#VanLife meets #AllergyLife

This simple, non-descript looking slice of “wood” between to layers of sustainable, renewable, low VOC cork is the bane of my existence. One of them.


I am very reactive to p-tert-Butylphenol Formaldehyde Resin, Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives (FRPS), and when the substance goes by any of these names:

formaldehyde table

This means when I buy new clothes, especially dark wash/black, I wash them repeatedly before my eczema and skin stop reacting. The reacting makes me itchy which makes me cranky and so forth.

Now that we are creating walls, ceiling, and floors in the Black Hole Van, I get to create a potentially low allergen world for me! I am learning about low VOC and formaldehyde-free construction materials.

With the cork sample picked up today at our local home improvement store, the cork sandwiches plywood aka particle board aka horrible things to put in a dark hot van. Cork is described as: “a natural product that’s waterproof, dust- and mold-resistant, warm and soft underfoot and a wonderful sound absorber” (1), and “Cork flooring has excellent thermal and acoustical properties. It’s beautiful, lightweight, warm to the touch, hypoallergenic, fire and insect resistant, moisture resistant, and maintains just like hardwood floors.” (2) (Formating by me.)

Dust and mold resistant for my dust mite and mold allergies? Yes, please!
Hypoallergenic? AWESOME!
Lightweight? Perfect for a van!

So why did one manufacturer slap it around problematic plywood and have it end up with a Phase 2 compliant for formaldehyde emissions for CARB #93120? For reference, since much of California is the perfect temp (my thoughts), CARB #93120 measures the emissions at 73 degrees. Black Hole Van lives in Las Vegas where the internal bits of a vehicle can bake cookies!

“California 93120 compliant for formaldehyde Phase 2″, which means that the level of formaldehyde evaporation at 73 degrees Fahrenheit is below or at accepted/legal level.

BTW – while California is known to be the strictest in the USA on emissions and chemical-human safety, the EU has more stringent standards. Meaning the sample with the plywood center would likely not be allowed at all. (Not a proven fact.)

Next in the process to find materials that I can live happily with is calling We Cork. https://www.wecork.com/products/

Notes on VOC:

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that easily become vapors or gases. VOCs are released from burning fuel such as gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas. – National Library of Medicine

Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, can cause difficulty breathing and nausea, and can damage the central nervous system as well as other organs. – American Lung Association 


  1. https://www.allergicliving.com/2017/10/25/laying-down-the-best-allergy-friendly-flooring-choices/
  2. https://www.greenbuildingsupply.com/All-Products/Flooring-Cork
  3. https://www.wecork.com/products/
  4. https://www.airthings.com/what-is-tvoc


Orchid Catalogue

Meet orchids #11-14!

2020 June 20, I was finally able to attend Andy’s Orchids open house. I have new goals! He must have thousands of orchids from around the world and things you didn’t even know were orchids! See below for random photos from Andy’s on my Insta.


Claims to be an easy grower. This is the stick mounted one in the pics above. I water with distilled water daily and keep in a north-facing window. Bought in bloom, it’s hanging in 2-weeks later. It’s native to Maluku Islands which is in Indonesia–very different than the Mojave that this one had the misfortune to move to.

A recently discovered showy species closely allied to Dendrobium bracteosum, clustering 4″ to 6″ tapering canes are semi-deciduous, many short densely flowered spikes produce upright cones of 1″ flowers that are highly variable in color, ranging from pure white to pink to dark purple, it differs from bracteosum in its smaller stature, slightly larger flowers, and dark red lip – blooms last for many months


It also came in bloom and had made 2 new flowers in the past 2-weeks! I found this one in Andy’s dry hothouse. Let’s hope that’s a good sign for dwelling in the desert. I have some success with orchids with pseudobulbs. Hoping that continues! This is the one above in a white dish and attached hanger. (Not hanging)

Another little gem of a miniature, or at least small, orchid genera with interesting flowers that you can actually see! These Oncidium relatives have apple green attractive flattened oval pseudobulbs and attractive broad grass-like foliage and multiple profusely flowered inflorescences that arise from the base of the pseudobulbs. The one inch flowers have narrow sepals and petals with a broad full lip that is fused to the column and forms a small nectary under the ovary.


This is the crowded one in the clay pot. Very diverse orchid for me! I am told it grows slowly and prefers to be crowded. I bought it not flowering and am just hoping to keep it alive.

Species in this genus are found in forests from sea level to mountain habitats above 2000 m.[2] Species from above 2000 m of elevation like L. albida, and L. autumnalis are adapted to temperate climates and can be grown outdoors in places like the Mexican PlateauCalifornia and other subtropical areas with cool summers.[2]

Laelia is one of the orchid genera known to use crassulacean acid metabolism photosynthesis,[citation needed] which reduces evapotranspiration during daylight because carbon dioxide is collected at night.


This is the one in the square green pot above and loads of leaves. My 2nd attempt at a paph vej; Andy handed this one to me. He said I wouldn’t kill this one. The 1st one is kinda hanging on. It was my 1st terrestrial orchid–I didn’t have the roots covered enough. Andy also said my Brita-filtered water still had too many minerals. It’s a slipper orchid and really want it to bloom one day! Check out blooms: 1 2 3


(no idea why this embedded Insta code isn’t working https://www.instagram.com/p/CBrCzwXHnx5/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link)

View this post on Instagram


Finally made it to @andysorchids open house. It’s amazing! I have orchid goals now. #orchids #flowers #goals

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Thoughts and resources are based on viewing TLDC’s Accessibility playlist with Jean Marrapodi.


Click to view recording

After watching the video, I realized that beyond the requirement for captions, I had not discussed readability with the most recent team members. Here’s the conversation starter:

Why is this important?

You may have heard of ESL, but have you heard of LLL?
ESL = English as a Second Language, or non-native speakers
LLL = Low Literacy Learners, this could be native speakers who dropped out of school, have a learning disability like dyslexia, or who were failed by the system.
There is a high likelihood that employees that gravitate to technician work or warehouse work have a lower reading ability than the CD team with their degrees and desire to learn.

What appeals to LLL?

While we might prefer to read something to learn, low-literacy and non-literate learners are more likely to want you to show them and let them do it. This may require side-by-side training. They may want you to talk them through the process and then repeat it back to you.
I may like my lists and my notes, but a LLL will likely commit it to memory by listening, doing, and talking their way through it.
Given the problems with reading comprehension, the group tends not to spend time reading for pleasure. They may lack confidence that they can follow written instructions well enough for the job, therefore adding a layer of job insecurity to the situation. Because they spend less time reading, they may find interpret everything in the document as important. They need us as designers to call out key steps or background information that can be skimmed/skipped. Note: this is where guidebooks with a solid set of icons are important.
This wiki page would drive them nuts.

What do I do now?

Start by reviewing the content you create for warehouse and field employees. Answer this:

  1. What is its readability score? Should be 8th grade or lower.
  2. Have I created a method of highlighting important bits, and identifying nice-to-know bits? Is it consistent with what my peers are doing?
  3. Have I used video or images to walk through a process while also talking through it? Am I prepared to train the person side-by-side?


Day 1: L&D Champs Online

I signed up for a “free” online conference this week. I really like the speakers and thoughts that pop from Corinium’s conferences. I’ve attended one in person. I don’t really like the hounding you get from vendors.

L&D Champs kicked off today with a keynote on resilience and upskilling from Christopher Lind from GE Healthcare. Lind was well-spoken, thoughtful, and addressed L&D through the lens of current pandemics and racial turbulence. (I’m still seeking a way to describe the USA today with police murdering black men and peaceful protests turning violent due to bad actors.)

Lind had a few points that resonated with me.

Change and failure (in an org) need to be EXPECTED and ACCEPTED.

Define your L&D destination in terms of the people, behaviors, and words; not organizational goals.

Upskilling should focus less on the org and more on people and their needs.

Looking inward, I think my org has work to do on a culture of change and failure. We still have folks who are surprised about new versions of software, let alone by changing platforms altogether. I struggle with how anyone at a tech company can still even have these thoughts.

In a bit of irony, I am in an ExecOnline program for mastering management essentials. In a recent assignment, I defined some gaps for some employees. My feedback was that I was focused on WHAT I WANTED them to change. Not HOW THEY COULD BE MORE SUCCESSFUL by growing a skill. It seems I am shifting too much to the leader removed from the daily life at the bottom of the org chart.

When I was creating the upskilling program for the Techs, I spend lots of time with them in field and was keenly aware of their needs. It was “easy” to create and successful in application. Now, doing that with other groups, not as easy, not as successful. I need to get closer or rely on team members who are closer.

Working Out Loud – LMS, Otter, and Teams

I spent the morning adding 4 videos to Panotpo to then create LearnCenter courses in Oracle LMS and matching assessments. I learned a lot!

  1. Our LMS is even more painful to administer than I remembered.
  2. We should do more in Panopto.
  3. I was impressed by how much I remembered about creating courses, publishing, creating questions/answers/assessments and–of course, because there is always one more step in that LMS–creating an assessment instance. An assessment cannot actually be used to deliver the assessment to the learners.

I’ve been piloting Otter.AI–which I really enjoy! One of my teammates is using it. We’re really thinking Otter will have a permanent home with us.


I attended another MS Teams demo meeting from Microsoft. WOW! There is so much power in Teams. I had no idea. I might need to keep learning and become an evangelist. Are there jobs that make awesome Teams sites for orgs? I would enjoy.

The day ran from 12yo technology that is still causing me a problem to the amazing power of AI and bots!

More on Tech Humanism & AI in Instructional Design

After yesterday’s post about an email I wrote many moons ago, BC-19, I learned of a recent webcast that Kristen and RISC did together on User Interviews for Learning Professionals. Kristen is a super-smart ID professional and creator of task-oriented learning, and an all-around good person to know.

Kristen pinged me that she read my post and thought her webcast was related. Boy was she correct!

When she conducts user interviews, she uses AI in the form of Otter to transcribe the conversation. This enables her to focus on the conversation instead of busily taking notes. This is a point of ignorance on my part. Otter was unknown to me. I’m testing it out starting today!

One of the things I said about AI (colloquially, robots) is that the tool Axonify is building would/could replace instructional designers (IDs) who only hit on knowledge and comprehension, the lowest levels of Bloom’s. Kristen furthers that point by demonstrating how AI can support the instructional designer that works higher up Bloom’s to synthesis and analysis. AI can help lighten the cognitive load on IDs developing content that not only supports the business goals but also seeks to explain why and uncover performance issues. As in, when the business says, X isn’t working we need training. But why?

Kristen’s answer is user interviews and journeys. While she uses Otter AI to support her work, the process she outlines is human. There is not AI tool for ID that can–today–interview the SMEs, understand the nuances of tone, reframe what was said to confirm understanding, and then decide if the user story and journey, and the business request/goals are aligned. Not yet, not for the masses.

I think Kristen’s message furthers how IDs can use AI to lighten their work while not worrying today about it replacing them. More skills for today’s essential instructional designer.

Tech Humanism, an email to the team

I sent this email to the team in Jan 2020. Shared here with a light clean up of org names/jargon.

So I just viewed a keynote from DevLearn 2019 on Tech Humanism from Kate O’Neill. https://www.elearningguild.com/conference-archive/10165/keynote-tech-humanism-shaping-the-future-of-meaningful-human-experiences/?from=content&mode=filter&source=sessions

Hopefully, some of you were there or can go back and watch it now.

My key takeaway is around the thought/fear that robots and AI will replace us all. For some, that is coming sooner than later (e.g., kiosks at casinos and fast food for ordering). For some roles (at work), it may be coming sooner as well. I hope, selfishly, the training and development groups have more time. Kate pointed out that the thing that humans can do that robots/AI can’t do (for now) is bring meaning. Humans crave meaning and while AI can troubleshoot, even click the I’m-not-a-robot box, they cannot provide meaning to life, content, or work.

As we move more into AI and AR/VR, I’d like for you to pause and think as you work. Whether that is updating a guidebook or creating a virtual world…

  • Are you providing the what, the how, and the why?
  • Are you providing meaning, truth, purpose, significance to the content?
  • Are you innovating with meaning?
  • Are you helping to build (our) culture of Ex and Cx (employee experience and customer experience) through the content and meaning?

Kate asked what are you doing at scale? I believe (we), at scale, (are) preparing the workforce for a tech-driven future through upskilling and reskilling. The new skills are needed due to tech augmenting and displacing employees. We want to enable everyone to grow with the tech and not be replaced by the tech—as much as is within our domain.

By providing this meaning, I think we protect ourselves from the robots as well.


This was again something that I hoped would turn into a scholarly discussion and didn’t.

Then a couple of weeks later, in the Axonify roadmap webcast, they showed an AI question writing prototype. The robots have come for instructional designers who do only knowledge and comprehension questions.


Trello for Neuroscience & Learning

About 2-3 years ago, I built a Trello board with notes and probing questions. I thought it would spawn scholarly discourse and lead to more rigorous training content. The former definitely didn’t happen, and the latter, not sure.

I can across this because I dusted off my Trello boards for a new home project. I archived and left many boards. This one, I wanted to memorialize.

Optimal learning means the info is embedded & has a maximum ability to recall (in the learner’s mind). To get this involves context, scaffolding, spacing, learning enviro like/equal to performance enviro, exerting effort to recall/perform, and music to add focus. — “How We Learn,” Carey.

Context: present learning in scenarios & real-life problems to solve. — “How We Learn,” Carey.

Scaffold: relate new topics to common knowledge & topics learner already knows. Related to interleaving, i.e., preparing the brain for the topic. — “How We Learn,” Carey.

Spacing: repeat drill & practice over days, ask learner to perform again another day in the exact manner. — “How We Learn,” Carey.

Elements that research show help adults learners include note-taking, retrieval through effort, spacing with sleep, meta-cognition, wordplay, insight, social, and music. –“Wired to Grow,” Andreatta

In Wired to Grow, Andreatta recommends the magic of 3 in adult learning. 3 levels of knowledge (Bloom’s, Axonify Qs). 3 connections (meta-cognition, wordplay, insight, social, etc). 3 retrievals spaced with sleep. These things plus a blended/flipped environment. How can we do this?

From Hooked, how can we be first to mind for our users? Pulleys of human behavior that increase likelihood of action occurring: ease of performing the action and psychological motivation to do it.

The quotes above are a selection of the ones in the screenshot. Most of the team has changed. Perhaps after furloughs, I can dust this off somehow.


Decade in Review

My original plan was to reflect on the decade in my bullet journal. Once I saw the list, I felt proud and accomplished. I decided to Tweet them out over NYE and NYEE. Now, I’ve decided to immortalize them here.

In no particular order and only the publically-safe ones…here are the things that changed (good and bad) in my life over the past decade.

  •  Earned PhD
  • Became me
  • Found a partner
  • Became a leader
  • Became a godmother
  • Rescued a dog aka my love
  • Great friends
  • Traveled to London x2
  • Fell in love with Belgium
  • Saw George Michael in concert in Antwerp before he died
  • Saw Tom Petty in concert at KAABOO before he died
  • Saw Imagine Dragons when they played a tiny wine tasting  just before they made it big
  • Created a plan for the next decade
  • Was a strong daughter to my mother as she slowly died
  • Chose a family I wanted
  • Gained way too much weight
  • Still look younger than I am
  • Got some grey hairs
  • Fell in love
  • Learned to sail
  • Presented at ~6 conferences
  • Went to Canada and Mexico more than once
  • Traveled to the southern hemisphere – Buenos Aires
  • Made friends on Twitter and then met them in person and proved the world is kind
  • Trusted people and was correct to
  • Built an amazing personal learning network
  • Sold a house for profit
  • Joined the 6-figure club
  • Returned to art with photography
  • Loved camping
  • Meditated, did yoga, and learned to be mindful and minimal
  • Was happy

Definitely the best decade of life so far.