Wednesday, November 21, 2018

We Moved (2018)

New Beginnings
Our Backyard: We moved last week from a Toronto highrise to a townhouse in Maple, a bedroom community 30 minutes north of Toronto. We are, as can be expected, slowly getting accustomed to our new home. I plan to explore the neighbourhood and post some photos in the next few weeks. Here is one close to home: a photo taken the day after our move of our snowy backyard; we got about 10 cm (4 in) of snow. Yes, winter’s coming to Canada.
Courtesy: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

Monday, November 5, 2018

My Cracked Tooth

Oral Health

Since the beginning of the summer, I have had tooth pain in one of my upper molars, a second molar to be precise. My hope and my intent was to save the tooth. Yet, one dentist, then another, pointed out that I had a cracked tooth and it could not by any known means be repaired. The same conclusion from an endodontist, who had done a root canal on an adjacent tooth. (Yes, it has been a summer of multiple visits to dentist offices.)

The only option, the only recourse, all three dentists had said, was one--extraction. So dutifully, I had an appointment scheduled for early August, but cancelled it when I thought that my pain had diminished. I was wrong; I was mistaken; I had hope for a different outcome. In reality, I had just become inured to it: pain Moreover, by doing so, I was only delaying the inevitable.

So, last Wednesday, after prodding by my wife and a consult with an oral surgeon, I was left with no choice but one: he confirmed what all three other dental professionals had said. There was no possibility of saving the tooth; it had to come out, and better sooner than later. There was no escape; so, on Friday afternoon, with the analgesic aide of nitrous oxide (i.e., “laughing gas”) and a local anesthetic he pulled out my damaged tooth; it seemed like the whole procedure took only a few minutes.

The tooth had multiple fractures, the good doctor said, adding that “it was a bad tooth.” I was holding on to a bad tooth. As reluctant as I was to take the tooth out beforehand, I am quite happy now, a few days after the procedure that I did. My sinuses are starting to feel better, as is my overall health and outlook. Pain, even if it minimal and manageable with Tylenol or Motrin or Advil, is not something I ought to endure.

My only question, four months after indeed enduring such unnecessary pain is, What took me so long to act? In my case, I think it was a combination of three human factors: denial that my tooth could not be saved, fear of post-surgical complications, and holding unrealistic and unfounded expectation that the status quo was acceptable, that somehow the issue of a cracked tooth would resolve itself.  Thank goodness for modern dentistry. A lesson well learned, even at my age.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Dazzling Male Duck of Manhattan

Natural Beauty

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata): Des Shoe writes for the New York Times about a rare and beautiful sighting of a male duck not native to NYC: “He’s a Mandarin duck, and his species is native to East Asia. He should not be paddling in the Pond in Central Park, and yet there he is. Nobody is sure how he got to Manhattan, but he appears healthy and is getting along well with the local mallards. His glorious plumage is already attracting fans. ‘As far as the colors are concerned, only nature can provide that,’ said Juan Jimenez, a 74-year-old photographer who has been taking pictures of the park for decades. ‘We could try to paint it, but you won’t be able to.’” There has also been a sighting in Canada, in Vancouver, British Columbia, of another male with equally colorful plumage. Perhaps one or two can come to Toronto to brighten up our city. For more on these beautiful ducks, go [here].
Courtesy: EJ Bartolazo; NYT

Friday, November 2, 2018

On Business Negotiation

B2B Deals

When I was a young engineer working in a sales position, my boss gave me some good advice about negotiation in a business-to-business (B2B) environment. Both sides have to come out of it feeling as if they gained something; both sides have to think that they won. This has long been considered the gold standard in business negotiation. This is the win-win situation that everyone talks about. If this is not the case, then the negotiation is not a success, but a failure, even if one side considers it or claims it “a success.”

In my view, this is still good advice. I remember when back in 1990, when I was 32, I was sent by my company to negotiate a large multi-year contract with its largest customer, Texas Instruments in Dallas. I was nervous to have such a large responsibility on my shoulders, but my boss had confidence in me and my abilities. I prepared well in advance, which is never a bad thing and always a good thing to do. Moreover, I was joined in the negotiations by a senior American company representative, so I felt much better, that we would share the responsibilities.

The negotiations lasted three days; they were tough and at times exhausting. At the end of the day, however, we both negotiated in good faith and a large multi-million dollar deal was signed—one in which both companies found to their benefit. Such is always a good thing. This was a lesson that I have carried with me for the rest of my professional life. Afterwards, I negotiated many such deals, some large; some small, but the same principal of mutual respect informed all such negotiations. Then, and only then, is the handshake a sincere and good one, based on good long-term relations.

There is a problem with a winner-take-all approach, which although acceptable and expected in a sports competition, is a poor way of conducting business affairs. It leaves one side of the negotiations feeling unhappy or slighted; this is not a good thing. You can be assured that the relationship afterward will be rocky. It is always better to get what you truly need, and also ensure that the other side also get what it truly needs. (To be sure, this is not the same thing as getting what you want or think that you can get.)

When both sides win, it is the sign of a successful negotiation; this is the sign of a successful and enduring deal and one of an enduring relationship. And in business, this is what it is all about.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Engineer Journalist

The Professional Life

The title sounds incongruous; two words that do not usually go together, yet they do when describing the professions I have chosen. First engineer, then journalist. Both appeal to me; both require certain practical and analytical skills and certain modes of thought, i.e., rational and ethical, which come easily to me. Both require problem solving abilities or skills; both require the respect for facts, for knowledge and for truth—all necessary in a free and democratic society.

This is why I have decided to combine my two career paths into one—the Engineer Journalist. Admittedly, such is an uncommon melding of two distinct professions, which does increase my uncertainty as to the viability of the whole new enterprise—pioneers can hardly ever be certain of the rightness of their actions. As a matter of clarification, this is not the same as the Journalist Engineer, or Data Journalist, whose job it is to use data sets to explain a story and make graphs, such as is explained and found [here].

While the result provides the reader information, this seems more engineer than journalist, more data than prose, which no doubt has its purpose. Engineering developed my thinking, and journalism my writing—both are important, yet I primarily see myself as a writer/journalist who was first trained as an engineer, and recognize the value of such training, the value of receiving a technical education 10 years before deciding to enter journalism school, where my interviewing, editing and writing skills were nurtured, advanced and honed. Such a distinction might seem like hair-splitting, but it is a distinction worth noting.

I see my role as using the engineering skills I have acquired to understand the implications and benefits of technology, and to write about such in a clear way, and to use words to explain to the reader in a humane way, free of arcane and specialist language; data sets and graphs are one way to communicate such ideas, but some people are turned off by graphs, and still look to words to tell a story.

While facts are facts, and without them we are lost, they require both analysis and interpretation. This is where journalism comes in, providing the who, what, where, when and why (5 Ws) and how to tell a persuasive and powerful story. This is still important today, as is an understanding and respect for facts, knowledge and truth, which more often than not comes in the form of scientific facts. Science today cannot and should not be denied its proper place.

Such would not be the case, I suggest, if people understood Science’s (and also its cousin, Technology’s) important contributions to the betterment of humanity, especially when such is encased in a moral and ethical framework. Science generally has a good story to tell.

This is where someone like me can help, who still sees the value and necessity of of words, even if these are employed in the form of long prose. So, it would seem that the joining of my chosen career paths remains unusual, even distinct; it is true that I have not yet met someone like me.

Yet, as western civilization moves further into the technological realm and its reliance on it becomes greater, and the need for clear communication becomes all the more necessary, so it will be that persons like me will not be unusual. We will become necessary and might become popular.

I would like to hear what others, notably engineers or journalists, think about the conflation of two old and distinguished professions into a new one. If so inclined, drop me a line.