Misty on Design, The French Revolution and Tangents

Misty comes home Thursday, that making her gone almost three weeks. It sounds like she’s had a wonderful time visiting her parents – one of the best (ever?). I’m happy for her. She needed this. It will be nice to have her home again. After her shock at seeing how little housework I’ve done, that is. There’s still time for me to clean! My intentions are good (usually)!

Speaking of Misty, she’s been writing some great stuff ranging from design to linguistics on her new blog, which seems to be quickly achieving some popularity. I always told her she should write. About anything, but, especially, about design. She’s an expert in the field of user experience (UX) design. She was an interaction designer (IXD) before there was such a thing. She’s been highly influential in the design of highly influential (in attracting customers to buy) well-designed products. She has numerous patents, for Mataman’s sake!

But enough singing her praises. Her thoughts and opinions on design are far more mature than many others’ – especially those who are poor designers but use their corporate positions to (not design well) promote themselves as a “brand.” (You hear about this – self-branding, personal branding – all the time (interesting the relation to cattle). People more interested in looking and talking like designers than actually designing.

I’ve gotten off on a tangent. I meant to stop when I said I would back there.

While Misty has been gone, I’ve mostly been working late and reading and being frustrated that working late is cutting into my personal reading time. Thursday and Friday I found myself up till 12:30 AM reading – just taking the time to finally decompress. The overworking – most times – is my own fault for just wanting to stay ahead of things rather than just on top of them, as I’ve said before. Sometimes – a lot – it’s because of others. (Many of the people I work with are LA- or SF-based, making the time differential a little disadvantageous to me. But, whatever.) Already today I’ve thought of things I could quickly knock out – creating a mass invite email to our webinar, emailing various people for status updates, etc. That would be put me ahead for Monday, but it wouldn’t prevent me from still finding other work to do (or surfing Facebook). My question being, I guess, should I sacrifice any of my weekend or personal time to work unless it’s necessary? Obviously, people’s answers will vary – and I think it is based on the person, the job, the situation and more. There will be some who are adamant – militant – about not working on the weekends in a culture filled with people and other influences that not only promote (and sometimes force) working on the weekends and at night as a virtue (and virtue always leads to happiness? Godliness? Right?) and being an intrinsic quality of one with a good work “ethic” (why is there no “leisure ethic” or “educational ethic?”)

your opinion manI still think there’s no clear answer. The entrepreneur is quite likely to work on his or her business nearly constantly. Someone significantly invest in a business, such as an employee or stockholder or both, will work extra to improve that business (though employees may be far more concerned with reinvesting in the business and its workers than the stockholder demanding short-term dividends).

I’m cutting myself off here and moving to the subject I actually wanting to write about in the first place.


 

So, while Misty has been away, I’ve been reading in my spare time (improving my leisure and educational ethic). I read Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Revolution. I was briefly distracted by a different book on capital and another by the same author on neoliberalism but finally got back on track and finished Hobsbawm. It’s the first in a trilogy of books by him examining the economic, political, social and cultural landscape before, during and after the French Revolution. The final book in his series (the one I just finished being the second; I haven’t read the first yet) is – yippee for me! – The Age of Capital. I think I’ve made plain my interest in learning about the history of economics, the free market, capital, debt and, in general, where our current set-up came from and how it became the way it is. I am so crushed with student loan debt. That should easily explain my interest in the topic. Studying this, of course, leads one to modern times, when Reagan and Thatcher introduced neoliberalism as blatant state economic and social policy (though let’s not fool ourselves, capitalism had already long before insinuated itself into all manner of human zip it hippie reaganrelations from marriage to funerals).

It just so happen (or so it seems to  me, though others with better understanding and knowledge can likely see the flaws and gaping holes in the premises of my opinion here) that the French Revolution, as it happened alongside the Industrial Revolution, is deserving of special attention as it marks a historical turning point in the development of modern economics, political economy and ideology formation.

I haven’t read a bloody, blow-by-blow account of the daily Revolution yet. I think I’m working on that now via William Doyle’s The Oxford History of the French Revolution. It is in reading this that I see so many similarities and connections with today. So many of the economic controls that had held the financial system together – then and now – being abolished in favor of the wealthy and industrialists (today’s wealthy and Wall Street financiers and tech bros) at great harm to the lower classes. The phrase “working class” came about in this period.

Nonetheless, my likely incorrect equating of the times aside, I’ve also enjoyed just learning about a time period and event that I felt I had I little knowledge of prior to now. I should know much more about it, but don’t.

It’s not something I remember emphasized in Cold War and just-post-Cold War classrooms. This is really no different than, of, about fifteen years ago when I read histories of Australia because it – as a place and a people – were a gray area in my mind; little illuminated in school aside from the transportation of criminals there. Or my interest in the Middle East, more particular Iran (and Iraq once the war started), and, more generally, Islam and its political use (just as I learn about the clerical abuses and abuses of clerics of both Catholic and Protestant persuasions in France and Britain in the nineteenth century).

I just get curious. I wouldn’t argue that I know anything about these subjects any more (and probably much less) than someone else who has read the same three or four books on the topic.

As I read about France, though, I also think of Misty and how I’m learning about a country she loves and a tongue she speaks. It makes me happy and hopefully that one day I might see some of the cities and countryside described in the book and her own travels with her.

It is strange how the thread goes: My interest in both economics and the French Revolution intersect at that exact event which just happens to be in a country my wife adores. Funny how things work. (This is just the pointing out of a thread of coincidences; not divine intervention.)

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