Sunday, December 25, 2005

Sharing Some Thoughts On Christmas Morning

Merry Christmas!

I leave for the airport very soon to fly to Budapest, where I will meet two of my sons, Ti and Tim. We will spend a few days together in Budapest, and then Ti and I will make the 12-hour drive to Craiova, Romania, where he lives for part of each year with his wife, Raluca, and their two children, Laurelin and Ahmet. We will spend time with Raluca’s extended family. The trip and the reunion will be a wonderful Christmas gift to one another, and will be a great way to cap 2005 and usher in the New Year.

So, on this beautiful Christmas morning in Boston, before heading to my family reunion, I want to share a few thoughts.

I spent the final hours of Christmas Eve in Boston’s historic and inspiring Trinity Church in Copley Square. I arrived early for the 11:00 PM service, and was able to sit quietly and reflect. The usually hectic pace of life slowed to a gentle amble - long enough for me to enjoy the luminous spectacle of the candles that bedecked the sanctuary flickering hypnotically from the flow of air and people into the building as individuals and families found themselves drawn to a place where they could corporately worship and celebrate once again the miracle of the Savior’s birth.

The music was worshipful and spectacularly beautiful; the liturgy was apt – both solemn and jubilant; the sermon was simple and uplifting; the celebration of the Eucharist in such a perfect setting touched all of the five senses - as well as the spirit - and made tangibly real the truth of His Incarnation – “Immanuel” – God with us.

In a short while, I will embark on a long journey that will have me sitting for many hours on several airplanes – but the miles and hours will fly because on the other side of the Atlantic at the end of my journey will be warm greetings and hugs and kisses. Long ago, Mary and Joseph faced a long and much more arduous journey. It was a trek that ended – not in a warm welcome by loved ones – but in a cold reception by strangers and hastily arranged overflow housing in a cold stable. Into such humble surroundings the Lord chose to interject Himself personally into human history. And now, for those who choose to welcome Him, we are privileged to stable Him in our hearts.

For those of you who share my Christian faith, enjoy this most special of all days, and spread His love to family, friends and strangers - who are potentially “friends we have not yet met.”

For my many friends and readers whose faith is different than mine, I offer you my prayers and wishes for God’s rich blessing upon you and your family at this special time of year.

God bless.


Words Of Thanks From Kevin Stacy In Iraq - The Boxes Have Arrived

In the last few hours before I head to the airport for my flight to Europe and a visit with two of my sons and my grandchildren, I decided to stop by the office and check e-mail. Among the messages that was sent on Christmas Eve was an e-mail from Kevin Stacy, expressing his wonder at the flood of boxes that have arrived. I am pleased to share with you this Christmas morning the relevant portions of Kevin’s letter:

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Thought I would drop you a note to thank you for the absolutely amazing response I have received from your Holiday Care Packages on the Blog. I typically do not expect much from back home. Not that I don't have hope, but that these are busy times and we seldom stop to pause and remember what still possesses quality in life. Times on the soldiers are draining and often moments of gut check. With less than 60 days left in theater, and the holidays approaching, family and the distance become the focus in down time. We are remaining vigilant, and despite the shrinking time, we remain committed in ongoing investments in undermining and defeating the insurgency in our area of operations.

With that, you can imagine the impact of dozens of packages supporting the troops can have on young soldiers away from home. I was absolutely shocked to see all of them literally pouring in to the office! I had spoken with a couple of troops who found me later and thanked me for your efforts. Everyone was interested in the people who sent these surprises. I wish I had more to offer.

The selfless service and contribution to those who have no ulterior interests truly says something about the circle of people that surround you. I am privileged to be one of them.If you have the opportunity, please extend my most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to those who have offered a piece of themselves to support those who support them. These kids fight every day and never ask for anything in return. Truly, a remarkable time in our lifetimes-when we stay the course amidst continual pressures to withdraw and appease the non-believers. The small moment of honoring Dennis. that is what it is all about.

Anyways-I just thought I would touch base. I know you are out of town traveling the world. I hope you have a wonderful couple of weeks and enjoy the time you spend with your sons. Thank you for the personal gift-it will all go to great use (great selection of music. Tiesto!) I was very impressed.



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On behalf of Kevin and the troops who are enjoying a brighter Christmas today because of your sharing – thank you and God Bless!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

It Is In Giving That We Receive - Tales From Those Sending Gifts To Iraq

Even before we begin to hear stories from the soldiers who will receive the packages that readers of this Blog have been mailing to Capt. Kevin Stacy for distribution to soldiers around Baghdad, heart warming stories are beginning to come to me from those who have already been blessed merely by choosing to participate in this simple, yet profound, act of giving to our troops in Iraq. This morning I received an e-mail message from Randy Anderson. Randy is a former Naval aviator. I first met Randy when he was serving as Co-President of the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School. As soon as Randy read the Blog posting a few weeks ago inviting readers to send packages to troops in the Gulf via my friend, Kiowa Scout helicopter pilot Kevin Stacy, he told me that he had chosen to share the message with several friends. I have a feeling that the stories that Randy and his wife, Bird, share below represent only the tip of the iceberg.

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Kevin and Al,

Below is a copy of an e-mail my wife put together for those we heard back from re: sending packages to Kevin's troops. As you will see, the response was overwhelming.

Heads up Kevin - you're going to need a Chinook to haul the bounty!


The "Box in the Hall" piece on your Blog was great.

"Bird and Randy”
To Undisclosed-Recipient: 12/21/2005 04:15 PM
Subject: Feedback on your packages - A huge thank you from the Andersons

Hello and a huge thank you to each of you - for the package/s you sent:

All told, there were approximately 72 packages sent (w/10 specifically marked for "Female Soldiers"). And that was a tally of only those that wrote me directly specifying the package/s sent themselves. I did not count packages that people suspected their friends would be sending. So, surely, there were others sent. The response from friends all across the country (14 states) was extraordinary. We thought you might enjoy reading some of the many wonderful ways this request had a chain reaction, and how folks we don't even know ended up "paying it forward". Your responses were overwhelmingly generous. The level of thoughtfulness and care with regard to the packages and their contents was incredible.

Some people sent "generic" packages with all sorts of very useful goodies. Others choose a"theme". We had boxes labeled for "a sports nut", "a mystery reader", "a games player", and "an artist (drawing supplies)". Almost everyone thanked us (!) for including them in the experience, and told us what fun it was. One family decided to do this instead of sending out Christmas cards. One participant wrote: "I had so much fun putting together a package today! Fun shopping for toiletries and goodies, getting the box, having (my toddler) help pack it, writing a note, just fun. More fun than buying Christmas presents for some family members who might not appreciate them (grumble grumble)."

We had young and old alike participating - a friend, who had been wanting to find a way for her 6 year old son to be able to communicate with a soldier over the holidays, found the opportunity just that; a school teacher friend who took up a collection from students, faculty and staff and put a "platoon" of packages together; one woman who had told a friend about it wrote to say: "I had one particular friend call crying the minute she opened the email. She had once been a Marine stationed overseas at the holidays. There were 2 years in a row she didn't receive anything for the holidays. Needless to say, she was dropping her children off at school this morning and heading to the post office for her boxes"; one set of grandparents managed to send three packages while visiting their kids who had just had their latest grandchild. They were busy, not only making packages while away from home, but also tending to the new babe and mother, and the two young siblings.

But we were particularly touched with how much of a chain reaction took place - friend of a friend of a friend ... all the way to perfect strangers! For example, one woman wrote: "I just wanted to let you know how much fun I had this morning picking out various items to be sent overseas. I informed the store clerks what I was doing and a few threw in extras from their stores. I went to(one store) where the clerk's sister just returned from Iraq and he helped me pick out what (the soldiers) might like as well. "However, one random act of kindness really touched me. A dear friend of my parents had gone to the local drug store, and while she was there, she got talking to the clerk about her package. The clerk was eager to know how to participate herself. Our friend copied our E-mail on the Xerox in the drugstore. However, she never told us about this encounter as she figured it would be unlikely that the clerk would really follow through. Then, out of the blue, I received the following email one day last week:


When I shared this email with our family friend (deducing who it might have been from the town mentioned in the shop clerk's email) she made the point: "I suspect that many Americans would do the same thing if they only had such clear instructions as yours." This small act of sharing with you of a clear and tangible way in which you could make a difference in the lives of those in harm's way who are serving our nation, has been very rewarding for us. We wanted to share some of that with each of you. In a time where it seems few can agree on anything about this war, it became clear to us that no matter one's political opinion on the war, most Americans support the men and women engaged in it. It may not shine through every day, but we really are a generous, thoughtful, caring people.

May this be the spirit of the New Year! Happiest of Holidays to all of you.

Love from Bird, Randy, Jake and Gaucha

PS: if you wrote about friends whom you thought would be sending packages etc., please feel free to share this email with them for, as said, we only are here responding to folks we heard directly from.

* * * * * *

Keep in mind that these results are from one single family who read the Blog and decided to spread the love. Thanks to Randy and Bird and their kids for keeping the ball rolling. One quotation in Bird’s e-mail struck me: "I HAVE 2 PACKAGES TO BE MAILED OFF. I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO MAIL THEM UNTIL SATURDAY, 12/17 - I KNOW AFTER THE DEADLINE ... I HOPE THE PACKAGES WILL STILL BE ACCEPTED. AS YOU SAY, SOMEONE FAR FROM HOME WILL PROBABLY BE HAPPY TO RECEIVE A PACKAGE AT ANY TIME."

(Even though the deadline has passed for getting the packages to our troops by Christmas Day, it is not too late to participate. If you did not have time before now to prepare a package, generic gift packages will always be received and distributed to needy soldiers serving in Iraq. Kevin Stacy will continue to oversee distributing them to those most in need of a reminder that people back home still care. To review the instructions, visit the original posting in the Blog Archives dated December 5. Let's keep the chain reaction of love and support growing; share this encouraging story with others as an extra Christmas gift!)

I know that my celebration of Christmas will be a little brighter knowing that in a small way the readers of this Blog are helping our troops to feel connected to home. Because of you, on Christmas Day, men and women serving half a world away will be able to experience God’s love – the original Spirit of Christmas – in the form of your tangible expressions of love and support wrapped up in a Priority Mail package from home.

“For It Is In Giving That We Receive”

God bless.


A Different View From Iraq

In yesterday's posting, I mentioned Lt. Colonel Jim Bullion, who has recently returned from leading troops in Iraq. Jim shared with me a recent e-mail from an Iraqi friend. Eba's message of hope and appreciation is such a stark departure from what we are accustomed to reading in the mainstrain media, that I was prompted to ask Jim's permission to share Eba's sentiments with the readers of this Blog. Eba's message to Jim appears below just as it was sent from Iraq a few days ago. Eba's allusion to "purple fingers" refers to the means of identifying registered voters during the recent elections in Iraq.

* * * * * *

Dear friends,

From the country of purple fingers I send you this letter to tell that all the pride I feel now that I have you to thank for, in spite of all the sadness seems to be in the media, there is a large space for new hope that all Iraqis can feel, and this could not be real without your help. I want to tell you that it has been a real honor serving with you, and meeting you. My most wonderful memories are with you, we shared laughs, meals, small secrets, and we shared something that will never die which is building a new free Iraq. You will always be in my heart.

I want you all to know that you will always have me as a friend here. I am sure that all Iraqis will soon be thankful to you for what you accomplished here.
Please remember me when you light your feast candles and let me in your prayers because I will be with each one of you by my soul. I wish you the best in every thing you do. May all the blessings from Allah come to you and we pray for a blessed New Year inshalla. Please give my kind regards to all your families.

Your friend


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Attention Red Sox Nation: DO NOT PANIC!!

Some citizens of Red Sox Nation are in full panic mode today in the wake of the sudden departure of fan-favorite "Idiot" Johnny Damon. Jim Caple has an interesting perspective in today's Page 2 on (see link below)

I tend to agree with Caple's take on things. Dan Shaughnessy also weighs in with a column in today's Boston Globe. I strongly disagree with Dan's perspective.

For my money, this is a thinly-veiled attempt on the part of Shaughnessy to prove that he is not in Larry Lucchino's back pocket. By criticizing the Red Sox front office handling of the Damon negotiations, he hopes to reposition himself as a neutral observer of the Red Sox scene, rather than as an agent provocateur! Dan took a lot of heat for being the channel through which Lucchino/Dr. Charles Steinberg allegedly leaked damaging information about Theo - the straw that ultimately broke the camel's back with Theo.

What Shaugnessy seems to be missing in this present situation is a fact that seems obvious to this observer: that the Red Sox have learned well the lesson taught them by the Patriots. You set a specific monetary value for each position and each player, and refuse to move beyond that determined figure. Clearly, the Red Sox brain trust (and Theo is still being consulted on these matters, according to an "inside source close to the negotiations" with whom I spoke in the past few weeks) determined that the Center Field position and Damon were worth $10 million a year for four years - and no more.

The hot stove league is still in session and the Red Sox brass are still wheeling and dealing. It will be fun to see how they will fill the holes that still exist in the line-up for Opening Day. The holes in Damon's head will remain unfilled for the foreseeable future.

Go Sox!


The Box In The Hall

Many of you have indicated to me already that you have chosen to send boxes to Iraq this Christmas season. The boxes addressed to Capt. Kevin Stacy should begin arriving in Iraq any day now. Kevin has promised to give us a complete report on the arrivial of the boxes and his distribution of them to the troops. You can expect to see that report in this space during the second week in January. (I will be in Europe visiting with family during the holidays.)

In anticipation of that full repoprt, let me offer a foretaste of how the troops will respond to your thoughtfulness in sending boxes. I have recently been introduced to Jim Bullion, a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and a veteran of combat in Iraq. When Jim and I met for breakfast a few days ago, he shared with me some of his experiences as a soldier receiving boxes like the ones that are currently winging their way to the Gulf. Jim has been kind enough to offer to share his thoughts with the readers of The White Rhino Report.

* * * * * *
The Box In The Hall

In July I returned from my second tour in Iraq, completing a total of 19 months in-country and 22 months away from home. That time was filled with many amazing – and yes, wonderful - experiences and memories, as well as the ache of separation, the fear of the unknown, and the pain of loss. I lived on the airport terminal floor in Mosul, in tents at Camp Loki, side-by-side with Iraqi neighbors in Irbil, and in a trailer in the Green Zone. The one constant that sticks in my mind is the constant presence of The Box In The Hall.

During most of my time in Iraq, I lived far from the delights of a PX. When I was in Irbil, a run to the PX in Mosul meant getting three or four vehicles together, with two drivers in each, supplemented with 4-6 Kurdish guards for additional security. The first 45 minutes of the run were in Kurdish territory, so there was little to worry about, other than the insane Iraqi drivers for whom there are no rules for passing on a two-lane highway – hills, curves, rough pavement – none of it mattered, and we drove with fingers crossed and our hearts in our throats. When we crossed the Greater Zab River that marked the “Green Line” that had separated Iraqi Kurdistan from the rest of the country for 13 years, everything changed – windows went down, guns were locked and loaded, everyone watched their sector, and we picked up speed to minimize the impact of IEDs that had killed at least three soldiers on this route. By the time we reached the traffic jams of Mosul, our guards were hanging out the back doors of our SUVs, looking for targets – which they sometimes found. It was always a relief to re-cross the Zab going South toward Irbil after one of these runs.

Naturally, taking such risks was hard to justify just to go to the PX (although Copenhagen shortages could just about do it), so these runs were infrequent and only done when there were other reasons to go to the 101st Airborne Division HQ in Mosul, which brings me back to The Box In The Hall.

In the front hallway of our building, there was always at least one cardboard box sent from home, full of the necessities of life that we would otherwise have to get from the Mosul PX – candy, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, writing paper, note cards, pens and pencils, baby wipes, magazines, CDs, drink mixes (drinking plain water all the time gets old), cookies, foot powder - and so many other little items that made life a little more bearable and, more importantly, reminded us that our fellow Americans were thinking of us. Even during my second tour, living in the Green Zone in Baghdad, with a PX nearby, the Box In The Hall was a comfort and a constant reminder that the folks back home hadn’t forgotten us.

For the many troops for whom a trip to the PX is a rare luxury, The Box In The Hall is a real source of life’s necessities. For all of our troops, it is a warm reminder that their fellow citizens are there beside them.

Another great way to help the war effort is by contributing to Spirit of America works with our units on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan to supply items needed by the local civilian populations. The key to defeating an insurgency such as this one is to win the hearts and minds of the people and to convince them that their lives will be better if they support us and the new Iraqi government rather than the insurgents. This process can take place in small ways, such as giving pens, pencils, notebooks, and other items to schools, and in bigger ways, such as supplying equipment to hospitals, uniforms and even fire trucks for Afghan and Iraqi firefighters. Spirit of America is working side-by-side with our troops to show the people that the American people are big-hearted and caring people, with nothing but the best of intentions. A donation to Spirit of America helps show the world that we really are the “good guys.”

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Jim has completed his most recent deployment in Iraq, and is weighing options for his next career move in the business world. Jim is an accomplished senior executive with an MBA from Dartmouth's prestigious Tuck Business School. His background has given him expertise in a variety of leadership disciplines, and has given him broad exposure to responsibilities in general management, corporate development, marketing, international business development. Based on my read of Jim as an individual and as a professional, he would make an outstanding Chief of Staff in support of a CEO or Chairman of the Board for a Boston-based firm with an international reach or aspirations of international reach. His recent leadership roles in nation-building in Iraq have only added to his already impressive list of credentials and tools. I invite and challenge readers of this Blog to join me in helping this decorated combat veteran to find his next leadership role within the business world. Contact me if you would like an opportunity to review Jim's resume and to meet with him.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Special Christmas Gift Opportunity – BOSE 3-2-1 Series II DVD Home Entertainment System

I have a friend who has inadvertently become the proud owner of two Bose 3-2-1 Series II DVD Home Entertainment Systems. (Description below from Bose Website). He is selling the second one – which is still in the factory-sealed box – for below cost: $800.00.

I will be happy to put the right person in contact with my friend for a win-win transaction. The first person to call me on my cell phone (978) 239-2864, or e-mail me at, will be the first one I put in touch with my friend. He is based in Boston and will ship the system to any destination within the Continental U.S.

* * * * *

Our most popular 3·2·1 home entertainment system. Two small speaker arrays and a hideaway Acoustimass® module deliver much of the performance you’d expect from a five-speaker system.

The excitement of home theater with simplified setup and no wiring to the back of your room. Plus a setup disc to walk you through the process

Features a progressive scan DVD/CD player and AM/FM tuner. Simple setup is made even easier with a step-by-step installation DVD

Bose® link allows connection to compatible Lifestyle® systems for whole-home entertainment
Regularly $999.

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Feliz Navidad!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Mini-Review: "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

This book is so good that I am not going to ruin it for you by discussing any of the plot. The Kite Runner has been widely acclaimed as one of the best novels to be published in the past several years. When you take into account the fact that this is Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, the achievement becomes that much more impressive.

Set in Afghanistan, Pakistan and San Francisco, this tale of betrayal, atonement and redemption has a haunting quality to it. Once the author had drawn me within the story’s strong gravitational field, I could not put the book down. Hosseini helps us to see the world through the eyes of a child - and then a man - who watches his beloved Afghanistan crumble under the weight of Soviet aggression, Taliban demagoguery and the arrival of American bombs. While the protagonist’s homeland falls victim to forces beyond his control, his life suffers parallel catastrophes, often triggered by his own cowardly choices. As the story develops, the main character has an opportunity to redeem himself and emerge as a hero.

The redemption theme is summed up succinctly in this passage that appears near the end of the book:

“I slipped the picture back where I had found it. Then I realized something: That last thought had brought no sting with it. Closing Sohrab’s door, I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night." (Page 359)

This powerful book comes with my strong recommendation.



Friday, December 09, 2005

Announcing "The White Rhino's Favorite Links From A-Z"

Now that I have figured out how to add Links to this site, there is no stopping me! When I added the first two Links - "Al Chase LinkedIn Profile" and "Bobby's Best" - I noticed an inadvertent alphabetic pattern emerging. Since pattern recognition is one of my strong suits, I decided to play with the idea of continuing the theme. When I suggested to one of my regular readers that I was thinking of creating "The White Rhino's Favorite Links From A-Z," he said to me:

"I think with your credibility it would be a great resource."

I found those words gratifying, and they were all the encouragement I needed to proceed. So, here are the ground rules for Links that will appear in this section of the Blog. The Links will always be to a site that I personally use, and that I have mentioned, reviewed or explained in the body of the Blog. In the case in which the Link is to a business or a service, it will be to a company whose ethics and business practices I know and trust, and whose principles and principals are known to me personally.

To play a bit of catch-up, today I am adding Links to Fresh Tilled Soil, LinkedIn, Not Your Average Joe's, and The Ladders - all of which I have discussed in this space in recent weeks.

I hope that you will find this additional feature helpful.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Networking In Real Time - How to Build Your Network

I love it when several minds share the same thought simultaneously. Earlier today, within the space of a few minutes, several individuals made me aware of the article linked below. "How To Build Your Network" by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap appears in this month's edition of The Harvard Business Review online.

Harvard Business Review Online How to Build Your Network

The premise of this article is very consistent with what I have been observing and experiencing personally in trying to balance the many competing dynamics involved in the care and feeding of a healthy social network. Towards the end of the article, the authors make a strong point about the value of "relationship brokers" in building effective networks. As I read this part of the article, my mind immediately turned to a unique collection of brokers and connectors whom I am pleased to count among my closest friends. As individuals, each of these three gentlemen cuts an imposing figure in the world - they are all brilliant and creative entrepreneurs who have earned the moniker "Renaissance Man." Together, they are an unstoppable force for creativity and value creation!

Bob Allard is CEO of Extension Engine and Retention Engine (

Richard Banfield is CEO at Fresh Tilled Soil, as well a principal in several other simulataneous ventures. (

Bob Glazer is Vice President of Operation for Isis Maternity, and Founder of Bobby's Best (linked below) (

Together, they have created an informal syndicate that they are calling "R3" - (Richard, Robert and Robert). R3 serves as a platform from which the three of them help one another to develop new ideas for businesses and services. From that platform, "Bobby's Best" has already been launched, "You Should Meet" is in Beta test mode, as is "Referral Monitor" and "Start-Up Business School."

As you read the Harvard business review article, I encourage you to go through the same process I just did of taking stock of the people you know in your network who are brokers and connectors. Then, look for a way to add value to them by offering to connect them with someone they need to meet or would like to meet.

Enjoy the beauty of this New England snow storm!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Happy Anniversary - The White Rhino Report Is One Year Old

I had occasion this week to visit the archives of this Blog to search for an early article. I noticed that the first posting was published on December 3, 2004. So, this week marks the first anniversary of my introduction to the Blogosphere. Your consistent feedback and support has been very gratifying. I often hear from people who have read a Blog posting for the first time because you have forwarded it to them. I plan to keep writing as long as you keep reading and responding!



Paul Theroux – Travel Writer Extraordinaire!

For me, discovering a new author is like happening upon a gem of a restaurant that serves up a fascinating new concatenation of spices and flavors. Paul Theroux is the flavor of the month for me. I recall that several years ago I read his book about traveling along the perimeter of the Mediterranean – The Pillars of Hercules. I loved the book, and picked up used copies of some of his other titles. These volumes I placed on one of the many shelves in my home that I have mentally labeled: “To Be Read When I Can Find The Time”! In the past few weeks, I took the time to read two of those volumes, and I could not be more pleased.

Let me offer you a soupcon from one of his travel books, and another morsel from one of his novels.

How can you not love a travel book that begins on a cold winter’s day on the Orange Line on Boston’s legendary T – and ends in the wilds of Argentina’s Patagonia region. I have had a fascination with Patagonia since my days of studying French at Governor Dummer Academy under the tutelage of Roy A. Ohrn. R.A.O., as he was called by all the students, had been educated at The Sorbonne, and taught in the classic style. If he caught a student daydreaming in class, he would exclaim: “Monsieur, vous etes en Patagonie!” I am sure this was a subliminal reason for my picking up a paperback copy of Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express – By Train Through The Americas.

* * * * *

Theroux takes us to Guatemala:

“Now there were volcanoes all around us, or volcanic hills with footstool shapes that the Mexicans call ‘little ovens.’ It was cooler, and as the sun grew pinker and a ridge of hills rose to meet it where it hovered drawn to the shape of a chalice, near the Pacific, the gathering darkness threw halftones across the hills. The fragments of white were the hats and shirts of cane cutters marching home. But it was not an ordinary jungle twilight, with the mold of shadow under wide, gleaming leaves, flickering hit fires, and the jostlings of mottled pigs and goats. The sky was in flames far off, and when we came closer, the fire was revealed as enormous: bonfires of waste cane burned in sloping fields and sent up cloud tides that were purple and orange and crimson; they floated and lost their color, becoming white until the night absorbed them. Then this smoke fogged the tracks and it was as if we were traveling on some antique steam locomotive in a mountain pass in Asia, through fog that smelled of stale candy. We roared by and left three men, still hungry on the tracks, ploddingly watching the tail lights wizen and converge, slipping gimleted and neatly out of sight.” (Page 104)

“Churches were built – a dozen of Spanish loveliness, with slender steeples and finely furnished porches and domes. The earth shook – not much, but enough to split them. Tremors left cracks between windows and separated, in the stained glass of those windows, the shepherd from his brittle flock, the saint from his gold staff, the martyr from his persecutors. Christs were parted from their crosses, and the anatomy of chapel Virgins violated as their enameling, the porcelain white of faces and fingers, shattered, sometimes with a report that startled the faithful in their prayers. The windows, the statues, the masonry, were mended; and gold leaf was applied thickly to the splintered altars. It seemed the churches had been made whole again. But the motion of the earthquakes had never really ceased.” (Page 105)

“Anyone who finds a frenzied secularity at a church service in Guatemala – and thinks it should be stamped out – ought to go to the North End of Boston on the feast day of Saint Anthony and consider the probability of redemption n the scuffles of ten thousand Italians frantically pinning dollar bills to the cassock of their patron saint, who is borne on a litter past pizza parlors and mafia hangouts in a procession headed by a wailing priest and six smirking acolytes. Compared to that, the goings-on at La Merced were solemn.” (Page 107)

I admire that kind of writing. It brought back to me the sounds and smells and sights of Haiti, where I lived for a year in the 1970's.

In addition to being a prolific traveler who writes prosaically about his travels, Theroux has penned over a dozen novels, including “The Mosquito Coast” that was made into a film that starred Harrison Ford. I just finished reading "My Secret History" – a thinly veiled fictionalized autobiography of Theroux. He tells the story of a writer from Boston whose habit of living double lives follows him around the world and throughout his life.

Theroux sets an elegiac tone even before launching his story, as he opens the book with this epigram, quoting A.E. Housman:

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain:
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

Through the eyes of his protagonist, Andre Parent, Theroux comments knowingly on the complexities of the human condition:

“But nothing is worse than disgrace. It is lonely and irreversible – a terrible mess. The loud snorting laughter it produces is worse than anguish. Having to live through disgrace is worse than dying.” (Page 69)

It is my understanding that Theroux, this son of Boston, now lives in Hawaii. I hope the day will come when he returns to the Hub long enough so we can meet each other and swap stories of our travels while bumping along on the Orange Line!


Acknowledging Good Customer Service – The Ladders and Scott Barker

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was from a boss of mine, a former Army Colonel, who shared his philosophy of how to motivate people to do their best work. John O’Grady said: “Go out of your way to ‘catch’ people doing something right, and then publicly praise them for their good work.”

Following that dictum, I would like to publicly praise a new niche job board that I have recently begun to use – The Ladders ( – and that I have ‘caught’ doing many things right!

You are aware that I work as an executive recruiter – specializing in placing Renaissance Men and Women in positions of leadership. Since I have been blessed with an extensive network of contacts scattered across the globe, finding suitable candidates is not usually a problem. On occasion, however, if there is a specific skill set and combination of unique experiences that a client company has asked me to find, I will employ the supplementary resources of a job board. There are many –,, Execunet, Career Builders, Dice – to name just a few.

Recruiters often are inundated with offers from job boards to list our job openings on that particular job board’s Website. This recruiter routinely ignores the calls and spam e-mails that come my way every week from these sources. So, when I received a voicemail message from “Scott Barker of The Ladders,” I deleted the message and forgot all about it. I did the same thing a week later when Scott called again. His third message did the trick. There was something about his tone - his gentle persistence and gracious approach that told me he might not be the typical telemarketer, so I returned his call. I am glad that I did.

Once I learned that The Ladders specializes in connecting recruiters and employers with carefully screened candidates with an annual income in excess of $100K, I decided to give them a try. I needed help with a particularly challenging search on behalf of a client company that is rapidly expanding its staff. I decided to do a comparison test, so I posted the same job on two different sites simultaneously. Here is how I described to another recruiter the results of that test:


I just wanted to offer my view on the effectiveness of The Ladders. I tried an experiment over the course of the last month. I posted a job for a Sales Executive in the Software/Market Research space - and I did parallel postings on The Ladders and on Career Builder. The difference in response was dramatic - higher yield and more qualified candidates from The Ladders than from Career Builder.

In addition, I have had numerous conversations with Scott Barker, who is the consummate professional and representative and is a delight to work with. I will be using them much more extensively in the future.

Best wishes.


As I began to get responses to the job posting, I realized that I needed to fine-tune the wording in order to better screen the candidates. Scott Barker was very helpful and responsive in helping me to accomplish that goal, and the results were even more dramatic and positive than they had been initially.

It is such a rarity to receive exemplary customer service these days that I want to wave the flag every time it happens. I am now a loyal customer of The Ladders and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

And it does not hurt that Scott Barker is a Red Sox fan toiling away in mid-town Manhattan! Now there is someone who understands challenge and adversity!

Here is a quick update: I received a call today from TJ, my client company's newest employee. He is finishing his third week on the job, and he was checking in to thank me for placing him with this company, and for giving him such an exciting opportunity. The Ladders helped me to find TJ, and to open the door to give him and his new employer an opportunity to grow together in building their business in the Washington, D.C. area.


Bobby's Best - A New Tool, A New Website, A New Link

In his classic book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell points out that it takes three kinds of people to bring a movement to the “Tipping Point”:




My friend, Bob Glazer, is a maven of the first order. He is the kind of person to whom people turn for advice on what to buy, where to eat, how to get the best deal. In a natural and logical progression, Bob has decided to broaden the scope of his advice-giving, and to offer it in a new Website called: Bobby’s Best.

Here is how Bob describes the Mission of this new site:

Welcome to Bobby’s Best, your source for unbiased product research and buying tips. This site was started from personal passion for helping people with their purchasing decisions. I won’t bore you with comparing the details of various products, my job is to do the work and tell you the “one” to buy.

I trust Bob as a businessman, as a friend, as an evaluator of quality and value, and as an entrepreneur. I know that this site will be a valuable tool for me – and I want you to be aware of it.

I am so excited about Bobby’s Best that I have added a direct link to this site – the first time in the history of the White Rhino Report that I have chosen to add such a link.

Visit the site – and enjoy!


Monday, December 05, 2005

A Networking Manifesto - Bob Allard Speaks

Regular readers of this Blog already know the name of Bob Allard. I often allude to Bob because he is a constant source of new ideas and energy. Bob, a fellow Renaissance Man, needs your assistance with a worthy effort that he is undertaking. Bob has discovered a fascinating Website called “Change This,” which is a forum for sharing new ideas and “manifestos.” (Those of us who grew up in the Cold War era tend to have a visceral reaction to the term “manifesto,” but what can you do!)

If you go to you will be able to read and vote for his proposal: "The Care and Feeding of your Network".

We all know that "networking" - that proverbial catch-all for meeting people and building up a list of names that somehow will help you get the next deal, job, date, whatever - is important. Bob, a philosopher-entrepreneur, who spends much of his time thinking about networks and connecting people, has applied his connector’s world view to the task of honing a definition of "networking" that is the closest thing I've found to its Platonic ideal. Basically, it comes down to "you reap what you sow", and what you are sowing is introductions. By strategically bringing together individuals who would mutually benefit from the introduction (THAT is the trick, of course!), your network becomes a living, growing extension of yourself. You've bought yourself a little piece of “mindshare” from those whom you have introduced to one another. And everyone wins! Check it out. Connect people. And please, vote for Bob by clicking on the link.



URGENT - Christmas In Iraq: A Practical Way To Help Our Troops Celebrate The Season In Style

I have written often about my friend, Captain Kevin Stacy, who is serving his second deployment in Iraq. Kevin called me last week during his time of R&R back in the U.S. I discussed with him an idea that came to me from the family of another soldier. My idea was to invite readers of this Blog to mail a small box to Kevin in Iraq. Kevin has agreed to coordinate making sure that the boxes that arrive are given to the soldiers most in need – those without families and those whose families are not in a position to send Christmas gifts.

I would like to propose that we contact friends and neighbors and make sure that each one of the soldiers has a box to open on Xmas day!!

Here are the details, if you choose to participate:

1) Purchase a Flat rate box from the nearest U.S. Post office. Whatever you send it in costs $7.70. The box is called a flat rate box. It costs nothing at the post office. It is small - 12 x 14 x 4 - so it is slightly larger than a large telephone book.

2) Fill your box with fun stuff for Christmas and a card or note to a soldier and send it to Kevin.

Kevin has suggested the following items as the most practical and the most appreciated:

“Guys LOVE chocolate, magazines, hygiene products...those sorts of things, CD’s of popular music groups and artists, personally-mixed CD’s.”

(ALC personal note: I know that many of the troops chew Copenhagen tobacco!)

3) Mark the side of the box as follows:

Put on the side of the box "Gift, male, person who likes fishing, country and western music, etc."

This should be put on the 4 inch side of the box.

If you are sending baked goods, mark it "Baked Goods" or "Fun food for party"

If you are sending decorations, mark it "Xmas Decorations" on the side of the box.

4) Check the place on the box that says "Abandon box...." because what this really means is that in case of any problems with delivery within Iraq, the package will be given to some soldier there rather than being returned eventually to you as the sender.)

5) Address to:

CPT Kevin Stacy
P 4/3 ACR
Camp Sykes, Iraq
APO AE 09379

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE – It will take 10 days for the boxes to arrive in Iraq from the U.S., so packages should be mailed no later than December 14.

No matter how you feel about the politics of the war, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to send a strong personal message of support, encouragement, hope and love to the men and women who are serving in Iraq.

I invite you to share this idea with as many of your circle of family and friends as you wish. Kevin will do a fair and equitable job of distributing the boxes that arrive.

If you decide to send a box, I would like to know about it. Please let me know via e-mail.

Share the joy of the season!

It seems appropriate in concluding this invitation to remind us all of the moving and apt Prayer of Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.

God bless!


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Take Time To Be Thankful

Just a few words before I sign off to head for a variety of Thanksgiving celebrations.

I have a great deal to be thankful for.

I thank God for my health, for a loving family that includes children and grandchildren of whom I am enormously proud, and for a colorful cast of special members of a wonderful extended family.

I enjoy coming to work each day to a job I love.

I have been blessed with more special friendships and network connections than I deserve.

I am thankful for readers of this Blog who offer consistently helpful, encouraging and gratifying feedback to the things that I share in these pages.

I am thankful for my many relationships with men and women who serve our country - and who have served in the past - as leaders in each branch of the military.

Please join me in taking a moment to do an inventory of your blessings, and to thank God for all of the blessings He has bestowed on us all.

God bless.


JFK Continued - A Mini-Review of "American Tabloid"

In keeping with the theme of yesterday’s Blog – remembering the events in Dallas on November 22, 1963 – I offer a few words about the novel “American Tabloid.”

I do not fully understand why I am drawn to film noir. I don’t particularly like the fact that I am drawn to this genre, but drawn I am. It feels like a guilty pleasure. One of the best films in recent memory of that genre was “L.A. Confidential.” The screenplay for this film was based on a novel by James Elroy. So, when I saw another novel by Elroy, I grabbed it. “American Tabloid” is a raw tour de force of political intrigue and double-dealing. Throughout the development of the story line, Elroy throws together an interesting stew of characters and scenarios that simmer for over 500 pages until it reaches a boiling point in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

The novel ends just before the pulling of the trigger, but it sets us up to understand how such a horrific event could have been conceived and carried out. Elroy concocts a very plausible backstory to the Kennedy assassination that throws into complex competition and cooperation such disparate forces as Jimmy Hoffa, J. Edgar Hoover, The Kennedy clan, The CIA, Howard Hughes, Fidel Castro, The Chicago and Miami Mob and a zesty potpourri of minor thugs and ne’er-do-wells who perform an intricate dance of deception and death.

Elroy does not strike me as someone most of us would be comfortable bringing home to mother for Thanksgiving dinner, but he is a hell of a storyteller.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

This Day In History – It Seems Like Just Yesterday!

November 22, 1963

I was 16 years old – a junior at Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts. I was heading to American History class – how ironic! - when we first heard the news that history had been made in Dallas. The President had been shot. The President was dead. The safe and simple world I had known died that day along with the vibrant young President who had ushered in the “one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” It was all so sad and frightening and sudden and unexpected. As an adolescent, I was growing and changing and trying to figure out my place in the world. I had assumed that the world would stand still and wait for me to catch up. But beginning with that day in Dallas, the country itself began to change at a breakneck pace and we as a nation began to wrestle with an awkward kind of adolescence.

Tragedies and cataclysmic events piled upon one another like cars in a chain-reaction accident on a fog-shrouded highway.

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus

Martin Luther King was shot

Chicago, Newark, Detroit, Watts erupted in flames and anarchy

RFK died on the eve of clinching the Democratic nomination

The Democratic Convention in Chicago turned into an orgy of carnage and chaos

The Viet Nam War escalated out of control

Flower children romped at the intersection of Haight and Asbury

The Beatles became more popular than Jesus

Richard Nixon moved into the Oval Office

Kent State changed from an educational institution into a symbol of America turning on its children and its children returning the favor

November 22, 1963

It seems like yesterday. Those born after that day felt a similar shock and sudden shifting of the tectonic plates of their lives on 9/11/2001. We remember where we were, what we were doing, and recall being riveted to the TV screen for hours on end – hoping that something a commentator might say could restore a sense of hope or sanity or normalcy to a world run amok. That’s what it was like for me back in 1963.

Today, I listened to radio news broadcasts, TV newscasts – and heard no reminder that it was on this day 42 years ago that the world forever changed. We move on – but I still hear the echo of gunfire in Dealey Plaza . . . “and that has made all the difference.”

He was not a great President. We now know of his foibles and failings, but back then he inspired us to dream great dreams, and when he traveled the world as the face of voice of America, we all stood tall and proud as he and Jackie were cheered and not reviled. Those were the days.

"Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot - for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hearing From Those Left Behind – A Review of “A Year of Absence” by Jessica Redmond

Jessica Redmond’s riveting new book opens a panoramic and long-overdue window into the lives of the spouses and children left behind when soldiers are deployed to Iraq. Jessica has worked as a journalist, teacher, Peace Corps volunteer and community organizer. In 2003, Jessica’s husband of less than a year, Jon Redmond, was sent to Iraq as part of the Army’s First Armored Division. One of the ways that Jessica chose to cope with the anticipated year-long absence of her husband was to channel her energies into chronicling the lives of other woman and other families who had been left behind when the First Armored Division was sent to the Persian Gulf. Eventually, Jessica chose to focus on telling the stories of six of these women. She writes authoritatively and with great empathy for the emotional rollercoaster ride that she both observed and experienced. In the rich tradition of Margaret Mead, Jessica took advantage of her unique role as a participant/observer in painting a composite picture of six women - who are given pseudonyms in this book. The resulting collage serves to show the reader a microcosm of the U.S. military in time of war as seen through the eyes of those who stayed behind. The title of the book is an apt description of the scope of the story: “A Year of Absence – Six Women’s Stories of Courage, Hope and Love.”

During the course of the deployment, the women left behind at the U.S. Army base in Baumholder, Germany, struggled with a full range of challenges – emotional, medical, relational, familial, parental, financial, logistical and existential. Jessica walks us gingerly though the minefields of marriages teetering on the rocks, the frustrations of infrequent communication with Iraq, family medical emergencies, and the confusion of befuddled toddlers who could not understand why they no longer had a Dad. The book clearly depicts the monumental challenge these women faced in needing to become – on a temporary basis - fully independent, without permanently altering the family organizational chart in a way that would leave the husband on the outside looking in upon his return from the battlefield. As the lives of these women and their families come into sharp focus through Redmond’s writing, it becomes clear that the men’s deployment to the literal battlefield in Iraq has spawned parallel battlefields back home in the lives of the women they were forced to leave behind. Some of those battles were waged between spouses, while others were fought silently within the confines of the women's hearts and souls.

* * * * *

“Finally, it seemed, the long, terrifying wait was almost over. Almost over, but not quite. Soon after the meeting, still feeling hope about her husband’s return, Beth started her day as she always did by checking the Yahoo! News Web site, praying that no soldiers had been killed in Iraq overnight. This time, like so many times before, her prayers had failed her. The headline read: ‘Five Soldiers Killed in Iraq.’ Please God, she whispered, don’t let it be First Armored Division. Holding her breath, she clicked on the link. The soldiers were from a different division; Doug was still alive, or was to the best of her knowledge. She let out a sigh of relief, thankful that it was no one she knew, but her relief was immediately followed by guilt. The fallen soldiers might not have been her husband or any of her neighbor’s husbands, but they were someone’s husband, father, son, or brother. How terrible to feel relief at their deaths! Yet as much as she detested it, the relief was undeniable, and she felt it every time she read that an attack had taken place not in Baghdad but in Mosel or Fallujah, anywhere outside First Armored Division’s control.” (Pages 141,142.)

* * * * *

One of the questions that played as a continuous tape loop in the minds of each of the six women was: “How will my husband be different when he finally returns home?” They had all heard reports of extreme behavior on the part of returning soldiers – all the way from shutting down emotionally as one extreme to becoming abusive and even homicidal at the other end of the spectrum. Would they even recognize the men who would be returning from the life-altering experience of combat?

* * * * *

“We’ve gone soft, Jena thought, as she considered the sacrifices women had made throughout the ages during times of war. Comforted by the thought of all those generations of women who had gotten through far worse than what she was experiencing now, she felt a renewed sense of determination to endure the remaining weeks of deployment with courage and grace.

That determination was buoyed the following week when Jena visited a fourth grade class at the local elementary school that had “adopted” Adam at the start of the deployment. The children sent Adam letters and drawings and an occasional care package; that much Jena knew. What she didn’t know, prior to her visit, was that Adam had somehow found the time to write to each child in the class individually. Jena was shocked to find photos and letters from her husband posted on every wall of the classroom. Seeing those letters filled Jena with pride. It was just like Adam to do something like that so humbly, not even telling her about it. More importantly, knowing that he had come in from potentially deadly patrols, removed his weapon, and sat down to write letters to school children reassured her that he had not been overly affected by what he had seen and done in Iraq. The deployment might have changed him in some ways, but fundamentally, he was still the same kind, caring person he had always been . . . ‘The soft part of him hasn’t been interrupted,’ she concluded with a smile.”
(Pages 154,155.)

* * * * *

The deployment was scheduled to last a year. Just weeks before the men were to rotate back to Germany, their time in Iraq was extended for an additional 120 days. It was a crushing blow to the men and their families, who had geared the rhythm of the lives to a reunion that now had to be postponed. The men eventually came home – but one of them returned in a coffin. Jessica covers that heartbreaking part of the story with dignity and grace.

This gripping book has been crafted as a multi-purpose tool. It should be required reading for soldiers before they deploy, as well as for spouses who could benefit enormously from the experiences of those who have already trod the same path they will soon be walking. Chaplains and social workers in the military will find this a very welcome addition to their arsenal of resources. I plan to purchase multiple copies to give as gifts this Christmas to the wives of several friends of mine who are currently deployed, as well as a few who face the immanent deployment of a loved one. I recommend this book to any citizen who wants to develop a deeper understanding of the price that our soldiers and their families pay each day as a result of their commitment to serve our nation – at war and in peacetime.

“A Year of Absence” is published by Elva Resa Publishing, and can be ordered on or through this Web site:

The book is also available at Borders Bookstore and Barnes & Noble retail outlets and selected local book stores.

The holidays are coming. Jessica Redmond has already delivered a powerful gift of empathy and understanding. Now, it is our turn to help her to deliver that gift to the widest possible audience.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pride and Prejudice - The Latest Film Version

The film ended, the lights came up, the credits began to rolling and the audience erupted in spontaneous applause. How often does that happen at the movies! The film was "Pride and Prejudice." This latest adaptation of Jane Austen's timeless classic is a delight. Keira Knightley portrays Elizabeth Bennet, and is the magnificent and luminescent center of this compelling tale of caste and clan. Close-ups of Knightley's face alone would be worth the price of admission. Her physiognomy combines all the best elements of Audrey Hepburn and Winona Ryder. The ensemble cast has been brilliantly assembled. I am no great fan of Donald Sutherland, but he is masterfully cast as the impoverished and befuddled pater familias of the Bennet family - replete with five daughters to be married off. He is a Victorian Tevye - with no Yenta in sight to arrange the matches.

Dame Judy Dench is deliciously imperious as Lady Catherine, the harridan who embodies all that was wrong with the class system of that bygone age. Her brief scenes are memorable and captivating. Her character gives new meaning to the phrase: "Big hair"!

This is a film well worth seeing. I could not write a better review than the one that appeared in the Boston Globe last Friday, so I will share with you Wesley Morris's thoughts on this fine film:



The Rest of The Story: More On The Naval Academy - Notre Dame Connection

Shortly after I had posted yesterday's article about the Naval Academy's recent experience at Notre Dame, my phone rang. The disembodied voice on the other end asked: "Do you know why Navy and Notre Dame play football every year?" The caller was Bill Reagan, a Notre Dame graduate and former naval aviator. Bill lives in Wellesley, a mile down the road from my office. To most of the world he is the legendary inventor of LoJack, but to me, Bill Reagan is simply one of the best friends a man could have - brilliant, witty, loyal, encouraging, challenging, and an ever-flowing fount of fascinating stories. When Bill shared with me yesterday one of those stories of the long-standing connection between Notre Dame and the Naval Academy, I asked him to share it with the rest of this Blog's readership. It is appropriate that Bill do so, since the Blog is part of the reason that Bill and I met earlier this year. Here is Bill's "rest of the story":

Dear Al,

The recent announcement that Notre Dame and the Naval academy have extended their commitment to meet in football for the next ten years was warmly received by all. The two AD's, Chet and Kevin, were effusive in their announcements, as were so many of us who have shared a camaraderie which reaches far beyond the gridiron.

I clearly recall the early days of flight training when the Domers and the Academy's new ensigns were thrown together with only one common goal to achieve: Focus on the day when the admiral pins those Navy Wings of Gold on your chest and hope you don't wash out or splash out. When we finally joined the fleet as Naval Aviators, friendships which would last for a lifetime, had been well struck.

Most of us at the time were unaware of the partnership formed (shortly after we were born) between the United States Naval Academy and the University of Notre Dame.

Since around 1860, most Notre Dame students were required to participate in military training. About 1600 students served in the first world war; those who paid the ultimate sacrificed are remembered on the east side of the Cathedral with the University's motto "God, Country, Notre Dame."

In the fall of 1941, the Navy ROTC entered the campus. At the height of the war, there were only about 300 non military students on campus. Approximately 12,000 Naval and Marine Corps Officers were commissioned at Notre Dame between 1942 and 1946. The Navy ROTC at Notre Dame is second only to the United State Naval Academy in the number of Naval and Marine Corps officers it has commissioned in the last fifteen years.

That's my quick thumbnail which you requested this morning, Al.

Perhaps symbiosis is too strong a word to attribute to the UND/USNA current relationship; but it certainly wasn't during the war; and yet..............when I watched the Irish team gather with the midshipmen for the playing of the Navy Hymn last Saturday afternoon.......... I truly wondered.

Benedictions my friend.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Touch of Class - Notre Dame vs. The U.S. Naval Academy

In an era in which the airwaves are saturated with the shenanigans of T.O. and his ilk, it is a breath of fresh air to learn about good old fashioned sportsmanship and class. On two occasions today, I have heard from friends who were present at last Saturday's football game in South Bend between the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Midshipmen of Annapolis. Both individuals were effusive in their praise of Notre Dame's graciousness in victory over Navy. I heard about gestures of honor and respect shown to our men and women in uniform, and I learned about what a moving moment it was after the game had ended when Coach Weiss led his team to the Navy bench to join them as the Navy Alma Mater was sung.

Jim Savard is a regular reader of this Blog. Jim was one of those present last Saturday, and he has graciously consented to allow me to share with you the sentiments he wrote to Coach Weiss. As you well know, Charlie Weiss returned to his Alma Mater, Notre Dame, after a distinguished career as the Offensive Coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, where he served under head coach, Bill Belichek. I have written earlier in this space about the influence that Annapolis had on Belichek, whose father was part of the Annapolis coaching staff. I know that there are many readers of this Blog that are "Domers," many more that are graduates of the Naval Academy, and even more that are big fans of Belichek and Charlie Weiss. We can all be proud that last Saturday, each of these individuals and the institutions they represent clothed themselves in honor.

Enjoy Jim's tribute to Coach Weiss . . .

James F. Savard
10461 Tiger Run
Littleton, CO 80124
Saturday, November 12, 2005

Coach Charlie Weis
Head Football Coach
University of Notre Dame
Athletic Department C113

Joyce Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear Coach Weis:

Permit me to thank you for your post-game ethical demeanor and conduct following the recent Navy-Notre Dame football game. Your actions are the indicators of the principles of your soul. Your act of taking your football team to the Navy sideline to honor the playing of my Alma Mater is a true tribute to your team, your fans, you, and the wonderful and honorable institution – Notre Dame.

As a member of the United States Naval Academy’s Class of 1965, I was fortunate to be present at the last Navy victory over Notre Dame. Every year we “leave it out on the field” in our duel with Notre Dame and it is an honor for our team to participate in games against Notre Dame; however, we have been on the losing side of the ledger in the last 42 games. What Notre Dame Students, fans, your team, and you did today was pure class!

Navy will never “Give up the ship;” and by 2016, we will beat Notre Dame. More importantly than a football victory are the principles, class, and elegance that you demonstrated today. Your actions will be inculcated into the psyche of both Notre Dame Students and Naval Academy Midshipmen forever. Respect is not something one talks about, respect is something one shows and does. In Navy vernacular, there is an acronym – BRAVO ZULU (BZ). BRAVO ZULU is hoisted in flags on the super structure when a ship or an individual does an outstanding job.

BRAVO ZULU Charlie Weis -- you are a true professional and a credit to the humanness of God’s creatures!


James F. Savard
USNA, 1965

cc: Father John Jenkins, C.S.C.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Book Review – “Immoral” – A Novel by Brian Freeman

Make note of the name Brian Freeman; you will hear from him in the future. He has just published his first novel, and it is a spectacular literary debut. This weekend I finished reading this page-turner, and my mind is still spinning from the clever plot twists, brilliant insights into human relationships and surprising but plausible character development.

From the story’s primarily setting in Duluth in northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, Freeman mines a mother lode of suspense and creates a cauldron of intrigue that smelts together the lives of a cast of Technicolor characters worthy of Dickens. As the action moves to the arid landscape of Las Vegas, the exposition of the storyline reveals desiccated lives that devolve into deaths in the desert – both literal and metaphorical.

The plot has more than its share of red herrings; apparently minor characters step forward to play a more important role than the reader could have anticipated. Plot developments spring from seeds that were innocuously planted in the opening chapters. This is a fully satisfying mystery about the disappearance of two teenage girls, but the strength of Freeman’s writing does not lie in the development of his plot. The source of his strength is his ability to bring a literary sensibility to bear upon his sympathetic understanding and portrayal of individual and familial dysfunction. In this regard, he stands proudly on the shoulders of Dostoyevsky – and that is a compliment and a judgment I do not bestow lightly. Like the complex characters that inhabit Dostoyevsky’s novels, Freeman’s fictional men, women and children all exhibit the moral ambiguity that gives credence to the truth that the line between good and evil runs through the center of each human heart.

Here is a sample of Freeman’s prose:

Bob rubbed his long beard and pulled at the tangles. He put a finger to his head like a gun and pulled the trigger.

“You’re planning to kill yourself?” Serena asked. “Why?”

Bob turned to Stride and smiled darkly, as if sharing a secret joke. “You know.”

“How would I know?”

“You’re a man. Why does a man do anything?”

“A woman,” Stride said.

Serena leaned closer to Bob. “Are you talking about Christi?”

Bob’s anger subsided, and he looked wistful. His voice cracked as he stared at Serena. “You look a little bit like her. She had green eyes, like you. But hers were cold. She destroyed me. I mean, just look around. Look at my life. But if I could get her back, I’d go through this hell all over again.”

Serena’s eyes narrowed. “You want her that much? She was that good?”

“Not good. She was never good. She was evil.”

“What was it?” Serena asked. “Did she reject you?”

Bob laughed wildly. “If only it were that f**king simple! It’s like having the keys to the palace, okay? And then one day they change the locks. And you look back and you realize you gave up everything, destroyed everyone around you for a fantasy.”
(Page 342)

This book is a work of art that both delights and disturbs – an apt reflection of the world it describes. I can’t wait for Freeman’s next offering.



Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans' Day 2005 - Gratitude to Those Who Have Served

Veterans' Day is one of those National Holidays that often gets lost in the shuffle. Our expressions of gratitude to the men and women who serve and who have served should not be allowed to drift off of the radar screen of our awareness and consciousness.

My father was a memebr of "The Greatest Generation." He served with the Army Air Corps in India and Burma during WWII, and he paid for his service in the steaming jungles of Asia with health issues that plagued him all of his shortened life. He never openly questioned his service to his nation nor did he ever express a word of regret for his sacrifice.

Many of my generation served in Viet Nam and returned to a nation that was sick of the politics of the war - a nation that not only failed to thank them, but scorned them for their service.

A new generation is deployed in Afghanistan and in Iraq in response to their Commander and Chief's call to arms. My recent trip to Arlington National Cemetery and subsequent conversations with the family and comrades of the brave young warrior who was buried on that day have made me keeenly and painfully aware that sacrifices are still being made that deserve our thanks and our honor.

I spent last evening in the company of the men and women of the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School, celebrating with them the 230th birthay of the Marines Corps. It was a moving moment to see and hear young former officers and current business school students - representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines - toast one another in acknowledgement of the joint mission that all branches of the military share in defending the honor of our nation.

Take a moment on this day to say a prayer for those serve, those who have served and the families who stand behind their sacrificial service.


Mini-Review “The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks

I drank the Cool Aid; I bought the marketing hype. I am a sucker for catchy a nom de plume and an intriguing backstory. So, I read “The Traveler.” It is not great literature, but it was an interesting read. If I had to come up with a category for this book, I would call it a “metaphysical fantasy.” This novel is not easy to describe, so I will summarize it in the words of the publisher:

“Maya comes from a long line of people who call themselves Harlequins – a fierce group of warriors willing to sacrifice their lives to protect a select few knows as Travelers. Gabriel and Michael Corrigan are brothers living in Los Angeles. Since childhood, the young men have been shaped by stories that their late father was a Traveler, once of a small band of prophets who have vastly influenced the course of history. Gabriel and Michael, who may have inherited their father’s gifts, have always protected themselves by living “off the Grid” – that is, invisible to the real-life surveillance networks that monitor people in our modern society.”

There you have it. Imagine a gathering of creative minds – a colloquy in which George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Carlos Castenada, Stephen King, Niccolo Machiavelli, Ayn Rand and Stephen Hawking each contributed ideas for a story. Then throw in a dash of the rantings of the Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski. If you took each individual writer’s philosophical bent and mode of expression and pasted it upon a storyboard – in the fashion of a collage - you would have something approaching “The Traveler.” And if someone were to make it into a film, it would have to be shot in the style of Japanese anime or else using the innovative technique - digital animation superimposed over live footage - that Richard Linklater used so effectively in his groundbreaking film "Waking Life."

Amidst the metaphysical posturing by the iconoclastic and pseudonymous author, John Twelve Hawks, I found some occasional worthwhile nuggets in the narrative. Gabriel, one of the brothers seeking to discover if he has inherited his father’s mantle as a Traveler, has just successfully “crossed over” into another realm. His spiritual guide in this process of discovery warns him of the dangers of hubris. It is a classic cautionary tale that any leader in any realm would do well to heed – whether he be a denizen of the West Wing or a recalcitrant receiver named T.O. who used to fly down the field on Eagles’ wings to catch footballs lobbed his way by Donovan McNabb:

“In ancient Rome, when a great general came back from a successful war, they would parade him in triumph through the streets of the city. First would come the armor of the men he had killed and the standards he had taken, and then the captive soldiers and their families. Next came the general’s army and his officers and, finally, the great man himself in a golden chariot. One servant would guide the horses while another stood behind the victor and whispered in his ear: ‘You are mortal. You are a mortal man.’” (page 368)

The final page ends with these words: “Book One of The Fourth Realm.” I am confident that this is a promise of a series of sequels. I am sure the next one will make for good vacation reading next summer.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mini-Review: “Hope Is Not A Strategy” by Rick Page

Invoke Solutions is one of my client companies. Their offices are located next door to ours in Wellesley, MA. Because of some encouraging early successes with their unique marketing research software and solution, Invoke’s Board of Directors recently decided to staff up additional sales territories across North America. Ben Cesare, Invoke’s Senior VP of Sales, retained me to help them to find Sales Executives for some of these new territories. Ben came to Invoke with more than 20 years of experience in leading sales teams, including a stint heading up Channel Sales in North America for Apple Computer. Ben understands the world of complex selling!

In the course of helping me to understand the kind of candidate that will be most successful in telling the Invoke story, Ben mentioned that his favorite book on the subject was written by Rick Page: “Hope Is Not A Strategy – The 6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale.” It did not take me long to figure out that this book should quickly find its way to the top of my reading list. I have just finished digesting the book. I can see why Ben considers it “the Bible” for the art of complex selling. Over the past several years, I have been trying to learn all that I can about best practices in sales and selling. This thin volume – less than 200 pages – is the best resource I have seen for simplifying the sometimes mystifying and multi-layered process of managing competitive sales.

The book is laid out in four major sections:

Section 1: The Challenge – The Complex Sale

In this introductory section, Page unravels the intricacies of selling in a rapidly evolving business environment. I found the chapter on “Talent and Team Selling” to be of particular value. In this chapter, he lays out the different kinds of skills that are needed for different types of selling – Tellers, Sellers, Hunters, Farmers, Business Developers, Partners and Industry-Networked Consultants.

Section 2: The Solution – R.A.D.A.R.

This sections contains the Six Keys that Page refers to in the subtitle of the book.

Key 1 – Link Solutions to Pain or Gain

Key 2 – Qualify The Prospect

Key 3 – Build Competitive Preference

Key 4 – Determine the Decision-Making Process

Key 5 – Sell to Power

Key 6 – Communicate the Strategic Plan

Section 3: Strategies for Execution

This section is replete with mini-case studies of how specific sales teams or individuals implemented the execution strategies outlined in this part of the book.

Section 4: Winning Before the Battle – Account Management

Page writes: “A friend of mine was an airborne instructor in the Army. I asked him if it was difficult to get people to jump out of an airplane the first time.

‘Actually,’ he said, ‘it was harder to get them to do it the second time.’

That is my definition of a great salesperson. Will they buy from you the second time?

If we oversold or underdelivered, then it wasn’t a sale; it was a lie. Lying is easy; selling is hard.

A great salesperson sells in a way that leads to trust and repeat business.”

I recommend this book for anyone who is "carrying a bag" or leading a sales team.

I also recommend Invoke Solutions’ fascinating new approach to streamlining market research. They are saving their clients time and money while providing more useful and more robust market intelligence. Check out their Website.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

U.S. Marine Corps - "Jarheads" Then And Now

The U.S. Marine Corps has been on my radar screen and very much on my mind for the past week, so I thought I would mention two events that are contemporaneous - the 230th birthday of the USMC and the release of the current feature-length film, "Jarhead," directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes.

The juxtaposition of Thursday's anniversary celebrations that will take place around the world with the release of the film provide a poignant counterpoint. As I understand it, each November 10th, Marines have a tradition of gathering for a Birthday Ball wherever they find themselves stationed around the globe - from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli and on to the mountains of Afghanistan and the battlefields of Iraq. The tradition of formally commemorating the birth of the USMA goes back at least 84 years.

"On 1 November 1921, Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series, 1921. The order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps and directed that it be read to every command on 10 November each subsequent year in honor of the birthday of the Marine Corps. This order has been duly carried out."

(For a more complete description of the history of the USMC birthday tradition, I commend you to this link:

Over the course of the past four years, I have morphed into a role of unofficial advisor, mentor and all-around eminence grise for some of the members of the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School. At any given point at Harvard's "B-School," there may be as many as 80-100 former military officers pursuing their MBA's. I am pleased to count many past and present members of the AFAA among my friends. Last year I was honored to attend the HBS AFAA USMC birthday celebration. It was a moving and impressive occasion as former Marine Corps officers donned their dress uniforms for the carrying out of Gen. Lejeune's order. I look forward to joining them again this year on Thursday evening in the Williams Room in HBS's Spangler Hall.

This past weekend, I saw "Jarhead." The film is based on the best-selling memoir by Anthony Swofford, a former Marine Corps sniper who recounts his experiences in boot camp, being deployed for Operation Desert Shield and eventually Operation Desert Storm. The film neither glorifies nor condemns war, but shows through the eyes of one young man the internal warfare of wanting a chance to see action in battle while at the same time hoping to avoid it. The movie does a fine job of depicting tensions, contrasts and ambiguities - the mind-numbing boredom of waiting for something to happen and the gut-wrenching horror of seeing the results when fighting breaks out.

The film is rated R, and appropriately so. There is plenty of physical violence, raw language, explicit sexual subject matter and emotional violence. I found the film thought-provoking on many levels, and was left with a sense of wonder at the tightrope that our young men and women in arms are required to walk in honing their skills in the arts of warfare while struggling to keep their humanity intact. The film paints an indelible picture of the emotional and relational price that many warriors have to pay when they are called to leave home, and the loved ones they leave behind do not always remain faithful. The pain of that kind of betrayal is depicted with agonizing realism.

How do I blend my reactions to seeing "Jarhead" with my anticipation of celebrating the USMC birthday tomorrow evening? I am reminded of what a large debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who set aside consideratoins of personal comfort, career advancement, safety and security in order to serve our country as Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and members of the Coast Guard. I plan to thank many of them personally tomorrow evening. And through this posting, I extend my thanks to all of the readers of this Blog who have served and who continue to serve.

I encourage you, on the occasion of the 230th anniversary of the founding of the USMC, to write a note, send an e-mail or make a phone call to someone you know who would appreciate a word of thanks for service rendered in honor to our nation.

Semper Fi!


(For a fine review of the film "Jarhead," see this link:

Monday, November 07, 2005


My friend, Tom Glass, is a great source of humorous stories and practical wisdom. He recently sent the following story to those on his mailing list. I paid close attention, because it relates to a subject that is both timely and personal - stroke or cerebral hemorrhage. The story is timely because all of New England has been followig the remarkable story of the return of Tedy Brusschi to the active roster of the NFL Super Bowl Champion Patriots. Tedy played last week - a mere seven months after suffering a stroke. He not only played - he won the League's award for the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Week! The story is personal because there is a family history of stroke in my family of origin; my grandfather was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage while still a relatively young man.

I am pleased to share with you the gist of the story that Tom Glass sent last week:

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed and getting to the patient within 3 hours, which is tough.

Susie is recouping at an incredible pace for someone with a massive stroke - all because Sherry saw Susie stumble and then she asked Susie the 3 questions. So simple - this literally saved Susie's life. Some angel had sent it to Suzie's friend and they did just what it said to do. Suzie failed all three questions, so then 9-1-1 was called. Even though she had normal blood pressure readings and did not appear to be a stroke victim, since she could converse to some extent with the paramedics, they took her to the hospital right away. Thank God for the sense to remember the "3" steps.

Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

1. *Ask the individual to SMILE.

2. *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

3. *Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (ie . It is sunny out today)

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher. After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions.

They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.



Mini Book Review - Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum"

My friend, Bob Allard, is a consistently reliable source of recommendations for books that I should read. A number of months ago, I jotted down the title "Foucault's Pendulum" in the notebook where I keep a list of books I intend to read. So, when I saw a used copy of the paperback edition, I grabbed it - and then, it grabbed me!

Umberto Eco is a quintessential Renaissance Man. His breadth of knowledge puts me to shame. In this novel, he has crafted a complex and compelling tale of intrigue that takes the reader from the Temple of Solomon to the sewers of Paris by way of Brazil - while plumbing the depths of such arcane topics as the Knights Templar, Freemasonry, The Crusades, Rosicrucianism, Renaissance art and science, Stonehenge, necromancy, publishing and European history. Before picking up Eco's book, I considered myself reasonably well-versed in some of these topics, but each page of this novel sent me running to the dictionary or encyclopedia to better understand his allusions to literary and historic events.

Eco has a brilliant satiric wit that glints from the narrative from time to time in sparkling and sardonic prose: "And then you gave it all up. We, with our penitential pilgrimages to Buchenwald, refused to write advertising copy for Coca-Cola because we were antifascists. We were content to work for peanuts at Garamond, because at least books were for the people. But you, to avenge yourselves on the bourgeosie you hadn't managed to overthrow, sold them videocassettes and fanzines, brainwashed them with Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. You've made us buy, at a discount, your copies of the thought of Chairman Mao, and used the money to purchase fireworks for the celebration of the new creativity. Shamelessly. While we spent our lives being ashamed. You tricked us, you didn't represent purity; it was only adolescent acne." (page 200)

This book is not for the faint of heart or the slow of mind, but it is worth following Eco down the maze-like and dusky corridors of his memory and imagination.



E-Mail Alerts For New Blog Postings

Since I posted the article about Dennis Hay's service at Arlington Cemetery, I have had a number of people ask me how they can be assured of being alerted whenever there is a new posting on this Blog. If you would like to be added to the notification list, simply e-mail me with your request to be added to the Blog Alert mailing list. E-mail me at:


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Study In Contrasts: Bob Kraft = Class; Larry Lucchino = No Class

As the sun rises over Boston this morning, Red Sox Nation is in mourning – and it has nothing to do with relinquishing the World Series crown to a team that wears a “whiter shade of pale” hose. Theo Epstein has resigned, and it never should have come to this.

In this space, in the past I have rhapsodized about the Red Sox ownership and leadership team. They have done some wonderful things - both on and off the field. Over the course of the past three years, I have had the opportunity to have personal conversations with all the players involved in the latest embarrassing events and intrigue emanating from the Kremlin on Yawkey Way. I have spoken with John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Dr. Charles Steinberg and Theo Epstein on more than one occasion. So, I am writing not just as a passionate and life-long Red Sox fan, but also as someone who has had an opportunity to observe some of what goes on behind the Wizard’s curtain. Bottom line: I am disgusted and sorely disenchanted with what appears to be a lack of character and class on the part of Lucchino and Steinberg in spinning their way to a media smear campaign to sway public opinion against Theo Epstein as contract negotiations reached a fever pitch and the 11th hour loomed.

All of the facts have not been revealed – and may never be objectively revealed – but from my vantage point it looks as if the following scenario played itself out:

Theo’s three-year contract (annual pay around $350K per year) expired last night at midnight. To the casual observer, one would have expected that the Red Sox organization, on the heels of their World Series victory a year ago, would have torn up Theo’s contract and rewarded his success with a new long-term deal. That did not happen. Apparently, in the past few weeks, the Red Sox presented Theo will a low-ball offer of around $850K/year for three years – not bad for a 31 year-old, but pathetically low when one considers that this is about the same salary earned by the recently-deposed GM of the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays. By way of contrast, before elevating Theo to the role of GM, the Red Sox had tried to woo Billy Beane away from the Oakland A’s for a reported $2 million per year. The Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, recently signed a multi-year deal at more than $2 million/year.

Early reports yesterday had the Red Sox and Theo agreeing to a new three-year deal at $1.5 million per year. Over the weekend, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a piece with information clearly leaked by Lucchino and Steinberg. That Shaughnessy column painted Theo in a bad light regarding an aborted trade last summer involving the Colorado Rockies. Apparently, Theo was furious, and cleaned out his desk.

From my vantage point a few miles west of Fenway Park, it appears that Theo decided on principle to walk away from a guaranteed $4.5 million dollar payday because he was no longer willing to work for an organization that would treat a successful employee with such disdain in order to spin public opinion towards the side of the owners. Bravo for Theo! Shame of Lucchino! No class!

In sharp contrast, in a move that has garnered little media attention, New England Patriots’ owner, Bob Kraft, made a moral decision that I applaud. In paving the way for the return of Tedy Bruschi to the Pats’ line-up last Sunday night, Kraft apparently rejected the advice of his own attorneys, who had urged him to require Bruschi to sign a waiver of liability agreement, holding the Patriots’ harmless in case of any injuries that Tedy might incur in the wake of the mild stroke that he suffered eight months ago. I cannot recall Kraft’s exact words, but when asked about the issues he said something very close to the following: “We are a family; we don’t need signed legal agreements to protect us from a scenario like this.” In this litigious age, that is a rare demonstration of good faith and class! Kudos to Kraft!

I will still attend games at Fenway, but some of the magic has faded. Emerald City is still magical, but the “Wizard” behind the curtain working the dials and levers has been exposed as a cantankerous old man with bad breath and a bad habit of kicking Toto! No class!

Theo, we're not in Kansas any more!

There's no place like home!

Go Sox!

Go Pats!

Go Theo!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Pleasant Surprise – Eating At “Not Your Average Joe’s”

I do not recall having ever used this space to review a restaurant. An unexpectedly delightful dining experience compels me to do so today.

My friend, Matt Knight, is finishing up his career as a naval officer by working in military intelligence at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Matt and I were looking for a place where we could meet and talk about his career choices as he transitions from the world of the Navy to the world of business. Matt asked his friends at the War College to recommend a place that would be halfway between his office in Newport and mine in Wellesley. Someone suggested we try “Not Your Average Joe’s” on Rte. 139 in Randolph.

I arrived with no expectations other than looking forward to catching up with Matt and spending some time together talking about his job search. I was not thinking much about what food we might order. I was immediately struck by the warmth of the staff and the extraordinary level of attention they pay to making sure their guests understand all the options available for their dining pleasure. The menu is a moderately priced assortment of standard fare – but the experience was anything but average. Our waitress managed to being appropriately attentive without hovering or being intrusive. There was none of the pretentiousness I have experienced in other places – ”Hello. I am Francois and I will be your server today. Today we are featuring as our special a charred monkfish, broiled for 26 minutes, and then lovingly messaged with a plum pudding reduction and served on a bed of kelp and Dead Sea salt for only $26.95.”

None of that! Our server came over to take our drink order and asked if this were our first visit to “Joe’s.” When we admitted to being rookies, she said: “We have a tradition of starting each guest off with this basket of foccacio bread – baked fresh in our brick pizza oven. We have a special dipping sauce that I think you will like. On this bread plate, I am adding olive oil to this mixture of grated Romano cheese, garlic, and red pepper. Enjoy. I will return with your drinks in a moment.” Wow – what flavor! I would return to this restaurant just for the dipping sauce and hot bread!

We decided to share an appetizer – an order of fried calamari. It was perfectly prepared – the telltale light golden color that announces that it has been carefully cooked in clean oil for just the right amount of time. The flavor was exceptional.

I order the entrée of steak tips, mashed potatoes and green beans. I confess to not being a big vegetable lover, but I consumed every last bean. The meal was excellent. Matt was equally satisfied with his baked haddock. Throughout the meal, our server returned to refill our drink glasses and to bring us a second basket of bread and a new supply of olive oil and dipping spices.

As we were finishing up our meals, the manger approached out table: “Gentlemen, do you mind if I bother you for a moment? Your waitress tells me that this is your first visit to “Not Your Average Joe’s. I have taken the liberty of putting together a packet that we like to prepare for our first time guests. Inside, you will find a brochure, explaining the history and philosophy of our restaurant. We are now in 11 locations – Lexington, Newburyport and Watertown to name a few - and will soon be opening a new place in Acton. In the packet, you will also find coupons for $5.00 off any item on your next visit, coupons for 10%, 20% and 30% discounts on take-out orders, a special phone number to call if you are planning to visit on a busy night. When you call, we will place your name on the waiting list and tell you how long we expect the wait to be. When you arrive, you will have moved up to the front of the waiting line. There is also a Website address (, and an e-mail address to use to reach us for questions and comments.”

We spent the next five minutes talking with the manager about how delighted we were with the whole experience. Matt and I mentioned the fact that the restaurant clearly understands branding and the value of superior customer service.

As Matt and I left and prepared to part from each other, we said: “Let’s plan to meet here again soon!”

Enjoy! This place is definitely Not Your Average Joe’s!