Got To Fly

This is the last post for The Fly and these are some closing thoughts.

A few years ago I read an article about restaurants. Food service is a fickle business even in the best of circumstances. A good restaurant owner, this article said, is able to tell when an establishment is a hit or if it is time to get out.

There is no shame in closing a restaurant, it said. It’s just a matter of reading the market correctly and knowing when to recover your assets before it is too late. In other words, if you take the exit today, you live to play another day.

Over the last three years, I’ve been putting it out there on this blog for several reasons. First, I wanted to voice a few observations that I felt were underrepresented in the current dialog. I wanted to explore some themes like the state of business, government and society, and the varieties of public behavior. In doing so I hoped to discover one or two things about myself.

Second, I wanted to connect with like-minded people and use the internet to build a bit of community  that I find is missing from my workaday life. C.S. Lewis is credited with saying that we read to know that we are not alone. I started this blog for much the same reason.

Lastly, I just wanted a place were I could write what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted, and in so doing refine my craft.

It has become clear to me that–with the possible exception of the third item–none of these things have happened. Or rather, not happened to the extent that three years’ worth of effort would warrant. Now am not so sure that blogging is the solution.

The article about restaurants said that it takes about two years to build your reputation and customer base. By the third year you should be breaking even, and year four and five you should begin to turn a profit.

The Fly was never about money, of course. Instead, I was working with intellectual capital. And I have spent heavily on this effort without yet breaking even. Overall, the results have not been encouraging.

So the time has come for me to leave off and invest in another endeavor.

Thank you to everyone who has visited, liked and commented on The Fly. I have greatly appreciated that interaction.

If you want to continue the conversation, leave a comment below or message me using and we can find a new forum.

So off I go to find whatever is next….

Art by A. Taylor

Art by A. Taylor

Mentor: A meditation


Mentor was the tutor of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey. He easily could have been Michael or William, but he happened to be named Mentor.

Today, then, when we say that someone is “a mentor,” it is like saying they are “a mike” or “a bill.” Somewhere along the line, the name became a title, then a common noun, then a verb. Maybe it’s because Mentor sounds so much like “editor” or “creditor” that we’ve bestowed new parts of speech on it.

Considering that, what should we do with the word “mentee?” Almost everyone recognizes what it means: the person who is receiving the mentoring. But is it a word? Does it have meaning just because people think it does?

The answer is no. And yes.

Mentee does not appear in my dictionary. And yet, a quick Google search will yield about half a million results. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, the word has been in use for only about 50 years.

If Mentor were in fact a real person, he would have been alive somewhere around 1,000 B.C. His name has been known to Western Civilization, then, for more than 3,000 years. That means that “mentee” has been a word for one-sixtieth of the time that “mentor” has. A lot has changed since 1,000 B.C.

About two years ago, I wrote a piece wondering at the woeful state of mentoring in this time, this place. What I had hoped to find when I entered the world of work, in the way of a mentor to guide me, has never materialized. It has left me disappointed and disoriented, searching for what seems to be missing.

Art by Hans Erni

Art by Hans Erni

Over time, along with the word, the idea of a mentor—the person of greater experience who takes you under their wing and fosters the knowledge and skills for you to succeed—has become contorted, it’s true meaning lost as it has become institutionalized, incorporated, and marketed. (Alarmingly, “toxic mentor” is a term in circulation these days.)

What we’re really talking about, after all, is the act of having a more experienced, more mature person (or people) provide support, knowledge, and perhaps even love to the novice learner. While these people don’t have to be that far apart in age, it’s usually the case that the mentor is older.

This inter-generational relationship is how societies have been run since the dawn of humankind. Only in recent centuries have we destroyed the model, making it unrecognizable and ineffective. This loss can be correlated to many of the social problems we have today. It’s time that we revived the practice. Surely we have nothing to lose.

It’s hard to “give back” when you feel you’ve never gotten—I understand that. And what has taken hundreds of years to develop won’t be changed overnight. But like anyone who has had to turn their life around, there’s always the first step of recognizing the problem.

Poor Mentor. I think he’d be shocked to see what’s been done in his name. Maybe it’s not too late to change that.

John Smith, Jamestown, and the Beginnings of America


Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. – Pope Francis

In October 1609, Capt. John Smith, hero of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia, left to go back to England, injured and disgraced, never to return.

It was probably for the best. Jamestown was turning out to be a mistake, contained in a disaster, wrapped up in a tragedy. The settlers wanted to abandon it more than once. It was a pathetic beginning for the colonization of the part of North America that would, 170 years later, declare its independence and become the United States.

Of the approximately 560 people who had so far been transplanted to live at Jamestown, more than 240 had died. The Sea Venture, one of the largest and most modern ships to set sail for Virginia, was shipwrecked with 150 on board. Even worse was yet to come during the winter of 1609-10 when 440 out of 500 settlers died in what has become known as the “starving time.” This is an 88 percent death rate!

I visited the Jamestown archaeological site this past summer. The work done there to date is well documented in both the main visitor center and the Archaearium, but I found myself leaving with many questions. What motivated the settlers to leave England for such a miserable ending? How did the backers and financiers in London justify sending so many to their deaths? Were these people just victims of circumstances or was there something else going on that was crippling their ability to thrive?

Photo by A. Taylor

Crosses marking the dead at Jamestown. Photo by A. Taylor

The answers to these questions have been the subject of debate for several decades at least. But it is undeniable that Jamestown was the beginning of America.

However, our American myth of origin is exactly that–a myth. This country did not begin with noble Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Rather, it began in a swampy, stinking scrap of land in Virginia.

According to author and historian James Horn, Jamestown–the first permanent English settlement on the continent–“was not intended as a model for some kind of idealized version of English society…or as a religious refuge for ‘God’s chosen people.'” Rather, “colonies would produce goods in demand in England that hitherto had to be imported from Europe and Asia, and English merchants would provide colonists with necessary credit, laborers, and supplies.”

By modern standards, though, this colony was an astonishing waste of resources, money, and human life. It is surprising to me that human life was given so little value. Not only were the Indians slaughtered mercilessly merely for being not Christians, but the English settlers were sent to their almost certain death simply because the lords wanted to beat the Spanish and claim North America for their king.

And to make money. Lots of money.

What it boils down to for me is this: The idea that we are a great nation with a manifest destiny founded on Christian principles is a fiction. Yes, we have persevered, but mostly out of dumb luck and not a divine plan.

Are these the so-called values that some Americans want to restore when they say our country needs to be restored to her former glory? If not, what is it exactly that they want to restore?

There is no immutable force guiding our direction. It is we, the People, who have a sacred obligation to set the nation’s course, to seek positive change, to honor our fellow citizens, and be committed to democracy and the Constitutional process.

I wonder what Capt. John Smith would think of America today. Would he be disappointed? Would he see a lot of material wealth without much unity? Maybe. Or perhaps he would he be happy to see that, despite the ill-conceived trainwreck of our first settlement, we somehow have risen above our beginnings and just might have a shot at another 400 years.


Reality Check – A Recommendation

Reality check. That was a buzzword a few years back, and like any buzzword it quickly lost any real meaning and became just something printed on t-shirts and bumper stickers.

But in truth, everybody needs a reality check.

Everybody needs a standard against which to gauge one’s own perceptions. Without it, we would tend toward fiction, denial, or delusional thinking.

I remember hearing once a story (possibly apocryphal) about Pygmy people in Africa. They had spent multiple generations living day by day in a dense forest where you could not have a clear line of sight for more than a few yards. On some occasion, a Pygmy left (or was taken from) the forest, where he then saw elephants at a great distance. His companion tried to explain that these were the same elephants that lived in the forest, but the Pygmy did not believe it. They were too small. They must be something else.

But they are the same elephants. Reality check.


I don’t remember how I came across Greg Fallis’ blog, but Greg has become one of my reality checks. He writes things that I could not write, or am not qualified to write, or simply had not thought about from quite that perspective.

Yet he does so in such a way that it clarifies an issue for me, makes it have more sense than it did.gregfallis

I admit that Greg and I share similar politics, which helps. But he doesn’t just validate my perception. Rather, like a good college professor would, he challenges and provokes, and yet seems to get it right most of the time.

I urge you to visit Greg’s blog. It can’t hurt.

And you may also find him to be a reality check.

To Greek or Not To Greek

I’ve hit upon an idea to save Greece from its financial crisis. Well, maybe not complete salvation, but hear me out.

The Greeks say they’re chafing under the austerity that has been imposed on them. Seems to me that what would help is some new revenue.

To accomplish that, Greece should charge a licensing fee to every yogurt company that uses the word “Greek” to describe their product. The euros would be rolling in, because Greek yogurt is selling like mad these days. yogurt

Greek yogurt now accounts for more than 50 percent of the yogurt market in the United States. Often, it is the only style of yogurt I see in the store. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you.

According to the most recent figures I could find, Fage, which as far as I can tell makes almost exclusively Greek-style yogurt, has nearly $575 million in annual sales. For Dannon (aka Danone), their Oikos brand of Greek yogurt was in the top 3 in terms of contribution to growth, with a reported €11 billion in annual sales of dairy products and “several years of robust growth [in the U.S.] powered by the Greek yogurt segment.”

Even Stonyfield Farms, which I love, and Yoplait, which I can’t stand, have joined the fray.

Anyway, with all this marketing of Greek this and Greek that, it seems to me that poor little Greece should be benefiting. I’d be willing to add a penny to the price of yogurt if it would put a little cash in Greece’s pocket.

Royalties as a percentage of sales is extremely common under intellectual properly law. In fact, the royalty rates customarily go up as sales increase–and we know sales of Greek yogurt are increasing. I say we start at 5% and go from there. It may not be the whole solution, but it couldn’t hurt.

I must confess that I don’t actually buy that much yogurt with the word “Greek” on the label. My favorite brand of strained yogurt is the Icelandic-style Siggi’s.

But I’m not opposed to sending a few pennies to Iceland either.