Sunday, June 10, 2012
There are so many problems with Corporate America. So many well-entrenched ways of doing things inefficiently that could be made significantly better with just a little creativity, reflection, and an ability to adapt to change -- qualities wholly absent in most large organizations.
I can remember thinking after several months working my first corporate job, "This place is really fucked up. Like really fucked up. It's amazing that a corporation can operate this dysfunctionally from the top down and still become this big." I have since worked at three other large corporations, and have learned something rather profound: Virtually all corporations are fucked up. And the bigger a company gets, the more fucked up it becomes.
Small companies that strive to get big are asking for trouble. Once they become large, they all operate in infuriatingly inefficient ways that beg for true leadership. But the System inevitably resists appointing true leaders to power, opting instead to promote those best suited to achieve little or nothing. How can this be, you naively ask? Because those already on top are in self-preservation mode. They seek to promote YES!-men and women at the expense of the talented few who might otherwise potentially threaten their positions by getting noticed. And even those senior leaders at the very top develop a sense of self-importance that compels them to believe that they are always right, and to accept that when those in positions below yes them, they must be doing so sincerely. "I am a high-level executive. I am therefore superior to the 99%, brilliant in my own right, and virtually always right in whatever decisions I make."
But the emperor has no clothes. The problem is not that no one will tell him. To avoid being called out on poor decisions, the emperor has developed what's called, in corporate speak, a Chain of Command. This is another way of telling less senior management, "You are too inferior to waste my time or even speak with me. Therefore, anything you would deign to say to me must be filtered through the chain of direct reports leading to my desk. By the time this game of telephone reaches my ears, the message will have become sufficiently diluted as to allow me to forever cast the message into the corporate junk pile with a simple wave of my hand."
Because even a series of minor adjustments might make the machine operate more efficiently while transforming the working environment into a place where workers are truly inspired to perform at their best because they are invested in something bigger than the component parts. Unfortunately, this will never happen, and I've recently learned why.
Friday, May 25, 2012
I was on a late night Long Island Rail Road eastbound train Monday, commuting home from a hockey game. We were east of the Woodside station and speeding toward Jamaica when suddenly, the train began to brake hard, and we ultimately came to a complete stop. After a few minutes, the conductor got on the Public Address system and announced that we may have struck some debris, and we would be delayed as they inspected the train to determine whether it was safe to proceed. Fifteen minutes later, he announced, this type with a shaky voice, that we struck a pedestrian and that we would be delayed "indefinitely" while the MTA Police and "Railroad Management" investigated.
There were lots of disappointed Yankees fans (they were shut out 6-0), drunk and angry Rangers fans (they were owned by the Devils 4-1), and dozens of workaholics simply commuting home from a late night at work.
An hour and a half later, passengers began to get restless. The still-inebriated Rangers fans began heckling the conductors. The Yankees fans simply sulked, but several commuters too began to vociferously complain. "The guy's already dead, he won't care if we move the train," said one insightful idiot. Another more logically inclined stoned Devil's fan pointed out that "we already dragged the guy at least a quarter mile. Two more miles and we're at Jamaica, so what's the big deal? Let's just move!"
And so it continued. Hour after hour. For FOUR HOURS. Literally! Finally, an "emergency train" was brought in, coupled to the front, and we all walked forward until we were once again under way. I walked in the door at 4am, and was up at the alarm at 5:50am to face another fun day at work (and another commute).
Now I certainly understand the rationale behind investigating such incidents, the need to preserve evidence, the logistical challenges presented by electrified tracks, etc. But think about this: A twelve car train at rush hour is slightly over a quarter mile long and can hold over 1,000 passengers. What if a group of organized terrorists got their act together and developed a plan the TSA has not, to my knowledge, contemplated. What if they sacrificed one of their worthless members by offering him up to a moving train (virgins not included)? The train would sit idle for hours. They could then attack the train and kill hundreds, maybe a thousand people. At rush hour, there could be other equally packed trains trapped behind, presenting additional targets.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
I've traveled a bit over the years, visiting 30 of our 50 states thus far. And now that I've attained the half-way point of my existence, I've taken greater note of how people live.
I recall a plane trip years ago, looking out my window miles down at the terrain below. Populated areas seemed a scourge upon the landscape, akin to a dog with mange, or a serious skin disorder. The 30,000 foot view, literally, was not always pretty. But I'm not the unibomber, and I'm not trying to suggest that the world is alive and angry. Earthquakes and tsunamis, tornadoes and category 4 hurricanes are not Gaia's last stand against an ungrateful and irresponsible human host worthy of being wiped out.
Zoom in from this elevated view of things, and you find people, living their lives, making love and war, raising their children and trying to make the best of things.
When I was a child, I remember stores being closed on Sundays. If we wanted cold cuts, we'd buy them at the Delicatessen. For tools, my dad went to a hardware store, or if it was electric (like a drill or power saw), we'd go to Sears. For meats, there was the Butcher, and we went to the Bakery for bread and canoli. The only pinball machine within walking distance from where I grew up was in the Candy Shop where they pumped syrup into carbonated water in order to make an ice cream soda. This was my home town. And if you're old enough, it was yours too.
Recently, I had a business trip in Orlando. I wasn't there for Disney or Universal Studios or Seaworld, so I had the opportunity to take a better look around at this city than usual. And what a shithole it is! But maybe that's a little unfair, since more and more of this great country is looking like Orlando.
I saw housing developments that evinced no urban planning whatsoever. If there were any zoning laws, I was at a loss to determine just what they might be, since the city lacked any cohesive structure or identity. In fact, it lacked a soul. There were no Main Streets, only strip malls separated from one another by miles, and large stores and vacant frontage. Even the walking areas seemed ill constructed and artificial, like a post-apocalyptic Disney World.
The salient points made by opposition to the large chain stores displacing the mom-and pop businesses are legitimate, but the opposition has already lost the war. And when the MEGASTORES either go out of business or relocate for better lease terms, the large abandoned retail space seems to fall into decay at an accelerated rate, soiling the landscape, depressing the geography, and casting its workers (once hopeful that the replacement of the small stores by these behemoths would create jobs and tax revenue) into the jobless abyss.
Will your politicians listen when you ask them to vote down the next proposal for a strip mall, megastore, housing development, or other source of over-development? No need to answer, because it's a rhetorical question. We both know that a whore will never turn down a john willing to pay her price.
Goodbye Main Street. You'll be missed.
Posted by Nathan at 3:39 PM
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
It was rush hour, and I was trying to catch the subway. My train was delayed because of a signal problem, and I waited on the platform as hordes of commuters swarmed in from every direction. Finally, a train came, and every car was filled to the brim with people. Except for one. There were maybe a dozen people huddled on one end of this car, and lots of available seats.
The horde closest to me scrambled to this near-empty car, strategically positioning themselves where they believed the door would open. Being a seasoned commuter, I knew better, and instinctively moved to the arriving door of the next crowded car.
When the doors opened, I pushed and slithered my way into the packed car. Once inside, I watched as all of the people who attempted to outsmart the others desperately scrambled out of the empty car. Some exited back onto the platform, resigning themselves to waiting for the next train. Others moved to the far end of the car, only to ultimately seek refuge by opening the doors between cars and trying to force themselves into an adjacent crowded car (few succeeded, as it was just too crowded, and one guy actually remained standing between cars).
I understood the underlying cause, a priori, but couldn't confirm it until I reached my stop and exited. Upon disembarking, I was forced to walk past offending car, whose door was still open as I walked by. As I walked past, I remained at least six feet away from the door, and yet, I could smell it... An odor so powerful in scope and effect that I nearly forgot myself for a moment and paused in my tracks, frozen in place like a deer caught in oncoming headlights. My face contorted into an involuntary grimace, and a terrible vision flashed before my eyes for a moment, but disappeared before I could become conscious of what it may have been. But one thing remained, etched in my psyche. The smell. I could barely make out the source, a humanoid sprawled out in the priority seating area at the far end of the car. I remember no other details, only that smell...
It was not merely bad, putrid, disgusting, or nauseating. No. Plenty of smells are like that. In fact, before I began eating Paleo, I produced such odors myself. I once passed gas that was so curiously strong and pungent that it reminded me of dead people...
But this was worse. Much worse.
Monday, February 20, 2012
|Rediscovering the cave|
Last year, I stumbled upon a "Slow Carb Diet" as described by Tim Ferris in The Four Hour Body. Ferris is what may be described as a "Life Hacker" who experiments on himself with diet, exercise, and supplementation that may be outside of the mainstream or even on the fringe. His writing is sophomoric, and he is something of a self-promoting braggart, but his theory of employing the minimal effective dose is interesting, and some of his dietary recommendations are based upon some some informed scientific extrapolation. When my weight and fat level exceeded what I felt reasonable, I tried some life-hacking of my own and put this Slow Carb Diet to the test.
There are four basic rules: 1. No carbs that are or can be white (bread, rice, grains, sugar, etc); 2. No fruit; 3. No liquid calories (soda, alcohol, etc); and 4. Take one day off per week (anything goes). In addition, dairy should be avoided (except on cheat days) and legumes should be consumed as a component part of every meal.
The first time I used this diet, I lost 9 pounds in three weeks. My cheat days consisted of pints of ice cream, any desert I could find, dairy, grains, rice, beer, and anything and everything else within reach. And I still lost weight every week. But while the weight came off easily, I felt bloated all the time (courtesy of the legumes), I was tired a lot, and my lifts during my morning workouts stalled, and then regressed.
So I reengaged my Standard American Diet (SAD), felt less bloated but equally tired, and my lifts improved slightly as I regained the 9 pounds I lost.
In December, I again decided to shed some weight. I went back to the Slow Carb Diet, and quickly lost about four pounds. I also felt like I had to take a shit all the time, was always bloated and gassy, and felt persistently weak and tired. My cheat days made me feel particularly miserable. Not good.
I then discovered the Paleo way of eating.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
|Images have been altered slightly to protect the identity of those depicted.|
Ever notice how the children of the rich are no more likely -- in fact less likely -- to become well-adjusted adults? Growing up, they want for nothing, and yet they often behave as though their childhoods were missing something critical. And they probably were...
The other day, my older son was bored. He caught a bug at school and had been cooped up at home for several days while recovering. After several go-arounds with all of his toys, he turned to me and said, "Daddy, what I can do?" He was feeling better that day, and the wife and I felt he was up to finally getting out of the house. Plus, thanks to Al Gore, the January weather that day topped 60 degrees.
"Let's go to Petco-Land!"
Posted by Nathan at 1:58 PM