License to shrill

I was involved in discussion on social media recently in which someone made a post that was somewhat questionable but well-intentioned. The first commenters were somewhat surprised and questioned the poster’s sincerity, but things escalated from there, getting increasingly heated and insulting.

At that point I weighed in, suggesting that the commenters weren’t really interested in explaining and advancing their cause, but punishing dissenting opinions. Understandably, someone took exception to that, and explained that they were all on the poster’s friend list for a reason and that as friends they were giving a little tough love.

I countered that considering how that commenter had taken offense at a particular word I’d used, did he really expect the original poster to be any more willing to listen after some of the insulting words he had used. To his credit, this young man recognized he was wrong and apologized (I suspect this was as much to someone else encouraging moderation as anything I said). Some other, calmer heads then waded in and the thread became more positive from that point.

But something stuck out in that exchange. Do we really believe that claiming friendship with someone gives us permission to insult them, even verbally abuse them, so long as we convince ourselves we’re doing it for their own good? Do we really think that claiming friendship will somehow obligate that friend to objectively weigh our criticism, however harsh, looking for truth and wisdom?

That doesn’t seem right to me.

I would think our friends deserve our patience and kindness, not to be treated as an enemy and raked over the coals. These days our discourse seems increasingly indistinguishable from our profanity: no one will recognize the depth of our passion unless we use harsh language.

But passion alone is insufficient to truly inspire someone to consider their thoughts and actions, let alone implement actual change. I’m reminded of the maxim; “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We don’t demonstrate caring by treating people harshly.

I know I’m guilty of this, though I’ve been trying to improve. But if any of us are to have any hope of truly changing hearts and minds we really should consider gentler methods–especially with those we claim as friends. I’m trying to remember a time when someone helped me to truly change through insults and open attacks, and I can’t think of any. Heavens, I’m stubborn enough I have a hard time changing even when people are using kindness.

But I do know that those people who have had the most success in getting me to change my mind are those whose friendship and intentions I do not question because their words reflect genuine care and concern. Your mileage may vary, I suppose, but I suspect I’m not so weird as to be a unique case. At least in this.

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Peace and comfort

“Courage is grace under pressure” – Ernest Hemingway

My oldest sister lost her three-year fight with cancer, but not before demonstrating courage and grace to rival any Hemingway protagonist, and not before wrapping her life up in as neat a bow as anyone could hope for.

Her legacy was perhaps clearest during her funeral when all eight of her children and their spouses performed Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of the folk hymn “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”. They, rightfully, had the most reason to weep, but they, too, showed grace under pressure and instead had all of us in tears.

All through the weekend the love they had for their mother and mother-in-law, and for each other, was on full display. They were determined to honor their mother no matter what it took, and I suspect the full loss won’t be realized until afterward when they try to get back to the normal routine.

I last saw my sister a few weeks ago during a brief visit. She had already gone downhill considerably, and it was difficult to know how coherent she was. But as I sat next to her I’m certain she sensed my awkwardness. She took my hand, and through that touch I believe we were both able to communicate what we couldn’t have put into words.

My sister leaves a very large hole. She was not perfect, as many stories fondly related over the weekend attested. She was not famous or successful by any commonly accepted definition. But if there is a God and a judgment day–and I believe fully that there is–there are few shoes I would rather be in at that time than hers.  She did not live large, but she lived well, and her loving influence continues to spread across two generations and growing.

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Coolness that looks cool

Even cooler than the gun itself is the visual component. But the whole thing is cool from a engineering POV.

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On leadership and dissent

Benjamin Runkle has penned a fascinating article detailing the first meeting of General John J. Pershing and Major George C. Marshall 100 years ago today during the early days of the AEF involvement in World War I. Pershing, upset with the lack of progress of the Ist Infantry Division, dressed down the division commander. Marshall stood up for his CO and detailed a lengthy list of complaints for Pershing.

Rather than be offended by Marshall’s forwardness, Pershing decided Marshall was one of the few officers he could count on to tell him how things really were. Eventually Marshall was promoted to Pershing’s staff and became his aide after the war ended. That single relationship, Runkle posits, made it possible for the U.S. to win World War II over twenty years later.

It’s an interesting article, well worth reading if for no more than what it says about leadership.

Runkle, however, dropped–perhaps inadvertently–another gem into the article that’s worth considering: “After World War I, Pershing sought to lay the foundation for fighting a future war by establishing boards to evaluate the lessons offered by the AEF’s experience.”

In business and project management we often talk about “lessons learned.” What we’re far too often talking about is what Runkle instead calls “lessons offered.” Every project, successful or otherwise, offers lessons. How often do we really learn them? Does anything change in the next project or the corporate culture that proves we really learned anything.

Just a little food for thought.

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Do we really know?

These days it’s commonplace to judge someone based on a single post, a single statement, a single act. People have been condemned for a brief moment in time, in complete ignorance of everything else that has come before it. Who are we to think we know anyone well enough to condemn them? Who are we to criticize someone simply because they don’t behave the way we think they should behave, don’t back the causes we think they should back, in a way we think they should?

Consider the following:

We brush up against thousands of lives during our own. It’s easy to think we know all we need to know based on those brief interactions. We think we know the truth–or at least all the truth we need to know.

The other day I got two posts back to back on social media about the same person. One was an article accusing this person of some pretty reprehensible behavior toward people who had already suffered tremendously. The other claimed this same person took time to reach out to someone involved in facilitating his visit somewhere and who was injured doing their job.

Two different articles showing two very different sides of the same person. So I did some checking. Only one of those stories was true. Care to guess which one?

The article claiming the reprehensible behavior was false. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the people who posted those two articles are very open about their feelings toward this person. What’s interesting is how the person who posted the false accusation responded to the falsehood being revealed. He didn’t even bat an eye, let alone apologize for perpetuating a lie. In fact, his attitude was one of “well, keep watching, he’ll do plenty more things that are horrible.”

As I’ve said before, no one is as wonderful as their fans make them out to be, nor as horrible as their enemies claim. The truth of all of us lays somewhere in between. The world as a whole would benefit from each of us not acting as though we know so many things that just aren’t so, as though our small glimpse of a person is the correct view.

I know it would kill mainstream news and most social network interaction, but perhaps we should all go a little easier on one another.

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Carillons are cool!

Martin from Wintergatan continues his tour of the amazing instruments in (and near) the Spielklok Museum in Utrecht, Netherlands, and discovers what must be one of the coolest jobs around: city carillon player.

I’d LOVE to get the tour he got for this:

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Bibbi Babkhas!

I was trying to explain to my kids where I got a certain quote and turned to YouTube to save me. Some of you may remember the catch-phrase “Well of course not, don’t be ridiculous!” So while I was introducing them to “Perfect Strangers” I ran across this little ditty, which I also use frequently.

Yeah, the series was short on distinct plots (there were basically only two, Balki gets carried away and Larry has to rescue him, or Larry gets carried away and Balki has to bring him back down), but they were funny. This clip reminds me that we used to be able to laugh without getting crude or crass. I kinda miss the sweet simplicity of “Perfect Strangers”.

I also came across an interview the two actors did twenty-five years later. I had just been thinking that shows back then were more “kind and gentle” compared with shows today. Around the mid-point of the interview they discuss how the director aimed purposefully for “heart moments” in each episode, and then end the show, whereas now-days, if they have that moment at all, they then undercut it with more digging humor before they cut away. It’s a telling observation.

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Sit and listen

I’ve been enjoying audio books for years now. They’re a great way to spend my hour-a-day commutes. But I’ve noticed lately that I’ve developed a weird habit.

I can’t just sit and listen to an audio book.

I can listen in the car just fine. I can listen to them while working on something, like staining the deck or something else where I need my hands. But I can’t just sit and listen. That’s…wrong somehow.

I used to think it was just because I knew I was cheating and getting ahead just because I don’t want to wait until my next commute to hear what happens next. But I’m currently listening to a novel I’ve listened to before. I know what happens. This weekend I had free time, and I didn’t want to start reading another book. I wanted to read that book. No, I didn’t want to go read my hard-copy version, as I’d have to waste time later trying to advance the audio version to where I left off.

So I listened to it. But it still felt wrong! Horribly wrong! I had nothing in my hands!

Yeah, I’m weird.

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Does context matter?

I’ve already said my piece about NFL protests. Knock yourself out, Colin. You too, Donald.

But I do have to wonder something. Suppose you went out to see a movie. You buy your tickets, your popcorn and soda, find your seat, and sit through the commercials. Then, just as the featured presentation is about to begin, the lights go up. Down the aisles walk a half dozen theater staff, who take up positions before the screen and proceed to put on “Make America Great” ball caps and kneel down for a minute.

Never mind the fact that this is a theater and they may get stuck to the floor like that indefinitely, would you mind this intrusion on your entertainment time? Do your mind part of your concessions money going to these people? Do you respect their freedom of speech, or do you complain to the management and threaten to never watch another movie there again? Do you keep going to movies knowing that they will be doing this every time for the foreseeable future?

At what point does freedom of speech impose on your freedom to avoid their speech? At what point is a protest at a paid event a violation of your rights as the person who paid for one thing and got another?

This is more of a general question; the NFL ownership/management have pretty much stated their support for players taking some of their “on-stage” time to make political statements, as is their right. They’ve made their bed and are willing to lay in it. And frankly I don’t care. The NFL doesn’t get my money anyway.

But, to the fact that NFL attendance/viewership is down, the last thing I want to hear is accusations against fans. All this means–if indeed it means anything–is that when people plunk down their hard-earned cash to attend or watch a game, you can’t blame them if what they want is to watch a game, not your protest. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get what you pay for–and only what you pay for. Don’t try to tell people they shouldn’t be upset when their can of corn also contains earwigs.

I suspect cable “Pay-Per-Protest” channels aren’t likely to be a viable business model any time soon.

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They can even trash hotel rooms

Nigel Stanford just released his new album, “Automatica.” With it comes a new video in which he blends music and automation in a way that has the musician, tech-head, and writer in me going totally gonzo-bonkers. I could watch this all day. Okay, maybe a few more times before I take a break, anyway.

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