Lockdown: March gladness

Scroll down to “Not a lockdown entry” if you want to know Friday’s mindset. This will mostly just be about Friday’s events.

I actually emailed the coworkers who’d be reviewing that cancer center story. “Don’t anyone start their weekends yet!” I wrote. “I’m nearly done with this!”

An hour later I finally submitted it, and everyone liked it. Yay. I was rather unsure.

I also updated an already-published story. Someone was concerned that the group photo (one of those giant check photos) didn’t show the subjects wearing masks. Whoever shot the photo considered that possibility, though, so he or she also shot one with masks. I guess someone thought we should swap the photos. Not a big deal except the photo was show with all the faces in shadow, the image color-adjusted for exposure on the giant white check. That kind of editing’s beyond my skills, so I had to email the photo to our photographer.

Also made last (ha!) edits on a school of public health studies proposal. It went to the dean of the school for approval.

Most of the day, I also had the TV on mute so I could have the NCAA men’s tourney in sight. It’s one of the best sports days of the year, the first day of March Madness.

After work I took a long nap then just vegged. My brain was pulp. Wrote the thing I wrote and went to bed.

Breakfast was Taco Bell. Once a week is the sweet spot. Any more often and I get sick of it and sick with myself. Once a week it still feels like an indulgence but also not super disgusting.

For a late dinner (because there’s no lunch on Taco Bell breakfast days) I had a couple of my yummy leftover hamburgers. There was a slice of pie for dessert, too, and of course my daily clementines and dried apricots.

Lots of texting from coworkers about the tourney, which is exactly what I had in mind. Water cooler talk is crucial for a good office culture, and it’s hard to come by when everyone’s working at home. The tourney talk often leads to other kinds of talk, and that’s suuuuper useful. In one case it led to my connecting our alumni relations people with a beekeeper I know in Hilo for this upcoming online event.

In The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis spends a good bit of space talking about Building 20, this crazy space on the campus at M.I.T. where some great projects evolved, producing amazing science. It’s fascinating stuff, so if you don’t read the whole book (although why wouldn’t you? It’s Michael Lewis) read the Building 20 stuff, which I think is in the beginning.

Lewis’s point is that coincidental, casual conversation is the stuff that drives new ideas and creates excited, exciting new work. If you’re an engineer refilling your mug at the office coffee pot at the same time as Phyllis in accounting, you may strike up conversations about the latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier or whatever bug is going around the office, and most of the time that would be that. But sometimes it leads to other stuff. Phyllis is having problems with the way the paper comes out of the copier. You’ve never had that problem because you don’t print from the same copier. You ask Phyllis to show you what’s wrong, and you each take your coffee mugs to the copy room on the other side of the office.

I’m making this example up so don’t scrutinize it too closely. I’m just offering a gist of the concept. You see there’s a flaw in the design, so you put your project on hold while you think of ways to fix the flaw. Now you and Phyllis are collaborating on how accountants use the copier and why copiers don’t satisfy one specific need. And because you’re a good engineer, you make it work. Then you mention it to the copy machine maintenance guy, and now you have a little team of people who otherwise might never work together. And who knows where that leads?

The creators of the Basecamp software knew what Michael Lewis knows. Water cooler talk is important for a lot of reasons. It’s why the company, who has people working remotely all around the world, created Campfire. Campfire no longer really exists, as it was folded into Basecamp, but they got it too: create a place for sharing silly cat videos in the middle of the workday, and you’re building good company culture, which can lead to any number of unpredictable good things.

I feel very strongly about this. It’s why I run our office fantasy football league and why I do these silly NCAA tourney pools. And now I’m facilitating a book discussion group (prompted by someone else, not me — she had the idea and wanted someone to facilitate, and I volunteered).

If I could juuuuuuuuust get my stories done on time, it would be nearly a perfect situation. I’m always looking over my shoulder to see if people are watching whether or not I’m doing my actual job. I don’t blame them!

It should be someone’s job, I’m telling you. Invest in culture and watch it pay off. When we moved offices from the Manoa campus to this building on King Street, they put her (the coworker who asked if I would do the book discussion group) in charge of selecting and hanging artwork for the walls and selecting an indoor plant service. It’s the right idea, and it’s a good start. Now if we could create a position to cover these kinds of things plus stuff like the office pool and happy birthday things, we might be on to something.

Supermarket’s going to close soon and I need clementines. And maybe taro. And maybe beer. So leave a comment if you need someone to connect with or to share silly cat videos with. I already have one friend sending me otter videos, and there’s always room for a few more. Just don’t go through pandemic daze without someone to send that stuff to.

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