Category Archives: 5975

Nothing good to say since July, Kathleen? Really?

Nothing good to say since July, Kathleen? Really?”


That’s part of a comment Jerry Nixon left on my blog. I need to get off my butt and give some explanation for my silence.


Life got in the way, then a break to figure out what I’m doing next.


Last July I took a job at Digital Folio. Startups are dynamic environments and this time the wind shifted such that my responsibilities were much different than I expected. This was not altogether bad. I really enjoyed leading a group and I was working with amazing folks. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do so I left just before the first of the year. Since I was also supporting a long term client, I was working two jobs, maintaining a speaking schedule, and committed to working out and taking better care of myself. I often felt I didn’t have time to breath.


But that changed in late December. It’s nearly March. Where did those two months go?


I’ve made a significant lifestyle change. I’ve given up having a home. Home-free is probably a better phrase than homeless, because I am embracing this by choice and it’s the culmination of a process that started two years ago. I sorted everything I owned to store, donate or keep with me. And then I went through the “keep with” stuff twice more the same way. Everything I now own is either in storage or fits in my car. And no, it’s not a van but my lovely 37 mpg Hyundai Veloster.


I suppose there is a blog post inside me somewhere on what I’ve learned about stuff, but I don’t think that processing is done.


I’ve always wanted to drive US 64 from end to end. I used to drive bits and pieces of it and thought they were the most beautiful pieces of highway. I wanted to keep going, so I did – well, at least half of it. The other half is scheduled for late June if all goes well. We’ve lost so much of the gracious old highways. It was nice to travel what is left of this one before the 4 lane expressways and semi-expressways eat all of it. My mother thinks I am silly and nostalgic (her home state Tennessee had done the most damage to US 64) because she says everyone other than me just wants to get where they are going. US 64 is probably a blog post too.


And where does a home-free person stay? Friends, family, house-sitting, hotels, monthly rentals, camping – although I’m waiting for summer for the camping part. At least that’s what I think will happen. I’ve only been at this for a little while and I may quickly grow weary of it. My theory is that there are things I can bring that are different for everyone that will have people look forward to me coming back. I hope so.


It does mean I’m available for on-site coaching and possibly other work. That’s a different blog post, but I want mid-term part time engagements where I can watch a team grow and help them meet technical, team and personal goals without disrupting ongoing projects or becoming dependent on my presence.


My tentative plans for the mid-term are to be in Colorado most of March, on the East Coast and traveling from there to Seattle in April, in Seattle during May, and spending June back in Colorado to see family, kayak and backpack. Next events are Wintergrass (Bellevue), the MVP Summit and DevConnections March 26-30. I’m speaking at the Northern Colorado .NET User Group March 12, Vermont .NET in Burlington April 9th, Great Lakes .NET User Group in Southfield, Michigan April 18th. I’m also trying to get in touch with the user group in Fargo, ND or in Illinois to see if I can set up a talk when I drive through April 23-26.


In addition to mentoring, I have an exciting project that I hope to be able to talk about next week and a boatload of blog posts in process on work my son and I have been doing looking for common themes between the many, many flavors of composition.


 

Liking a User Interface

I think it’s important to differentiate between a likable user interface and a good one. A user interface can be likable and bad. It can be good and not likable.

I got a comment from my last post that said because someone liked the UI it was good. I disagree. A good UI supports you in all actions, at all phases of learning the program. Because it happens to fit the particular set of features you use now and the state in learning you are in now does not, ever, make an interface a good interface.

And I did not mean to imply that the Office 2007 user interface was entirely without merit. It attempts to address the fact we’d outgrown graphic toolbuttons, and toolbars as the sole organizational item. Those of us that could organize our toolbars pretty much liked them. Other users were often stuck with menus.

But menus have been the backbone of all of our learning programs and, as I understand it, screen readers. Bill McCarthy has a great post with an exercise to show you how deeply screwed up Office 2007 is to the Windows reader. He compares it to Notepad. If someone can compare to Office XP and post, I’ll be happy to link. Accessibility is important on two levels – it certainly retains its focused on people that can be enabled or disabled by specifics of the world around them.

If we are average in sight and dexterity, we expect computers to react to our own level of ability – we expect that the mouse adjust to our dexterity, the keyboard sized to our finger reach, and the font to be a readable size. If we are slightly off average, we compensate with larger fonts or a large trackball. If we fall outside the anticipated norms, we fall off a cliff, as shown in Bill’s exercise. Computers have the capacity to be a more level playing field- to extend enabling further.

And the second level at which accessibility is important is during the lifetime of people with average abilities. Almost all of us will have limited ability when we are young and old. Many of us will pass through stages of temporary limited ability. A few years ago when my arm got wrecked I had my mom (a programmer in her own right) reformat my code. I could write the code, but I couldn’t quite handle arrangng the declarations with one parameter per line the way I wanted to deliver.

More attention needs to be paid to making computers physically easier to use. It will also save some people from life changing RSI injuries.

Which was one point of the post.

The other was that much as the Office 2007 user interface sucks, I do not think it is beyond redemption.

- Add back the menus as an option and the default appearance when you start

- Raise the logo to a button and have a timed “look here” toolbar/arrow (although I’d really prefer to see those things in a ribbon page)

- Have the Alt popups also include short cut keys (Ctl-I, Ctl-B) so these are discoverable

- Fix accessibility, which might be a fully separate user interface for screen readers

- Allow the font on the ribbon to be changed

- Have the ribbon bar learn my habits. Do not collapse Word Count which I use daily.

- Re-prioritize the Home ribbon page so the ugly and rarely useful styles take up ½ the screen width and Cut/Copy, and all the very common formatting items remain small icons

- Allow me to promote commonly used items to the ribbon. I use Paste/Special/Unformatted all the time and its buried

- Rethink the ribbon in light of the wasted space on each side of the document on a standard monitor. Pull things like styles back into sidebars. Use this space with abandon. Consider allowing me to move ribbon pages there, or at the very least create a magnificently large and beautiful set of shortcuts.

- Fix the Quick Access toolbar. It’s a good idea gone bad. It’s as far as you can get onscreen from where I’m usually typing, there are not displayed shortcuts, and it uses small icons. And absolute ton of work could be done here.

And those are the thoughts of someone not a professional UI person. If the Ribbon solved accessibility, used space effectively, morphed automatically to how I work, it does have potential.

But right now, it sucks.

The Elephant in the Room

I have a hundred (ok dozen) finished not quite ready blog posts. Except it’s hard to finish them because I don’t particularly like saying hard things. Negative things. Some of which will be brutal to people I have enormous respect for and consider friends.

I’ll get back to the technical things. It’s just the code gen stuff has been evolving at a background level in real projects and I need to work out verbalizing the core, the best practices of the details. And, my column takes up some of my Tips and Tricks type stuff.

This is one of a series of passion posts – posts about how deeply screwed up our industry is becoming because we are tied to Microsoft and they are becoming rather screwed up.

Let me start with someone I don’t know, that way it’s easier for me.

Redmond Developer published a cover story regarding Steven Sinofsky replacing Jim Allchin as head of the Windows team. That’s cool. Let Jim move on to whatever pleases him. Maybe he’ll have time for lunch as he’s second on my list of people I’d like to meet (and no, neither Gates nor Ballmer is first).

The entire article was about Sinofsky “holding his cards close” – meaning we don’t know what’s coming in Windows 7. First, I agree completely with the article. We should rise in revolt at any attempt to remove transparency from the Microsoft development cycle.

Microsoft wishes to believe it is just a company making money. It is not. Perceptions to that affect are bad for us and bad for Microsoft stockholders. Microsoft’s job is not to create great new products. Its job is to lead an ecosystem with great new products. Out here, that’s not a subtle difference. Microsoft decisions affect trillions of dollars in investment and assets for companies around the world. They have an absolute obligation to be transparent and if they do not continue to lead through transparency – which is the only way to ride the tornado they created – we must call the bluff that we have no options. We are certainly not there now, but we as the consumers must not bow down to the vision that we have no choices. As individuals today, we may have little choice. But as an industry, we can create choice.

It is imperative that Microsoft lead by transparency.

But the article ignores the elephant in the room. Sinofsky came from Office – unless my timeline is warped – he brought you Office 2007. Let me choose the nicest words possible: Office 2007 is an abomination. Do not believe for one second that this was an attempt to make your life easier. Do not believe that any honest usability lab could have been shown this UI to be useful to you. And for reference I use it and have for over a year, so this is not a comment on the initial shock factor. Nor will I waste your time with the stupidities in the interface. Let’s jump to why.

It was an attempt to protect Office – at your expense. Open Office is pretty damn good. It’s run on most of the computers in my home. We exchange documents with Office on a regular basis. There is no true force keeping people on Office for the vast majority of document and spreadsheet creation. Microsoft knows this. So it created a user interface that it believes it can protect. If you don’t believe me, look at what you have to sign to use the interface.

Ha! Let’s put the features you’re guaranteed to use every day under a logo that does not look like a button. Mom becomes the geek of her retirement community whispering that secret. Let’s backtrack on accessibility – don’t let them change font size. Let’s have the only discoverable way to make italics be Alt-H, Alt-2. OK, we’ll leave Ctl-I but to discover it (previously in the menu caption) make them type Alt-F, Alt-I (you can’t tell if that’s a 1 or the cap letter I on screen either), six down arrows, enter, Alt-t, one down arrow (assuming you know which tab Italics is on), tab, two down arrows. (Think you’ll never have a stroke or skiing accident?) Oh, and does any of this work right to left yet? Full stop. I could go blog post after blog post on what’s wrong with the Office UI. This UI was created to be different and protectable, not better for you.

The core issue is that Microsoft put the person in charge of the most extreme shift to controlling the ecosystem since Lotus and AmTrak fought over the sliding bar interface (if you don’t get that joke, never mind). Protection of a grossly overpriced Office superceded the good of the ecosystem. And the person in charge of that mess is now running Windows. You worried? Add in that he is being allowed to reverse a companywide shift to transparency apparently started by Ballmer himself eight years ago.

The shift to transparency is couched in the Karl Rovian phrase “translucency” meaning secrecy.

Transparency means “my people will not be afraid to talk to your people.” I’ve only seen two fallouts from transparency: Insider’s groups whine a little about not having much warning ahead of the public (It is beautifully short, often at zero) and people being disappointed when Microsoft backtracked, particularly on Vista, previously known as Longhorn.

Hey, I was there. I drove through fire to get to the Longhorn PDC and ice to get home. Microsoft got explicit feedback (from me and many others) that it was too grandiose a plan “even if you could do it, which you can’t, we can’t uptake it.” The shrinking of Longhorn was the right thing to do and the stupid thing was that they said they could do it all. You don’t fix that by removing transparency. In fact the transparency around Longhorn was important – there was a lot of feedback regarding which features had marginal value like the whole let’s do the file system in SQL so we can organize our photographs stuff.

Translucency means “I will control what you know.” It means things aren’t public and there isn’t a route for you to give feedback until a beta stage – in case you haven’t noticed, betas happen at feature complete meaning your input is explicitly excluded in terms of shaping the product. It means people can’t talk. And, it is not the solution for the issues given. Just look at Charlie Calvert or Paul Vick’s blog. They don’t say “This is what we’re going to do.” They say “this is what we’re thinking about.” It’s transparency with honesty and realism. And it gives you an opportunity to shape the product in public discussions. It wasn’t transparency that led to Vista disappointment; it was a lack of honest assessment of reality.

This is getting long, but I want to answer the 89 people that have already started writing comments that Microsoft is a company and is in the business to make money. That is totally true. But, as the keeper of the ecosystem, they make money by managing the ecosystem to the ecosystem’s advantage. They cannot help but make money if the Microsoft ecosystem is healthy. They will wither as a natural result if the ecosystem is damaged, no matter how they contrive to exploit the dying ecosystem. It cannot be any other way. Trying to protect the ridiculous price of Office with a unique but terrible UI metaphor to perpetuate the myth that people must use Office is a disservice to shareholders. Hiding the future of Windows 7 prohibits us giving the feedback. Here it is: the most important thing in Windows 7 is to get Vista right: fix the driver issues for legacy hardware, improve performance, fix a few annoying bugs like that stupid toast the details layout, keep up the improvements in security. Hmm. That’s about it. Market it showing off the cool features its already has and only throw in new things that work really well.

The most valuable thing Microsoft could do for its future position and the ecosystem would be a commitment that Vista will be compatible with all existing hardware and to write the drivers themselves if necessary. Twenty five years ago, in the midst of the Xerox PC debacle, a tiny little company in Houston took on IBM by promising if software didn’t run on its OS, they’d fix it. Guess who? That’s a powerful promise. If Microsoft can’t make that promise on drivers, they screwed up and need to fix it in Windows 7.

Either that or they need to plan a decade long strategy for uptake, including ongoing availability and upgrades to XP.

If the Windows team was transparent, showing us flashy features, our answer would be “for god’s sake, just make Vista work well”.

This is your ecosystem. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Pay attention to what’s going on. Talk about it. Scream about it.

PS. I don’t know how widely used the “elephant in the room” metaphor is. It means we have something so big we can’t be unaware of it, but at the same time, we’re avoiding talking about it.

Puppy

I brought my new puppy home from Nebraska yesterday.


A sweet little eight week old girl (edited: I have no idea what planet I was on when I mistyped this initially). I’ve had a hard time finding the right combination of home raised and decently bred Springer Spaniel. I finally found a lovely little girl 3 hours away, but it was worth every minute of the drive to find a puppy that is beautiful and adventuresome. Thanks to my children’s stepmom Helen who helped with the drive. I’m not sure quite how we avoided bringing home her sister as well. Five families, including Helen’s, will help me co-puppy parent when I travel.


I haven’t given her a permanent name, but her puppy name is Dash. That made a soft spot in my heart as Aspen the dog I lost after 14 years together had a puppy name of Dot. Both named for markings on their forehead. Otherwise they are different. Dash is a tricolor with slight tan eyebrows and a fairly short nose.


Expect my code to come back up to snuff after I train her to be as good at listening to my .NET design problems as Aspen was. Right now she tends to sleep through my questions.


I loaned my mom my camera when she went to Thailand, and now I’m going to have to nag her and get it back – so sorry, no pictures until I borrow one.


Thanks for letting me share that this is a very special time for me. Pictures coming soon.

What a Great Week!

What a Great Week!


This week I was the University of Northern Colorado Symphony Orchestra, David Thomas Bailey, Brandi Shearer, and Grace Potter. I was elected an alternate delegate to our county Democratic Convention. I stepped out of my safe little sandbox to join a group of architects who maintain a far broader view of the world than I have. I wrote a code generation template preprocessor – twice. I was able to take advice from my son. I’m winning overall against the cold I’m fighting. I started a diet. I managed to unwind myself when I got overly stressed out.


Check out your local music scene. I don’t spend enough time with our two college music departments at Colorado State University and UNC. The UNC concert featured a Frank Zappa orchestral piece called G-Spot Tornado. That was followed by Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto #1 played by Joseph Miller – a doctoral candidate at UNC. This piece was written for the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. It is both technically demanding and calls for the deepest spirit as I think this is what Shostakovich wanted showcase in his friend Rostropovich. My favorite movement is definitely the cadenza which is a very long solo that draws scattered cadenza-esque themes together as it approaches the end and the orchestra fills in below the cellist. Both it and the Zappa piece show feel amazingly modern while remaining largely tonal. And what better way to follow these pieces after intermission than a brilliant performance of Beethoven’s 5th?


David Thomas Bailey played during the happy hour of the inaugural Denver IASA event. He was fabulous. Loud enough to be appreciated, but in the background as we met each other. Definitely catch him in Denver if you’re a jazz fan.


The Grace Potter concert was scheduled for Friday, but weather along the way held her up. They rescheduled at the Bluebird on Saturday and it was fun to visit the theatre with a friend who had been watching movies there around the time I was born. I didn’t even know who the opening act was, and Brandi Shearer just blew me away. Check her out.


Then Grace Potter came on. One of the pals still gets carded although he’s in his thirties and is active in the music scene. He said I was younger than the average age which is way not true. But it was a pretty mixed crowd. I was down near the front dancing to those wild rock and roll tunes. So you can imagine me fearing for my nose as the guy in front threw his head around, with a nice bespectacled cool engineer dude on one side and one of the young pals we’d brought on the other. But even with the modern horrid mixing habit of drowning the vocals there is just little like the passion and talent of Grace Potter backed by three amazing musicians. The held to no boundaries doing both a solo acappella gospel tune and a drum only number with all four of them on the kit.


I may talk another time about how good it is for me to step into places that make me and my .NET skills feel rather a small part of the picture. Or about how stressful Friday was as I realized the preprocessor I had written was fundamentally flawed. Or colds, or diets, or unwinding.


It’s so easy to postpone what’s going on around you, particularly the high school and college performances in your area. And to be overwhelmed by the number of artists, most of which you’ve never heard of, that play the bars and restaurants within a 100 miles of you. But don’t miss out on all that great music and whatever moves you – rocking in a sea of people you don’t know or jiving to good jazz in a comfy chair.


Speaking of that – Hot Club Nouveau is slowing down. They’ll be at Dazzle in Denver on Feb. 27, March 16, and April 23. They’ll bet at the Savoy in Fort Collins this Friday and next Saturday. They’re at the 303 in Casper on May 3, but that’s all they’ve got posted and they’ll be splitting up as Colorado loses James and London gains him. So, if you live in the area and haven’t seen their unique style of gypsy jazz don’t postpone it any longer.


 

Losing Trust and Moving On

I have been through a difficult week.


If you know me, you know I’m an optimist and a trusting person. I trust the world so much that I refused to teach my children to be afraid of it, staring down a pre-school teacher who was horrified that Peter approached a strange elder at the mall on an outing (and of course made both of their days).


Thus, when the world slaps me with its unfairness I do not take it well. The automobile dealership put a transmission with a cracked housing into my car in October. On the two occasions I took the car back in for a fluid leak they failed to tell the transmission housing was cracked, although I specifically asked if the leak was a sign of a larger problem, and they had just attempted to repair the damage with silicon. I have always had a hard time with mechanics because my experience has been negative, so it was even more difficult that I trusted them and they so betrayed that trust.


I have a more realistic view now that the being a consumer leaves you very few rights since the system is built and maintained by people with the money and power to keep it running for their own benefit. I do not suggest that any mechanic would knowingly put in a broken part – I think it more likely they simply failed to inspect it after they assured me they would. However, auto dealerships (at least in Colorado) have built a system so completely to their benefit that they make more money if they put a bad part in your automobile than if it is good. They charge you labor twice. If I have another mechanic look at their work, I have no right to charge them for the inspection even if it turns out the work was done improperly.


Before you have work done, find out what is warrantied and what the conditions of the warranty are. It is likely that on a failure you will pay a second labor charge, and possible that if the first part is broken and replaced, the warranty still ends relative to the first repair date. It is probable that you have no rights for anyone but the original shop to do any warranty work.


When the world slaps me, I get emotional. I cry; I eat too much; I am not pleasant to be around. Part of healing is seeing beyond – it’s just a car, and in the end I am only out about $250 due to their actions.  I know I do not want to do business with them again. This is a valuable lesson, perhaps worth $250. Since October I have taken my other two vehicles to a different mechanic and gained respect for him. He treats me like I am not an idiot, and excitedly shows me how bad a part is that he pulled off. A long time ago I worked on cars. I know what a spark plug is supposed to look like. This mechanic inspected the transmission when I suspected the dealership was trying to cover up its earlier work. Going from having two repair shops I trust to one is a survivable change. Going from one to none would have been, well, I’m not sure how I would have worked it out.


And far more than that, – the really important thing is that despite being difficult to be around, I had the support of an amazing array of people. My children’s father went far beyond what anyone could have expected in interacting with the dealership when I did not feel I could without screaming hysterically at them, and he eventually negotiated the best settlement we could get. My new mechanic has been awesome spending much time on the phone with me, my children’s father, and the dealership. My boyfriend happens to be a forensic scientist and photographer specializing in automobiles and recorded the evidence. When I had to take the old transmission to the dealership, my son (not a morning person) drove it up there so I would not have to interact with them. Other friends also offered emotional support. I was not alone. I was instead supported by the right people with the right skills willing to help me get to the other side of this, get my car back, and move on.


Moving on is about finding the good in a bad experience. It’s about silver linings and lessons. It’s about feeling the love and support you’re offered, alongside the negative. It’s also about forgiveness. I will not forget what happened, nor have I completely let go of clever (and legal) ideas for revenge. But I’m not holding this in my heart. I’m moving on.


And oh my goodness! If in all the troubles of the world, I say “I’ve been through a difficult week” because of anything to do with a car, let me be immensely grateful.


Thanks for listening. I needed to share.

 (If you live in the Fort Collins area and need the name of either the dealership or my new mechanic, feel free to ask me in email. ) 

 

Los Angeles Masters Series – Workflow on Dec. 1

I’ll also be doing an all day “Introduction to Windows Workflow” talk on Saturday for the Los Angeles .NET Developers Group . If you’re in the area, or can get a great weekend flight rate in, it’s a fabulous deal. I call it “Introduction” because there’s still so much we’re all learning about workflow. But this will be much more than a little drag drop. I’ll be specifically focusing on architecture guidelines that I want people to work with from their very first workflows. I’ll be looking at Why as much as How. I’m also available to give workflow sessions in your organization if you can’t make it to LA. The link for the LA event is http://www.ladotnet.org/default.asp and I don’t think it is sold out yet.


I’ll be at DevTeach this week. If you’re there, drop by and say Hi! Conferences each have distinct personalities. DevConnections was intense in Las Vegas early this month and I know I walked right past at least one friend without seeing them because my brain was elsewhere. I tend to push myself hardest at DevConnections. DevTeach and SDC (Amseterdam) are much more relaxed for me and I’m looking forward to a great week.  I’m talking on three subjects I enjoy – WPF controls, WF activities, and What’s New in C#. I didn’t manage to get a single conference to let me do both C# and VB new stuff this fall, but I did it at two conferences. I believe in being bilingual.


Next week I’m in Roanoke and then California Maryland. If you can make those user groups, it will be great to see you. That’s my party down ending to an insane quarter. The last of 27 speeches in 90 days. I’ll spend that weekend hanging with some old friends’ labs near Charlottesville and meeting their nearly grown kids for the first time. A totally awesome ending to what’s been a great quarter. I’ve got to be the luckiest person on earth.

 

 

Thank You for the Carrots

I live in a wonderful world. Sure sometimes people’s own unhappiness and agendas get in the way, but most of the time I am surrounded by kindness. And so are my children. Children need the great gift of building the stories of their lives – experiences that they remember and build themselves on. But as parents we are not the only ones that give these gifts to our children.


Halloween night a group of 15-20 year olds set out trick-or-treating from my house. There were a few cross-dressers, a cat with red ears, a very cute clown and a musketeer named Samuel with a frying pan. It was one of those beautiful loud vivacious groups celebrating each other. As the girl-clown said “I was just sitting home when they called wishing _I was cool enough to be invited to a Halloween party”. All arrived dressed. None were ready. The one that remembered a bag forgot a coat and as the temperature plummeted I supplied a pink raincoat to the guy in lingerie. Only on Halloween. To the rest I gave grocery bags. One tall young man in a funny green coat and at least two odd hats was not trick-or-treating, just coming along.


For my part, I did little else but feed them. I disengaged from the game of trick-or-treat this year as another excess of indulgence designed with the sole purpose of making corporations rich. But with my house full of these young people so happy to be together with the drama of teenhood set aside for the night, a little part of me wondered if I should get candy and turn on the porch light.


They were late, of course. But headed down toward the one house they couldn’t miss. The artist with the yard full of spooky things.  He came to the door and said “I’m sorry, I’ve run out of candy”. I’m sure every other kid from three miles round also wanted to climb passed the body in the noose, and inch passed vague bloody things to climb under the 12 foot tall ant (or was it a spider without a web) to ring that doorbell.


In response to the no candy announcement, the tall non-trick-or-treater with the funny hats and green coat said “That’s fine, I’ll take a toaster”.  The artist said “wait a minute”.


Thirty seconds passed and the group wondered if they had been rude. A few more seconds. Surely he didn’t have a spare toaster? Bbut he’d asked them to wait. Hmm. What to do… as he reopened the door.


Turning to the young man with the green coat and funny hats, the artist said “For you, carrots” and handed him a can of carrots.


Performance art at its finest.


A moment turned upside down.


A story retold to me. A story that will be told a hundred or a thousand time more. A story that helps my son understand what it means to be gracious. What it means to allow the people on your doorstep their moment in their world touched sweetly by yours. What it means to turn someone’s joke upside down. What it means to be kind.


Thank you for the carrots.


Thank you for all the little things you do today to bring a smile.


 

A Sufi Tale

To understand my world view, you must know that I painfully came to grips with something described in this story that I heard as a Sufi tale (badly told here, I’m afraid):

A farmer had a horse he used to till his field. One autumn day, the horse ran away. The farmer’s friends came by and offered condolences. How would he till his fields in the spring? How would he survive? The farmer said “I cannot know if this is good or bad” Several weeks later, the stallion returned with a beautiful mare. The farmer’s friends came to offer congratulations! How wonderful? The farmer said “I cannot know if this is good or bad” Sometime later, his son was breaking the mare. He was thrown and crippled his leg. The farmer’s friends came and offered condolences. How would his son find a wife and have children? Who would care for him when the farmer when he became old? The farmer said “I cannot know if this is good or bad” A month after there was a war and the emperor sent soldiers to conscript the young men of the village. The farmer’s son was left behind because of his injury. Sadly the young men did not return from the war. Each year the mare had a beautiful foal and the farmer gave each to one of his friends for being so kind.

This is the moment we live in. Much of this moment we make for ourselves. It is OK to celebrate and mourn. Emotions are as a much a part of life as breathing. But to declare true value in the events of our lives – to allow them to be good or bad within our psyche is the recipe for an unhealthy kind of desire. To wish for something to happen or pray it will not happen says we know what will be good and what will be bad. As soon as we step into the quicksand of such unhealthy desire, we unleash the Pandora ’s Box of fear. We fear something will happen or not happen. This fear can freeze us, and it almost always puts a veil between us and the beauty of the one moment we are sure of – the moment we are holding right now.