Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The price of admission

I attended a really great workshop tonight, which I'll tell you about in a day or two when I get a chance to type. While there, I had a flash to remember to share a video with you. I'm not sure why I didn't think of it until now... anyhoo...

Little over two months ago I came across this post on the Brain Pickings website. It features a video of journo / author / media guy / LGBT activist Dan Savage speaking about "The Price of Admission".

In short, it's about compromise or deal-breakers in relationships; and it totally applies whether the relationship is with a partner, family member, friend or colleague/client/customer.

I like how he speaks (I've watched a bunch of videos subsequently). I appreciate this message.

Time and time again this theme of 'price of admission' has cropped up in the weeks since I watched this video and I've shared it with friends as they've gone through situations where 'the price of admission' applies.

This video has a way of tweaking the mind and thought process just that little bit. Sometimes you know stuff but it helps to be reminded and re-enlightened.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Running under jacarandas

Spring and Summer are seasons where Johannesburg really delivers. If it isn't the fruit tree blossoms and jasmine, then it's the jacarandas, bougainvillea and mulberries that make my heart soar out on the road.

On Thursday morning I headed into Kensington and realised that I didn't have much longer to enjoy running on the purple carpet made by jacaranda flowers on the tar. As my weekly run with Rob was scheduled for that evening, I sent him a message reading, "Got a great route in mind for our run this evening. Think purple...".

He replied, "Jacarandas?"

"Maybe..." (with a smiley) was my answer. OK, so 'purple' in the clue was a dead giveaway...

Fresh from the rain, it was a super run. Kensington is a suburb that stands out for its jacaranda display. We ran along Highland Road and up to the Scottish War Memorial, which is up near Jeppe Boys. It's a super view from here down Bez Valley and across Kensington. The sky was crystal clear too - we could see for miles in every direction.

I'm glad we made it before the jacaranda flowers finished.

Panoramic from the Scottish War Memorial
Looking towards JHB city
Pretty pretty


Rob taking the hills of Kensington in style

Rob on the next climb

Enjoying this urban forest

Lovely old jacaranda trees on Highland Road

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The power of persuasion

The Guardian have a quiz on their website designed to guide you as to "What job would make you the happiest?". I'm a sucker for online quizzes and so I gave it a go.

It's no surprise that I scored 20/20 for "Hands on" jobs and almost full points for organsing and creative-y work preferences.

One of the questions reads:

I get a buzz out of...

Persuading somebody to accept an idea or an argument:
  • No interest 
  • Mild interest 
  • Some interest 
  • Definite preference 
  • Strong preference
I was thinking about this quiz today as I spent the morning visiting schools in the Kensington-Bedfordview-Edenvale area - we're setting up a new Orienteering Schools League in this area for next year. I've already reached out to schools where I have contacts for teachers; today's visits were for those where I don't know anyone (and I still have more to do next week).


I had a warm reception from most schools, especially when I got to speak to the relevant sports coordinator. 

The challenge was getting past the receptionist...

At one school, the receptionist was actually quite friendly and presentable but she was also determined to get across that they have absolutely no need of orienteering - or any additional sports, for that matter. They have a well-paid and highly-qualified sports coaches for each of their sports...

I told her that we (the Orienteering Federation) were letting schools in the area know about a teacher workshop coming up, the league for next year and that orienteering, as a sport, actually existed. It's a good fit with athletics and cross-country (and geography!). I told her all we wanted was for her to pass the note on to the relevant sports coordinator. She conceded and I'm certain that had I not extracted the sports guy's name and email address from her that she would have just dumped the note in the bin as soon as I was out of the door.

I'm not always good at persuading people to do things - it depends what I persuading them to do - and generally I don't like having to be convincing. My interactions today with teachers and sports heads and receptionists got me thinking about the quiz because persuasive is exactly what I needed to be. 

In answering this quiz yesterday, my answer to this question had been "No interest". I just hope that my few minutes with them and the concise information that I put together will speak for this sport that I so enjoy.

As the adminstrator for AR Club, I get a lot of notices about cycle races and run races. Also dozens of requests from charity organisations asking for cyclists (for Argus and 94.7) to ride in their colours and raise funds. If I passed all of these on to my club members, they'd be totally irritated - so I only pass on those that are most relevant to my members. I'm the filter. And this can be where information hits a dead end. But, there just too much of it.

I can totally see why the receptionist expressed a lack of interest and intention to pass my note about this small and obscure sport - that she definitely doesn't know a thing about - on to a relevant teacher. Their school offers dozens of sports, for which they employ coaches, and their timetable is chock-a-block full... But it also means that a low-admin, low-equipment, cerebral, individual sport will never see the light of day there. Fortunately I did get the guy's email and I've reached out - primarily because the school property will be fabulous to map for school or club urban events.

I'm very excited about this new League, which will run on a totally different format to the existing League and standard events. I just hope I can be sufficiently persuading to get some new schools involved.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Crochet is... maths, brick laying, climbing

Yesterday afternoon Staci and I had our first crochet workshop. We often hear friends (and friends of friends and other people we encounter) saying, "I wish I could crochet". And so we planned an afternoon session to guide people through the basics.

We had three lovely women in attendance. The one is in her 50s and she has never crocheted in her life. The other, an accomplished mountaineer, is in her 40s and she last picked up a hook when she was a child. And the third is the same age as me; she has dabbled here and there.

Crochet, for me, is mostly maths. Geometry. Everything you construct is about repeated motifs (like fractals). Tall stitches, short stitches, increasing and decreasing to make shapes.

It is also like building a wall - whether the item your creating is constructed linearly in rows or as circles and spirals. Each row is like a layer of bricks and you just build one on top of the next.

And yesterday I realised too that climbing/ropes elements come into it as well with how you hold the yarn. This - holding the yarn in your non-hook hand - is actually the most challenging part of crochet because this is where the tension comes in. Abseil devices slow you down through friction. The more friction, the harder it is for the rope to flow through the device. The tighter or more a rope is 'woven' through the device, the more friction - like an ATC vs a Petzl Stop vs a figure-8.

Over the hand, around the pinky finger, between some others... and you've got a lot (certainly too much) of tension. Relax your grip, make one less 'weave' and the balance is better. Once you find how to hold the yarn (everyone is different and will settle into their own style) and how to get your tension even, crochet becomes a whole lot easier.

What I enjoy about teaching people to crochet (and navigate) is seeing their satisfaction in doing/creating something on their own.

In addition to making a good rectangle from a variety of stitches, the mountaineer put in her first zip - ever. She completed her zip-purse on Saturday night and whatsapped me a photo. A very good job she did.

The complete beginner really battled with holding the yarn and making chains. Chains are the foundation on which the 'bricks' are laid. She was frustrated initially and thought that she'd never get this at all. As she said, this is the first totally unfamiliar and new thing she has tried for many, many years. She left yesterday afternoon with a few rows of beautiful, even, single crochet stitches - and a big smile. Staci will work with her to complete her project. She brought along a magazine with a pattern for a really lovely top. Staci and I look forward to seeing her make it in the months to come.

And my old primary school friend got reacquainted with the basic stitches - learning some new variations too. Her zip-pouch is lovely. She has a pile of hexagons that she made for a blanket but attempts at joining them have been unsatisfactory. She'll bring them to our next crochet session and we'll find a solution so that she can finish her blankie.

Mobile phone snaps sent to me. The rectangles were the ones we worked on in the session by two of the women (and completed at home). These were made using a variety of stitches (sc, hdc, dc, htc and tc) just for practice. The heart was a second (she's now addicted) project made last night/this morning. hahahaha ;)

While meandering on the web recently, I found a pattern for a heart-shaped pouch with a zip - this is what gave me the idea for the project for this session. Making it two (or three?) weeks ago was the first time that I've made a project with a zip. I've now made five others (different shapes, but all with zips). Staci gave the heart a try too and now gets why I'm hooked on making zip-pouches. She has made three hearts - with pretty charms on the zip pull.

New crochet addiction! Zippered pouches. Some recent projects (for Martine, Staci, Kyla and Celliers).
We'll have another session again soon - probably the first weekend in December. I'll let you know when. Men welcome too.