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Dec 18, 2017

Meeting God on Saturday

Svetlana and I have a new grandson, whom I am anxious to meet. With children, you never know what to expect. The fun is to catch an occasional glimpse of one of many genetic lines, in a shape of an ear, or in a behavioral trait. The profound pleasure is to watch a human life unfold; a pleasure only grandparents have full access to, while actual parents are too busy taking care of their kids.

Whatever our silly thoughts, the new person comes into the world, his very presence is a statement, a challenge, and a profound question. Children are our real masters, our jury and judges. Even if you do not have children, other people’s children rule the world. Do not get fooled by their apparent weakness. They are the genetic and cultural treasure of the species. Their power comes from the presence here and now, without pre-conceptions, as vigorous and as imposing as life itself. “I am here, what is the gift you are going to leave for me?” Under the X-ray of a child’s gaze, all accomplishments look small. The world looks very big.

Children are our best available cure for despair. If you ever wondered whether life makes sense, get a child, visit a child. You will get an answer, so strong and obvious that you will be wondering how stupid your question really was. Or, more likely, you will forget the entire doubting episode as if it never happened.

Look into a newborn’s eyes, if you want to meet God. I am going to, at the end of this week.

Dec 3, 2017

A dictionary of euphemisms

In my native culture, sincerity and directness are often valued above politeness. Like other East Europeans including Ashkenazi, we tend to take direct talk as a sign of trust. We argue with people we respect, and agree politely with people we do not. Well, it works well for people you know well already, and for people who share your cultural assumptions; not so much for people who are more distant, or whose cultural assumptions differ. I have built a little dictionary of more diplomatic expressions, to counter my more natural instincts. I will never be as sophisticated an average Brit, who made an art out of polite questions that often mean the opposite of what they sound like. I am sure others have their own, so please share. It is fun. Like with regular translations, I will use Source and Target languages.

S: You are doing a bad job at this
T: Is there anything we can do to help you perform you work better?

S: Where the hell are you with the project?
T: Can you give me an update on the progress?

S: This is a terrible idea
T: This is an interesting idea, but I am not sure how it fits with our priorities

S: You should spend more time in your office
T: Hey, could not find you yesterday

S: You cannot give me assignments
T: Wonderful idea; would you take a lead on it?

S: No one cares about this
T: Who do you think would be your support group?

S: What you are saying is nonsense
T: Could you give me some examples of what you mean by this?

S: You are a terrible teacher
T: How would you use student comments to grow as an instructor?

S: Stop badmouthing your colleagues
T: What do you suggest I do?

S: You are either exaggerating or outright lying
T: How would other side describe the situation?

S: No
T: Let me discuss with our leadership. I can see a number of objections, but it does not hurt to try

S: No
T: Great idea, but we should really think where the funding would come from

S: No
T: Good point, but let me (or other people) worry about this

S: No
T: Yes