Category 8. My Favorites

What the Iconoclasts Forget

Years ago, a friend who doesn’t eat meat told me that he thinks that in a few generations people will remember their carnivorous forbears – like me – with the same sense of shame now felt by the descendants of American slave owners. His comment didn’t convince me to change my eating habits but it did set me thinking about how societal norms sometimes undergo radical changes.

Until late in the eighteenth century, slavery was more or less universally accepted as the way of the world. Every empire-building conqueror and even the thought-leaders among the great ancient civilizations took the buying and selling of human beings for granted...

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Against Multiculturalism

Take a moment to think again about one of the most important sentences ever written:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the Founders set out a proudly universalist vision of natural rights. If all men are created equal, then preferences for one tribe, sect or class over another, whether in law or custom, are wrong.

This statement was a (literally) revolutionary rejection of the caste systems – and tribe-based identities – of other nations of the world. It spoke of universal natural rights...

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Under a Steel-Gray Sky

Two days ago I slipped in some mud while carrying my kayak up a hill. I caught myself, but in doing so I seem to have hurt something deep in my right shoulder. Since then the right side of my torso has ached.

This morning, at the suggestion of my Beloved Spouse, I went outside to sit in the hot tub by our pool. I am not really a hot tub guy – I have probably used it a dozen times in as many years – but she thought the heat and bubble jets might help lessen my shoulder pain.

So I sat in the steaming water under a steel-gray sky; to my surprise, my thoughts turned to an old friend.

***

Doug and I went to boarding school together. We got to know each other through rowing; he was a big, athletic guy – a gentle giant. Though we were two years apart, we became fast friends.

For we were nur...

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To See America

The Idea – 1/11/16

Three months from today, I am going to set out from Los Angeles by bicycle, hoping to ride to Old Lyme, CT. I have dreamed of doing this for thirty years; it’s now or never.

Over the next three months, I’ll give a lot of thought to the logistics, and try to get fit enough so that I’ll make it.

Just now, though, I have to tell the Beloved Spouse about the plan. I’m not sure she’ll be thrilled.

Day Zero – 4/10/16

This is the first in a series of daily posts that I intend to write over the next six or seven weeks about the attempt I am about to make at riding my bicycle across the country.

I sent three bikes – my two beautiful new steel Mariposas, pictured below at home just after their arrival a month ago, and my much older carbon fiber Parlee – on ahead to Los Angeles w...

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I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

Is it possible to be thrown out of a tight-knit group that one was instrumental in forming? I have a chance to find out.

I am in a fabulous book club. I got the group rolling four or five years ago by recruiting a handful of close friends to the venture. On a rotating schedule, one person chooses a book, another cooks a meal and a third leads the discussion. We read all kinds of books, and our subsequent discussions are augmented by fine food and wine. We are just as competitive about the consumables as we are about the selections of, and our opinions about, the books.

Considering that the book club is small, and consists exclusively of people who are sociologically similar (we are all prosperous men, 55+) the points of view represented are widely divergent: our political and religious ori...

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Race, Social Class and Personal Brands

Out for a walk just now, I had an unremarkable experience.

I crossed paths with an African-American of perhaps 30, well dressed and groomed, wearing horn-rimmed glasses not unlike my own. Had we spoken, I would guess that his diction and intonation, and quite possibly his accent, would also have been similar to mine; his appearance and manner strongly suggested that we were of the same social class.

We smiled silent greetings and kept on our merry ways.

Let’s think about brands for a minute or two, before coming back to race and social class.

McDonalds and Coca-Cola have built enormous businesses on the comfort that consumers take from knowing exactly what they’ll get when they purchase burgers or sodas...

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The Big Walk

The posts below describe The Big Walk – from Grand Central Terminal to Old Lyme, CT – in sequential order.

These posts differ slightly from the ones I wrote each day after walking for six or seven hours. I have cleaned up the typos, added a few interesting details, and cut a bit here and there to make the original posts fit more smoothly into one continuous narrative.

Day One (7/26/14)

TBW2

Walid, yours truly and Vinny

Vinny, Walid and I had a great day today. We walked from Grand Central Terminal to my home in southern Westchester County – roughly 18 miles by the circuitous route that we followed through midtown, Harlem, the neighborhoods of northwestern Manhattan and the central and northeastern sections of the Bronx.

Everything worked...

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Two Americas?

It was a beautiful day today, so I went for a long bicycle ride with three friends. We covered sixty one miles of the Connecticut countryside east of New Haven.

Nearly every pedal stroke took us past scenes of real, if understated, beauty. Spring is in full bloom, of course, and its colors are hardly understated, but the homes, farms and small towns that we rode past spoke of a quiet prosperity.

It struck me, though, that not too many miles to our west was New Haven, much of which presents a starkly different aspect. In that city’s poorer neighborhoods, you would think you were in a different country. I expect to walk through some of those neighborhoods on The Big Walk, which I hope will take place next month.

That there are two Americas is one of our President’s favorite themes...

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Why So Many Leading Democrats Hate Charter Schools

The moral bankruptcy of much of the Democratic Party’s leadership is nowhere more obvious than in their aversion to charter schools. Democrats hold themselves out as representing the little guy, but many do lasting damage to the very people in whose interests they claim to speak by attempting to strangle the charter school movement. The reason many office-holding Democrats oppose charter schools is quite simple: such schools may be in the best interests of children who would otherwise be stuck in abysmal unionized (and effectively union-run) public  schools, but they are manifestly disadvantageous to the teachers’ unions that are the Democrats’ most important contributors and volunteers.

When Waiting for Superman was released to considerable acclaim by Davis Guggenheim, who had a...

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A Paean to Risk

A former colleague of mine once said something wonderful:

“If you are not making any mistakes, it’s because you’re not making any decisions.”

When I consider the single characteristic that is most vital to the success of an individual, an organization or a society, I conclude that it is a willingness to innovate. Whenever we try to freeze time, and lock in the benefits of now, we consign ourselves to a future failure that will be far more painful for our efforts to avoid the change that is inevitable.

What is this innovation, then, that is so important at every level of society? It is, quite simply, the product of risks that have been taken. Note that I do not assert that it is the result of risks taken successfully, because it is also the end product of all the risks that were ta...

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