Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Visit to Zion Canyon, Utah

Zion Canyon

Following my annual visit to Las Vegas, I made the three hour drive over the Zion National Park in south-western Utah.  As it turned out, it was a great time to be there – not many visitors, beautiful fall colors, great weather.  On the first full day I climbed up about 1400 ft from the canyon floor to the top of Angel’s Landing.

Atop Angel's Landing

Above the main canyon is behind me.  In the next shot I’m looking back the other direction, up toward the ‘Narrows’ of the Virgin River.

Toward the Narrows

Then the next day I rented some gear and hiked up The Narrows, where at times the rock walls tower over 1000 feet on each side, and the river is not more than about 20 feet wide.


In the Narrows

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell (2008)


I found the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for sale in the Amsterdam Airport (Schipol), even though it doesn’t get released in the US until next week, and read it straight through on the flight across the Atlantic.

As always with Gladwell, it’s a smooth read with plenty of good stories about success.  His notion here is at least partly quite obvious, that successful people in fact did not just ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ but rather got plenty of help and lucky breaks (along with being talented and very hard working).

But the larger story is uncovering areas where we inadvertently organize things in a way that prevents more people from being successful, by failing to ‘level playing fields’ in areas where we could.  The lead story of the book is about the preponderance of Canadian professional hockey players who are born in the beginning months of the year.  This situation derives from the January 1st cutoff for young player hockey leagues, where a 6-11 month age difference can be huge in terms of physical abilities and skills.  So a player born in December has to be truly exceptional to stand out, and get picked for the better leagues where they will get more attention and playing time.

So a question is how many social patterns like that can there be?  Well, probably plenty.  Presumably the same situation exists in elementary schools, where older kids in a grade are picked for advanced classes more often than the younger kids.  Gladwell suggests a reorganization of things into 4-month cohorts rather than full year.

Gladwell’s book is a fun way to examine your thoughts about what makes people successful, and it will probably make you question some of your assumptions.

Saying Goodbye…

Fog on the Dom

I’ve had a great stay in Utrecht since September last year. But it’s come time to get back to the U.S., so this will be a last look at my surroundings here. Lately we’ve had some foggy mornings and rainy days…

November Window in Utrecht

In one of my first posts here, I had a picture of a plaque that’s above the front door of the building, and here it is again:

Schurman plaque - Utrecht

It says that Anna Maria van Schurman lived at this spot; a Wikipedia entry can be found for her. Last week, these flowers appeared at our front doorstep, celebrating the 401st birthday of Maria van Schurman. The past lives on here.

Schurman flowers at 401

President Obama!


Congratulations to Barack Obama and his family, Joe Biden and his family! This is a huge event in America’s history, a day not only when the first African-American president was elected, but a day when the reins have been passed to my generation (Obama’s just about 6 months older than me). There are plenty of pressing issues that will need attention, and I’m hopeful that Obama will put together a team that will work hard and work smart, finding ways to use the resources we have to encourage all Americans to rebuild and invest in the future. It won’t be an easy job, but I believe he’s ‘ready to go’ and he’s got the right attitude and the right temperament to ‘fire it up!’.

Photo from (This isn’t happiness site)

Bureaucratics in Rotterdam

Bureaucratics - Jan Banning

Saw a very good photography exhibit in Rotterdam this past weekend, at the Kunsthal. The show’s titled “Bureaucratics” and it features square shots of various civil servants at their desks in offices around the world – I remember shots from Bolivia, China, Texas, India, several African countries, Russia, and more. The photos are by Jan Banning, who in fact lives here in Utrecht. There’s a taste above, and you can see more on his web site (click on Photo Series / Bureaucratics to see lots of them). The shots from India are remarkable for the stacks and stacks of paperwork all around, whereas the African offices are nearly empty.