Musings from George

January 24, 2009, 5:33 am
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Already I am happy to witness what leadership means in the new administration. Barack showed up at the end of a tough day to THANK the press corps for their treatment of his new press guy.

Imagine that. A boss who has your back, and actually will work to make your job easier. Hard to contemplate in the world that I work in.

Leadership is the art of getting a group of people moving in the same direction, in pursuit of the same vision, because they think you know what you are doing. Mel Gibson did a great job of capturing that in Braveheart — not presenting himself as a talented saviour, but presenting himself as someone with the needs of the common man (Scots) as his objective. People followed him into battle, and into death, because they believed in the vision he painted and believed that he himself would die trying to deliver on those commitments.

So much of our “new” economy is based on shallow, temporal commitments — hired hands, not the sons of the founders. So much of our “new'” economy is based on indirect ownership and returns — not on people. So how surprised should we be that the head of an investment bank (Merrill Lynch) gave out billions that weren’t his days before the company disappeared? It’s painless cowardice, and an absence of leadership.

So…think back. What leaders in your life shaped your world, and your perspective? Who really mattered in your life? Send them a letter (or an email) to say thank you. Leadership is sometimes seen most clearly in the rearview mirror.

And to George W Bush, who “hopes” history will be kind to him, I’d like to say: you were a terrible leader. The vision you promoted was based on conviction rather than facts, on wishful thinking rather than experience, and on denial rather than introspection. Good riddance.

Go. Be a leader. Share your vision. Please!!



A Modest Proposal
January 16, 2009, 11:58 pm
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Several recent articles have noted the hardships being visited upon the petro-states because of the recent “collapse” of the price of oil. Budgets based on $100 / barrel oil don’t look quite as good when the price falls to $40 / barrel.

Herewith, a modest proposal. The US has a huge storage facility known as the strategic petroleum reserve, as well as many depleted wells that could be used to store oil. We should set a base price for a barrel of oil, high enough to motivate the development of alternative energy sources and supported by taxes on the consumption of oil in the US. We could effectively agree to pay $60 / barrel whenever it is available, and could sell (draw down the reserves) when it is sufficiently high (say $100 / barrel). Think of the benefits! We’d remain a net importer of petroleum, but would build up US reserves until some point in the future when we don’t need them, as we develop alternatives that can count on a stable market for usable energy. As soon as we reach self-sufficiency, we can effectively destroy the petro-states. And taxes earned along the way would help us reach that stage earlier than our current drift and short attention spans allow.

I know, I know. Nothing about eating babies here . A cheap theft of a classic title. Forgive me the breach, as I truly believe that energy self-sufficiency is one of the most important goals facing the US today. If we did not have to ship money to states that hate us and attack us, we would be a stronger country.


Manners and polite society
January 15, 2009, 5:22 am
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Dogs make it simple — when they meet you, they size you up and they let you know what they think of you. They may growl, they may seek shelter, they may just turn and walk away. But you know pretty much immediately how your interview went. Tails wag or teeth bare, dog-smiles or growls come forth, and the relationship is pretty much set.

I wish it were that easy in our jobs. We play nice with people who wish us ill, we avoid the people who blame others for any of their failings or mistakes, we smile when we run into people we were avoiding. We dance around the topic when we know people aren’t getting their jobs done, and we skate around any limitation or liability that may impair someone else’s capabilities. We are anything BUT honest.

So I’m wrestling with a relationship at work that is really causing me to disengage, to work less hard and to ignore some requests. It is very hard for me to distance my reaction from the person, to separate the job from the relationship. At some level I wish I could just growl at the person, to bare my teeth and say “F*** you!” as only an animal can do. But I don’t, because I was raised to hold the door open for anyone behind me and to stand on the bus if ANYONE else doesn’t have a seat (not just pregnant women, but pretty much anyone less capable than I am … and I probably think I am more capable than I am). So, I tolerate others’ non-performance and I pretend to appreciate criticisms or judgments that I believe to be baseless. Does that make me phony? or is it a requirement to be successful in the world today, where we will (and have to) interact with others of varying capabilities.

I am thrilled to see the ascendancy of a very smart man to be President, and am also proud to say that my vote was color-blind and my children are without question color-blind. They go to a pre-school that we POSITIVELY refer to as the United Nations, where every color and religion is present and the teachers reflect the diversity of the students. I wish I had been able to live in the world our kids live in today.

The dogs are really, truly, wonderful. We are happy to be where we are, and appreciate the luck and hard work that got us here.


Pets and the places they fill in our souls
January 14, 2009, 10:59 pm
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Happy New Year to everyone! We decided to amplify the noise and confusion in our world (two small children are the definition of noise and confusion) by adding a new variable to the equation. We adopted two dogs from an animal shelter in San Francisco, who were left behind when their owner sold the house and moved out of the country. The realtor who sold the house brought the dogs down to the shelter, and he believes that the older female (maybe six years old) is the mother of the younger male (perhaps four years old).
They came to our house as Stacy and Simba, names they clearly had never answered to. Stacy became Tracy, and became Sadie, in less than a day. Simba was christened Catcher almost immediately.
They are fantastic dogs, and get along as well as I have ever seen two dogs get along. I have only had a dog once before in my life, and she was a once-in-a-lifetime dog with many wonderful traits but with an uneasy relationship with our children. She was wracked with lymphoma and cancer at the end of 2007, and left with her dignity intact.
These dogs allow the kids to do anything that they want (mostly hugs, pats, and some inexpert brushing) without complaint, and they follow anyone in the family from room to room with a dog-smile and a tail wag. Sweet, quiet, well-mannered, housebroken … just great dogs.
We swing between being thankful for having them and being sincerely puzzled as to how anyone could leave behind two members of their family (and these dogs were clearly members of a family). I think that I would work very hard to send my dogs to live with someone I knew if ever we faced true hardship, rather than just closing the door on them for the last time as I drove away. Staggering, in its own way.
New year, new pets, new leadership in the White House … I am excited and optimistic for the year ahead.
Kids with dogs
Kids with dogs

More substance next time. For now, enjoy your family and embrace the new year. Embrace your extended family, and include in that embrace the animals that you love that fill the holes in your day.