Micromanaging

You know the situation. There’s a job that needs doing. You have a picture in your head about how it should be done but you don’t want to do it yourself. So you give it to someone else and they do it ALL WRONG.

This is what happened to me yesterday. I’ll tell you the story.

I am a member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. The RACI is 100 years old this year so we’re trying to do all kinds of interesting things to celebrate and our Chair has come up with a great idea – 100 reactions in 100 days (here’s our first one: RACI 100 Reactions in 100 Days #1). The idea is that we (we being chemists all over Australia) create small YouTube videos describing a reaction of some sort. We need 100 of these videos so we are reaching out to all sorts of people to have a go. Starting with us here in Tasmania, and that means me.

Now, DS has made some really fun YouTube videos on a whim. They are called Caleb “Cooks” and I encourage you to look them up if you want a laugh. So I said that I could provide a video and I decided that DS should be the actual person to do this.

We don’t actually have a chemistry lab in our house (though believe it or not, I know a family that does) but I knew a cool experiment that can be done with red cabbage and various household chemicals (vinegar, bicarb, dishwashing detergent – they are all chemicals). So I suggested (strongly) to DS that he do that experiment and do a video for me. He was happy to comply.

DH and I decided to go out for lunch yesterday and as we left, DS was happily story-boarding his ideas and coming up with a good video of the purple cabbage experiment. He said he’d do the recording while we were gone. I thought that was a great plan.

We had a delightful drive, a delicious seafood lunch at the Inn at Kettering overlooking the yachts in the harbour, a delightful drive back. The weather was gorgeous – sunny but not too hot. We were peaceful and in accord with one another and we felt like we’d had a micro-holiday.

When we got home the scene was slightly different: the house stank of cabbage, the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it, there were bowls and cups everywhere and there were two more whole red cabbages being put through our Kenwood juicer (one whole cabbage having already received this harrowing treatment).

This is not what I had planned!

When I have performed this experiment I have made the purple cabbage juice by cutting up the cabbage and then pouring hot water over it. DS made the juice by using a juicer which provided a much deeper purple colour.

I would have poured some juice into a few glasses, added the different chemicals, and watched the colour change. I was actually a bit worried that DS’s juice was so strong that there wouldn’t be any colour change at all. I was concerned that he was doing it all wrong and I was severely tempted to step in and change things.

But I held back. I took my books and computer downstairs and I tried not to worry. I could hear the video being made and the first two times DS poured chemicals in to the cabbage water there was no change in colour. I got more worried. I even snuck back upstairs and peaked in through the doorway, ready to give my advice if it was needed.

But the third chemical – vinegar – did what it was supposed to do. The purple cabbage juice changed colour to become pink. I was relieved. I went back downstairs, stopped listening, and left him to it.

I haven’t seen the final video yet. I will post it when it’s done. But I had a chat to DS after he had cleaned up all of the mess in the kitchen and this is what he told me, ‘It felt a bit boring Mum. I looked for other reactions to do but they were all a bit boring too. So I made it big so that it would be more fun.’ And I’m sure it will be. It definitely looked more fun than my idea.

If I had made the video, or made the process my process, then all of the reason for asking DS to do it would have been lost. We would have lost the joy, kept it safe, and kept it boring.

By allowing him full creative control the process was messier, true, but so much more fun. And mess can be cleaned up. And yes, DS did clean the mess up, basically by himself. There are consequences to our actions and we need to deal with that.

I think sometimes we lose a lot of joy in life by trying to retain control over processes that we should leave in other people’s hands.

Take from this what you will.

Here is the link to the finished video:

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Death at the high school

Oh it sounds like I’m introducing you to my first novel! I’m not. That one’s still a little ways off yet.

Instead I want to tell you of a tragedy that occurred recently at my son’s high school. Ok, so maybe I’m being a bit ‘tongue in cheek’ – just a little over dramatic. Alright, seeing as you’re pushing me, the story is about a goldfish.

Here’s how it went down:

In the tech class two of the students were making interesting goldfish bowls. They decided that it would be fun to buy a class goldfish and keep it in the common room. They used the goldfish bowl made from a gum ball machine and hence the fish was named ‘Gummy’.

The year 12 class became quite attached to little Gummy. They decided that if he survived to the end of the year he would some how be part of the Thanksgiving Service – the graduation ceremony for the grade 12s.

Then one day, things went wrong!

DH (a teacher at that self same school) was on playground duty when a student raced up to him, ‘I need the key to the store room! We need the other fish tank!’

The gum ball fish tank had struck a leak and poor Gummy’s life was in danger!

Fortunately, DH had the key to the store room and the crisis was averted. The new fish tank was installed and Gummy was installed in the new fish tank, with no loss of health (as far as we know).

Life went on as usual, homework was completed, games of werewolf were noisily played around Gummy’s new home. Students sat and poured out their troubles to his open ears. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating there.

But last Monday, when the students arrived back at school after the weekend, the tragedy had occurred. Gummy was no more.

What were they to do? How to commemorate their little friend?

Now this part I’m not making up. These were actually the suggestions made by students for Gummy’s funeral:

  • Cremate him in the microwave.
  • Cook him in the toasted sandwich maker.
  • And, (get this), make fish soup and pass around the cup so that everyone can have a sip! Yuck!!

But sense prevailed.

One of the students made a tiny black coffin in his free lessons and Gummy was buried in the flower garden with full honours. Two students gave eulogies (I wish I was there to hear what they said) and then each person attending the funeral put a tiny pinch of dirt onto the tiny teensy coffin in the teeny weeny grave. Gummy was gone, but he wouldn’t be forgotten.

Unfortunately, as far as we know, no-one had taken any photos of the little fish, so there’s no way that a memorial can be published in the school magazine.

I tell you something though – these students heal fast! Yesterday DS told me that there were now two new goldfish swimming in the little tank. They’ve been named Jaws, and Bear Gills, and we shall see whether they will make it to the end of the year, to graduation, and maybe even into the school magazine.

Algebra and miso soup

This afternoon I was tutoring a high school student in algebra. Now, DH tutors as well, and I had seen him use a fantastic example to explain that 3(x + y) = 3x + 3y so I thought I’d try it out myself.

The example goes like this: Suppose we are at the footy as you decide to have a pie and coke. And I want a pie and coke as well. So you go and buy two pie and coke. That is, two (pie and coke). That means that you get two pies and two cokes. So 2(pie and coke) = 2pie and 2coke.

It worked really well for his student. That kid went ‘oh yeah! I get it! Two pie and coke!’ and the lesson was learned and everyone was content.

So I thought I’d give it a go this afternoon for my student, who is learning the same thing. My student is in grade 9, she has the longest, sparkliest nails I’ve ever seen And she tells me that when she wants to memorise something she writes it out and sticks it to the mirror. “I spend a lot of time looking at the mirror” – it shows. Her makeup is perfect.

I say to her “imagine we’re at the footy together” we both imagined and then I said “yes, I know, it’s just never going to happen, but anyway, IF we were at the footy and I said to you let’s get a pie and coke…”

“Diet coke” says she

“Right, two pies and diet coke”

She says, “I’m vegan, I don’t eat pie.”

Right.

“Sushi” she says “we could have sushi and diet coke. Only not coke, miso soup. Coke doesn’t go with sushi, we need to have miso soup”

Sometimes I find tutoring a very complex activity…