Enlightened Conflict

strength is never solid

September 1st, 2014

struggle and virtue


“I am a strong person. But every once in a while I would like someone to hold my hand and tell me things are going to be OK. “








We so often talk about ‘strong people’ as being these pillars of granite … solid and seamless in moments of need or challenge … unflinching in the face of whatever it is they face.



But more often strength is not a solid piece of granite.



It may be a shield or a shell … or it may be that the person has the ability to put stop handa strong hand forward … and stop what needs to be stopped.


But in all these cases … strength is neither a complete solid wall nor does it not have some weakness … or maybe some fragile aspects in which to balance everything.



“It is one thing to be brave in front of others, perhaps for fear of being branded a coward and becoming diminished in their eyes, but another entirely to be brave when there is nobody to witness your courage.

The latter is an elemental bravery, a strength of spirit and character.”


John Connolly






Oddly … strength is … well … a paradox <or in some sense a contradiction>.





It is about setting unequivocal limits … and yet having no limits.





It’s about adapting yet unwavering.







Let me discuss this limit thing for a moment.




Emotionally strong people do not really need constant action and excitement … or even a crisis … to define themselves and their lives.



This suggests they put some limits on things.



This is not to suggest that they don’t enjoy excitement in their lives … but they aren’t ‘doing’ junkies.




Strength is usually defined by some self awareness.



Awareness with regard to some character type things <which are embodied in actions and behavior decisions>.




Let’s call these our ‘limits’:




-           just don’t do some things

ignorance tiger sheep





Suffice it to say we all do things that we don’t enjoy doing … but we should never do things that we don’t want to do.



There is a nuance in that … but an important nuance.




The strong self aware understand that nuance … and almost always manage to figure out what they need to do … not at the expense of ‘what they don’t want to do.’



This translates into that when it comes to character defining decisions there is always a line.



The line isn’t about what you enjoy doing or what you like or dislike … it is about … well … character.




And being able to live with yourself and look in the mirror.




-        saying “no”


No complete sentence


Suffice it to say … if you can’t say “no,” you will get taken advantage of.
I will not suggest you won’t be taken seriously but I will suggest that if you cannot say no you will forever live on the slippery slope of credibility and trust.





Saying “no” reminds people that they cannot control you … only you control you.







-             it’s really about plateaus … not limits





Face it.




There are only plateaus, and they are not meant for you to stay there, but only resting places for someplace beyond.


plans patterns


Please note I did not say ‘someplace higher.’




“Up” is overrated.




It is more important to move anywhere <mentally, physically, career, Life> than it is to move ‘upwards.’




I’ve always believed in pushing yourself further and taking on new challenges.





I believe this because I tend to believe there is no such thing as that infamous trite cliché ‘being the best you can be.’




“Best” is a relevant thing … at least to the moment. Maybe it is better said that ‘best’ is contextual.




There is always room for growth and change and new possibilities of being the best you can be.










Strength is tricky.




It is partially inbred as an attitude … but it is also forged thru the furnace of Life.




“Sometimes you don’t realise your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness”


we are mosaics

Susan Gale


And maybe that is why strength is never solid.




Because strength is often about weakness.



The chinks in your armor define your strength … uhm … not your theoretically solid seamless armor.




Which leads me to my final thoughts.




Strength is nothing more than doing what it takes … with character.





In order to be strong we will inevitably embrace some different variations of our self. This naturally happens as we encounter knew things and new ‘weaknesses’ we never knew we had.
Within those variations are some aspects of solidness … but other aspects are adaptable and resilient in their ability to morph to the situation.




And, in the end, I imagine strength in a person can be defined one way:

limitations perfection



“I endure.”


E. Lockhart





capitalism made simple

September 1st, 2014

capitalism cynicism






I admit.




This is silly.



But for Labor Day <here in america> I thought I would share something labor-like. Say … capitalism.





Capitalism is so often defined as some machine manufactured assembly line item which in and of itself is a flawed widget.



I imagine the real point of this silliness is that capitalism comes in a variety of flavors.


Each society & culture uses the ‘widget’ in a different way … based on their culture norms, attitudes and ethics.





Therefore behaviorally capitalism comes to Life so many different ways … well … it kind of suggests capitalism isn’t the root of all evil … maybe it is the people who are the ‘root’ of any and all things that happen <whew … there is a philosophical thought that suggests some responsibility … huh>?>






Here is the silliness <with a tint of truth>:





 growing up sucks Grownup-Snoopy

You have two cows.

You sell one and buy a bull.

Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.

You sell them and retire on the income.







You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.

The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.

Sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows.

No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.






You have two cows.

You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.

You are surprised when the cow drops dead.



You have two cows.

You go on strike because you want three cows.






You have two cows.

You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide <and make gobs of money with the cow product line extensions>.





You have two cows.

You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.


toddler feeding a cow



You have two cows.

Both are mad.





You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.


You break for lunch.





You have two cows.

You count them and learn you have five cows.

You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.

You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.

You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.





You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.

You charge others for storing them.




You have two cows.

You have 300 people milking them.

You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.




You have two cows.

You worship them.





You have two cows.


One is milked using highly inefficient methods using underage <not to mention underpaid!> labor. The milking process is done by 100 people, 2 of which does the actual milking while 98 are consultants from some overpriced global consultant.


The milk is sold to two companies owned by your sons and daughters at slightly above cost, who exports them to Singapore at triple the price. The milk is then refined in Saudi Arabia, and then re-exported back to Indonesia under a foreign brand name and sold to regular customers at an even higher price.
The other cow?

Gone with the flood.



Cary Town Council - Wellness Morons




I thought it was funny.




Whether you rant about capitalism or not … it is everywhere in some form or fashion.




And while we like to paint ‘capitalism’ as some black & white evil economic machine … it is colored by each culture that works within its construct.

the gap between event and truth (or the big squeeze)

August 30th, 2014

dream seeking sky



“If a man shall begin in certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.”


Francis Bacon


“I don’t rule out anything.”






Yikes is all I can say when thinking about the gap between when an event happens … and the inevitable truth comes out.


In fact … I would suggest that in between is simply the ‘big squeeze’ where you & I <and, unfortunately,  truth gets squeezed>.




In today’s news and social technology … world events, facts, speculation and truth become so blurred it is not only difficult to know what is going on … it is difficult to know what did go on.



The trouble is that facts get dribbled out like scarce drops of water and each get analyzed as if they were each an ocean of facts <when it is one drop of information and a gazillion drops of speculation>.



A story unfolds slowly … never fast enough for anyone … and if you don’t pay attention ‘your’ story may be three or four editions behind <yet … that is what you believe>.



On a side note … unfortunately this also seem to happen far too often in the business world.







So … what can we believe?



What is “true” or “valid” or “reliable” information?









These words are all slightly different. And, unfortunately, those differences create entirely different worlds of meaning.



In fact … those words inevitably intrude nevetween the event and truth. They intrude between reality and perceptions and, ultimately, understanding.



All the while the confusion upsets the majority.



“There is much contradictory news, I really don’t know what to believe.”




Excessive alarm, fueled by misleading news reports, leads to knee-jerk responses that are not necessarily for the best.



It is another fact that theories grow without facts.



And then scraps of information beget even more theories.



And initial theories are revised with new information.


And in the end theories are actually created by selective use of some scraps of information.


The main ingredient for rumor generation and transmission is uncertainty.
It is within the lack f full information … some of which is called a ‘mystery’ or ‘crisis’ which permits everyone to play detective and theorist for a day.



So much uncertainty also creates opportunities for people with existing agendas to dwell on their favorite themes <take a moment and think about this in business … that ambitious fool in the cubicle across the floor seeking an opportunity to move ahead in the wretched in between of the event and final truth … sigh>.




All that said … as events happen and information unfolds I realized that a guy named Alain Badiou has provided some good thoughts about what happens between the event and truth.time what matters





“…. truth enters into the world for Badiou not as a state but as a process, or more specifically as four processes: love, politics, art and science.

He claims that truth itself is almost impossible to recognise as truth, but it can become briefly discernable for a passing moment in what he calls an event.

The event is a rupture in the current circumstances caused by an awareness of what is missing from those circumstances. The event is a glimpse of the void inherent to any given state.

Having experienced such an event, a subject is created who has a chance to affect the world by remaining faithful to the event of truth they have encountered.


Alain Badiou




It is maddening … but he is correct.




An event is being defined by love <people who are hurt or benefit from>, politics <those with an agenda>, art <I will loosely use this as journalism … but in today’s social world … let’s call it ambient journalism or amateur storytelling> and science <the endless array of experts who cite research and science>.




We are barraged from all sides by these four things.



I will call this the big squeeze.



We get squeezed as truth is validated by the traditional aspects in which truth is arrived at:



-        Anecdotes: Powerful compelling narrative examples of phenomena from world of experience that might embody a principle. Ideas correspond to real world events.period end-of-story_design

-        Statistics: Could that observation of a phenomenon be in error? Statistics reveals patterns and tests validity of generalizations –For example, if a finding was made by chance.

-        Explanatory power: Utility of an idea in helping integrate a larger array of ideas in a coherent way.

choice sometimes one










Those three things imply ‘time.’


As in a reasonable amount of time to have these things unfold.




Its trouble because while media endlessly states with sincerity … “of course it is premature to draw conclusions” they immediately veer into theory, hypothesis and speculation.





Second guessing decisions and actions as well as guessing <or speculating> on conclusions all the while establishing the outer limits of what is only frustrated guesswork but is truly the outer limits of the boundaries squeezing us.





“In this age of instant reporting and tweets and blogs, there’s a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions.

But when a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk and the stakes so high, it’s important that we do this right.

That’s why we have investigations.

That’s why we relentlessly gather the facts.

That’s why we have courts.

And that’s why we take care not to rush to judgment — not about the motivations of these individuals; certainly not about entire groups of people.”


President Barak Obama





Most of us want to know when there is an event … but we want to know truth.



And, yet, the world around us is squeezing us on all 4 sides with images and words.




The ‘gap’ between the event and truth actually becomes the crisis … not the event itself <and if any word is being overused these days it is certainly ‘crisis’>.




Truth is never <or let’s say … very very rarely> a static state.



If it were than an event would have a predetermined truth.




Badiou sees knowledge as ultimately fragile and subject to change.







As an event occurs truth is created.




Which means we should look to science as to how we should assess information in the gap … as we are getting squeezed:




-         VALIDITY of data refers to its accuracy and specificity, as well as its applicability to the question being asked.


-        RELIABILITY refers to data’s precision, consistency, and appropriate resolution



As we transfer information we learn about an event into our pea-like brains and start thinking about it … we are right to question and test our perceptions — to establish the validity and reliability of our experiences and the beliefs they engender.

gg preventative unlocking identity



We are all concerned about what is true and what is not — with what is real.


Memory and imagination are strong sources of imagery.




But our struggle is to discern our internal instincts <thoughts we naturally gravitate to> from the external opinions mixed with true knowledge or we are hopelessly confused.






Scientists are awesome at actually discerning.


As they explore the boundaries of what is ‘known’ they are especially wary.


They are often confronted with information for which there is little or no precedent to guide their judgment about the meaning of their data.




Politicians and journalists suck at this.



Politicians and journalists have a common interest in crises. When there’s a crisis, people buy newspapers and turn on the news to learn how politicians and leaders will fix the crisis.




In addition … crises give politicians <and people with some agenda … in general> more power.



And maybe that is where the big squeeze, the gap between the event and the truth, really gets us.




We seem to be a society fond of creating a sense of crisis all the time … and only some of the time, now and then, the truth comes out.




Many philosophers have expounded on the difference between knowledge and truth but not many have invested a lot of energy <and thinking> of how a sense of crisis affects how we absorb knowledge and arrive at truth.








Not everything is a crisis.



It can be a tragic event … it could be a tragedy of errors … it could simply be an unfortunate confluence of unintended consequences … but most events are not crises.




This is true in every day Life as well as in business.




But regardless of an events ‘label’ I can almost guarantee we will be squeezed by a combination of what I stated earlier … Badiou suggests Truth is not a state but a process, or more specifically as four processes: love, politics, art and science.



truth quest

When an event happens we will be squeezed in the gap between the event and truth by the 4 things I listed above.



How much you care.


How much society cares <politics>.


How much art cares <because they create the imagery>.


How much science cares <because they create the facts>.






We just need to try and not be suffocated by all that caring until the truth is aired.



everyday sort of magic

August 26th, 2014

magic make




“I do believe in an every day sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”


Charles de Lint








I guess in some way I must be an impractical non-pragmatic dreamer type <despite anything I may have said about myself I the past> because I loved this quote as soon as I saw it.




I do believe in an everyday sort of magic.



I do believe that despite the everyday Life grind we encounter a little magic in our lives … every day.




I do believe more of us should see this … or maybe take a moment and recognize this.




I do believe we ignore the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity too easily <and too often>.



I do believe we need to embrace hope just a little bit more often <on more days>.



moment insightI do believe magic can be found in stars and rainbows <which we should take a moment and enjoy more often>.







In the end … I tend to believe we should seek some magic, more often, in simple seemingly meaningless moments and silent random encounters with people.



I do believe that no matter how alone, or lonely, you may feel there is always someone somewhere who, while may not be thinking about you at that moment, is willing and wants to think about you <and isn’t all that matters?>.



Does this make me some sort of dreamer?





moment beautiful

I don’t know.



All I know is that I am someone who believes in everyday sort of magic.


read the world

August 23rd, 2014

reading is traveling words

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”


Augustine of Hippo







If you are a reader … this is going to be fabulous. Oh. And most of it was generated by a couple of tween/teen <young adult> people who love to read.




So often we have our favorite authors and many of those ‘favorite’ are driven by either where you live or by popular media.



I hesitate to call it a ‘reading rut’ but if you are not careful … you will see that over time your bookshelves with start having a slightly homogenous feel to it.



book touch lightly

I say that because that means we often miss out on some fabulous reading out of the mainstream.



That is why I believe this is fabulous.



I came across this “list of books from around the world’ on the tumblr site ‘about books and dreams’ which connected me to two different lists I wanted to share.




Suffice it to say … there are a shitload of books listed here and you could spend a lifetime finding & reading all of them.




But … well … what a lifetime, huh?



books to read









-         The original list …Read The World – The Peirene 100 Essential Classics From Around The Globe.



A truly challenging, eclectic and inspiring list compiled entirely by Peirene Press readers:








And then I saw a commenter … a young adult … kind of ‘diss’ the list in that snarky young way that young people can pull off <and I loved it>:



The thought was actually creating a list which is a reflection … a true reflection … of the world population.




What a fabulous idea <and lots of work>.




I do not know who ‘eastiseverywhere’ is … but job well done.










I recently got ticked off over a “Read the World” list that was still really centred on Western books.




Then I started thinking: what if there were a reading list of 100 books that reflected the actual demographics of the world population of 7.152 billion people right now?



Here are:


19 books from China;

world broekn down 100 people

17 from India;


4 from the US;


3 from Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan;



2 from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan and Mexico, and 1 each from the Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Turkey, DRC, Thailand, France, UK, Italy, Burma, South Africa, South Korea, Colombia, Spain, Ukraine, Tanzania, Kenya, Argentina, Algeria, Poland, Sudan, Uganda, Canada, Iraq, Morocco, Peru, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nepal, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, Ghana, Mozambique, Australia and Taiwan.



50 books are by men.


49 are by women.


1 is a work of divine revelation.






Authors (roughly) reflect the ethnic makeup of their nations – e.g. the South African author is Black, not white; the Malaysian author is Malay, not Chinese; one of the PRC authors is non-Han Chinese; one of the American authors is non-white.Bucharest, romania: A woman walks between books displayed on the pavement d



I’ve tried to represent a range of historical periods and the most acclaimed writers in each section.



Writers presented are those widely available in English – this is why Ding Ling, Zhang Yueran and Akka Mahadevi weren’t featured: because it’s really hard to find their work in English.



Also, a writer is only of a nationality if s/he’s got/had citizenship of the area at some point – i.e. Jhumpa Lahiri is American, not Indian.



Sure, I know this list is problematic – smaller countries, like those of the Caribbean and Oceania, are kind of wiped out. But I’m open to change this. So send in your suggestions for changes if you’ve got them!



And remember: if you’re gonna read the world, you might as well do it RIGHT.






Here is the Full list of Books:

<note 1 from Bruce: of course I would edit the list to match up with my likes & dislikes … for example … for Spain I would include Arturo Perez Revarte … for Russia … well … I could include several others … but you get it … you can edit and add & subtract … but the point is you get exposed to books from around the world>.


<note 2 from Bruce: this list also becomes more difficult if you maintain representation of the world … for example … France with its extensive list of great literature is limited to one book because of its relative size in the midst of the larger world>


<note 3 from Bruce: please forgive me for any formatting issues or readability issues … this post was frickin’ difficult to build and format … I would have tortured someone at wordpress if I could ever find someone to wring their proverbial neck … >



read fast sorcerer

On with the list ……





The Analects of Confucius

The Tao Te Ching of Lao Zi

The Art of War by Sun Zi

The Poems of Li Qingzhao

The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng En

Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Shi Naian

Selected Stories of Lu Xun

Rickshaw Boy by Lao She

The Dyer’s Daughter by Xiao Hong

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian

The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa

Red Azalea by Anchee Min

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi

Daughter of the River by Hong Ying

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

The Good Women of China by Xinran




The Ramayana of Valmiki

The Mahabharata by Vyasa

The Dhammapada of Buddha

The Kural of Tiruvalluvar

The Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT by Chetan Bhagat

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi

Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Spouse: The Truth About Marriage by Shobhaa De

Moving On by Shashi Deshpande



The Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Beloved by Toni Morrison


Letters from A Javanese Princess by Raden Adjeng Kartini

This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Saman by Ayu Utami


Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado

The Hours of the Star by Clarice Lispector


Songs of Blood and Sword by Fatima Bhutto

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif


Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie


Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

reading 3

The Poems of Anna Akhmatova


reading 2

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami


reading 1

The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel


Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco


When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip

reading is traveling child


Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste


Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz


The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk


The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja



Letters from Thailand by Botan


Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


The Aeneid by Virgil


Letters from Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela


Please Look After Mother by Kyung Sook Shin


Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


The Life of St Teresa of Avila by Herself


The White Guard by Mikail Bulgakhov


Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah


Devil on the Cross by Ngugi wa’Thiongo


The Topless Tower by Silvina Ocampo


Fantasia: An Algerian Calvacade by Assia Djebar


The Poems of Wislawa Szymborska


Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih


Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek


The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood


The Poems of Rabia Basri


Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami


The Time of the Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa


The Dancer from Khiva by Bibish


Kampung Boy by Lat


The Quran


Doña Inés vs. Oblivion by Ana Teresa Torres


The End of the World by Sushma Joshi


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali


Eyes of the Tailless Animals by Soon Ok Lee


Changes by Ama Ata Adoo


Neighbours: A Story of a Murder by Lília Momplé


Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay


Notes of a Desolate Man by Chu Ti’en-Wen




And to be fair to the about books and dreams tumblr author … she added her own list:



-          I’ll start adding some titles here (trying to stick to novels) and you can send me yours in a message.





The Sea of Fertility series by Yukio Mishima, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.


books and time

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, Battles in the Desert by José Emilio Pacheco, Les Exilés de la Mémoire (Los Rojos de Ultramar) by Jordi Soler, The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, Confabulario by Juan José Arreola, Popol Vuh, The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela, The Nine Guardians (Balún Canán) by Rosario Castellanos, Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta.


Perfume by Patrick Süskind, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (born in Poland).


The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (born in Morocco).


Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (born in Cuba).


Delirium by Laura Restrepo, Recipes for Sad Women by Héctor Abad Faciolince.


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Tell Me Who I Am by Julia Navarro, See How Much I Love You by Luis Leante, Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones.


The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges, Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato.


Dear Life by Alice Munro, In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré (born in Scotland), Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen.


Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo.

Czech Republic:

Slowness by Milan Kundera, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.


The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar Keret.


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe.



Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh




Blindness by José Saramago, The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.



Memory of Fire series by Eduardo Galeano, The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga, The Truce by Mario Benedetti.



And then because the blog owner is Brazilian … she asks … can I add more Brazilian literature?



- Agua Viva, Near to the Wild Heart, and The Passion of G. H by Clarice Lispector

- The Posthumos Memoir of Bras Cubas by Machado de Assis

reading and where you will go

- Winning the Game and High Art by Rubem Fonseca

- They Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato

- Blood-drenched Beard by Daniel Galera






If you can’t find something new to read off of this list … well … you are hopeless.

right versus left … and truth

August 20th, 2014

thinking diagonally


“The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world.”


Andrew WK



I liked this editorial I am going to share today.



Sometimes we seem to get so caught up in labels … conservative, liberal, progressive, right wing, left wing, etc … that we lose sight of what really matters.
Labels <heuristics in the broadest frame of reference> are tricky things.



We like them because it allows us to slot people and things and ideas.



We hate them because if we pay enough attention … they often lead us astray.



The difficulty for us is often we are so busy trying to get shit done and save our brains from thinking about senseless stuff we use these labels to take mental shortcuts.






But then … every once in a while something gets a little personal.


And then the labels create a shortcut that ends in a dead end.


And we don’t like that because short cuts aren’t supposed to do that.


And we get frustrated.


And this is where this editorial really makes an excellent point.



Just think about it.


Far too often we have labels that create unhealthy thinking & thought dead ends.




Rocker Andrew W.K. writes a weekly advice column for The Village Voice.

In this week’s “Ask Andrew W.K.,” he answers a question from “Son of A Right-Winger,” and in the process gives us all great advice, regardless of our political views.


The tough question

Hi Andrew,

I’m writing because I just can’t deal with my father anymore.

He’s a 65-year-old super right-wing conservative who has basically turned into a total (expletive) intent on ruining our relationship and our planet with his politics.

I’m more or less a liberal democrat with very progressive values and I know that people like my dad are going to destroy us all.

How do I explain to him that his politics are turning him into a monster, destroying the environment, and pushing away the people who care about him?

behavior predict question



The perfect answer

Dear Son of A Right-Winger,

Go back and read the opening sentences of your letter. Read them again. Then read the rest of your letter. Then read it again.

Try to find a single instance where you referred to your dad as a human being, a person, or a man.

There isn’t one.

You’ve reduced your father — the person who created you — to a set of beliefs and political views and how it relates to you. The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world.

The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they’re truly better people than the others who think differently. The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love.

We must not let this happen.





There is your thought for the day …character stood up best
‘The world isn’t being destroyed by democrats or republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world.’



Despite the conclusion you may draw … you are no better than someone else.


Think about … well … “I’ve been wrong before.” Maybe we should consider that thought more often.






Just because we may think differently than someone else does not make us any better than them.


the majority minority paradox

August 18th, 2014

thinking alone with dog


“Everybody feels safe belonging not to the excluded minority but to the excluding majority.

You think, Oh, I’m glad that’s not me.

It’s basically the same in all periods in all societies.

If you belong to the majority, you can avoid thinking about lots of troubling things.”


Haruki Murakami





The minority majority paradox.



I actually began thinking about this when someone used the infamous “I guess that shows the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” <when discussing criminals and sexual deviancy>.




And then … while I abhor politics and avoid the whole political crap spewed day in and day out through media … it is difficult to avoid the sliver who spew an embarrassingly vocal minority opinion <at the top of their lungs>.







Both discussions got me going a little.




It made me think about what society <and many people> perceives … and what is reality … because of the minority majority paradox.



It affects what we think about criminals.




Climate change.


Drinking alcohol.

Unmarried mothers.



And many others <although I will share the information on the ones I listed>.
But I will begin with the response to the ‘apple not falling far from tree’ when I stated that most people who are abused as a child never hurt a fly.





Of all the people who hurt flies, almost of them have had their wings broken themselves.



That is a microcosm of the majority minority paradox.


minority majority happy




A truth:


“… abusive people are more likely to have come from an abusive environment … but the majority of people from an abusive environment are not abusive.”


Same with criminal behavior and sexual deviancy.

“Children who grew up in an environment in which criminal behavior or sexual deviancy … are more likely to exhibit that behavior than those who didn’t.”






But those children do NOT represent the majority of criminals or sexual deviants.





It is the kind of head scratcher type information that can make your head hurt of you think about it too much.

But that is the way the minority majority paradox works.


Where things truly go awry is in how the information and perspective <and perceptions> gets managed.



And, as with most information, you can use it for good or for evil … and you can use information to steer people in a direction <for good or for bad> and it can be used to create perceptions and attitudes which make people say stupid shit on occasion <but hopefully not actually DO stupid shit>.




thinker thumbtack


The paradox, oddly enough, often make people think … well … small.






Another paradox example.



How about climate change?


A survey of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals has found 97.1% <now I believe it is over 98%> agreed that climate change is caused <in some degree or another> by human activity.


At minimum they agree humans contribute to climate change.



Suffice it to say the survey findings reflect a near unanimity. And you would tend to believe this provides a powerful rebuttal to climate contrarians <often called “deniers”> who continue to insist the science of climate change remains unsettled <or they simply focus on ‘not all people agree’ as their argument>.







The survey considered the work of some 29,000 scientists published in 11,994 academic papers and only 0.7% or 83 of those articles disputed the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change.



minority climate change

“Our findings prove that there is a strong scientific agreement about the cause of climate change, despite public perceptions to the contrary.”

John Cook of the University of Queensland.






Public opinion continues to lag behind the science.



Though a majority of Americans accept the climate is changing, just 42% believed human activity was the main driver, in a poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre last October.


“There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception.”



It is true, as the skeptics like to point out, that long-term climate modeling remains an inexact science.



And some environmentalists hurt their cause by leaping to blame every extreme weather event on global warming.




But climate scientists are 95% to 100% sure that human activity — emission of greenhouse gases — is a significant cause of dramatic warming. And that warming is already raising sea levels, acidifying oceans, melting glaciers and intensifying heat waves, downpours, droughts and wildfires.



So why are the opinion numbers so wacky?



A vocal minority.


A harshly loud vocal minority.
All of which makes one consider the actions of a minority with regard to influencing the majority.
And oddly media plays a pretty significant role in this minority – majority paradox.


say out loud oops

Sticking with climate change <mostly because that was the last thing I talked about>.




  • - A 2011 study of opinion columns appearing in The Australian found that climate change contrarians outnumbered four-to-one those authors calling for firm action to reduce fossil fuel emissions.


  • - In the US, the Union of Concerned Scientists has looked at climate change coverage in the Wall Street Journal and on Fox News over a six-month period. In the case of Fox, UCS classified 37 out of 40 segments as “misleading” on climate change science.   In almost a year of Wall Street Journal articles, just nine out of 48 articles were deemed to accurately reflect the state of the science.









All these articles play a significant role in amplifying the minority’s machine of messaging to a broad segment of the public.
The loud minority.



They are shouting.


And sound louder than what they really are.






It amazes me how often a minority attitude/behavior is actually, in reality, a majority.


The easiest to point out is women.




Minorities may actually be a numerical majority … like women in American society.



Go figure.



How can you be a minority but be the majority?



It amazes me how often a majority acts like a minority and, probably more importantly, how we confuse the minority majority relationships in our perceptions … and inevitably how we manage them behavior wise.






What’s happening?



Or maybe … why is this happening?


Let’s think about what’s happening in society and culture and why.






While the minority majority paradox has always occurred … the roots of today’s venomous version can be found in changes which began occurring in maybe 1990.


Peter Drucker outlined the changes.


The new reality of pluralism in society is related to the creation and development of single purposed organisations, which are concentrated on one social task while being completely apolitical such as business, education, health, youth and so forth.



And these groups have no oversight <not suggesting they should> therefore they can say whatever they want to say:



These groups feature movements of highly organized minorities whose objective is to obtain through power what could not be achieved through other means.

Pluralism both in society and in polity is to be perceived as a challenge to political processes and political leadership as well as to all the represented groups and individuals of our society.

The challenges of the new pluralist institutions require particular attention in terms of: their social responsibility; their community responsibility; political responsibility; individuals’ rights and responsibility; and the newly perceived role and functions of government.



This all means that the small and single-cause concerned groups are becoming increasingly dominating in politics and society … and therefore opinions & perceptions <… and not truth>.




How the heck do they achieve such power?



Oddly … the power actually resides in their small numbers. Because they are small they are aligned and focused.



As a minority their strength is derived from their single task or purpose, which are usually related to prevent or to stop rather than to be organized to do something.



Politically these minority groups are increasingly dominating the mass movements of modern politics <and society> though they count only 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the electorate <Drucker, 1989>.



In contrast, the majority tends to be not well organized, is inert and not committed to a particular purpose and or a unified objective.



That said.



It can change … because when the majority actually kind of gets grumpy … they can get organized and actually do something.







And the most obvious example of a majority squeezing a minority is smoking.
Smokers are, and always have been, a minority.






There have always been more <significantly more> nonsmokers then smokers.
Yet smokers seemed to rule the world.



Not so much anymore.





Sticking with smoking.


Another minority- majority paradox.


Interestingly … despite what everyone may want to make you think … the majority of smokers do not die from a tobacco related issue.





Did I just type that?



You betcha.


The majority of smokers <not a shitload more than 50% but above 50%> live a relatively normal health life.

bullshit no way


This is one of those infamous “those who smoke are more likely to die from” versus “those who die are not more likely to have done so because of a smoking issue.”




Try this on for size … fewer than 10% of smokers get lung cancer and even fewer will get any cancer.



No shit.



But smoking accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths. The risk of developing lung cancer is about 23 times higher in smokers compared to non-smokers and smoking is associated with increased risk of at least 15 types of cancer.





This is the infamous minority majority paradox at its best.



The minority will actually get cancer but of those that actually do get cancer the majority have smoked.








Smoking may not give you cancer but it increases your odds <exponentially>.







Because I do wish smokers would quit … here is a simple fact … about half of all smokers will die from smoking, and of these about half will die before or around age 50 <50-year study of physicians in England completed in 2001 – initiated in 1951>.



And the life expectancy for a smoker in the United States is about 64, which is 14 years shorter than the national average (which includes smokers), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



It’s all about how the information is used.
As Christopher Wanjek says “In the game of risk, you’re more likely to have a condom break than to get cancer from smoking.”


rabbit smoking


He also says …


“Smoking doesn’t kill everyone.

About 50 percent of smokers do reach old age, albeit with diminished taste buds, diminished endurance, diminished eyesight, yellow teeth and bad breath.

Going by these numbers it becomes clear that few pastimes, habits or addictions are deadlier than smoking.

Only Russian roulette and scorpion juggling come to mind.”







How about alcohol.



Despite what perception is … maybe over 50% of Americans do not drink with any frequency at all.





Maybe make that almost 70% of Americans.





Perception: “Alcohol is an integral part of American life.

It is a normal accompaniment to most social events. Most Americans enjoy drinking on a regular basis.”





There are certainly some widely held perceptions about alcohol—created in part by alcohol advertising and popular culture.



But these perceptions are not entirely true.


These perceptions—and misperceptions—affect our attitudes toward alcohol and our policies regarding the sale to and consumption of alcohol by youth as well as adults.



You want some truth?


Reality: A large majority of Americans either do not drink or drink infrequently.



For a large majority … alcohol is an unimportant consumer product. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse about 51 percent of adults 21 years of age and older report that they did not consume any alcohol in the past month and an additional 25 percent report drinking once a week or less.




The following picture of adult drinking emerges from these data:


  • - Most American adults either abstain or drink very little.



  • - A relatively small percentage of drinkers drink most of the alcohol <it is something like 6% of the population drinks 50% of the alcohol or something crazy like that>



  • - This small percentage often consumes several drinks at a time, increasing the risk of serious health and safety problems.






Another one?


How about unmarried mothers?



The data presented here dispel many inaccurate perceptions about unmarried mothers. The classic image of an unmarried mother is that she is a teen, a member of a racial or ethnic minority group, a first-time mother of a child born outside of marriage, and that she is not in a relationship with the father of her child.



<note: the following data is dated … but … more updated information actually makes an even stronger case … so conclusions are even more pronounced in today’s world>



The data show that the reality today is often quite different.


Teens account for a diminishing share of all births outside of marriage. In 1970, 50 percent of all nonmarital births occurred to females under age twenty.

By 1999, less than one-third of all nonmarital births (29 percent) were to teens. The proportion of all nonmarital births to women in their early twenties (aged 20-24 years) increased from 32 percent in 1970 to 36 percent
in 1999.

The largest percentage point increase during this time period was found among women aged 25 and older. In 1970, less than one-fifth (18 percent) of all nonmarital births were to women aged 25 and older.

By 1999, women aged 25 and older accounted for more than one-third (34 percent) of all nonmarital births. Only about half of nonmarital births are first births.

The public perception is that nonmarital births are first births.

Recent Vital Statistics estimates show that only 50 percent of all nonmarital births in 1998 were mothers’ first births.


 tell truth frustrating






I could share dozens of examples. Our perceptions are skewed day after day by a vocal minority.


The truth is difficult to discern … let alone learn.








The minority majority paradox is here to stay.


Media will feed it.



And well organized minority groups will feed it.



But … you cannot assume any type of actions by a minority will influence others let alone the majority.


When the minority’s behavior is not consistent, its impact on the majority is minimal.



Therefore it is the consistent behavioral style of minorities that insures the impact.



And, luckily for the minority we live within a democracy.


Majority rule is not the only expression of “supreme power” in a democracy.



If it were, as Tocqueville noted, the majority would too easily tyrannize the minority.



A democracy guarantees the expression of the popular will through majority rule … yet also guarantees that the majority will not abuse use its power to violate the basic and inalienable rights of the minority.



The minority must have the right to seek to become the majority and possess all the rights necessary to compete fairly.







Here is the good news <from my perspective>.




While the minority is typically painfully opinionated <or ignorant> and vocal … and the indifferent a morass of stagnancy … they actually do counterbalance.



Some research from a Princeton professor <Couzin>.


“The classic view is that uninformed or uncommitted individuals may allow extreme views to proliferate. We found that might not be the case.”


He and his co-authors found that even a small population of indifferent individuals act as a counterbalance to the minority — whose passion even can cause informed individuals in the majority to waver — and restore majority rule.

minority truth spoken



“We show that when the uninformed participate, the group can come to a majority decision even in the face of a powerful minority.

They prevent deadlock and fragmentation because the strength of an opinion no longer matters — it comes down to numbers.

You can imagine this being a good or bad thing.

Either way, a certain number of uninformed individuals keep that minority from dictating or complicating the behavior of the group.”



I like what I just shared because it gives me hope that even with a significant unengaged population … we can still maintain some sanity from that vocal minority.






I understand we need the minority.



We have been fortunate in that we have always had them.


The difficulty always is, has been, and will be … discerning the wackjob minority from the inspired minority.



We seek the happy few of insightful righteousness.



The ones who speak to our moral soul.



While these few have always been there they have often suffered at the hands of the powerful.


But they are never silenced and they never become extinct despite the best efforts of the powerful.



Because they are the voice of the public conscience.



Think … Thomas Paine, Henry Thoreau, Upton Sinclair, Emerson … I would add in Peter Drucker in the late 90’s <I struggle to name one in today’s world>.


They spoke truth and shared ideas and offered philosophical thoughts that anyone could grasp.



I imagine I could call the fearless Enlighteners.



They seek to enlighten within the credo of act fearless … the world is full of cowards eager to believe.”idea and fear



<I have no clue who said this but I loved it and wrote it down>



They stand up as heroes of truth and moral responsibility.



Please note they did not stand up for tactics or specific things to do or not do … but rather decision making thought guiders.
In others words … these fearless enlighteners prompted thinking … not prompted answers.



They did this … “if you are not willing to think about this on your own … let me tell you what you need to think about <please note: not “here is what you should think”>”.



I aspire to be a fearless enlightener.


I imagine I could aspire for worse things.


corralling chaos (a management lesson)

August 17th, 2014

chaos control leadership


“True freedom is where an individual’s thoughts and actions are in alignment with that which is true, correct, and of honor – no matter the personal price.”


Bryant H. McGill






I recently wrote about my college job, fake security guy with a company called Contemporary Security Company <CSC>, and it made me think about another good business lesson I learned.
I call it corralling chaos.



chaos team alignment

Maybe it is more simply managing people.





Comparing chaos to managing people?









Unless you want to hire a bunch of clones or do some mind meld trick upon hiring someone … you are going to inevitably have a wide variety of specific skilled people, a mosaic of personalities and characters … and … well … humans being human within your purview.



I learned this very quickly as a youngster at CSC.



And, by the way, I didn’t learn this because I was some brilliant leader or insightful organizational behavior person at the age of 18 … I learned it out of simple survival.



Once I became a supervisor I definitely had a ‘Bruce team.’ A small group of guys who I always selected <or they selected me> to be surrounded by to manage and utilize.



In hindsight I was a little different than some of the other supervisors.
I liked using the same guys even though the assignment was different.


I liked tweaking each guy’s ‘comfort zone’ to show them how to adapt.



I think I subconsciously recognized that it probably helped me out under a variety of assignments in that these guys … and these guys were wired differently … wouldn’t take a cookie cutter approach to how they handled things.



Not only did they see that things could be done differently <than maybe what their first instinct was> but also they became comfortable with some things out of their comfort zone.



The best example I have is two guys who were with me whenever possible.



They were book end personalities.







African American. Sharp & smart. Took life seriously. Scowled a lot. Maybe 6’ 1” and 280 pounds of hair triggered whirlwind of aggression.
You only walked up to Lamont from behind very carefully.



I vividly remember walking up behind him and tapping him on the shoulder … and he spun around with a semi graceful martial arts form <… c’mon … how graceful can a 280 pound guy be> … crouched and coiled to part my head from my shoulders.

I also vividly remember his eyes were laser-like and seemingly completely clear of anything but ‘destroy.’ Without relaxing … he said ‘little buddy … you shouldn’t sneak up on me like that’ … and then he uncoiled.






White suburban kid. Maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer. 6’ 2” and chiseled 220 pounds or so. Played defensive end at Orange Coast junior college.

Easy going … smiled a lot. The first time I met him on the job I saw him wade into a drunken brawl of maybe 6 guys and singlehandedly blow it up with maybe only one punch thrown by him <which admittedly put that guy out of commission>.


These two guys became the bookends that held most of my teams together.



Lamont was like an assassin.


Dave was like a bull.



Lamont I restrained.


Dave I released.



Both could intimidate in their own way … but their instinct was always to act with power of action … and not words.



My bosses struggled to understand why I always wanted them … no matter the assignment.
Lamont was often seen as uncontrollable <therefore they hesitated to want to put him in more ‘delicate diplomatic’ situations>.


Dave was often seen as ‘not too smart’ <therefore they hesitated to want to put him in situations where he may have to think on his feet>.



Beyond the fact I saw how these guys could be used effectively … I probably more recognized that situations my bosses ‘foresaw’ within an assignment more often became unforeseen actions & consequences.



chaos and safety

Security at some event with zillions of people wandering around <many drinking> all with an attitude that ‘hey … I paid to be here … so I can do pretty much whatever I want’ is inevitably one of much randomness.


Interestingly … that describes the business world fairly well <without the drinking>.


Managing people isn’t really about plans & planning … or even having a plan … it is more often about how to deal with what happens when the plan breaks apart.



Plans and planning … and all the things under those headings <business plans, contingency plans, succession plans> … are all good things … uhm … until they aren’t.



All the plans that once bring order, continuity, and control often become rigid obstacles to progress and adaptation.



Lamont, Dave … shit … whatever personality I was supervising … I found that most people are trying to do what they believe is in the best interest of the organization.



I also found the trouble was often they may not have the same point of view on what that is.



And, yes, that leads to some version of chaos.

chaos corral outcome and understanding


You can have two people conducting themselves with the best of intentions and trying to do the right thing.


Both options are valid.



Uh oh.



But the conclusions they reach end up in direct conflict with each other.  This creates confusion <with each other as well as those around them seeking cues on what to do>.



A lot of the supervisors around me did two things.






Bitched & moaned about ‘the guys they managed’ and said ‘they just don’t get it.’





Picked guys for their team that they could ‘control.’






I guess I decided to take responsibility for getting out of the chaos.



I assumed from day one that it was me responsible for allowing chaos.





I also assumed I couldn’t control anyone … certainly not someone like Lamont or a number of other highly wired individuals I liked to have on my team … but I did assume I could point them in the right direction <with regard to attitudes & actions>.
I picked guys for my teams who could get shit done. And get shit done within some principled behavior guidelines.


chaos control game

I kind of assumed my role was to ‘be still amidst the chaos and active in repose’ <Indira Ghandi>.



Be a compass as it were.








I certainly didn’t understand all the real thinking behind good management and leadership at that age.




What I do know now for sure – good leaders provide a compass.



A good leader helps others think through implications that can impact the broader team’s goals and objectives.



Once people have orienting values and principles, their ability to think and operate independently accelerates.




Good leaders hold people, themselves included, accountable to a set of values and principles.


And leading is often measured by how you deal with the times which inevitably occur when the leader needs to confront a difficult decision that puts principles to the test.



Corralling chaos is all about getting comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable.



My guys recognized that always sticking to the plan without fail provided a false sense of security.



They knew from experience that there needed to be some flexibility with “how” the “what” is implemented.




They embraced the purposeful discomfort and I rewarded the purposeful discomfort.



I left room for serendipity.



I left room for what is called “interaction with an unintended outcome” <Scott Doorley, Stanford>.



Some smart guy, Atul Gawande, states there will always be people who excel and thrive in complex and chaotic environments.



People who “have a better capacity to prepare for the possibility, to limit the damage, and to sometimes even retrieve success from failure.”








I agree with that and I don’t agree with that.




I agree that some people are better than others at the ability to quickly assess situations and take decisive action based on their experience and instinct.




I don’t agree that anyone and everyone can become better and hone this ability. In fact … part being a good leader is trying to figure out how to maximize this ability within employees <because it enhances autonomy which increases organizational efficiency>.

women leadership


I have no clue if I am particularly strong with the ‘capacity to prepare for unintended consequences.’




What I do have a clue on is that no matter how strong I may be … I can’t prepare for everything and can’t solve everything and I can’t be everywhere at all times.



I liked having a variety of skilled people available … no matter how difficult they were to manage.







It increased the likelihood the team could handle any ‘unintended consequences’ as they arose.


CSC taught me a shitload.



It taught me very quickly that when supervisors complained that people are working against each other, that they are not aligned, that they don’t seem to ‘get it’ … that they are full of shit.


It taught me first & foremost that a supervisor needs to look in the mirror.






Is chaos a bad word to use when discussing people management?




inspire leadership

But here is what I do know.



I would rather corral chaos than ‘light a fire under someone’s ass.’



Is that a management style?





I imagine so.



I imagine it is actually a management or leadership choice.
And when I look in the mirror with regard to management style I am okay with what I see.


And I thank my CSC job for helping me be okay with it.



CSC becks

If interested, after you read this post, you can visit his past CSC ‘learnings’ posts:

<learning to say no>



<practicing actually means more relaxed>



<action has its time>



<gaining perspective>




Enlightened Conflict