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May 22, 2009

The Beach

May 22. Day 326.

You know how in consulting, they work you really, really hard, and then for a week or so, between projects, they cut back your hours and let you recharge your batteries?

At one company, BCG, they call that "the beach." Like, "Wanna grab an extra long lunch today? I'm on the beach!"

This past week, I've been on the beach.

Finishing a chapter is so mentally draining that it takes a while to switch gears to the next chapter's topic.

So, what I've done this week:
-- bought socks
-- planned our vacation
-- mailed the rent check
-- hung out with friends
-- talked at length to my parents and sister
-- saw my grandma and two aunts
-- took Mr. A's car to the garage
-- reflected about career and job possibilities
-- read a bunch of articles that interested me (links below)
-- tinkered around with the dailyasker 2.0 website (more details coming soon!!!)

Here are a few of the more interesting things I've read this week:

Story in the Atlantic on happiness. Describes a study that followed a group of men from college age until their 80s, trying to understand what makes people feel happy, and what makes them say they're happy.

Guardian story about female bloggers in the USA. More like about the infighting between self-professed feminist bloggers, followed by discussion about the state of the feminist 'movement' today -- though feminism, others would say, is hardly a movement anymore. Anyway, a good dialogue. Worth a look.

Funny article in the LA Times about 'Geek Heaven.' Story is balanced and well written. Here's the opening:
On a rainy Saturday, Cameron Dolansky put on a metal-studded leather vest and a red tunic and headed to Neumont University's most raging weekend party.

It wasn't your usual college kegger. A dozen students sat in a classroom frantically trying to kill the zombies racing across their computer screens. A few more jammed to Rock Band, their musician avatars displayed on two projector screens. Cans of Mountain Dew and fast-food wrappers littered the darkened room.
Annoying column in The Observer about why women who don't have kids are worse professionals. [Beach photo above from an unrelated Observer travel story about Cape Verde.]

Feature in Slate about high ceilings. My vote: the sky's the limit. I hate the cramped wafer look.

Metro story in the NYT about swine flu. I'm sick of it, you're sick of it, practically no one's actually sick with it, but this writer, Anemona Hartocollis, makes one pediatric emergency room in Queens come alive.

This column, in Canada's McLean's, generated a lot of comments. The writer excoriates the media for being too soft, and his example is enticing: consider the play-by-play of Obama's fast food runs, versus the secret love child of Jonathan Edwards. The subheadline is "Maybe if they’d covered the love child instead of a fast food foray, papers wouldn’t be dying." Not all papers are wimpy, but he has a point.

Want to share any other juicy reads this week? Have an opinion about any of the above? Drop a note below!

As for asking... thought I'd post these links first. If I'm procrastinating, why shouldn't you? ;)


La Roxy


A sobering interaction at the start of our trip:

On the drive to Lake Tahoe, Mr. A and I stopped for gas. There, at some small town between Riverside and the inland, Mr. A and I were accosted by a kid who asked us for money.

"Please, my mom and I are staying at the motel next to the gas station, and we just got kicked out so we really need some money for tonight. So my mom told me to sell our digital camera. Can you please help us with anything?"

Instant anxiety. Not just because of what he was saying, but because he was saying it. Hard times. A lay off or deadbeat dad. Who knows. But where was his mom? Why was he begging instead of doing homework? Wasn't it dangerous for a young teenager to be hanging out in a gas station with many out of town types, approaching their cars?

So I asked. I tried not to sound judgemental, but I probably did anyway.

"Where's your mom? She should be here with you."

"Oh, no, she, hurt her leg. She can't walk."

"Still, she should not be putting you to work like this, even if she's hurt. You're a kid, and there should be some program that helps mothers and children, so you don't have to do this. Do you know about any other way to get help?"

"I'm not a kid. I'm almost 19. My birthday is in three weeks. I should start carrying around ID."

Mr. A and I talked privately for a minute. The kid didn't look a day past 14, his voice hadn't even changed, and it was convenient he didn't have ID. We didn't want to just give him cash, in case his mom was on drugs or something. And the camera could have been stolen, so we didn't want to encourage that approach.

One idea was to pay their hotel room, directly at the hotel. We could have talked to the police, to try to get them into a shelter. We could have checked at the gas station if he was a regular, if his story held up, or if he was just a little punk trying to score for his dope addiction.

And then I decided not to.

Not that I didn't want to help - it's heart breaking to see a kid begging for money. But I don't just pay for housing whenever I see a poor child, whether it's in the U.S. or Eastern Europe or Peru. I had no way of knowing he was being honest, and I didn't have time to investigate.

Gained: I felt bad. He asked. I refused. What if people did that to me? I'd be nowhere. This time around, it wasn't about gaining or losing. I just wanted more info, to see if/how I could help, and I concluded I should not.
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