Monthly Archives: July 2005

Eventual success as a proselytizer

The sixth anniversary of my starting blogging is looming, but there’s one thing I’ve been notably unsuccessful at: convincing friends and family of the value of a weblog.

Well, perhaps my persuasive powers just need a long build up. Unquestionably (warning: major personal bias ahead) the best new blog I’ve seen is Not A Soccer Mom, my wife’s take on a new life here in California. She says she has yet to hit her stride, but it will come. Subscribe now.

I’m also hoping that one of my sisters also starts blogging. She wants to get the word out to the world about her wonderful restaurant in Chicago. I’ve said, “Forget conventional PR. You write well and you have a lot you want to rant about. You’re a natural blogger.”

Here’s the kind of anecdote she could have put on her blog. A young couple is walking past her restaurant, which is called Brett’s CafĂ© Americain (no reference needed for my readers). Woman says to man (in an appropriately nasal voice), “I would never go to that restaurant. They don’t even know how to spell American.”

If it happens, I’ll certainly alert my readers.

A must see and a must read

Ian Jack on The Battle of Algiers: “As I looked at it again, what struck me was its prescience; how it described a world now familiar to all of us, when at the time of its appearance in 1965 it described only a particular Algerian world that had recently been left behind.”

And once you’ve seen it, read A Savage War of Peace, Alistair Horne’s wonderfully written history of the Algerian independence struggle. Two fundamental documents for today.

Too interesting

I have a talented friend who is having an experience that I think is typical.

He’s looking for a new job. His career to date has been a reasonably good one: positions on good magazines, an editorship, freelance work for both good corporate clients and leading business magazines and newspapers. But he’s getting the bum’s rush from the headhunters he sees.

His problem? He’s too interesting. Of course, that’s not what any of them say. But I think it’s the reality. My friend’s problem is that, in addition to his work accomplishments, he’s a published translator of decadent Latin poetry and prose (his book was almost too embarrassing for me to read), he’s published a biography of a Roman emperor and he’s now diversified his interests into obscure nineteenth century Viennese composers. I think there’s a reasonable chance that he’d like to make his next intellectual forays into Sumerian and Akkadian.

Interviewers push him on his range of interests. If they knew the word, they’d accuse him of dilettantism.

I think the world, and not least the business world, needs more dilettantes. Not in the pejorative sense of someone who has superficial knowledge. But in the sense of someone who ranges widely, who is a connoisseur of many things. In an increasingly complex, puzzling world, we need people who have a talent for making sense of the diverse and the unlikely.

With one or two solitary exceptions, my experience has been that executive search firms are uncomfortable with such people. They don’t fit into neat boxes. They might require extra explanation to the client. So headhunters have become expert at producing the kind of people who companies recognize as just like everyone else. A big mistake. Great minds do not think alike.

Slow restoration

I’m slowly recovering the hundred or so posts that sort of vanished when I ported over from Manila to WordPress. For observant readers, you’ll find the Archives in the right-hand column here seem to grow mysteriously from time to time.

This isn’t because I’m confecting posts. It’s because I’ve retrieved something from, say, March 2001 and restored it to its rightful place. It hasn’t been my highest priority, but it is fun going back to these very old (in weblog terms) posts.

Wilful neglect

Justin McCurry: “One expert has predicted that over a 40-year period starting in 2000, the number of deaths from the disease could exceed 100,000. Thought will also have to be given to how an unknown number of old, asbestos-laden buildings, including schools, can be demolished without posing a risk to both workers and nearby residents.”

He’s not talking about a left-over from the former Soviet Union or an impoverished state. The country whose government seems to have turned a completely blind eye to the dangers of asbestos is the world’s second largest economy, Japan. Unfathomable.

Seeking technical advice

While we’re waiting for a desktop computer to come by ship from London, we’re using an old laptop at home. The problem is I can’t find a wireless adaptor card that works happily with Windows 98 (I said it was old).

Does anyone know of a card that doesn’t require Windows 98SE, or a simple way to migrate from 98 to 98SE? The processor in the old laptop won’t be able to cope with an upgrade to XP, which would also be expensive.

Russia: even worse than it seems

Murray Feshbach, who I referenced in an earlier post about Russia’s terrifying demographic decline, offers a comment:

If anything I would now say that I was underestimating the losses to the population of Russia in the future. The current official projection (medium) by the Russian State Statistical Agency is some 101 million in 2050. My expectation is that the number will be closer to 75-80, approximately the level of worst-case scenario. The current and imminent number of deaths from HIV/AIDS is much worse than anticipated, as well as the number of deaths from tuberculosis. In addition, hepatitis C deaths will, ceteris paribus, begin to be devastating at the end of the next decade. None of these health factors were incorporated into the projection model of the Statistical Agency.