Review: Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World (Hardcover)

“I loved it” is the wrong lead for a book like this; that said, Incarceration Nations is an excellent book, I’m glad I selected and read it, and it has pointed me on the road to much more reading in the field.

I’ve done a tiny amount of Big Sister work at a women’s prison, and it wore me out. I had no theoretical preparation for the work; recidivism in the group we sponsored was 75%. I had no way to process this experience.

“Most” of the people in prison are not vicious psychopaths; most of them will get out, and many of those will have an incredibly difficult time returning to life outside prison. If you are outside the system entirely, reading Incarceration Nations will shift your perspective toward “what works, and what could be useful.” I hate trying to discuss prison reform with people who have absolutely no experience with any part of the system; at least I can send them to this book now. (Won’t help them, any; but it’s still a reference.)

Happiness and the $300 couch

How people think themselves into unhappiness and how to think yourself out of it

I heard a couple talking as I walked around the thrift shop the other day:
“Well that’s an ugly couch. I wouldn’t want that in my home. Holy smokes! They want $300 for that thing? Who’s going to pay $300 for that!  It was donated!  Who are they to put a $300 price tag on something that was donated to them!  They shouldn’t be asking that much money!”

Reasonably clean white couch.  Picture sold separately.

Reasonably clean white couch. Picture sold separately.

For donated couch, it’s pretty clean. I couldn’t have that couch in my own home. It’s white. Our dogs are allowed on the couch and it would be mud colored in no time.

But it’s painful to sit in resentment. It’s draining to know how everyone in the world should be running their business, setting their prices, managing their inventory, and to be unhappy because they didn’t ask me how they should do it. I could see discontent in the speaker’s face. I wondered what she looked like when she was happy. Shift. Get curious.

Try this:

“I wonder who’s going to pay $325 for a used white couch at the thrift shop? What kind of home would that go into?”

“I wonder how long it’ll be here? I wonder if they’ll have to put it on sale? I wonder what it sold for when it was new?” (I haven’t spent more than $50 on a couch in 20 years.)

And there’s the path to working out of unhappy certainty and resentment, into at least a disinterested curiosity. It helps when I can remember that the thrift shop’s business is to raise money for the schools, not to provide low-cost furniture for people who can’t figure out how to use Craigslist and get free couches.

The couch went out on the sales floor on January 19th. I’ll try to remember to look for it next time I visit.

Asking $325; will adjust price if it doesn't sell.

Asking $325; will adjust price if it doesn’t sell.

The price tag is barely visible on the far arm, attached to the arm protector, not the upholstery itself.

I want all the days 

My new year-view planner arrived yesterday and spent the day rolled out on the floor being flattened. Before I went outside to exercise this morning, I pinned it to the door across from my desk, so it would be there when I came back into write.

Now, I’m sitting at my desk, with the calendar in front of me when I look up, and I’m feeling a discomforting yearning.
I want all the days.

Year View planner from Best Self.

Year View planner from Best Self.

I want all the days to be wide-open, unstructured, with the freedom to make art, or write, as much as I want, and I want it to be like this all year. Most of the time, I don’t experience this feeling as acutely as I am experiencing it right now. Most of the time, I don’t look at an entire year at one glance.

Perhaps this is why I have not done a lot of full-year planning before.

A friend of mine says, “you can’t drive all the cars on the highway,” when he talks about road rage. I can’t have “all the days,” not all at once, not all rolled into one.

All I have is today. Even less than that, all I have is this exact moment, 8 a.m., dim light, probably going to be a sunny day but not sure about that yet. That’s why I didn’t edit the photo to make it look any brighter. This is exactly what it looks like right now, at this moment, from my desk.

I think I need to look ahead more than I have been doing. I certainly can’t defend my previous planning exercises based on the results. I believe I am more useful to myself and to my art if I have some moderately clear idea of what I would like to have accomplished within a certain period of time. Certainly, it would be useful to look ahead, and know where my big obligations are coming, so that I can be more ready ahead.

And at the same time, I am not thrilled with this discomforting feeling of wanting to know how the whole year is going to be. Perhaps better planning, which in my case is any planning at all, might make it possible to have more days be the way I love them being: no makeup, no driving, no appointments, lots of art. Still, planning doesn’t solve for one day at a time, and living in the moment, and “hell is wanting to be somewhere else.”  I’m going to cut that header off the calendar.  There is no winning and losing; there is only today, right now.

Incidentally, I do not like the weekends being marked in bright yellow.  They could have been marked in a shade with much much less contrast.  Similarly, the black “day” boxes are illegible, and useless from here.  I can tell Monday; it’s the day after yellow.  Sigh.

I find myself wondering if this is more a planner or a tracker; time will tell how it turns out.



Surprise! Metrics & Leadership are Social Sciences

I’m working on cleaning up blog categories across three websites.  In order to standardize what I write, I’m using the Dewey Decimal system as my guideline.

I’m almost done with the third site; still had to shoehorn posts attributed to either “metrics” or “leadership” into some category, and thought it would be a finer division of 658.8, business, under the 600s, Technology.

Turned to the index.

Leadership is 303.3, Coordination and control (the category I’m using), with several suggested alternatives including armed forces (355.3), public administration (350.007), and local government (352).  That’s more coverage, over a wider range of topics, than “business” gets.

Metrics is 380, Metrology and standardization, the social use of systems of measurement, including time systems and standards.


Ironically, “Taxonomy” is not an index entry in this book.  Classification is 001, and library science is 025.

Review: How Much Should I Charge?

Pricing Basics for Making Money Doing What You Love

Writing this review in part to respond to the person who said the 5-star people must be family members. Not at all. Simply people who perhaps didn’t take a business course in high school (do they have those courses now?), or didn’t understand accounting as it was presented in college, or never thought they would be considering self-employment after 20 years of picking up a paycheck.

After eight years of part-time home business, I have missed grasping the difference between billable hours, overhead costs, and profit. I am most grateful that I had the sense to pick this book up at the library (“doing what you love” caught my eye) and now I am here buying it, and its companion. It took no time at all to read How Much Should I Charge, and perhaps buying it is a waste of money. I get the concept now.

However, I have spent a lot of time not understanding the concept, and I won’t be surprised if the finer points evaporate before I complete all the price-development exercises. I can make $30 back in one adjusted price on a piece of art.

I am envious, perhaps, of people who intuitively understand the relationship between effort and costs and pricing. Those people will waste their time and money with this book. I’m almost tempted, however, to buy in bulk and give copies away as project-end gifts to a number of contractors I know who, like me, flail when it comes to understanding the connection between their work and their income. Their rates may go up, but they will be more likely to stay in business…

How Much Should I Charge?

What now, part 2

What do I know today? Thoughts on the Women’s March

It was much bigger than I expected. Perhaps it was much bigger than anyone expected. Oceans of pink hats around the world, in cities everywhere. Why were Australian women marching to protest Trump? We are upset.

There is a lot of discontent, fear, anger, emotional energy everywhere. We are not happy.

The Trump inauguration did not appear to be a particularly happy event, although I leave that interpretation to other people. If people who support Trump are truly happy about the next four years, it will be interesting to see how their happiness translates into action.

The question for me, and for all of us in the pink hats, is, “how can I be effective now? What do I do next, what do I do now, how do I take this energy and do something in my real life, in the real world, to engage that energy to harness that energy and put it to work?”

I put up a post in Facebook about knitting hats for people. I was surprised about how many women took me up on it. I can be useful. People don’t have someone to knit a hat for them. I can do that.

First pussyhat in progress.

First pussyhat in progress.

On a larger level, I know that I know more about learning, and taking action over time, and making sustained change at a personal level, then many people do. I’ve been doing this stuff for a long time.

I dipped my toe in political action = campaign support this past the election, and my candidates lost their elections. That’s not my arena. I’ll continue to pull signs the day after the elections.  That’s where I can be useful. My friend suggest I take training for Emily’s List. I may, but traditional political action is not my thing. I’m not good at it, I don’t enjoy it, and there are other people who do it better than I do.

I believe we all need to stick to our long suits. I know how to learn, & I know how to stay in the game, and continue in the face of crushing lack of results. I know how minuscule incremental change can appear on a day to day level and how enormously powerful small changes can be when you turn around and look back and see how far you’ve come.

I need to be encouraging women to make these kinds of changes in their own life, and to learn how to find a way to integrate and implement incremental change day after day after day for the next 1460 days.

There’s a nasty, mean joke going around about the Women’s March: Trump got more fat women out walking then Michelle ever did. It’s painful, and its true, and what are we going to do about it? Why will we walk for anger more than health? How can I harness that energy and stay in action day after day after day?



Now What?

5 days into the new world order, and I am beginning to discern a path that might just lead me through this very dark and scary forest. It is possible that we may even be nearing the “end of the beginning,” although that is probably grossly optimistic. There are more shocks to come.

The idiots and mean people have revealed themselves, on both sides; the people screaming about blame, and pretty much anybody who thinks “they” are somehow different from “us,” and because “they did this,” “we” are justified in doing “that,” no matter who you think “they” and “us” are, and whatever “this” and “that” are.

The Buddhists from Lion’s Roar have shared their wisdom, and reminded me to return to the cushion, and pay attention to where my feet are. It feels like exercise isn’t working, and it feels like meditation isn’t working, but that’s a bit like saying sobriety isn’t working, just because I still feel crazy. Meditation is working. The noise between my ears could be worse.

I have found new Facebook groups of like-minded strangers to join. I have joined the corps of women wearing safety pins. I considered whether I could wear a safety pin every day for the next 4 years, and decided I could. And then some people tell me that wearing a safety pin isn’t good enough, and I should be doing something more, and I marvel at our need to tell other people how to live. Democrat firing squads stand in a circle.

I realized I needed to learn a little bit more about civil confrontation, and within 3 hours, Facebook came through with posts from Brexit about how to help people who are being harassed because of their minority status. It was exactly what I needed. I don’t like that I needed it, and yet I give a nod to the God of grace who sent that information to me.

My world is beginning to gel. We are crawling out of our bomb shelters, and sweeping off the stairs, and brushing the dust off each other’s shoulders. Look around, and see who is most vulnerable and most at risk in my circle. Look around, and set into motion decisions to cut ties with some other people. I don’t have the energy to be nice; I can only absorb so much meanness.

Last week, I was saying I just wanted this to be over. I was wrong. “Over” is worse, and it’s far from over. It’s going to get very very much worse before were done. I’m hoping that what we’re experiencing is an extinction burst – that flare-up of bad behavior that happens just as you are about to learn something new. However, an extinction burst for behavior that’s been going on for thousands of years isn’t going to end by January.

A couple weeks before election night, I found out some unsettling details about people I knew in real life. I know a lot of people who have challenging histories, and I like to think of myself as someone who can handle anything, and yet I’m having trouble understanding this particular story. I want to cut these people out of my life. I can’t find a path to understand or forgive the behavior, even though I know it is the consequence of drug addiction, and what they did is what drug addicts do.

Similarly, I don’t know how to understand the people in my world who created the situation through their votes, or through their nonvoting, or through their write-ins. I’ve known some of them for years, and I cannot believe that I completely missed the misogyny and racism and hatred that I logically believe they must harbor if they voted the way they did.*

Are they really happy the Klan is marching in Raleigh tonight?

As far as I can tell, they treat me like an equal to my face, but is the only reason they’re not groping me because I’m so big?

I don’t know about this stuff. Really don’t. I don’t know how to move forward knowing that some of the people I know want to build a wall, or think condoms don’t work, or think being gay can be educated away. I don’t know how I’m going to find a way to talk simply to someone who could not be bothered to vote. I don’t know how to think about it.

I don’t have to solve that one today. For the time being, I can fall back on manners and good behavior, and trust that I will find an answer.

I look around. One friend is planning a new project to teach kids in elementary school about the United Nations. My knitting groups are knitting for peace. I’m sure I’ll hear more in the days ahead.

A few weeks after 9/11, I talked to a journalist from the Wall Street Journal who was writing about how lives have changed as a result of the attack. At that time I knew I had to leave the corporate world and make more art. I did that. And now I know I need to take that art in a new direction.

I can support my friends in their projects. I can be helpful. I can talk about my experience this past week and create space for other people to acknowledge their experience, when their immediate circles are telling them to get over it, and to move on. No one can tell you to move on, although plenty of people do not know this.

What I cannot do is spend four years mired in anger and agitation, getting upset about each new outrage. There will be outrages every day. It’s this administration’s stock in trade. Keep us distracted from our work. Keep us too upset to do our real work.

I have been working in the shorter term over recent years. It has been a long time since I was engaged in something that had a multi-year project plan and a remote deadline. However, I have made long-term changes in my life more than once. I moved from tech to art. I changed my health in 1986 and again in 2014. I know how to do this. I know how to take one step, and another, and another, and simply keep trudging, even if I don’t see tangible progress from one day to the next. Over time, the needle moves.

I know what I know. The world needs my art. Continue with the work I know I need to do. Nothing has changed, except that now it’s even more important.

We have come to treat “Keep calm, and carry on” as a throw-away slogan, almost as a joke. It wasn’t a joke when it saved a country. It was guidance to a nation suffering under daily bombing raids. The Germans counted on the bombs destroying British morale, and were wrong. Instead, the people kept calm, and carried on, and did what they would have done, had that crisis not happened, again and again and again.

That’s what I need to be doing—my work. Keeping calm is not diminishing the shock and horror; it is simply not allowing myself to lose energy uselessly, and instead, channeling my efforts into something tangible, something that might actually make a difference.

Someone said, “turn to books written before Gutenberg,” and there are no end to the references I can find for support in those works:

The I Ching (various translations including Wilhelm and Wing) tells me that the times are shocking (#51):

During sudden changes, adjust your tempo and move ahead, remembering that while conditions may alter, the goal remains the same. The Superior Man double-checks his premises, confronts his weak spots and adheres to the rules and ideals of the Work.

Surviving this terrifying force will give you confidence in your ability to deal with all that follows…. If these times inspire you to make any major changes in your life and your relationships and in yourself you will meet with vitality and success.


Proverbs 3: 25-26

Have no fear of sudden terror or of assault from wicked men, since Yahweh will be your guarantor, He will keep your steps from the snare.

We are called to return to the work, whatever that is. Donald says he wants to drain the swamp; that won’t help people clean off the mud and learn to live in a dry house. I have spent the past 30 years helping people move away from the edge of the swamp.

That’s my garden and I need to cultivate it.

*And so I ask N=1, and he explains how he perceived the events, promises, and rhetoric of the two campaigns, and what he thinks will happen next, and I can at least see the logic. Must. Keep. Talking.




Shopify Traffic

I opened my Shopify store, Karen Tiede Studio, in March. I was pleasantly surprised to log in yesterday and see this message on my dashboard:

Shopify Traffic Message

Shopify Traffic Message

I need to do more research to see if I can find a few more anchor points. I know that half of all the stores that are started, are published (which means that half never make it out of the gate). Shopify tells me today that there are 230,185 stores using the platform.

Stay tuned. There’s an 80/20 analysis waiting to happen around here somewhere.

Knitters Do Math

I had my hula hoops in the infield at the 2016 Clyde Fest, Bynum ballpark, on Saturday. When you’re in a 10 x 10 tent at an event like this, lots of your friends will stop by and talk to you.

I got on the topic of 8020 with one of my friends. He was familiar with rule. He knew how to apply it in politics. I explained how we taught it in the social media class at NC State, using the Pareto principle to evaluate the most productive part of the marketing budget. I talked through the example we use in class, doing the math in my head. I suspect he was about to have an interesting Sunday as he thought about applying the 8020 rule to parts of his business he hadn’t thought about that way before.

He had stories of his own, where he had been able to do some ballpark estimation, and save enormous amounts of door-to-door work.

We joked about how few people are able to do math, and how complicated they make it.

(You may never have considered that hula hooping is an example of physics: it’s all about angular momentum.

L = m * v * r, and bigger radius, bigger mass, means you can have less velocity and still keep the going. In short bigger is easier.)

Then today, I sat down to look at ring 9 of the that I’m knitting as a fundraiser for the Pulse shooting in Orlando Florida. I’m not thrilled with the way the designer has laid out the final round. I’m in ring 7 now, so I have a couple of days to think about what I want to do.

The shawl is designed to incorporate 49 heart motifs, one for every person who died at the club that night. So far I’m working on 42, 6 in the 1st 12 in the 2nd and 24 and the 3rd ring. I need to knit 7 more. At 24 stitches per heart, and 576 stitches per ring, that leaves a lot of space in ring 9.

The designer selected intarsia with blocks of one color for the hearts and one color for honeycomb in between them. Intarsia requires knitting back and forth and I don’t like doing that; I like to knit forward all the time which you can do on circular needles.

I thought there must be a lacy heart pattern somewhere in my collection of books about knitting. I went through them today, and I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Marian Kinzel, in Modern Lace Knitting, has two heart patterns but they are too big for what I want.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

Working out the details for a section of 53 smaller hearts.

I started sketching and counting and doing math and subtracting 24 stitches per heart for 7 hearts. I wanted 53 additional hearts, one for each person who was injured at the club. It came out to roughly 8 stitches a heart. If I knit them side-by-side, that wasn’t going to work to all, but I’m a designer. I played and I figured out a way to do it. I need to check the details and I need to test a swatch to make sure to work the way I think it will.

I took a picture of my work and posted it to the work in progress blog posts I’m creating for the shawl on Karen Tiede Studio. And then I realized why it was so easy for me to talk math on Saturday. I do this stuff all the time. Knitters, and textile artist in general, do math every day of the week, when recalculating warp and weft, when we’re figuring out whether we have enough to finish the round, when we need to know we need to make changes in a pattern to fit us or because we don’t like the way it’s going.

Teach your children to knit. You can sneak some math and at the same time and they’ll hardly notice.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

Working on Ring 7, with 24 hearts, in gold mohair.

Keep Your Enemies Closer

(Admitted, I spend too much time on Quora, and now I’m trying to at least get some business value from that time.)

Wake Up Wednesday PM at the Pittsboro Roadhouse

Wake Up Wednesday PM at the Pittsboro Roadhouse

Last week, I saw this question: Am I right to remove competitors from a company event?

No, dear heart, you are not right. My answer:

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

It is marginally ok to expel them. People will understand. You will look like a dweeb. It is not professional.

Maybe they’re looking for job, and want to work for your company. Maybe you’ll be looking for a job, and wind up working for their company. Maybe you can gain intelligence, too. If your employees are leaking secrets, you have different problems than feeding your competition at your event.

A man I knew years ago built a pool in the backyard, not really because he wanted a pool, but because he wanted his house to be the place where his kids hung out with their friends, and a pool was a good way to make that happen. You want to be the place where people gather.