The fabric of the one person

I’ve got a hankerin’ to do something here. I’ve been letting this go, in favor of another blog where I’m a member of a team of writers:

(see my posts at Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics)

There’s a blog that gets about 300 visitors per day; its subject matter, church history, is something that has been near to my heart for a lifetime. As a young writer, I was very conscious of the fact that I really wasn’t proficient enough in any subject to write about it proficiently; now as an older writer, who has studied the subject with something akin to a life-and-death kind of passion, I am at home writing in that world.

At any rate, God and Christ are the center of my life, my “eternal presupposition”. From there flow my my life, my passion, my family, my work. They make me who I am. The overriding cry of the Reformation, “to God alone be the glory,” is, or should be, the motto of my life.

These things are the center of my life, they are my anchor, but of course the winds of life blow one in many different directions. My career, my wife’s search for an ongoing career (I wish she didn’t have to work but we need the money), trying to usher my children in good directions — and my other interests, including politics, business, economics, and how they tie together — all of these things are woven into the fabric of the one person.

Well, I’m waxing poetic. It’s 3:30 am, so maybe I can be forgiven for that, eh?

Tom Peters is writing a new book

I note this because Tom Peters is one of my favorite “business guru” authors. As the previous posting relates (just down below), I think Peters is almost always right on the mark with his predictions of the way business is going to go. And I note this too, because it was his book The Tom Peters Seminar in 1995 and 1996 that provided both the inspiration and the blueprint for my own excursion into the freelance world (“Bugay Communications”). And I note this because, right now, as I face the job search, and as I am making the effort to think through what I can do and want to do for the next 10 years or more, his “Reinventing Work” trilogy” (The Brand You 50, the Project 50, and the Professional Service Firm 50) are at the top of my pile of books, again, providing inspiration and a blueprint.

(You may ask, “isn’t it a bit self-defeating to use a business book that’s 10 years old as your “inspiration and blueprint”? But in my opinion, his more recent work, “Re-Imagine,” is not much more than a repackaging and an expansion of the themes in the “50” books.)

At any rate, his new book is entitled The Little Big Things: 179 Ways to Be Excellent and is due out in about January 2010.

It seems to me that as he gets older, he keeps re-circling the same themes — this time it’s “Excellence” — and that in using the number 179, that possibly the packaging, or re-packaging, of the excellence theme, will take on the form of a “to-do” list, similar to that found in the “50” books. So this new work will be re-set in the context of today’s current economic woes. But the “how to” and the “what to do” portions of this work will again, largely, be similar in nature to what I’m reading now.

Is the recession over?

I’ve been reading a lot of snippets that suggest that the answer to that question may be “yes”.

The OECD, which measures “leading indicators,” suggests improvement is on the way:

Some of the world’s leading economies showed tangible improvement in May … They suggested many major economies — including the U.S., the euro zone and China — could end their declines later this year. Overall, the OECD lead indicator rose by 0.8 point to 94, the sharpest rise this year, but it was still down 7.3 points from May 2008. The indicators are designed to indicate turning points in economic activity about six months in advance, and the calcuations are based on a wide variety of data.

This article suggests that “an increase in exports bodes well for growth”:

Tentative signs of life in global trade are emerging, buoying growth forecasts in the U.S. and China, two of the world’s most important economies. U.S. exports grew in May, while imports fell, helping to narrow the trade deficit to its lowest level in nearly nine years. The report prompted economists to revise up their estimates of second-quarter gross domestic product. Some even suggested the economy might have grown slightly in the second quarter. “It’s a very good sign for GDP,” says Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics in Toronto. “The economy didn’t shrink by much in the second quarter, and there’s an outside chance it recorded a gain.” Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers increased its second-quarter GDP forecast from minus 1.6% to plus 0.2% on the news. New figures from China offered more support for the prospect that the massive drop in global trade is abating. Exports in June fell 21.4% from a year earlier, a smaller drop than May’s 26% decline, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Friday, citing official data.

That’s not huge, but it’s more in the right direction.

Still, I think everyone acknowledges that there are drags on the economy. The WSJ’s David Wessel suggests the recovery will be a painful (i.e., “jobless” one):

All signs point to a recovery so painful that many Americans may not realize when it finally arrives. There are signs the recession may end in coming months, but the U.S. economy’s recovery is likely to be so painfully slow that many won’t feel the difference. First, the good news. Auto sales and housing starts have fallen so low that they are unlikely to fall further, hence the talk of “stabilization” in those big, beleaguered industries. The mountain of unsold goods in factories, warehouses and stores, though still large, is shrinking. That eventually will lead manufacturers to stop reducing production and laying off workers. U.S. exports perked up in May. Credit markets are beginning to heal. Big companies are selling bonds. Even banks are selling new shares of stock. “Right now, we’re like a patient whose condition has stabilized and whose fever is just starting to come down,” Janet Yellen, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said recently.

But the job market remains awful. In December 2008, forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal predicted the jobless rate would hit what then seemed a very high 8.1% at the end of 2009. Surveyed again this past week, forecasters now anticipate year-end unemployment of 10%. That suggests 775,000 more Americans will join the ranks of the jobless in the next six months.

On balance, though, I think that the signs are very hopeful that my own job search is going to be a good one.

“The Birth of Europe”

There is a sense of impending doom about most modern attempts to describe the late Roman empire … Nothing is more redolent of the age than the melancholy reflections of the late Roman philosopher Boethius (c.480-525). “The most unfortunate sort of misfortune”, he wrote in his Consolations of Philosophy, “is once to have been happy.” (Davies, Europe, pg. 213)

Effective Roman Government

From my reading list:

Roman government seems to be the subject of many misconceptions. It was in constant flux over a very long period of time, and did not attain any great measure of homogeneity, except, perhaps, briefly in the age of the Antonines. Its undoubted success was due to the limited but clearly defined goals that were set. It provided magistrates to settle disputes and to exact tribute. It provided an army for external defence, law enforcement, and internal security. And it supported the authority of approved local or regional elites, often through their participation in religious rites and civic ceremonies. The magic combination involved both great circumspection, in the degree of the state’s encroachment on established rights and privileges, and utter mercilessness, in defending lawful authority. (Davies, Europe, pg. 171)

By the mid-third century the Roman Empire was showing all the outward symptoms of an inner wasting disease. Political decadence was apparent in the lack of resolve at the centre, and in disorder on the periphery. In the ninety years from ad 180 no fewer than eighty short-lived emperors claimed the purple, by right or usurpation … The army dictated to its civilian masters with impunity. The barbarians flooded over the limes [frontier line], often unchecked. The raids of the Goths turned into permanent occupations. (Davies, Europe, pgs. 191-2)

Did executives “do the right thing”?

As the economy improves, they may need to prove themselves.

Mike Neiss of TomPeters.com has observed that he’s hearing “a much more positive message” from client companies, in that “we’ve turned the corner” or “the worst is behind us.” That’s the good news.

But then he asks, “did the strategies put in place to deal with the economic downturn make [your company] more capable of producing excellence in the future?

That’s probably not such good news for companies that have let go a tremendous amount of talent.

One result that he foresees:

[E]xecutives may have to prove their competence to the workforce—who paid some prices in the downturn. Many executives have been using the “economy” as the reason for poor performance, but my coffee chats with their employees lead me to believe that the rank and file aren’t totally buying that. It is important that the road forward is seen as doable by the employees in an organization, and that these workers believe that the current executive team can lead them to success.

On the other hand, it creates new opportunities for some of us who are now “out there.”

Goldfish in the creek

We have a creek in front of the house. It’s a nice creek, it moves quickly. It has multiple sources, and we know of other springs that feed the creek. At least some of the water comes from mine run-off, and so except for some native crayfish, there is very little that lives there.

Just below the wooden footbridge that we use to get to the creek, there is a relatively deep and slow-moving section of water. Just goofing around with the kids, we started talking about how we might get to have some fish in it. We got some old clay pipes and set them up in the creek, parallel with the bridge, and perpendicular to the current. Then we went to the local pet shop and bought a few goldfish.

Many (if not all) of them survived a pretty good rain and an overnight, so we went and bought about another 20. (These were the “feeders,” which are at the pet store just for the purpose of being sold as turtle food. So we have given them some hope).

We had some excitement, as two of them got caught up in the current and were washed downstream. But we followed them down, got our soup strainer, and managed to get them both.

So stay tuned, I’ll let you know how the make out.