Who Has Unconscious Bias?

The short answer to that question is: all of us. Bias is normal for humans, and there’s no way to eliminate it; it’s part of being human. There are, by the way, both positive and negative biases (we are biased toward the kinds of people who most resemble you or share your beliefs, while people who don’t fit into our ideas of “normal” often engender negative biases). Anyway, I’m not here to write a book about bias (go here for more info). I just want to make it clear that there’s no way to get around having unconscious biases, because all of us can’t be aware of everything that’s influencing us or we’d be bombarded by thoughts. Our unconscious biases are part of what led humans to succeed (being biased against funny-looking strangers probably saved a lot of past people).

The tattoo bias is one that comes up a lot in these trainings. Image by  @noralynepo58 via Twenty20.

Why I’m thinking about this today is that I have been helping out with a diversity and inclusion initiative at my job. One of the things I said I’d do was evaluate some potential training courses on unconscious (or implicit) bias. There’s nothing this old instructional designer likes better than evaluating online training, so I was happy to do so.

I went through two different courses. In one of them, the presenter repeated so many times that unconscious bias is normal that I’m pretty sure THAT is seared into my unconscious. But I see why they did that: you don’t want people feeling guilty or that they’re a bad person for having them. That first course reminded me that I’ve been reading a lot about unconscious bias in the books about race in the US, so I was feeling all good about myself. The course encouraged me to write down biases that might pop up into my head while I was learning, and sure enough a big ole list started growing.

The second training was more scientific than the first, and I enjoyed that. It also had some exercises in identifying bias that I really enjoyed. Sure enough, I have a bias toward males in certain roles (science rather than art). And I totally messed up another exercise that proved the same thing. These results make a good point, that many of us retain biases that aren’t even in our own self-interest, thanks to cultural traditions, media depictions, etc.

Am I Biased?

Heck yeah, I’m biased. Some of them I’m more conscious of than others, because, like the trainings pointed out, by introspection and careful observation, you CAN see some of your biases and make an effort to mitigate them in the workplace (and beyond). Also, by actually exposing yourself to members of groups you have an unconscious bias toward, you can start to see each person as an individual, rather than a group member. I’m eternally grateful for linguistics classes and factory jobs for exposing me to people outside my in-group and letting me see them for themselves.

Here are a few biases I’ve made an effort to work through, and how I think I got them:

  • People with tattoos (blame my mom)
  • Muslim men (blame a long string of horny married men in college/grad school)
  • Black people (blame growing up in the South in the 60s)
  • Fraternity members (blame college)
  • Smokers (also blame my late mother, who died of lung cancer)

I’m not saying I’ve eliminated my biases, but I know they are there, and now I can make a conscious effort to treat people as people. I’ve benefited from this a lot. Now the bias is just a twinge, which I acknowledge and move on really quickly.

How many irrational Suna negative biases are in this photo? A bunch. Will they affect my hiring practices? Nope. Image by @zelmabrezinska via Twenty20.

Now, other biases I wrote down I have a harder time with. As I wrote them down, I could readily see that some of these are really silly. I also can see where some of the biases are based on bad experiences, formed in self defense, and related to safety (like the Muslim men one, which required many years of meeting Muslim guys who did not try to proposition or assault me or my friends). Here are some silly ones that I need to work on. I have biases against people:

  • With strong body odor
  • With dirty hair
  • With tongue piercings
  • With poor dental hygiene
  • From New York (rudeness)
  • From California (constant bragging)

Who speak or write with poor grammar in formal/business settings (as opposed to cultural identity things like Tex Mex or Black English, which don’t bother me, or informal slang)

Mom also said that wearing curlers in public was trashy. How 60s.

A lot of these look to me like things my mother would have said denote “low class,” and I got it drilled into me that no matter what I did, I was not to appear like “white trash” (Mom’s words). This verifies that biases against “out” groups from your childhood are hard to get rid of, even in the face of experiences that prove them wrong. The New York and California things are based on personal experiences, and I know perfectly well they are stereotypes. They are just very sticky to me. Do you have any like that?

Biases That Protect

A couple of the biases I wrote down are pretty obviously based on protecting myself from negative consequences (real or imagined). For example, I am biased against narcissists, and that’s based on how I’ve seen friends treated and how hard these people are to eliminate once they attach themselves to you. Now, narcissists can’t help being who they are, since it’s a mental illness. And I need to not treat them differently in the workplace, but I’ll avoid them in personal relationships as much as I can, to protect me. Do you avoid people with certain personality types?

Here’s a negative bias I plan to work very hard to get rid of. I hope this goes both ways. We’re all citizens of the same country and want the best for our families.

While I’m being honest, I’ll admit to being biased against people who display giant Trump flags on their property or pick-up trucks. In my mind, I see them as the radical types who actually believe I have an agenda to take away their rights or force them to have an abortion. That’s probably not true of most of them. But, thanks to the media and reading comments on social media, this one is stuck within me. Note, however, that I am perfectly capable of working with, finding commonalities with, and even living with people who voted differently from me. How about you?

While waiting to give birth to my first child, I edited this book. I removed the word “basically” about 897 times. I did get a Society for Technical Communication award for it.

The final self-protection bias is one I am working really, really hard to get rid of, but it’s sort of funny. You see, I once worked for the great Stephen Wolfram, who is a certified genius with a heart of gold, but at least as a younger man was hard to work for. There was an incredible amount of berating, cursing, odd demands, and eccentricities to negotiate (I could write a book, but I won’t; we both have fond memories of each other…now). The thing is, he had a particular English accent based on where he was born and educated. Coincidentally, one of my coworkers at Planview has the exact same accent, being from the same area. So, every time this other person talks, I hear Wolfram. Everything that person says sounds like a criticism or a put-down (it doesn’t help that sometimes it IS that), but I have to make a huge effort to separate the two of them. My Wolfram PTSD is not doing me any favors!

I wrote this. It was very funny at the time. From Stephen’s website.

I wonder how many of us deal with biases like that? I’d love to hear some stories.

In any case, there’s no doubt in my mind that my biases that popped into my head are just scratching the surface and that there are many more hiding down deep in the recesses of my subconscious, helping me make judgments quickly, but not necessarily fairly. Acknowledging them is a good start, as long as it’s followed by making the effort to eliminate them in important business activities like hiring, reviewing, and such. I’m on it.

PS: I just ran across an article that provides some great ways to open up conversations with people toward whom you may have negative biases. Check it out!

Let’s Knit a Rainbow

I get up really early here, since meetings start at 7 in this time zone. That leaves me plenty of time to get in a workout and then knit. So, as soon as I finished the table runner, I started something else.

Can you spot the finished runner?

You may recall that I bought more yarn on Sunday.

The yarn

I looked around for something to make, and found a scarf pattern that used a simple garter stitch and slip stitch pattern. The best thing about it is that both the front and back are attractive, thanks to the magic of garter stitch stripes.

Here’s the front. a November rainbow.

The colors really look like autumn, don’t they? And the slip stitches are a cute touch.

The back is a stripey rainbow.

You’ll be relieved to know it won’t be a rainbow when I am done. It’s going to be a wrap of some kind, depending on how long it ends up. I have 6 skeins of yarn, three of each color, so it will be substantial, I hope.

Since it’s inexpensive (not cheap!) Red Heart yarn with no dye kit on the brown, I could probably get more if I need to. We’ll see!

This yarn is easy on my hands, so I can go faster than the thick linen stitch of the runner let me. What’s best? I’m letting myself knit something easy so my mind can rest. I’ve lost my drive to make complicated things!

Want to Make One?

Grab a few skeins of a solid and a self-striping worsted weight yarn that contrast or blend (mine blend). Get your favorite needles. I use size 6. You may want 8.

Cast on 150 stitches. I used a knitted cast on. Knit 2 rows in the solid color. Then use this pattern:

1. K2, *P1, K4* until last 3 stitches, P1, K2.

2. K2, * slip 2 with yarn in back, K4* to last 3 stitches, slip 1 with yarn in back, K2.

Change yarns every other row, carrying the unused yarn up the side.

End on solid color, K 2 rows, bind off.

I found the stitch pattern on “Striped Delight” by Marni Farniere. Search for it on Ravelry for two scarf ideas.

Carry on.

I Actually Knitted a Thing

It turns out I didn’t forget how to knit after all! I’ve had a hard time getting going since we’ve had all these lap dogs. All those precious toenails that I miss very much are hard on delicate projects.

But, as I’ve been sharing recently, sitting here for two weeks with no pets let me make a thing! It’s a linen stitch table runner, I’ve decided.

Suggested use of knitted object.

It’s a combination of two self-striping sock-weight yarns, so no section is the same. One yarn is Noro Silk Garden Sock and the other is a Noro cotton blend whose name I forgot.

Pre-blocking. A bit lumpy.

How did I make it? I cast on 51 stitches and knit in linen stitch holding both strands of yarn together until I ran out. I used a size 5 (US) needle, but 6 would have been better, I think. Ha. That’s a pattern, right?

One thing I have noticed is that my normally consistent gauge (number of stitches per inch) is not so great. I guess not knitting every day and getting a bit o’ arthritis have taken a toll. That’s why I made something so simple with the yarn Laura sent me—it’s good practice!

Since my whacky stitching and a couple of mistakes (also not like my former persnickety knitting drive for perfection) made the runner a bit lumpy, I went ahead and blocked it.

Blocking. A bit better.

For those of you who don’t knit or crochet, blocking means you wet the fabric, smooth it out, and let it dry. By stretching, you can make lace stretch out and get rid of slight unevenness in other fabric, especially animal fibers like wool.

We’re just gonna have to see how the runner dries out. Regardless, I’ll put it on the dining table in Austin, because Anita likes it.

Aww, this takes me back to my old knitting blog days (yep, I wrote about knitting for years, but I’ll spare you a link). Back to general yammering tomorrow.

Olypmic Park Dog Gymnastics

Today was the last day for my second batch of visitors, but we decided to go have lunch before they left. We went back to the restaurant in Park City where I met the nice server who saved my phone, because Kathleen wanted to get a t-shirt for their Polygamy Stout.

I just pictured peace, quiet, and a raven while the drunken child went on and on.

They didn’t have any shirts the right size, but we did try the beer, and it was good. All the food was delicious, though the visit was marred by some rich, drunk kids yelling. They kept shushing the loudest one, and I swear it would have just been more fun to listen to him go on and on.

I mentioned that I’m almost out of yarn and would probably need to Uber to the local Michael’s to get something else to knit on (yes, I am capable of knitting with inexpensive yarn, if I must). Kathleen said they’d take me before they left, so off we went. Wow, the regular shopping center outside of town was hardly recognizable for the tweeness of the signs and mountain-y style. Best Buy looked its best, that’s for sure.

That’s the shopping center, off in the distance.

I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, but did get two contrasting colors to make the scarf pattern I found, but larger, as a wrap. Chris was really impressed by giant skeins of self-striping bulky yarn, and I saw a nice slip-stitch afghan pattern on the label, so I said I’d make him one if he selected the yarn. That would be a fun gift, right? I still have a thing to finish at home, so I need to get back in the groove and find some way to protect knitting from the dogs.

Inexpensive yarn for something to sit under and watch television.

As we were leaving, we realized that the Olympic Park from the 19th Winter Olympics was right across from the shopping center. So, since we happened to be there, we checked it out. The views were spectacular from the venue, and it was really fun to see where all the ski events took place.

We didn’t have time to see the museums or anything, but the outsides were pretty.

On our way back down, we passed lots of hiking trails just full of people, since the weather is well above freezing today. Then we saw dogs, lots of dogs. We just pulled over to the side of the road and watched at least a dozen very happy dogs on the leashless dog trail.

One dog was on the wrong side of the trail, but did not mind.

There was so much frolicking. They all seemed to get along well, and definitely loved the snow. They ran back and forth, play-bowed and leapt.

Running full speed

One black dog kept jumping into piles of snow and biting at the snow. That particular dog must have run a mile just while we were watching. It was pure joy. I kept picturing Carlton out there with them, except he’d be invisible.

Black dog in its snow pile.

What a great send-off for K. and C.! They decided to drive their rental car back, which meant I could give them some of the stuff I’ve bought, so I won’t have to try to pack it all. I feel like I may have dodged a bullet there. I will not be bringing home all the food they left for me, but I also will NOT need to buy any more restaurant food while I’m here. I’m all set for a week of working by day and relaxing in the evenings.

The weird Coke won’t be left over, however. Not bad.

And now that I figured out how to get my watch to track elliptical workouts, I will be able to keep the exercise up, no matter how bad the weather gets. Today, though, I’m gonna get more walking in.

And Now the Party Starts

Good news! Entertainment has arrived! I’d been expecting a package, so I went down and asked the sweet young man, who obviously just got back from his two-year mission, to look for it. No package. I thought, hmm, that money for overnight shipping was totally wasted!

But, when I finally went back to my room, I saw that there was a message on the phone. I admit it, I never look at actual analog telephones. A perky woman told me I have a package! Well, how about that? Another trip to the lobby (which had been deserted all week, but suddenly has (ugh) people in it. Lo and behold, the package had been right behind the earnest young man. He sure looked embarrassed.

She said, “package” (that was for Mandi).

I knew what was in it, because my friend, (f many, many years) Laura, realized I needed knitting on this long and soon-to-be snow-filled hiatus. She sent me random yarn and some needles!

There were bonuses, too, like needle holders and a darning needle (believe it or not, I needed one, because the scarf I brought with me needs a little repair). And there was a fun bag and a note!

Stuff! Thanks, Laura.

Since I had to stay up a long time waiting for the fun to arrive, I had fun starting what may be the world’s ugliest scarf or table runner. My idea for the pattern is, at least so far, not really pretty. But I’m not giving up on it. It made my obsessive watching of election results that do not change at all much less stressful.

Query to me: why did you start watching results on FRIDAY?

I got over an inch done plus got free exercise winding up the yarn, because my watch thought I was using an elliptical machine. Fooled that watch!

Does it look like barf? Be honest.

Then, suddenly, my cable news reverie was interrupted, and the door to the condo opened. Was it magic? No! It was Anita! I’m no longer vacationing solo. Anita immediately settled in and declared the fireplace good. Relaxation with conversation and wine has commenced.

She’s making a face because she has to look at my bare foot.

I guess today we have to run out in the newly brisk air and have fun before it starts snowing. I’ll be more substantive later. I have been substantive enough the past few days! And the world seems a little brighter!

What’s Up with Renovations?

I haven’t posted a renovation post in a while, have I? That doesn’t mean nothing’s going on! The main improvements have been to the second floor of the Pope house, where we had to expand sooner than expected, thanks to the growth of Hearts, Homes and Hands (a good thing – we sure are thankful to Kathleen and the team for that!).

Our care team now has an office on the second floor, with a great view of trees and the balcony. Meghan has a great command center for scheduling, keeping records, and filing, while there are two other desks for care team members who help her out. It’s hard to believe it’s grown that much since we opened for business last November!

Before we could get that office going, we had to get a nice, strong sub-floor in the upstairs hallway. The next improvement will be to remove the weird kitchen-y room, so people can get to the balcony without going through the future conference room (you know it’s a conference room, because we put the conference table in there).

It’s a good thing that the plumbing was all inspected on the second floor, because that let us set the upstairs bathroom up for the team to use. Right now, it’s functional, but not quite done. When it’s finished, it will be very cute and rustic, to match the theme of the building.

Work in progress!

Those of us who work in the office have really been enjoying all our fall decorations and the atmosphere in the building. I even get to eat lunch in my little break area.

Looking down at the break area and my office.

Hoping you are taking the time to enjoy what you’re doing, right now, and where you are. Take some time to look around. We’re alive, so let’s make the most of that time.

Enjoying my office every day!

Healing Accomplishments

If you know me well, you’re sick of hearing about it, but if you’re an acquaintance or random reader, you might not know that I have had some pretty rough career times, crowned by the last year or two when I was working for a nonprofit breastfeeding support organization, one where I’d met most of my friends, one where I’d learned my web design skills, and one that I had planned to be a member of my whole life, good ole La Leche League.

I became a victim of the “flavor of the moment” in organizational management, and it was painful, very painful. No wonder I have always been suspicious of the latest managerial trends, six sigma, lean, agile…they all seem to try to pigeonhole organizations into their format, even when it doesn’t work.

The Board from last year

But I digress, surprise surprise. You probably do know that a while back (that would be 2018, it appears) I agreed to join the Board of Directors of the little organization for people who used to be in the big organization. I’ve had a lot of fun, got to hang out with people who have grown and changed, just like I have, and come to terms with a lot of “stuff.”

I’ve been making their newsletter since early last year, and it was a challenge to convert it to an online thing, but along with some supportive helpers on the Board and kind contributors, I think I did it, and the little newsletter is turning out pretty good (though I can always use more submissions!). And I lived through issues with the Board. Yay.

A sign I am not a great graphic designer

Sadly, though, membership had been dropping, so fewer and fewer people have been getting the newsletter, even though it’s gotten good reviews (far as I know). Part of that has been that our poor old website had gotten pretty broken, and our attempt at replacing it went SPLAT. It’s hard to join an organization whose e-commerce is not working.

But, I’m so happy now! My friend Susan (who’s visited the ranch) agreed to make us a site on WordPress, so I actually understand it. And she did a great job making it look good AND work well. I feel like my little world of Friends of LLL is all good, at last. Now we just have to tell people, so here I am telling YOU that if you used to be in La Leche League, even if you were hurt, like me, you are very welcome to check out Friends of LLL and come join us. We want to do stuff, but we need people to do it!

This is the new site homepage. WHEEEE

We have been giving “mini-grants” to groups who are trying to help parents and babies in their communities, we still want to plan another nice trip…someday, and we want to find new ways to support each other as we age, and as younger friends join us.

We need YOU! That will help us be US! I’ll be able to share news with all my old and new friends around the world, we’ll stay in touch on Facebook and such, and we will not forget those of us who have passed. As my friend Marian said after looking at the new website, “Now I just have to manage to stay alive as long as possible!”

Join me from November of last year and my happy friends, please!

I’m with her! We all need something healing and fun to keep us going. I’d love for any of my readers who feel like it would join or rejoin Friends of LLL. We ARE friends.

Horticultural Haven

Apparently, it’s well known that I like to have plants in my immediate vicinity. A coworker started a Slack channel to share our plants, because they miss the plants I used to have at my desk (which are now moved to the part of the office farthest from any natural light). But, the coworker was right. I do better with some plants around me. It’s one reason I found working in nothing but basements so hard. Only plastic plants thrive there.

The Pope Residence office does have one window that lets in natural light (yes, the Plant Lady managed to pick the office with the fewest views of the outdoors). That’s where most of my little collection lives.

Motley plant collection in weird lighting.

I’m sure the peace lily is fine in its corner, as long as I water it to death.

Peace lily crawling with scarecrows.

And I do try to supplement the ridiculous amount of fake roses with some real flowers. This tiny vase is perfect for things I find on my walk.

Oxblood lilies, Mexican hats, salvia and come Carolina snailseed.

Today I added what I hope will be a nice addition to the plant collection. I got a kit (yet another buy off The Grommet website, which has way too many Suna-esque products) to grow herbs in wine bottles. The seeds and stuff even came in a box so pretty I can’t throw it away!

The idea is they will grow in the potting medium that appears to be topped with spaghum moss or something, then the roots go down into the water.

Hmm, fascinating.

After planting the seeds, I put the little stickers they provided on the mouth of the bottle, to create a moist environment for germination. We’ll see what happens.

The germination sticker in extreme close-up.

I may not have enough light in this window, since it’s pretty shady in the mornings to mid afternoon. But, it should be a fun project to watch. I’m just happy to have any plants at all.

I have stuff for a third bottle, but I brought a clear one, then saw the instructions called for a dark bottle. I have a whole bunch at home, so that won’t be an issue.

Maybe when there is glass in my internal window rather than the rustic wood covering, I can put something low light on the hypothetical shelves that will be there.

The lamp, fake candles and real candle still don’t make it very bright over there.

Do you have plants in your environment, or would you prefer them outside? I’d like something outside my work window, too, but there’s not much space. At least I see a nice cedar tree!

Arts and Crafts Update

Quick update. My friend Pamela dropped off my finished soap dishes yesterday. I was happy to see how shiny they were, but not overly thrilled with my glaze, as usual. Still, Pamela’s designs are pretty, and they will liven up my bathrooms.

The gold one

The gold one is very bright. The dark parts are what I wanted, but the second gold color looks weird.

Here it is with soap, doing its job.

I’d put my lemon soap in there, but I like the lavender.

I also got a surprise! Pamela makes these little dishes as gifts to our Master Naturalist speakers. I’m glad to have one for all the talking I do at meetings.

I love the swirls on this one.

This one came out more pink than red, because the red was pinkish. Again, I don’t like my accent color. It’s a bit purply. But, I think it will look great in my work bathroom. Too bad I left the dish at home. I remembered the soap, sigh.

And this stuff smells GOOD.

More craft excitement is coming up. I’m gonna do something fun with these three bottles.

Maybe I’ll just clutter up my office more.

Fancy Ranch with Water

It’s been fun to see how our new water lines are going in. Chris sure can drive heavy machinery.

Don’t fill in our dirt!

I’m happy to see a new water spigot for the chickens’ water. The water trough got moved and cleaned, too. Where it is now, the chickens in both pens can drink from it, so I won’t have to maintain separate bowls when I’ve got young or sick ones, like now.

Yep, a faucet. Now it is attached to the water trough, and I’ll get a picture tomorrow.

There’s a faucet for horse washing and other such deeds, then there’s an outlet where a big water trough will be.

Where the trough will be.

Eventually there will be another outlet for separate horse watering. There will be happy animals out here!

The other faucet.

Chris has been out all night trying to finish the job. He’s gonna be tired tomorrow! I sure appreciate the huge improvements!

I’m keeping an eye on him, says the big porch toad.

It turns out he wanted to get the trench covered back up before the rain we expect tomorrow. Smart thinking, but exhausting.