Uncoiled 43 days ago, 0 comments
The great machine winds down, the springs uncoil to the utmost end, spending themselves overcoming friction instead of driving forward the slow, once-inevitable gears of progress.
The last employee is cut for efficiency’s sake. The last transaction is completed. The last – and largest – profit is made. Then the flywheel stops.
All is quiet. No wind disturbs the dust and ashes.
What hand will wind again the great springs that turn the world?
Thirty-five 261 days ago, 0 comments
Thirty-five years ago today, Voyager leapt from this small blue marble atop a fiery column to touch the heavens. And now, poised at the cusp of the solar system (poetically referred to as the heliosphere), and about to enter true interstellar space, she offers an opportunity to reflect on the last 35 years.
Not to reflect politically, or culturally, or even in any specific way. Voyager 1 and her sister Voyager 2 represent a time when humanity was still actively striving to understand the universe around it, still reaching out to grasp the stars.
We looked into the abyss, and when it looked back, we flinched.
And now she pushes ever onward, a last ambassador of that brave time, lost in the depths of space and valiantly forging on. It makes me a bit sad, really.
Long may you run, Voyager 1.
There used to be a story (or maybe there still is, I haven’t been past in ages), near my apartment in small-town Guelph called The Boxed Meat Revolution. Every now and then that phrase floats through my waking thoughts, and I have a quiet chuckle. It’s a funny phrase – slightly dirty seeming without ever actually flirting with dirtiness.
This morning, as I reported 41 separate Twitter accounts for spamming me, the phrase floated through my mind again. This time, it drifted past as “The Canned Meat Revolution”.
I got spammed because I dared to post that I was looking to hire web developers with Wordpress and/or Adobe CQ5 experience. Note that I said hire. Not contract out to a company in India, which will work for a whopping $12 per hour.
It is, of course, not limited to Twitter, this sort of abuse of communications systems. I get it on Facebook every now and then (Twitter automatically updates my FB status), and I get it on LinkedIn once in a while. I definitely get it through email. Somewhere offshore there is a team dedicated to finding posts I make about my profession (but not just that. Could be about sailboats, or my cat. Maybe it’s a picture of a rusty soda can I posted on my website) and contacting me to offer their services.
Not limited to the ‘online’ world either. I get telephone calls, like everyone else. Don’t even get me started on the 100 lbs of junk mail that gets rammed through the mail slot in my front door.
Granted this isn’t as offensive as actual scams being perpetrated via these channels. I routinely get txt messages telling me I’ve won something or other, and only have to txt a response (no double at $10 a shot). Hells bells, I am sick and tired of these parasites sucking the marrow from the bones of modern communication in hopes of racing each other to the bottom of the price bracket to offer me services I don’t want, and will never use.
See, I have a personal policy. I NEVER EVER EVER conclude a transaction that I have not personally initiated. Ever. Have I emphasized this enough? Call me to offer duct cleaning services on my house (which actually has no ducts)? Even if the requisite equipment existed, I’d not use your services. Even if if were cheaper than any other duct-cleaning service. How dare you invade my personal communications space – a space I take very seriously and consider an extension of my person – for as base a reason as to sell me something? How dare you?
So, I offer this advice to the word at large, and note that I am not emailing it everyone, nor am I following perfect strangers on Twitter and pointing them to it:
If you want to do business with me, don’t’ contact me. I’ll contact you. If you want to guarantee you never make a red (and soon no longer legal tender in Canada) cent off me, by all means, keep spamming.
I have a personal theory that if half – one out of every two – people out there did as I did and refused to do business with and sort of spammer, this sort of offensive, aggressive ‘marketing’ would vanish in days.
Plenty 270 days ago, 0 comments
Imagine you’re tasked with designing a new educational space. It could be a kindergarten classroom, or maybe it’s a common area for an inner-city community college. Money is at this point no object (it is a hypothetical situation, after all). What do you see?
Large open spaces? Bright and airy and filled with clusters of seating and tables that foster and promote innovative thinking and collaborative idea generation? Smooth, organic surfaces and materials that feed the imagination? Maybe a fountain or a waterfall creating a gentle background white noise?
I think that’s what most people see. That’s the sort of space in which real, innovative and creative thinking can occur.
Or does it? In an environment of plenty do the seeds of new ideas plant themselves and grow into the mighty ideas they could be, or do ideas eat too quickly, grow sedentary, and eventually die of excess?
I’d argue that real innovative thinking doesn’t happen in environments that are too nourishing to such pursuits. I think that real, powerful innovative thinking happens in environments where every thought must fight tooth and nail with its peers to find purchase and drag itself above the fray, where the light can feed it and start making it stronger. Truly great ideas are born of necessity.
I’d wager more great ideas have been created in crowded classrooms and labs where there’s no air conditioning than have ever been incubated in chic open concept collaboration spaces.
I sure like those open spaces, especially ones with water features. Water features promote peaceful contemplation. I wonder how many great innovations were born in peaceful contemplation.
The Good Life Parable by Mark Albion (from his book, More Than Money)
An American investment banker was taking a much needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.
The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the fisherman how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied, “Only a couple of hours.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish.
The fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fishermen replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, then teach children how to fish before I stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my wife and friends. I have a full and busy life.”
The investment banker scoffed, “I have an MBA, and I could help you vastly expand your business. If you would simply spend more time fishing, with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”
Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City and eventually New York City where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “Probably between 10 and 15 years.”
“But what then, señor?”
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”
Millions, señor? Then what?”
To which the American said, “Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, teach children how to fish, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”