Sunday, August 26, 2007

Freezing Time

It is time for another entry. Actually it is time for bed, but fie on that. I shall instead stay up to compose something specifically for your entertainment. What better way to procrastinate than by addressing something that has already been procrastinated.

So, I’ll put off sleep in favor of putting something down in writing. Smart? No, not really. I have to be at school a good deal earlier than usual tomorrow for work. We’re setting up an exhibition for the Common First Year class of work done by previous Common First Year students so this particular batch can get a look at what they’re in for. Set the bar, establish expectations, also maybe give them something to look forward to. Some will see the display and be frustrated by it: “You expect me to be able to do that?” Others, those less inclined towards pessimism, will hopefully be more impressed: “I’ll be able to produce that?” It’s a subtle but important distinction.

So, yes, school has started. Last week was the first week of the new year. New classes, new teachers, a newly revised studio, some cool new people… It’s going to be a good year. It is also, as was the last, going to be a very full year. I have been preparing. Not unlike some small mammals and certain species of insect, I have been storing food for the coming winter. While the principle is the same, my process is somewhat more sophisticated than the smaller mammals and the insects. For example I am using a freezer, something most of them do not have access to.

By using my time to cook now and freezing some of the leftovers, I am essentially storing time for later use. Technically, yes, I’m storing the food, but symbolically that food represents time. Unlike the small mammals and the insects I do not expect a shortage of materials as the cold weather moves in, I expect an abundance of assignments, which will in turn eat into that other resource: time. My girlfriend was exceptionally good to me last year and in several instances substituted her time for mine, going so far as to package individual leftover meals for me to reheat at school. I appreciate this immensely, but at the same time, recognize that it is something of an imposition. So now, before the school season has quite ramped up (and it’s ramping up quickly), I am packaging some of my own time so I do not have to depend quite as much on hers.

So far I have managed to set aside shrimp creole, honey-mustard pork chops, mashed potatoes, and quite a quantity of tomato sauce (perhaps the most important, or at least prevalent, staple of my diet). This is all something of an experiment. I’ll be curious to learn the answers to the following questions: How much longer can I find the time to cook enough to put away? How much longer after that will it be before I find myself starting to rely upon the stored foods? How long then will those foods last? Perhaps most importantly: which of the foods that I choose to store will actually emerge from the freezing process in a palatable state? And yes, I will know they at least start that way. My cooking is not that daring, but it is effective and usually enjoyable.

Great, now I’m hungry. And tired. For now I’ll focus on addressing the tired, and procrastinate the hungry until tomorrow morning. Here's hoping my winter-storage efforts mean I don't have to trade food for sleep later in the year.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Wisdom for the Ages

My high school ten year reunion should be happening this year. Odds are good that it won't, but I could be wrong.

In any case, I found myself thinking about high school recently. More specifically, I found myself contemplating the lessons I learned there about the confluence of meetings and pizza. I was reminded of one particular lesson at a recent research meeting and realized that this lesson still applies (and that my boss never learned it himself). Because I happen to have this forum, I think I'll share the wisdom in case some of you didn't have the same opportunity I did to pick it up.

Lesson 1: If you want people to attend your meetings, offer them pizza.
Corollary to Lesson 1: If you want to make sure attendance is limited to those serious about the meeting, don't offer pizza.

In other words, for those meetings where quorum or general numbers are important, you can increase attendance by offering to feed people. However, if you accept a certain cynical (realistic) viewpoint and are not worried about making people do their fair share, you might be better off not offering food (or at least not publicizing it). The slackers won't bother to come, and those who are dedicated to the cause will actually be able to get work done. If you're really cynical, the last group does not exist, so you'd better offer pizza.

Lesson 2: Do not serve the pizza until the general business of the meeting is concluded.

This was an actual rule established (and written down) in one of the organizations in which I served in high school (This is also the rule that was neglected in my recent research meeting.) In high school, we found that once pizza became available, nobody paid any attention any more. Even those trying to pay attention were constantly interrupted as people passed around the boxes, requested napkins, and generally participated in the business of eating. We also found that people were more likely to leave early if food had already been served. So we made the rule. Pizza still arrived at the same time, it just sat in the boxes until we got through the agenda. It's amazing how much faster our meetings became. Then again, fewer people showed up on time. Meh, everything is a trade off.