Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 203, July 2016)

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  • Don't stew, fret, or otherwise ruminate. Take action. Write a letter to the editor. Attend a rally. Join a committee. Or just forget it.
  • A polite security guy removes a tiny scissor from my carry-on in Sydney, which is legal in the US and Europe. "Well, each airport has different standards," he says, shrugging his shoulders. Oh, good, that makes me feel much safer.
  • If you leave yourself plenty of connection time, and plan to arrive wherever you're going early, you'll seriously reduce stress in your life (and improve productivity).
  • I wonder if people who ask me questions that are explained on my site or can readily be found on Google require someone to assist then to eat their cereal in the mornings.
  • Your children emulate what they see if it means pleasure, shortcuts, or other gratifying pursuits. What you show them-even inadvertently-is far, far more powerful than what you tell them.
  • Use hotels that have their own concierges. Many are outsourced and they are nowhere near as effective, knowledgeable, or polite.
  • The best seats to see a Broadway play-especially a musical-are the "house seats": about rows 3-12 center orchestra, or first row center mezzanine. In the first row of the orchestra, you lose all perspective, are usually spat upon by projecting actors, and are distracted by the conductor in the pit in front of you.
  • False humility is just another form of arrogance.
  • Here's the worst way to compliment someone: "I usually disagree with you, but...." When someone says it to me, I tell them I'll try not to disappoint them again.
  • In 30 years of enjoying wine, I've never returned a bottle in a restaurant. One was marginal once, but I decided to drink it. Some people return wine frequently. There's an oenophile term for this: pretentious.



From Columbine to Orlando, I both cringe and wonder at the proliferation of mass murder of civilians by civilians, not for money-as in a bank robbery-but simply to kill. Pragmatically, you can't kill all of those you hate in your blind ignorance and bigotry. Hitler tried with all the power of a totalitarian state, obedient military, and supportive population, and even he couldn't do it.

It strikes me that there is a confluence of three elements which enable mass murder more than ever before.

  1. Massive, instantaneous media, feeding on drama and provocation, ensure perpetrators immediate notoriety (which they'd consider "fame"). The act can't be hushed up or even slowly analyzed. We are suddenly, and continually, bombarded with every aspect of the horror, including the perpetrator's messages, beliefs, and actions.
  2. The access to lethal, powerful arms in the US, in particular (but not exclusively-even benign Norway has had its mass murderer, whom the courts recently ruled was being subject to overly cruel punishment in his private prison suite with TV and exercise equipment). People can legally own weapons that would have been more powerful than most infantry arms in Viet Nam.
  3. An increase in the number of disenfranchised and alienated people. Whether religious radicalism, or bigotry, or being aggrieved by government policy, or becoming immersed in one's "cause," there are people who forsake discussion, debate, and democracy for self-styled vigilantism. These people have always existed, but I believe today's complex and frenetic world is a catalyst for the alienation and ability to act.

Thus, we have the perfect storm.

We need to recognize the intent to murder for what it is. A Imam in a U.S. mosque calls for gays to be killed. Wouldn't intelligent, religious, rational people walk out the door? Imagine a Catholic priest making that statement during Mass? The Orlando killer had been interviewed at least twice by the FBI and released over a ten-year period. (Remember when the 9/11 Islamic killers studied to fly but not land in American flying schools, and no one was moved to investigate closely?)

We need to limit the access to firearms which have power above and beyond what's needed for hunting or home defense. We need to more carefully qualify and register who acquires guns. The Orlando killer had a legally registered and acquired highly potent automatic weapon.

We need more accountability, all of us. The Columbine killers-kids-had weapons and pipe bombs in their rooms. Their parents either were so remote as to not to notice, or so negligent as to not intervene.

What's happened in Paris, Istanbul, Orlando, Norway, Bali, and scores of other places can't be chalked up to "the times" or fate. Our liberties are already severely restricted in airports, where we're guilty until proved innocent. We can't live with more liberties eroded in terms of attending the theater, or a nightclub, or a church or synagogue. We must isolate the causes and take preventive actions. First responders, no matter how gallant and well trained, are a contingency after the horror.

My limo driver said to me the other day on the way to the train station, "We have too many flags at half-staff too often these days." Indeed. We need to view that flag and recognize that we are Americans all, here in the U.S., and we believe in and defend human liberty, justice, and freedom of speech.

But those freedoms rely on human safety. No freedoms are secure when the populace is unsafe.


The human condition: Aggrievementnessosity

Everyone is aggrieved, it seems.

They may be aggrieved over global warming, or college tuition debt, or others' political beliefs, or soccer scandals, or taxes, or slow internet access, or not receiving benefits someone else has earned, or not being recognized as special, or being asked to work to earn money, or having to be accountable.


Fewer and fewer people want to make accommodations, create consensus, or simply cope with circumstances. They want special treatment, just for them. I was facilitating a packed meeting for a private school which felt it had to raise tuition to maintain the physical plant. One woman objected vehemently, actually saying, "I've sent my two oldest here on full scholarships for financial hardship, and if you reduce scholarships, I won't be able to send my youngest!" Oh, yes: Her 45-year-old husband had decided never to work and earn money, though perfectly healthy.

I'm not talking about complaining, which is to express dissatisfaction with some state of affairs. I'm talking about being aggrieved, which is feeling resentment at perceived personally unfair treatment. That "treatment" might include a low grade in school, not being allowed into a club that requires professional qualifications, not being immediately agreed with by others on controversial topics, not being warned that emotional material is in a classic book, or not being seen as a high performer despite mediocre work.

Social media are really large vanity publishing outlets. They create a false egalitarianism, as if all opinions are equal in merit. They are not, of course. I'll listen to my doctor's health diagnosis before I will my mechanic's, and I'll listen to my mechanic's assessment of my car's performance before I will my doctor's. The belief that mere publishing creates accuracy or respect or truth is ridiculous.

So is the belief that we are all due things we haven't earned.

I don't need to go through life protected, nor recognized for achievements I haven't created. I just want the opportunity to achieve and experience life. I can deal with the issues that arise which tend to hurt me or help me.

To do otherwise-to merely be aggrieved-is to disempower yourself, because you're appealing to others to help you, an implicit statement that you can't help yourself.


I take a cab from my hotel to my business meeting in Sydney. The fare is $9 Australian (maybe $7 US). I give the driver $12 Australian and thank him.

"Lord, you're an American," he says turning around.

"Can you tell by my accent?" I ask.

"No, I can tell by your tip!"


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October 19-20, 2016

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October 24-25, 2016

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People who regularly complain about what they "should have done" never get around to doing anything.

Alan Weiss