Tyranny Of Trains

More accurately the tyranny of the train schedule. I have not taken the commuter train for over four years now. But tonight one of my former employers was having an alumni reception. I hadn’t been to one for several years. Thinking I was smart I drove from my far north suburban office to the train near my house. I would avoid fighting the traffic going into downtown Chicago. And since the reception was 2 blocks from the train station it was to be easy in, easy out.

Except for one thing. the trains leave infrequently. Starting with the 7:35 pm train they run once an hour. The event started at 5 and I did not expect to see many people I know and even fewer people I care about so I thought I would catch the 6:44 train. After all since I left the office early, I had work to do tonight. Well 6:44 came and I was still there. In fact while I had been checking my watch periodically it was 6:43 when I noticed the time. No worries. I was still having a good time and the next train was in less than an hour.

You would think that maybe I would have learned my lesson about checking the time more frequently. You would be wrong. I glanced at my watch at 7:32. I had been ready to go for at least 20 minutes and now I had three minutes to catch the train. Possible if I hurried. Except that I could not find my coat check slip and the two women working the coat room would not let me just take mine. Finally find the slip, grab the coat and run as fast as I can. Too late by 3 minutes.

My choices were to hang out at the station for 57 minutes or take the L. For those unfamiliar with Chicago the L is the peoples form of transportation while the commuter trains are for the well to do suburbanites. Actually, with the CTA raising fares on the L the price difference is less than $1. It is just slower, makes more stops, is more crowded and less comfortable. But trains run every 15-20 minutes.

I felt the need for movement so I walked the 5 blocks to the L only to find that the train that goes directly to my stop quit running 25 minutes ago. I would now have to start on one train and transfer to two others. Now I remember why I hate to take the L. There were at least 27 stops from the one I got on to the one I got off at. It would quit moving or stay at a station for several minutes for no apparent reason. I pull into my stop 90 minutes later (it would have been a 25 minute car ride) only to see the 8:35 commuter train pull into its station at the same time. I saved 0 minutes.

When I worked downtown and took the train every day I had developed a sixth sense as to when I had to shut down my computer pack up and run to the station. In 8 years I missed my train 3 times. Now I lack all sense what-so-ever.

BTW. The alumni reception. It was worth an hour of my life at most, not the 4.5 hours it ended up taking to interact with people I once had a connection with. Despite my best efforts the conversations never exceeded polite triteness. “Life is good. I now work at ____. Nothing really new. Good to see you. You haven’t aged a bit.” OK that last comment had depth but the rest was shallow. I would rather be by myself with a book or music than spend time interacting at that level. I had no expectations of gut spilling but I always hope for a nugget of something meaningful. Nary a nugget to be found.

Is Perfection Always Better?

We strive to improve. Our selves, our works, everything.  So perfection is the ultimate, is it not?

I am not so sure. I think what many may define as perfect may lead to too much sameness. If everything is perfect is anything better? Isn’t there value in nothing more than being different? Can’t sometimes a slight blemish make something more desirable? Does the means by which perfection is achieved matter?

No, Yes, Yes, Yes are the correct answers, in my humble opinion.

To think that wine started this internal philosophical debate. No not drinking some–though that would have helped– but reading about it. Twice.

The first article was in the Hemispheres magazine found on United Airlines. This article compared the techniques of two winemakers. One was driven to make wine better through genetics. Breed the best genes for the wine. The other, while recognizing the value of the grape variety, he believed making great wine was created based on the soils, micro-climate and most importantly the care and feeding of the vines by a master using his instincts. The first would create a wine that the average buyer could most readily count on as being of a certain quality. The latter spoke of the character, personality and even the sould of the wine. Each vintage may vary but it would always be the best it could become.

Somewhat later I read in The Economist that the pinot noir genome has been sequenced. This has opened the door for genetically modified wine. Also leading to greater consistency of one grower’s view of the perfect wine.

Now I know that some level of genetic modification of foods may be helpful to create strains less resistant to certain diseases or insects. This type of modification may help better feed the world. Let’s assume for purposes of this discussion that these genetic modifications do not cause other problems for animals or the humans that consume them. Still is a million of the same “great” item mass produced really better?

Whether we are are talking food, wine or people, i.e. plastic surgery to “improve” our looks, I disagree that this is a way to achieve “better”.  Let’s talk superficially for a moment about how people look.

I study how people look in great detail. I have for as long as I can remember. I see everything. What I see on TV or in the movies or magazines that looks too perfect doesn’t look right. Jessica Simpson. Take each component part and I would have to objectively say that each one is very attractive. Yet the total package looks too plastic. (I am about to show my age so bear with me.) Sophia Loren. Too chunky, long nose. Yet stunningly sexy and gorgeous. Cindy Crawford. The mole makes the face more attractive. Men with cleft chins, such as Cary Grant or George Clooney. Not perfect in the Brad Pitt kind of way but good looking guys–so I am told by women I know. Also there can be outstanding beauty in the an aged, time tested face that no youthful complexion can match.

Should any of the Impressionist painters stayed within the lines? Or Picasso? Are these not masterpieces?

And with taste, be it wine or great food. Being a little different each time is my concept of perfection.

Last point. Science as a way to perfection is a lesser means than art. Being able to slice genes or peoples faces to get something that is theoretically better does not improve our souls the way that working with your hands, studying the large and small techniques for creating something and sometimes failing, can do.

This is beauty. Perfection. I saw her in Amsterdam.


White Man Ironic Again

“A white man is part of a diverse world, people should never forget that.”  Richard Cutts

This wise retort to “White Man Ironic” caused me to take a a second look at what I said and what I implied.  

I implied that a white male should not be leading a seminar about diversity. I made this leap without explanation. Therefore my second implication was that this was so obvious that all would agree. I was wrong. Not only did Mr. Cutts point out the obvious but my very success friend PeachFlambe added depth and breath to Richard’s straightforward message. If you don’t read comments you should check out what she said here said before continuing.

So lets continue this dialogue.

First of all I am as a rule against superficial evaluations/discussions of a topic. To me that is how bad things happen, like finding your military stuck in Iraq. Yet I did this with White Man Ironic. Thankfully I was called out on it. There was a thought process:

  • white males dominate the leadership of Corporate America. Beyond the stats, I know it to be so because professionally this is the world I work in every day.
  • to clarify, I am talking about straight, Christian (or Judeao-Christian) white males(WM) since gay, Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist, white males I would consider outside the mainstream
  • as a white male I assumed that everyone who fell outside of my narrow WM definition would expect that someone from outside this definition would participate in the leadership of a diversity seminar. My assumption was based on a perceived need for a symbol of diversity, not that the selected moderator could not be well versed on the issues. Can a WM alone represent diversity? Would non-WMs find this believable? Can a WM truly know how it feels to be something other than a WM?

As Richard and PeachFlambe note, WMs are part of the world. Some WMs are capable of being part of a world that embraces others that are different than he. I surely hope that people who know me would put me in this category. Not all non-WMs accept others who are outside of their particular category.

That was not my point. I just thought that a seminar on living with diversity should have a more diverse leadership. Often saying less is more. In this case perhaps a bit more should have been said.

To quote PeachFlambe:

“Many people see me as an example of the “success” of diversity efforts (and their predecessors, which we used to call Affirmative Action.) I’m often asked to talk about my career to young people and give them advice on what it takes to be successful. What they are surprised to hear is that the people who had the most impact on my success were….white men. They were the ones who recognized my talent, mentored me, gave me opportunities, pushed me to go beyond where I thought I could go, and, yes became my friends. They didn’t do it because of any training program. They did it because they looked beyond the physical, cultural and social differences and saw my potential.”

I like to write. To have my voice heard. However, what I get the greatest pleasure from is debate, discussion and dialogue. Few things would make me happier than a greater sharing of ideas right here on 48Facets. Thank you to Richard and PeachFlambe for making my Sunday afternoon.

Eye of the Beholder

Beauty they say is in the eye of the beholder. Some prefer brunettes over blondes, some prefer abstract paintings over classics, or the poetry of a great basketball team over a golf swing. You get the picture.

The same holds true for blog posts. The topics and/or writing style that pleases the senses of one may be of little interest to another.  As I was discussing the rather modest readership of this blog as compared to that of some of my friends’creations, one of my readers surmised that writing about my bike rides, as personally important as they might be, may not be as interesting as other blogger’s topics. Almost any other blogger.

Once I realized that withholding sex would hurt me as much as this reader, I decided that punishing the messenger is not helpful. So instead, I am looking for more feedback. If all 3 of you that read this regularly blog along with the 25 or so that check in occasionally would share your thoughts about what you like best it would be much appreciated.

I am a person who likes feedback. However, since I follow my own path, I often don’t use the advice I get but I like to hear it anyway. So fire away.

Justin TV Live

First read about this a couple of weeks ago on iFlipFlop.  NPR caught up tonight. This 20 something Justin has attached a web-cam to a hat he wears and you can watch life from his point of view 24/7.  NPR said Justin TV receives 10,000 hits /day.

 Personnally I do not see the fascination but I am old school. I watched for 5 minutes tonight and was even more bored by this than American Idol.

 My question is whether this is really his life or the life he leads because he is literally on all the time. Maybe after awhile the novelty wears off for him and he acts as he would have otherwise but don’t other people play to the camera? That would make it unreality TV. Why do people watch this other than because they can? Click on the link and then come back and let me know what you think.

Strangers on a Plane

The setting. Tuesday. I had already been in airports or on the first of two planes for 7 1/2 hours after being on the road for 3 days. This flight was running 90 minutes late because US Air could not get a crew to fly a plane that was sitting on the ground waiting to bring me home. I had 3 more hours to go.

Just as I found my aisle seat, a pleasant, averaging looking man in his sixties informed me he had the window. He took out some papers to work on. I took out my iPod. All I wanted to do was vegetate and be on my way home.  Not sure who started talking. Topic was something polite. Small talk, gag me. Next thing I knew the plane was landing at O’Hare and I had one of my top 10 , if not top 5, plane conversations of all time.

He works for the Lutheran Church, the national organization. Works on development/growth. From what I gathered this means both the personal development and growth of the senior pastors of Lutheran  churches through education and training  as well as growth and development of the church through fund raising. He had 51 people working for him scattered across the U.S. Qualified for this role by once having been a pastor but also running his own business.

We talked about what we do and how we do it. At first he asked questions about my work such as how I built consensus among business leaders, what were the traits of the CEOs I work with and what did I like about my work.

I learned about his passion for helping the senior pastors improve by giving them the skills to be more effective at achieving their mission. He felt strongly that while pastors were usually excellently trained in theology they were missing the basic skills to run an organization. Some of his thoughts:

  • churches too often accept mediocracy rather than strive for excellence
  • many church suffered from a wealth of opportunities to do good things. Leadership lacked priorities, focus and and the willingness to give up some things in order to be great at few things
  • the best churches have senior pastors that involve their lay leaders and strive for excellence
  • there are material differences between Lutheran churches in different regions across the country
  • there is evidence that the heart follows the money rather than money follows the heart (At first this went over my head. What he meant was that while for some, degree charitable giving follows what the person is passionate about, you will become passionate about the cause to which you give your money.)

 With the possible exception of this last point, I found many direct parallels between the world of Church and the world of Business. We went on to discuss family, charitable giving, the value to one’s self of helping others, our parents that had suffered from dementia, raising children to become good people–he has 6 , I but 1. He asked me if I considered myself a man of faith. I am pretty sure that no one had asked me this before on a plane.  There were times the conversation lagged and I thought it was over. A part of me hoped it was over but then one of us would ask a new question and on we went.

As the plane began its decent, he shared two last things. First, he had taken out papers with the intention of pretending to work in order to avoid conversation. He then shared that the last time he did that on a plane he was in a row with 5 black people all obviously family. Being tired he avoided conversation most of the flight.  Finally, in order to not seem prejudiced, he asked what he believed to be an innocuous question of the father next to him. “Are you leaving home or going home.”  The man’s reply was that he had no home. He was a refugee and this was his first day in America after seven years of living in a camp in Africa. My companion then relayed that the conversation just got better and better.

Much the way I felt about mine. I never would have had this gift if my day had gone well to begin with.

I Want Comments!

As a new blogger, one of the goals I have is that FortyeightFacets would become interactive. I want/desire/need, both feedback and dialog. If you like a post, say so. Let me know that I struck a chord. If you did not like something let me know that too.

I realize that only a dozen or so people even know this blog exists so my expectations were not that high but only Frank ever leaves a comment. Thanks buddy. The energy to write leaps exponentially with comments.

I knew that by choosing Vox as a host that people would have to sign up in order to leave comments. BUT SINCE SIGN UP TAKE 90 SECONDS, I thought people would take the time. I know that some of you are reading this.

Sign up. It is free. If you do not want to give out your regular email address go to gmail and sign up for a new one. That is also free and will add no more tha 3 minutes to the experience. I am worth at least that much, n’est pas?

As the Temptations song goes I “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. Pleeeeeeeese.

Post script

This post was written before switching from the vox site. No sign up is necessary to leave comments.