rePERpoSING electronics

I have a confession. This is topic has caused me great anxiety over the years. We have a whole dressser full of electronics, cords, cables, and then some that we never use. I don’t even know what half of them are for. And the other half? The technology is probably obsolete (Will I ever need a phone cord? For a landline? Or a 30-ft Ethernet cable? When everything has wifi nowdays? Probably not… and if I did I am sure the ones I have stashed from college would be useless.) I have tried freecycling some things. And craigslisting others.  But a stash persists. 

Now why the anxiety you ask?  I have a Master’s of Public Health… which means that every time I even think of throwing out or recycling anything, traumatizing videos like this & this come to mind.  I can’t give it away, I can’t throw it out, and I can’t recycle it with just anyone.  Oh, the anxiety of having clutter! The guilt of getting rid of it! It’s all too much. Especially for 2 square feet of space and a few errant cables.

buh bye cables!

However (yes there is a bright side here) a new website EcoSquid may help relieve me of the extra cables & the extra guilt. Type in the kind of electronic (cables, cell phones, and TVs… oh my!) and a zip code & EcoSquid will tell me either a place I can recycle the item or how much I can sell it for.  I love it when a website is perfectly designed to solve a problem (or problems) that I have–in this case electronic clutter & some enviro-guilt– and makes it easy to boot!  I smell an uncluttering project for the weekend coming on!


rePERpoSING Time & Email

I came across an interview with Google exec, Peter Norvig, via Unclutterer.  While software development is very different from the work I do, many of the concepts espoused by Peter are applicable in any field. He talked about how reading up on subject matter he was interested in helped him in a job interview & how he stays up to date on the newest ideas in his field (spoiler: he talks to people). My favorite quotes pertained to how he thinks about his role in responding to email & how he manages his time.  Thought I would share them here.

Stopping the things that don’t matter & thinking about what my role is when I receive an email are 2 great concepts that I will make an effort to think about this week. I already know that “stopping the things that don’t matter” is a tough nut for me to crack, complicated by the related problem of “everything is important to me!”  But there has to be at least one thing that I can stop doing. 

I wonder how Norvig deals with the unimportant decisions (or tasks) that he finds in his day to day? Ignore them? Delegate? Hire someone to do it for him?  Any ideas or suggestions?

From: InformationWeek’s Making It Big In Software: Google’s Peter Norvig

On time management: “Do the things that matter, stop doing the things that don’t, and continuously examine your use of time so that you can tell the difference. Don’t waste time on something just because that’s the way it has been done.”

On email: “People get out of balance when they see their value as being able to respond quickly. If I see myself as a machine for answering email, then my work life would never stop because my email never stops. If instead I see my value as separating the important from the unimportant and making good decisions on the important, then I can go home at a reasonable hour, spend time with my family, ignore my email and phone messages all weekend long, and make sure that when I return to work, I am in the right mood to make the good decisions.”

Quick & easy protein packed dinner

This is one of our favorite recipes, regardless of the season, both for the amazing flavor & the easy of pulling it together.  I had no idea what a biryani was until recently and according to Wikipedia, I don’ t think this really fits the bill… other than it has curry in it. I got the recipe from Rachel, during an email recipe exchanges…. one that I didn’t contribute anything to.  Whatever it’s name is & regardless of how I selfishly filtched it from a friend, I am sharing it now & hope you enjoy it as much as we do! As Rachel says, “Gobble until well satiated!” (which might be the whole pot… trust me)

Lime Biryani…the real recipe
Yield: approx. 4 servings

2 limes
1 c. dry quinoa
1 1/4 c. water
3 tblsp. olive oil
1 1/4 tsp. curry powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 c. canned chickpeas
1 1/2 c. scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. almonds (toasting optional)
1/4 c. raisins
3/8 tsp. pepper

Zest limes to get 1 1/2 tsp. zest, then juice both limes (reserving juice). In a saucepan, combine 3 tblsp. lime juice (note: do NOT use all of the lime juice for this part, just 3 tblsp.), quinoa, water, 1 tblsp. oil, curry powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Cool quinoa and put in a large bowl. Add carrots, chickpeas, scallions, almonds, and raisins. Toss. In a small bowl, combine zest, remaining lime juice, 2 tblsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper. Whisk until blended, pour over the salad, mix it up, and. . . VOILA! Divine dining. Gobble until well satiated.

Lime Biryani… how I really make it

Get home from work. Pad around the house in socks & wonder what is for dinner. Do inventory on cabinets & fridge. Realize we have nothing that resembles “real food” already made. Frantically search cabinets & fridge again like there might be “real food” hiding in a secret compartment. Resign myself to making dinner and get out the Costco sized bag of quinoa.  Double it because I am hungry & will be hungry again tomorrow at lunch time. Follow the directions only in so much that I use the same ingredients & gobble til satiated. Thank my lucky stars that Rachel sent this recipe around!

Wash 2 c quinoa. Add to pot with 4 c. water. Bring to boil. Add a tablespoon or two of curry because I can never remember how much curry I am supposed to add. Pull out trusty recipe to double check curry measurements.

While I am waiting for pot to boil, I frantically* clean & chop carrots & possibly scallions & throw them into the pot to cook. Add olive oil because I forgot to do that earlier. Curse the fact that I never follow directions. Thank god that whenever I fail to follow directions, it usually turns out ok. Add a little more olive oil for fun. Squirt in a healthy dose of store-bought lime juice.

Dig through cupboard to see if we have canned chickpeas. If yes, I rinse & add to the pot. If no, I console myself by telling myself that quinoa is a whole protein & vow to remember to cook some chickpeas in advance** or at least stock up on canned for next time.

In the last 3 minutes of cooking, I toss in chopped almonds & raisens. Add salt & pepper. Devour quickly because I am starving & it tastes fantastic. Put some in a container for lunch tomorrow (it is equally as amazing cold) before digging in for seconds.

*I probably got distracted which is why I feel like the chopping is usually frantic. If you aren’t easily distracted, chop at a normal pace. Either way, watch your fingers.

**Use dried chickpeas. Dump any amount into the Crockpot & cover with 3 inches of water. Cook for 3 hours.  Let cool before refridgerating.

RePERpoSING Mondays

A case of the Mondays… it happens to everyone.

He would certainly cure my case of the Mondays

I often get a little cranky pants at the beginning of a new week. I think it is because I love my weekends so much. I like work a lot, but I love cooking all Sunday afternoon, going on day trips, running in the middle of the day, and sleeping in late. Monday means I need to take a hiatus from these beloved activities for 5 days… and it means that there is a list of to-dos waiting for me. In order to get my week off to a great (& controlled) start, I started incorporating a ritual that I picked up from Erin at When I get to work, I sit down with a pad of paper & my calendar & run through these questions:

  • What calls, meetings, luncheons, parties, and travel do I have on my schedule that have set times and locations?
  • What deadlines do I need to meet?
  • What actions do I need to take to meet those deadlines?
  • What additional tasks do I also wish to accomplish this week?
  • What reminders for future actions do I need to set on my computer when I get back to my desk?
  • When am I most productive?
  • When am I least productive?

When I first saw this post, I immediately printed out the questions & laminated them. When I am having a hectic week, I refer to the list that I generated on Monday. If I am still feeling frazzled, I refer back to my laminated sheet to see which question illuminates something in my life that is throwing off my feng shui (typically it is in the last two questions where I find my answer). I can take the laminated sheet home if I need to (or carry it around in my purse like a safety blanket every now & then), but typically it lives in my desk at work.

Going through this list at the beginning of the week helps me keep my sanity & ensures that I make time for important things, like a run in, or making sure I know everything I need to do to complete a project at work.  And it nips my case of the Mondays right in the bud when I know I have a great week & upcoming weekend planned!

Happy Monday!

Write to Learn: On Leadership from Professor Sir Liam Donaldson

I had the opportunity yesterday to hear Professor Sir Liam Donaldson speak twice.  In the morning, Sir Liam spoke at Grand Rounds on “Patient Safety: Progress and Dilemmas” in his role as a World Health Organization (WHO)leader on Patient Safety & in the afternoon, he spoke about leadership, policy, and health in a talk titled “Public Health Policy: Reflections on H1N1 and tobacco control in the UK” reflecting on his career in management in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

Here is a brief background on Sir Liam Donaldson (taken from a University email).

Prof. Sir Liam Donaldson is the Chair of WHO’s Patient Safety Program and Chairman, National Patient Safety Agency, England and Wales and former Chief Medical Officer for the United Kingdom.

Under the leadership of Prof. Sir Liam Donaldson, the WHO Patient Safety Program has grown from a small initiative within WHO’s Health Systems activities to a robust global advocacy program embedded within the scientific community with activities in over 140 countries and all six regions of the World Health Organization.  As the former Chief Medical Officer for England, in his capacity, Sir Liam advised the Secretary of State for Health, the Prime Minister and other government Ministers. Prof. Sir Liam has authored landmark reports aimed at radically transforming important areas of health care in England and globally.

A little picture to break up all this text.... Meet Liam Donaldson

It is always nice to listen to a speaker who is intelligent, humble, funny, and passionate about his/her work, regardless of the field, but I get especially jazzed & inspired when it is a leader in quality & safety.  The concepts & topics that Sir Liam covered aren’t new, but I always enjoy hearing them again & thought I would share a short synopsis here.

In the afternoon seminar, we talked about the role of leadership in management, specifically in the health care delivery system, but I think the lessons are applicable in any field.  In his experience as Chief Medical Officer in the NHS, hospitals did the best when management (non-clinicians) like doctors & were interested in learning about how clinical practice worked.  The hospitals that were in the worst shape  (as a work environment, not clinically) fell into 2 categories: managment was scared of the docs or management thought they knew better than the docs (maybe a little bit of hubris in the managerial ranks?).  Sir Liam reflected that when there is an “us” versus “them” mentality, it is bad for improvement and bad for quality & safety.

I think this is universally true of any field, institution, or community. When we believe that we are all on the same team working towards the same goal, there is an environment in which progress can occur. Recognition that we have many similarities, yet acknowledging there are things we don’t know, can go a long way in creating relationships and effecting change.  Showing humilty and a willingness to reach across the divide to understand is the greatest management & human skill that we can hope to achieve. If the goal is to make our health care, hospitals, schools, or communities safer & better, we can do it without  creating these connections, but the change will be short lived & shallowly rooted.

We also talked a great deal about communication, another subject dear to my heart.  You can have the best idea in the world, but if you cannot communicate effectively, no one will care.  Alternatively, you can have the worst idea in the world, and if you are a great (or even just a good one) communicator, people will pick it up & run with it. You have to be an excellent communicator to combat all the stupid in the world (or even just some of the stupid).

Sir Liam gave four pieces of advice. First, simplify complex ideas into simple & direct statements. Second, be as open & honest as possible (read: answer the question asked). Then, seek out opportunities to communicate. By seeking out opportunities, you can practice your delivery, but most importantly, you can make mistakes when the spotlight isn’t on you. Last, learn to package your idea so that it has the maximum influence. He told a story of walking into someone’s office with 5 pictures of young children that had been killed in the UK due to medical errors & simply laying each picture 1 by 1 on the person’s desk. The recipient was confused…. “What’s all this? Who’s kids are these? Who are are these children?” Sir Liam simply stated something along the lines of ” These are 5 children we’ve killed in the last 2 years [due to medical errors]” and 10 minutes later he was walking out the door with money for more patient safety work. Maximum impact for maximum results.

It was a pleasure to hear Sir Liam talk & I thank him for sharing such wonderful insight with us. It is alwasys a treat to be re-invigorated through someon else’s passion & to learn important life & career lessons at the same time.

Why blog?

I have 2 selfish reasons for wanting to blog.  Since this is one of the few times I am not out to save the world or at least accomplish a self-evident & altruistic goal, I thought I should elaborate on this undertaking.

1. I need to be a better writer. The only way for be to become a better writer is to write. It takes about 10,000 hours of practice to get reasonably good at a skill.  Since I am not currently writing loads of papers or email correspondance, blogging is a good place to hone my skills. Plus once I need to start writing loads of papers, I want to be a writing ninja already.

2. I really want to stay better connected to my friends & family. Blogging is one outlet for them to take a peek into the current goings ons of the epersing clan.  Even if they don’t check in here at rePERpoSING, I can still share links to commonly used recipes or tips…thereby decreasing the number of times I have to write up & lose copies of favored dishes after potlucks.

Other far busier, far more important people have commented on the question “Why blog?” and I agree with their logic. You can read 2 great posts here from Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel & writer of runningahospital, & Matt Might, professor and academic blogger.

In summary, blogging here is designed to be an efficient mode of communication, a way to store information that I am likely to share (or accecss at a later date from “the cloud”), and a tool to hone my skills.  Now if I could just figure out a way to improve my nunchuck skills, my bowstaff skills, and my computer hacking skills……