Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Do They Play Cricket at Microsoft?

At the Day Job, I work on a large corporate campus. There's a lot of open space and we have basketball courts, tennis courts, softball fields and soccer fields. After work, and often during lunch, there will be groups of employees playing some sport almost every day. A couple years ago, I drove through Microsoft's campus and they had much the same sort of playing areas. The main thing I noticed was a lot more Frisbee playing and Hacky-Sac. Younger crowd, I guess.

So tonight, as a wandered out to the parking lot, I noted the usual Wednesday night soccer game, but saw another group on the nearby softball field. I thought it was a softball game, but that was odd because the softball field overlaps the soccer field. But these guys were also playing in a different direction than the field is laid out. And the position players didn't seem to be the right number of people in the right spots... and the first hit that I noticed... was a golf shot... with an odd looking... oh yeah... that's a cricket bat.

Now I have seen cricket on TV while in the UK (and sometimes on ESPN, if memory serves). I've never really figured out the rules, but it is interesting to watch and try to figure out the rules. It's sorta like baseball, but the rules are just as opaque to the casual viewer. But I've never seen it live, so I dumped my backpack in the car and walked up to the bleachers to watch for a while. It apparently was a pickup game. Most of the players appeared to be Indian and there was a very spirited match going on. A trash container and its lid made up the "wickets" at each end of the ersatz "pitch". The players were mostly in work clothes and while the bat seemed official enough, the ball appeared to be a tennis ball. I think this made for a safer match -- perhaps like playing slow pitch softball over baseball.

Anyway, I stood and watched. The guys in the stands were having a great time teasing (alternately) the batsmen and the bowlers. Most of the time when the bat connected with the ball, the hit wasn't particularly square, but one batsman did get off a nice long drive. Based upon what I've seen on TV, the hitting was par for the course, but the bowling was pretty uneven.

It was interesting to me in a couple of ways... as a kid, I can remember playing pickup games of baseball or basketball in the alley and the periodic football game in the park. No uniforms, no coaches, no officials. Just a bunch of kids playing. You don't see that today -- maybe some basketball and a touch football game from time to time, but you rarely see a pack of kids getting together to play a sport without a coach. I wonder what happened there? And watching these guys play cricket, it seemed to me that most of them were probably born and raised in India and they probably had pickup games of cricket over there as kids. And here they were, far from where they were raised, playing a game that likely reminded them of home.

I think I was the only spectator and after a short while, I felt like maybe I was intruding a bit, so I headed back to the car. But it was one of those moments when you think about how small the world is and how far so many people travel to make a living. And in the midst of much turmoil at the Day Job, it is refreshing to see groups of employees hanging around after work to play and compete and relax. I think that's important. And it gives me hope that on the other side of the current state of affairs, there is hope for our company -- because of the teamwork of its people.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What Do I Blog About?

I found an interesting blogging toy to play with. "Wordle" is an interesting tool that will create "word clouds" from blogs or virtually any other text-based source. The result is a picture that features the most common words most prominently in the picture.

Here's a Wordle for this blog:

"Records" is the most prominent word in the graphic, so you know where my head is. Interestingly, the word "will" also shows up a lot, but I know that I seldom use the word as a noun, so I would throw that one out. Guess I'm also future oriented.

You can create a Wordle at will, using a link to just about any blog out there. Kinda fun to see how the words pop up.

AIR: Just a "Regular Member" Again

I started to write this about a week and a half ago as my term as Treasurer for ARMA International was drawing to a close. It's one of those posts that sometimes needs a little more time to simmer before considering it done.

Having served on the International Board as a Director, and most recently as Treasurer, I'm again a regular member of the Association. Ever since I was but a wee records manager in 1987, I have pretty much had something to do with ARMA at some level. I think I took a couple years off around 2000 when I left some ARMA Committees, but otherwise I've been involved with some sort of Board almost my entire professional career. And with a fairly heavy speaking calendar for a number of years, I suppose that I've been pretty visible in the organization.

ARMA isn't quite done with me yet, however. I've been drafted to participate in a couple of task forces for the Board, but I have asked to act primarily in the "of counsel" role, rather than as a hard core worker bee. And there is a presentation at the ARMA Conference in Las Vegas and whatever else I get drafted to do....

In some respects, I feel that I have done just about all that could be expected of me. The Day Job is pretty demanding and that "just one hour per month" commitment to ARMA is a bit more than I want on my plate. However, over the course of these 20 years, I have received far more than I have given. I've learned leadership and business skills far beyond what I could have gotten in my workplaces. I've learned a bit more patience and perhaps some additional benefit of the doubt at times. The challenge and benefit of serving on volunteer boards is that the faces change every 12 months. Some stay, some leave, and some new ones come on board. And that continual renewal of leadership brings a healthy opportunity to adapt to new people and consider new and diverse ideas.

I suspect that among my dear friends will be more than a few who suggest that this will be yet another temporary respite from the clutches of ARMA International. Time, of course, will tell. For now, however, I'll be happy doing the Day Job and thinking about how the profession evolves, both for me and for the profession at large.

Over 20 years ago when I first ran across this organization called ARMA, times were very different. At the Chapter level, we were able to have volunteers who could put many hours of ARMA service into their day jobs. We had many volunteers who spent untold hours toiling away at newsletters, member mailings, or event publicity. The companies where ARMA's members worked would donate not only time, but postage and sometimes printing services. I can recall a number of evenings spent at home with a pile of flyers, envelopes, mailing labels and stamps. Today, companies have leaned down so much that very few can provide the people resources, much less the printing and mailing resources, that they once did. Many records functions have become smaller, while many new records functions are strategic in nature.

ARMA International's staff carries a much bigger load today than in the past. It is a challenge at all levels of the organization to find both volunteers for projects and leaders for the local or International organization. In spite of this, ARMA has been growing. The organization has strong finances and healthy reserves. ARMA has delivered some significant projects and looks to continue to expand its offerings. But it is a long row to hoe.

I am glad that I have had the opportunity to serve ARMA International and its membership. If you would like a similar opportunity to shape both your profession and your professional organization, I encourage you to consider volunteering at the local or International level.