Apr 22, 2010
Durham to Dakar
Image by Ron Blakey, Emeritus Professor of Geology at Northern Arizona University, who has a series of ~40 slides (550 million years ago to present) at his Paleogeography and Geologic Evolution of North America.
For the last 40 million years of West Coast history, watch this plate tectonics animation from UC Santa Barbara.
Apr 14, 2010
Two Thoughts on Aging
Thank you to the many people who shared their concern and well-wishes about my aunt's hospitalization on Sunday night. Diagnosis: hairline fracture in the hip -- not enough for surgery, but enough for pain. After 48 hours she is back at her assisted living facility, which is good. And yet -- without giving too much detail -- her risk for more falls and worse injuries continues and will likely increase as she ages further unless something like a Miracle occurs.
Some years ago, I heard (on the radio? among friends?) that "we think we need money for our old age, but what we really need is security." Security can come in many forms: family, friends and community can be the critical things that keep us safe and warmly held, if we build the kind of family, friends and community that would commit to doing that. But these seem like harder things to build, and at the very least they require much more trust. So instead, we look to money or government, both of which might keep us safe, but have a harder time keeping us warm.
In How Good Do We Have to Be? Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote:
The fifth of the Ten Commandments bids us honor our parents "that your days may be long upon the earth." ." I am not sure that people who honor their parents live longer than people who don't. Maybe what the Bible is suggesting is that, if we fashion a society in which the elderly are cherished and taken seriously, we will be able to look forward to growing old ourselves instead of dreading it. We will not have to lie about our ages, dye our hair, visit the plastic surgeon, because growing old is an embarrassment. We will not shun the elderly for fear of becoming like them. We will revere them for the living lesson they represent.
More on this, perhaps, in another post. Meanwhile -- thank you all for any continued good wishes for my aunt and her care team, which includes my exceptional mother and father and many more folks who often try very hard.
Apr 07, 2010
What Message is the Universe Trying to Send Me?
Last week I walked up to a Wachovia ATM that was still running with the prior customer's card inside. I hit "return card" and turned around to see if "Susan Pearson" (not her real name) might still be in the parking lot. I found her in her car, frantically going through her wallet.
Today I found another Wachovia debit card while I was sorting my mail at the post office. I drove to the bank with hopes they could call "Scott Andrews" before he went through the trouble of cancelling his card. (Unsigned -- shame on him.)
At Wachovia, I gave the card to a friendly banker and mentioned that it was my second one of the week, then I headed back to my car. But on the way out I spotted a set of keys on the counter by the door. Gave it to the same banker, who asked if I wanted a job. Turns out that the keys belonged to someone's new Scion xB. Dang -- I could use one of those right now.
Image yoinked from CreditCardForum.com
Would it have been extra rude of me to check her balance before returning the card? What if it had been billions of dollars?
Mar 22, 2010
Roy Blount, Jr. Understands Cats
I heard Roy recite this on the radio, and now I have the book. I Am the Cat, Don't Forget That: Feline Expressions. Poems by Roy Blount, Jr. Photographs by Valerie Shaff.
Mar 04, 2010
A Good Fortune to Know You
Last week I had a nice lunch with my friend Paul. While we were sitting, my friend Tatiana happened by and stopped to say "hello". I introduced them and mentioned their common interests, so they swapped business cards.
As it turns out, Tatiana's boyfriend Eddie also knew Paul, and launched into spontaneous high praise when Tatiana mentioned meeting him.
Tatiana told me the story by email, adding, "I feel honored to now know him."
Privacy be damned. I passed the compliments to Paul, who quickly wrote me back:.
"Gosh, I would have had no idea. Thanks so much for passing it along. I got a fortune cookie the other day which is on my desk. It says 'A single kind word will keep one warm for years.' I believe it."
Privacy be damned once more, I had to share this story with you :-)
My Aunt Virgie shares this quote in her .sig file:
"If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." -- attrib. William Penn.
Kind words are kind acts. Let us happily pass them along.
Names changed, of course. Privacy isn't that damned around here.
Photo yoinked from fortunecookiestore.com
Feb 22, 2010
Where to Go for Reputable Environmental Decisionmaking Help?
I'm looking for a reliable resource for scientific opinions on environmental issues. I remember being impressed by the Union of Concerned Scientists' 1999 book The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists because it differentiated between big deal environmental problems and less-of-a-big-deal problems so that we could allocate our efforts accordingly (e.g., meat vs. vegetables is a bigger deal than paper vs. plastic). I often want a similar title, updated for 2010. For example, to address one visible concern of the environmentally conscious person today: what's the relative impact of worrying about my tire pressure vs. whether I'm drinking bottled water? Or should I spend my next $25k on buying a new Prius, or should I just keep my old car very carefully in tune, buy a solar water heating system and a new heat pump, and donate the rest to a nonprofit that weatherproofs older homes in poor neighborhoods?I welcome suggestions on organizations and/or publications that can help. FYI: I don't have a sense of where the UCS sits on the credibility meter. But I did like the intention of their 1999 effort.
Feb 18, 2010
Your Childhood and Mine
Generational differentiator, diagnostic 1 -- your childhood photo was taken in which format:
c. black and white
Diagnostic 2 -- television commercials in your childhood were:
b. louder than the TV show
c. official show sponsors
d. what television?
Diagnostic 3 -- childhood fruits and vegetables were:
a. organic from the store
b. from the store
c. from the back yard
d. organic from the back yard
Diagnostic 4 -- eggs were considered:
a. good for you
b. bad for you
c. incredible, edible
d. from the back yard
--------------------Boulevard du Temple, Paris - Daguerreotype taken by Louis Daguerre.
Feb 02, 2010
Prince St. just west of Anderson. A neighbor with a truck and chains packed the snow down on Saturday. I got my rides in on Monday afternoon while no one was around. It was nice of folks to leave all the sleds out.
On Saturday night, my pal KG and her s.o. J did a combination walk/sled commute to get from Prince St. to Duke's Page Auditorium, where they locked up their sleds to make sure they didn't go wandering. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra got a kick out of seeing KG and J unlock their vehicles.
Related dialogue from Monday afternoon with mailman:
Me: We really impressed that you delivered the mail on Saturday
Mailman: Yeah, that sucked.
Me: We still appreciated it.
Mailman: Well that's what we do.
Jan 18, 2010
Energy Conservation Sales Job at Southern Energy Management
Posting for friends at Southern Energy Management -- this is a great job for a sales professional who wants to make a positive difference
Existing Homes Sales Manager
Full Time Position: Available Immediately
Location(s): –Domestic travel required.
The Existing Homes Sales Manager oversees the development and performance of all sales activities in the existing homes market. The position requires establishing plans and strategies to expand SEM's residential customer base and contributing to the development of training and educational programs for the general public and sales staff. Providing leadership and direction to the sales team will maximize value creation, growth and profitability in line with SEM vision and values. The ideal candidate will have marketing and home building experience.
• Manage the development of a business plan and sales strategy for the existing homeowner market to meet or exceed company sales goals and profitability.
• Prepare action plans with individuals and sales team to effectively develop sales leads and prospects.
• Maintain contact with clients in the market area to ensure high levels of client satisfaction.
• Work with Strategic Business Development Director to initiate and coordinate action plans that maximize value creation in high potential markets.
• Assist in the development and implementation of marketing plans as needed.
• Create and conduct proposal presentations and RFP responses.
• Control expenses to meet budget guidelines.
• Maintain accurate records of all pricing, sales, and activity reports generated by sales team.
• Adhere to all company policies, procedures and business ethical standards and ensure they are communicated and implemented within the team.
• Work with HR staff to recruit, test and hire sales team based on criteria agreed upon by senior management.
• Ensure that each sales person meets or exceeds all activity goals for prospecting calls, appointments, presentations, proposals and closes.
• Conduct regular coaching and counseling sessions with sales team to build motivation, selling and value creation skills.
• Conduct one-on-one reviews with each sales person not less than once per quarter to build more effective communication; understand his/her training and development needs; and provide insight for the improvement of the team's sales activity and performance.
• Provide timely feedback to senior management regarding performance.
• Assist sales team with preparation of proposals and presentations.
• Interact and cooperate with all SEM team members.
• Lead by example in areas of personal character.
• Commit to triple-bottom-
• Monitor and support work/life balance for the sales team to sustain high performance and job satisfaction.
• Minimum 5 years experience as sales manager in construction services or home building.
• Proficient in Microsoft Office products.
• Familiar with salesforce.com CRM
• Excellent interpersonal communication skills.
• Strong verbal and written communication skills.
• Must possess a valid driver's license and clean driving record.
• Must be willing to travel out of the local area at least 25% of the time.
• Ability to take initiative and work independently while also collaborating in a team environment.
• Excellent interpersonal communication skills for working with both the internal team and clients.
• Associates Degree in related field.
• Marketing experience.
• Home building experience.
This is an excellent career opportunity for the right individual, with outstanding growth potential. We are committed to sustainability at all levels of our organization, and believe that our success as a company depends on the success of every team member.
If you're ready to work hard, make a difference and have fun doing it, then you could be just the person we're looking for!
To apply for this position, please send a resume and cover letter to
We look forward to hearing from you soon!
Dec 27, 2009
Care of the Soul (Thomas Moore) and Careers
In the soul, power doesn't work the same way as it does in the ego and will. When we want to accomplish something egotistical, we gather our strength, develop a strategy, and applying every effort... The power of the soul, in contrast... is natural, not manipulated, and stems from an unknown source. Our role with this kind of power is to be an attentive observer noticing how the soul wants to thrust itself into our life. It is also our task to find artful means of articulating and structuring that power, taking full responsibility for it, but trusting too that the soul has intentions and necessities that we may understand only partially.
Neither ego-centered will on the one hand nor pure passivity on the other serve the soul. Soul work requires both much reflection and also hard work.
Writers are taught to "write what you know about." The same advice applies to the quest for the power of the soul: be good at what you're good at. Many of us spend time and energy trying to be something that we are not. But this is a move against soul... for each individual the soul is highly idiosyncratic. Power begins in knowing this special soul, which may be entirely different from our fantasies about who we are or who we want to be.
A friend once introduced me to an audience I was about to lecture. "I'm going to tell you," he said to the group, "what Tom isn't. He isn't an artist, he isn't a scholar, he isn't a philosopher, he isn't..." I felt somewhat mortified hearing all these things I wasn't. At the time I was teaching at a university and was supposed to give the illusion at least that I was a scholar. Yet I knew I wasn't. My friend's unusual introduction was wise and absolutely correct. Maybe we could all use an emptying out of identity now and then. Considering who we are not, we may find the surprising revelation of who we are.
I knew a young man who wanted to be a writer. Something in him urged him to travel and to live the Bohemian life, but he looked around and saw all his peers going to school. So he decided to overrule his desire for travel and take some college courses. Not surprisingly, he flunked out, and then went on a long trip. It is easy to overlook the obvious, persistent indications of soul, in this case the fantasies and longings for travel, and instead try to manufacture power with demanding and expensive efforts.
In Transitions (which I've quoted elsewhere and will likely quote again), William Bridges introduces his Rule number one of transitions: "you find yourself coming back in new ways to old activities, when in transition." I first started reading Care of the Soul in 2001 while I was on vacation with relatives in Indonesia. Today I'm reading it again while on vacation with the same extended family, currently convened in Texas. Coincidentally (?) the copy of the book I'm reading was purchased in Indonesia, while the one I read there was purchased at home.
The passage I've quoted speaks of travel and writing, both of which may be apt, of course. But the greater reason for sharing it comes from the prior passage which means much to me right now as I think about redesigning my profession. For years I assumed that I was a business person who happened to know a lot about people. But this fall, some very important business partners have me thinking that I've had it backwards. I'm a people person who happens to know a lot about business. The difference is very big and now I get to see what it means. Wish me luck.
Dec 20, 2009
Above, a pic from last year's southern Texas visit with my Indonesian/Vietnamese cousins and their American-raised kids. They live in a Texas-sized house but this is how they hang when they're at home: all together plus their dog (and in this pic, my dad).
Mom, dad and I will spend Christmas there this year. Around the living room we will have people born in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia and the United States. I hope we'll eat lots of Mexican food and that I won't be a holiday recluse who avoids the living room because there are too many people :-)
Related post: On Asian/-American Family
Nov 28, 2009
Ms. Manners and Seating Arrangements
I had a lovely Thanksgiving and hope you did, too. For the second year running, my parents and I were lucky to join their neighbors -- dear folk who also happen to use place cards. While I rarely feel that place cards are a necessity for modern entertaining, I do think they are often helpful.
So does Miss Manners -- or at least she did twenty-seven years ago when she published this:
Dear Miss Manners:
Last night we went to a dinner party at the home of some neighbors we've never visited before they have a big dining room, and it was all fixed up with candles and everything, so I asked the hostess where I should sit. She said, “Oh, just sit anywhere,“ and so I did. Then the host said, “No, I'm sitting there“ -- it was a sort of oval table, so I couldn't tell what was to be the head of it -- so I moved. I picked another place, but then we were told to get up to get our food from the buffet table, and somebody else sat down in that place. So then I took my plate and sat down again -- you notice that this is now the third time I've tried to sit down and have dinner -- and guess who comes and sits next to me? My wife. I know married couples aren't supposed to sit next to each other dinners, but I didn't know she'd been sitting there was now up to get her plate filled. I got fed up when the hostess saw where I was and said, “Oh, you two can’t can sit next to each other,“ and my wife sat there as if she wasn't ever going to move. But I still was nice, and I said, “Okay, where do you want me to sit? “ and the hostess said, “Oh, sit anywhere,“ and when I looked at her -- and this is now the third time she or her husband had made me move -- she said, “I mean anywhere else. “ So I took my plate and went and sat in the living room. Would you mind telling me what the hell “Sit anywhere“ means?
It means that the hostess has not taken the trouble to finish planning her dinner party. There is a mistaken notion that this omission is a sign of merry insouciance on the part of the hosts who would not dream of failing to orchestrate every other aspect of the party. If the hostess cannot carry the seating arrangement at her head so that she can give you a decent answer to your decent question of where you should sit, she ought to use place cards.
Miss Manners’ Guide To Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. Judith Martin. 1982.
1. I met my first etiquette book in 7th grade when I discovered Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette (~1957 edition) in the classroom closet of my Social Studies teacher, Mr. Robert W. Herbert. Looking back, I realize that Mr. Herbert was one of the most sophisticated teachers I had in Asheville. He'd traveled all around the world and knew his way around Amy Vanderbilt, Indian beggars (he taught me the word "baksheesh"), music, rock climbing and making your own scratch pads from scrap paper with a special kind of rubber cement. He knew I was smart but didn't mind making fun of me (in a nice way) when I acted dumb. Steve Richardson once noticed that I was the only kid in class who turned in an essay double-spaced and asked Mr. Herbert if that was what we were supposed to do. "Only if you have very little to say", he responded.
2. I have an awesome ex-girlfriend who really disliked Miss Manners. I think I understand where both women were coming from. And I'm glad to still like both women, though for different reasons.
3. Wow, I just realized that the Amy Vanderbilt book was more current (~21 years old) when I first read it than the Miss Manners book is now.
4. I would love to co-author a modern etiquette book for teenagers -- a text that focuses on consideration, empathy, kindness and harmony and how these things can help us quickly figure out a well-mannered response to most social encounters.
I'm not so interested (any more) on the proper way to eat potato chips and asparagus ("in the fingers") or to address heads of state (or household servants). But there are still many rules of etiquette worth teaching to young folk -- especially if we teach the whys behind the better rules. Feel free to bring this up if I ever do something rude in front of you or your kids.
Nov 19, 2009
I want to thank you, thank you...Thank you to all the lovely people who sent me birthday greetings last week. It was overwhelmingly wonderful to get so many well-wishes, and I guess I should also thank Facebook for making it so easy to feel so good.
To express my thanks more melodically, let me recruit the help of Natalie Merchant who does it perfectly, starting at the 2:40 mark of Kind and Generous :
For Facebook folks who can't see the embedded video, click here please.
Sort of related: a certain friend of mine once referred to Natalie as "bone ugly". I disagreed both then and now but speaking of other short, dark-skinned women of a similar shape: tonight I saw Ugly Betty for the first time. Holy cow that show is good. Then I watched part of the new show Community and thought it was really sharp. Then I watched part of 30 Rock (perhaps my fourth episode ever). Where did all this amazing television come from?!?!
Nov 10, 2009
The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything
For Facebook readers who can't see the embedded video, click here.
Today is much more amusing than the advent of my Jesus year :-) Shout out to mom and dad!
By the way, I haven't seen The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Just this clip. Is it representative?