May, 2012 browsing by month


Memorial Day Post

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

One of the nice things about moving is that all around you is new again. When we lived in New York, there wasn’t much I could see around me that I hadn’t seen thousands of times in the past. That’s not so any more.

Yesterday, I decided to take care of a self-imposed errand that had been in the back of my mind since we moved here – to bicycle over the Sagamore Bridge, along the north canal bike path, and then back over the Bourne Bridge. I’ve driven over these dozens of times, always lamenting that I couldn’t just stop and enjoy the views. Much easier to do so on a bicycle.

About a mile or so west of the Sagamore Bridge, I briefly noticed a monument of some sort above and to my right. I took several seconds to think through ‘I want to finish this ride, no, I’m not in a hurry, probably its not worth looking at, maybe it is…’ and screech to a halt. I turned the bike around, pedaled to the monument, and climbed the twenty or so steps to its base.


Quite the contrast to a beautiful spring day, the morning haze just starting to lift.

I imagine of all the ways to go, drowning in a breached submarine has to be among the worst. Small solace that a war was being slowly, painfully, won on the surface above.

The monument speaks of 3500-plus men who realized the importance of what they were doing, and did it. I’m indebted to them – if they hadn’t done so, I’d probably be writing this in German. Or given my religion, more likely not writing it at all.

I can’t help but reflect on what those men were at the age of eighteen, and what I was at that age. It wasn’t that many years that separated us – only about thirty or so. But somehow, they ‘got’ something that I didn’t, and I’m only beginning to understand now. Why? I’m not sure; it bears further investigation. But in the mean time, I can still be grateful for their deeds.

Rest in peace.

On planning

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

A few weeks after the Big Trip, when I reflect back on it I can’t help but marvel over the ordinariness of the flying part. A combination of planning and flexibility resulted in the vast majority of the trip going according to schedule, and when it didn’t, we were able improvise, adding a new, interesting city (Savannah) to the itinerary.

But when you think about it, planning and flexibility are opposites. Eisenhower got it right when he said “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Our plans provided a baseline from which to stray, and a willingness to do so made the trip run smoothly.

Back in another life, I held a management position in a Fortune 500 company, and remember getting into a heated discussion with another employee. (Associate? Staff member? Cast member? Your call). She was part of a four-person department dedicated to enforcing the rules in their standardized planning book for product development. Unfortunately, the rules were so constraining that pretty much nothing got done unless they were bent or broken, which was something I had the authority to do. I summed up my feelings about process at that time of it by saying “… I’m not a big fan of it; it stifles creativity and deals poorly with exceptions.” I still feel that way now, but the years (about twelve of them) have made me less vociferous on the subject. Or maybe its just that I’m now twelve years removed from that environment.

Two days before our trip, I painstakingly entered thirteen flight plans into my on-board GPS. Over the course of the trip, I flew eight of them, entered three more, and flew only two of those. But having them on tap provided a foundation, and creating the first thirteen was good practice for the others.

Probably I should read up more on Eisenhower. He may have some other good advice.

Rich or Poor?

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Our trip provided the opportunity to be both, very often in the same place. Outside the resort we stayed at, Bimini definitely gave off a third-world vibe. House were small, poorly maintained, and the vehicle of choice was an aging golf cart. Inside our resort, and especially so at the one at the north end of the island, we were surrounded by luxury, as well as expensive shops offering exotic merchandise.

I can’t say I was particularly comfortable in either situation. I’m uneasy when surrounded by even mild poverty. In this case, it didn’t feel particularly unsafe, but even so, I was saddened by the situation, experiencing a feeling of powerlessness. Apart from spending some money, there was nothing I could do to help.

But I felt equally out of place at the north end, walking through a store offering simple shirts and jackets for hundreds of dollars and wristwatches for thousands. I sensed a kind of mutual irrelevance: I knew I would leave empty-handed and I suspect that the staff knew it as well.

So which is better, feeling wealthy or impoverished? I’m not sure, really. I’m glad that the hyper-wealthy exist, and I wish there were more of them. After all, they’re keeping the rest of us employed. As for those of lesser means, perhaps I’m keeping them employed – we rented a golf cart, bought some food, and the resort we stayed at employed a number of the locals.

Maybe the middle is best. It helps maintain perspective. I can aspire to the position of those in the higher tiers, and the presence of lower tiers keeps me motivated. But at the same time seeing them illustrates that, were things to go badly, the outcome would still be survivable. Were I at the bottom, I might become bitter. Were I at the top, I might start taking myself more seriously than I deserve.

I’m not sure which of those conditions is more serious.