Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Mon. Oct. 24, 2005: Flemish Beauty Pears

David fills the house with Flemish Beauty pears, fulfilling a memories of days past.

(by David): It’s one of those childhood memory things …. I haven’t read Proust, but I’ve seen enough citations of that idea.

Way back in the early 1970s, Grandfather (and Harry and Pearl for that matter) lived in the house at the southeast corner of Beverly Street and Cecil Street. The property was due for expropriation for a a hydro switching station, and Grandfather moved over to a house one block west on Ross Street. (That’s where I lived with Grandmother during university days in the late 1970s).

It’s hard to be accurate from my childhood memories, but I seem to recall people saying that the Beverly Street house was much larger than the Ross Street House. In addition, the Ross Street house was semi-detached, whereas the Beverly Street house was free-standing. (The Ross Street house had parking off a laneway, though, whereas the Beverley Street house just had a drive coming off Cecil Street). I also seemed to remember that the Beverly Street house had a reputation of a leaky basement.

As it happens, there was a neighbourhood uprising against the Hydro switching station, and the property eventually became part of the CityHome complex. This means the city is the landlord in mixed income housing. In the late 1970s, my friends Debbie and Ena used to live in a 2-story apartment on Henry Street, which is one street east of Beverly Street.

One of the strong memories I had of the Beverly Street house was that it had a pear tree. In the fall, we used to have a day when the whole family would be out picking pears. These were green pears, which weren’t too sweet, but had a great flavour. We used to have a contraption — like a basketball hoop with the netting bottom closed, at the end of a long bamboo pole — that we used to pull the fruit off the tree. It would simply fall into the netting, and after two or three pears, the end would be lowered to the ground for someone to remove the contents. Retreivals using the pole would be done first from standing on the ground, then on top of a stepladder, from the second floor window (which wasn’t that close to the tree) and then from a small roof outside the third floor window (where everyone would be concerned about the danger of falling.

Adam’s posting on Taekwon do and free fruit reminded me of this scene.

Probably around 1978 or 1979, I remember going with Paul to knock on the door of the people living on the Beverly Street house — tenants — and asking for permission to pick the pears. They said that they were waiting for them to turn yellow — they would have had to wait for a long time for that! — and gave us permission to pick. We got so much fruit that we ended up baking pear pies in Debbie’s kitchen.

Sometime later, I discovered that the pears were called Flemish Beauty pears. They’re a hardy variety of pear — presumably Belgian in origin — and I had considered planting a pear tree on Booth Avenue when the boys were young. The caution against this is that South Riverdale used to have heavy industry, so it might not have been such a good idea to grow fruit when there’s a possibility of lead in the soil. The pear tree on Beverly Street has since been removed, and there’s more parking space on that property.

Every fall, though, I’m on the lookout for Flemish Beauty pears in the markets. It’s not exactly the most popular variety. Clapp pears are close, and slightly easier to find. Last year, I posted on a question on Foodland Ontario site on pears and discovered that Flemish Beauty pears actually peak in October. When I was up in Markham this week, I made a slight detour and bought some pears

And that is why the fruit bowls in our home are all full!

Fri. Oct. 21, 2006: Trinity College book sale

The last book sale of the year, and traditionally the best. David is slightly disappointed this year.

(by David): I’m usually not looking for specific books, so it’s purely opportunistic whether I come with a huge or small batch of books. This was one of those unlucky years.

The book sales are also usually an opportunity for a social event. A group of friends gets together to stand in line for an hour, and we talk. This year, everyone begged off, so I was by myself. Since I had a client meeting, I arrived relatively late, about 5:30 for a 6:00 p.m. opening. I got number 191, which put me in the basement, but just around the first turn (before all the plumbing is visible!) As forecasted by one of the volunteers there, I was out of the building by 7:15 p.m.

I didn’t find many “hot” books & just a few to fill out my library.

  • Wurman, Information Anxiety. Wurman is a master in the visual presentation of data, and this was a nice copy of his book.
  • Rosenberg, Landau and Mowery, Technology and the Wealth of Nations. A collection of readings, some by various notable economists. This could be one of those books where getting the original articles is tough, so owning the book could save some stress.
  • Kelly, Leyden & Members of the GBN, What’s Next? Scenario planning by the masters.
  • Wilber, A Theory of Everything. There’s a lot of Wilber fans out there, including some in the systems sciences community. I haven’t had time to look into his work, much, but what I’ve seen sometimes leads into spirtuality, which is beyond what I use in my research.
  • Foster & Kaplan, Creative Destruction. I didn’t think that this was the most original work, but some business readers like it. I was on Mohan Sawhney’s web site yesterday, and he described it as warmed over Schumpeter. He suggested reading Clayton Christensen, instead.
  • Lash, Sociology of Postmodernism. Someone must have used this as a textbook, because there’s highlighting in it. Lash is well known, and I decided to pick up the book because a quick scan shows his writing is relatively easy to read. Thre’s something rare for philosophy!
  • Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy. I’m not a regular reader of Wired, but a lot of people seem to like this writing.
  • Harvard Business Review on Innovation. The articles aren’t what I would define as innovation, in my academic research, but it’s a good idea to know what the average business person reads.
  • Pink, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself. I’ve heard that Pink is a popularizer, so I’m not expecting much. His new book seems to be getting more attention.
  • McLuhan, Understanding Media. I’ve never actually read it, and this was a nice hardcover edition.

Here’s some books that I already own, that I’ve bought for anyone who wants one.

  • Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival. Not that I don’t have other copies, but this is a like-new copy.
  • Russell Ackoff, Creating the Corporate Future. The more research I do, the more I move away from Ackoff. Still, he’s a strong foundation from where I started, and this is one his most coherent books.

I think that I only spent around $60 on this trip. I’ve spent as much as $150 in prior years.

After the book sale, I ended up shopping for CDs, and ended up with a huge stack. I need some relief from the long commuting drives, and the radio stations aren’t helping much.

Wed. Oct. 19, 2005: Late night at Robarts Library

David hits the stacks at the university, in the evening when it’s not busy.

(by David):  I have an alumnus library card for U. of Toronto, but access to journal articles requires full-time enrolment. The university library has a few public access terminals up in the stacks, so I can read the full selection of journals if I go to the university in person.

It’s a bit annoying that the university changes protocols every fall, so it takes a bit to find out the new ways. When I was at the university a few weeks ago, I couldn’t find the public access terminals amongst the two dozen that are immediately in front of the elevators on the 11th floor (where the business and economics books are). This time, I decided to try to find the terminals on the 9th floor. They turned out to not be outside the elevators, but hidden away in the stacks, near the books. The PCs have all been replaced, so the screens are a lot sharper than they used to be.

Between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, it was relatively quiet. Students living on campus should be able to access library resources with their IDs, so they wouldn’t physically have to be in the Robarts building.

I usually don’t stay past the time that the library closes, but was trying to get the last few references done. At 11 p.m., they turned out the lights. At 11:10, there was a special elevator with the library patrol, picking up the last few stragglers. Since the elevators are shut down at 11 p.m., I guess that the alternative is to walk down the stairs.

Fri. Oct. 14, 2005: University College book sale

Another used book sale. The University College book sale is sometimes better and sometimes not as good as the Victoria College book sale. It’s usually got less philosophy, but a better selection of business books.

(by David): The UC book sale opens at noon on the Friday, so when I got there for 5 p.m., there wasn’t any line up

The treasure find of this trip was:

  • Chris Argyris and Donald A. Schon, Organizational Learning, A Theory of Action Perspective, Addison Wesley, 1978. It’s a trade paperback for $2. This is one of the most cited books in the management literature, and totally out of print. I think that Argyris doesn’t want it republished because he has newer publications, although they weren’t co-authored with Schon.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but here’s a list of what I found

  • Smelser, Theory of Collective Behavior. I hadn’t heard of this book, but Smelser is one of the editors of The Handbook of Economic Sociology. Then the next day, I saw an article referencing this book.
  • Mumford, The Culture of Cities. I’ve seen this cited in urban planning books when I read Jane Jacobs, but I can’t remember whether in a positive or negative light!
  • Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, Riding the Waves of Culture. I saw Charles Hampden-Turner at the Bateson conference last November, and was impressed. He’s a very British academic, and I think leaves much of the consulting work to Trompenaars.
  • Horgan, The End of Science. DLH assigned a chapter from this book in his Demystification of Science class.
  • Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. Steve Haeckel referenced this book in Adaptive Enterprise, and I’ve never seen one in person.
  • Laurel, The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Frequently cited in the CSCW literature, it seems to be standard for grad students.
  • Greenleaf, Servant Leadership. I saw an article about this in Fortune, and had borrowed a copy from the library. There’s a religious foundation to the book, but it seems generally spiritual in nature rather than fundamentalist, so I’m okay with that.
  • Goldratt, The Goal. I’m definitely not a fan, so this is a case of know your enemy!
  • McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise. A classic, but somewhat before my time. I think that McGregor is still around, but not very visible.
  • Slywotzky & Morrison, How Digital is Your Business? I didn’t want to pay full price for this book, but it’s okay used. I find that Slywotzky gradually evolves his content, so updates are worth having.
  • Miller & Van Loon, Darwin for Beginners. A comic book version. The boys like reading deep content this way.
  • McLuhan & Fiore, The Medium is the Massage. I saw a full-sized book last year, and probably should have bought that, instead of this paperback.

I bought some books that I’m pretty sure I previously own, specifically to give away. (They’re relatively cheap, and the proceeds go to alumni funds, so the books should go to a good home!)

  • Stafford Beer, Designing Freedom. This is a small paperback based on a CBC Massey Lectures series. Foundational work for emerging cyberneticians.
  • Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature. One of the pillars in systems science. This is the small paperback version, suitable for reading on a plane.
  • Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital. Another paperback for airplane reading.
  • Elliot Jaques, Requisite Organization. I’m not the biggest fan of Jaques, but some consulting clients swear by him. The cognitive abilities of leaders is one aspect of organizational development — but not the only one.
  • Jaques & Clement, Executive Leadership. The followup. I wonder if the same person donated both!

If anyone wants a book (or to borrow one), just let me know!

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