Wednesday, October 5, 2011

KD/KS in Practice: Recognize What Works!

We don't limit knowledge development and knowledge sharing to the workplace.

For many of us, we also like to look at how KD/KS is practiced in emerging societies.

Now we have an opportunity to give credit where credit is due.

Infinite Family is an organization doing really exemplary work in Africa. Through Infinite Family's mentoring program, African teens have a better chance of becoming productive members of their schools, villages and countries. With Infinite Family, adults worldwide use the internet to mentor African teens individually and face-to-face, filling the void left by adults who aren't there, and providing African teens with the opportunity to discuss, challenge, teach, encourage, befriend, and love.

It's an amazing program, and now Amy Stokes, Infinite Family's founder, has  been recognized as a Top Ten CNN Hero for 2011. The award recognizes everyday people changing the world, certainly the case for what Infinite Family is doing.

But there's more: we can vote for Amy, to propel her to CNN HERO OF THE YEAR. If our votes put her over the top, Infinite Family will be awarded USD250,000 to invest in furthering its work with young people in Africa.

So take a look at Infinite Family and read about Amy.

Then vote here (the link is: 

Please vote and vote often. You can vote up to 10 times per day from each email account until all votes are tallied on December 7th. And please ask your friends to vote.

Let's make Amy Stokes the CNN Hero of the Year and raise those funds for Infinite Family.

What a great way to celebrate knowledge development and knowledge sharing.  KD/KS really does help make the world a better place!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Looking for The Good Life - Making Some Choices

Friend Tom Rink posted a couple of intriguing quotes today.

In Hodgepodge of Advice? Tom provides us with some phraseology that connects with something I've been thinking about for a few days now.

First, Tom quotes an unknown author:

"Live life and take chances.
Believe that everything happens for a reason and don't regret.
Love to the fullest and you will find true happiness in life.
Realize that things go wrong and people change, but things do go on.
Sometimes things weren't meant to be.
What is supposed to happen will work its way out."

Then there's a quote from Marilyn Monroe:

"I believe everything happens for a reason,
people change so that you can learn to let go,
things go wrong so that you can appreciate them when they are right,
you believe lies so that eventually you learn to trust no one but yourself,
and sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together!"

Tom's quotes seem to fit with one I came across the other day. I appreciate both (although I do veer a little away from Marilyn's suggestion that we learn to "trust no one but yourself" - sorry, Marilyn. Trust is all, and when we stop trusting we become - in my opinion - somewhat less - for lack of a better word - than we can be).

Despite my digression, I appreciate - as I say - both of the quotes Tom's shares with us, and taken with the quote I found, there's a useful message for us.

In New York, one of our prominent citizens, Frank Forrester Church IV, died a couple of years ago. I knew him slightly, and always felt very privileged when we shared a brief conversation or two. When Forrester died, he had been for a number of years Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church on the Upped East Side of Manhattan. While I wasn't a worshiper at his church or even much of a believer, I was always impressed with the man's kindness and with his ability to listen. These splendid attributes came through clearly in any conversation.

Recently I ran across a memorial essay about Forrester, in a publication of an organization we both belonged to, and I was reminded of one of the most fascinating things he said. The essay's author referred to the statement as Forrester's "mantra," and perhaps it was (not being part of his regular community, I had not heard him say it but once, perhaps twice).

But he did share it with me, in one of our conversations when we were speaking together on some subject about how people move forward with their lives. We were talking about how people feel better about themselves if they can find time to care a little about others and, if they can, move a little away from being as self centered as many of us tend to be.

In our conversation, Church said something about a phrase he tried to live by (that "mantra" the memorial essayist was referring to):

"Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are." 

It seems to sum up everything that unknown author of Tom's and Marilyn Monroe were saying, doesn't it?

If we accept who we are, if we don't allow negative experiences to turn into set-backs, if we have the confidence just to keep looking to the future and stop focusing on things that are not really important to our own definition of the "good life," it's not that hard to be comfortable with what life throws our way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"...preaching the gospel of information - the knowledge-driven community...."

Take a look at an inspiring new video report about Africa's Arid Lands Information Network.

Read about ALIN here and find out how knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) is happening in places where it's needed most.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

The New York Philharmonic seemed to set the stage for me.

Like most New Yorkers, I was approaching this anniversary with a slight sense of trepidation. After 9/11, people throughout the world had been greatly sympathetic and supportive to the citizens of New York, Washington, and that tiny community in Pennsylvania where the fourth airplane fell. And ten years ago - as we learned how much people cared and wanted to help - we soon became aware that people could not have been kinder or more concerned.

It was an awe-inspiring time in our society, and for those of us directly cannected to the tragedy we all knew and greatly appreciated the many efforts made to help us through those difficult days.

Yet ten years later, as the anniversary of 9/11 approached, most of us had moved on. We are living in a different world now and, yes, one greatly changed by the actions of that horrible day. But we had - nevertheless - moved on.

So I worried a little about what my personal observance of the day would be. In other years, I simply stayed home, going on with my work or daily activities as I could, pausing now and then to remember and reflect, and - solaced by the appropriate music offered by our local classical station (WQXR) - just not making too much of the day. And, I learned, that seemed to be the approach taken by many of the friends with whom I interact on a regular basis. It seemed just right thing, not to make too big a "thing" of 9/11, to simply go on with my life but in doing so to be aware of the day and all that it stood for.

So this 10th anniversary approached, and it was the New York Philharmonic Orchestra that came up with the perfect solution for Mr. Guy: "A Concert for New York," offered free to those who wanted to come to Avery Fisher Hall (or sit in the Lincoln Center Plaza outdoors and watch and listen through the state-of-the-art technology that was available), with a recorded performance tonight on public television and on the Philharmonic's own site.

The work chosen for our observance was Gustav Mahler's 2nd Symphony, our beloved "Resurrection Symphony." It could not have been a more perfect selection. With a visiting friend from Berlin, we got to the hall in time to get tickets for inside, and it was a performance never to be forgotten. We are - many thousands of us - extremely grateful to the New York Philharmonic.

Is there anything more to say? I think not, considering all that has been said by so many. I'm not confident that anything I could say would add much, so I'll share what I wrote to my friends and colleagues in 2001 as we were living through the awful days of that autumn:

"William Faulkner said this is his Address Upon Receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature on December 10, 1950:

"'It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.'

"Is love included in this list? I think so, for it is love for humankind that enables that soul to rise to compassion and sacrifice and endurance, and it is that love that brings us together in the roughest and most difficult of times. Through these times, we will endure. And we will prevail. It won't be easy, and it will require - no, demand - of us sacrifices that we haven't even begun to think of yet. But through it all, we will endure and we will prevail... because we love.

"Let us never forget those we've lost... those who have been left behind to love us... those whose love made us who we are...."

Monday, July 11, 2011

David Brooks Helps Us Understand Ourselves: "The Social Animal"

One of best entries into the spring (now summer) reading sweepstakes has been The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, by David Brooks. I highly recommend Brooks's book, and I found myself getting all caught up in the growth and development, transitions, adventures, and final resolutions of the couple Brooks uses to convey his message.

Harold and Erica are a fictional couple, and Brooks cleverly uses them as the vehicle, so to speak, to express his many ideas about the role of non-cognititive influences in our lives. Some reviewers didn't much like the technique, but it certainly worked for me. And despite to rough treatment from some of his critics (one reviewer stated that the fictional characters "do not come to life" and referred to them and others in the story as "mannequins for the display of psychological and social generalizations," a depiction that - to me - is 'way off base), Brooks's imaginary couple is a makes sense. Using this technique is a very good way for Brooks to tell his story and make his point.

Let me explain: I spend my professional life dealing with knowledge management (KM) and what we call - in our industry - knowledge services. One of the accepted tenets of good KM is story-telling. Why? Because it has been a technique used throughout mankind's history (well, as far as we know) and we know it works. Certainly for the last several thousand years, we've conveyed ideas and illustrated what needed to be conveyed by putting the content into a story of some kind. Much energy and effort has gone into the study of story-telling, and everybody accepts that it's easier to make a point with a story than simply to state and re-state a lot of facts.

So let's cut David Brooks a little slack here. He has some very good points to make, and if he chooses to make those points through characters he creates, why not? And his message is an important one, for Brooks is sharing the idea that the conscious decision-making "tools" we've come to accept over the years are supplemented - often to a great degree - by non-cognitive influences that we don't have much control over, or give much thought to.

Here's how Brooks described this idea in an essay obviously closely related to the book ("Social Animal: How the New Sciences of Human Nature Can Help Make Sense of a Life," in The New Yorker of January 17th of this year):

"Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind. Far from being dryly materialistic their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows. They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has least to say. Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy."

Of course. And thanks to being to read about how all these different and hardly acknowledged (by most of us, at least) influences affect how Harold and Erica live their lives, Brooks has helped me understand some of what goes on in my life. And in the lives of lots of people with whom I interact on a regular basis.

"Mannequins"? Hardly.

Thanks, David Brooks, for providing me with such a well-told story and at the same time teaching me something about myself and the world I live in.

Monday, July 4, 2011

America's Birthday

The Fourth of July is a very special holiday for all Americans, and all of us have our own way of celebrating. Of course there's the now-obligatory picnic, although nowadays it's more likely to be a barbeque with friends instead of a drive down the road to a picnic on the grass. And some places still have parades, and almost everywhere there are fireworks and band concerts and just lots and lots of celebrating.

Patriotic music is a big part of the picture, and some of our radio stations spend the entire day (or an entire week-end, as with this year's four-day week-end, thanks to the Fourth of July being on a Monday) playing nothing but "patriotic" or, at the very least, "all-American" music, honoring many of the great American composers. So we hear a lot of Copland and Ives and Ned Rorem and many, many American folk songs. All great fun, and all very appropriate.

And as it turns out, one of our most beloved 19th-century American composers, Stephen Foster, was born on July 4th, so we get a big dose of Stephen Foster as well (ever wonder what he had in mind when he wrote about Jeannie with the light brown hair "tripping where the bright steams play"? was she falling on her face in the river and he thought that was romantic?).

OK. We'll move away from the disrespectful.

Back to American music. At my house, the playing of the Peter Wilhousky arrangement of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has been part of the ritual for as long as I can remember. During the big day itself - or even, as I say, over a long holiday week-end if we are that lucky - we'll hear many different arrangements (both orchestral and choral) of this stirring anthem. And even though it is a Christian hymn, non-Christian Americans don't think of the piece as divisive or "slanted" or even particularly religious, simply because it came into our culture as a campfire spiritual and became one of the most inspirational songs of the American Civil War in the 1860s. It's part of our musical heritage and our historical legacy.

The Wilhousky arrangement was special in our family because it was the one we learned in our high-school chorus (and our teacher, Mrs. Marie Reynolds Dobbs, still lives in Radford, VA and hopefully, if someone shows her this post, her memories will be as happy as mine as we think about this great national hymn). Wilhousky was a popular American composer, orchestra leader, and music educator, and he became famous for his arrangement of "The  Battle Hymn of the Republic" which is, according to some, probably the most famous arrangement of the hymn after the 1940s in the United States.

That fame was greatly strengthened in the 1950s or so (perhaps a little later - one big concert in New York was on November 6, 1958) when the 330-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the great Eugene Ormandy, teamed up to tour the country. Among the most popular selections performed on the tour was Wilhousky's arrangement, and with the publication of the LP of some of the selections performed on tour, Julia Ward Howe's hymn became standard fare for every chorus in the country. And I was lucky to be singing in one of them.

My own LP (actually, there were eventually two) is now long-gone, but there's a very decent (and definitely stirring) performance available on YouTube. No, it's not the Philadelphia and there's no Eugene Ormandy but it's pretty powerful. Have a listen - go here and you won't come away unmoved. It's a performance of the choir on tour at the Chautauqua Institution, recorded on June 23, 2008.

Almost equally stirring - for this listener - was Sunday's broadcast of Kent Tritle's The Choral Mix, broadcast on WQXR in New York (and hopefully syndicated throughout America). It was a super show, and this one - appropriately enough - featured performances of the Singing Sergeants of the United States Air Force. And yes, the broadcast ended with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" - not the Wilhousky arrangement but a super-stirring performance anyways.

Happy Birthday, America.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The New Croton Dam / Croton Gorge Park - Another of New York's Hidden Treasures

A great pleasure of living in this place is the discovery of these "hidden treasures," places one can visit and enjoy and, often, without any special or costly effort. The Croton Dam Reservoir is such a place, hidden away up in Westchester County, not anywhere near the big and well-traveled interstate highways, and just there for those who know about them.

Our crowd first discovered the Croton Dam about three years ago when we were out for a Saturday drive with a couple of elderly friends. We drove over a bridge we had crossed many times, saw a nicely paved side road and decided to drive down that road. There was hardly any traffic, and we were a little surprised when a car drove up behind us and the driver blinked his lights, apparently trying to signal us. He passed us, then pulled off the road and indicated we should pull off as well.

This man looked respectable enough (although our "safety-first instincts" did make us wonder if we should pull over and speak to someone we didn't know), so we took a chance. I rolled down the window and he said, "I can see by the way you're driving that your out for a ride. Is this your first time here?"

We said it was, and he said, "Well, just be sure you enjoy all there is to see. Have you ever been to the dam?"

"What dam?"

He grinned, and gave us directions for a short drive down the road to the New Croton Dam, which holds back the water of the Croton Reservoir (or part of it - apparently the so-called "Croton Reservoir" is a series of reservoirs). He told us about Croton Gorge Park, some 97 acres of grassland just below the dam, where visitors can picnic, loll on the grass, or - if they're ambitious enough - climb up the steep hill to level themselves with the top of the dam (it's where the Old Croton Trail begins, if hiking is your thing), and then walk across for unbelievable views of this splendid countryside.

We were impressed. And no longer frightened! So we thanked him, and off we went, for one of the most remarkable experiences we've had in our drives about. And our elderly ladies couldn't have been happier.

The New Croton Dam is an amazing engineering accomplishment. Westchester County's website provides the information (and explains why the dam is referred to as "new," since the "old" dam now sits deep down in the water of the reservoir):

"The Old Croton Dam, built to supply New York City with water, was the first large masonry dam in the United States. Completed in 1842, it was the prototype for many municipal water supply dams in the east during the mid-nineteenth century. The city’s needs, however, soon outgrew the Croton Dam water supply. Consequently, work began on the New Croton Dam, also called the Cornell Dam because of its location on land purchased from A.B. Cornell, in 1893. Completed in 1907, the Cornell Dam stands over 200 feet high. The Croton Reservoir has a capacity of about 34 billion gallons of water with a watershed covering 375 miles."

And here's the kicker: our ladies - one 85 and the other 89 - had lived in New York City all their lives, and neither had ever been to this place before! As of course neither had we, and we can't keep it to ourselves, so go to New Croton Dam (May 21, 2011) to see more of Mr. Guy's photos.

It was a remarkable experience, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Now we return from time to time (it's only about an hour's drive - or less - from where we live in Manhattan), often just to see the place but, when the weather's nice, for a picnic with friends. Great fun!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


We New Yorkers take great pride in having so many cultural activities at hand, and truth to tell, thanks to an ever-growing interest in the arts throughout America, New York isn't all that unique anymore. Some of our country's best theater performances take place in other places, and certainly New York has its competition when it comes to "serious" theater.

Still, we do have some special activities, brought about - I would guess - because there is a such critical mass in the area. We have lots of people who will spend money to see a classic or less-popular play, and the current revival of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" is a good case in point.

Returning to Broadway after 16 years or so, this wonderful story connecting modern England to what one commentator refers to as "pseudopastoral" England provides a delightful intellectual journey over the years. Always stimulating, the play tends to keep listeners either on the edge of their seats (so they won't miss a single reference) or they leave at the intermission. There doesn't seem to be any "in-between" with respect to Stoppard's verbiage, and you can see why. He loves words, and when I read a rather tiresome review of this revival a few months back, my first reaction was "This critic doesn't like language - he doesn't like words." (A pretty sad commentary, in fact, about someone who makes his living as a writer.)

The play is great fun, ostensibly about life in 1803 when the landed gentry were changing their landscaped gardens from (their version of) "classical" to something more rustic (and equally artificial), a sort of ersatz "gothic" or "nature"-like form. There is even reference to the great English landscape designer Humphry Repton, complete with a dummied-up prop representing the "before-and-after" book he showed to clients, with pop-up type cutouts demonstrating how the gardens would look when transformed by himself and his workers, except that the cutouts are backwards from the Repton books. (Or, as described by Stoppard in the script: "The sketch book is the work of Mr. Noakes, who is obviously an admirer of Humphry Repton's 'Red Books.' The pages, drawn in watercolours, show 'before' and 'after' views of the landscape, and the pages are cunningly cut to allow the latter to be superimposed over portions of the former, though Repton did it the other way round.")

The early 19th-century scenes in the great house are cleverly contrasted with a second tale - taking place in the same rooms - set in the present, and much of the fun comes from watching the interplay of the two periods of time (and their people), plus trying to figure out the certain mysteries that are sneaked into the dialog.

No matter. Stoppard's ability to combine good story-telling with magnificent word-play leads to a charming evening, full of fun and puns and silly (and sometimes very serious) references. I always feel like I have had a wonderful time of it whenever I leave one of Stoppard's plays. I've been stretched, so to speak, and that was certainly the case with this revival of "Arcadia." I saw the play first at London's famous old Theatre Royal Haymarket back in 1993, the year it opened. It had a wonderful cast, and I loved Felicity Kendal as the leading actress and Rufus Sewell as the young tutor, a role Billy Crudup made famous when he made his Broadway debut in the part. I saw Crudup then, when I saw the play again in New York, and I was delighted to see him back in this revival. This time, thought, he is in a role - the leading man (or one of them) - that is as different as light from day from his role as Septimus Hodge, the tutor.

Sadly, as is often the case with revivals of well-established works, this version of "Arcadia" is a limited run, closing at the end of June. Will I try to go again, for another night of intellectual stimulation and pleasure? We'll see.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Farewell to Dame Joan Sutherland

Many thanks to the Metropolitan Opera Guild for the beautiful program in memory of Dame Joan Sutherland, presented last Tuesday night (May 17, 2011). Since her death on October 10, 2010, there had been two memorial services, including a State Memorial Service on November 9, 2010 at the Sydney Opera House and a service held in Westminster Abbey on February 15, 2011.

This program, though, seemed to have been more "personal" in concept, and that seems just right. Sutherland had a very special place in the hearts and minds of her many American friends and fans, and it was good to have a remembrance event that was organized - obviously by intention - to capture both the professional strengths of this hard-working woman's career and the happier, more down-to-earth approach to her work (and to her life) that she will always be remembered for.

The Guild's program was titled "Stupenda!" and it was appropriate, since the public and the press had anointed her "la stupenda" after her Italian debut, in Venice at Teatro La Fenice in 1960. The name stuck (indeed, there's even a marvelous statue of Sutherland with that name at the Royal Botanical Gardens near Melbourne), and it made sense to title Tuesday's program with a word much associated with this great lady.

And there was an appropriate sub-title, too, "A Loving Tribute." It couldn't have been a more accurate description for the evening. Even the theater itself was chosen with loving care, New York's famous old theater, Town Hall, which had been the site of Sutherland's New York debut in February 1961, in a concert performance of Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda. After her long-awaited recognition as a (perhaps the) leading opera singer performing the bel canto repertoire, recognition which came with her performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on February 17, 1959 in Franco Zeffirelli's production of "Lucia di Lammermoor," Sutherland had made her American debut at the Dallas Opera in 1960, and then she came to the Metropolitan Opera on 26 September 1961, singing Lucia to almost-unheard-of acclaim.

As a devoted fan I spent many well-remembered and very special hours in attendance at Sutherland's performances at the Met, and more often then not, listening to her whenever she appeared in a Saturday afternoon opera on the old Texaco (now Toll Brothers) radio broadcasts. Once I had arrived in New York, in the late sixties, I was at the opera house for many of her performances, and often at her concerts as well, including those with Lucio Pavorotti after he became a big star. There were also several - if I'm remembering correctly - hugely successful recitals at the Met, some on Sunday afternoons. A special memory of mine is her performance in the Met's 100th anniversary gala in 1983 (October 22). At that splendid day-long event, Sutherland - with Bonynge conducting - closed the first half of the afternoon program with Rossini's "Bel raggio lusinghier" from Semiramide, bringing down the house! It was a special delight to me and I still have fun re-playing my nearly worn-out old video of that performance! Like her final appearance for us in New York, in a concert at the Met in 1989, this is one of my happiest Joan Sutherland memories.

Marilyn Horne, Sutherland's great friend and professional colleague, was the host for the tribute program. It was a delightful and very well-organized event (and of special note, it should be noted, was the excellence of the video and other technical preparations and implementation - whoever did this did a splendid job). The entire program was all designed to provide us with an accurate demonstration of Sutherland's big, full voice, including excerpts from many opera performances, concerts, recitals, and even the television shows. Yes, there she was, on "The Ed Sullivan Show." And, yes! On "The Dinah Shore Show"! Not only was Sutherland's amazing talent on display, we got to enjoy the light-hearted and very funny side of her personality as well.

As I said, the planning for the event also demonstrated that the program had been arranged with loving care, and the comments and shared memories of such musical luminaries as Sherrill Milnes, Spiro Malas, Regina Resnik, Martina Arroyo, and, finally, Conductor Richard Boynenge, all brought Sutherland again to us for one last time. Boynenge's remarks were particularly poignant, for not only had their long marriage been truly a personal and professional partnership, his obvious respect for and encouraging role in Sutherland's success came through sweetly and touchingly. He is obviously very proud - as he should be - to have been with her throughout her long career.

All of us who love great music are very indebted to the Metropolitan Opera Guild for putting this together, and indeed, to both the Guild and to BNY Mellon Wealth Management, corporate sponsors for the program. We are very grateful to all the people involved in this loving tribute, for enabling us to share these very precious memories.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More of Central Park

A few more comments about my nice excursion into Central Park last Friday, my afternoon full of walking, enjoying the spring flowers and happy to be having a break from the usual busy schedule. Just wandering about, with no particular goals in mind. Just strolling on toward downtown, toward my own neighborhood.

About halfway down the park, after I tired of looking at the scenery, I stopped at the Boathouse for a coffee and spent a terrific hour continuing with David Brooks' The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. [Isn't the iPad 2 great? I like the Kindle app on the iPad 2 better than the Kindle!] Terrific book, and a super way to while away some time in a beautiful setting.

Then on with the walk, all around to Bethesda Fountain, a popular gathering place for all sorts of New Yorkers. And why not, on such a day? According to some, Bethesda Terrace (of which the fountain is merely the central element) is the "defining feature" of Central Park, but I might argue with that.

I would not argue the beauty of the spot, though. Designed by English-born architect and designer Jacob Wrey Mould, a close collaborator of Calvert Vaux, Bethesda Terrace is best known for all the carvings throughout the design. I failed to do justice to them with my photographs last Friday (so watch for an update in the not-too-distant future - I'll take another day just to capture the carvings at the Bethesda Terrace) In the meantime we can delight in The Angel of the Waters Fountain (also known simply as "The Bethesda Fountain" of course), dedicated in 1873, the work of Emma Stebbins, the first woman sculptor commissioned by the City of New York to create a major work.

My Friday walk continued on down The Mall, intentionally designed to be the only straight line in the park (that tells us a little about what Olmsted and Vaux had in mind, doesn't it?). At the end of The Mall, at a section sometimes called "Literary Walk" - I presume because of the literary figures whose statues are there) - I had fun surveying some of the statues and thinking about what life must have been like when they were erected in the 1870s and 1880s. Then another few minutes resting, looking across the end of the park at our beloved Plaza Hotel, still a great monument to an earlier, more graceful time in New York's history.

A few photos commemorating my walk are at More Central Park Springtime Photos.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Springtime in New York's Central Park

Spring comes to New York's Central Park
For those of us who live in New York, there are plenty of times for quiet thought and life without the daily stresses that seem to characterize urban living in the minds of so many people.

Indeed, the idea of our city as a loud, disruptive place probably comes from somewhere else; it's been my experience for the entire time I've lived in New York (won't tell you how long) that when a New Yorker wants to find a quiet space, he'll know where to go.

And sometimes it's a place where there are lots of other people, but the space is so grand that we don't interact with each other unless we decide to.

Central Park is one of those places. I recently decided to take an afternoon off and head for the park. Often called "the nation's backyard" (a nickname I've never really figured out, because it's really New Yorkers who take advantage of this "backyard" - oh, well), Central Park's 843 acres are the product of the great minds of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. These great masters spent over ten years building the park, and while many people seem to think the park is the last remaining vestige of the city's "natural" land forms, they're wrong. The park is completely man-made, and (as Sara Cedar Miller points out in the best of the many books on the park, Central Park: An American Landscape), in the 1850s it was "America's greatest example of the marriage of aesthetics and engineering."

"Cleopatra's Needle"
I love the park, and I never tire of sneaking a peek at some of the less obvious things to look at. I love the way the statues often seem to suddenly appear amidst some foliage (especially when blooming, like right now). On Friday I had fun with the Carl Conrad statue of Alexander Hamilton, which could easily - in all the blossoms - have been missed. And demonstrating that New York was not to be outdone by European cities with their placement of ancient monuments within the city's borders, our popular "Cleopatra's Needle" truly is an ancient obelisk, dating from c. 1450 B.C. Its placement in the park, though, separates New York a little from its European urban precursors, since they put their ancient obelisks in prominent locations, usually a public square (and that was what Vaux wanted to do, but he didn't win that battle).

Friday's springtime-in-the-park photographs can be see here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Travel Writing: Freya Stark
Long before many of us started to put pen-to-paper (as the old saying goes), there were travel writers galore. Indeed, whole libraries are devoted to travel writing, so we amateurs are always on the lookout for good examples.

One of my favorite authors, going back to my childhood (I have no idea who introduced me to her writings) is Freya Stark. An amazing lady, Stark (1893-1993) was famous for her story-telling, and the exotic lands she went to simply provided yet one more structure on which she could frame her stories. Claudia Roth Pierpont writes about Stark in "East is West: Freya Stark's Travels in Arabia" in the April 18, 2011 issue of The New Yorker and notes, "As an explorer, Stark could claim no major discoveries, but her acute observations and her surveying skills had earned her professional respect and, for cartographic contributions, a Royal Geographic Society award."

So she was more than a story-teller. But those "acute observations," together with an strong talent for getting to know the people she was meeting and listening to what they had to say, provided the foundation on which her descriptions of her travels through Syria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Yemen were built. Pierpont's commentary even includes a sort of mini-essay on slavery as practiced in that region of the world when Stark was travelling there. Another describes Stark's efforts to build the Brotherhood of Freedom ("her proudest accomplishment," Pierpont writes), which Stark set up to counter the efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood - which had been around for a while for "training Arab fighters against foreign domination." For this little adventure, Stark's chosen techniques were personal freedom and secular democracy. And, as Pierpont puts it, "the method of spreading these values was Stark's great specialty: talk." All of which worked, as the Brotherhood of Freedom grew eventually to claim tens of thousands of members.

"Proudest accomplishment" indeed.

The Pierpont essay proceeds from the reissue - by Modern Library and I.B. Taurus - of many of Stark's books. In itself, Pierpont's article is fascinating, and a delightful biographical read, providing us with much about Stark that I suspect many of us never knew. A good read.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Guy's African Family (Complete with Namesake)

As these African notes begin to wind down (after all, it's now been nearly four months since I left Nairobi and the wonderful friends I got to know throughout Kenya), it seems appropriate to share a few more photographs of my African "family." While I had noted the relationship in a previous post, there had not been time to edit the photographs, and I published just a couple.

Here's what I wrote in that December 31, 2010 post:

Another highlight was a visit to Nyanguru Village, to go to Charles's home and visit with his children and be with his and Jane's family. I had visited Nyanguru Village, near Kisii, earlier in the year because Mr. Charles (who started out as my driver and quickly became one of my best friends in Kenya) had invited me to get to know his family. Go here to read about that visit. 

Although I had been to Nyanguru Village before, this visit in December was very special because now I was going to have the opportunity to visit my African namesake. Claire Kwamboka Ombongi Masese, born just a few weeks earlier, is names for Charles's recently deceased sister, and her first name is taken from my last name. I was very honored when Charles and Jane connected to "St. Clair" and chose to name their baby Claire. We're calling her "Angel Claire," which is her daddy's special name for her. It was a wonderful day in Nyanguru Village (and in Mr. Guy's heart) when we went to see Claire and all of Charles's wonderful family.

Now I have the photographs of that family gathering, at Charles and Jane's house on December 22, 2010. You can view them here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Back to Africa: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (6): Leaving Tanzania

[Despite the confusing title, I'm not back in Africa. Just continuing to posts stories and photos that are still with me, stuff I want to share.]


There comes the time....

The Tanzania/Ngorongoro Conservation Area part of our safari was a real mix. While the great pleasures had to include a few awkward and tense moments - due to differences of opinion between me as the leader of the group and the third-party driver engaged to work for us - the pleasures of the journey made us very reluctant to leave. We could have had another couple of days at the Ngorongoro Crater.

As we left, we found ourselves speaking most about the views, for as you can see from the photos (at Ngorongoro Crater (6) - Leaving Tanzania), the countryside truly is worth seeing, and worth remembering. I continue to be so impressed with the natural beauty of Africa, and while my focus during the year I was in Africa necessarily (and by choice) was on Kenya, even I will admit that the beauty of the scenery in the Ngorongoro Crater and as we drove back to Kenya was impressive.

The roads.... Well, I've already said enough about travelling in Tanzania, and while there are some sections of paved roads, we just try to overlook (and forget about) the rest. We did have fun stopping along the way, and as we made our egress and re-entered Kenya, of course, there were happy and light-hearted moments. We were a very happy safari group when we pulled into our guest house in Nairobi eight hours after we had left Ngorongoro. We were happy to be home.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back to Africa: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (5) - Hippo Pool & Relaxing

[Despite the confusing title, I'm not back in Africa. Just continuing to posts stories and photos that are still with me, stuff I want to share.]


There comes a time on every safari, I suppose, when just being together has gone on long enough. While our group was a pretty light-hearted and carefree bunch, it wasn't until we were in the middle of the game drive on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater that this high-spirited group "broke loose."

As it turns out, conservancy management has built a place to stop at the hippo pool, sort of in the center of the crater's floor, providing a delightful opportunity and place to just enjoy the scenery. And get a good look at the hippos with the birds riding along on top of them, even when they are in the water.

So even though we had the opportunity to get out of the vehicle (forbidden on most game drives except when there are special places, as here), we did not, of course, venture around to the other side of the pool or get too close to the hippos. You hear all kinds of tales about the "most dangerous" animals when you're wandering about in Africa, and, yes, hippos are on the list (the most dangerous, according to some accounts). That seems to be because when the animals are submerged, they tend to be very still, and the ladies of the villages come to the water to wash clothes and, without realizing it, stop out onto a hippo or otherwise step into the animal's territory, provoking the hippo to take immediate action which always results in the death of the human being.

Whether that gory assertion has any basis in reality or not, we were not about to find out. So we stayed on the near side of the hippo pool, enjoying the animals from a distance and taking our photos (which you can see at Ngorongoro Crater (5) - Hippo Pool). In fact, we stayed for quite a while, and before we knew it the silliness had taken over and we were having fun, interrupted only by the visit of an apparently fearless (and stunningly beautiful) bird that decided to hang around our Range Rover and enjoy our company. A delightful relaxing interval as we enjoyed the crater floor.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back to Africa: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (4) - Birds on the Game Drive

[Despite the confusing title, I'm not back in Africa. Just continuing to posts stories and photos that are still with me, stuff I want to share.]


As we drove about on the crater floor, I was very surprised to see so many birds. Not just the usual flocks flying about, but a great many that seemed oddly out-of-place. For example, we had experienced the famous flamingos at Lake Nakuru National Park, where there are so many that the water sometimes seems pink with the hundreds of thousands of flamingos feeding on the water and flying about (previously reported on here ). There were quite a few of the flamingos flying about in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as well, and like at Lake Nakuru, the flamingos were joined by the pelicans, looking very proud of themselves for being part of the bird picture at the Ngorongoro Crater.

There were other birds, in profusion, and it's at times like this that I'm sorry I'm not a birder. I don't know why, but for some reason I was never much exposed to the study of birds (and I've always been a little in awe of my European friends - particularly people in the U.K. - who are so good about taking their children on long walks across the countryside to teach them about all the birds they see). It would have been nice to have had a little more background in the subject, and as it turned out, most of my safari companions were in pretty much the same situation. Nevertheless, even though we often didn't know what we were looking at, we appreciated the beauty of these wonderful creatures, and seeing them so free in the Ngorongoro Crater made us very happy. We had fun taking photos of some of them, which can be seen at Ngorongoro Crater (4) - The Birds.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back to Africa: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (3) - Game Drive Photos

[Despite the confusing title, I'm not back in Africa. Just continuing to posts stories and photos that are still with me, stuff I want to share.]


Just can't seem to let go of the Africa memories, and as I look back at some of the pleasures of the last safari, my thoughts keep returning to the idea of going back to my beloved Kenya. European friends are thinking about joining Andrew and me for a migration safari in July 2012, so I had better get all the Ngorongoro memories locked in place, as I probably won't be returning to Tanzania again.

The descent on to the crater floor was an exceptional experience. As I think I've mentioned, staying at the Sopa Lodge has its own special charms, one of which is a separate roadway down from the rim of the crater, eliminating the need to drive around the rim to get to one of the other descending roadways. And the great joy of the descent is the amazing collection of views of the crater, and, as you get closer, the amazing collection of animals, seemingly just all over the place. And among the first animals we saw were the zebras. There were so many of them that I began to think we were on another migration trip

But all the animals we've grown accustomed to seeing in other conservation areas are not present in the Ngorongoro Crater. For some reason there are no giraffes in there, and apparently no one's ever been able to figure out why. There is - not surprisingly - a great deal of speculation, and the most popular theory seems to be that the steep climb up and down the crater walls is too difficult for the giraffes on their spindly legs. Perhaps. But that wouldn't explain why there are no impala, which can be found in just about all the other parks and conservation areas we visited.

We loved seeing the warthogs, those funny-looking, shy animals that can really move fast when they sense there are humans about. On the other hand, at the Bomas of Kenya tourist attraction near Nairobi, we were equally surprised to see some of these odd animals mingling around amongst all the visitors and staff, apparently not at all uncomfortable around people. So I can't make any definitive statements about warthogs and their connections with human beings but I do know that on a game drive - in any of the places I visited - when our vehicle got even in sight, the warthogs took off running!

Many lions are spread out all over the crater floor, and spotted hyena seem to be everywhere, as our photos show (at  Ngorongoro Crater (3) - The Animals). We were even able to catch sight of some of the hyenas enjoying the last bites of a kill (they don't kill any prey themselves, I understand - just come in and take over after the successful predators have sated their hunger and moved away). And here, for the first time, we were able to see cheetah, and we were very impressed with one fellow who was just sitting there looking around, enjoying the beauty of the place like we were (Okay. Perhaps he was looking for where he might find his supper a few hours later).

There were a number of hippos moving about on the crater floor, and one we spotted was pretty impressive. We were able to drive close enough to get to observe him and his habits pretty well, and he paid no attention to us in our van. He just kept feeding on the grass, and every once in a while he would walk about a bit, so  all in all our experiences with the animals on our game drive were successful, and we came away feeling good about what we had been able to see.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back to Africa: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (2)

[Despite the confusing title, I'm not back in Africa. Just continuing to posts stories and photos that are still with me, stuff I want to share.]

Not much need for commentary here, so the next few posts will be just entry points to the photographs, collected on the Picasa site. These are photographs made during our stay at the Sopa Lodge at Ngorongoro Crater. As I mentioned before, just about one of the best, so photos in the Ngorongoro Crater Sopa Lodge album capture some of what we experienced.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Invitation to Information Session: Columbia University's New M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy

A recent SMR post described Columbia University's new Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy, designed to teach knowledge management (KM), knowledge services, and knowledge strategy development skills to knowledge workers.

On Thursday, March 24,  interested professionals in the New York metropolitan area (or who might be visiting in New York) are invited to learn more about the program at an information session at Columbia. The meeting is at the Columbia University Faculty House, beginning at 6.30 pm. To RSVP, click here and click on the RSVP button.

The particular goal of Columbia's new M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy is to teach necessary skills for professionals in any industry where the need to create and leverage information and knowledge is critical for leadership and organizational effectiveness. The program is appropriate for professionals with a variety of backgrounds:

§  Mid-career information professionals who recognize and are drawn to new challenges in the information and knowledge economy and who want to position themselves to seize strategic opportunities
§  Career changers who recognize the growing opportunities in the emerging knowledge-based economy and want to become strategic knowledge specialists in business, nonprofit, healthcare, legal, or governmental organizations
§  Individuals who may have considered pursuing an MBA degree, but prefer to study information and knowledge strategy issues not addressed in a traditional graduate business program.

The program requires a high level of critical and analytical thinking, as well as organizational and writing skills. It is especially appropriate for individuals who enjoy problem-solving and are enthusiastic about the strategic potential of social media and networking applications in the workplace.

Come join Columbia's Information and Knowledge Strategy team on Thursday, March 24, at 6.30 pm. We look forward to seeing you and telling you more about the program.
- Guy St. Clair

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Back to Africa: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania (1)

Don't panic. No, Guy has not returned to Africa (although he will one day, hopefully before too long).

But my friends keep teasing me about all my Africa stories and photos (yes, the gang on the December FOG safari probably have enough stories and photos to last for the next, oh, 17 years or so!). So as I review some of what I've shared, I realize that there is still plenty to say.

And it's time now to get back into the routine with the personal blog (been too busy with other stuff recently). And while I'm working hard to keep the entries shorter than in the past, and the photo albums of manageable size, there'll be some more from the Africa experience.

Will try to intersperse some of Mr. Guy's other thoughts too, as I like to do from time to time. Don't want you to get bored!

But back to Africa....

Thanks to Friend Nerisa, I realize I've not said much about some of our favorite adventures, like our time in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. We had a little reference to that particular safari in the Flat Stanley stories, and the post for New Year's Day included a couple of photos but, well, nothing special (and that was all about Flat Stanley anyway).

Let's fix that.

And, yes, we all fell into the photographing mode. Everywhere we turned we were taking picture after picture after picture (even as we left our lodge at Amboseli and crossed the border into Tanzania). Fortunately for the rest of the group, we had Andrew with us, and as he was very willing so share his skills in photography, we came away with some nice memory-joggers, as you can see here in the first of the Ngorongoro Crater albums.

How to describe the Ngorongoro Crater? It's just east of the more famous Serengeti, and it's fairly inaccessible. You can drive (as we did) but it's a long trip, even from Amboseli National Park, where we were. And even longer from Nairobi, which made us pleased that we broke the journey by going to Amboseli along the way (well worth it, as you might have read in the Flat Stanley story about Amboseli - there'll be more about Amboseli and the park's elephants later).

The climb up the crater rim is pretty difficult - I would guess it would even be tough for more modern equipment, putting aside the memory of the rattle-trap we were in. There is an airstrip somewhere about (we didn't investigate that) and different types of lodging available on the rim (including two or three very elegant lodges). 

We chose to stay at the Sopa Lodge, for a couple of reasons. We know the chain, having used Sopa (the word is Masaai for "hello") several times before. And at the Ngorongoro Crater the Sopa has a separate road down onto the floor of the crater, making access and egress much more convenient (not necessarily easier!). 

The crater is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, named after the crater, the world's largest intact volcanic caldera that formed when the volcano collapsed. You get to Ngorongoro from Arusha, and the road is mostly paved until you get to the part where you start to climb the rim (you need a four-wheel, at least).  

The crater floor is some 260 sq. km. (I figure that's about 161 sq. miles), and once you've climbed to the top of the rim (which is how you enter the area - you don't go to the lodges from the outside of the rim), it is almost impossible to speak or write about what you're seeing. OK, perhaps the photographs give an idea, but the distances, the height (the rim is some 600 m - about 2,000 ft), the foliage.... Well, it all gets to be a bit much sometimes, doesn't it?  

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Graduate Program in Information and Knowledge Strategy

Let's take a short break from the Kenya stories.

Allow me to report on a new development in the KM/knowledge services field.

Colleagues and friends know that corporate knowledge strategy and strengthening the connection between knowledge strategy and the organization's business strategy are high on my list of important topics. So I'm delighted to share the news that Columbia University has announced a new graduate degree in this area, the M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy.

Our company - SMR - has been involved in this work, and Columbia's School of Continuing Education has just published its announcement about the program. And on a personal basis, I'm particularly honored to have been invited to teach two courses in the program, Principles of Management and Leadership in the Knowledge Domain and Entrepreneurial Knowledge Services.

The program is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, this is the first time this subject has been addressed at the graduate academic level. There are many programs in KM, both graduate and in some cases at the undergraduate level (I've identified more than 40 KM programs, including quite a few in other countries). There are also many well-structured i-school programs. For people who are interested in formal education having to do with the knowledge strategy/management connection, though, I don't know of any other graduate program. So the new Columbia University program offers a very special - and unique - opportunity.

At the same time, Columbia's new M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy clearly demonstrates an innovative, forward-looking frame of reference for the university. This kind of initiative, recognizing the role that information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning play in organizations, is unusual in knowledge-related disciplines, and it is good to see this program being offered. As enterprise leaders seek to identify and implement the best opportunities for knowledge development and knowledge sharing for their employees (what we in the business like to call "KD/KS"), they are learning that they must do so not only for current organizational effectiveness but for future success. Columbia's program is a major step forward and is going to be extremely valuable for helping managers understand how to deal with corporate knowledge and managing knowledge services in the future.

The full description for the M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy makes it clear that this is a subject whose time has come:

"The most critical challenge facing organizations today is managing the analysis, evaluation, and dissemination of data, information, and knowledge for strategic decision making. Columbia University's new Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy program trains students to develop the leadership skills needed to address this challenge.

"The program teaches students to plan, design, and evaluate initiatives in knowledge and information across a wide spectrum of global environments, including corporations, government, educational, and nonprofit institutions. Students also develop a critical insight into the legal, social, and cultural factors that influence an organization's ability to leverage information, and learn to analyze, manage, and solve problems that impact process, human resources, and technology."

Columbia's new M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy is a sixteen month integrated program taught in a hybrid in-class and online format, framed by three short residencies on the Columbia University campus in New York City. Particularly attractive for mid-career individuals looking for new challenges, the program is ideal for people who want to expand or extend their current workplace role, and for current (or future) entrepreneurs who recognize the opportunities to create new venture in the knowledge domain.

I'm looking forward to this. Being part of Columbia's new M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy program promises to be very exciting indeed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Our Private Kenya (4): Spectacular and Seldom-Visited Countryside

While there are probably any number of "private" places to visit in Kenya, relatively unknown parts of the country, our various safaris throughout the country enabled us to enjoy several of these, and we'll always be grateful we had the opportunity. Being some distance from Nairobi or the other major cities (Nakuru, Kisumu, and Mombasa), and not necessarily in close connection to the more popular safari parks, these places are pretty much ignored by tourists.

That was OK with us as we drove about Kenya. Not that we didn't want to share. We just liked the idea that we could explore places where not many visitors have gone and, on some occasions, to see sights that are usually seen only by the local people, or other Kenyans on their own journeys. Almost every Kenyan not native to Nairobi or one of the other urban centers often speaks about visiting his or her "rural home," and even if that person has lived away from the village for some time - or even, in some cases, for some generations - that rural home continues to exert a strong pull and many people like to return there whenever they can.

Such was the case with us. Our good friend Nerisa Jepkorir Kamar, written about often in these posts, has during my time working in Kenya invited me on many occasions to come "up country" (that's the phrase Kenyans use when they refer to going out of Nairobi, regardless of the direction), but it never seemed to work out. On this safari, it happened. As our group left the Kakamega Forest National Reserve, in the Kisumu area and - as it turned out - not far from Chepkorio, Nerisa's village, the ranger at the park gate asked about our travels. When we told him we were going back to Nairobi, he asked about the general direction we were planning to follow and suggested we try an alternate route which, by coincidence, delighted us as it would take us near Nerisa's family home.

So off we went in that direction, and we had a lovely visit with Nerisa's family, some of whom were visiting for the Christmas holidays. As we had not been expected, our little safari groupo insisted that we should not stay long, but we were nevertheless treated to very generous hospitality, and we had a very pleasant visit (as can be seen in the above photo, with us posing just as we took our leave).

The amazing part of our "private" Kenya adventure took place when we left Chepkorio, and we were totally unsuspecting. Nerisa, apparently in a mischievous mood, did not tell us about what we would see as we began our long drive back to Nairobi and it turned out to be spectacular indeed (in fact, had she attempted to describe it to us, we wouldn't have been able to grasp the beauty of what we were about to see). The views almost unbelievably beautiful and, coming as it did in this part of our journey, the experience seemed almost a perfect finale to our time in Kenya.

The drive was pretty breath-taking, and when we stopped we found ourselves looking out over the Kerio Valley, between the Tugen Hills and the Elgeyo escarpment. We were up about 3,000 feet, looking out over the Kerio Valley which itself lies within the Great Rift Valley (so I guess it's sort of a "valley in the valley," as one of our group put it!). Off in the distance, we could see the Kerio River, flowing northward, ending up eventually in Lake Turkana. This photo will give you an idea of what we saw, and hopefully the photographs in the Kerio Valley, Kenya album will add to the pleasure. What a joy it would be to bring some of my other American and European friends to see this place! Really special!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our Private Kenya (3): Lord Macmillan and the Flame Trees of Thika

Our next "private" adventure took us to the home of Lord William Northrop Macmillan, an adventurer and American citizen who was so successful in Kenya that he was knighted, in spite of being American. Born in Scotland and brought up in St. Louis, Missouri, Macmillan was one of three or four settlers (like Lord Delamere and Lord Egerton) who were influential in bringing agricultural science to Kenya, establishing agriculture as one of the country's major economies (if not the major economy).

I had wanted to visit the house ever since I first visited the near-by Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park. I had heard about the Macmillan home, and somehow (don't ask how) got the idea that it would be something like Egerton Castle, full of romantic stories and fascinating colonial lore.

That was not the be the case. It is a spacious, grand edifice from the period (Lord Macmillan's dates are 1872-1925), but it had obviously fallen into a great state of disrepair. So when we arrived, after an adventurous journey from the Thika area, trying to locate the place and seeing all sorts of interesting scenery along the way, we discovered that the house and lands now belonged to the Kenya government and would eventually be a tourist site and house museum. Unfortunately, the work is progressing very slowly, and the gate and the wall barred out entry.

Once again, thanks to the splendid skills of supreme negotiator Charles, the supervisor for the project was brought to the gate and we were able to go in, with the supervisor himself guiding us for our visit.

And what a tour it was! Lord Macmillan had arrived about 1901 or so, planning to spend his time in big-game hunting (and enjoying it to such an extent that ten years later U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt came to join him in some of his expeditions). He also, as I've noted, got very involved in the agricultural pursuits then being put forward but his success was - to put it mildly from some of what I've been told - extremely limited. In fact, Lord Macmillan is remembered as something of a dreamer and one who engaged in any number of unsuccessful initiatives but he is nevertheless remembered fondly in the area.

And the man himself. Apparently Lord Macmillan was a man of considerable girth (one commentator told us he weighed over 400 pounds!), and you hear about that often when Lord Macmillan's name comes up, with the story even following him into the grave. It's told that when he died, having expressed the desire to be buried at the summit of Ol Donyo Sabuk, the tractor pulling the coffin up the mountain couldn't make it. So Lord Macmillan is buried - along with his wife and one of the servants - about half-way up the mountain (see my earlier post about Ol Donyo Sabuk, with more photos, including the gravesite).

As for the house, of course it is still undergoing serious re-construction (go here to see the photos of our visit) but even in this state, it was worth the journey, especially being able to experience the curious lack of sophistication in finding ourselves in a not-tourist-ready situation. The supervisor who showed us about was full of interesting stories, and while we were at the place, we discovered that the home had been the location of a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II (as were apparently other sites in Kenya - see below). There is a memorial plaque honoring the Italian nobleman who was in charge of the camp (I couldn't quite figure out whether he was one of the prisoners or an Italian nobleman working for the Allies), and we were told about (but didn't attempt to enter) tunnels lead from the house to the outbuildings, to permit safe escape for the officers if necessary.

The house is beautifully situated, and as the re-construction and planning operations progress, we are told that not only will the fields facing the house be converted into a grand parking lot for all the visitors, there will be a cable car going back and forth to the summit of Ol Donyo Sabuk, so that the treacherous drive (which Charles and Nerisa and I can attest to, from our visit up the mountain) can be avoided.

It will be fun to return when all the plans have materialized (but I'm afraid I'm put in mind of Lord Macmillan's own dreams and schemes - I just hope this time it all works).

Skepticism aside, the entire adventure at Lord Macmillan's home was great fun, complemented with gorgeous viewings of the famous flame trees (a la The Flame Trees of Thika, the popular book by Elspeth Huxley and later film). They truly are exceptional, and while we had seen them in many different places in the Thika area, their arrangement at the Macmillan House site was special, as I've tried to show in the photographs.

And one more thought, totally unrelated (except in connection with Italian prisoners-of-war kept in Kenya during World War II): Over in another part of Kenya, on the mountain road between Nairobi and Nakuru, there is a little jewel of a chapel. I passed it frequently while I lived in Kenya, and finally stopped recently to go inside, and there are a couple of photographs attached to this story of the prisoners at Lord Macmillan's place. There's no other connection, I think, but this is a good place to show the little chapel. Very sweet, seating only 12 people, and apparently a nice place for a little spiritual refreshment as travellers go up or come down the mountain road overlooking the Great Rift Valley.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Question: How Do Knowledge Workers Help with Information Overload?

The Information Africa Organization (IAO) is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) registered in Kenya. Its main objective is to build capacity among youth in Information Communication Technology/Information Technology (ICT/IT) to enhance use of information available in cyberspace for development. The full description of IAO's objective is found here.

At the site, the current question under discussion has to do with information overload, a subject often given attention in the KM/knowledge services discipline. The discussion forum raises the issue by noting that information overload and professional/scientific language are barriers to information flow, and goes on to state that "implementable decisions are based on clear information (where clarity includes language used)."

The question for discussion is: How best can professionals in information and related fields (which, in my opinion, includes strategic knowledge specialists, knowledge managers, and knowledge strategists) aid in simplifying information to support formulation of time and relevant policies?

Reply to this post with your response (comments will be posted here and at the SMR corporate blog, and passed on to IAO). If you wish to respond directly, link to the IAO Discussion Forum.

Looking forward to learning what colleagues thinking about knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) have to say.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our Private Kenya (2): Oletepes and a Day Out with Charles and Nerisa

Good friends Charles and Nerisa decided that before Andrew and I got too deep into our safari, and since our colleagues had not all arrived yet, we would have a private day out, over near the Ngong Hills.

Now anyone familiar with Kenya and the literature about the country has heard of the Ngong Hills, the great line of peaks along the edge of the Great Rift Valley, and to the southwest of Nairobi (in fact, I've posted a couple of blogs about the Ngong Hills, with some of my thoughts here and here). So Charles and Nerisa took us to another of those private "resorts" that seem so popular in Kenya (sort of like Paradise Lost but not quite as large, or as historical). This one, known as Oletepes, is just as special in its own way, a huge wide-open field with tables and chairs set about and the spectacular view of the Ngong Hills in the distance.

Drinks and meals are served, but I had the impression that Oletepes is primarily a place where people can go to sit and enjoy being outdoors, with magnificent scenery all around. The day we went happened to be a national holiday (Jamhuri, Kenya's Independence Day), and I was surprised that there weren't more people at the resort. Apparently most people found a different way to celebrate the nation's independence (and since the new Constitution had just been passed last August, with a big celebration a few weeks later, perhaps most folks had done enough "national" celebrating!).

As for Andrew and me, we were very pleased with the whole idea of the day out with Charles and Nerisa, and Oletepes was a very special place to go. There was, from time to time, a very strong wind (which is why, I suppose, the park has a few domed tents for providing shelter, particularly for campers who stay overnight), but we didn't allow it to interfere with our good time.

We were also impressed with the waiters and the other staff, and with how hard they all work. Although guests drive their automobiles to the place where they want to sit and relax, or spend the night in the tent, the kitchen is a long 'way off, and the wait staff walk back and forth carrying whatever is necessary to bring the drinks and meals to the guests (and they manage to keep the nyoma choma hot, which is in itself a major accomplishment!). Can't imagine that level of hard work from wait staff in the States or Western Europe, but as we talked about it, we figured it out: with such high unemployment in Kenya, people are happy to have jobs, and to work hard. Don't think Westerners are prepared to work that hard, or walk that much, but Westerners also don't have the high levels of unemployment like that in Kenya. So perhaps what we're seeing in Kenya is an explanation (or the other way 'round).

In any case, it was a terrific day out, lots of fun (as the photos in this album show), and with a climb up into the Ngong Hills to once again see the views of the Great Rift Valley, our day out provided a delightful respite during our Kenyan holiday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our Private Kenya (1): Paradise Lost Park and the Kenyan Freedom Fighters

One of the pleasures of travel is the unexpected, and my time in Kenya provided me with plenty of opportunities to see and learn about things I had never known about before. And to go to places that I didn't even know existed.

That delightful situation continued with the recent safari, written about in some of these posts. Four discoveries, in particular, made me stop and re-think some of my ideas and preconceived notions about Kenya (and about Africa). Sadly, all of these did not happen when I was accompanied by everyone in our safari group, so I'm recounting these experiences for them as well as for anyone else who might be interested.

The first of these took place in our first week in Kenya. Andrew and I had not yet been joined by the others, and our safari excursions this first week were just the two of us, with Charles, our driver extraordinaire. And to demonstrate why I use that term, let me describe how I learned about this first very special place, known to very few people who are not native Kenyans.

It so happened that a few weeks before our safari - after our itinerary was "set," so to speak - Charles had had occasion to take another client about, and she particularly wanted to go to Paradise Lost. The name refers to a private "resort" or "park," often used by local Kenyans (especially on week-ends) as the site for picnics, games, horseback- and camel-riding, and such family-focused activities. And while the origin of the name is a little obscure to me (just as is the reason the words are used for another private resort, not connected with this one and located near Mombasa, on the coast), I suppose there's some connection between the word "paradise" and the usual meanings associated with it, and the privacy connected with the resort not being a very public place ("lost").

Such speculation aside, however, I'm happy to report that this Paradise Lost is one of the most intriguing places I've ever visited. First of all, it is spectacularly beautiful, overlooking a large lake that is used for many recreational activities. The resort takes up about 54 acres, and it's located about 8 km from Nairobi, off the road to Kiambu (in fact you can see Kiambu Town on the other side of the lake).

Aside from the beauty of the place, however, Paradise Lost is special for the non-Kenyan visitor for a couple of other reasons. First of all, there is the almost unbelievable charm (and little bit of scariness) of walking through the dense forest (the Kenyans prefer to use the word "forest" instead of "jungle"). There are paths, well marked, but the walking is still a little rough. And I can imagine that the paths might be very difficult to maneuver on a week-end, when so many of the Kenyan people are crowding into the park. We didn't have that problem, however, for Charles had blocked out time for us to see Paradise Lost as we embarked on our Thika safari, and as we arrived - very early in the morning - we were the only people there. Quite a treat!

So the forest is special, as you can see from these photographs and the larger set of pictures in the album A Kenya Secret: The Paradise Lost Park and Historical Site.We were intrigued as we walked deeper into the forest and could hear the first sounds of the waterfall (shown above). We kept on, never guessing that the waterfall itself would be so special. And as we approached, well, it's hard to describe just as lush and green the surrounding plantings are. The waterfall itself, which you can walk behind, is magnificent. So high and stately. Truly breath-taking.

What came next, though, really surprised us. As he had spoken with us about Paradise Lost, Charles had made several references about the park and its caves being the place where the "freedom fighters" were able to hide, especially after they had conducted raids or otherwise engaged in their fight for freedom. We heard what he was saying, but we weren't very clear about the implications of the term.

Finally it dawned on us. Charles was referring to what, in America and Western Europe, had been referred to (and taught to us as students) as "the Mau Mau rebellion" or "the Mau Mau uprising." Once we figured this out, we were just a little embarrassed to have taken so long to "get it." After all, as Americans, hadn't our own ancestors had a some experience with "freedom fighters" as well?

The story, as we learned it, was particularly interesting, and especially in light of this new way of thinking about it. The Mau Mau "uprising" had, yes, been an uprising, a rebellion, but to Kenyans, it was an event at the beginning of their national history that is as monumental as our own American Revolution. We even learned that the term "Mau Mau" is not some sort of tribal or rebel group name, as many young people in the West were taught back in the 1950s. The words "Mau Mau" are an acronym of a Swahili phrase, Muzungu Aende Ulaya, Mwafrika Apate Uhuru, which means something along the lines of "let the Europeans go back and let the Africans be free."

Apparently because they were hidden away, the caves seem to have been forgotten about after independence in 1963. Some 2.5 million years old, so the archeologists say, the caves were re-discovered by workers in 1996, with archeologists from the National Museum of Kenya finding some human remains 8000 to 12,000 years old, and rock artifacts from the Late Stone Age.

So the visit on into the forest, the walk along the forest path, and finally the climb into the caves was a very special, private treat for these non-Kenyans. As for being inside the caves (one of which is shown here), well, that is a different story since I'm not much for going into such enclosed spaces, and through such narrow and confining openings in the rock. But once we were inside, I was amazed at how big the caves are, and how much room there is inside. Indeed, we were told that the freedom fighters after a raid or other fight would easily slip into these caves behind the waterfall and completely elude the British troops looking for them, who had no idea where they might have gone. For the visitor to Paradise Lost, that story makes absolute sense.