October 28, 2011

Oakland Riot Cat

When police dispersed the Oakland Occupy Wall Street protestors, a photojournalist captured this image of an officer petting a cute cat. Creative folks picked up the image and have now established the Oakland Riot Cat blog with images that feature variations on the headline. A peaceful moment during a contentious situation.

October 25, 2011


As part of my Advanced Yoga Training I am doing a work-study exchange. This is both a humbling and awareness building exercise. Today I helped to clean the studio, which will be my job on Tuesdays. It seems appropriate to clean on Tuesday when I was just using the studio on Monday. Suddenly, each dust bunny, smudge on the wall and carpet stain have been amplified whereas before I didn't pay them much attention.

I believe that work study is an important experience, a rite of passage. It helps you be part of a larger system and to be accountable to your teachers. Instead of the assumption that you are owed an education, you have to earn it, as you would hope to earn respect and additional responsibility.

October 21, 2011

Three Years Have Flown

I'm sitting here browsing through my blog and am amazed at how fast three years have passed since I've returned to the Bay Area. Actually, it is closer to 3.5 years. Living in England feels like a different lifetime, and yet recent as well. Currently I'm reading Ian Mcewan's book Saturday, set in my old neighborhood in London. Flashbacks.

Plus, noticing I lost a lot of weight, although I never thought I was heavy. A happier life means better health. 42.5 is treating me very well. There is nothing I would change about who I am or what I am doing.

My life has landmarks and one is Before London and After London. There are many before-and-afters, which I'll tuck away for a while.

No Food Allergies

I'm shocked.

Allergy Testing

A few months ago my friend Masha was chatting with me about allergy testing. Our discussion peaked my interest and today I am getting tested for food allergies. Here's my hand early-on in the test. Whatever I am allergic to will turn into a big bump. Very exciting because I love to watch for reactions.

Standing Around

You never know what you'll see on the streets of Oakland.

October 18, 2011

FOMO: Fear Of Mission Out

In every class I teach the greatest point of contention between me and my students is their constant texting, IMing and Facebooking. Throughout the class I have to continuously monitor their under-the-desk, behind-the-bag use of technological communications. This is a constant drain of my energy and takes focus away from the class discussion. 

Unfortunately, I get it, as I too am addicted to checking my electronic communications. Thankfully, I am over the Facebook addiction, but not emailing and texting. What's at the root of this communications addiction? FoMo - Fear Of Missing Out. What if I miss an important email or text? From whom, I ask myself, and about what? 

The constant checking actually causes me anxiety. Thoughts that cross my mind include: 
--What if I receive a text, respond and then don't hear back from that person for minutes, hours, days, or weeks? Should I keep checking my phone every 30 seconds? 

--What if I receive an email from a friend with lots of details about their current concerns and I don't have the time to read it and properly respond? Will they be checking their phone every 30 seconds?

--What if I receive a message from someone unexpected and I need to contemplate a response, leaving the message unanswered for minutes, hours, days, or weeks? Will they forget about me, get upset and think our friendship over, or move on to someone who is more available? 

In an attempt to break my addiction, I've started locking my phone in the car or leaving it behind when I am out and about. To rationalize this action I tell myself, "when I get back to the phone, some new communications will have cooked-up and I will be inundated with new emails and texts." But really, why do I care, or even want that much communication? Most often I turn to the phone when I am in the middle of focused work, it offers a break. The result is that I get off track. It feels like eating a back of chips in the middle of an invigorating hike. 

So, my goal is to be more present with what I am doing in the moment, as opposed to endlessly checking my phone for what other people are doing. This intention is essential for stopping FOMO because it is becoming REMO - Really Missing Out.

October 17, 2011

Innocent Loves Notes

I am receiving all kinds of "love notes" at work - quite innocent. This morning in my in-box was an invitation to a house party with colleagues. Then, sitting at my desk, I opened the drawer and there was a little glass 3D monster figurine with a note saying "Hi Amy! I'm Darwin - Love Me!"

Both of these brought a smile to my face, especially when arriving at work at 6:55am, in the dark.

October 15, 2011

Beautiful California

Another view of the ocean.

Yurt Views

Life inside a Yurt. Imagine living with this view of the Pacific Ocean.

Slide Ranch Kid Time

I'm at Slide Ranch with a friend and her toddler, playing with lots of kids as they practice singing their ABC's. If only my mom were here she would be in heaven. We're overlooking the ocean just beyond Muir Woods.

October 14, 2011

Congratulations to the other Amy Kweskin

There is only one other Amy Kweskin, Associate Vide Chancellor for Finance at Washington University  in Saint Louis, and she made the news today. Go Amy! (She's on the left.)

From Classroom to Boardroom

Now that I am a full time instructor and also a consultant, I am experiencing the benefits of using the classroom as a petri dish for concepts that can advance business in the boardroom. For example, I am now using a book called Business Model Generation with my Business Ownership students. Each of my students is designing their own business plan, using the Business Model Canvas, and I have to be flexible enough to coach each one of them in advancing their ideas. I then take what I have learned and bring it to my clients. No, I don't share the students' intellectual property, but rather, I am able to be apply the business development planning concepts we explored in class to the clients who are building their business in real-time.

I have put this experiment into reverse practice when using a facilitation format called a Fishbowl. This collaborative approach to idea generation and consensus building is a wonderful format for engaging diverse stakeholders. In the past couple of years I have facilitated fishbowls for private clients and gatherings of membership organizations. Last quarter I put it into practice in the classroom. We brought together two groups of students to discuss the role of social media in public relations and advertising. The students loved being able to share their ideas, be heard amongst their peers and to draw conclusions about their own habits and behaviors.

This back and forth between classroom and boardroom gets my facilitation juices flowing - from idea to practice and dream to reality.

Reel SF - Blog of Movie Locations

Through The Bay Citizen, I learned about the blog Reel SF written by CitySleuth who searches out the locations of classic Hollywood films that featured the San Francisco Bay Area as their locale. The blogger has done a great job of finding the locations and creating Then and Now comparison photos. Makes you want to do the same with some modern films like 1997's The Game featuring Michael Douglas in some fantastic indoor and outdoor locations in San Francisco's Financial District.

October 11, 2011

Succulent Garden Blooming

Despite having taken a nosedive off the balcony thanks to my neighbor's dog.

October 10, 2011

Being Concise and Direct

As I move into Autumn of my Year of Balance, my intention is to be more concise and direct both in written and spoken communications. To do so, my I have redesigned the grading rubrics so that students are graded on professionalism. This requires me to be clear about what works and what can be improved in their projects. Sounds easy but it is more challenging than it sounds. Instead of quick grading notes like, "Great! Good work! Awesome!" I am offering more useful feedback such as, "Good job citing a specific example to support your conclusion" or "This sentence needs editing to clarify your point."

Part of my motivation for being clearer is that I find myself over-enthusiastically making supportive statements. "Wow!" "That's awesome!" How often should I be using awesome? What makes something awesome? Is that just the extrovert's easy-out? How about observing, processing and sharing a deeper thought?

As I am becoming more aware of my personal and professional interactions, I am finding that my pace of communication is becoming more controlled. Meaning, that I am allowing more space for others to complete their thought. East Coasters love to talk on top of each other. We're very comfortable layering the conversation. Out here on the West Coast, people stop and listen when you start talking. It has taken me years to become comfortable with this communications style. It is proving to be a better way to have meaningful, deep conversations instead of just creating noise and not hearing each other.

I want to present myself clearly and to have others hear what I have to say. To do so, I am learning, I need not always be the cheerleader, the quickest to respond, the loudest, or to finish other people's thoughts. What I need are thoughtful, well-chosen words.

This is a practice of introversion.

October 8, 2011

We Can't Help it, We're Friendly Folks

During my post-Blue Angels journey back to the East Bay, by way of foot, Muni and BART, I've had some very interesting conversations with strangers. Clearly, I'm becoming more like my mom, who can make friends in two minutes. It is all about being open and having a good attitude.

First, there was the bus driver who was driving our grossly over-crowded bus up Van Ness. He was very stern and kept saying, "get back beyond the yellow line! I can't see and that means I can't go!" I was the last one on the bus and said, very sweetly, "maybe I should get off." To which he responded, "not you sweetheart. You're fine." At every stop he yelled at the new passengers but I kept my spot next to him and we continued to chit-chat about music, wooing your lady, and watching the Blue Angels.

A stop before I got off the bus a woman got on and the driver gave his same speech about moving back. She told him to f**k himself. The driver opened the doors and said, "you can leave." She got off the bus and kept yelling at him, saying he was rude. The driver had a good laugh over that. She just didn't understand him. I got it, he was performing his job, he was keeping us safe.

Later, I was waiting for BART and a woman sat down next to me and said how much she liked me shoes. We got into a conversation about shoes, shopping, her back surgery. All kinds of details.

Now, sitting on BART, this same woman is chatting it up with other passengers. There is a cute guy in his 20s and she told him he's good looking. All of us, seated in the surrounding five rows, had a good laugh. Poor guy blushed. It was all in good humor.

Last weekend I was at my cousin Ben's house for a brunch gathering. One of the guests, who recently relocated to Oakland from NYC, was telling me how people are suspiciously friendly here and that it made him very nervous. "What is it with people here?" He asked me, "Everyone is so nice."

We can't help it. We're friendly folks.

Blue Angels

Fleet Week Sky Writing

October 5, 2011

Goodbye Steve Jobs

Rest in Peace. Your innovation and leadership have changed the world forever.

October 3, 2011

McDonald's or Vegan

Yes, I am admitting that I am at the McDonald's drive thru after three hours of yoga. A homeless man approached me and asked that I would buy him some food. I offered him a package of my favorite vegan oat bars. He read the package, exclaimed, "vegan!?" and handed them back to me. They're healthy I said. "Then why are you getting McDonald's?" Good question.