Archive for May, 2009

A nation – somehow less than the some of its parts

America is a very large country. So once upon a time when it took many days for the fastest horse and rider to cross each state, centralised rule was impractical so it made sense to have each state run itself. Today information is a global commodity – it travels worldwide in an instant.

So why then does each state have so much autonomy? Granted, the centralised v decentralised debate is a religious one but surely it makes no sense to have such significant changes in law determined by which state you happen to be in.

Some of these are a bit irritating but inconsequential – for example in Pennsylvania you can’t be trusted to buy booze anywhere other than a state store, but you can ride your motorbike without a helmet if you want. Just a few miles away in New Jersey you can buy your alcohol from the supermarket but you must wear a helmet at all times (somehow they’ve got the balance right I think).

Some laws have greater consequences – such as whether you can get married or not if you are gay (and even that can be a movable feast as witnessed recently in California), whether you could be subject to the death sentence, how much tax you pay, what maximum speed you can drive at (not to mention subtle differences in the highway code), differences in insurance and car registration laws. One area that particularly irritates me is that education is determined locally. That sounds logical enough in theory – the last thing you want in education is for it to support a network of quangos but in practice it means that the quality of the curriculum in each state is variable. In some states evolution is positioned as “a theory” with creationism described as an equally-weighted alternative . That’s seriously scary.

For a country that talks a lot about  equality and fairness, this doesn’t seem fair.

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Mushroom syndrome


I haven’t posted for a while – mostly because I’ve been busy, but also just a bit down. Some of that is work related. Whilst I’m thrilled to still have a job, these are strange times. It is a tough busines environment and everyone is under pressure in their own way. I accept that. It isn’t great, but you just have to get on with it.

The piece that is really getting me down is the fact that my daily work environment is basically a cave. I’m lucky enough to have an office but the only window looks over a lightless hellhole. I bought a SAD lamp last year but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. So I try to work where there is some natural light – some of the conference rooms, the cafeteria, by the stairs in the lobby…

Now everyone thinks this is slightly eccentric. It seems to be quite usual for people to spend their entire working lives in cubes like battery hens. I miss the open plan offices and banter that I’m used to. I think I feed off the buzz of having other people and ideas around me.  Now if if I have back to back phone meetings I can go whole days without any human interaction  – despite the fact that there are people working just a few yards from me.

One horror I’m spared is the sound of the cubes…somehow people get more revolting if they can’t actually be seen. There was one chap here nicknamed “Mucus Man”. Enough said.

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