# (4) 01 Jan 2009, 09:26PM: Host:
We've been having friends over this week for food, Dr. Horrible, Wii Music, and conversation. When I look back on 2008, some of my best memories are of extending and receiving hospitality, sharing my enthusiasms and learning new ones.
We've also been fortunate enough to enjoy some financial comfort, and since we live in a tiny apartment, have found ourselves leaning towards spending on experiences like travel and dining that don't take up any room. I've probably spent less this year on books than I have any year since I started college -- thanks, library.
I did however grab an issue of "Haute Living" from Daniel when Leonard and I ate there this summer. Just now I rolled around laughing at the ads for stuff that even the Wall Street Journal thinks is excessive. One resort is "home to the world's only 'tanning butler' -- a gentleman who roams the pool to ensure those hard-to-reach places are effectively oiled" (p. 172), leading me to ask, "Is this man employed by the hotel?"
We don't have room for more stuff, so we avoid stuff-buying. If you're rich, you just buy a storage yacht! It's refreshing to see that, while Leonard and I may be more well-off than we're accustomed to, we're not rich jagoffs.
But, near the end of the magazine, I ran across an unexpectedly intense meditation/parable on hospitality and luxury from Eric Lepeingle, a yacht broker.
A client who has everything and can buy whatever he wants was in Cannes to visit the yachts. His manager comes in and says he wants to have the most perfect French experience possible. I say to myself, I'm sure he's already eaten at all the big three-star Michelin places. He knows where they are. He doesn't need me to bring him to a restaurant. So I call my wife and ask her to go to the meat shop and buy a cote de boeuf and organize everything and tell her that I'm coming to the pool with five people and we're going to barbecue with us. So I tell him, 'Tonight you're going to have a real French experience.' He asks what that is. I tell him, 'It's called home.' 'What?' the client asks. 'Come home,' I tell him, 'Why do you want to stay in your hotel, only to leave just so you can go to a restaurant with everyone in black and white, and get served in the exact same way you always do. The only thing I want is to have a good time.' So he says, 'You know what, you're the first person I've dealt with that has invited me home.' His eyes don't look the same way they usually do. They're smiling. You cannot do that in New York, in the office. You work all year for that one moment.
-"The Pleasure Broker" by Jeremy Lissek, Haute Living Florida, June/July 2008, p. 187.
Luxury is ....
# 03 Jan 2009, 08:12PM: Cylon Seder:
Bay Area people: what are you planning for Friday the 16th (Battlestar Galactica season premiere) and Tuesday the 20th (Inauguration Day)? Can I get in on it?
# 04 Jan 2009, 05:02AM: Short Takes:
It is instructive and/or a buzzkill to watch the Psych episode "Gus Walks Into a Bank" and the Leverage episode "The Bank Shot Job" in close succession.
The most recent Muppets holiday special, Letters to Santa, features Jane Krakowski as a guest star and the US Postal Service as an uncredited guest star/sponsor. It is mercifully short at 44 minutes and makes more sense as an imaginary vehicle for Jenna Maroney than as a canon Muppet film. There are more things wrong with the film than right with it, including voices, dialogue, songs, plot, attitude, pedagogy, and geography. Just as Antitrust made me think, Couldn't you solve this problem with a post to Slashdot?, Letters to Santa made me think, Couldn't you solve this problem with a trip to the 24-hour post office near 34th and 8th? I suggest re-viewing the 2002 holiday special instead.
Leonard was quite excited that Hulu has Horse Feathers, one of the finest Marx Brothers films. Watching it led me to wonder: would it be harder to keep my bearings while conversing with Groucho Marx or with in-character Stephen Colbert? Or Muppets?
# (1) 04 Jan 2009, 11:22AM: Boston Area Visit This Week:
I'm in the Boston area this week, going there tomorrow (Monday) and coming back Friday morning so as to host a Very Special Guest Star for a few days. I think I've emailed all my Boston contacts to start arranging visits; please embarrass me by letting me know if I'm wrong and missed you.
# (1) 04 Jan 2009, 05:28PM: What I've Taken, And What I Have To Give:
As of right now, I'm looking for new opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area, greater Boston, and here in NYC, starting in the next few months. I'm especially interested in tiny startups (let's say fewer than eight employees) or nonprofits starting new projects with tech. I'm starting machinations to ask friends and acquaintances for the names of relevant folks I should meet during my trips to Boston and the Bay this month.
I love writing technical and functional specs, translating among QA, engineers, and businessy/world-facing folks, and recruiting. I'm looking for someplace where I can bring my writing, public speaking, rolodexing, and investigative skills to bear. I want to work with superiors I can learn from, emotionally and intellectually. And I want to help make services/sites/products that delight people - for profit or non.
I'm not a programmer but I can be a good abstraction layer for software projects. I'm looking for someplace where I'll have equity or ownership, or the possibility of rising to those -- a project where I can exert all my talents and pick up real responsibilities.
That's what I'm seeking. I couldn't go after this if I hadn't already found unexpected treasure.
One of the gifts of the Internet is that I can find role models for so many traits I wish to nurture in myself, especially ambition and discipline. Just to name a few, I have Benjamin Mako Hill, Beatrice, Leonard, Brendan, Kris, Ned Batchelder and Susan Senator, all my Systers, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Rachel, Rivka, and these days especially Mel Chua. Mel's speaking right to me on "coming from a place of abundance":
In order to have a sense of playful empowerment, one must be free to change, rewrite, scrap, delete, wreck, rebuild, and tinker with all aspects of the project at any time during its course.
We can play with the inessential things without anxiety if we know they're inessential and our heart feels safe. So what is my heart's desire? To feel useful, really. And this, right now, is how.
# (2) 08 Jan 2009, 10:21PM: Fueling:
I'm at Diesel in Davis Square, reading submissions for Thoughtcrime Experiments.
In Boston, directions to a location merely 4 minutes' walk from a subway stop include a paragraph of "dogleg down this street, then make an oblique left on that street, and turn left at the church."
# 12 Jan 2009, 05:59PM: Call Me Sentimental:
Just ordered a business card refill from the same San Francisco copy shop that did my cards when I lived there.
# (2) 16 Jan 2009, 04:27AM: Back Home:
San Francisco is conspiring to get me back. Devin's breakfast with me at the Ferry Building sparked a full-fledged startup idea in my head, the most exciting in years if not ever. Sarah and I hiked up wooden stairs to the top of Coit Tower, past Tales of the City gardens and Pattern Language stepping-stone paths. The weather is absurd and wrong and paradisical. Brandon and Joe joined me at a Ruby meetup more fun and thought-provoking than any I've been to elsewhere. I have to check myself to keep my calendar open for interviews, because I want to spend endless hours with all my old pals, singly and en masse. And startups are hiring.
# 24 Jan 2009, 05:37PM: Back:
I ended up watching the BSG premiere at Ritual on Valencia, via Hulu the next morning. I ended up watching President Obama's swearing-in on my laptop screen with Alexei in his living room in the East Bay, with Leonard live on the phone with me.
Now I'm home and a little ill, very grateful to my hosts and still not sure where I'll live this month next year.
# (1) 26 Jan 2009, 02:49PM: Garth Marenghi's IT Crowd:
Matt Berry and to a lesser extent Richard Ayoade went from Darkplace to The IT Crowd basically playing the same characters. If Matthew Holness showed up he could be an efficiency consultant.
# (2) 26 Jan 2009, 05:33PM: Getting Back Into Sorts:
I'm nearly over my illness, but am delaying my next Boston trip till (probably) next week. Today I've been recuperating while reading Alan's War (Alan Cope and Emmanuel Guibert) and submissions for Thoughtcrime Experiments. By the way, Leonard's put photos and narration of our Per Se experience online.
# 28 Jan 2009, 06:41PM: Make It No:
Martin, newborn pub brawler, finds that the ST:TNG episode "Tapestry" speaks to him. He calls the theme among these episodes obvious. I'm guessing he saw that they are about leadership/organizational behavior. And thus if I had written Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation, those are episodes I'd use as illustration.
You think I'm joking? I'm totally not joking. And this was prefigured in Euler, er, postfigured in Danny O'Brien.
I've read Make It So. It's supposedly a series of logs spoken by Picard, but the whole voice is wrong. Captain Jean-Luc Picard doesn't go for bulleted lists. And he wouldn't be so reductive as to choose one virtue (e.g., Focus, Urgency, Intellectual Honesty) to bolt on to his discussion of each episode.
Make it So rightly considers the leadership and career issues in "Tapestry,"
"The First Duty," "Chain of Command," "Lower Decks," and "The Drumhead." However, it also wastes time awkwardly shoehorning management lessons into "Coming of Age," "Darmok," "Encounter at Farpoint," "Peak Performance," "Relics," "Starship Mine," and "The Wounded" when it could be addressing "The Pegasus," "Allegiance," "The Game," "The Masterpiece Society," "I, Borg," "Ensign Ro," "Loud as a Whisper," "Samaritan Snare," "A Matter of Honor," "The Ensigns of Command," "Disaster," "Rightful Heir," "Lessons," and even the Troi subplot of "Thine Own Self." I'm really surprised the talky, ham-handed Picard impersonator didn't take on "Ensign Ro," "The Masterpiece Society," and "Allegiance," since they have more interesting things to say about organizations and management than "Starship Mine," "Relics," and "The Wounded" do.
What are the real leadership lessons of TNG? Other than "watch out for worm creatures taking over your superiors"? A few: You can't do a first-class job with second-class people (cf. every guest star in a uniform); everyone needs to be able to pinch-hit (away teams, "Disaster," "Starship Mine," "The Best of Both Worlds"). Explain your reasons and listen to suggestions when you can, so your colleagues will trust you when you can't ("Chain of Command" and "Allegiance"). The first duty of a Starfleet officer is to the truth. The mission has to take priority over individuals ("Lower Decks," "Darmok," "Lessons," and possibly "The Masterpiece Society" if you look at it from the perspective of the utopians).
Anyone else want a go?
# 29 Jan 2009, 11:48PM: Surprise, Surprise:
Having a publicly viewable stats aggregator displaying how quickly I read Thoughtcrime Experiments slush makes me want to work more and faster.
If only I could have responded to most Salon Premium tech support questions with "not suitable for our needs at this time, thank you."
You can hire me through Changeset Consulting.
This work by Sumana Harihareswara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author at email@example.com.