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(Un)comfort zone February 3, 2014

Posted by therealtinlizzy in India, navel-gazing.
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Ugh – one of the phrases that’s become  eye-roll-inducing to me is “comfort zone.” It’s one of those irritating catch-phrases like  “think outside the box” or “synergy” or “thought-leader,” and it’s used by everyone from bosses/workplaces to motivational speakers to TED-Talkers to instructors and beyond. I realize that American English speakers (myself included, sometimes to a criminal degree) lurrrrve to glom onto memes and catch phrases – it’s how we do. Not sure what/why it is exactly that some of them eventually become outmoded, and we collectively (or individually) kick them to the nearest curb (e.g., I might actually clobber you if you make use of the above examples un-ironically in my vicinity), but not others.

Mostly gratuitous , off-topic photo of meandering through the Hebbal area outside of Mysore, India

Mostly gratuitous , off-topic photo of taken while meandering through the Hebbal area outside of Mysore, India

Anyway –  “comfort zone” seems to have become the go-to and most er, comfortable phrase used to capture the very human tendency to habituate to sets of circumstances and cultural norms in which we eventually feel familiar and comfortable. Those looking to challenge or motivate someone(s) to look beyond their familiar ways and patterns often encourage their audience to “get outside of your comfort zone.” Perfectly valid concepts, to be sure. However, in addition to its over-use and having moved into the dreaded realm of catch-phrasery, another reason I find myself irked by “comfort zone” is that it inevitably (by my reckoning/experience anyway) applies primarily to privileged, white, middle-class people, and “getting out of your comfort zone” entails those folks stepping out of their comfy privileged, white, middle-class existence into circumstances that make them uncomfortable and challenge them – which usually means dealing with poverty, black/brown people, lack of resources, etc.

Granted, it wasn’t my fault or choice to grow up where/how I did (a privileged, white, middle-class kid in a fairly homogenous area surrounded mostly by other privileged, white, middle class people), and there’s nothing inherently wrong with pursuing a comfortable life – would be a little sociopathic perhaps to want to have a wretched, miserable life. But making “comfort zone” a smelly, problematic phrase, and the admonishing/encouraging to get out of it, necessarily implies privileged people having the luxury and opportunity of using someone else’s community/misfortune/culture as a means for growing some awareness or compassion, or (in some cases, as I’ve observed) just increasing one’s “thank God I live in the good ol’ USA [or suburbs or other comparatively snuggly location]!.”

I’m not picking a fight – it’s the way it goes being human: we often don’t comprehend or feel empathy/compassion for people or cultures or experiences different from our own unless/until we experience or learn directly about it. That was absolutely true of me earlier in my life, and continues to be (with hopefully a lot more humility and awareness than I possessed earlier in life). I think I’m just nit-picking presently over the point that when even legit “comfort zone” conversations arise (say when a group of mostly white, privileged undergrad liberal arts students is preparing to visit a developing country for a study abroad course) that we first deconstruct those underlying reasons for the familiarity and comfort we feel as people of privilege, and address the condescension, privilege and class-ism  inherent in even talking about having “comfort zones” at all.

Sheesh – that was a long preamble prior to posting what I submitted for an assignment last week. We had to submit a post prior to traveling to Mysore centered on our notions about things we predicted might push us out of our comfort zone while there, and upon returning – a follow-up post on if/how our comfort zone ended up being challenged. So now that I’ve returned from the winding alleys of Why I Hate The Phrase “Comfort Zone” – here’s my actual (and ridiculously tl;dr) submission I figured I might as well post here :).

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Tip of the database March 19, 2013

Posted by therealtinlizzy in day-job, navel-gazing.
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My day job (some fair bits of which occur not during the day at all) includes the planning/execution/orchestration of technical procedures (server builds, code deploys, OS/app upgrades), as well as responding to, triaging, and “stopping the bleeding” when one of our servers or applications crashes and burns.

Toast

This past weekend entailed the former – a planned system outage for the purpose of executing a scheduled upgrade to one of our environments. Simply put – we had to migrate the databases from 2 old servers to 2 new servers. Not a terribly complex implementation, as these things go, but nonetheless requiring a not insubstantial bit of planning, deliberation, collaborating, scheduling, assembling of needful technical folks (other than myself), and documenting a roadmap/checklist for all of the tasks involved.

I know – you probably just nodded off there, but stay with me – tech nerd circle-jerking isn’t the point of this post. But don’t worry, there will be plenty of time to nod off again later on.

After signing off at 6am Sunday morning (having begun at about 11pm the night before), with nary a glitch in the whole thing start to finish, I was pondering the aspects about the whole affair that made me so pleased and satisfied specifically, and about what makes me most enthused about my job generally and other projects/extracirriculars on and in which I’ve been immersed.

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The Pretty Decent, Not Bad, Terrible, Good Year January 1, 2011

Posted by therealtinlizzy in navel-gazing.
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A very good friend texted me Happy New Years last night, and sweetly and earnestly asserted that she knew 2010 had been a suck year for me and that she hoped 2011 would be sunnier and better. And this friend both knows me very well and intimately knows the ins and outs of the sitch that went down to which she was referring.

And really – it wasn’t comparatively a bunch of No Good Very Bad Terrible awfulness: it wasn’t losing a dear friend/family member/one of my pups, losing my house, being jobless for a year, going bankrupt, or breaking up with a long-term sig. Well actually – that latter is exactly what it was akin to: breaking up with a long-term sig. It was breaking up with a long-term sig, as well as breaking up with a whole lot of variable-termed girlfriends – all at once. It was abruptly, unconditionally and definitively walking away from something that had been my life for over four years, something that had been a family (if a dysfunctional one), a church, a business, a collaborative and messy morass.

As such, and not surprisingly, abruptly leaving behind something of such perceived worth to me was painful, it was staggering, it was something substantial to cope with and move on from. But going back to my assertion – it wasn’t many other things that would be much more difficult to recover from or cope with. As I asserted to the friend who wished me a better 2011: 2010 wasn’t bad, and certainly not bad on account of all that coming to pass. In fact – 2010 was indeed very good, in large part due precisely to the tough terrible bundle of all of that, which gave me a huge, if not at the time looked-for, opportunity to shift gears and leap off through other doors. Which isn’t to downplay the discomfort involved or significant things, people and further experience lost to me by that door closing. It’s just to say that 2010 was a magnificent year, in spite of (and in part because of) the whole bundle of heartbreak/heartache, and subsequently moving on from it.

I cheerfully deem 2010 (for me personally) the Pretty Decent Not Bad Terrible Good Year.

Clean-Fridge Club December 30, 2010

Posted by therealtinlizzy in chickens, navel-gazing.
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S/thing that’s stuck in my head lately is the notion of using up everything in my fridge. It’s a concept that eco-hippies (like how I say that like I’m not one? ;)) have been chattering about along with recycling and everything else since ever, but it’s come up a number of times recently and stuck in my head. Actually now that I ponder it – it’s also due to the fact that in conjunction with chicken-coop building and Christmas and other expenses – money has been kind of tight the past couple months. So rather than flitting along in my usual (if unintentionally) laisseiz faire fashion insofar buying loads of groceries, eating out all the time, then throwing out all the food I forget about in the fridge, I’ve gotten a lot more mindful of using up what I’ve got in the fridge/cupboards.

And awesomely – it’s been working out really well. It particularly works with my improv style of cooking – where I can combine just about anything into something yummy and so long as I just have a fresh veggie component or two. Case in point for lunch today: had two potatoes left from mom’s garden this summer, some eggs (not from the new chickens yet – they’ve got a few months growing to do yet before egg-laying kicks in), a green pepper, a jalapeno pepper, half an onion, and a tomato. So just fried up the potatoes and a couple eggs, sauteed the onion, jalapeno, green pepper and tomato – threw it all together, and topped it off with some tomatillo salsa and sour cream I had left from burritos last week.

I’m also continuing along figuring out what/how to feed the chickens (beyond the chick crumble feed they get), so it’s fun to be able to pass along trimmings from my own food prep and leftovers to the chickens rather than throwing it out (particularly since my composting habits/efforts kind of suck thus far). This morning the chickens got some leftover rice and wilty arugula, this afternoon they get some bits of potato, more arugula, a mushy kiwi, tomato and green pepper cores.

I also fried them up an egg while I was making eggs for us. Seems weird off the cuff yes to feed chickens eggs – but it’s a logic that I picked up from Mary at CRR. She and her partner are vegans so when the CRR chickens lay eggs (which is a probably 5/week or so depending on who’s there), they don’t eat the eggs – they recycle them in cooking them up for the chickens. I guess it is qualitatively different certainly than the awful practice of feeding livestock (whether beef, chickens, pigs, whatever) ground up actual animals – unfertilized eggs are just protein, not animal matter. And apparently chickens will actually eat their own unfertilized non-chicken-containing eggs if the eggs aren’t retrieved in a timely matter.

In any case – part of the issue of course is that chickens aren’t “meant” to lay eggs every day. Chickens’ wild cousins (from which chickens have been domesticated and selectively bred) only lay eggs to have more chickens, usually in one or two batches (clutches I guess they’re called) per year. Humans have selectively bred chickens to lay every day, so that’s what our chickens will do regardless. And as another conversation topic for another day, laying eggs daily is hard on hens – makes them prone to some particular malaises (not sure if malaise is meant to have a plural form!) in their reproductive tracts, calcium/mineral issues and other issues I’m learning more about.

And my bringing it up isn’t to pass judgment or to assert that therefore using chickens for their egg production is necessarily evil/bad (I’m an avid egg-eater) – but I think it’s s/thing we should all think, know and discuss further due to how abstracted/insulated away from are from our food and food sources we are – particularly animal-produced food (whether meat, dairy or eggs). I think the world would be a lot different place if we did. And I don’t necessarily mean we would all be vegans, but food animals’ lots in life would I think be a lot different, and we as humans would/could be a lot different as well.

But that’s all s/thing to explore at a later date when there’s more time for me to ruminate.