20 September 2017

Seasonally Adjusting My Life, Again

I left the Census Bureau in 2005 and moved to Luxembourg to work on contracts for Eurostat. It was such an amazing experience. And a mid-life crisis of epic proportion.

The move was triggered by a division chief at Census who forbid me to work on a book.  Kathy McDonald-Johnson and I had just signed a contract to write a book on seasonal adjustment diagnostics.  And my boss's boss told me that I couldn't work on the book, even on my own time using my own computer.  He said that working on the book would keep me from putting my all into my work at Census, and I started that afternoon looking for another job.

While in Europe, and shortly thereafter, it became increasingly clear that my marriage wasn't working and that healing wasn't in the cards.  So here was another phase of my mid-life crisis, and this time it was playing out much more publicly than was comfortable for me.

And I shut down.

I stopped looking for new clients.

I stopped all marketing efforts.

I stopped research.

I stopped blogging.

In the 12 years since I left Census, I never stopped thinking about that book that Kathy and I were going to write, but I never started writing it.  I didn't write anything.

It's been five years since my divorce was final.  It's taken this long before I've been able to write again. I know I have a book inside of me, but it might not be that seasonal adjustment diagnostics book after all.  We'll see.  In the meantime, I'm working for clients, and Miriam and I are working on web courses and programming projects again.  And I'm going to keep writing.

06 October 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

I realize that there is going to be a lot said about Steve Jobs (who died this week at only 56 years old), but I feel the need to put in my small contribution to the long list of blog posts and web articles. Jobs was the co-founder and later CEO of Apple. I'm not even an Apple user (yet), but I'm amazed at how much Apple and Jobs' ideas have still impacted my life.  On the Telegraph's web site, they claim that Steve Jobs "did more to determine what films we watch, how we listen to music, and how we work and play than any other person on the planet." I think they are right.

I collect quotes. (You can see my collection on the web site at
www.catherinechhood.net/quotes.html.) To celebrate the life of Steve Jobs, I'm posting some interesting and favorite Steve Jobs' quotes below.

For some historical perspective

From an interview in Playboy, 1 February 1985:
"The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people--as remarkable as the telephone."

From an interview in Rolling Stone, 16 June 1994:
"Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better."

(For the record, I was in college in 1985, writing programs for IBM mainframes, and scared to death of computers. The idea of actually owning one and putting it in my house would have made me laugh. And now I sit here with one on my lap, and I can't imagine life without it. And my favorite computer is my Toshiba laptop, and it runs Windows, even though I hate MS Windows.)

Steve Jobs on Design

From an interview in BusinessWeek, 25 May 1998:
"That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

From an interview in Inc. Magazine:
"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

In the New York Times, "The Guts of a New Machine," 2003:
"[Design] is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

From CNNMoney:
"It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do."

Steve Jobs on business

From an interview on 60 Minutes, 2003:
"My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people."

Steve Jobs on moving forward

From the commencement address at Stanford University, June 2005:
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish."

From an interview on the NBC Nightly News, May 2006:
"I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."

From an interview in Fortune:
"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it."

Steve Jobs on Life

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

11 September 2011

The September 11 Anniversary

This has been a very difficult anniversary for me.  I know there are people who lost a lot on that day, and by comparison, my losses seem small.

I lived and worked in the DC suburbs back then, and I felt the shockwaves from the Pentagon when the airplane hit.  My then 5-year-old was very traumatized, especially when she learned that her Sunday school teacher worked in the section of the Pentagon that had been hit by the plane. It was shortly after September 11 that my 7-year-old decided she should join the armed forces, a decision that she is still working toward.  It was just a few days after September 11 that my husband and best friend decided he needed to rethink his religious views, a decision that has made it difficult for us to talk about religion, politics, and other issues even after 10 years.

I remember that day very well. Who would have thought that it would still be so difficult all these years later?

05 September 2011

The Summer of Fun

My oldest child graduated from high school in May and left for college a couple of weeks ago. As a celebration of our last summer together, we decided to pull out all the stops for a "Summer of Fun."

My middle child (who is now a senior in high school) planned a college-tour trip to Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. It isn't that she wants to go to college in any of those states, it turns out, but her older sister got to go on a college tour, so it seemed like the thing to do. What she really wanted, and what we did, was to go to the Monkees (as in "Hey, Hey, we're the Monkees") reunion tour concert at the Minnesota Zoo on July 1. Then we visited relatives in Iowa and Nebraska. In late July, to celebrate a monumental birthday of my mother's, she took all her kids and grandkids to Disney World for a week. In early August, my oldest and I went to the Joint Statistical Meetings in Miami Beach while the other two hung out in the ocean and at the pool.

The first trip was a working trip, but the trip to Disney World was a real vacation for me.  I didn't even check my email.  Then as soon as we got home, it was time to take my oldest to college, and it's difficult to work when you are constantly driving.

I have two more kids in high school.  My children take their courses by correspondence, which means that they are working at home --- usually in the dining room while I'm working in my office. After years of being home with my kids, it feels very strange to have one of the children not here.

It was nice at the time to have a real vacation and some quality time with my child, but now that it's time to get back to work, I'm feeling the stress. The extra quiet in the house isn't helping matters either.  Hopefully I can get caught up in another week and be ready to take on new projects again. 

11 March 2011

Pi Day Recipe

Below is my favorite recipe for Pi Day, a very geeky U.S. holiday --- March 14 or 3/14 is the first three digits of pi.

Pi Day Ravioli Casserole
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Baking time: 40-50 minutes
Serves 8

  • 2 bags (22 or 24 oz) frozen, round, cheese-filled, mini ravioli (slightly thawed for ease of stirring)
  • 1 large or 2 medium zucchini, cut into slices
  • 1 jar/can (26 oz) tomato and garlic pasta sauce
  • 1 c. pepperoni slices (5 oz)
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 t. Italian seasoning, if desired

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients except cheese and Italian seasoning.
  3. Spoon mixture into an ungreased 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and cheese.
  4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

In some stores, it is difficult to find the small, round ravioli.  I used to find them at Kroger, but now I have my best success at Food Lion.  Finding the correct ravioli for Pi Day is very important. :-)

I also usually use more Italian seasoning than the recipe calls for, probably more than 1 t. for a square baking dish. I really like oregano.

You can also make this ahead the night before, cover it and store in the refrigerator, then uncover and bake the next day.