Under the Influence

I have always liked old buildings. On vacations I usually seek out old house museums. My home is almost a century old (the original part, anyway, which is only two rooms). I love that high-tech companies are putting their offices into old lofts and industrial buildings. So when I learned that Christopher Gray, who writes about architectural history for the New York Times, was speaking at a local historic preservation organization, I went.

After Gray’s talk I got into a conversation with a woman who is a regular member of the group. She said it was nice to see a “young person” like me (this was several years ago; I was still in my 30s) attending an event in person. It seemed to her that many young people spent too much time with “this new Internet thing.” Then she asked how I’d heard about the event.

“I read about it on the society’s website.” Her face fell.

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How to Fail Well

There’s a natural human desire to avoid failing. If we care enough to do something, we want to do it right. Admitting failure hurts.

I’ve made enough mistakes in my life to have learned something: not just individual lessons learned from particular mistakes, but a big picture sense of how to recognize when things aren’t going well. I haven’t completely mastered the art, but I’m willing to share what I know—after all, I’ve learned so much from others’ mistakes that it’s time I shared my own lessons.

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Is Twitter a Virtual Soap Box or Town Hall?

I was one of those who delayed joining Twitter because I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about. 140 characters? That’s not enough to say anything, is it? After all, I’d sometimes found the 2,000 character limit of a Blackberry e-mail message restrictive—and I had not embraced IM or text messaging as anything except a quick way to exchange a few words with colleagues when all else failed. (Emphasis on that part about “when all else failed.”)

Then I attended a presentation by Bonnie McEwan at the Foundation Center‘s New York library. She talked about various social media platforms, but it was her recommendation about Twitter that made me reconsider it. “It’s important to tweet what you are thinking, not what you are doing.” I mulled it over and a few days later I signed up for a Twitter account. (On the same day I registered this WordPress blog, because I knew there would be times when 140 characters wouldn’t be enough.)

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Abilities

Yesterday I attended a TEDxWomen event in New York City. With a group of other women (and a few men) I watched a full day of TED Talks by and about women—and by a few exceptional men. I wanted to blog about it, but it was too much to put together overnight. Eventually I’ll write about the day, either singly about some of the Talks or collectively about the event. But the penultimate Talk has inspired me to tell a different story.

The next to last speaker was Caroline Casey, a woman who lived the first seventeen years of her life not knowing she is legally blind. Somehow her parents were able to make her believe she could do anything that any of her fully sighted friends and classmates could do.

I happened to attend a college that had an unusually high number of disabled students. Once upon a time, before the Americans with Disabilities Act, Marist College built most of it classroom and dormitory buildings to be wheelchair accessible. After a while it became background. The first time I saw a student who had no arms in the cafeteria, it was a shock. After a while, it became routine. One night in the campus pub he beat me at a video game. Still later, I realized there were students with disabilities that were not visible.

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