Genesis

Genesis 18 b (2)Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was from Genesis and dealt with the visit to Abraham by Yahweh and two companions (minders?). Abraham plays the part of the unreformed man, calling for his wife Sarah to make loaves from three bushels of flour (that’s a lot of bread, unless bushels were a lot smaller in those days), the servant has to kill and prepare the calf and when all is ready Abraham serves everything to his guests. The reading ends with “Then his guest said, ‘I shall come back to you next year, and then your wife Sarah will have a son.’”
But Genesis continues with:
“Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of childbearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again?’ But Yahweh asked Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?” Nothing is impossible for Yahweh. I shall come back to you at the same time next year and Sarah will have a son.’  Sarah said, ‘I did not laugh,’ lying because she was afraid. But he replied, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’ “
Paul Johnson in his book “Humorists” describes this episode as the first joke in the Bible and points out that it is also a smutty one (is pleasure to come my way again?).

Exposure

ExposureI have just finished reading “Exposure – Inside the Olympus Scandal” which covers the journey by Michael Woodford from being CEO of Olympus, the Japanese imaging company, to the whistleblower who told the world about the financial, accounting and governance irregularities in the company.
Much of the book can be quite technical as it tracks the money. On the other hand it contains truths which can be carried on to many areas. For example:
“Sales is in large part pure hard work; in simple terms getting what you have to show in front of people. It’s a numbers game. The more people you show, the more you will sell. And just be pleasant, natural, honest and listen. We all sell ourselves all the time.”
More interesting (from the governance point of view) is this extract (originally addressed to the company’s Board of Directors):
“Ignorance is no defence. If you were there and not aware of it, then you were incompetent. If you were there, and aware of it without asking tough questions, then you were negligent. Either way, you need to leave.”
The last quotation explains, as well as any, the need for Councillors to be challenging. They are the equivalent of non-executive directors who represent constituents rather than shareholders and practice incompetent behaviour at their peril.

It is the soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister

Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter

Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet

Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer

Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer

Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician

Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,

Who serves beneath the flag,

And whose coffin is draped by the flag,

Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

— (c) Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army
Purple Heart Medal

Six Principles for Happiness

Moneyweek features a blog by Eric Barker (http://www.bakadesuyo.com/archive/9/2012?page=2), which suggests that there are six key principles for happiness in life and career. (I particularly like No. 3 and 6).The principles are taken from Daniel Pink’s book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.

1.      Don’t plan. Things rarely work out as you intend them. Act instead according to your fundamental values and beliefs – this is more effective and rewarding.
2.      Think strengths, not weaknesses. Don’t try too hard to improve what you’re bad at; instead, capitalise on what you’re good at.
3.      It’s not about you. The most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives. And they’re happier while doing it, too.
4.      Persistence trumps talent. What any one person in the world can learn, almost all of us can learn. What makes the best musicians? Nothing but hard work.
5.      Make excellent mistakes. The most successful people make big mistakes and learn from them – each time they get better and move a little closer to excellence.
6.      Leave an imprint. Visualise your funeral and consider what you would want friends to describe as your legacy. Thinking about death can actually be a good thing – it can improve physical health and help us re-prioritise our goals and values.   

Tilting at Windmills

Whilst in Paris we took the opportunity to treat ourselves to the International Herald Tribune which combines the New York Times news services together with features and articles from elsewhere. It made a refreshing change from the U.K. national papers and we did consider swapping our Telegraph subscription for the I.H.T., relying on the internet for more U.K. centred news.
One breakfast meeting was made joyful by the news that Spain is bidding to host the Olympic Games in 2020. A Wall Street Journal article contained the following extracts:

·“We need two different things: power for the economy and an element of enthusiasm for the population,” Víctor Sánchez, managing director of Madrid 2020,
·
Skeptics point out that Madrid is among the most indebted cities in Spain. Ratings firm Fitch recently downgraded Madrid’s regional government, predicting its debt could more than triple—to €23.7 billion ($29 billion)—in 2014 from 2010. The country’s economy, meanwhile, is enduring a double-dip recession and the government is pushing through a €65 billion austerity program.
·
“This is not the moment to be thinking about this kind of event,” says José García Montalvo, an economics professor at Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
·
”In these bid documents, there is always an element of unreality,” says Matthew Burbank, a political-science professor at the University of Utah who studies the Olympics.
·The IOC gave Madrid the best score of all three finalists, but added: “Careful monitoring of Spain’s progress on economic issues is needed to further assess future risks of delivery.”
It’s good to see optimism combined with ambition in these dark days. On the other hand the lunatics are thinking that they may be in charge of the asylum. The full article may be viewed on:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303644004577524684025592386.html

The Last Gunfight

I have just read The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn. The book details the circumstances leading up to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. There are various strands which lead up to the gunfight. The ambitions of the Earp family to find their fortunes. The similar aims of other lawmen, ranchers and cowboys. The play of politics in the election of officials (sheriffs had responsibility for collecting taxes for which they kept a percentage), philosophical views of governance (too much or not enough government) and the desire of the Tombstone businessmen to have a nice town whilst still parting rowdy cowboys from their money. The gunfight produced the immediate deaths of Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury. The Earps came out of the inquest with their actions being excusable and justifiable by law.  The gunfight and the inquest did not stop the animosity between the Earps, Clantons and the cowboys. The book infers that the Earps finally lost patience with their enemies, tracked them down and executed them. In most cases this was permissible as there were outstanding warrants against their enemies. The book has a number of interesting vignettes but my favourite quote is from the historian John E. Ferling “events by themselves are unimportant; it is the perception of events that is crucial”. The shoot out was an arrest gone wrong and the result of complicated social, economic and political issues which left eight men dangerously mistrustful of each other. A very good read and a healthy antidote to the glamourisation of the Wild West.