“Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti”

My wife turned on Christian radio this morning while we were driving my younger sisters-in-law to school. I cringed, expecting “Come To The Lord, Hallelujah, Amen!”–but we got something totally different.

As a sales trainer, I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me perspectives on communication, relationships and understanding others. This morning we were lucky enough to hear the authors of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, discussing how the hard-wiring of the male and female brains can make communication so difficult. In short, men compartmentalize different things (like squares in the waffle), and women consider them all to be connected (like noodles touching and winding over one another). This comes up in how conversations go (men: to the point, solve the problem / women: move quickly from subject to connected subject, don’t need to resolve anything necessarily), and the contrast can drive the other sex nuts.

Thinking what they had to say over as I drove, I discovered a common source of annoyance: I’ll be bustling in my “work box”, and my wife will bounce over and start “downloading” about a whole bunch of things, jumping from one topic to the next because in her mind they’re all connected. Because there’s no introduction so I can shift gears and move to the “listening box”, I’m neither prepared for this or considering the topics she’s talking about as a whole. Result: frustration on both sides. Now that we know what’s going on, we can do something about it.

The authors have a radio spot with content you can listen to online now, and the book is available in the “family store” part of their site or on amazon.


What’s the Matter with Education

With four new sisters-in-law of school age, I’ve recently been reintroduced to the primary and secondary education system. I’ve been away from it since 1992. Things are quite different from when I was in high school: no homework is assigned; they don’t have to take tests on a given day if they don’t feel like it; nearly all of the tests are open book and exact copies of the preparation tests; none of the girls has any idea why they are there.

This last fact disturbs me. The students do not know why they are in school.

Okay, so in my day there were students who didn’t know why they were attending high school either. A good number, however, were well aware of the reason. They were learning how to learn. This would prepare them for postsecondary education, where they would learn how to think.

I have been thinking seriously about starting up a charter school that—rather than dispensing a bland pabulum of minimal expected curriculum to bored and uncaring students—lets them know exactly why they are there, and challenges them to learn how to learn.

Before you say “Oh, but such schools already exist,” let me inform you that my sisters-in-law are already at so-called excellent charter schools which charge good money for the privilege. Much is left to be desired.

Of course you can’t make any student do anything they don’t want to: if they just don’t want to learn anything, find out what’s possible in life, and instead concentrate on socializing with the lowest common denominator, well, those kids just won’t learn. You can tantalize them with new ideas, though, can’t you?

I have seen two quality television shows that do exactly this. I propose they be shown to students somewhere in the grade 7 through 9 range…and perhaps again in the graduating year.

The first is Connections by James Burke. Visual, compelling, and well-explained, this series investigating how sudden changes and unplanned combinations of ideas resulted in our modern world. In the mind of the curious, it creates the desire to start looking, to make connections of one’s own.

Second is Cosmos by Carl Sagan. The first half of the opening episode is entirely visual, a fly-in from deep space through our galaxy and to our home planet. Nobody with an imagination could fail to be impressed and feel the urge to keep exploring. The series goes on to investigate knowledge, the planets, DNA, and the star-stuff that are the basic building blocks of life.

Despite the fact that both of these are shows produced in the late 70s, they hold up very well. The ideas and the history remain valid. The special effects—especially in Cosmos—continue to astound (I have no idea how they achieved some of them). Most of all, the enthusiasm of the presenters consistently invoke in the viewer a desire to get involved and learn more. I review both series consistently…re-learning, re-surprising, re-invigorating myself.

The beauty is, both series are available free online. Connections is, thanks to an enterprising young man I’ll never meet but dearly want to thank, on youtube. If you’re in the USA, you can watch Cosmos on Hulu (sorry, rest of the world…check youtube though: you might be able to find some episodes in pieces there).

In my opinion, if a person were aware of all of the topics contained within both series…not at the niggly-piggly detail level, but at the general level…and could hold their side of a casual conversation about them, that person would be considered intelligent, knowledgeable and active in their world. A far cry from the shoulder-shrugging, mindlessly socializing student of today, isn’t it?


Why is Haiti Still Waiting for Help?

Something is bugging me.

It seems like every time there’s a disaster in the world, help takes forever to arrive. Why?

Don’t we have people trained in what to do, and supplies ready to go for these kinds of events?

I did a quick check around with some US and Canadian contacts and the responses were pretty much in agreement:

Civilians were terrible at carrying out these kinds of operations, because they were not as well trained, and not as plentiful, as our higher-ups would have us believe.

The military, who can more often complete efforts like this more effectively, are rarely called in because of political reasons.

That made me ask: Why would the military be better?

The answer I got was that people who joined the military in this era weren’t drafted—they volunteered. They believe.

In a construction battalion, there’s no feasibility study, no planning. You need a bridge, eight hours later you have your bridge. These guys know what to do, and they believe.

That got me thinking more.

Why don’t we have an international organization with authority, staffed with volunteers who believe, trained and ready to carry out aid efforts?

Seems to me you have to do just a few immediate things well:

  • Clear air fields for landings
  • Get a protection force in there to stop looting
  • Airlift the supplies in
  • Manage distribution of the supplies
  • Make safe places for people to stay temporarily
  • Administer medical attention.

You probably weren’t aware of it, but the United Nations was quite a different animal in its brief life between birth in 1945 to a significant but now largely forgotten event in late 1961. During that era, it had only two Secretary Generals, and hadn’t been neutered. The second Secretary General was a man I admire immensely, a Swede named Dag Hammarskjold (it’s pronounced “Hammer-hweld”, though some say “Hammer-schold”).

Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, image courtesy wikipedia commons

Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, image courtesy wikipedia commons

I’ll add a little spice now by telling you he’s the only Secretary General so far to have died in office, and the only person to have received a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize. He was a sort of geopolitical genius, and an unexpected recipient of the job in 1953. And he ran the organization in a completely different manner than the soft-spoken, invisible way we’re used to experiencing today. He stuck his nose into things, got involved, and used the United Nations as a problem-solving tool rather than a hushed forum for international trash-talk. In essence, he treated the UN as if it was the over-arching international problem solving body that it had been intended to be.

In 1961, after finding out about fighting between non-combatant UN forces and African locals in a border dispute and heading to negotiate a ceasefire, Hammarskjold’s plane was downed in Zamiba under circumstances that are still under discussion. Certainly assassination is a possibility. President Kennedy said of Hammarskjold after the crash, “I realize now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”

Since then the UN has become a much more quiet and weaker organization, far less effective in world affairs.

Imagine a United Nations following the Dag Hammarskjold philosophy: don’t back down, find out what’s really going on, bring people to the table who believe. Imagine the UN as a truly independent, responsible and adult organization brimming with people who share core beliefs about competency, service and spirit… …How much help do you think that would bring to the world?


My Heart Bleeds for Brutus

I’ll admit it: I’ve always been a nut for the Fall of the Roman Republic. Anyone who’s seen the two brilliant (and outrageously luxurious) two seasons of HBO’s Rome and doesn’t have an apoplectic fit every time a boob appears on camera will probably agree it’s a great story. At any rate, it brought the ideas to people who would never have watched a History Channel show on Rome. Given our vast lack of knowledge about exact conditions at the time–and you scientists say you’ve figured out everything back to the Big Bang of the universe, except for the first few cajillowseconds…riiiiiight–I thought they did an amazing job bringing it to life.

Of course there were “dramatic rewritings”. One of them was Brutus…

I’m sorry, I’m assuming you know the plot. Here it is: Rome just said No to kings, and has had a patriarchal, senate-driven republic for a few hundred years. One G. Julius Caesar decides his best way out of the legal problems that would entrap him following a career of probably illegally killing hundreds of thousands if not a million Gauls and Germanic tribespeople for his personal gain, is to instead of standing down and returning to Rome, come back with his army and take the lead becoming dictator. The senate, their authority and good sense threatened, conspire to murder Caesar but need the approval of his um, sort of adopted son, Brutus. They get it, and Brutus goes down in history as JC’s most famous killer.

Then Brutus, along with the conspirators, is ousted by Mark Anthony–no, not the singer–and retreats to the far (Balkan) side of the Empire. There he gathers an army to return and clear his name as a defender of the republic. Anthony and the soon-to-be emperor Octavian’s armies meet them sooner rather than later, and…

In Rome, Brutus has a totally cool, I Am The Man ending where his forces are defeated and he discards his armor while going alone to fight the oncoming legions. After being a bit in awe of him, and watching him slice a couple of their friends, they close in and pierce Brutus to death in a way that recalls Caesar’s end.

In real life, Brutus’ legions were defeated and he fled to some hills with a remnant. In totally acceptable Roman style, he there committed suicide.

One can, through Shakespeare anyway, admire the flair of Mark Anthony. Caesar was nowhere near as bad as nearly all the men who ruled after him. But for me, Brutus is the most compelling character in this Roman drama: he has many moral and personal decisions to make, about who and what he will support and why. He is a killer yet a defender of a kind of democracy. Any way he turned was going to make him enemies. As an individual who has had to make choices and because of which been deemed “against” certain groups that felt someone who didn’t unconditionally agree with their point of view was an enemy, I can say that I know how he felt. The difficulty and responsibility of retaining one’s own judgment makes my heart bleed for Brutus.

And you? Have you ever been in a situation where whatever choice you made would make you enemies? How did it turn out?


A Case For Writing Things Down

OK this is an “idea” post. Comment, disagree, whatever. Participate!

There’s a guy named L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (I don’t think we should hold that against him, though I do wonder why you’d choose to be a published author who goes by his initials–“What do I call you, Le ?”) I’ve read exactly two books of his, and they were both recommended to me by a friend who I think has Big Brain. This one is called Adiamante…I think that’s Spanish for diamond…and in it, Modesitt does the shocking thing of writing down his rules about how society can actually work. The whole novel is in fact a psychological suspense story that rests on the fulcrum of a moral dilemma (yes, I’m using the word dilemma in its correct meaning): when should we apply force to ensure our way of life continues? Early on, or later?

I highly recommend Adiamante, not for the prose but for the clarity of ideas. Modesitt has lain down two documents, the first being The Paradigms of Power (about morality and mutual respect in society), and the second being The Construct (about when force ought to be used, juxtaposed with retaining one’s own sense of moral right in a dog-eat-dog universe). Pretty much it’s an argument for holding off on delivering violence until the last possible moment, giving the other guy the chance to come to his senses and survive too. Of course, you have to have a big–though assuredly hidden–stick. These aren’t fictional ideas. They’re excellent and I see ways to implement them in everyday life.

In contrast, there’s a guy named Donald Kagan who compiled a tome called On The Origins of War And The Preservation Of Peace. Seriously, the second part of the title is way smaller. Anyway, one of the recurring messages in his review of the Romans responding to Carthage’s aggression between the two Punic Wars, and the European powers in the mid-1930s reacting to NAZI military buildup of Germany, is this:
If smackdown was delivered earlier, a whole lot of trouble and loss of life could have been avoided.

So tell me, gentle reader, which is it for you? Why? Should force be the first or the last thing we should apply when confronted by our “enemies”? In any case, both these authors make an excellent case for writing things down, so we can think about them for ourselves–rather than have the answer dictated to us.


What Is This?

Hi. I’m Jason Kanigan, consultative sales trainer, persuasive writer and jobsearch expert based in North Vancouver, BC, and this is my Web presence. It’s going to change often, so make sure you come back to check out the new and cool stuff.

I’m a guy who has worked in a number of different fields, from construction to engineering to factory management, and so I generally know what I’m looking at when I walk into a new situation. Primarily I’m a sales professional–meaning that I am dedicated to sales as a profession, and actually have training in the field. What this all translates into for you is that, when it comes to jobhunting or writing, I’m the best friend you’ll ever have.

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