Monday, May 31, 2010
I'm inclined to consider a staff recommendation if the person seems to like the type of books that I enjoy. On the other hand, if the person gushes over a writer whom I consider to be less than admirable, then that serves as a reverse-recommendation. I knew one bookstore employee who purposely recommended books that would contrast with the usual politically correct choices.
It can also be fun to try a book on a whim. That's how I found "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman and that was a pleasant discovery indeed.
In American military cemeteries all over the world, seemingly endless rows of whitened grave markers stand largely unvisited and in silence. The gardeners tend the lawns, one section at a time. Even at the famous sites, tourism is inconstant. Sunsets and dawns, winter nights, softly falling snow, and gorgeous summer mornings mainly find the graves and those who lie within them protected in eternal tranquility. Now and then a visitor linked by love, blood, or both will come to make that connection with the dead that only love can sustain.
Read the rest of novelist Mark Helprin's column on Memorial Day here.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century by Andrew F. Krepinevich. An excerpt:
Dawn was now breaking. As sunlight streamed over the horizon, the airborne strike force pressed home its attack over Pearl Harbor, achieving complete surprise. Dive-bombers and torpedo planes went to work on the ships lying at anchor along Battleship Row, where the U.S. Navy's capital ships were berthed. Fighter aircraft peeled off and strafed the airfield, hitting parked planes, fuel storage tanks, and hangars. Army Air Corps pilots rushed to take off after the attacking force, but by the time they were aloft, the attackers had completed their strikes and vanished. Failing to locate the attackers, the Army aircraft returned to base, whereupon a second wave of carrier strike aircraft hit them. A New York Times reporter on the scene reported that the attacks were "unopposed by the defense, which was caught virtually napping."
Surveying the results, the American defenders were filled with anger - and relief. The attack, executed on the morning of Sunday, February 7, 1932, occurred at the outset of a U.S. Army-Navy war game called Grand Joint Exercise 4. Rear Admiral Harry Yarnell, commander of the newly commissioned American aircraft carriers Saratoga and Lexington, had launched the attacking planes. The "bombs" dropped were flour bags, which could be found splattered on the Navy's ships still sitting at anchor.
- Temperature of the room *
- Size of the room *
- Distance between the speaker and the audience
- Any physical barriers between the speaker and the audience *
- The lighting
- Size of the audience *
- Background of the audience
- Expectations of the audience *
- Relationships among audience members
- Visual aids *
- Nature of the topic
- Knowledge of speaker
- Preparation by speaker*
- Goal of the speaker
- What the audience hopes to get out of the presentation *
- Appearance of the speaker *
- The speaker's voice
- Eye contact
- Proper mix of generalizations and examples*
- The theme*
- Sound system
- Physical comfort of audience re chairs, tables, writing materials, refreshments
- The nature of the introduction, especially if given by another person *
- The pace *
- The number and size of breaks *
- Enthusiasm level or tone of the speaker *
- Length of presentation *
- Audience's ability to ask timely questions *
- Hand-out materials *
- Clarity *
[* Items that often receive less attention than they deserve.]
Friday, May 28, 2010
The exam was simple yet devilish, consisting of a single noun (“water,” for instance, or “bias”) that applicants had three hours somehow to spin into a coherent essay. An admissions requirement for All Souls College here, it was meant to test intellectual agility, but sometimes seemed to test only the ability to sound brilliant while saying not much of anything.
Pricing is about the value that the product offers relative to the next best alternative. If potential customers are using a rival's product, you need to justify why they should use yours. "Sure we offer fewer attributes, but we're cheaper." Or, "Gee, for only 15 percent more, you get all these attributes." When consumers buy a product, they're in essence saying, "I looked around at all of your alternatives, and you offered me the best value."
Some charismatic individuals will seize your attention immediately. I had lunch with such a person years ago and can still recall his insights, quips, and asides. He was truly fascinating. It is hard to miss certain qualities when a personality projects as easily as a smoothly hit home run.
With other people, however, years may have to pass before you realize what an extraordinary person was in your life. I recall a great aunt of mine who, after leaving Sawpit, Colorado, got her degree and started teaching school in Glendale, Arizona shortly after the First World War. She volunteered to teach a class that was mainly Mexican American and taught herself Spanish in order to teach English to her students. She captained their baseball team, umpired games, and gained unending affection from a legion of students over the years. (She later recalled a boy named Marty Robbins who squandered much of his time practicing the guitar.) After the First World War, she corresponded with and sent money to French orphans.
When she reached the mandatory retirement age in her district, she moved out to a small Arizona mining town that needed teachers and taught there. As a child, I used to have long political discussions with her - talks that I miss to this day - but I didn't realize what an extraordinary person was in the room.
Now I can see that my life has been filled with such people.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The older centers of hither and farther Asia—the Islamic world, India, and China—lacked the cultural and institutional foundations on which entrepreneurship rested. Worse: They tended to cling to tradition in a world of disturbing and disagreeable challenge. Both China and the Arabic Middle East offer case studies of this resistance to innovation and the subsequent national revenge against those they blamed for the economic disparities that ensued. Both impoverished themselves by insisting on their cultural, moral, and technical superiority over the barbarians around them, by refusing to learn from people they scorned as inferiors, by simply refusing to learn. Pride is poison, and as the proverb puts it, pride goeth before a fall.
China was once the richest and proudest of civilizations. Faced with pretentious, eager, and greedy barbarians, the Chinese did badly, nursing feelings of superiority that blinded them to opportunity. British economist Angus Maddison has shown that as late as 1400 China’s GDP per capita outpaced that of Western Europe. By 1820, however, the trend had been turned on its head, with China’s GDP per capita less than half of Western Europe’s. In 1989, it was just one-seventh.
Each device has internal memory with a database of photos, retina scans and prints. The computer within the HIIDE will go ahead and scan what is entered against its internal database. So, as our folks scan people in the villagers, if they were to get a hit that matched a latent print from a bomb or a weapon, say, a message would pop up. It could say anything that was entered, such as “DETAIN. Suspected bombmaker,” or, facetiously, “This is Wali Karzai. Let him go.”
There's a quality of executive hauteur that some people have and some don't, no matter what their title might be. Mike had it. He was Chairmanly. He presided. Behind the sangfroid, you always had the feeling that there was a tough guy in there that you really didn't want to piss off.
One time, a sleek little barracuda came in from a west coast competitor to straighten out our strategic planning function. He came to his first meeting with the executive team. Ran his mouth off. Said we didn't know our butts from a hole in the ground. Mike listened. After the meeting, the President, who had hired this person, said to Mike, "What do you think of Larry?"
"Oh, he's fine," said Mike. "I'm sure he's very smart. I just never want to see him again. If he's in a meeting, I won't be there."
Once the edges of the seed are cracked, the tongue moves the seed to a new position - still end on end - between the upper and lower central incisors (still on the opposite side of the mouth from the area used for cheek storage). The incisors will, with a little practice, easily release the internal kernel to be chewed and enjoyed. The empty seed halves are then spit out of the mouth - preferably on to some part of a baseball field. If you spit seeds in the stands, be careful to avoid hitting other spectators.
Paine saw the American and French Revolutions as models for his sort of radical change. In each country, he felt, the revolutionaries deduced certain universal truths about the rights of man and then designed a new society to fit them.
Burke, a participant in the British Enlightenment, had a different vision of change. He believed that each generation is a small part of a long chain of history. We serve as trustees for the wisdom of the ages and are obliged to pass it down, a little improved, to our descendents. That wisdom fills the gaps in our own reason, as age-old institutions implicitly contain more wisdom than any individual could have.
When I was young, I thought that the writers of classical literature were inhibited from discussing the grit of life due to prudishness or censorship but no, it's all there. Late last night, while reading a portion of The Idiot, I had to put down the book and say, "Wow!" Not the most eloquent response perhaps, but a feeble affirmation of a great writer's ability to reveal an instantly resonating insight into how people behave. I would have never gotten that particular slant as powerfully from a textbook or a lecture.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for help, that I might do greater things -
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy -
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life -
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for -
But everything that I had hoped for.
Despite myself, my prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
- Prayer/poem written by an anonymous Confederate soldier during the Civil War
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The Talker. The Crying Kid. The Possible Terrorist. The Couple Going to the Big Game. The Make-Out Artists. The Impatient Businessman. The Manure Salesman. The Accountant. The Hoodlum. The Lawyer. The Expectant Mother. The Tourist. The Cowboy. The Recluse. The Difficult Customer. The Road Warrior. The Beauty Queen. The Jock. The Brain Surgeon. The Marine.
Although often once you get to know them, The Manure Salesman turns out to be The Brain Surgeon, The Talker is The Accountant, and The Possible Terrorist is some guy going to Dallas for a job interview.
And don't think they're not casting you.
Here is a January 2010 interview of Lee Smith by Michael J. Totten. An excerpt:
The issue is not our policies; the issue is an existential one, and it is not about us, rather it is about a society that makes no room for difference, or what is known in academic circles as “the other.” If Zarqawi becomes a folk hero for slaughtering Arab Shia, this is not a region where a non-Arab, non-Muslim superpower is going to find much love.
- Meeting new clients.
- Visiting with old clients.
- Meeting prospects.
- Exchanging ideas with peers.
- And so on.
I bet most people have not identified the one task that gives them the greatest pleasure. We can probably name the part we dislike the most more readily than we can cite our favorite.
Assuming that is the case, what is the impact of that inability? Is it possible that we are rushing through our best moments?
California has piled every imaginable burden on businesses. Minimum-wage laws are among the highest in the country, and health and safety regulations are among the strictest; cities like San Francisco and San Jose require businesses to offer employees health insurance; labor laws are extremely union-friendly; environmental policies drive up energy costs—and on and on. Small firms have the toughest time in this business-toxic climate. A recent study by Sanjay Varshney, dean of the College of Business Administration at California State University in Sacramento, estimates that the cost of state regulations in 2007 reached an average of $134,122 per small business—the equivalent of one job lost per company. And it’s not just the small guys: Google, which uses colossal amounts of electricity, is building its data centers in other states or abroad, where energy is much cheaper.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Starbucks' move is a familiar one in the consumer world. In fashion, there's Gap (GPS, Fortune 500) with its Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, or take Ralph Lauren's (RL, Fortune 500) American Living line for J.C. Penney (JCP, Fortune 500). Williams-Sonoma (WSM) has Pottery Barn and West Elm. Marriott (MAR, Fortune 500) has the Fairfield Inn, and the list goes on. Companies do it because it's a classic, proven way to grow a business.
Being a tad germophobic, I tend to notice when people are less than cautious regarding hygiene. Some are oblivious - such as the woman who held a wet handkerchief while shaking my hand after a speech - while others seem to regard cleanliness standards as applicable only if convenient.
Recently, I was impressed when a grocery store cashier covered a sneeze and then, before proceeding, cleaned her hands with disinfectant. It reminded me, however, of how often I've seen workers who did not follow her example. I have walked away from sales counters after spotting an employee who is sneezing and hacking away.
Is my concern hypersensitive or reasonable?
You also need to know that the culprit is also the victim because that's what they are calling themselves.
Whenever you can help to build a person through real achievements, and not empty praise, you may be changing a life.
Monday, May 24, 2010
On Sunday, I finished Blood Rain by Michael Dibdin, one of his Aurelio Zen mysteries. When you are feeling exhausted, reading about a cynical Italian investigator is right on the mark. Besides, it was a nice shift from all of the change management stuff I've been reading lately. Next up: Either The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield or Prey by Michael Crichton.
- Satchel Paige
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Anyone but me thinking of moving to Africa living in an African tribe using bows as weapons surviving in the wild? Screw western europe and our boring cultures, Africa here I come!
Anybody who knows a teen knows what I'm talking about. Facebook is an arena where lions and hyenas prowl, looking for dinner. Bullies rule. Of course, as always, it's easy to blame the medium. The medium is not to blame. But it's a big part of whatever is going on, which also has spilled over into the hallways where these kids go to school, the pizzerias where they grab a slice, the living rooms where they hang out.
- Number of staff members who received the boss's memo: 20
- Number of staff members who needed the directive in the memo: 2
- Number of staff members who will heed the message: 18
- Number of staff members who would have complied anyway: 18
- Number of staff members invited to training on the subject of the memo: 20
- Number of staff members who will fail to attend the training: 2
Friday, May 21, 2010
- "Crusty conservative coating, creamy hippie love chick center."
- "The inhabitants have a right to take their amusements in a lawful way."
- "Business of Life + Life of Business."
- "Frequently Wrong. Never in Doubt."
- "The Strategy of Bingo. The Excitement of Chess."
- "I wear the required uniform."
- "You type, and I tell you why 4,500 years of written history shows you're wrong."
- "You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."
- "Just Some More Disposable Thoughts Clogging Up The Hinterlands."
- ". . . musings, misgivings, and general apprehension."
- "No thumbs. No stars. Just reviews you can trust."
- "Experiments in Lifestyle Design."
[Answers: 1. Althouse; 2. Cultural Offering; 3. Nicholas Bate; 4. What Would Dad Say; 5. Tom McMahon; 6. Sensory Dispensary; 7. Cranky Professor; 8. Idea Anaconda; 9. Verging on Pertinence; 10. View From the Ledge; 11. What Would Toto Watch?; 12. Tim Ferriss.]
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Cellphones have made phone conversations ubiquitous. But many people confess to feeling a bit startled, then irritated, when they hear speech, think someone is talking to them and then realize the person nearby is talking to someone else on the phone. It turns out that our brains just don't like this phenomenon. Researchers at Cornell University conducted a series of tests to gauge people's reactions when exposed to four background noise settings: silence, a monologue, a conversation between two people and half a conversation (called a halfalogue). The study participants were seated at computers and asked to perform various cognitive tests while exposed to one of the three sounds or silence.
The study showed that hearing the halfalogue was the only background noise that distracted the study participants and lowered their scores on the cognitive tests. For some reason, our brains are unable to tune out half a conversation. Researchers believe this is because we can't predict the speech pattern of a halfalogue the way we can with a monologue or two-way conversation -- making it harder to ignore.
The desire and ability to learn is important to a successful career. Actions speak louder than words, and more important than the desire is the discipline to practice learning on a regular basis.
On my first job out of college, at 22 years of age, I was assigned to a technical team and ended up sitting next to a guy in his 50s who had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Bill was (and probably still is) an amazing guy; he was cool in nearly any situation, spoke ill of no one and always either had an answer or was willing to find one.
We'd often eat lunch together sitting at our desks, and I still recall a key piece of advice he shared with me one day, "Michael, the key to success in life is to keep learning. You never know it all, and the technology is always going to change. If you keep learning, you can do anything. You'll always have a job."
While I was already a passionate seeker of knowledge and experience before I met Bill, his words resonated with me then and carry with me today.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What’s notable about the current “apparent mass departure from rationality”?
MELANIE PHILLIPS: What I have found so striking is that, in this supposed age of reason, there is such an implacable refusal, over a wide and disparate range of issues, to acknowledge the authority of factual evidence over opinion, or distinguish truth from propaganda and lies, or differentiate between justice and injustice, victim and victimizer. More than that, this phenomenon is confined to the supposed custodians of reason, the intelligentsia; and some of the most prominent of these often-militant “rationalists” propound assertions that are demonstrably irrational.
Now the first time I heard of that culinary combination, I thought it was a joke; albeit one concocted by a food genius. I also thought it would be fun to meet my doctor there for lunch and mention that it is my daily menu.
Fried chicken and waffles? It sounds like a breakfast of available foods following an extended drinking session but I'm assured that each component is pretty darned good and the combination is marvelous.
Anyway, they have their niche and a dish that is guaranteed to get attention. McDonald's may try to imitate it some day with a McChickWaf, but the result will be a pale shadow of the real thing.
Hmm. What could be the equivalent for a management consulting firm?
In 1999 then California Governor Gray Davis signed into law a bill that represented the largest issuance of non-voter-approved debt in the state's history. The bill SB 400 granted billions of dollars in retroactive pension boosts to state employees, allowing retirements as young as age 50 with lifetime pensions of up to 90% of final year salaries. The California Public Employees' Retirement System sold the pension boost to the state legislature by promising that "no increase over current employer contributions is needed for these benefit improvements" and that Calpers would "remain fully funded." They also claimed that enhanced pensions would not cost taxpayers "a dime" because investment bets would cover the expense.
What Calpers failed to disclose, however, was that (1) the state budget was on the hook for shortfalls should actual investment returns fall short of assumed investment returns, (2) those assumed investment returns implicitly projected the Dow Jones would reach roughly 25,000 by 2009 and 28,000,000 by 2099, unrealistic to say the least (3) shortfalls could turn out to be hundreds of billions of dollars, (4) Calpers's own employees would benefit from the pension increases and (5) members of Calpers's board had received contributions from the public employee unions who would benefit from the legislation. Had such a flagrant case of non-disclosure occurred in the private sector, even a sleepy SEC and US Attorney would have noticed.
Read the rest of David Crane's article here.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In the beginning of email (I was on Applelink, CompuServe and the Source in the middle 1980s) it was a fabulous productivity booster. My favorite business relationships were the people I could reach in email.
Lately, however, every day I see more of the occasions when email is a weak second-best alternative to dialing the damn phone and talking to somebody. Talk, and more important, listen. Have a conversation. You have the benefit of two-way conversation, tones of voice, inflection, and so forth. Email gets lost, quarantined as spam, misunderstood, and misinterpreted. It’s dangerous. Once you send something in email, that person has control of it, forever. It gets forwarded without context to the wrong people.You can’t get it back. And if it’s misunderstood, you might never get to explain it.
Read the rest of Tim Berry here.
The experience has been both fun and frustrating. We've gotten a lot done but I can also see a mountain of unfinished business. I've certainly learned a great deal.
One of the major lessons is the importance of term limits. No matter how successful the leader, it is good to churn the talent pool and get in some fresh perspectives. I know of another community group that has had the same president for around 20 years. That is an injustice to the organization and to the highly talented people who could have served in that period.
My successor told me that he didn't think he could fill my shoes. I strongly disagree. He'll not only fill them, he will do a better job. He'll bring in new ideas and approaches. Some will work and others won't but as a group and as individuals we'll learn along the way.
One of the most dangerous things in any organization is ego. It is so easy to tell yourself that you are indispensible. After all, sometimes that is the case. Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill may well have been irreplaceable. But there is always a time to stay and a time to leave and overstaying one's time is a huge mistake. Even if a term limit is not mandatory, leaders are wise to follow self-imposed ones.
After all, who wants to miss out on the most coveted of jobs, President Emeritus?
Many, it seems, graduated from a place called The School of Hard Knocks.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Read all of Dan McCarthy's post here.
One manager provided hard copies of the photos along with a disk. Everything was neatly packaged.
Another manager handed over some grainy photocopies of photographs. They were in a used file folder.
Both of these people will be remembered but not for the same thing.
"When it rains, the water gets deep and I'm afraid one of them will get too close to that drain pipe and be sucked in," he worried. "Id like to put a grate across the front of it but it might get clogged and flood my yard," he continued. "They don't play in the creek when the water is deep," I said. "I think that they are fine."
The comments continued over the summer as the water remained six inches deep. He told me how he had called the city and told them that there was a liability in the creek. "Someone is going to drown in that water," he began one day. My kids reported that he was telling them to stay clear of the water. And then the sign went up and he was happy. "No One Permitted In Water". Problem solved.
And the kids continued to play in the water. My neighbor, Bill, moved away but the sign remained and the kids kept playing in the water - fishing, overturning stones, wading. . .playing. I suppose removal of the sign by the city would be tacit approval of kids playing in the water. If something happened, there could be liability. So the sign remains. . .ignored. No harm? Problem solved?
Monday, May 17, 2010
Bottom line: Despite net domestic outflow from our largest metro areas, most of the nation’s population growth is still occurring there, thanks to immigration inflow. But the large domestic outflow from what I call coastal metropolises is disturbing, and suggests a vote of no-confidence in what were previously our fastest-growing metro areas. In contrast, metro areas in Texas and states like Georgia and North Carolina have attracted substantial numbers of both Americans and immigrants and have enjoyed balanced growth, with room for high-education singles in “cool cities’” neighborhoods but even more space for families who will produce the workers and consumers of the future. That’s the kind of growth we should hope for in the decade ahead.
In Phillips v. TLC Plumbing, Inc., 172 Cal.App.4th 1133 (2009), a plumbing company hired a plumber in 1999, although it knew he had been convicted of domestic violence and/or arson involving his ex-wife.
Four years later, in 2003, the plumber performed a service call at a woman’s home. The plumber and the woman started a relationship that eventually turned romantic. About a month after this service call, the company terminated the plumber’s employment for misuse of a company vehicle, drug and alcohol use, and an allegation of threatening a co-worker.
In 2005, the woman ended the relationship and applied for a restraining order against the plumber. The plumber shot and killed her and was convicted of her murder.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Young people can be forgiven for thinking that the portrayal of the working world in comedies like "The Office" and "Office Space" is completely over the top. Now they're going to find out otherwise. Reality is a mean trick that grown-ups play on the young. Companies really do schedule annual outings where everybody is required to see "Jersey Boys." Managers really do give motivational speeches with lines like, "If we can't enhance value for our shareholders, why on Earth are we here?" Young people really do have to work all day in offices where the plaintive voice in the tinny radio on the adjacent desk ceaselessly pleads, "Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock 'n roll."
And slip away.
If you're a recent grad and you think you're going to hate your bosses, wait till you meet your coworkers. You're going to be working with people who believe in UFOs. You're going to be working with people who play in REO Speedwagon tribute bands. You're going to be working with people who participate in French and Indian War re-enactments every summer. They're going to try to get you to join, mon beau chevalier. You really have no idea how awful this is going to be.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the US has to climb. Exhibit a is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the US (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100pc of GDP by 2015 – a far steeper increase than almost any other country.
- When you receive an email that starts with "Dearest Beloved," it is not from a friend.
- Think of any obscure topic and you'll find a blog on it.
- We get information so quickly that a publication named "Newsweek" may as well be named "Newsmonth."
- At some point several years ago, people started giving computers to sociopaths.
- As a general rule, journalists who scoff at bloggers aren't as smart as bloggers.
- You can tweet some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot tweet all of the people all of the time.
- The only consolation when you receive large volumes of worthless emails is, hey, at least they're not calling you.
- In the future, some unfortunate people will fail to be elected to high office on account of something they once wrote in a tweet.
- If you are a successful Ivory Coast businessman, keep an eye on your partners.
- We know what we do with the Internet but we don't know what the Internet does with us.
Friday, May 14, 2010
The Europeans had no definite conception of him at that time, and so the sympathetic and much-esteemed Ambassador, who still represents France at Washington, tried to give his Government information by which it could judge for itself what sort of a person the President was. What must have been the surprise in the French Foreign Office when it received the following dispatch: (I give the substance, of course, because I have not seen the original.)
Yesterday,’ wrote Ambassador Jusserand, ‘President Roosevelt invited me to take a promenade with him this afternoon at three. I arrived at the White House punctually, in afternoon dress and silk hat, as if we were to stroll in the Tuileries Garden or in the Champs Elysees. To my surprise, the President soon joined me in a tramping suit, with knickerbockers and thick boots, and soft felt hat, much worn. Two or three other gentlemen came, and we started off at what seemed to me a breakneck pace, which soon brought us out of the city. On reaching the country, the President went pell-mell over the fields, following neither road nor path, always on, on, straight ahead! I was much winded, but I would not give in, nor ask him to slow up, because I had the honor of La belle France in my heart. At last we came to the bank of a stream, rather wide and too deep to be forded. I sighed relief, because I thought that now we had reached our goal and would rest a moment and catch our breath, before turning homeward. But judge of my horror when I saw the President unbutton his clothes and heard him say, “We had better strip, so as not to wet our things in the Creek.” Then I, too, for the honor of France, removed my apparel, everything except my lavender kid gloves. The President cast an inquiring look at these as if they, too, must come off, but I quickly forestalled any remark by saying, “With your permission, Mr. President, I will keep these on, otherwise it would be embarrassing if we should meet ladies.” And so we jumped into the water and swam across.
. . .These minutes from a Politburo meeting on October 4, 1989, are similarly disturbing:
Lukyanov reports that the real number of casualties on Tiananmen Square was 3,000.
Gorbachev: We must be realists. They, like us, have to defend themselves. Three thousands . . . So what?
And a transcript of Gorbachev’s conversation with Hans-Jochen Vogel, the leader of West Germany’s Social Democratic Party, shows Gorbachev defending Soviet troops’ April 9, 1989, massacre of peaceful protesters in Tbilisi.
Read the rest of Claire Berlinski's article on the unread Soviet archives.
Last week I encountered a person in a burqa in my crowded suburban Baltimore supermarket. I hadn't realized how much of our public interactions require "feedback" of one sort or another. Even the minor "excuse me" requires some sort of feedback to properly "read" the other. When I moved closer, I was able to make eye contact and so complete the social dance. Ironically, this moving closer required me to invade her social space.
Is all this discomfort important enough to outlaw? Of course not. In time with more interactions like this it will become easier to read the other. I will become fluent in reading "Burqa". This is however a large problem if there is segregation like with Muslims in France. However can you become fluent enough in other cultures and so adapt to one another in the public space if you have no experience with one another?
Let me respectfully disagree with your views. The burqa has nothing to do with religious freedom or a woman's "choice" or any of that crap. It is a form of subjugation. It is a way to reinforce the notion that women are dangerous and that they belong to men. It says "you are allowed out of the house only if no one can see you. Only if you are invisible." It is akin to wearing chains.
For example, let's say you want to frame an old photo so it can be used as an award at the upcoming meeting of the Loyal Order of Raccoons. You already have a historic photograph that would work perfectly well, but instead go to a museum and review other photographs. You know about an excellent framing shop around a mile from your home, but no, that would be too convenient and perhaps too expensive so you drive much further away to buy a frame at a large shopping mall and then spend hours framing it yourself.
Option One: Take picture to frame shop. Pick up finished product. Take it to meeting.
Option Two: Drive to museum. Search for photos. Perhaps find a different one, but maybe not. Drive to mall. Spend a good hour buying a frame. Go home and spend even more time framing the photo. Take it to the meeting.
True, the second option may have cost less, but it certainly gobbled up more time and perhaps caused more stress than the first one. And oh, by the way, since the photo is going to be an award, the club would reimburse you for costs anyway.
Why do we drift toward the complicated? My guess is it is because we don't seriously look for the simplest solution. I've written before about how it helps to ask, "What would an adult do?" That question could well apply here. A child might wander about. An adult will know how to complete a project in the most efficient and professional way so other matters can be tackled.
This assumes, of course, that you do not get an inordinate amount of enjoyment out of shopping for frames and looking over old photos and that you have enough time to do so. If that is the case, then wander away.
For most of us, however, it helps to be on the alert for simple solutions or we will be quickly entangled in the vines of our chores.
- If at all possible, bring your own pillow. George W. Bush was mocked for doing so during his first presidential campaign but if you've ever tried to sleep on what passes for pillows in some hotels, you'll know the value of bringing your own. I remembered this at two in the morning.
- Bring some NyQuil. A reduced dosage will produce a decent night's sleep. Although some road warriors favor the bouquet of certain cough syrups, I am a NyQuil snob, preferring the original vintage to the cherry-flavored varietals.
- Bring exercise garb. You don't need to go all out but some comfortable tennis or running shoes will at least permit you to get on a treadmill or even walk around an empty conference room. If you wear low-cut Converse tennis shoes they'll think you're a wandering film director.
- Have a good novel close at hand. The business reading is fine, but eventually some escape reading will be needed. You don't want to be subjected to the dreck that is offered in the gift shop.
- Keep the television off. I turned on the TV for a few minutes to catch up on the British elections and then squandered an additional five minutes trying to make sense of one of the dumbest movies ever made. I am ashamed of that five minutes.