The Atlantic Monthly has a very interesting article America in Foreign Eyes by Bernard-Henry Levy. As this year marks the bicentennial of Alexis de Tocquerville’s birth, the magazine has asked a French philosopher/writer to retrace the route and comment.
He has some wonderful insights into the American culture.
On the “living” museums –
The whole idea is not to preserve but to reconsitute a false truth and celebrate it as such. Defeat of the archive. Triumph of kitsch.
The self-generation of culture that wants to be descended from its own handiwork and, accordingly, rewrites its great and small genealogies. An American neurosis?
There are some remarkable statements in the article, that as a Canadian, bring to light a newly defined perspective. When you live by a country such as the US your own perception of American culture gets clouded by the huge amount of American influence. This European challenges these old ideas.
There are to be a number of articles by this individual in the next months. The article is worth the price of the magazine.
Today it was actually hot out in the Fraser Valley. The fragrance of the blooming flowers was fantastic. It looks like all week will be like this. A nice time to take a weeks holiday.
My oldest son is garnering pledges for this weekend’s 8 hour skateboard-a-thon. He is one of the leaders of a local church skateboard club and the money goes to getting all the kids to a week long camp this summer. He was going over his pledges (now over $500) and it was remarkable the number of people who have donated. I am pleasantly surprised by their generousity. The youngest son was interviewed and published in a local grafitti magazine. He’s happy. What did I get today? The MasterCard bill with the payment due on April 30th. I guess it just depends on who you are as to what you get.
I am reading Kurt Eichenwald’s book on what happened at Enron. After 169 pages it is pretty clear what happened, some people got very greedy and lied. Pretty simple plot but complicated storylines. As you read the book you can Google the names and get images of these people. They don’t look like crooks. It is amazing that there were a number of people that understood something was wrong but the chain of command or the normal business practice stopped their concern from being brought to a larger majorities view. So where does that put the school of thought that businesses can be ethical? How can an entity with no moral compass be ethical? Its like a virtual Ten Commandments that is there but really isn’t.
Reading the list of people that will be speaking at Gnomedex (where did that word come from anyway?) in Seattle this June is impressive. When I first learned about it being in Seattle it sounded interesting so I signed up. As the weeks have past, the speakers list keeps growing and it looks like an event that is going to be remembered.
Energy usage in Iraq
The recent edition of The Atlantic (May 2005) has an interesting article on the U. S. military. Seems that everyday 2,000 trucks involving 20,000 Amercian soldiers and private contractors are leaving Kuwait everyday carrying fuel to Iraq. The M1 Abrams tank get less than one mile per gallon! This must be getting to be a problem and it seems to spell “inefficiency”. But the article concludes that the prevailing wisdom in the Pentagon is that “fuel efficiency is for sissies.” I must have missed something here.
Jan mentioned pocketwatches in his blog.
which brings up an interesting story, since it involves Denmark.
My first job required a suit, everyday. Having the bodyshape that a suit off the rack would never fit I needed to get them tailor made. Of course the tailor talked me into always buying a vest with every new suit. Always wanting a pocket watch, when the time came I bought an 18K gold Waltham with chain. It was a beautiful timepiece. You can’t find them anymore. This was the watch that you pass onto your kids. Excellent watch and you begin to see there are always rituals with getting the time and popping the case open to view the face, winding the large dial at the same time everyday, making sure the chain is fastened correctly, etc. It was like have something to do that you enjoyed, all the time. With all these new vests it was a perfect fit. An old friend even gave me a small ivory elephant to attach to the chain. Then I met my wife who was here visiting from Denmark. To make a long story short I ended up marrying this wonderful lady 11 months later in Denmark. I got there by selling the watch.
I am just waiting for a call from my mechanic to pick up my vehicle. It is in for brakes and a tune-up which hopefully won’t prove costly. It is the first time anything has been done to it after the warranty period. The people we got the vehicle from wanted to get the brakes done 6 months ago and they kept bugging me, but everyone (and you know everyone is a “mechanic” when you ask them for advice) said to wait. Rob, the mechanic we used to go to, said the same thing. When the warranty was over that was it for those dealership guys, back to Rob who has always been good.
CBC Radio had some audio clips on Terry Fox, on the eve of the start of his Canadian marathon, it being 25 years old. On one of the audios he mentions how cancer has touched to lives of people we know. Now 25 years later my mind reels at the number of people who have had cancer, some making it, others not. Even now there are friends fighting it. I would have to say it is the disease that has affected our family the most. There is a Danish saying that people abhor when they hear it, as it is a curse. It translates “May cancer eat you”. It has to be the most disgusting phrase I have ever heard and no one has to be told why.
Terry Fox is a true hero. He made sure we would have and keep hope in our hearts. That is what cancer can never take away.
I was listening to a series of podcasts while on my way to and from work today. What seems to be happening regularly now is that I download a massive number of podcasts and then burn the MP3s onto a CD that is playable on the car stereo. It seems to work quite well as the player controls are easier to use and the titles appear on the LCD. It gets to be a little difficult reading iPod screens when driving.
There are some interesting podcasts and the list is ever growing. So were do these verbal files fit into the whole scheme of things? First and foremost is that my listening of radio or TV rarely includes any commercials. IF someone wants to pay me to listen to this then ok. There is very little worth listening to in these 30 or 60 second attacks on my senses that try to sell me something rarely needed. That leaves CBC as a prime listening station and let’s face it not everything said on that network is everyone’s cup of tea. One can listen to music but one needs a change and this is where podcasts fit in. They are usually specialized, which makes choosing various casts in the chosen genre very easy. Listening to a series of speakers with some interesting and unique insights is interesting. I have a 40-minute commute to and from work each day and being able to have choices to listen to, as well as a cell phone to communicate with the world, makes the time spent in the vehicle not totally wasted. Most of my drive is going against traffic on the freeway. With cruise control set at just below 100 kmh, most mornings are pretty easy. Listening to something that you want makes it that much easier, almost close to enjoyable.
I had a call from a business colleague back in Toronto this week. She described the Saturday they had in Toronto with about 6 inches of wet snow and the problem her husband had removing it as the snowblower was useless. I listened intently, waited for the pause and then stated that it was also difficult out here with the daffodils just about finished and 3 beautiful tulips just opening up in our container by the garage. There was silence on the other end and we both started laughing. Where else but in Canada?
Darren Barefoot has some interesting points about podcasting. The whole area is new and just beginning and will probably evolve in aspects that we don’t realize at this point. Podcasting points to becoming aural content on demand. Until now this was the domain of spoken books and taped radio shows. The podcaster is a layman’s attempt to create some aural context. Some of it works and some of it doesn’t. But a good story will always have willing ears to listen. Bad stories…well you usually find something else to do. The nice thing right now is that there are more sources of choices to hear.
This morning while in the Post Office I overheard two men, one in his early 30’s, the other in his 60’s, discussing the increasing amount of traffic that was flowing through the neighbourhood. They commented on the noise and the road wear and had heard that someone was going to present like concerns to the local council. As the conversation grew older the conclusion was that there should be a toll on the road to keep the traffic to a minimum and hopefully the road would be for locals only.
It was somewhat hard to believe what I was hearing, a public road with restricted access. There wasn’t much discussion about the common good of the road being accessible to everyone. It was somewhat reminiscent of the Middle Ages with drawbridges and tollbooths. I am sure the hospital that either of these gentlemen may attend in the future would have to have free and open access! There are some in our society that just don’t seem to understand what the common good means anymore.
Greed. Are greed and the acquiring of material goods the engine of growth in our society? It seems that we are no longer supposed to feel badly about being greedy. Sacrfice is a foreign word and there is no limit to the number of expensive items we are expected to have in order to have the lifestyle we so “richly” deserve. Nothing should be free or even done for free. This seems to be the central organizing theme of our society.
But do we really understand the road we are on and where this path will take us? How can we individually look out for only ourselves and expect there to be any social good in the context of our neighbours and our communities. We are not the centre of the universe and the first time we slip and see the necessity of help from others there will be a tremendous amount of upheaval in what we have thought our world to be. Our ability to make meaning in our lives from “things” is limited. And yet the world and the communication apparatuses around us keep churning out that mantra.
This morning 4 of us prepared a Sunday morning breakfast at church for about 50 people. The interesting things was that we actually received compliments for the meal. When you are in the middle of preparing 14 pounds of sausages or 8 pounds of pancake batter you really aren’t thinking about how people will appreciate it. You just want to finish doing this and getting the dishes done. In a typical household this morning is what you would prepare for at least 10 breakfasts, or 10 weeks of Sunday household breakfasts. And there were a lot of helping hands to cleanup.
At work we are in the final stages this weekend of testing something we call MemberNote. It should be released in April and as it is the first version of the product it is pretty basic. We don’t know of anyone else anywhere having a similar product. Here is what it does:
1. Whenever you use your debit/bank card for an electronic transaction be it an ATM or Interac purchase, an SMS (text message) will be created of information from that transaction and sent to
your cell phone as a text message and/or an e-mail address you choose.
2. From the time the transaction is accepted by the merchant you should be noticed in about 5 seconds with the information.
Very simple so if you get a text message and haven’t been using your card guess what – someone else is using your card!
There has been a lot of talk about debit card fraud with a lot of information making the end user aware of the risks. We thought it would be best to find a working solution so this is what we have come up with. We don’t know what the competition will do but we hope that it will prod others for solutions or even build on what we have developed.
From some people we have talked about this we have received some great ideas. One was a suggestion to customize notifications based on transactions. [Remember this is for debit cards. Credit cards are the Visa, MasterCard, AmericanExpress cards you carry which is a very different product.] We could notify one of any transactions greater than a certain dollar amount. Or we could move into notification of any items that cleared an account. One that quickly comes to mind is payroll. There are a lot of people that like to know when their payroll deposit has been credit to their account. Or what about a cheque that you wrote that you want to know immediately when it clears. Maybe you post dated it for the end of the month and it now is clearing 5 days early….a big no-no.
All of the suggestions point to a next version. The key strategy at some point has to be that the variables that manage notification would be set by the card holder. That done through a web site would be ideal.
On Thursday I was at a meeting with Xerox discussing print solutions. The showed me their DocuColor 3535 printer/copier and the Creo Spire Color Server as well as a few other software solutions. There were all very impressive products. Xerox seems to be focussing on some great software stuff they have developed. Remember they gave us Parc.
The colour printing world is getting pretty good and for small print jobs the benchmark is pretty high.
End of business report.
Good Friday. Probably one of the most difficult days to try to understand and realize within the context of one’s Christian faith what transpired over 2,000 years ago. Peace be with you.
Was able to pickup two tins of Altoids at London Drugs yesterday for just over $4.00. The Wintergreen “Simulated Flavour” is pretty good but doesn’t beat the Sour Tangerine. Great candies and they seem to last forever. You’ll never buy LifeSavers again. There sure are going to be a lot of Altoid tins lying around my office at home. Now one needs to figure out what to do with them after they are filled with pins, paper clips and thumbtacks.
Dave Winer has a great podcast – A new Morning Coffee Notes about ocean swimming, podcasting as art, Terry Shiavo, my software project, and of course, philosophy.
As always he brings up some very valid points.
Why is there this sudden challenge to podcasting and blogging by some in the news media? Are they upset that there are some alternate sources of information and opinion? Is it because this new view is available fairly easily? I find the opinions, in most cases, are more in tune to everyday thinking. The blogging/podcasting point of view fits better with what I have been thinking and isn’t such a foreign concept to understand. That’s not to say that what anyone says is always agreeable. The best part is that you can debate as much as you like. There is something important about the nature of who is writing/broadcasting – they are doing it because they LIKE TO DO IT. There is some joy in what they are offering. It isn’t a Monday to Friday paid job. The form they take is much freer and not so compressed into a specific format. And it is much more direct and to the point. The pre-ambles are not necessary. It really seems to be an experience of a our culture with a strong connection to people and their thoughts and what their lives are focussed on. It makes one feel a bit more human.
there…finito. Listening to Elliot Smith. Sure miss his music.
Officially, the first day of spring (and daylight savings time soon!)
At the green grocer today they had horseradish root. It isn’t always available but today there was plenty. Freshly grated on just about anything is delicious. There were also beets so a favourite dish of beets, sour cream and freshly grated horseradish will soon be devoured.
The speed and quietness of the new Mac mini that was received last week is very impressive. It is a 1.42 mhz with SuperDrive, 1 Gb RAM, Airport and Bluetooth.. One assumes that something that small will have it limits but it is a very responsive machine. And it seems to be absolutely quiet. Apple has really put together something very good here. If PC users are switching based on this machine they are in for a very nice surprise. The size and price is going to bode well for businesses also. Dedicated machines for specific purposes beyond a server have always been a headache. They take a lot of room. The minis solve this dilemna.
Last night we went to visit some old family friends. We were able to see some new babies and visit with their parents. The fathers of the kids, who are twins themselves, live in Edmonton and Norway. It is amazing to be with people who you have known all their lives that have changed in some ways and not in others. People seem to always remain the same. It is like there is this core personality and that is who the person is, period. They get older, have different interests, get married, whatever— but their sense of humour, their mannerisms, their articulation remains the same. You can’t put a finger on what it is exactly but you know it is them. And no two people are the same.
The rain has finally arrived in the amounts we are used to. And with any rainy Sunday afternoon the household seems to just shut down. It is re-charging time for the upcoming week, which is shorter than usual because of Easter.
We spent a great morning yesterday on the Chilliwack River fly fishing for steelhead. The weather is warming up and spring is just starting out there. It was absolutely spectacular. We fished for about 3 hours and didn’t get a bite. One bait caster came by and said no one was having any luck. There was a duck that flew right up the middle of the river going up river at about eye level. It was multi-coloured with a mid-brown head. I have never seen a duck with so much vivid colour. About 10 minutes later it flew back down the river at eye level. Saw one bald eagle hovering over the river. Maybe the duck was flying in the middle of the river to keep out of harms way.
I don’t know of too many things that soothe the spirit as much as fly fishing. There is something so peaceful about pulling that fly out of the water and placing it back in the water with one fell motion. No mechanical sounds just the swish of the line as it moves out over the water.
Today I was at a meeting of trustees of an education foundation. One of the trustees is leaving after serving for 9 years. We will all miss him. He always came to the meeting with so much valuable input. His perception of any situation added so much to any final decision. Just a great person. It is always amazing to see how people interact and work together.
Everyone that you come into contact with has his or her own circle of life. Let me explain. We all live within a realm of people, places and time. There really isn’t much else in the day. But each of us exist in a truly unique environment not only by what we think and what our senses appreciate but also our individual perception of all those components. And this fluidity that is “us” is constant. Our family, friends and passing acquaintances each move themselves into our circle to create that experience. We can disengage from people to consider that static world around us, be it man-made or natural. Time always is moving no matter what.
I think therefore I am. I think therefore time moves. I think– so what happens when I don’t? Sometimes your brain hurts from all the thinking. In this day and age the appreciation of silence and stillness isn’t such a bad idea.
I just had an interesting meeting with an old neighbour of ours who moved outside the area. His kids are getting bigger and much older than I had thought and he is seeing the teenage years for them fast approaching. Someone once said about teenagers – “They become aliens and leave the planet around 13 or 14 years of age. But don’t worry they usually return to earth 5 or 6 years later.” At times that is what one had to think in order to get through it. Anyway he is beginning to look for something to do outside the home and as golf is not his sport, and sitting at the Legion would probably not help any marriage, he was thinking about fly-fishing. Voila! Another person to accompany on those fishing expeditions, that time when you just need to get out and get some fresh air. Nothing is a better than being beside or in a river.
Had a very interesting lunch today with my favourite ad agency, Currency. The account manager and I talked about blogs and what businesses were about to venture into with this new form of communication. The relevancy of the blog is going to be different for each business as the “wall of silence” begins to erode. Some interesting times are ahead for businesses that don’t or won’t change or use this process.
We also discussed the need for a new type of conference centre, one that isn’t part of a hotel with the typical white table cloth setup for food and beverages. We could really use the American model here. Last year at the Seattle Conference for GTD the venue was fantastic. If you took a break, outside of the meeting room was a good counter (not table) that would have bowls of different types of candies and just great snack stuff. And the bowls never went empty! The other neat thing was you took your own break (except for lunch) so when you got a bit drowsy you could go out and grab a drink and snack. It sure came in handy at about 4:09 p.m. when the eyelids got heavy. Now wouldn’t that setting be a little better than heading out for stale pastries or giant cookies at exactly 3:15 pm. Lots of possibilities here.
Two more meetings today. Gotta luv those meetings. There should declare one weekday a year as non-meeting day. We sometimes need less human interaction to complete our workloads.
Sunny and warm. Wonder what its like on the Prairies?