Friday, June 27, 2008

Traffic Control Issues

How do you solve a problem with three or four of even five variables keeping with the condition that the variables come and go as they please?
After all these years of studying math and analysis I should be able to describe an unstable system with multiple entry points and several exit points. The trick is that every time you add another entry point the complexity of the system grows in a non-linear way...meaning that adds a whole new dimension of complexity. Then you describe the desired outcome that might include several events happening in time, and you wonder if you need to be some type of an intellectual genius to coordinate a team of 15 people where 14 are going on a day off from the camp in a foreign country and 1 person stays in town to explore possible ministry opportunities in the future. Then your variables start adding up: one of the team members forgets to unplug the oil heater in the room that the team has for their meetings, tea and coffee breaks and drying their laundry (yep, all in one room), and the situation requires my immediate attention; another team member starts feeling sick on the way, and they decide for her to go back to the camp accompanied by her mother and a Russian interpreter, yet, on the way back to the camp the ailing team member is feeling much better, and the little group of three makes a new decision to continue on their way to St. Petersburg to re-unite with the rest of the team. While the events are unfolding we need to keep in mind that there is a particular team members who is supposed to split off from the team to spend the day at the Family Home for orphans. She is supposed to be met by an American volunteer from the family home who is also running late and the time and place of their meeting point has to be adjusted several times to produce the desired outcome - the team member having a good and inspiring day at the family home. I forget to mention the desired outcome for the team - to have a wonderful day at Peterhoff.

My next system to describe is the evening with the team in town, but I'm still working on defining the possible variables - unfortunately some of them are very sad.

I need to admit that though I had studied enough math to teach it on the undergrad level, my cognitive process is mostly driven by images, sounds and linguistic congruity judgements :) I have to be very intentional about revving my math engine to function and succeed in the world of Excel spreadsheets, precise desired outcomes, expense reports and expected communication patterns. It's quite a challenge to grow in this area, just like some need to be challenged to stop and "smell the roses." Yet, often, one is perceived as an asset and a sign of maturity and the other one is of irresponsibility, childishness and immaturity. Oops, I'm digressing from my Traffic Control Issues theme.

I'm out of time here - gotta go and tend to my beloved unstable system of 15 hoping that something will keep the rest of my unstable systems in place (Thank you, Lord, for giving me a hand with that :)


  1. This reminds me of trying to be on time when you have to take a bus, the metro, and a tram. The time in the metro is usually constant, but the other two legs are variable. If you board the bus and tram as soon as you get to the stop, the trip may take x minutes total. But if the bus or tram is delayed, or maybe not running that day at all, and you have to decide whether or not to take a marshrutka...then, the trip is going to take longer. So, what time do you leave, in order to be on time?

  2. Liz, if can answer this question, then you are one of the people who can answer the "what is the meaning of life?" question :) It's one of the reasons I'm often late.
    May be, we should presume that if you'd like to maintain the sanity of living in St. Petersburg you need to prepare yourself for being late quite often - or live next to a metro station that you wouldn't have to take buses, trams and marshrootkas. :):) Apparently, this problem of many variables remains unsolved for me.