Education (continuing) of a Consultant

So I am a consultant by title…

I don’t really want to talk about the conceptions of how that means, people’s perceptions, or cracks about what they do.  I just wan to describe what it feels like to do my job.

I’m almost never told what to do.  I was just commenting about this with a coworker the other day – and it’s amazing how we all manage to get along in this fashion and things still work out.  We left it at: well, I guess if the group isn’t that large, and everyone has a sense of responsibility – than it sort of works out.

It is amazing though.  On a day in day out basis – I have little idea what will come up save for scheduled meetings and client trips – and even those sometimes get little notice.  I am going to Kuala Lumpur for three days – it’s not set yet – and this wasn’t even on my radar two days ago.  Each day come into the office and have to think: ok – what is it that I have to get done today, what should get done today, and so forth…it was a bit intimidating at first – but I am a creature of habit – and now that I have my routine down a bit – it involves getting up really early – I’ve been able to manage ok.

Where I can't see the building here - but it's in there...

The range of activies and people that I talk to can be a bit staggering if I step back for a second and think about it…conference call with a Hong Kong client, technical consulting with IT in Europe, run over to our new office to let the electricity guys set things up, follow up on a trading and risk question from a potential client in India, phone call to a partner in London, writing a business plan for a revenue generating idea that our office will propose, writing a project plan for a new client, giving a presentation via web conference, and all the while going back and forth with coworkers in the US, Europe, and locally here in Singapore.  It’s pretty amazing how different this job is from my work as a developer years ago…to say nothing of what I was doing last year.  Completely different – no value judgments here – just different.

A glance at my outlook calendar and tasks - jargon ruling my workday that would have made no sense even just months ago...

One thing that hasn’t changed though – and it seems to be consistent across all the things I’ve done in my short time – I think about work – a lot…


Write. I made a promise to too many people.  I must write.

That doesn’t sound right.

But I must.

Too many.

So I have my composition book.  ‘Made in the GAMBIA’. Bound with duct tape – I suddenly worry that I have let the legend of the book grow to be greater than it’s actual value.

The current view from my desk - demolition 10 stories high...

The current view from my desk - demolition 10 stories high...


‘This is my most dear possession’ – this book, which could not have cost me more than ten cents back in 2005.  This is the tool I used to ruminate on my future and my values every afternoon in Njau, The Gambia.  I held it dear all these years – I remember wanting

deeply to belivethat I would use it as a daily guide.  A reminder of the person I wanted to be – not just on paper, but in spirit.

Let me open it:

We can experience fear, confidence, desire, pity, and generally any kind of pleasure and pain either too much or too little, and in either case not properly.  But to experience all this at the right time, toward the right objects, toward the right people, for the right reason, and in the right manner – that is the mean and the best course that is the mark of excellence.

–       attributed to Aristotle in my composition book

“in the execution of my life….I wish to continuously challenge myself to push the limits of my talents – learning both through success and construct

ive failure.  I want to always be learning and placing myself in situations that demand I adapt and improve.

I wish to devote myself to helping the communities that I am a part of: local, regional, statewide, and global – achieve the goal of having all members be able to persue the thing or things that are of the greatest importance to them – free from undue prejudice, inadequate educational opportunity, or an other imposed injustice and within the behavior that poses no threat to a free and fair society.

I wish to devote my time and efforts to the fostering of loving relationships amongst my family and friends

I wish to adhere to and promote a quality balance between the concerns of humanity and the needs of the world in which we live in – paying mind to the reverence I hold for man’s ability to reason and act on behalf of the less fortunate ones, while never losing sight of our collective responsibility to humbly live in harmony with the world in which we inhabit: personally living as simply as possible, collectively not taking more than we need, and acting less like ordained owners and more like members of a community of life – all with a common stake.”

Edward Grandstaff,

6th of June – 2005

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Wow – I still feel this way.  All of these things resonate with me as they did before.  I would have to say I live pretty selfishly now.  I do a better job than I did when I was in China of staying in touch with my immedaiate family – but it has to be said – I have thought about,

and do think about starting a family of my own – living part of my life for someone else.

I have a pretty solid risk-taking record – putting myself out there – since I quit my first job back in 2003.  I feel like I’ve gained a lot – and in that time I have become more disciplined about how I live my life – and living in balance:

I am consistently improving my eating habits – and while I have some ways to go – I can now say I have consumed a very, very miniscule amount of animal products in the last 10 years – and am on track (I still go for one now and then) of eliminating soft drinks.

It’s closing in on 10 years without owning a car.  I have only driven when I have come back to the US – and the total sum of the milage has to be around six to seven hundred miles total.

The Bittaye Family - 2005 - I miss them

The Bittaye Family - 2005 - I miss them


…all this just sound pompous as I write it – I don’t like writing all this stuff – but I have been happy with how I have consistently shed things that I don’t need.

I am quite happy – I wish I had written about my time in China – because the group of friends that I have made and in particular a set of students that I have influenced has given me great joy – I really get a lift out of communicating with them – they inspired me to do some crazy things and took a time in my life that even I was beginning to wonder if was just a time where I was ‘drifting’ and turn it into something I am immensely proud of – I couldn’t thank that group enough.

So who am I now?  Quite a good question…

…it has stunted the flow.  Something I should reconnect with.   Reconnecting – something I need to do.  That’s enough for now.




Baseball Awesome

Look – I love baseball – so tonight was fantastic – I have an interest in four teams that had games tonight. Three of them I wanted to see lose, one I wanted to see win.  The three teams I disklike?  All were at different points 2 outs away from winning, two of them  were as close as 1 strike away from winning, and one was winning 7-0 with two innings to play.  Yet despite all this, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves all lost.  The one team I have an interest in and want to see win?  They won 8-0.  But I was conflicted in my enjoyment of such a rare and exciting occurrence that led to the American League wild card being ‘won’ by Tampa (and hence not by the Boston Red Sox), and the National League wild card being ‘won’ by my hometown St. Louis Cardinals.

I hope I can be forgiven for being solipsistic, but what happened tonight must have been designed by Bud Selig himself in order to undermine my will to rage against the 1994 addition of a wild-card round to the Major League Baseball playoffs.  Something I have despised for as long as it has existed.

"The Cardinals Win the Wild Card!!" - sounds kind of stupid, doesn't it?

I have always felt that pennant races are an vital part of the fabric of what makes baseball compelling.  I subscribe to ideas such as: baseball is not the spectacle that football, basketball, or hockey is; baseball requires more patience; baseball is more dependent on the numbers and a larger sample size

Rain Man - amazing to watch

(I mean, watch Shawn Kemp in ’96 for 5 minutes and you knew what made him special, but you would have had to watch Tony Gwynn in ’94 for weeks, nay months, to appreciate what made him the best hitter in baseball that year – in fact – out of uniform, he didn’t even look like an athete);

Tony Gwynn - top athlete?

bad teams beat good teams more often in baseball than in other sports, so…

I’ve believed that when you take a large sample size – say 162 games – where two teams play exactly the same schedule,whoever finishes with an inferior record should be eliminated before any playoff commences.  There are a lot of other reasons why this is a good idea and I’ve had arguments with many others about this – but for now it’s suffice to say: I hate the wild card.

So when the team that I care about most the St. Louis Cardinals, finishes an incredible month by qualifying for the playoffs by catching a team that had has had a historically improbable high level of futility.  And accomplishes this on a night when the team we were always chasing, was one one inning from winning.

Then a team that I don’t paticularly like – finishes an even more improbably awful strech of futility and will now instigate a long period of self-loathing that I have to admit I will enjoy just a little bit.  In paticular because the Boston Red Sox have tons of money to spend, get tons of national attention, and have an annoyingly smug fan base.  But if I’m being honest – my animosity was triggered in 2004 when I was living in The Gambia and my sister, who grew up in St. Louis along with me but threw her allegance in with her new adopted hipper trendier place of residece by finishing a letter she wrote to me with a taunting, smug, bandwagony, salutation: “but love them Red Sox” after the Boston Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004.  I saved it.  I dug it out tonight because I’m bitter and paticularly disliked that part of the letter.  Plus it was really annoying to watch NESN here in Boston for the past month and put up with all the “We are Red Sox Nation” / “Destination: October” commercials.  It’s pompous.

From my sister of all people...

So even though tonight – my team qualified for the playoffs – even though I believe that they don’t deserve a potential chance to knock out the Brewers – I am excited that my team had a chance tonight.  Again, a team that was massively superior to St. Louis over a large sample of games with the same schedule (162 games) the Cards could have the chance to undo all that over the relativly random seven game set.  But, of course, without the wild card – none of this would have happened.  Stil doesn’t make it right.


In the same way, the Red Sox should not have even had the chance to make the playoffs since the Yankees pulled away in Sepetember having played the same schedule over 6 months.  But now the Red Sox have completely imploded and everyone here is quiet and the snark/pompousness/has gone from 11 down to 8.

"Greatest Team Ever"

It will never make up for losing the World Series in 2004, but tonight was awesome – and it was made entirely possible by something I despise with every fibre of my baseball existence.

Now…go Cards!


I have sometimes struggled with the feeling that the morning commute can be the best part of my day.

The most interesting man in the intersection

Convention would say that’s a depressing thought: “Really?  Nothing better than that?”  I really like my new job – and I don’t my saying that my walk to the office is tops.

I’ve always been a morning person, and when I got my first job in Indianapolis – I picked my apartment based on not having to cross an interstate highway – why?  I wanted to bike to work, so having to cross an highway was out of the question.  Over those two years I thoroughly enjoyed mashing gears as the sun rose over my right shoulder.

I’m not sure why I am more productive when I feel like I am getting a jump on things – but it has been frustrating that for the past seven years, I have lived right where I worked – and I just didn’t realize how much I missed the commute until I arrived here in Boston and had to walk 20 minutes to get to the office.

The commute now?  Fantastic.

Now that I know I am moving to Singapore on the 30th – it has made me appreciate the walk that much more.

Boston Common Hula Hooper in the morning...

I love the contrast of the modern buildings with churches in the area.  I love the paper salesman I buy from every morning.  He’s great – sun or rain he’s wearing sunglasses with a cigarette hanging out his lips – bitching about Mondays, the weather, or how some guy…

“Can you believe that?  The nerve!  I says I don’t know where that is, and he says ‘You have to know!’ Like I f#@in’ know everything – ya know?”  Long after I have my paper and am gone I can still hear him saying this no nobody in particular.

the bounty


Across the street there’s a fruit and vegetable vendor where I buy two bananas – it’s perfect.  I got my route down the third day after work started and haven’t altered it since.

After I get my paper and bananas – I get to walk through Boston Common on my way to Copley Square where the office is.  I think about how great I will be set to my secret soundtrack – it’s great – I’ve missed it – and I hope to craft a new commute routine in Singapore…


It starts again…

at the office...

Give me some time – let’s shoot for a couple of weeks from today – I’ll finally have something up. Right now? I’m working pretty hard, trying to learn as much as I can while enjoying my time stateside.

To my students, I miss you guys like crazy…

…more coming later