s leadership, Saint John’s On The Lake is reinventing its 135-year-old medical model of care (think hospital) with a social one (think home). His goal is to transform the way people see nursing homes—not as institutions of boredom and despair but as vibrant communities where residents live rich and fulfilling lives. To succeed, he will have to win over skeptical managers, resistant nurses, overworked and underpaid nursing assistants, complacent residents and often-overwhelmed family members.

The key change in my mind is that the residents here retain as much control as possible of their own lives. They can wake up when they want to, instead of the usual scheduled wake-ups. Meals are tailored as much as possible to what the residents desire, not a typical bland hospital menu. (If someone has lived a good 90 years, and wants some bacon for breakfast, they should be able to get bacon for breakfast!) They have a cocktail hour every Monday where *gasp* they can drink cocktails.

—– — — – –

Basically, a human centered approach.

I’d like to think that a lot has happened in the ten years since. Time to do some more reading and research.

Pound of Obscure

Scaling in a complex system is fractal, or self similar in nature. In effect we decompose to an optimal level of granularity then allow coupling and recouping of the granules to create new patterns all of which have a self-similar relationship to each other. One of the things we are doing with our adaptation of fitness landscapes within SenseMaker® is to allow the same source data to represent itself for different identity structures within an organisation in contextually appropriate ways. Nothing in a complex system is context free, everything is context specific.

Source: Coherence through shared abstraction – Cognitive Edge


Pound of Obscure

Service design is getting more and more attention in government at the moment, but many people still don’t understand what it is. The most common question I hear – from people both inside and outside government – is: “Isn’t that just UX (user experience) design?” Let’s be clear: service design and UX design are not the same, because a service is different from a user’s experience.

Source: Service design: Isn’t it just UX with a different name? | GDS design notes


Pound of Obscure

Similarly, atheists have amazing moments under the stars as well when atheists look up and see the galaxies and contemplate the sheer nothingness, puniness of humans in the cosmos. It’s just how we choose to interpret it. We don’t leap to a supernatural conclusion. So when I look at the cosmos, I’m not forced to then make the next step, which is to say there must be something out there. But look, there’s so much more in common between believers and nonbelievers than we’re sometimes encouraged to think. At the very last moment under the stars, we may differ about what’s going on, but we can still have a very nice time together for a long, long part of this journey.”

Source: Transcript: Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists

Pound of Obscure

First of all, flat organizations aren’t strictly flat. In order to grow, allow communication to flow, and projects to move forward, certain principles start to emerge. The flat terminology isn’t about grouping or structure, it’s how the decisions flow inside the company, which is more peer-to-peer and less top-down.

Source: 5 Leadership Attitudes From Flat Organizations