Leadership, Uncategorized

Feedback – Being S.M.A.R.T – Part 3

In Part 1, I talked about me and how people need to want your feedback. In Part 2, I talked about the sandwich method and that feedback needs to focus on substance, not form. Let’s move on to what that substance looks like.

In the Human Resources world, feedback and goals are related. Goals are the way that feedback moves forward. If there is feedback given about a performance issue, there is likely a goal on how to improve it. If there is feedback on something you do well, there is often a goal to develop that further. A common way to write goals is the SMART method. You can read more about in the link and a google search will get you dozens of articles on it.

I am going to borrow the acronym and change the words a bit but it is still applicable. Feedback should be Sincere, Meaningful, Actionable, Relatable, and Timely.

I alluded to some of the problems with the sandwich method. Because most people aren’t skilled at giving feedback, the praise or the criticism can seem forced. I mentioned how there was a study that the employees actually just wanted the criticism straight up. Or as I sometimes say, “it turns out that people can sense BS.” The solution is for your feedback to be sincere.


If you like something or think it was well-done, say so and mean it. If you didn’t like something or think that it could have been done better, say so and mean it. A word of caution though. Being direct is not the same as being harsh, cruel, or a jerk. The letters M and R will help with that later.

When you are sincere, your body language will automatically match your words as well. A disconnect between body language and words is the biggest indication of BS.

Sometimes we are too soft in our language and that isn’t sincere either.

But it is okay to say, “I really liked the use of color in this piece,” or to say “I see where you dropped some stitches”

For those who get in trouble with directness, with let’s say extreme sincerity, the problem is that sincerity isn’t enough for good feedback. It is the root of good feedback but there are more parts.


Feedback needs to be meaningful. Meaningful to whom? That is the question.

The feedback needs to be meaningful to the receiver. To know that requires conversation. Ask what the person is looking for. What is important to them? Assume this is a display situation or the Midrealm Tournament of Art. Actively listen to the person. What are they aware of? What do they seem to want to know about? What area do they seem to have trouble with? That is what feedback they are after.

We can expand this too. Let’s imagine an A&S Faire situation where there is criteria. By nature of the event, there will be feedback on many pieces of the object. You as the judge must provide feedback on what does the documentation look like, how is the writing, how are the choices of sources, etc. It is still worth a conversion about whatever it is the presenter cares about. They probably also want the feedback on the other things but you can provide what they truly want.

Similarly in a job/performance review situation. There are some pieces of feedback you have to give. They might already know very well about the mistake they made. You have to bring it up for the formal review. But you can also have a deeper conversation. Did they lack the skills to make a good decision in that circumstance and want them? That can be the meaningful feedback. Did they want to grow in another area?


It is often part of the meaningful feedback but the feedback also has to be actionable. What does that mean? It has to be something that actually can be done by the person. That is important.

Again, you need to have a conversation. What can this person do? What options do they have access to? This is where feedback and leadership can intersect. Leaders often are able to direct towards or give access to resources. Part of your feedback might be “if you could have used this material, which you can find here and here” that is actionable. You have given the recipient something they actually can use.

Feedback which is not actionable is not meaningful. “If you only had access to 1 ton of gold, you could do this.” The person can’t have that kind of access and therefore can’t enact your feedback.

Let me give an example given to me by a friend.  This friend does Commedia and they asked a Performing Arts Laurel for feedback.  The feedback given was “clearly, you’re under rehearsed.”  This feedback is not meaningful.  What was missing?  As my friend relates it, as a long distance Commedia group, they will always hurt for rehearsal time.  What should they rehearse?  What didn’t work? The feedback didn’t give any indication on what was the actual problem?  It could have been a lack of chemistry between two actors.  Or one of the actors had timing issues.  Or one of the actors didn’t feel confident.  Or almost anything.   The feedback wasn’t really actionable either.  This is a long distance group.  For all any of us know, they are rehearsing as much as is possible.  They can’t rehearse more.

If you are going to give feedback, talk to the person and find out what they have done, what they can do, and where their challenges are.


Good feedback, especially if it is negative, is relatable to the recipient. Relatability is a useful tool to help make negative feedback palatable. I am using this a synonym for empathetic.

In an art situation, if you are providing feedback, you are likely in a position of authority of some kind. You are the judge handing out points. You are the expert offering clues to the next step. You are the confidant offering incentive to keep going. The other person is vulnerable in showing you their art and asking you for your feedback.

But the performance had technical flaws. Or the object shows evidence of bad technique. It could be anything. By making your feedback relatable, you show that with work, the recipient can overcome the problem and achieve your level. That offers hope, even in the face of large amounts of criticism.

Let’s try this example. ” Your pronunciation of the German in Bach’s Gott mein Herz dir Dank is offputting. It really took me out of the moment. I suggest you look at finding a German tutor to help you. Here are a few sources” It has all of the letters so far. It is sincere. It is meaningful. It is actionable.

Verses this. “Your pronunciation of the German in Bach’s Gott mein Herz dir Dank is offputting. It really took me out of the moment. I remember the first time I sung that piece and I too really struggled with the German. I suggest you look at finding a German tutor to help you. Here are a few sources.”

Instead of “here is your problem and here is your solution”, the second option offers compassion, even with the criticism. All with one sentence. The recipient sees more than “I screwed that up,” and goes “okay, it is not just me. Others had trouble with this and overcame it.”

The relatability doesn’t have to necessarily be in the same area. By the time you are in a position to give feedback, you will have shared life experiences.

Even with performance issues this can be used. Bosses aren’t perfect and mistakes don’t necessarily mean immediate termination (there are few things that will). There is no need to project perfection. Relatable feedback shows that even with negative feedback, there is a way forward.


Feedback should also be timely. It should occur close to the when the event happened.

In a judging situation, this is pretty much automatic. The performance, object, or person is right in front of you. In job/performance review situations, this is more relevant.

Oftentimes, bosses don’t want to be seen as “bad guys.” There is a temptation to let a bad behavior slide. “Maybe it won’t be a habit.” Or “surely they know this is a problem.” It is better to address the problem sooner rather than later. It helps head off confusion later. “You never told me I shouldn’t do that.” It keeps the incident fresh in your mind.

It also applies to positive feedback. Positive feedback should also occur very close in time to the event that is being praised. It reinforces that what you are seeing or just saw is what you want to continue to see.

When doing periodic reviews, the maxim is there should be no surprises. You have already given feedback, positive and negative, at the time of the incidents; you are just recapping what has happened over that period of time.

If you are periodically reviewing some in the SCA, perhaps a dependent or someone’s growth as an artist, the timeliness becomes more important. Give your feedback at each incident, document it, then refer to those documents at that periodic review to show change over time.

With SMART feedback, the form doesn’t matter. It can be a sandwich. It can be part of a natural conversation. It can be isolated comments. It is the substance that matters. If you only have one item of feedback, because that is all you have or perhaps that is all the recipient wants, SMART covers your bases. The feedback will be sincere, meaningful, actionable, relatable, and timely. All of that can be accomplished in a few sentences or several paragraphs depending on your style.

More in this series
Feedback and Leadership- Part 1
Feedback – The Sandwich Method – Part 2
Feedback – The Halo Effect – Part 4
Feedback- Getting the Most out of A&S – Part 5
Feedback – Miscellany & Conclusions – Part 6


The Office – Oswyn edition

I was sitting in the back part of my office because I needed the space. I thought, why not show it you all?

It is after Thanksgiving so Christmas/Yule stuff is out. Not pictured is my North Pole mailbox outside my door. Most of the time, my door is plain. But as the holiday approaches, I do decorate it.

You can barely see the Lego guards that protect the measuring tapes and box knives. People can borrow them but they have to bring them back.

Then we move around to the corner of my work area. I don’t say desk because of desk is a pile of papers that denote a variety of projects I am working on.

Lots of stuff going on here. My spear, Staccata, is here and my letter from the Queen. Of course, the photo of Gertie. That corner has a bunch of knick knacks. A pillow with part of the Tapestry on it. A Horde Wyvern (I actually played Alliance) and stuff for tea.

A collage of photos of the boys when they were young. And my device with one of my mottos on it (Thanks Wilhelm). I put several of the cranes from Seto and Ynes’ coronation around the room too.

Now we come to the sea or as close as the middle of Illinois will allow. I have always loved orcas and I am probably like 8% Scot. But I like the flag. Not pictured is a fake tree in the corner with the Union Jack, Australian Flag, Canadian Flag, and New Zealand Flag. One of our international sales people left those in their office when they moved on. I took them 🙂

Oh yeah. There is the tree. But the important stuff is on the shelf. A book on the San Juan Islands and a book on Lighthouses. I told you, I like, and miss, the ocean.

Then we make it all the way around. Several SCA photos and more recent photos of the boys (and daughter in-law).

I understand that some people don’t bring as much into their offices. This is 20 years of stuff going in. If they fire me, it will take several people to help get all of the stuff out. So job security 🙂

I spend 40 to 50 hours here per week. I might as well be surrounded by things that help remind me why I do what I do.


Overthinking and Second Guessing

I am very prone to overthinking and second guessing things. November was very much about that. I did it at work, I did it in the SCA, I did in my gaming. Pretty much everywhere, except my marriage 🙂

The “where is my passion” post is an example. By overthinking in this case, I went back. Why am I focused in this area if I don’t seem to care about it as much? So sometimes overthinking is good.

In examining my SCA paths, it was probably a bad thing. My time and energy is spent second guessing things. Should I have done this? Should I have done it in this way? It is too late. I have done them. Reflecting isn’t bad; you can determine you were wrong and hopefully do it better next time. But second guessing in a vacuum is probably bad.

In gaming, I have looking at the story I am telling and whether it is right and asking my players what they think. That is good; a few problems came out of those discussions and they can be fixed.

Here is hoping that December is less thinking and more doing 🙂


Still alive

It has been a while since I posted anything. June was extremely busy and so far July is starting to slow down but hasn’t come back to normal yet.

I will be making more posts, especially as I start making my own cider and start making my own paper.

Look for more updates in a week or two.


The Point of Journey is not to Arrive

The title is part of the lyrics to one of my favorite Rush songs, Prime Mover.

One of my friends (several of you probably know her) is on an unexpected journey. But it is a journey we all should take, a journey of self-discovery. Finding out who we really are. And too often it is a traumatic event that starts these journeys. Some thing happens to make one wonder and doubt if you really are who you think you are.

I have often remarked that it sucks that life is lived in first person. I mean an omniscient narrator would be nice. You know exactly who you are, who those around you are, and when someone makes a dumb plan. It would be very neat and tidy if it was. But as it is first person, we rely on our own point of view (often the only one we have) and it is only when we go through self discovery that we learn who we truly are.

Most times, we are pretty close to who we think we are. There may be a small number of significant flaws that need correcting but the bigger part of who we are is the same. A good person might be arrogant about their abilities and learns humility. They are still that good person but now a bit better. Sometimes we discover a past event that is unduly coloring our behavior and learn to overcome it. Therapy is good. Rarely, we learn that we should be radically different or even worse than we were but that is rare.

So I said to my friend, ” maybe you will end up finding the person I believe you are.” Like I said, first person sucks. But what did I mean by that? Too often we think one thing about ourselves but others see something else. Others might see us as strong but they don’t see the self-doubt that nags us. I could go on but you probably understand. But I meant to my friend, “I hope you find in you what you unknowing offer the rest of us all the time.” Or rather, I hope she sees herself as we the third person observers see her. We often treat ourselves worse than we treat others.

As the song says, the point of the journey is not to arrive. It is to keep seeking. The answer is always slightly out of reach. It doesn’t finally resolve. That might sound scary. But as the song goes on to say “Anything can happen.” It is meant in wonder and awe, not in fear. And later, the song reminds us, “the point of departure is not to return.” This journey is to leave where you are now in your view of yourself, grow and change, and not be that same person again. Some times that change is only a small thing. But small things can be important things.

One last rambling thought. I have been reading a lot of Buddhist philosophy. If we are to treat all with compassion, then we too must treat ourselves with compassion. We must correct things when we make mistakes but we need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes. None are perfect. We are worthy of our own love.

Good luck and fair winds, my friend. I will be here when you figure it out.


I need a Hero

Thanks to some SCA friends, I have discovered the secret rogue server for City of Heroes (CoH). It wasn’t a big secret and we will see if it is allowed to continue to exist.

I played CoH with my family many years ago. The boys were pretty little when we started. I am pretty sure it was the first MMO game that any of us had ever played. And we stopped for a variety of reasons. The constant spinning around and light show was painful for Gertie. The layouts were stale and predictable. By the mid-30s, the grind was exhausting. And we found other games more fun.

But I had always had a bit of nostalgia for it. Every now and again, I would want to go back. I did go back for a little while. It was F2P then. I made like 1,000,000,000 influence. It was boring by myself.

So why I am excited this time? There is a lot of good in CoH. The creation system is exceptional. And you feel powerful from level 1. At level 1, you look like a super hero. You have some of the powers of a superhero. You fight bad guys with guns. Compared to the first few levels of WoW, you are a poorly dressed humanoid with a crappy weapon fighting overgrown rats. That doesn’t not feel powerful.

I might still be playing alone. My kids might come back to play with me. And I did roll on a server that other scadians said they were on but I haven’t run into any of them yet.

But it is nice to see Atlas Park again. And to superjump my way across zones. Landing in a bunch of purples in Perez Park brought back painful memories 🙂

I play different games for different reasons. WoW was for the community. Lotro is for the story. CoH is to feel useful. I like feeling useful.

Paper, Uncategorized

A Pressing Matter – part 2

Last week, we cut and glued the boards. This week, we move along.

So I started by sanding the edges down. I didn’t take pictures of that. But basically a palm sander starting with 80 grit paper, then to 120, then to 220.

After the sanding, it is time to drill some holes.

The first hole to drill is where the press screw will go. So we center that in the upper plate.

Since we glued boards together, we have about 1.25″ of birch plywood to drill through.

Then we need to measure where the holes will go for the threaded rods.

A smaller drill to drill those holes.

The next big step will be the coats of polyurethane so we need to finish whatever other little steps before then.

The pressure plate will not be permanently attached. The video suggested a “target” on the pressure plate for the foot to go in.

Here is the press screw

And the foot (on the left) will go in this box on the pressure plate but not be attached.

We measured, cut, and glued some scrap plywood to make a box. It is about 1.5″ x 1.25″ as a rectangle. It doesn’t need to be exact and it defintely doesn’t need to be tight.

I also wanted the whole thing to be slightly off the ground so that the water has somewhere to run. So cut some legs and glue those on.

Part 3 will be the polyurethane and assembly. I probably won’t show the polyurethaning. It will take several coats.

Paper, Uncategorized

A Pressing Matter – Part 1

My quest to make hand-made medieval paper has led me to the part where, before you make the thing, you have to make the tools to make the thing. While it is perfectly fine not to use a press to make hand-made paper, most places had and have (depending on medieval or modern) one. This is the documentation of making my paper press.

I started with trying to figure out how to make one. This video was very helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVESW-KvqEg

So this isn’t going to be a medieval style press but really who has access to that kind of wood and manpower? Here is what a medieval paper press might have looked like.

First step was to draft out what this thing might look like based on the video. I knew that the largest sheet I would make in the early part of doing this would be 11 x 14. The felts would be 13 x 16 then to have enough room to help wick the water away. The press plate would therefore be 14 x 17 so we didn’t have to be exactly center. Because of the rods supporting the press, those plates would need to be 17 x 20.

Off to the hardware store. I purchased two 48″ x 48″ birch plywood boards. I would have loved to get a 48″ x 96″ board but neither I or my friend could get that in our vehicles. We also got some 1″ PVC pipe for the supports. My friend had some threaded rods, wood glue, and all the tools. I also ordered a 12″ press screw.

I chose birch for a few reasons. It needed to be a hard wood to have some wear and water resistance. I had initially thought mahogany. The best I could find locally was 6″ boards. While I am told joinery is not a big deal, I just didn’t want to deal with that. So birch is somewhat water resistant and is pretty smooth. That was important too.

First we cut the 20″ lengths. We will need 2 of everything because this is 3/4″ plywood and we want to glue it together to make 1.5″ (or close to it) to ensure we withstand the pressures.

17 x 20

A few cuts later and we have our four 17 x 20 boards for the plates.

14 x 17

We then cut the 14″ length into two 14 x 17’s for the press plate.

Drying boards

This is what the second 48 x 48 was for. The paper needs something to dry on. In my model, the Europeans used drying lines in an attic. That isn’t very portable. Indian and Chinese papermakers brushed the pressed paper onto a flat, heated surface to dry. the smooth surface of the birch would be great for that. So we cut the other 48 x 48 board into 12 x 16 boards. One 11 x 14 sheet or two 8 x 10 (or slightly larger) could fit on each board to dry. Ideally, cuckling should be less by drying flat. We will see.

Then we sand the edges just to get the splinters from cutting off.

Then we glue. There was a slight bow to the plywood. So lots of glue. This thing is neat. I imagine you could use to to spread mayo on a big party sub.

Then we clamp it all down and let the glue dry. That is it for part 1. In a week or so, we take the clamps off. Then some polyurethane, drill some holes, etc.

Persona, SCA Life, Uncategorized

The Generations of Oswyn

I have been thinking about my personae lately. And I have figured out how they are connected.

If I did a Roman persona, the name would be Marcus Aemilius Vivianus. Mostly because I just like those names. Vivianus is in honor on my WoW character, Vivacity, a draenei restoration shaman. With a name like that, this would be a minor sub-family of the Aemilii. There is some evidence of a Vivianus in Roman Britain. I then envision that this Aemilius Vivianus was a Roman solider in Britain. Either he or one of his descendents or freed slaves took the additional cognomen of Cygnus. When the Roman troops were recalled from Britain, this Vivianus Cygnus remained in Britain.

So from that time to the time of Alfred the Great, this family lived in the Somerset area but I don’t know what they may have done. But the Swan as a symbol was adopted somewhere along the way. When Alfred issued the Charter establishing Bath as a burh, Oswyn’s family was one of founding families of the new port city of Bath.

From the 10th century on to the 16th century, the family took the last name Swann and the fortunes changed. Where they were once at least a lesser nobility (being reeves in Bath), they solidly landed in the raising middle class. I personally will blame the Normans and the drop off in prestige of Bath for that. It is in the early 1500’s that Bath sees a brief revival before the Dissolution of Monastries by Henry VIII. Then in 1590, Elizabeth grants a new charter to Bath and the spa recovers.

Oswyn Swann is probably a bit before Elizabeth. Part of that is I don’t particularly care for ruffs and such. There are some great artwork of Pieter Aertsen’s that I think captures the look I think Oswyn Swann has. So the main question is, does Dutch middle class fashion equal English middle class fashion? I don’t know the answer to that.

So around 1595, a technical school was established in Bristol which in time becomes the University of Bristol, and another branch, the University of Bath. It looks like papermaking was happened around London but certainly these nascent schools would need paper. Before there was a formal school, there would have been early education attempts. And Bristol being a major port, there would need for paper for charters, bills of sale, the churchs and such, etc. I am going to assume Oswyn Swann is active in the Somerset region as a paper merchant sometime between 1500 and 1560.

The last Oswyn is probably an offshoot of the main family around the time of the Conquest. As he is the least developed of the personae, I will just let him be for a while. The connection will come.


Where do all of these spoons come from?

I only have a few readers of this blog. So when one of them asks that I write about something, I guess I should listen. The post will wander a bit but it is all related. I promise.

A friend mentioned recently, ” The SCA takes spoons, being nice takes spoons, being in a hostile environment takes spoons . . . .” I will admit long events do wear on me but I don’t think they cost me spoons. I do often say my Baggins side is in the ascendant and Oswyn is an extrovert and Sean is not. At those times, I want to go home. But at the end of the day, I feel that I usually end up with more spoons after most events.

One of my favorite books to read is the Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. These two men, along with their supporters, spiritual siblings, and more, have seen the worst humanity has to offer and give wonderful advise on how to deal with it. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is not filled with anger, bile, and retaliation. It is filled with compassion, love, and joy. In one of the sections, called Generosity, Bishop Tutu speaks more than the Dalai Lama does. He says many meaningful things.

“We are fundamentally good. The aberration is the not good person; the aberration is the bad person. We are made for goodness.”

“I’ve sometimes joked and said God doesn’t know very much math, because when you give to others, it should be that you are subtracting from yourself. . . and it then seems like in fact you are making space for more to be given to you.”

“You can’t survive on your own. You need other people to be human. We speak of Ubuntu. A person is a person through other persons.”

And lastly, the Archbishop described generosity as “becoming an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples out to all around us.”

I could probably quote the whole book. There is some much good in here about the power of compassion and that the pursuit of happiness is rooted in knowing yourself and acknowledging the humanity in every one else.

So for me, giving, be it my time, my art, whatever, is a source of joy. It can be tiring but it is ultimately worth it.