"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

Preparing myself, my family and my friends for the Fourth Turning.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Lady and the Tramp

Lady -

it is time, I think, to turn my wits once more to writing you on a regular basis.  It is this form of communication, at which be both excel, that will best allow us to navigate the shoals of this house project, and work more effectively as a joint team.

It seems to me that in this relationship, your are as much a Lady as I am a Tramp - your concerns and vexations are of the prim and proper type: detailed analysis of courses of action, refinement of plans, deep, emotional concern over the validity of our choices, repeated revisits of settled material.

You want to ensure value, fairness, and predictability. You expect proof of the bonafides of each and every participant.

These are rational and valuable concerns.  They prompt deeper inquiry into matters, which can, as my conversations today with various engineers shows, lead to unexpected insights.

They indicate paths that should be followed to their logical conclusion, if only to ensure that a course of action dismissed as unfeasible, is, in fact, unfeasible.  You force me to examine conclusions and require deeper explanation, force me to hard conversations that must be had.

This is the value you bring: oversight and audit.   It is a tremendously valuable component and ability - to be able to force participants in a business deal to be logical and open and disclosing, so that everyone understands the transaction, and accepts the terms.

These methods, this flinty-eyed New-Englander approach to business is a sound and valuable characteristic, and one that I personally lack.  Thus, your characteristics and skills and mindset neatly fill a hole in my person.  I respect this.  Although it is frustrating for me to go through the process, I usually find, at the end, that you were right.  Whenever you demand a second review, there is usually more to the matter than meets the eye.

(On a side note, it's possible that this set of affairs is related to the fact that you were a field grade officer, with field grade responsibilities, while I retired as a captain, never experiencing the weight of higher command.  You have been trained to have and have had a level of concern for detail, as a staff officer and field grade commander, that I never experienced during my years as an officer.)


Thus, you are rightly our guiding partner in detailed financial matters.

In contrast, I as the Tramp bring to the table a certain demand for expediency, for resolution, for practical solutions that are achievable now as opposed to optimal solutions that arrive too late.  I am of the "I'm hungry, I want to kill something now, not spend time preparing an elaborate plan while I slowly starve" category.

I value efficiency over aesthetic, where demanded.  I value aesthetic over efficient where economically  possible.

This is not to say that I am not appreciative of a certain quantity of 'luxury' - things I want but do not, technically, need.  Where a marriage of the aesthetic and expedient are possible, I will always prefer an elegant solution over an inelegant one.

That said, my immediate concerns are of course more primal - do I think that a threat exists? if so, how do I counteract that threat?  What event or condition is likely to challenge my continued existence, the survival of my progeny, or my right to be self-determinate? 

In raw terms, you want to know how well we'll exist; I want to know if we'll exist, and upon whose terms.

In this regard, the matter is an almost-classic example of the dynamic between male and female.  You wish to ensure that minimal resources are expended; that resources expended return true value, and that wiser contemporaries are consulted before any final decision is made.  This is the female response to long-term crises: reflect upon the current environment, and if reflection provides cause for concern, demand more thorough investigation.

It restrains impulse. It slows the process.  It demands justification.  It prevents precipitous action.  This is valuable: war should only be necessary as a final resort.

In contrast, I wish to ensure our continued survival, our ability to influence the survivability of our children (and grandchildren), our participation in a just and civil society, and our ability to restrain government from becoming an oppressive force in our lives or the lives of our descendants. 

I believe that substantial, protracted, and irresolvable social turmoil is in the forecast for the not-too-distant future.  I predict that such turmoil will be concentrated in urban areas lacking access to primary resources.

I want to be away from such conditions, and I want to offer a place to which our children might retreat if pressed. I wish to be part of a community that is poised to meet the challenges of the next several hundred years. I wish to be part of a community that is rational and deliberative, as opposed to reactive and volatile.

I wish to ensure our children's survival.  I wish to prolong our survival.

To this end, I wish to partner with and support those members of my community who share my beliefs and goals.  I wish to understand their motivations and imperatives.  I wish to become accepted as a member of the community, in hopes that such acceptance will extend to our progeny.

This requires thinking on a local scale - not unlike endeavoring to understand the motivations of the Bosnians, the Croats, the Serbs, each in their separate and distinct world-views.  Every interested party has a perspective, a list of grievances, and a list of demands.

Thinking locally requires an understanding that we are currently outsiders in a tightly-knit society, and that our reputation will precede us.  It requires an understanding that pride in ability and devotion to open pricing means that what is offered is expected to be assumed to be reasonable.

There is an ethic in place which is largely foreign to our experience, although not to our thinking,  We may have heard it discussed, but have never directly experienced it: that my neighbor is my ally, and thus will be expected to both grant, and expect to receive, every consideration in business matters.  In all, the net effect is that we are recently come to a community where the 'old ways' hold sway: where honesty is accepted a predicate, because the society is so small that any dishonesty would be widely and readily discovered, to the detriment of the perpetrator.

Everyone knows everyone, and there is a tacit sharing of information.  For example, today, the engineer with whom I consulted apprised me of an individual in the area - a mason - who should not be trusted, as he fails to complete projects.

We come to this area almost by accident: we are where the costs of the land were reasonable, and where our specific requirements were met.  We find ourselves strangers in a new community eager for new members and apprehensive as to the impact of those new members.  It is not up to them to develop an acceptance of us.  It is not up to us to develop an unequivocal acceptance of them and their ways.  It is for us to mutually understand each other, provide space where appropriate, and joint resources where necessary.

If we accept that our current residence in Georgia, for the long term, is an unsuitable structure in an unsuitable location, then we can accept that a new location must be found. Having found such a location, we are now faced with certain logistical tasks.

These tasks require the commitment of resources: money and will. It is easy enough to transfer resources.  The real fight lies in ensuring that resources expended provide a return.  This is where you excel - in paring down the ornamental from the necessary.

At the conclusion of the project, we should hope that AJ and his firm walk away satisfied with their efforts and their compensation  We should hope that we are satisfied with the product and the cost.  We should hope that we have added value to our adopted community.

We should hope; indeed we should expect, that if we have made a commitment to our comminuty via selection of local labor and firms, we in return expect a commitment demonstrated by above-average quality and reasonable pricing.

We don't want to be welcomed as 'marks'; we want to be welcomed as partners.

That said, we must at some point accept that the professional opinions offered are realistic, accurate, and fair,  We should cease to question, compare and contrast various pricing methodologies, and instead focus upon the goal of receiving value proportional to value given.

At some point we have to trust.  We have to believe.

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