April 2009


I enjoy writing poetry, but I don’t like thinking about it very much or editing or planing and I really don’t enjoy reading other people’s poetry. I’m in the airport and 10% of the people deplaning the plane I’m about to board are wearing surgical masks. But I’m pretty sure everyone is doing it to be funny. It’s kind of funny but not really all that funny.

Surgical Mask Irony

The surgical mask

On your head

Is funny

And baffling

Held to your face

By a flimsy rubber band

To prevent the transfer

Of swine flu

Or something worse.

Do you know something I do not know?

But you can’t be serious

As you dance off the plane

Wearing that thing

I’m pretty sure

You’re being ironic

Because I see you laughing.

You’re mask…

It’s funny,

Baffling,

And ironic

Because you are probably making

A statement.

Oh irony

You are the marijuana of the masses

For my generation

And the next.

But you have reached your halflife

Still funny sometimes

But more boring than before

I’m writing this in the Jacksonville Wyndham hotel bar tonight because the cable TV in my room doesn’t have the channel which is showing the Celtics-Bulls game. It’s halftime as I write this paragraph, Chicago up 3 points. I’ve not watched a basketball game on TV all year, which is a shame. My lack of NBA consumption is the sole detriment I have identified in 4 years of not having cable TV.

I sent about 50 emails today. I also wrote lists, took notes, drew ideas on scrap paper, prepared a presentation I will give tomorrow, wrote an analysis of how to “expedia-ize” a trucking sales website and Twittered the intimate details of my professional activity. I do enjoy my job and as I write this I realize that may be in large part because I “publish” a few thousand words each day.

I worked through dinner to organize a story I have been working on since December. It’s about a man named Jairus, a father and religious leader who had an encounter with Jesus which is documented in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. While those guys wrote a story about Jesus, I am writing about a man who crossed his path. I have read his story several times in my life, thinking of him as little more than an ingredient in a theological lesson. But the when I read the story in December, I realized Jairus was a powerful man, a father whose daughter was dying and who had to deal with a moral dilemma.

Included in my list of “things I believe” would be my perception that most problems are simple. All day long I write to help clarify and simplify business and technical problems for my clients. Yet experience and my heart and mind and soul tell me something different about people. Like anyone who is fortunate enough to outlive youth, I am discovering a depth and complexity to life stories which I did not previously perceive. This is a pleasurable and challenging discovery I look forward to exploring.

I was recently referred to an article written by Peter Drucker in 1993 entitled Management: The Five Deadly Sins. The third sin is what caught my attention:

The third deadly sin is cost-driven pricing. Most American and practically all European companies arrive at their prices by adding up costs and putting a profit margin on top. And then, as soon as they have introduced the product, they have to cut the price, redesign it at enormous expense, take losses and often drop a perfectly good product because it is priced incorrectly. Their argument? ‘We have to recover our costs and make a profit.’

This is true, but irrelevant. Customers do not see it as their job to ensure a profit for manufacturers. The only sound way to price is to start out with what the market is willing to pay – and thus, it must be assumed, what the competition will charge – and design to that price specification.

Starting out with price and then whittling down costs is more work initially. But in the end it is much less work than to start out wrong and then spend loss-making years bringing costs into line.

This makes sense because it is how most reasonable people put together a budget. People generally start with the price side of the equation ($2,000 in a vacation budget), then prioritize costs accordingly (choosing whether to stay in the Manhattan Crowne Plaza or the Newark Budget Inn).

The issue is not the reasonableness of the approach.

The issue is that it’s a more difficult and initially expensive approach.

It’s hard to figure out what the marketplace says your product or service is worth. You have to decide what your product is and is not, present it to the marketplace, receive and analyze enough feedback to come up with an accurate number, decide to set the price, stick to it and base business decisions on that price. Cost is an important factor in the equation, but not the only factor — and, more importantly in this narrative, not the first factor.

It’s a lot easier to use one of the an online calculator like freelanceswitch.com, add a margin and hope for the best. It’s much harder and, according to Mr. Drucker who is a lot smarter and more experienced than I am, more profitable to start with price and “design to that price specification”.

A recent episode of This American Life featured a poem by William Carlos Williams called This is Just to Say. Legend has it that he wrote the poem and left it as a note on the refrigerator for his wife:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

This poem is famous for being both the world’s best non-apology and for being commonly spoofed. I find the poem contains a certain dryness and wit which is reminiscent of Jack Handy quotes (“If God dwells inside us like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting”).

Here are a couple of my spoofs. I would love to read yours!

-1-
I stuck my foot out
as you walked by
and made you fall down
in front of your friends

The whole
school is laughing about it
forgive me

-2-

Yesterday I put your dog out
but I forgot to let her back inside
and she ran away

I heard her barking
near the street
when I went to bed

I am sorry
but I was so
warm and comfortable
under the soft covers
and I had just taken off my socks

kottke.org provides a great link to some stunning microscopic images of grains of sand.

What else am I missing by not keeping a microscope with me at all times?

I set a personal goal of reading 36 books this year. The books will span a variety of subjects from fiction, spiritual, history, biographical, business, etc. Below is my reading list so far. As you can see, I have some spaces to fill in. Any recommendations?

  1. Outliers (read)
  2. The 7 Triggers to Yes (read)
  3. East of Eden (read)
  4. Duma Key (listened)
  5. Jesus Wants to Save Christians (listened)
  6. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice (In progress, listening)
  7. The Go Point (In progress, reading)
  8. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bible by Jonathan Goldstein
  9. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
  10. Over the Edge of the World (Magellan’s terrifying circumnavigation of the globe)
  11. Lisey’s Story
  12. The Time Paradox
  13. The Creative Habit
  14. Revolution by George Barna
  15. The Relational Way
  16. The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
  17. Spin Selling
  18. Genesis
  19. Exodus
  20. Leviticus
  21. Numbers
  22. Deuteronomy
  23. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  24. Emergency Sex
  25. Founders at Work (http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/2007/book-review-founders-at-work/)
  26. E Myth Revisited
  27. ?
  28. ?
  29. ?
  30. ?
  31. ?
  32. ?
  33. ?
  34. ?
  35. ?
  36. ?

I’m a Jesus fan, but really don’t care much for the Easter Bunny. No, I hate the bunny. Coincidentally, my daughter Jordan isn’t a big fan either.

img_4577

Easter is a day which Christians celebrate that Jesus died, but did not stay dead. When he died, his friends and family had no place to bury him, so he was placed in a borrowed tomb. Did the owner of the tomb have any idea how quickly he’d get his real estate back? A few days after he was murdered, Jesus woke up, walked out of his tomb and let people touch his actual body as proof that he was really alive. If he explained the science behind this miraculous event, the details were not recorded. He seemed more interested in forgiving his friends (Peter in particular), reuniting them, illuminating for them the practical implications of his no longer being dead. He also set them on a journey to tell the world what he thought was good news – a journey which started with them, but has long outlasted them.

I am more a fan of the Jesus way than a good follower of it. I wish my beliefs were stronger, my doubts fewer, that my passion and joy were more intense. I often pray that my belief in this event would enable me to be more compassionate, humble, gentle and self-controlled. I find that remembering the crucifixion, resurrection and its implications are good for me and I believe for others.

The problem with the damn bunny is that it distracts me (and others?) from the stuff which is important. Here are some people who didn’t seem too concerned with the bunny this year:

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/04/holy_week.html

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