Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Props to Mayor Caulfield

Wow. It's definitely not every day that you read about your 70 year-old mayor intervening in a drug-related assault, causing the perpetrators to flee, and then still having the wherewithal to capture the license plate number of the getaway van.

I don't know how much press this will get beyond local outlets like the Sun, but it definitely deserves at least a mention on national cable news.

For all the bad things we've seen and heard from national politicians of both parties like Mssrs. Stevens and Mahoney, and with all the virulent rhetoric that's come out of the 2008 election (not to mention the ugliness we've seen, from skinhead plots against Obama to hanged effigies of Palin), it's nice to see some real courage from an elected leader -- not in the way he or she voted, but in the way he or she acted.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pants on Fire

"I always tell the truth...even when I lie." -- Scarface, restaurant scene

A buddy of mine had to go through the grueling and sometimes humiliating process of being polygraphed a little while ago. One of the first questions he was asked -- to put him quickly on the defensive, no doubt -- was, "Have you ever told a lie?"

Well, of course everyone has told a lie at some point, so you can see how a questioner could build and build on that to make someone literally squirm in his or her seat about whether he or she can be trusted.

Having thought about the question for a while (not under any spotlight glare or strapped to a machine, but within the luxury of my own quiet thoughts and time) I wondered about when I lie.

The good news is that I really don't lie much. I'm not writing that in a "look at me and how great I am" type of spirit, but remember, one of the major blog themes here is the goodness of being good. Not lying is a lot like not trash-talking your co-workers -- it gives you the peace of mind never to have to worry about covering your tracks, wondering what you said and who knew it, and keeping multiple stories straight. I truly believe that life is better when you can avoid talking smack about people, and that it's also better when you don't lie.

But anyway, back to the fibbing.

The first thing I thought of (but I'll ask you for an exemption on) concerns exaggerations that serve the cause of spinning a yarn. So, if it was actually four guys that walked into the bar wearing cut-off shirts and biker jackets, it suddenly might become ten guys when I retell the story. I would expect no less from you, so I barely consider it a lie.

However, I do think that exaggerations can start to border on a lie when people fall into the "the older I get, the faster I was" bit -- particularly when stories of great athletic or partying prowess quickly go from once sorta maybe to every night ("My friends and I used to go out and drink two cases of beer...every single night..." "We used to skip school every day but still ace our tests..." "It was a different girl every single night of the week...")

But anyway, I digress. Back to the "When do I lie" question -- since I started thinking about it, I found there were two times when I've caught myself out-and-out lying to someone:

(1) Overbearing social overtures. Believe me, I'm one of the more sociable people you'll ever meet, so I'm all about social invitations, offered and received. That is, of course, except when I'm not. So back when I lived in Virginia Beach, I wasn't thrilled about it, and was in a sort of "save up money and time" mode. When I actually had free time, the last thing on earth I wanted to do, especially on a weeknight, was pay a $10 cover to see Fight Night with Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik, sip beers, and stare at the floor with a bunch of other hapless chums sipping beer and staring at the floor. My time and money were just way too precious. So a conversation or two might have gone like this:

"Hey, you should come out with us tonight."

"Nah, I think I'm going to stay in."

Repeat x 3 or 4.

"It'll be fun, you should go. Besides, what else would you do?"

"Just hang out, I guess."

[Insert ten more minutes of haranguing, add multiple parties and reminders that 'it's not that expensive' or 'it'll be fun.']

Finally, I use the only possible means of extracting myself from the situation: "Hey, my alcoholic next-door neighbor is having personal trouble, I have to stay in to help him with something."

The thing is, that was sort of a half-truth, but basically I lied. To my credit, I tried honesty as a first approach, but when things became overbearing, I took the easy road out by inserting some B.S. that somehow worked. I feel justified because I never understand why people get that way -- it's like, am I really that much fun that it's going to change your night if I go? No way...

I assure you that I will never lie to you as a way out of a social obligation. But after the third or fourth arm tug without any real justification, I may spontaneously generate a drug-addled family member who needs my support.

(2) Intrusive personal questions. $60k. $225k. 193 lbs. There, I just told you how much I'll make this year, how much my house cost me, and how much I weigh. That should show you that I'm pretty open about a lot of things, personal life and finances included. In fact, I'll only stop there out of a general sense of appropriateness -- I don't think there's a single question that I wouldn't answer to someone who asked earnestly and sincerely. But there's the rub. I can definitely tell the difference between a person asking a question out of sincere curiosity or because they have an interest (i.e. "Hey man, I'm looking at buying a condo in Lowell...how much do they tend to run...?") versus someone who asks something in a sneering way or only to prove that either they are a savvier consumer (you paid $____ for a new timing belt?!?!!? Are you stupid?) or somehow disapprove of your personal life.

So, if my Spidey-senses start telling me that someone is going down a not-so-benign road with a line of questioning, I'll just clam up and say, "I don't know," mutter something unintelligible, or, if they really feel the need to badger, feel a sudden bout of amnesia when someone absolutely-insists-on-knowing-just-how-much-I-paid-for-my-couch-and-loveseat-set-from-Bob's-just-so-they-can-tell-me-I-overpaid-for-an-inferior-product. If we're being technical, that sudden onset of amnesia is its own sort of falsehood.

And those were the times that I lied.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bay Staters overwhelmingly opposed to tax repeal


I was relieved this morning to see that 59% of Bay Staters are opposed to the ballot measure to repeal the state income tax. Good stuff. And with only 26% actually in favor, it looks like this thing has a snowball's chance in hell of passing.

Polls are often wrong, but those numbers are pretty statistically significant.

Much talk has been made this year of whether the polls for the Presidential race may or may not be off due to the so-called "Wilder Effect" or "Bradley Effect" (for Douglas Wilder of VA and for Tom Bradley of CA, respectively). The idea behind it is that there's some hidden pocket of racism in people that leads them to tell a pollster they will (or have, in the case of exit polls) vote for a black candidate even when the reality is otherwise.

Well, I don't live under a rock, so I know there are some Americans out there who won't vote for Sen. Obama solely because of the color of his skin. I'm also aware enough of my surroundings to recognize there are also many Americans of all colors and backgrounds for whose votes Sen. Obama's identity will be a positive factor. Most won't state that outright -- they'll find other ways to justify their votes, but I really don't believe they'll feel the need to somehow distort that when they talk to a pollster.

But as long as we're going to talk about the "Wilder Effect" I think it's only fair we talk about the Dewey Effect (remember the famous 'Dewey Defeats Truman' headline?), the Gore Effect, and the Kerry Effect.

In fact, why stop there?

What about the Dukakis Effect, the Hillary Clinton Effect (in many of this year's primaries), or even the Howard Dean Effect (Iowa, 2004)?

The point is, polls are flawed.

They contradict each other, they're based on small samples, they can change greatly based on slight wording tweaks, and they don't always capture the portion of the population that actually votes.

I have no formal statistics background, but at least I'll start by admitting that I know what I don't know. On the whole polling issue, I think that's more than most of the cable news media is willing to admit.

But somewhere in America on the morning of November 5, some Sociology graduate student will get his or her hands on some poll that somehow did not accurately reflect the way some slice of America voted on the 4th. And that will somehow be fodder for some Ph.D. thesis about the Underlying Biases of our Epistemiological Dystopian Freudian Self-Conceived Images of the Idealized Forms of Reflected Idolatry.

My tax dollars will help fund it.

But because I make considerably less than $250k (got my W-2 if you ever want to see), President Obama and his Party in Congress will take less of it, and that will be the bright side.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Great Military Debate, Answered

Everyone gets to experience taxes and death, but the one thing that the military can also assure you is the prospect of deployments. Along with that comes (for most active duty only here) the prospect of moving around every few years.

Deployments engender countless discussions and debates that have fueled late-night bull sessions for years -- the appropriateness of certain awards, good and bad leadership, the highs and lows of being a war zone (or quasi-war zone), or, perhaps most poignant of all, what toll deployments take on families and other loved ones.

Way too often, married folks blurt out things like, "Man, I wish I were single. You single guys have it easy. Nothing to worry about back home...If I were single I would just volunteer for back-to-back-to-back stints out here."

Well, not only is that not true, it quickly brings to my mind an Ogden Nash quote often used by my friend, neighbor, and fellow blogger Kad Barma: "People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what they want that they really don't want it."

The obvious application of this quote are the well-off who tell others that "money doesn't really matter anyway" (like air, it only matters when it's not there, right?) but I think it could apply just as well to people who have large, stable support structures around to support them through deployments.

Here's a quick vignette:

Just after commissioning via Officer Candidate School, I spent two months working in a recruiting office with an officer recruiter who had formerly been an enlisted SEAL in the 1980s and 1990s. I brought this issue up with him, and I'll never forget what he said:

"I got back from Panama just after the 1989 invasion, where I was on the airfield where the PDF [Panamanian Defense Forces] had just shot and killed four of my best friends and wounded a bunch of other guys from my platoon. After going through all of that, I was suddenly on a 130 [military transport plane] and back in Norfolk, VA. There we were, a few platoons' worth of guys just standing around with all our gear, all our bags, etc. and one-by-one, everyone's wives and families came to pick them up. There were lots of tears and hugs, and as the hours went by the crowd of us got thinner and thinner, until I realized I was the only one standing there. There I was, just surrounded by my sea bags and my gear, no one else there. I had to call the duty driver to come get me and let me into the command where I spent that first night back. Right then and there, I said, 'that's it' I'm going to find the right woman, settle down, get married, and not look back. And that's what I went and did."

Obviously, leaving a wife (and especially a wife and young kids behind) when you go overseas must be an absolutely gut-wrenching process. I can't even pretend to imagine that I know what it feels like. But I definitely know what it feels like to come back from nine emotionally-draining months overseas to a loud "echo" when you move around a mostly-empty apartment sandwiched between strip malls and subdivisions.

And if you're curious, the answer is no, I don't recommend you try.

So to come back to the original idea behind this blog, and the original couple of posts about establishing yourself somewhere, building a community around yourself, and falling in love/starting a family, I think it comes from a natural human desire to want to belong to some kind of support structure that you can come back to, even if it means you have to leave it from time to time.

And that's why I told my XO at my last command, when I explained that no, I didn't feel like doing several more tours on active duty, constantly bouncing around with no *roots* anywhere, "Sir, I didn't mind being 26 and playing football on the beach with someone else's kids at the command picnic. But if I can help it, I'd prefer to be playing football with my own kids by 36." And that was the only time that I can remember seeing one of the quickest-witted and most sarcastic officers I've ever met speechless.

So now that I'm starting to imagine how things might look from the other side -- I have found a community that I love, I'm throwing myself into it headfirst at flank speed, and through that community have found a soulmate who I hope to someday start my own family with (for many reasons I'd be happy to talk about in person but won't elaborate on here on the blog) -- I can state pretty clearly that on a million levels, tangible and intangible, the *full* and rooted existence that I can see and feel coming into fruition beats the pants off an empty and peripatetic one.

More deployments will come.

I get that.

I get that I'm a year away from moving towards Civil Affairs, who are the guys that both McCain and Obama talk about keeping overseas in order to repair and rebuild struggling democracies long after the Infantry, Armor, and Artillery have gone home.

Deployments will bring tears and hugs both before and after the ride in the big C-17.

It will be hard, but there will be an enormous support structure back stateside.

That's better than the alternative.

You wouldn't tell a homeless person that money doesn't really matter. You wouldn't tell a starving person your pasta was too cold, or that your portion was too small. In that same vein, then, you probably should think twice before you tell someone how *lucky* they are for not having the things you value most: your family, your partner, and your community.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Look Inside the Tent

Yesterday I drove up to Lowell from Groton (that's the Connecticut version, not the Mass. or NH edition). I listened to a George Carlin CD and was just amazed from front to end at the stuff the guy comes up with. I've never heard anyone else come near Carlin on the way he skewers contemporary American English expressions for their ridiculousness and for the lack of thought that goes into a lot of what people say.

I thought a lot about where I would rank George Carlin on those hypothetical "Who-would-you-have-over-to-dinner" questions -- of course, that's assuming the deceased are within bounds.

That also led me to thinking about how much I wish I could have known George Carlin and how sure I am that if our paths had ever crossed, we would've become fast friends.

That, of course, led me to thinking about commonalities that people I would call "friends" share. Now, I use the term very loosely, and cast as wide a tent as possible, but when I think about which people have really *stuck* from the various phases of my life, the thing that stood out was intellectualism.

Now, a note of caution -- before I start coming off as some corduroy-wearing, pipe-smoking, Atlantic- and The New Yorker-subscribing but never reading effete northeasterner, let me clarify what I believe the term "intellectual" means -- it's a combination of a person's general state of open-mindedness and their curiosity about the world around them. That's it. So by my definition, George Carlin was one of the greatest public intellectuals of the late 20th century.

I don't know or care where George Carlin went to college, whether he listened to NPR, whether he drove a Volvo with Connecticut plates and a Golden Retriever in the back, or whether he knew the difference between Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. That's not what makes someone an intellectual.

Someone who wonders about why things are the way they are, someone who tends to start sentences with "Did you ever notice...?" and someone who can simultaneously hold and understand opposing viewpoints in their head is someone I want to have over for steak and rice.

Another thing I thought about was how the people I've stayed closest with aren't cheap. Again, that term could quickly open itself to misinterpretation so I want to be super-clear about this -- I'm not in any way talking about what type of car a person drives, the designer label on their shirts and shoes, or whether they know the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet. I've never had any taste for any of that stuff, and I never will. Highbrow tastes just never made their way into my DNA.

So now that I've said what I didn't mean, here's what I did mean by that: 'Cheap' is someone who earns twice what you do but never buys a round or picks up a bar tab. 'Cheap' is someone who calculates the tip at a restaurant out to the twentieth decimal place with a high-powered calculator. 'Cheap' is someone who comes along on a 200-mile road trip but never chips in for gas or tolls.

The funny thing about 'cheap' is that is has so little to do with a person's gross income, or even their so-called 'disposable income.' I know people who truly span the gamut of incomes and I can assure you it has nothing to do with the things I've written about in the paragraph above.

I know people who struggle to get by from paycheck-to-paycheck but would open their entire refrigerator/home to me without blinking. I also know people who literally earn a half-million dollars a year but would inconvenience other friends while traveling because they don't want to drop a couple hundy on a hotel room for the weekend.

Rather than income, the difference between generosity and miserliness completely springs from something else -- a person's mentality. Someone who is constantly "on guard" for fear of being screwed over, someone who is constantly looking over their shoulder and counting their silverware after all their friends leave is just not someone I would look to call a 'friend.'

I don't care if this is the biggest cliche ever -- life is short. Years spent observing human beings in action show me that life is enjoyed quite a bit more by the generous and the open-minded. And to the degree that I can control it, I'll continue to choose to spend mine surrounded by those types of good souls.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hosting: Two Quick Lessons Learned

This Sunday, I did something I've never done before -- I hosted. It was a neat opportunity to bring together neighbors, parishioners, martial arts instructors, and extended family (technically the girlfriend's family, but their loose definition of 'cousin' 'nephew' or 'brother' puts me under the umbrella).

Overall, it worked out -- I got a chance to show them all where I live, got a ton of interior decorating advice (Helpful Eye for the Uncoordinated Guy?), and finally got to fill up the big kitchen table from Bob's with people, food, and drink.

In true military fashion, however, I've got to follow up the operation with two quick "Lessons Learned." (That's a formal process the military undergoes anytime anyone does anything, in the hopes that good points will be captured for memory and bad ones not repeated).

(1) Parking. Definite low point of the evening was finding out my good friend Jean had been towed. Even though the spot was marked "Residents Only" and even though I said, "Park on the street or in the Leo Roy garage next door" I have to own up to some fault here, because I never made it clear that the spots near the building were all verboten. I'll offer to split the tow cost with him, but the bigger lesson learned is to make sure your guests aren't illegally parked when they come over. If it hadn't happened Sunday, it would've eventually happened anyway...but now my awareness of the issue is piqued, so the first time ought to be the last.

(2) Noise. Part of living in a condo is that for all the many benefits, your home isn't truly *your* castle. I was reminded of that the hard way when I met my downstairs neighbor for the first time at 1:30 a.m. -- him in pajamas and angry, me surprised at the door. I had actually tried to come by earlier in the day, but with no one home, I just moved on. Co-opting might not have helped anyway, as he had work the next day...but the bigger lesson learned, I think, is that to reduce the noise problem, the only good solution is to just do things earlier in the night (i.e. a dinner party), with the idea that everyone would go out afterwards.

Well, that's it...I'm definitely looking forward to hosting again and I still think it's a great idea overall, but I'll preferrably do it without a good friend's towing and a not-so-pleasant knock.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And Now, From the Bad Idea Department

New Coke. The Edsel. The Hartford Whalers. AOL-Time Warner. Primetime medical dramas on network TV.

Okay, just kidding about that last one. Sort of.

But we all know we've lived through plenty of bad ideas and then said afterwards, "Well, we should've seen that one coming."

While on the subject, the ballot measure to repeal the Massachusetts state income tax is one of the most short-sighted, ill-conceived, and foolhardy ideas I've heard in a long time.

"Taxes," said Oliver Wendell Holmes, are "the price we pay for civilization." It's everything from the lines in the road, the police we rely on for protection, the schools we send our kids to, and, yes, even the state National Guard we might call upon during a time of crisis.

If we repeal the state income tax, guess what? The money for all of that is still going to have to come from somewhere.

And that 'somewhere' might be from something far more regressive than an income tax. Higher user fees, tolls, and sales taxes are just some of the ways we might get whacked.

Those who tout the supposed $3700 "relief" per family this will bring, and mention the state of the economy as a supposed selling point, are being myopic to the point of stupid.
And while we're talking stupid, please bear this in mind the next time you hear someone drop the "G.D." bomb in your presence -- during the G.D. (Yes, I'm refusing to say it), the unemployment rate in this nation topped 25%. Huge swathes of major American cities were essentially shanties. The chattering classes spoke seriously about eradicating capitalism in favor of socialism.

Yes, trillions of dollars of paper wealth have disappeared in the last couple weeks. Guess what? In time, it will all be recovered, and then some. And the national unemployment rate? A whopping 6.1%.

Let's go back to Econ 101 for a second -- if memory serves me, the frictional and the structural unemployment rates combine to form what economists call the "natural" rate of unemployment (i.e. non-cyclical, meaning there is no unemployment caused solely by economic downturn).

No one knows exactly what the natural rate is (hey, n economists in the room means n +1 opinions) but many would peg it somewhere around 6 percent.

So the next time some alarmist tells you we're on a toboggan ride towards a G.D., just ask them when they plan to cancel their cable subscription.

Don't hold your breath waiting for an answer.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stock Footage

Why is it that every time the Dow takes a major whacking, the media shows us an image of a twenty- or thirty-something guy in either a cheap suit or a bright green shirt with his head in his hands, in apparent agony? (Go to any major news media site right now and you'll see what I mean).

Who is this guy? I'm guessing he's one of those floor pit traders, who somehow yell loud enough above the stock or commodity market din loud enough to be heard, or use a series of hand signals that would confuse any third base coach this side of an American Sign Language convention.

Either way, my hunch is that this guy isn't a major stock market player -- his age, his costume, and his job as a floor hustler seem to suggest otherwise.

So why is he so upset? Whales on Wall Street literally lose millions on days like today. They should be the ones with their heads in their hands, the look of agony, and the choked-back tears.

The stock image is probably something these outlets keep on hand, along with the "Pain at the Pump" shots of regular, ordinary folk filling their Escalades and the anonymous shots of peoples' oversized midsections leading into a diet or exercise snippet inevitably titled "The Battle of the Bulge."*

* For the record, news media vignettes about diet and exercise with the "Battle of the Bulge" tag line struck me as witty only once, and have become progressively less so with each viewing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stress, Success, and Bill Belichick

I recently read (or, more accurately, listened to) Daniel Gilbert talk about a study of academic performance that showed that students who were slightly stressed about examinations consistently outperform those who report feeling no stress at all.

Makes total sense to me. Even though "stress" carries an almost-universally negative connotation in our society, there's a reason why humans have a stress response to certain situations -- it enables them to kick their performance into high gear, focus, and succeed.

The problem with people that are so quick to say "no worries" and "I got it" is that all too often, well, they don't "got it." In an academic environment, they're the only ones on the hook, but all too unfortunately in a professional environment, others have to pick up the slack for these types.

So if you show me a person who claims to never feel any stress at all about their job -- the stress of a deadline, the stress before a performance, the stress of wanting to see the organization succeed -- I'll show you a person who probably just doesn't care.

It's kind of the way I'd feel about a couple who claims never to have gotten into a disagreement -- a human Potemkin Village.

On Sunday afternoon, I'll watch the Patriots kickoff against the 49ers (though it looks like that's all I'll see because I have to run somewhere around that time). Before, during, and after that kickoff, I'm willing to bet that head coach Bill Belichick will have seriously elevated stress levels. His professional success depends on the game, there will be millions of people watching, and he will have to live with the good and bad calls he'll make which will affect the outcome.

I, on the other hand, won't really feel that way. I'll be rooting for a win, but really my *job* for that time period will be to eat potato chips and drink beer. No matter the outcome, I'll have work on Monday and I'll get paid on the 15th. No one will call in to an AM radio station to call for my head and no one will be second-guessing my decisions all week long.

So it seems pretty natural that I won't be stressed in the same way that he will.

As I've written about in previous entries, my work environment is a motley mix of people in demanding positions requiring daily high performance and those awaiting medical or administrative discharge whose main purpose is, like that of Homer Simpson on the nuclear inspection day, to "watch the bee in the jar."

I find it equal parts curious and ironic that those in the latter category, detached of any real *stake* or interest in the organization, are quick to point out that others need to "chill" or not take their jobs too seriously.

That makes about as much sense to me as someone telling an NFL coach to "just not worry about it, it doesn't really matter" on a Sunday around noontime.

I'm not sure what the opposite of 'defensive' is (offensive?) but I'll happily wear it on my sleeve that I take my job VERY seriously and put my professional reputation on the line every time I get in front of a group of people to present information.

Do I sometimes stress about it? Sure I do, though certainly not in a way that materially affects anyone else. I'll do it in my own space, preparing behind my own door, much like an athlete psyching himself up in the locker room before a big game.

And if I were ever in a position to hire people to staff an organization, one of the first things I'd try to screen out is any personality type that conveyed to me, "I just don't really give a rip."

They can backseat drive, Monday-morning quarterback, and [insert any other variation on this theme here] all they want, but I'd just prefer they not do it with me.

Over-the-top excitability and/or stress that's handled by abusing others are definitely counterproductive. But a little bit of stress from time to time is healthy, and it makes us human.

So it didn't surprise me at all to hear that high-performers have that in common, and that the "I got it" crowd often fails to measure up.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

More Wisdom From the Oracle of Omaha

I went to the NEX today in the hopes of finding Linda Robinson's new book on General Petraeus and the surge. I didn't find it, but I did happen to stumble on two others I couldn't resist -- the new Woodward (hey, I've got issues with it but 2006 to 2008 Iraq is a great story), and a mammoth-sized new Warren Buffett biography by Alice Schroeder, who Mr. Buffett has basically directed to write the comprehensive tome on his life that he never will.

I'm only into the first chapter so far, but I know it's going to be a treat and as a huge Buffett fan I can already say I recommend it.

What I couldn't understand at first, though, was the title -- "The Snowball." Was it a nickname I hadn't picked up from other writings on the man? As I was actually about the throw away the dust jacket (I always do) I caught a glimpse of the back cover, which read:

"Life is like a snowball.
The important thing
is finding wet snow
and a really long hill."
-- Warren Buffett

Of course. So very Buffett, and so very apt, considering his proven investment strategy and his favorite holding period of "forever."

But I think this quote has far more widespread application potential. I've been in my current job for six months, and I'm JUST now starting to notice how a lot of plodding, a few wrong turns, some course corrections, and a lot more late nights and plodding are starting to bring good results. Those good results have in turn led to more good results, which have actually become easier to attain.

The only downside, I'd say, is that I'm *only* going to be doing this for another year-and-a-half or so (and thus spring will come for this particular snowball), although the bright side is that I'll be in this general business for at least another dozen-plus years -- whether as a reservist, state, local, or federal employee, DoD contractor, or some combination of all of the above.

So a new professional snowball can form, and all this work now ought to somehow feed into it.

Personally, the Buffett quote REALLY rang a resonant note, because from the first entry on, the most solid-running theme of this entire blog is the idea that if you really want to *matter* somewhere -- if you want to in some way have a meaningful impact on the community you live in, you've got to do some staying put (and of course that can be entirely separate from your professional community, where technology makes that less and less so).

In that sense, it doesn't really matter whether it's Queens, Arlington, Norwich, Los Angeles, London, or even, yes, Lowell that you call home.

By establishing yourself and basically "putting yourself out there" (quote marks just to emphasize that's going to mean something different to everyone) you start the process of the snowball's formation. Your own ability and character will determine the wetness of the snow, and your staying power will determine the size of the hill.

It's really that simple.

I can't ever pretend to speak for (or even to!) Warren Buffett, but I can only surmise that the world's richest hamburger-and-Cherry Coke fan might agree.