My Memory of Joe Sarnoff

The Memorial Service for Joe Sarnoff was held yesterday in the Sarnoff Barrington Student Union here on campus. 

The scheduled speakers were all very poignant, sharing happy memories of Joe’s affect on their lives. It was all wonderful. It was all true. But it was all…SOMBER. There’s nothing WRONG with that. After all, a loved one has passed. We are all mourning. But after reading some memories for someone who could not be in attendance, I decided the room needed a break so I shared MY greatest memory involving Joe and got some well-needed (and deserved!) smiles and laughter out of the crowd. Here it is. I apologize for the audio. The iPhone’s mic is great up-close, but not so much from 15 feet away, apparently.

Here’s a link to the video.

Smart people who disagree with me

On the TV show "The West Wing" president Bartlett–a Democrat–at one point decided he wanted a Republican as one of his key advisors.  When quizzed about WHY he would want that, the deputy chief of staff (if I recall correctly) replied, "the president likes smart people who disagree with him."

I post here a series of tweets from John C Welch (@bynkii, if you care, and he’s Googlable if you want anything else) that deal loosely with the subject:

[bynkii] pondered unfollowing vs. banning today. conclusion: Unfollowing is how a grownup deals w/ people they disagree with/don’t like on twitter…

…Don’t want to deal with someone’s twitspew? unfollow. you can still interact, but at a slower pace.

Banning is ultimately a petulant juvenile act of hiding that doesn’t work anyway. But some folks can only handle ‘A’ rides.

I learn a lot from people who vehemently disagree with me. I learn a lot from people who agree with me as well.

In both cases, usually things I’d have never thought of myself, because they have different viewpoints and worldviews.

I learn nothing by hiding from people. Better to be pissed off than miss out on learning.

I’ve known many people in my Life who behave this way.  If they disagree with something, they write it off completely.  I suppose in the short term that’s fine, but to never revisit "it" again just because you didn’t care for it once is short-sighted.  As humans, we are constantly growing and maturing.  Our experiences, our attitudes, and our bodies are always changing.  To assume permanence of anything in this existence is folly at best.

I see this most in my peers, many/most of whom see no value whatsoever in gathering with counterparts from other institutions to see how things are done at their places of employment.  When asked, they’ll tell me they’re bored or that there’s nothing to learn.  While I respect their opinion, I scoff inwardly.  That attitude suggests that WE somehow "have it all figured out" and that our systems and methodologies are perfect and that we have nothing to learn.  That smacks of arrogance and arrogance usually leads to a Fall of some kind. 

I want no part of that.  I enthusiastically seek out these forums.  I see them as win/win.  I’ll either learn something I didn’t know and can take that information back to my own organization an attempt to improve it, or I’ll get validation that our ways are the Right Ways (for us) and can share that wisdom with others who may benefit from it. 

In my experience, a whole lot of BOTH actually goes on.  And either way, I’m better for it.

If you don’t tell ME, then it’s not important.

At some point early in our relationship, Amanda shared with me a very insightful piece of advice.  She said, "it’s important to talk TO your partner more than you talk ABOUT your partner."  If you spend all your time talking about the problems you have with someone to OTHER PEOPLE, those problems aren’t likely to ever get solved.

That really struck a chord with me.  I’m not the kind of person who generally cares what other people thinks about him.  Most people won’t understand this.  I think most people are consumed by their fear that they won’t be "popular" or that someone might be saying "bad things" about them to someone else.  I will admit that there was a time when this…the gossiping…bothered me, particularly when it came to my profession and the quality of the work I put out.  Then, one day about 10 years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I suddenly realized that if someone has an opinion or a concern about me–about ANY aspect of me–and doesn’t bring that concern to me personally; then that concern, whatever it is, is TRIVIAL as far as I am care about it goes.  I have applied this to all areas of my Life and it sure does make it easier to get through it (life).

If you think I’m fat and you want to talk about it with other people, good for you!  If you want to talk about it with ME, I’d love that too.  If you don’t like my shirt/pants/shoes/hair/beard/whatever, same thing.  If you aren’t talking to ME about it, I don’t care that you’re talking to anyone else.  If your concern was a serious one, you’d be talking to ME.  The way I see it, you’re just entertaining yourself and I’m flattered, should you choose to talk about me, that I am sufficiently entertaining!

It was hardest to adopt this philosophy at work.  I am continually frustrated by the low bar I have to set for the quality of some aspects of service I provide.  But I’m one man supporting well over 500 computer workstations.  That means a whole lot of "vanilla" and not much in the way of sprinkles, whipped cream, and cherries.  Some things are the way they are because I’ve made a conscious decision to make them that way.  Sometimes with a good reason, sometimes "just because".  But a LOT of things are simply at "default" because no one has ever asked or suggested that they be changed.  They way I see it, if it isn’t broken then I’m not going to fix it.  And in the computer support game, no news is GOOD news.  No reports of things NOT working means that everything IS working.


Apparently not.  I continue to be dismayed as I interact with the people who use the systems I maintain at how much CRAP they put up with but NEVER BRING TO MY ATTENTION.  My systems are NOT perfect.  I know that.  But I can only be so proactive.  I can’t test every SMARTboard on campus once a week. I can’t log in to every workstation to make sure everything’s working.  But there ARE people using all of these systems every day, and it continues to astound me that they run into problems–no matter how trivial–that they never report.  It frustrates me because I take pride in my work.

But everyone on this campus knows that CTS is responsible for the computers on this campus.  And most who use the computers in classrooms know that *I* am directly responsible for the computers in those classrooms.  While it still pains me to know that there are deficiencies in my Systems as I struggle to address the ones I know about, I have had to decide that the ones I don’t know about are simply not important if no one else bothers to bring them to my attention.  I know it goes on.  I overhear some of it myself.  I get some of it second-hand, and some of that from alleged sources that surprise me because I expect more from those people.

I’m under no assumption that anyone but myself reads this.  I know I WRITE it only for myself.  But if, someday, this blog-thing acquires any sort of popularity and actually gets read by any of you who actually use the Systems I build and maintain, take this to heart and do BOTH of us a favor and report the problems you experience, no matter how small.  My job is to make teaching with technology on this campus as painless and seamless as possible.  Doing so successfully requires as much of your input as I can get, because I am NOT a teacher!  So don’t just shake your head with frustration.  Complain all you want in the break room or at the lunch table with your peers.  But in the name of all that is good and holy, do NOT assume that I already am aware of the problem you just experienced or that I am working on it! 

I would much rather get 10 calls about the same problem than NO calls at all.  I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broken!