January 9, 2008

Founding Father: George Washington

Filed under: Books — Cory @ 1:44 am

Recently I’ve taken a renewed interest in history, particularly with the early days of the United States. Although I majored in history during college, I never enjoyed U.S. history that much. Several months ago, however, I stumbled across the Wikipedia page for George Washington and I became fascinated with his life, ideas, and actions.

A friend recommended that I read Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, a so-called “moral biography.” The book is divided into three main sections: Washington’s life, his character, and his role as the father of the United States. I just finished reading it and I would highly recommend it.

The most amazing thing about Washington was his rock-solid character. Even his contemporaries were amazed by his level of integrity. Time after time he was put into positions that could have easily been abused, and every time he did the right thing. Although he was opposed to political parties, members of both the Federalist and Republican parties begged him to lead the country – he was the only person alive that everyone trusted to do the job.

Although he spoke infrequently, his speeches brought tears to revolutionary soldiers and politicians alike. Everyone knew that he believed in what he was saying, and that he would be the first to lead by example.

He also had quite a temper, but worked hard to control it, and in the rare occasion that it got the better of him he was quick to apologize. Although he had very little formal education, he was interested in political philosophy and had compiled a significant library on diverse subject matters including theatre, “commerce”, and history.

One controversial topic regarding Washington was his ownership of slaves. He struggled with the issue himself, and put a great deal of thought into reconciliation. He even devised a plan to give up his beloved Mount Vernon in order to free the slaves there and provide jobs for them. At the time of his death there were over 300 slaves at Mount Vernon, although most were inherited and owned by his wife Martha. Although in private letters Washington expressed disgust at the practice of slavery, historians believe he was reluctant to do or say anything about it because it was already such a heated issue in the young and unstable nation.

The importance Washington placed on slavery can be found in his will, as the slaves are addressed second only to his wife Martha. During his lifetime Washington refused to sell slaves or split families, and in his will he went even further. He ensured that all slaves would be freed upon Martha’s death, and that they would all be cared for by his estate. It wasn’t until 34 years after his death that this practice finally ended.

It is really amazing what Washington and the other founding fathers accomplished. Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the rest of the crew were also extremely important, but no one else’s influence or strength of character came close to matching that of George Washington.

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January 1, 2006

Looking Back at 2005

Filed under: Books,Events,General,Music,Places — Cory @ 12:58 am

2005 was the year that I decided to give the whole blogging thing a try, and so I thought it would be a good idea to put together this list so that I will be able to remember some of the things that I did over the course of the year.

The Places I Visited in 2005

Along with lots of trips to Austin and a couple visits to Houston, I did a reasonable amount of traveling this year.

Musicians I Saw in 2005

This year The Hot Club of Cowtown broke up, which was a major bummer. But Elana has a few things going on, and Whit and Jake are performing with some others as Whit Smith’s Hot Jazz Caravan. At Jazz Fest and ACL Fest I saw a lot of other little bands, but I can’t remember the names.

The Books I Read in 2005

As usual, my interests over the past year are reflected in the books I read. I almost always cycle through 4 topics: physics, economics, sociology and literature. In 2006 I want to finally finish reading Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Random Stuff in 2005

Overall, it was a pretty good year. Made some new friends, spent time with old friends and had a lot of fun.

Happy New Year!

• • •

August 20, 2005

Corporate Coolness (or Hotness, if you prefer)

Filed under: Books,General — Cory @ 3:19 pm

This past week Rackspace held a “Battle of the Bands” contest, and threw a little party for the occasion. There are pictures available for those interested.

It’s good that the company is still doing things like this. I have found it easy to forgot how much better Rackspace is as a place to work than my previous employers. That’s not to say there aren’t things I would change, but on the whole, I would still choose Rackspace over CACI any day.

Working with smart people every day does wonders for my happiness. In previous jobs, I can remember arguing my reasons for wanting to do the right thing for the customer, and still loosing out to management. If only companies understood what that does to morale. Most people want to do good work, and standing in the way of that usually causes more problems than it solves. In Maverick, Ricardo Semler discusses how he successfully created a flat organizational structure; no middle managers, no secretaries. I wonder what would happen if more companies actually thought about the middle management problem.

• • •

June 23, 2005

Strengths Finder

Filed under: Books,General — Cory @ 3:38 pm

Shortly after starting at Rackspace I was introduced to StrengthsFinder. StrengthsFinder is a tool to help you identify talent areas where you are strongest. It’s been almost 2 years since I first did this, so I decided to take it again today to see if my strengths had shifted any. Of the top 5, 4 were the same from the original results:

People strong in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.

People strong in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.

People strong in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.

People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Previously I had Activator in place of Strategic, but I think I like the new one better anyway.

StrenthsFinder requires a code, so if you want to take it you will need to get a copy of either Now, Discover Your Strengths or How Full Is Your Bucket?.

• • •

June 14, 2005

Relaxation for Beginners

Filed under: Books,General — Cory @ 12:13 am

Yet another really frustrating day at work, but at least now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

After leaving the office around 6:30 I decided that I seriously needed to relax this evening. Here’s my list of ingredients for a relaxing evening:

  • a good cigar
  • good food
  • a good beer
  • a good book, and
  • a good porch

So, my first stop was Club Humidor at the Quarry. I ended up with an Ashton Heritage Puro Sol, at the recommendation of the shopkeeper.

Food was next on the list. Although I love a good ThunderCloud sub, tonight I wanted something more. I decided on The Barn Door, a place close to my apartment that I’ve been once before. I really like their crabcakes, so that’s what I ordered again tonight. As it turns out, that’s exactly what I wanted.

The next stop was Central Market to pick out an appropriate beer for the evening. They have a tremendous selection of beers, but I ended up with an old favorite from New Orleans: Dixie Beer. I know a lot of people do not consider it good beer, but for some reason I’ve liked it ever since I lived in the Big Easy.

After I was finished spending money for the day I headed home. I took a beer and the cigar out to the front porch, along with a book I had been wanting to finish: Being There, by Jerzy Kosinski. The weather was absolutely perfect, the street was quiet, the book was funny, the beer and cigar were exactly what I needed, and an hour and a half later I was healed.

And now, it’s time for sleep…

…so that I can get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

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