Project (Management)

“When you are not optimistic, you cannot achieve anything.” Ban Ki-moon, UNSG

Long-time no write blog post. 好久不见。So many goals and I feel like I’m not reaching any of them. Fitness program has been tabled essentially for months. I’ve been having trouble focusing – not physically, but mentally – on what to focus on. Maybe I’ve spent too much effort on the big picture. Time to turn to the little things, the details that color in between the lines and make the big picture worth looking at, worth analyzing in the first place. Time to get out the crayons, the watercolors, the charcoal, the oil paints.

What details should I paint in? I think that first I need to assign myself a project. From rereading earlier posts and reviewing my sewing project ideas of the past few months (currently on hold after cutting my thumb open on broken glass two weeks ago, but alive and well in my head), I think that each detail can be a project. Projects I would like to tackle include:

1) Improve general knowledge and vocabulary at the general knowledge level in English and in German.

For starters, I’ve bought a book called Hausaufgaben für Erwachsene. Essentially a review of stuff learned in school that is now fuzzy because I didn’t major in it and therefore ignored it after the last test. It’s in German and so it can be a fun exercise in reading and making glossaries. Also, I now own Trivial Pursuit in German. Trivia is not necessarily knowledge, but perhaps a fun form of testing.

2) Be more meticulous in my own writing/translation. Writing and translation overlap, but are very different at the editing level especially. That level is something I need to figure out how to do better and more thoroughly.

Not so sure how to approach this one. I’ve ordered a book that might help at some level, but at some point it really is all in my head and brain output connection to the real world.

3) Improve specialized knowledge in a series of areas. This one is important for once I’ve garnered sufficient general knowledge to move deeper with confidence.

4) I’m really great at having a social life when I’m in a defined area with other people. I.e., structured situations with rules about when people are where and situations that have defined boundary lines about free time and work time (school, camp, conference, etc.). When I just have some time defined (i.e., working hours), but the rest is essentially free time, I’m horribly unadventurous. I take that back in part. If it’s cold outside, I avoid doing anything like the plague. If it’s warm, I do crazy things like take the train somewhere, walk 10km, climb a tree-top path for 45 min, jump a bus back to the train station, and return to my point of origin. By myself. And that’s my issue. I’m really great at keeping myself entertained. That’s usually a trait praised in children. When you’re not a child anymore, though, it doesn’t make you any friends. I’ve seen a meme floating around recently on the sentiment that there are certain friends that you can go five, ten, twenty years without seeing, run into each other randomly, and pick up exactly where you left off that day ten years ago. I’m that person. I’m ecstatic that you’ve decided to hang with me for the day and I’m okay if another ten years elapse before we see each other again. I once made a New Year’s Resolution to be more socially proactive. I’ve tried periodically, but it’s never been something I’ve been able to keep up with in the long term.

The long term is apparently not my thing, hence why I’m now going to “make friends” with the short term for the long term.


Mittags Buffee

I’ve never particularly liked lunch as a concept. At school, it always meant the difficult decision of who to sit with and something from a brown paper bag, hastily packed in the morning. On weekends, it usually meant leftovers and time spent not doing whatever I wanted. Now that I’m working, I really actually enjoy my lunch break. A time to reenergize for the second half of the day. I have adapted well to the German habit of a later lunch (even though this is often inconvenient in the village where I work because half the shops all go on lunch break either from 1-2 or from 1-3, so a visit to the post office or bank means I need to take my break from 12:30 to 1:30 instead). What I have not adapted well to is packing my own lunch. I haven’t been in the habit of doing that over the last nine years partly due to dining halls in college and living close enough to grad school to walk home and make my lunch fresh. The few times over the last couple of months that I’ve thought ahead, I usually manage to forget at home whatever it was I packed up the night before and put in the fridge. Oh well, that was dinner already done!

My mother has an impressive cycle of foods. If we ate spaghetti with meat sauce on Monday night, we knew that the meat sauce would get some spices and be reincarnated as either chili or tacos or both on Tuesday and/or Wednesday. A roast chicken’s leftover bones and meat would mean Potpie soup broth. A pot roast’s leftover vegetables would show up in a vegetable soup. Somehow, this clever scheme has not rubbed off on me. I like to experiment and rarely make the same thing twice. I might have the same basic thing over and over, but each time, I see some new thing lying around and think “Oooh, that might taste good with that”. Generally, it’s passable, sometimes it really does taste terrible. Generally, because I’m experimenting and am not entirely sure that it will actually be tasty, I make enough for one meal.

My goal this week then, will be to aim to make it work for two meals (lunch the next day) and to also remember to take it with me. You can’t take it with you if you can remember you have it? Bad pun. Sorry.

In other news, I have recently taken over the main tenancy of the my apartment from my previous flatmate. I have acquired a subletter and am now trying to systematically (but mostly erratically) replacing the things that disappeared in the move. This week, after several tries, I managed to get a floor rug (large) and laundry detergent (I was down to the Christmas-themed socks…). Those were my goals last week. Along the way, I may also have acquired some cleaning supplies, a cutting board, an extra hand towel, and a casserole dish. This week, my goal is for some pillows to sit on in the living room, some cushy stools (I already know what and where, but will not get them until next Saturday because that store closes at 7pm during the week. I work until 6 and by the time I got to the store they’ll either be closed or shooing customers out the door.), and something to hang coats on. My goal for November is a couch bed. But that is a ways out, hence the pillows. I’m contemplating actually making the pillows myself, but I think I might just stick with pillowcases and leave the pillow making to people who are better at it/have experience.

The title of the post is something I saw on the window of a local Chinese restaurant. The correct way to write it would be “Mittagsbuffet.” As it is, they can still capitalize on their error by putting a picture of a fairy on the window. “Fee” means fairy in German. Magic fairy provides your lunch for you? I’m probably going to have to be my own magic fairy for a while…

Habits and projects

Now that I’ve been able to start working (yay!), I’ve said goodbye to my “practice retirement.” That’s what I’m calling the period of time where I wasn’t legally allowed to work and was running out of things to do. I took walks. I hand-sewed a skirt (I am a beginner at this and would like to pass on that chiffon is evil if you’re sewing by hand). (I’m actually not quite finished with the skirt since I cut the chiffon a tad too short and need to attach some sort of entity (or hem the lining shorter) to the bottom. That can be an ongoing project. Since I am in Germany and they don’t do Christmas stockings, I plan to make my own. That will be another project, but I don’t plan to start that until the fall. I also started a pleated skirt project. I’d finished a whole half of it before it occurred to me that maybe you’re supposed to stitch down the pleats on the inside of the skirt, not on the outside. Oh well, I learned something… I’ll probably finish it “wrong” (creatively) anyway and find some sort of workaround. (Picture of the chiffon skirt thus far. I don’t have any more of the stuff I used for the lining, so I need another solution for the bottom as I said.)

  Hand-sewn skirt project

The one really good habit I did get out of the period of limbo in the last two weeks is a ten minute fitness program (courtesy of Pinterest). I can do ten minutes between breakfast and leaving for work easily. Also, if time permits, I could fit in another round in the evenings. Between that and taking walks, I should be able to get my thirty minutes of exercise in each day.

“Das wichtigste Motiv für die Arbeit des Menschen ist die Freude an ihrem Ergebnis und die Erkenntnis ihres Wertes für die Gemeinschaft.“ ₪ Albert Einstein


“The lure of the distant and difficult is deceptive.
The great opportunity is where you are.”
– John Burroughs

After having spent the last week essentially waiting for a phone call that will break down the last barrier between me and my full-time job, I’m now moving to the next step and trying to contact them myself. No cookie yet. At first, I had enough to occupy me that I wasn’t really bored. Move into new place, get to know my roommate, stock my pantry, get to know the neighborhood – all its numerous one-way streets and little shops, mentally noting the various doctors’ offices in case I need them – and eventually settling in to feeling “at home” in a place I’ve only lived in for a week. That’s actually a talent of mine: Feeling like I’ve lived somewhere forever after a very short time. I still don’t really know anybody besides the people in my building, so I do have work to do on that score.

Last week’s quote on delay and pausing and reflecting is something that I’ve thought a lot about over the last several days given that I’m running out of things to do in my copious “free” time that is almost a vacation except that it doesn’t feel like one. If I get the phone call, it means I need to be ready to head in to work possibly on the day of the call if not the day after. At this point, I’m also half expecting an e-mail since I e-mailed the people yesterday around noon (but not a word in response as of yet). P.S., Dear SimCity, I love red tape. (Where’s my castle?!)

This week’s goal is to spot the opportunity/silver lining. I am definitely thankful for having had the extra time to not only get over my jetlag finally, but also to get my body into a routine of waking up at 7 am. (Or, as was the case this morning, 6 am with a leisurely nap until 7:10 when my alarm went off.) This way, once I get to start my job, I’ll be wide awake the whole time. I have taken the additional precaution of having several baggies of snacks ready to grab in case I get the sort of call that means that I can get the last of my paperwork approved today and be able to go right in to the office for the rest of the day.

If this good thing does happen today, then I will still need to adjust to the opportunity that my new job presents me. Unfortunately, after finally getting a human to pick up the phone, today is definitely not going to be the day, as the answer was to just wait until we call you. I asked for a hypothetical timeframe, but just wait and we will call you is still the response. Well, then, I guess I’ll go take a walk on this beautiful day.

Pausing to reflect

In an InDesign file, a style-driven workflow means that you take the time to set styles for each part of your document upfront. Then, later, you can simply put it together by assigning the pre-defined styles to the different parts of the document. This is instead of laboriously inserting some text and formatting it afterwards, inserting more text and formatting it again to match the previous bit. Once you have a set style, you can simply set this before you put anything in the box. Once you do put this in, your text will automatically be formatted.

In line with the geeky analogy, I think it might stretch to planning a way of life. Some things can, of course, be adjusted over time, but for many situations, it might work better to set some ground rules before you do them. Financial planning both for the near term and for the longer term is one of those things that you want to have the big picture on. How much do I have? Can I break it down monthly or weekly? What are expenses that recur? What sort of extra expenses do I have that I could limit or eliminate entirely? The month of July will be a somewhat irregular month of spending for me because of startup costs – a deposit in addition to the rent, acquiring sheets and blankets, and getting the basics for first cooking then baking.

As I adjust to having work be the thing that I spend the most time on, I’ll also need to plan what to get into the habit of doing regularly during the rest of my time. Not just planning what times I can go grocery shopping or take care of administrative things, but also planning in activities that are enriching. I have my flute with me (though I somehow managed to stick all of my music in the book box that won’t have shipped yet!) and I have previously sung in choirs or choruses. I’ll need to find a church near here since the once I regularly attended a couple of years ago is too far away. (I still plan to go back there periodically at least, so that I can stay in contact with the friends I made there.) I do plan to leave some time (and money, budget-permitting) to have some fun. I now live close enough to the river to be able to take some nice walks (or maybe actually go jogging, though I’ve never seriously gotten into the habit of doing that) and close to a couple of parks. I also plan to spend some of this week getting lost in my new neighborhood.


Interesting quote to ponder: “Thinking about the role of delay is a profound and fundamental part of being human. Questions about delay are existential: the amount of time we take to reflect on decisions will define who we are. Is our mission simply to be another animal, responding to whatever stimulations we encounter? Or are we here for something more? Life might be a race against time but it is enriched when we rise above our instincts and stop the clock to process and understand what we are doing and why. A wise decision requires reflection, and reflection requires a pause.” Financial Times, 24 June 2012, ‘Waiting Game’, pg. 19

I especially like the phrase “reflection requires a pause.” It is a much different way to think about ‘delay’, a word that I have a rather negative association with.Image

A transition

As a now former college student, I give myself an A+ for being able to make and achieve short term goals. Do homework for next week. Start and follow through (nevermind how last minute) on a research paper. But now that finishing school was just something else that I checked off a month ago, not just some nebulous idea still looming over the horizon, I find myself slightly at a loss. Now I need another goal looming over the horizon.

In high school, I successfully created a goal like this: live in Germany someday. Now that I’ve just managed to accomplish both this goal and that of finishing school at the same time, I’m doubly due to find something else to look forward to. To scheme for. To dream on. Long term goals are somewhat harder to grade, though. You never know if it was a good idea until long after you’ve achieved the goal. So, I suppose I could pose myself the question: Now that I’m here, what I am going to do?

In the short term, I do have concrete goals. Find housing. Establish a lifestyle that no longer needs to revolve around getting next week’s homework done or integrating studying into academic breaks. Okay, maybe that one might take a bit more time.

In the long term, perhaps I need to transistion to a new question word. Why? To some degree, school and college have become simply a fact, something that “everyone” does. It has led me to where I am now in no small degree. Why did I want to live in Germany? That’s somewhat more difficult to answer, though I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that I took German in high school, was and am fascinated by the culture, and have German and Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage. But, I bet there are many people on the eastern seaboard and in the midwest who can say something similar.

This idea is something that occurred to me nearly a year before I even applied to be an exchange student in Germany or had spent more than three days in that country. Certainly, I was very into geneaology in middle school and am still at least mildly interested in visiting the myriad places in Europe where my ancestors lived. My mother terms my move as a sort of ‘reverse immigration’. Perhaps this is a kind of personal search for the ‘American dream’ and an extension of it in global terms. As our world has offered more ways to connect to more places and people, I think that our goals now also have the capacity to break out of the confines of a limited place and group of people. However, I do think global movement is a recognition of how human contact and relationships can spread. This could be seen as somewhat cautionary as well, though, because it is quite possible to spread too thin. Relationships must be nurtured and this is certainly much simpler in a less globalized situation. I am now dependent on e-mail, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, assorted other Internet-based connections, a Europe-only cell phone, snail mail, and face-to-face interactions to achieve communication. For a random person who grows up in a small town, goes to college within a 30-mile radius, and then gets a job within a 60-mile radius of the college, the invisible methods of Internet communication are perhaps still useful, but are surely not as essential. I recognize that I have become rather dependent on the Internet to occupy me from day to day, to tell me what is going on in the most remote places around the world – places I may never see in person.