Saturday, November 19, 2016

Rations & Irish friends

In high school I told an Irish friend that my mom used to "ration" our food -- i.e. we had to have a base amount of sources of  proteins, vitamins, roughage, etc per meal. Once we had had our basic portion, then we could have helpings of whatever else we wanted. We were not allowed to leave the plate unfinished, for our base helping or for any additional helping we may opt to add.

I still don't see anything wrong with this approach. I am always shocked how much food is wasted during any habesha digis, which has always struck me odd. While growing up I was told qunTan was newr.  As for leftovers, they were never leftovers, because if we somehow insisted that we couldn't finish a meal and won the appeal (maybe once in my life?), then we'd have the remaining food the next meal. So, what leftovers? Just next meal's appetizer.

I don't know why I just remembered this, but it cracked me up. However much I assured my Irish friend that the rationing was to maximize the min, rather than to cap the max, she was horrified ... now looking back, I think stereotypes associated with my nationality may have had something to do with it.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016


When I was heading to business school one friend who'd already been through said she'd only one advice to give me,  "Play the chicken game". What is that? She explained when her school assigned team was expected to get together and work on assignments, everybody would agree to a certain time. If anything came up in her schedule that seemed to conflict, my friend would notify the group as early as possible asking to reschedule. Sometimes she pointed out schedule clashes that affected other people in the group too. On the other hand, she used to get very annoyed by teammates who'd only notify the larger group that they wouldn't make it to the team meeting at the last minute. Sometimes multiple people would be missing, necessitating a last minute reschedule.

As is typical practice in business school, there came a time when the group had to give each other feedback. The unanimous feedback they gave her was that she was disruptive to scheduling, as evidenced by the disproportionate number of requests to reschedule she sent out. But ... she thought ... that's because I look at my schedule in advance!?

So she started playing the chicken game -- if she saw a conflict, she'd never call it out. Inevitably, somebody would find some conflict at the last minute, and she'd ride that train to reschedule to a time that  better worked for her. In the odd case that she was the only one who a conflict, she'd just bow out of that meeting, but that rarely happened. She named that "The Chicken Game". 

I don't remember having to play "The Chicken Game" in business school. In fact, I remember my core group being reasonably punctual. In any case, most of us had identical class schedules, didn't really have many free time slots to reschedule. Later in the program though I remember people becoming very flaky, as our schedules became different and people started searching for jobs. 

In recent years I have noticed that 'maybe' is becoming a popular answer.  For me, if a plan is looking too tough to navigate in my schedule, the answer is a definitive, 'no'. 

Question: "Will you be able to join us for dinner on Thursday?" 
Answer: "Oh, I have two other dinners I have committed to. Maybe I will try to swing by."  

Wait, you have two dinners, and you're considering accepting a third one? Why, because you think I can't live another partial dinner without you? Are you doing me a favor? Because now I have to organize a dinner with x% of  seats with maybe-sayers. If this is at a restaurant, I have to reserve this idiotic person a chair. Or I can not reserve them a chair, and then have to act all concerned and try to accommodate them if they eventually show up at a full table, trying to figure out ways to pull a spare chair and draw them into the fold.

If 'maybe' was a polite no, I wouldn't mind. But it is not. People do leave engagements untimely, announcing they had a similar concurrent invitation awaiting their grand entrance. And they do show up at my events partway.

I distinctly remember a time in NYC in my mid-late twenties coming the realization that I could at most have 3 commitments on a weekend day before the weekend started becoming unpleasant and stressful. So I started aiming for 2 commitments / day, giving me some free time to feel like the weekend wasn't work. When I declined to join friends on things that seemed legitimately cool but conflicting, I remember especially this group of girls who'd say "But try, ok?". Um, no. I can tell you in advance, the probability of me making it is very, very low. If there was a change in scheduling, I'd call you back and ask if it was still ok for me to join, because now my answer is 'yes'. And I would take no offense if at that point it was no longer possible for me to join.  If a friend allowed me to confirm attendance late, I'd even offer to take on the admin of calling the restaurant where the friend already has reservations to add myself to the table. 

Tonight I have a dinner at a restaurant where previously I had failed twice to make reservations as the restaurant is too new and popular in town. Finally, I took a far in advance date where they confirmed they had openings and I invited friends, one of whom is a friend who I know had also struggled to get in a reservation. I also invited her most recent date. Her confirmation? "It will be me, and maybe +1". Then she confirmed that the +1 I'd originally thought wouldn't make it, but maybe it will be another date. Maybe. "We'll see", she said. Yeah, I can't wait to see -- it will be the highlight of my evening! Meanwhile, I can't invite other friends I want to see because I have to reserve a chair for her maybe. 

After observing friends who are serial maybe-sayers, I have come to conclude two things:
1) They are invariably younger than I am -- solidly millennials
2) They have major FOMO issues

I need to find a polite way of saying, "I will count your 'maybe' as a no - maybe just becomes too complicated for me to manage". Or maybe I can be impolite about it. 

WSJ had an interesting read on it in 2010: The Many Powers of Maybe 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

When the world values America more than America values itself

Somebody sent me a link from Aljazeera, "Spoiled Americans now want to flee what they created". Over the last two days, as 'the rest of the world', watching American election results has evolved from disbelief, to concern, to disgust. 

The disbelief was to watch American repeat the Brexit experience yet again, and handing over the most powerful position in their country to a bigot and, by self admission, a sexual predator. Jury is out on his racist tendencies. 

Concern was watching European and Asian markets react, and wondering what crazy things Trump could say that could start a war. 

Then disgust was watching Democrats throw tantrums post-election results. My own friends became really annoying. As if the election wasn't in their hands, as if they didn't spend the election season bitching and moaning about Hilary, as if Democrats didn't act like idiots at the DNC behaving like Sanders was their one and only option to Nirvana. Millennials, fucking millennials, repeatedly asserted that their only interest in the elections was legalization of weed. And now they turn around and start marching ... marching against what? The very same election system Democrats were upset Trump wouldn't unconditionally endorse for fairness? Democrats have proven who's stupid in America. 

Of course, that is concerning because I have always had faith in left-leaning ideals. In this election there were more failures than the electorate failing to show up to vote. One of my co-workers argued that Hilary had given it all. She had expended all her energy and deployed immense resources. But had she?

She sure had a lot of resources, but not sure if she used her resources well. She did better than Obama in traditionally blue areas -- what a waste! Instead of preaching to the converted in California and New York, she probably should have been crisscrossing rural America while she had time & money.

For Democrats, a party which claims to stand up for the disenfranchised, they sure missed a good cross-section of America's despondent rural population and its supporters.  Liberals decried any messages that trickled from the "other side" labeling it bigotry and racism (which probably fueled more bigotry and racism), as if those were root causes, and not symptoms.

I went door to door for Hillary Clinton in 2008 in rural Pennsylvania (and met some really scary Republicans :). I liked her then, I like her (enough) now. But she's made a series of mistakes along the way, and the sooner Democrats flip to self-examination mode and correct, the better for Americans ... and the world.

One of my co-workers, German guy, shared an insightful article on I passed it on to HC-voting American friends and they thought it was an eye opener, which is good, but sad.  Why weren't such views printed in The New York Times, WahsPo, etc, last year? Why aren't there such articles on these news outlets even now? So far the closest I have seen a "respectable" media outlet show self-examination is here. That's not good enough.