Dirt in the Conversation Pit

I remember through many of my jobs with UC Davis, with Little Engine and with Benthic Creatures, fantasizing about having some sort of management position. Not that I really ever wanted one. I’ve always known that it would be way too much responsibility, and a level of technical and people skills that I don’t really have.

And yet, somehow, here I am, pretty much taking on the job of managing this transition from our department’s old platform to the new one. I hadn’t really planned on it working out this way, and I don’t think my boss was planning on it either. But apparently I’m the only one in the department with any sort of experience in doing a major platform upgrade like this — I was a small part of this sort of thing about three years ago, but I guess I did learn a few things. I find myself talking to the developers and coordinating with them on pieces of our software as they go up to the new production server; I talk to the network engineer to make sure our new servers are set for the task; I talk to the course developers to make sure the content is up to snuff; and I talk to the DBA to make sure the database is ready to go. And somehow it’s my job to coordinate all of these things and make it all happen. I think my boss likes it because I have been making recommendations that he knows make sense (because he’s been planning on some of them himself). I want a middle tier server for QA purposes, for example. I want a better process for coordinating software and content changes. And so on.

And moving the website to a new platform is just one step of the process. In a couple of weeks we’re going to change our entire database, and that will probably entail another round of coding changes, server setups, and so on. And I already have in mind a set of recommendations for changing the QA process for the next time around. But all in all, the weird thing is that I never planned on this. When I took this temp job, I had figured on yet another clerical job, where I’d take minutes at meetings and make appointments for managers. I wasn’t expecting something like this. And I’m not at all qualified for this job; if I had to apply for it, there’s no way I’d get it.

Life is weird.

Anyway, for library school, I’m now taking a class in resources for children ages 6 to 12. Part of the point of this class is learning how to write good book reviews which will server as solid purchasing recommendations for the children’s section of a library; and at this point I’ve read something like two dozen books for children. Because I’ve sped through them all so quickly, I haven’t bothered updating my library with the books as I read them, though I’m building a readers’ advisory notebook as part of this class — and when I’m done with that (which will end up being a pre-alpha version of Lucien), I’ll ost the URL publically for the world to peruse. For now, I’d recommend a few titles for your perusal:

The Ashwater Experiment
by Amy Goldman Koss: A neat story about a girl who decides that she really is the only real human being in the world, but who gradually learns that other people are real and not just stock characters in the drama of her life. A good book about loneliness, friendship, and saying goodbye.



The Giver
by Lois Lowry: A young boy takes on the most important role in his futuristic community: the Receiver of Memories. This book has been controversial for its examination of ethics and some issues that could be tough for younger children to come to terms with. While it may be challenging for some readers because of its philosophical bent, it certainly is not inappropriate for them.



by Lois Sachar: Against an almost surreal backdrop involving a bizarre penitentiary for boys and a complex history, a young boy comes to terms with himself and with his family’s past. Highly recommended.




This weekend Jennifer and I will be toting many, many pounds of dirt to fill up the conversation pit that we built a couple of weeks ago. For some strange reason, I’m not actually looking forward to this task all that much. Oh, sure, it will be nice to have it finished so we can plant things in the planter, but the idea of lugging many wheelbarrows full of dirt in the sun… strangely, that doesn’t hold a lot of appeal to me.

So much for the dirt from the conversation pit. Okay, it wasn’t that clever a title after all.


I’m a grownup now. It’s something I wanted to be when I was a kid, hating the fact that I had to go to bed at a prescribed time, that I had to eat certain foods for dinner and for breakfast and so on. I waited for it for years (even, at one point, cleverly trying to prove that I was eighteen when I was really seventeen and thus legal for a lot more goodies than I really was)… and now I’m finally old enough to be able to stay up until 2:00 in the morning reading books or playing computer games, and old enough to decide that I can have cold pizza for breakfast if I want to, and chocolate cake with ice cream for dinner.

Of course, now I’m also grown up to realize that there are consequences to some of that behavior. So, perhaps, cold pizza isn’t good for breakfast every morning, and maybe chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert every night could have roly-poly consequences.

There are a lot of privileges to being grown up that I’ve waited for for a long time. And there are still some that I’m waiting for, that haven’t quite materialized yet.

Maturity, for example.

I mean, heck, I know that if I lived on a diet of pizza and ice cream, I’m going to get even fatter than I am now. That’s a consequence. I’m mature enough to know about that consequence and make choices that will avoid those consequences. And quite a lot of the time I do make those choices. Not always, of course — sometimes what you really need is chocolate cake and ice cream for dinner. But I can still make the choice in full awareness of those consequences.

No, I’m talking about the kind of maturity that makes you realize that maybe you shouldn’t do or say certain things because you don’t have a big enough picturre, and that you’re probably blurting out something because you’re angry and even if you’re justified in part of what you’re saying you really ought to shut the hell up because there’s a lot that you’re wrong about, and you’re forgetting important facts.

In short, the kind of maturity that, if I had it in sufficient quantity, would have kicked in last Friday and restrained my fingers from typing my last entry. Or would have prevented me from clicking that “Publish” button. Or something.

I made Benthic Creatures out to be much worse than it really is. It wasn’t all a picnic, of course; there were lies told, and there are motivations that I never understood. But it wasn’t all deliberate; I think there was miscommunication, and I think some bad decisions were made, by me and by others. And while I disliked many of the management policies, I was wrong to make it look like all of the managers at Benthic Creatures were bad people. And I exaggerated unforgivabely when I wrote that I would not consider doing business with any of them ever again.

The truth is, there are people at Benthic Creatures that I was sorry to leave, and many of them were among the management. And among those are people whose integrity and professionalism I would never question, and for whom I have the highest respect. Nobody’s perfect, but I would not hesitate to do business with them if I have the opportunity to do so in the future. Some bent over backwards to make my experience with the company more bearable, working hard to rearrange schedules that they didn’t have to rearrange, and spending hours explaining policies to me in ways that made sense, when they could have simply said, “Because that’s the way it is and you have no right to question.”

See, if I had the kind of maturity that I’m talking about, I would have realized that I should have been gracious and expressed my appreciation for those people. I hurt feelings, I know, but I think I did worse by calling into question, publically, the integrity and professionalism of people who really didn’t deserve it — who deserved the opposite, in fact.

So, I don’t have the maturity to stop myself from making a fool of myself and saying things that I shouldn’t have. But I do have the maturity to apologize, and to do so with sincerity.

And so, I’m sorry.

I wonder if there’s any ice cream left for dinner?