WordCamp US 2019

I’ve been digging deep into WordPress this year– attending my local MeetUps monthly and attending three WordCamps – Lancaster, Leigh Valley, and PHL. I’m into it, but even more than that, I love this community.

Given the time I’ve put in and the interest I’ve developed, I was overjoyed to get the opportunity to attend WordCamp US this past weekend.

The event had about 6 tracks instead of 2 or 3 and child care. Much of the other community standards were in place – close captioning, support for people with disabilities, a code of conduct, and plenty of diversity.

Besides the classes, which were amazing, I really enjoyed just talking to the attendees and vendors. I met people from all over the country and many from Canada. Morten Rand-Hendrickson of Lynda.com was there, and I got to meet him and tell him how much I enjoyed his classes. He literally taught me how to build in WP.

Pam Aungst, who spoke at WordPress Leigh Valley, was there, and I saw Beth Soderberg, who I saw at all three WordCamps I attended earlier. She wasn’t presenting this time, but it would be hard to beat the talk she did on building her starter theme at WordCamp PHL.

I also met up with three of my colleagues from the Lancaster MeetUp. One of them invited me to work with him at one of the Gutenberg Block Workshops. I have only known him for about a month and was so pleased he asked me to join him. I hope I can pay it forward like that some day.

The weekend ended with Matt Mullenweg’s keynote. I noticed a few things about it. First off, he’s an inspirational speaker. He ended his main address by requesting the audience give back by donating 5% of their time to WordPress Core development. I’m going to take this challenge to heart.

He also took about an hour of questions and answered them with a calm professionalism that I admired deeply. I found myself wanting to work for someone like that – be their friend – learn from them. It was deeply moving just to see him navigate the questions so respectfully.

As Scott Galloway says, Life is So Rich.

I have so much to learn.

All of this doesn’t matter that much

I’m a huge fan of Million Dollar Listing New York. I barely watch tv outside of sports, but I’ve seen all 8 seasons of this one and all 17 of Project Runway. What those shows have in common is the importance of problem solving and working within a limited window of opportunity. There is only so much you can say to make that construction next door a positive when selling an apartment. Have to make a dress with what you find in a floral store? No sweat.

However, this season of MDLNY is full of sturm und drang because the market for million dollar listings is in the toilet. The brokers the season follows, Fredrick, Ryan, Steve, and Luis, now have to really struggle for every sale. For a group of Type A high achievers, this is a daily struggle against the expectations they set for themselves.

I like them all personally, which is probably why I enjoy the show so much. I read Fredrick’s book, I downloaded Ryan’s, and I have a strong fondness for the searching that Luis allows himself. They feel real to me.

In this season, it’s Ryan who has a really tough go of it, and his wife, Emilia, has to calm him down.

Emilia: All of this doesn’t matter that much. You have to calm down.

Ryan: Every day. Every day. On the fifteen minute mark, I get yelled at because the market is crashing. It’s my fault. I can’t control the market. I can’t control what things are selling for. The things that people say to me are so fscked up. All I want to do is do good work. Do good work.

Emilia: You just said you can’t change the market. You can’t freak out about something you can’t change.

Ryan: It’s just tough right now.

Emilia: It’s always going to be tough. You put so much pressure on yourself. You’re going to have a heart attack. You’re so young. Is this how your dad was? (Ryan nods) Children learn from their parents. This is your safe zone. You should be laughing. Otherwise, when does this end?

She’s right. There is only so much you can do, and it’s not worth destroying the peace of home to make right what is essentially out of your control.

In the end, all of this doesn’t matter all that much.

It will probably just be fine, perfect in fact

This Wednesday, I got a flat tire that required an entirely new tire. I have 18 in rims and low profile tires that are probably fine in any other state but a nightmare on the horrendous roads of the Commonwealth.

This Saturday, I had tickets to WordCamp Leigh Valley, and I had to drive. I had a moment of panic thinking, “what if this happened on the road on Saturday? “

Then I took a deep breathe and said, “It didn’t happen on Saturday. It happened now when you can deal with it.” 

I took off Friday, and when I got up, I had what felt like a grain of sand in my left eye. I rinsed it with water, stood under the shower, used eye drops, nothing worked. I had sand in my eye all day.

When I got up on Saturday, my eye was really swollen from all the rinsing and rubbing. I bought my WordCamp tickets in May. I bought a special iPad keyboard to take notes for the event. I had been looking forward to it for months. I also happen to get up later than I expected and couldn’t have breakfast. I was driving to an area I’ve never been to for an event I knew I would love – and my eye was a mess. “What if there is another nail in one of my tires?” I was kind of stressed out. 

Then I took a few deep breaths and said – let’s just go and assume it’s going to be fine. I can see. It doesn’t hurt outside obviously being sore and gross to look at. The sand is gone. Once I get some water in my system, the swelling will subside. I have a pile of bananas I can eat on the road. Let’s grab a Gatorade and go. I’ll wear glasses anyway. The place is full of nerds that will hardly notice my angry eye… and so what if they did. 

The moral of the story is : it was fine. I got a protein bar at a WaWa after my bananas were gone. I made two wrong turns that were easily corrected. I had no trouble finding the place. I got my preferred parking space right next to the venue. The car held up fine. Everything was fine. Everything was perfect. I made some new friends. Learned so much. Brought home two nerd t-shirts. Mixed up my life in the best way possible. 

My mind often turns to the worse possible explanation, and I know many experience this from time to time.

Just remember – it could just be fine. In fact, it will probably just be perfect.



Alabama Nationals

A tale to tell in which I finally set foot in the state of Alabama for a tennis tournament.

I had the good fortune to be asked in late December 2017 to join a newly formed 18+ 6.0 mixed team whose season began in January. Captain Laurie quickly organized a practice every Saturday at 10:30 am, and low and behold, most of the team came out. Every week. On a Saturday morning. 

The season started off a little slow. I had my husband come out and watch a match to give me some advice.

“Bend your knees. Be ready. Just bend your knees and you’ll be better than anyone on that court.” 

Noted.

Practice continued and the wins started stacking up. We ended in first place and a spot in the regional championship in Hershey. 

A regional competition works like this. #1 plays #4. Win that, and you’ll play the winner of #2 & #3.  Three courts play, but this time all courts yield the same points. 

I played the first round. We went to a third set tiebreak. The opposing man served to me on the ad court at our first match point opportunity. He served to my backhand, and I nailed the cross court winner. Game over.

Turns out we won all six courts and advanced to Regionals, which would be held nearby but on an unfamiliar surface, Har-Tru. Our coach joined a club so we could practice on it. 

We’d play the winners of New Jersey, Delaware, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. We won. Again. Nationals here we come.

Nationals were months away, and in the time, I continued to take lessons, play matches, and work out with weights and yoga. I showed up ready to play. 

The Mobile Tennis Center has 70 courts. I’ve never seen a club this big, but it’s all outdoors. Due to threats of rain, the Friday matches would be a compressed format  – play to four with no ad scoring. Gender to gender service at deuce. Ugh. We started off slow. 

Saturday came with wind and cold weather, but the games would be to 6 with ad scoring. We hit our stride. We ended the tournament 2-2 – in 9th place out of 16…in the country.

It was a long trip there, and my flights sucked. I’m definitely glad I made it though. It was fun to learn more about my team mates as people, see a state I’ll probably never return to, and play well. 

Book Review: Strokes of Genius

Wimbledon is my least favorite tournament. I hate the all-white rule. I hate that the grass gets cut up and causes injuries nearly every year. See also Bethany Mattek-Sands. It starts late, and the players don’t play on the middle Sunday. It rains. All. The. Time.

That said, I literally watched Strokes of Genius four times, so I thought it was time to read the book. Author Jon Wertheim is an entertaining commentator, and while he covers all five sets of this final, he fills each with tidbits about tennis, the All England Club, and about the players themselves.

The most interesting parts for me: Hawk-Eye is named for its creator, a 30-something (at the time) Brit named Paul Hawkins. The system employs 10 evenly spaced high definition cameras and projects the probably path of the ball to within 3.6 millimeters.

Federer does not have “tennis parents.” His father Robert worked for Ciba and traveled to South Africa, where he met Roger’s mother, Lynette. There are no great athletes in the family, and Wertheim describes Robert as 5’7″ish with sausage fingers. Lynette comes across as the bigger force when she takes an 8-year-old Roger to the local TC Old Boys club and says, “Here is Roger. I think he can already hit many shots. Maybe you can train him.”

Since they travel so much, appear worldly, and are usually only asked about sports, it’s easy to forget that professional tennis players don’t always have a lot of formal education. Roger left school at 16. Roger had a tendency to break racquets and throw things on court when he lost but says he gained confidence after winning his first grand slam.

Rafa, by contrast, was never allowed to throw racquets and Uncle Toni stressed that the shoes and equipment he was given were expensive and to be treated with care. Roger didn’t initially employ an agent and negotiated a poor initial Nike contract. Mirka took over the reigns of the Fed empire and now manages his interviews and appearances and helped design the RF logo.

Wilson spent more than a year designing Roger’s new racquet. Rafa will almost literally play with any AeroPro Drive you give him. Babolat describes him as the perfect pitchman. Wins a lot of matches. Isn’t very picky. Rafa plays with Babolat because that’s what Carlos Moya used. Moya is also from Mallorca and is currently Rafa’s coach. Rafa plays in very tight shoes because that’s what soccer players do. Not sure what to make of that one.

Strokes of Genius is an interesting and fast tennis read. My copy is going to a sports obsessed fellow traveler. It is available at the library. The movie is very different, so go ahead and watch that too.

To suppress anger

Brad Warner’s Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen’s Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye is the 18th book I read in 2018, and the fifth whose subject was Buddhism.

It’s been a tough year on a few fronts, but reading and internalizing these studies has helped me navigate a chaotic work environment, helped me stay calm on the tennis court, and has helped me grow as a person. 

To suppress anger, you have to suppress the urge to enjoy the beautiful juiciness of it all.

Brad Warner, Sit Down and Shut Up

One of the things I’ve tough quite a bit about lately was the role of anger. I’ve been imploring a few people I genuinely like to be nice to each other. Yet, they seem to choose anger. I couldn’t put my finger on why until Warner pointed it out:

To suppress anger, you have to suppress the urge to enjoy the beautiful juiciness of it all.

It’s hard for people to admit, but when you start paying attention, you’ll notice that you actually enjoy being angry. There’s a wonderful rush of self-righteousness to it. Because, obviously you can’t be angry about something unless you know you’re right and the other person is wrong. You are angry because you want to be angry. Always, always.

The main thing is to avoid acting on any angry impulses that might pop into your head. No matter how justified you might know yourself to be, an angry action will only invoke another angry response, both in the person you’re dealing with and in yourself. These actions and responses scramble your brain and make it impossible to act in any kind of efficient way to solve the problem at hand.

Watch how your anger begins, and see how it grows. When I did this myself, I discovered that anger always starts out very, very small. It’s always based on the difference between how I think things should be and how they are. Within this gap, the fiction known as “me” appears and reacts. To protect this fiction, I begin to justify my anger, to build a convincing case to prove to  myself that I have every right to be angry. I do this, I found, because the very existence of this fiction of self is based on its supposed ability to feel angry. To let go of anger is to let go of self. And that, my friends, is very, very, very difficult.

You cannot accept any of the justifications for anger that your ego coughs up at you, no matter how reasonable you make them sound. Even the absolute, incontrovertible certainty that your anger is 100 percent utterly and without doubt justified is an excuse to allow yourself to feel angry.

Look hard at what is happening within you. Your habit of reacting with anger has been built up over long years of reinforcement from a society gone terribly wrong.

With practice this stuff gets easier. But you’ll never completely lose your desire to get bad at things.

Drop me out of the equation. When there is no “you” there is nothing for “you” to get angry about and no one outside yourself to get angry at.

So to end my own anger, I have to stop enjoying it. To stop seeing the world as “me” and everyone else.    

To end the anger of my friends, I need to help them understand the same thing – that they are the world. There is nothing external. 

As Warner said, this is extraordinarily difficult.

In the midst of reading this book, I was musing to a friend that I was sometimes exhausted being the “nice” person in the room. Now, I see that this is the only way of being because everything is connected. Every action ripples throughout the universe because we are all connected. This is no me. There is no them. You can send that negative out or you can counter it by being nice. By being of service to others. Always. 

Attention Always Filled

“Old George Orwell got it backward. Big Brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you’re awake. He’s making sure you’re always distracted. He’s making sure you’re fully absorbed. He’s making sure your imagination withers. Until it’s as useful as your appendix. He’s making sure your attention is always filled. And this being fed, it’s worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what’s in your mind. With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.”  – Chuck Palahniuk

The Circuit

I wanted to read The Circuit, Rowan Ricard Phillip’s book on the 2017 ATP season, since I heard him on the Beyond The Baseline podcast. Phillips came up with the idea for the book while recuperating from tearing his achilles on the basketball court. An accomplished writer and poet, the Manhattan-based Phillips would watch all the majors and travel to some while writing this exquisite book suitable for tennis nerds everywhere.

So what were the stories of 2017? The resurgence of Fed, whose surprise Aussie Open win that year was followed up by another Wimbledon title. 2017 was La Decima for Nadal at Roland Garros, and he also picked up the US Open title in an easy walk past Kevin Anderson. It was also a good season for Sasha Zverev and young American Frances Tiafoe, who took Fed to 5 sets in the first round of the Open. Phillips doesn’t cover Jack Sock, who is ranked as high as 15 during 2017 but would fall off to a subpar singles ranking in 2018. It was a disaster of a season for Murray, who started the season No. 1 but struggled with his hip injury all year. Nole, likewise, ended his season early with an elbow injury.

Phillips has some interesting reporting on Alexandr Dolgopolov, who suffers from Gilbert’s syndrome, which causes sudden exhaustion. He adjusted his style of play to limit his time on court. Phillips also has a soft spot for the diminutive Goffin, a player I barely follow.

Phillips saves some of his best pages for the talented and temperamental Aussie Nick Kyrgios. “Kyrgios is clearly bored. He’s not bored when he plays Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray. Adrenaline, opportunity, and pride run through the veins then. But aside from that? He loves basketball, he’s passionate about it. He ended up being better at tennis. Let’s leave his parents out of this and say tennis chose him. He hates to train. He hates to travel, the alpha and omega of being an elite tennis player; but let’s just say tennis chose him. He and tennis are at odds. And he lashes out at it. There’s not much in the way of sympathy or empathy that comes his way from people who have paid to see a proper match and, let’s be honest, aren’t inclined to root for him anyway because he’s brown, and recalcitrant is not what people pay to see at a Grand Slam or Masters 1000. Foolish but not stupid, he must sense this, because it looks like he carries this dark cloud often to the court with him.”

Besides the 2017 season, Phillips has a nice chapter on the creation of the clay court. You can find it as a stand along article in Paris Review here. #recommended

Survey Says

I get endless surveys. I get one each time I stop at CVS. I get one each time I go to the doctor’s office. Any doctor. We go to a restaurant near our house several times a week. I get one on every receipt. I’m a heavy user of Adobe products, and I get a 15-minute survey from them virtually every month. Is all this feedback necessary? Am I not voting with my presence, with my dollars?

As a designer, my work is very visible. Large projects are especially so, and I do have an internal team of critics. There are a handful of people that find fault with virtually any effort, and they tell me so. I always read the comments, but I rarely respond.

Their feedback does rattle around in my brain at the next juncture, and it has made me better. Better at parsing those small slights that I clearly miss. “Why did you list this department first in the agenda.?” Only because they came through first in the paperwork. Nothing nefarious, but we’ll switch that up next time. I’ve noticed that entire divisions feel left out because they are physically more remote from the corporate office. As a result, I’ve made them first by design the next time a job comes around. I make notes to physically visit on a regular basis. Do they notice? I’m never sure, but the effort is what matters.

Does it make me feel bad? Full disclosure – it used to, but it doesn’t anymore. I think it speaks to the power of design. These projects project the company culture, and that’s not nothing. I should be careful, and I am. My critics just point to the holes.

The thing about complaints is that most people are more apt to say when they’re unhappy than to recognize a move in their direction.

The small kindness is always worth it. Always. It improves your work and breeds inclusion. Just don’t expect it to be noted on the comment cards.