Thursday, September 29, 2011

A year as co-chair

After 3 years on the arts council as a very active member, I thought last summer I should take a turn helping out in an officer role. The existing chair said she was agreeable to sharing the chair position as co-chairs, and I hoped to make progress in that position towards improving our transparency, our visibility, and our external communication. In retrospect, I should have realized there might be trouble ahead when she unilaterally postponed the officer elections for a month.

The work was not easy (more on that below), but I feel good about some of the work I was able to do. For transparency, I put a couple of years of past meeting minutes online, and helped our recording secretary start posting new meeting minutes online. This past summer, I started posting meeting agendas there as well. Our visibility efforts were certainly helped by a program we nominated winning a statewide award. I designed a billboard about the award, and arranged with the city to have that added to the rotation on two electronic billboards along Route 93 for several weeks last spring. I also wrote a detailed guide to the postcards project that I created in 2010, and put that guide on our website. That allowed the state cultural council, which was extremely supportive of the project, to promote it further to other local cultural councils. I led the arts council into joining a new and very active coalition of local arts organizations and served as our liaison to the coalition for the year. The coalition is putting on a city-wide festival of events this fall, which we provided the seed grant for.

I feel my biggest success this past year was advocating for including public art in the city’s new 7-year open space plan. After I spoke at a public meeting about the plan and got a little coverage by local media, the city added questions about public art to a survey about priorities for the open space plan. I got the arts council and local arts groups to ask their friends and supporters to participate in the survey, and in the end a survey which the city was expecting would have a couple dozen responses got a couple hundred responses instead. The responses showed enthusiastic support for including public art in the open space plan and no significant opposition.

The council made a huge conceptual leap forward this past year in planning our first-ever fundraiser. When I joined the council and started advocating for raising funds, the idea met with a lot of resistance. Now that there are new faces, including at least one who is very interested in fundraising, the idea has had time to percolate and it was just a matter of a lot of hard work by a couple of other people on the council. I’m delighted that we’re now willing to raise funds, and impressed at the success of our fundraiser ($1500 raised). I’m also gratified to see someone else on the council leading a significant project from conception to completion.

All was not a success, though. My co-chair fought me tooth and nail the entire year, doing her best to sabotage or stall everything I suggested. She refused to reply to my emails or phone calls, and in fact refused to ever discuss how we should divide our responsibilities other than to say that she didn’t like my suggested division. That left me with no idea of what my responsibilities actually were, no idea what tasks I didn't have to worry about, no way to lead the council forward, and far too much time wasted on one-way communication. I have no real experience working with people like that, and it took me almost 6 months to realize that the situation was hopelessly broken. I decided to remain co-chair for the rest of the year, because that was at least useful in communicating with the world outside of the council.

Another council member volunteered to take over the postcards project for 2011, stalled for several months, and then vanished without ever putting out a call for art. After doing my best to create an easily sustained annual project (complete with detailed instructions), it looks like that was just an absurdly successful one-off. And I wasn’t able to recruit anyone on the council into posting news regularly to our blog or facebook account.

My year as co-chair ended as it began, with a postponed officer election. I’m back to being a regular member now, a little sadder and wiser. My co-chair has reclaimed her throne, has begun actively advocating for identity politics on the council (an attitude I find absolutely repugnant), and appears determined to avoid publicizing our state-mandated grant application deadline. As I said, all was not a success. My energies are needed elsewhere, however.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hot or not?

On a hot air duct in our basement:

Which director is filming your life?

David Vos:
Next Thursday, our attic insulation will be replaced. I talked to the contractor who installed the insulation wrong 10 years ago, and he explained his mistake and made prompt arrangements to correct the problem.

Frank Capra:
Next Thursday, our attic insulation will be replaced. I talked to the contractor who installed the insulation wrong 10 years ago, but he said he wouldn’t come look at the problem he caused. So I called another insulation contractor, who came out a few days later to take a look at the work required, explained our options, and gave us a quote for a reasonable amount of money.

Ken Burns:
Next Thursday, our attic insulation will be replaced. After numerous phone calls and an office visit, I finally talked to the contractor (MS) who installed the insulation wrong 10 years ago. He stalled for a while and passively refused to even come look at the problem he caused. So I started making phone calls and checking websites, since the work could in theory be done by an insulation contractor, a pest removal company (since they often have to deal with the collateral damage), or a general contractor. Several companies never answered their phones or promised return phone calls that never happened. Several others said that it isn’t work they do and offered no referral to anyone who could do the work. Two energy auditors said that the current situation is a huge problem and threw up their hands. The company with the informative website (BG) replied that they were essentially out of business. One (GB) scheduled a meeting and never showed up. One (GD) looked and said he wouldn’t do it. Two (WC and ATH) looked and promised an estimate that never came. Three companies (GW, PI, and JB) actually scheduled meetings, showed up, and gave us estimates. While it took two weeks and five phone calls to arrange the meeting with JB, they were the only ones who discussed what the right approach would be, listened to our requirements, and gave us a detailed enough estimate to assure us we would end up with what we wanted. We’ll still need to find someone to hang drywall, but we can live for a while with just the FSK paper that they’ll install over the fiberglass batts. So after seven weeks, dozens of phone calls, and nine different meetings with people looking at the attic, we finally got three quotes and accepted the only detailed one.

James Ivory:
Next Thursday, our attic insulation will be replaced. Our housekeeping staff had noticed that the work needed to be done, and of course made all the necessary arrangements. We wrote a check for a perfectly reasonable amount of money, thanked the nice people who did the work, and did not let some silly subplot distract us from the real drama of our lives.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This week on The Death of Rosetta

Apple: We’ll sell you a laptop with System 10.6.8 installed.
Me: Great! Here’s my money.
Apple [after a week]: Here’s your laptop.
Me: This laptop has System 10.7.
Apple: Right! Don’t you love it?
Me: No.
Apple: Well, you should. Do you want to buy System 10.6.8?
Me: No, I already paid for that.
Apple: Too bad, so sad.
Me: [Several bad words.]
Apple: We’ll mail you System 10.6.8.

[Three weeks pass.]

Apple: Here’s System 10.6.3.
Me: This is the wrong version; it can’t boot my laptop.
Apple: Right! Don’t you love it?
Me: No.
Apple: Well, you should.

[Scene shifts to Apple Store.]

Me: Please install System 10.6.8 on this laptop.
Apple [entire Genius Bar suddenly gathers around and bursts into chorus mode]: We can’t! We won’t! The computer will catch on fire! The build number won’t allow it! Apple put in secret hardware that will break the old system! Our corporate policies won’t allow it! We don’t have any install discs! Downgrades are the work of the devil!
Me: Please install System 10.6.8 on this laptop.
Apple: Let me consult our secret database. [Several minutes of pretend typing.] Well, since this computer actually shipped with 10.6 in a previous life, we can try.
Me: Do or do not. There is no try.
Apple: Here’s your laptop back with System 10.6 installed!
Me: Was that really so hard?
Apple: Have you tried System 10.7? You’ll love it!

Join us next week on The Death of Rosetta, as Michael attempts to explain to the IRS why it’s ok with Apple that none of his old financial records are readable.

The steps may change