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Posts Tagged ‘changing’

THE TIMES WE LIVE IN

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 21, 2010

By occupation I am a management consultant specializing in the area of information systems. This has afforded me the rare opportunity to see quite a bit of the world and meet with all kinds of people in just about every field of endeavor imaginable. I do not get paid to tell people what they want to hear but rather, I make my living telling people the truth which, in this day and age of political correctness and spin, doesn’t always ingratiate me to my audience. In a way, I often feel like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen tale who points out the peculiarities of the Emperor’s new clothes. Although he naively spoke the truth, the observation made people nervous and squirm, particularly those in power. One of the things I learned early on is that the obvious is not always obvious, or politically correct, but we would make little progress if we didn’t look at ourselves in the mirror once and awhile, warts and all.

As a writer, I discuss things we take for granted, often overlook, or refuse to acknowledge as we feel comfortable with the status quo and do not want to make waves. When we look back on our childhood, we fondly think of a simpler time, the “Good old Days,” and wish they were still within our grasp. But if anything is constant, it is change. We have all witnessed considerable changes in the world in terms of sociology, economics, technology, politics, etc.

Today, we now expect to communicate instantaneously with just about anyone on the planet. As for me, I miss the days when we could become “out of touch.” Now, no place is sacred from instant communications.

Our weaponry has become so sophisticated, it would be the envy of Buck Rogers.

In terms of medicine, we now expect to recover from life threatening problems quickly so we can get back out on the golf course.

We now plan to travel to distant locations in a matter of hours or a few scant days, not weeks or months. Even a trip to space is taken for granted.

We now carry the latest movies and games in our pocket; we look up scores, pay bills, check our stocks, as well as weather and traffic reports.

When you think about it, we now take a lot for granted; things that simply did not exist a few scant decades ago. This means we are now experiencing new freedoms in how we communicate, express ourselves, move about the planet, and socialize. All of this was made possible by advancements in our technology.

This also resulted in new tactics and strategies in how we manage and compete in business and govern ourselves. As an example, consider the concept of “outsourcing” which would not have been possible without the electronic communications we enjoy today. This has caused us to move a lot of our manufacturing jobs offshore to cheaper labor pools, like India, China, even Viet Nam. The result: We are no longer the #1 exporter in the world, and we have shifted from manufacturing and construction to a predominantly service oriented society.

The people who lost their jobs in this country have had to learn new skills for new types of jobs, but are they truly better than their previous jobs?

Let me give you an example, the area just east of Asheville, North Carolina, right along the Blue Ridge Parkway, used to be known for some of the finest furniture makers in the country as well as their rich tobacco crops. Unfortunately, cheap Chinese labor ultimately decimated North Carolina’s furniture business; they simply couldn’t compete and were forced to close their factories. Since the passage of the Federal Tobacco Quota Buyout in October 2004, North Carolina’s tobacco industry has been in a “transition” period, meaning tobacco production has sharply diminished in the area, if not disappeared altogether. All of this has given rise to unemployment, government subsidies, and a general bewilderment by the populace as to what to do next.

There are those still yearning for furniture work, but cannot seem to come to grips with the fact that the ship has sailed. Because of the natural beauty of the area, including mountains, streams, hunting and fishing, and gemstones, some would like to develop the area for tourism. Alas, this is pooh-poohed by the locals who are easily alarmed by outsiders and their perceived sinful ways. Instead, the residents have elected to simply do nothing and allow themselves to stagnate in a state of analysis paralysis. You can readily see the effect it is having on the natives as there is no hustle, no service, no nothing, just a defeatist attitude, all because they refuse to face reality.

All of this means that change comes at a cost, namely substantial modifications to our culture and standard of living. To illustrate, “texting” has had an adverse affect on basic grammar and how business letters and reports are written, which affects sales and customer service.

Make no mistake, our children and grandchildren will live in a much more complicated world than we can imagine. Added complexity means we have to embrace new ideas and abandon older ones. In other words, added complexity means change.

The question remains though, is our quality of life improved; are we truly better off? A U.N. report suggests our standard of living continues to decline (we’re now 10th in the world with countries such as Norway, Iceland, Australia, and Canada ahead of us). A reduction in our standard of living represents sacrifices for all of us, both personally and professionally, something that will test the American character.

Our language is cruder, common courtesy is no longer common, there is polarity in our politics, we possess no sense of history, common sense is uncommon, and you could make a compelling argument that our moral values are deteriorating at an alarming rate.

We tolerate a decline in our morality and socialization skills, yet we are intolerant when it comes to politics and religion. Perhaps these should be reversed.

Now more than ever we need true leaders to lead, but we have to quit handcuffing them to political correctness. In a republic, our leaders are elected by the people to serve the people. It seems to me though, we have the cart before the horse. We have created monarchies not only in our government, but in nonprofit volunteer organizations as well. We need leadership, not a power-hungry ideologue. We need leaders who can pull a group of people together and move them in a direction towards solving true problems, not symptoms. A lot of what we do today I refer to as “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”; we simply have our priorities wrong. We’ve got to stop promising people the world, and learn to live within our means. This may not be good for getting elected, but it is a harsh reality we all have to learn.

Years ago, Gerald Ford went before the American people in a State of the Union address and said in effect, “My fellow Americans, I’m afraid the state of the union is not very good…” It was honest, it was truthful, it was forthright; but it also cost him the 1976 Presidential election as it was something the American public didn’t want to hear. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

As I admonish young people entering the work force, “It is time to grow up.” Now is not the time to go with the flow, now is the time to challenge the status quo, to seek new ideas and ways to survive and improve our station in life. As far as I’m concerned, there are no sacred cows. Everything needs to be challenged and reevaluated. When you hear expressions like, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it,” that’s a telltale sign you have allowed yourselves to stagnate out of apathy. Has anyone considered that perhaps you have been doing things wrong so long that you believe it is right? That there may very well be new and improved ways for changing the status quo?

Years ago, Laurence M. Gould, the President Emeritus of Carleton College said in a commencement address, “I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware.”

I would like to leave you on a positive note, but that is going to be difficult to do. The title of this paper is “The Times We Live In” which I believe history will record as an extraordinary period for all of us. I had hoped that as I approached the autumn of my life, I could slow down and take it easy. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening any time soon for any of us. And that’s just the point: It is all up to us. We can either sit back and do nothing or stand up and be counted in everything we do, be it politics, our companies, our schools, our neighborhoods, and all of the other institutions we participate in. “It is all up to us.”

Think about your own local institutions. Is membership flourishing? Is it prosperous? Is it financially sound? Is it meaningful? How is this not a microcosm of what is happening on a national or world stage? If we truly believe in the institutions we participate in, it will be necessary to redouble our efforts to maintain them.

I am reminded of what Winston Churchill said before his country entered World War II, “Nothing can save England if she will not save herself. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to guide and govern, if we lose our will to live, then indeed our story is told.”

So, the next time someone says, “The Emperor has no clothes,” will we continue to avert our eyes and keep quiet, or will we have the fortitude to speak up and deal with the problem?

This could be our greatest hour, or our worst. “It is all up to us.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

OUR CHANGING TASTES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 29, 2009

I’ve got a friend who owns a family style restaurant offering basic comfort food. It’s not cheap, nor is it expensive either; just a family-run restaurant that offers basic home cooking. I’m sure you know such a restaurant in your neighborhood.

Periodically, I help my friend update his menu. In the course of doing this I’ve asked him why he no longer offers certain items on his menu; things like lamb shanks, beef stroganoff, beef tips on noodles, Chicken a la King, Salisbury Steak, stuffed peppers, Sausage and peppers, pot roast, casseroles and the like. These were items I remember well from my youth but are disappearing from menus across the country. The only rationale my friend could offer was that people’s tastes were changing, and such items were more identified with the older generation than the new. The younger people seem to relate more to burgers, chicken and pizza; items that are more associated with fast food franchises as opposed to anything else. Consequently, the idea of a home cooked meal is becoming more of a nebulous concept to them.

Bread is another commodity that has been changing as well. Instead of white, rye, and whole wheat, people now want shibata, muffala, and panini. I remember a time when sourdough was considered the epitome of exotic bread, now it is generally regarded as nothing special. The new breads are nice, but somehow the idea of a PB&J on panini doesn’t sound right.

Our cuts of beef and chicken haven’t really changed, but fish has. At one time, your only choices were cod, haddock, swordfish, flounder, and maybe some tuna (in a can). Now we ask for tilapia, grouper, mahi-mahi, ahi tuna, and orange roughy. As an aside, years ago grouper was considered a “garbage fish” that fisherman routinely discarded, but somehow we developed a taste for it.

Soft drinks have also changed as well. Whereas we used to live on colas, lemon/lime drinks, root beer, ginger ale, ice tea, fruit juices, and Kool-Aid, now we have power/sports drinks in a variety of colors and tastes to hydrate us, and others loaded with caffeine and sugar to shock our system. Orange juice was orange juice. Period. Now we have varieties with pulp, without pulp, with added vitamins, lower acid, and of course the blends with other fruit juices. Ice tea is no different; now we have a wide variety of flavors to suit different tastes. Coffee has also changed in this regards, instead of a basic black cup of coffee in the morning, we now have all kinds of ingredients to make it look like a hot fudge sundae or some other dessert.

Speaking of desserts, cakes and pies are still around, but are a little harder to find. Then of course there are items like tapioca pudding, rice pudding, and other flavored puddings, most of which the kids turn their noses up over. Ice cream is still a favorite, but we’ve come a long way since basic vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The competition in the ice cream world is fierce and consequently many new varieties have been introduced with strange names (and higher prices). I have to admit though, I am a sucker for Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip or their Pumpkin Pie which comes out around October.

For breakfast there was oatmeal, farina, Maypo, Cream of Weat, Malt-O-Meal, Pancakes, Waffles, and, of course, bacon and eggs. These have all been replaced by such things as Pop Tarts, Granola Bars, breakfast drinks, and other instant snacks. Heck, basic cereals are even struggling as people are rushing out the door in the morning.

I’m not suggesting our tastes are any better or worse today than yesteryear; I’m just noting the change. However, I wonder how much of this push to multiple varieties and instant meals is a result of our changing tastes as opposed to creating a higher profit margin for the vendors; I suspect the latter. More than anything, I believe our tastes change because of vendor competition and the need to make a buck. No matter how you slice it though, there is nothing better than “mom’s home cooking.” The only problem though is that a lot of people today think baking and cooking are two towns in China.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Food, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

OUR CHANGING VERNACULAR

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 24, 2009

I’m told that English is the hardest language to learn, probably because of the idioms and slang we use. I don’t know which is worse, “American-ese” or our counterparts in the UK. Nonetheless I find it interesting how our language changes over time. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s, people were “swell” and “gay” meant to be lighthearted. In the 1960’s and 70’s, everything was “Super,” “Far out,” and “Hip,” but we don’t use these words anymore, nor do we use words like “Hi-fi,” “Stereo,” “Ethyl,” “Hi-Test,” “keypunch,” or “CRT.”

In the last ten years alone I’ve noticed changes in our vernacular. The following is a list of words and expressions that are currently a natural part of our vocabulary, yet weren’t used just ten years ago (the 1990’s): Hydrate, Hybrid, Green, Blog, WiFi, Multitasking, same-sex, “creative class,” chipotle, and pandemic (as an aside, I find it amusing this last word only applies to the mainstream vocabulary of the 21st century; I guess it wasn’t applicable for the Black Plague of the 14th – 18th centuries). These words were certainly in the dictionary before, but they weren’t a part of our speech patterns as they are today.

True, a lot of these words are driven by marketing and the media, but it is ultimately derived from our changing technology, diet, and moral values. In a way, a changing vernacular is indicative of our changing social priorities and attitudes. As a small example, how we communicate in the office today is substantially different than the 1950’s, thanks in large part to being “politically correct.” At the time, there was little sensitivity to racial or gender equality. Right or wrong, offices were masculine dominated and, as such, there was little concern for offending anyone in our language.

It also seems our youth are relying more and more on monosyllables words and are less inclined to engage in honest debate. When they argue, it is typically on the Internet and hiding behind the anonymity of a bogus user name whereby the discourse becomes vicious and sloppy. I interpret this as a “dumbing down” of America.

I seriously doubt that our forefathers from the 1700’s would understand what we say today, and people from the 1800’s would probably have trouble with our vocabulary as well.

Next, let’s consider how our first names have changed over the years. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the top five boys names are currently: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, and Daniel. All are fine old names. The top five girls names are: Emma, Isabella, Emily, Madison, and Ava. Again, some fine established names here as well. Ten years ago though, we were swamped with names like: Britney, Heather, and Lindsay, but these have fallen off the radar lately, probably because Hollywood is changing.

It seems it was not too long ago that we heard names like Edna, Esther, Alice, Ruth, Annabelle, Doris, Harriet, Helen, Beatrice, Maxine, Laverne, Mildred, Agnes, Herbie, Herman, Orv, and Milt, but you don’t hear too many of these names among children today. We still have stalwart names like John, Joe, Bill, Bob, Susan, Katie, Linda, Anne, and Elizabeth, but even these are starting to dwindle in use. I guess this is why I was glad to hear “Emily” was making a comeback.

It’s fun to hear America talking, but you have to listen carefully to hear our world change.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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