I got an email from my new boss that he thought it would be better for me to start work tomorrow (Tuesday), so I have one last day to prepare. No more sleeping till 8! Up and at ’em! It’s very appropriate that my first day of work is the 13th. For those who don’t know me, it’s my lucky number, having been born on that date, same as my brother.
In the meantime, I’m going to take the opportunity to iron all of my clothes, get some last tasks finished in the home office, and write a few emails. I’ve figured out that ‘Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me’, the NPR quiz show, takes up a single day’s commute (half of it, each way) on my my iPod. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep from grinning like an idiot on the bus, but I had trouble doing that on the T in Boston. That takes care of the Monday ride. I think it will be fun to plan some of the ‘entertainment’ for the rest of the week.
It’s actually remarkable how similar my route from home to work will be to my last one (when I worked at Fidelity Investments): It starts out with a bridge (the Granville Bridge here, the Longfellow Bridge before), and then traversing some of the downtown area to a train station (Waterfront Station here, South Station before). It’s then a short walk from where I get off to work (Water Street here, Summer Street before). As before, a couple of flights of stairs up and I’m in the office. If I had worked at Fidelity’s Water Street office in Boston, it would have sounded even more similar! The commute time is nearly identical as well. It think this new one is maybe a few minutes shorter, depending on when the bus arrives and the speed of morning rush hour traffic. It was a happy coincidence that Pam and I located ourselves (whether we realized it or not) in the same approximate relationship to the city as our last place.
I don’t think I’ll get a chance to settle in that much before the new year. After all, there’s this week (which will be a 4 day week for me now), next week, and then Christmas hits. The week after that has a holiday on Monday (Boxing Day, for the uninitiated). I“m imagining that the week between Christmas and New Years will be fairly quiet. A New Year’s visit with my brother and his family is also something to look forward to. All in all, a very gentle easing into the workforce. I think that will go a long way toward making me feel more of a part of the city.
When you don’t work, you are always seeing things as a visitor, or an outsider. I remember how I felt the first time I was laid off. It was as if I was walking around with a big ‘U’ (for Unemployed) on my chest. That feeling actually dissuaded me from walking around town, at first. Over time I got used to it. Here, it’s easier still because I haven’t worked in this city yet.
Guns, Germs and Steel
Last night the History Channel ran a fascinating documentary by Jared Diamond, the author of the recent ‘hot’ book, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. It was a dramatization of his earlier book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies”, which won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1998. Diamond’s overarching idea is that Geography was the largest single force in the rise of European Civilization. An ample supply of food was provided by domesticated animals: the cow, horse, sheep, goat and pig, which were all native to Eurasia. The very shape of the continents and the terrain, which allowed people to move around in the same longitude (and hence, the same climate band) without huge mountains in their way, gave some groups of people a distinct advantage over others. Because they had more free time when they weren’t looking for food, they developed Technology, which eventually created armor, the train (steel) and guns. These items, along with resistance to diseases by living around domesticated animals (which the Africans of the same era lacked), and you had the stage set for the domination of Africa by Europe that continued to nearly the present day. While the program was a bit slow-moving, it illustrated clearly many of Diamond’s ideas. Critics of Diamond claim that his theories are too pat, that it takes more than simply Geography to lead to the ascendancy of one people or another, and that some of that ‘Technology’ was acquired from others (notably, China, who provided gunpowder). Others see this book as perpetuating the myth of European superiority (the way that Hernstein and Murray’s “The Bell Curve” of 1994 clothed potentially racist conclusions in statistical representations). In any case, it’s surprising that Anthropological History can be such a gripping subject, even if it all happened thousands of years before we were born.