February 1st 

One of those difficult days for an entrepreneur. A crisis and an opportunity. We are used to them. Yet on the same day, three new contracts for work which will change our revenue flow in March. Ah well, all in a day. Entrepreneurship = risk + uncertainty and the possibility of reward.

My colleague’s book The Age of Discovery is doing well. A new paperback edition will be released shortly. CK is such a smart man with real insights. He wrote this book with a colleague well before the Trumpkin showed any chance of winning the US Presidential race – yet the book anticipated a period of chance, crisis and shock. And shock is what we are experiencing. Many years ago I wrote a book called Coping with Crisis. We focused on the utility of the Kubler-Ross loss-grief model as a way of understanding the cycle of response to shock and crisis. You can see this in action all around as we deal with various shocks, from the dreadful shootings at a mosque in Quebec to the actions of the Trumpkin to Brexit and other developments. As CK says in the Age of Discovery, we need to get past the first stages of the Kubler-Ross model and move onto the “so now we act” stage, otherwise the shocks will keep coming. Collaborative, collective action. That’s what we need.

February 4th

I have been a member of The Little Club for many years. It is a small – 15-20 men – dinner club which is amongst the oldest town and gown club in Canada. We are over 100 years old as a club. A meal amongst good company, a talk by one of our members and robust discussion. Last night a talk by the Head of the University of Alberta library about data – what is it, how is it created and what uses and abuses is it put to. Great conversation. A thoughtful, provocative and insightful talk. Next month it is my talk on the future of work – you can find the slide deck on this site.

The book I have written with my friend and colleague Sarajane Aris is finally, after many years of writing, out. We began this five years ago as a way of recognizing that Sarajane was retiring from the Derby (UK) psychological services and was, at the time, thinking of launching her own psychological service business. She and Bryan flew into Canmore (summer residence at the time) to write with me in the mornings and then walk or tour and eat.  I saw it as my last major piece of writing as a psychologist – a kind of “this is all I know…don’t ask me again!” kind of book. But it is substantial and focused. Hope it does well. You can buy it at lulu.com as a paperback and on Amazon as an e-book.

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We know that Trumpkin intends to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and he claims Mexico will pay for it. I gather Mexico is building a very big ladder and expects the US to pay for it. As the President of Mexico said: “we didn’t start this bullshit conversation”.

February 6th

As one gets older certain things get more complicated. Going to the toilet, for example. In my younger days, one sitting was enough to complete all tasks. Now it takes two separate actions – separated by a minute or two and body positions – to complete the same tasks. Or clearing the car(s) of snow – used to take a few seconds, now seems to take an eternity. In part, our bodies change and function less efficiently. But time also seems different – slower sometimes, faster at others. Weeks fly by, but minutes seem longer. Strange.

Speaking of strange, I could go on about the latest Trumpkin news but have decided not to bother. In part, I am tired of it but in part I also suspect the next thing he does will be even more amazing than the last. Just as the Amazing Randini was truly amazing, so too is the Trumpkin. We watch and live in wonder. Really.

February 9th

Sarah Palin is under consideration for the position of  US Ambassador to Canada (she can see Canada from her house). Would be an interesting appointment, enriching our satire and comedy scene no end. She would have to learn one of our official languages (English or French) first – she has trouble been understood in whatever language it is that she currently uses.

I am reading an account of Emile Zola’s flight from Paris after his trial for libel in the Dreyfus affair – he fled to London in 1898.  Such a flight was complicated. He had a wife. He also had a mistress who had given birth to his two children. In Paris, the two families lived close, and he spent most afternoons with his mistress and children with the full knowledge of his wife. When he fled after losing the libel case and before he could be arrested, he had to devise ways of getting his wife and second family to be with him from time to time in London. Very difficult. The book detailing all this – Michael Rosen’s The Disappearance of Emile Zola: Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case – is fulsome if pedantic. It is also an interesting story.

February 11th

One of my Saturday habits is to watch the BBC’s Dateline London – a panel of experienced journalists talking about a few current topics, hosted by the capable Gavin Essler. Listening to the program this morning, it occurred to me that the Trumpkin is creating a strong case for strengthening and focusing the work of both the UN and NATO. He is making the world less safe, more unstable, less predictable.  He is also making American’s less safe in the world, and they will need more of the protection others can offer. As the new Idi Amin, Trump will destabilize all institutions with the full support of his cabinet – just look at Betsy DeVos or Jeff Sessions.

Our youngest grandson, Sam, spent a few days with us as his father, Glyn, had minor surgery (knee repair – the consequence of trying to be fit). He was well behaved, thoughtful and fun. All three of the grandkids (Lily, Ollie, and Sam) bring great pleasure to L and me.  It is so wonderful to watch them grow and mature, though it does happen very fast.

February 14th (Valentines Day)

In the US, the National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has resigned due to his not telling the truth to the Vice President about his conversations with Russia. If not telling the truth to the Vice President is grounds for dismissal, then when will Donald Trump quit? He is simply incapable of telling the truth about anything. He even lied about the weather during his inauguration, claiming that God let it stay dry while he gave his speech when in fact it poured down (even his wife had an umbrella up while he was talking).

Read a fascinating account of murder, sex, cult behaviour and weird stuff in a convent in Rome in the mid-1850’s. The book – The Nun’s of Sant Ambrogio by Hubert Wolf – is well researched and documented. It is a remarkable story, told through the eyes of the accuser, a Princess who became a nun. Well worth a read if you are historically minded.

February 17th

Yesterday I watched, almost by chance, President Trump’s impromptu press conference – his first full conference after just a month in office (well almost a month). It was quite the show. At first, I thought SNL had taken over daytime TV and then I realised that it was actually Trump and not Alec Baldwin. He ranted, raved, lied and then it dawned on me…he actually does live in a different place from the rest of us. In his world, he has already become the most successful President in US history (as Fareed Zakaria pointed out, he has actually done almost nothing) and really cannot understand why the press isn’t praising him to high heaven. All news that challenges his reality is obviously “fake” and spun by the evil one (Mrs. Clinton) or those “on the other side” (those living in the real world). He is delusional as well as narcissistic.  But it was great theatre and today there is almost no mention of the Russia-Trump connection in the media, so it worked. Today, even some on Fox News (his preferred source of fake news) is asking about his mental health.

I have a FB “friend” AP who is a strong Trump support (lives in the US). He sees any criticism or attack on Trump as an attack on the United States and its integrity. Satire is fake news. The news is fake unless it supports Trump. It is an odd business.

 

February 23rd

Been busy but in a good way.  The book with Sarajane (Beyond Resilience) is doing well in my view – over 30 paperback copies sold in the first week. The average book of this kind sells no more than 2,000 copies over a decade and normally around 250 in year one. This includes all versions of the book – ebooks and paperback.

Just finished reading a biography of R D Laing by his son Adrian Laning. He was a fascinating man, one of the great influences in psychiatry and clinical and counselling psychology in the 1980’s. His book Knots – a collection of poem-like observations – is a brilliant capture of some of the things encountered in consulting rooms and group sessions that I used to run in the 1970’s and 80’s when my focus was on counselling psychology. My favourite line from Knots: “there must be something the matter with him because he thinks that there is nothing the matter with him”. I met R D is Edinburgh a year or so before he died – his eyes were penetrating and his mind, though affected by drink and drugs, was still as sharp as a razor.

I watched the Brad Pitt film – Allied – and enjoyed it greatly. A classic war / spy film (second world war), with all sorts of layers. Quality performances all round and very convincing. Excellent storyline.

A FB friend, MH, suggests that the “batshit crazy” stuff that they encourage the Trumpkin to do distracts us all from the real agenda. The real agenda being the rapid dismantling of the nature of the State – what Steve Bannon calls “the deconstruction of the administrative state”.  Rather than focus on what Sir Michael Barber has labelled “deliverology” – substantial improvements in the way in which the state supports individuals, communities and regions – they simply want to stop doing a great many things that the State has done for a long time. It will be an interesting experiment, which I suspect will end in tears.

Sarajane and I are exploring the idea of a new, humourous book Famous Five Go for Therapy. Watch this space.

February 26th

I have been a regular orchestral concert goer since I was fourteen – the Halle at Bradford. My school had tickets for those in the orchestra (I played the violin, but have fully recovered from the experience) and we sat behind the orchestra. I saw Sir Adrian Bolt, Sir Malcolm Sargeant, Arvids Jansons (who died while conducting the Halle in 1985), Sir John Barbirolli, Malcolm Williamson, Benjamin Britten and many others. I have been to orchestral concerts all over the world and have been especially lucky to sit in on rehearsals with Daniel Barenboim, Vladimir Ashkenazy and many others.

So I looked forward to our Edmonton Symphony concert last night. They are a significantly improved, strong and successful regional orchestra – a kind of Halle for Canada. when we first came to Canada, its conductor was Uri Mayer. Not impressive. I saw him check his watch five times during a performance of Messiah and he missed several points of solo entry in several symphonies. A decent man, not a great conductor. We have had several musical directors since Uri moved on, all of whom have strengthened the musicianship of the orchestra. Bill Eddins, now in his last year as musical director, secured his place in the history of the symphony by getting them to Carnegie Hall.  He also programmed some interesting music. Our new music director is a young, vibrant 24-year-old Alexander Prior.

The concert last night was an interesting program. Bach Suites, as arranged by Mahler (with full organ and kettle drums), Puccini’s Suite for Organ and Timpani and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique. The Davis concert organ was wonderful to hear in its glory, especially in an encore Bach piece played by the soloist, Paul Jacobs. The conductor was the young Venezuelan conductor Ilyich Rivas. He was a quiet, minimalist conductor who occasionally shook his head and once a twice moved his hands vigorously. Not impressive.

Which triggered my memory of a great Ted Talk on leadership and conducting given by Itay Talgam (find it here). In this talk (near the end) there is a wonderful sequence of the great Leonard Bernstein holding his lapels and conducting by moving his eyes and mouth. Worth the watch. True minimalist conducting.

Last Day of February

My MBA course on competitiveness, productivity and innovation begins next week. Looking forward to working with my thirty students exploring the future of the country.

I watched the Oscars, as we have done for many many years, and thought it was most constrained as if everyone had been told to “behave”, until it all fell apart at the end with the announcement of the best picture. First, it was La La Land and then it wasn’t. Then it was Moonshine and it still is.  Warren Beaty did his best and Faye Dunnaway did the rest. I suspect the young many from PriceWaterhouseCoppers is now looking for work in the Trump administration, where screwing up qualifies you for a position in the White House.