Friday, January 27, 2017

Dyslexic enablement

This week, a cousin of mine, David Rifkind, died at the early age of 51. He was a very successful real estate promoter in Los Angeles. During our last conversation in the summer at his house, we discussed dyslexia and its effects on our lives.  It turns out that we also had that "disability" in common. His comments expressed my feelings exactly and hopefully can serve as an inspiration to those who have it and those who work with them.

He enthusiastically stated that dyslexia was the key to his success.  Specifically, he noted that his ability to think differently allowed him to find solutions that "normal" people could not imagine. Instead of handicapping him, it gave him a leg up. If a task needed more analytical and less intuitional skills, he hired the appropriate person. So, dyslexia is not a curse but a blessing in many situations.

Naturally, depending on the type of dyslexia, other tasks can become difficult or even almost impossible. Dyslexics require great concentration to execute specific routine tasks. On the other hand, everybody finds certain simple jobs quite complicated. Most dyslexics find a way, granted unconventional, to attain reasonable success in these deficiencies. These strategies include proper scheduling, extra time, and no multitasking, to name just a few. Ultimately, dyslexics can achieve their goals no less successfully than others, sometimes on their own and sometimes with the help of others. The road is not always smooth or conventional but does lead to Rome.

Depending on the level and type of dyslexia, working with dyslexics may involve showing some flexibility and understanding. The price is well worth it. In a rapidly changing world, every company needs people that grasp the situation quickly and think outside the box.

So, to all those feeling frustrated by dyslexia or using it as an excuse for failure, I suggest that you embrace it and appreciate your unique approach to the world. Accentuate the positive, overcome the negative and find the niche in which your special talents will shine.

In memory of David Rifkind

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ultimate justice

I am a great believer in ultimate justice. It is sometimes the only ray of light in a depressing situation. I insist on being sure that those who consciously do ill to others will eventually pay the price in some manner. In my case, it is not any belief in the justice of some god but instead much closer to the concept of karma, i.e.  what goes around comes around.

This ultimate justice can be in both the personal and political spheres. I had a relative, who shall remain anonymous out of respect to his offspring, who created by acts of omission and commission great pain to the closest people in his family. I agree with my mother that it is right that he had a long, painful life if only on the basis of his choice to run away from responsibility. I have seen nasty bosses been unfairly treated by their bosses, showing that two unfairs make one fair. In politics, Stalin, Hitler and Mao are remembered by most people as murderous tyrants, not as the visionary leaders they supposedly strove to be.

I recognized that ultimate justice has a fundamental fault. Like all justice systems, it is notoriously slow, taking years or even decades to happen. In the meantime, hundreds, thousands or even millions suffer. Also, there is an intrinsic dichotomy between the suffering caused to others and that experienced by the evildoer. Still, the faith that some kind of justice will eventually be given is a candle in the dark. Today, as I see too many similarities between the Tolkien landscape in the middle of the third book and the current international policies situation dominated by Putin, Trump and Erdogan, to name just a few, I strongly hold on to my main hope: they too shall pay.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Israeli Training

I have chosen to live in the quiet north of Israel, affectionately called the "periphery" by official sources, for many reasons. One of them is the fact that the roads here are generally (still) open most of the day, rendering driving and breathing much healthier. Yet, I am occasionally obliged to descend to the center of the country for a day. To avoid the pleasure and fatigue of crawling in traffic jams, I take the train, which shall become even more convenient in a year when the train line to Karmiel is completed.

As any baseball statistician can tell you, nothing is perfect.  Even taking the train has its negative sides. Common with many systems, parking is often in shortage at the stations while the trains are often late. In other words, you know you are not in Northern Europe. An even more striking difference is the behavior of the passengers. As a measure of comparison, I remember taking a TGV from Paris to Quimper (Brittany), a trip of some four hours. The carriage was comfortable and quiet. In fact, I only noticed that there were quite a few children near me after almost three hours when I looked around. I recall thinking that the parents must have slipped their children some tranquilizer to get them to sit so quietly and for so long. Of course, the children's behavior followed societal expectations, which require even adults to avoid loud conversations and disturbing their fellow travelers.

Back to the Acco-Tel Aviv line, we have quite a different story. To be direct, children would be more tranquil than your average Israeli adult. Not that it is all negative. Upon a returning from a long flight abroad on a train from the airport, our train was stuck in the train station for almost an hour due to a suicide on the tracks (for which the train management was not responsible, clearly). The reaction of our fellow travelers was quite genial. Everybody took out some snacks and shared travel stories. If we could have lit a campfire, we would have done that. It was a rather happy delay.

Unfortunately, this openness is frequently not so positive. It is hard to identify which behavior is the most annoying. The candidates are long personal conversations about breakups or surgery conducted in the "privacy" of the carriage; personal attacks on train representatives with the poor luck of being in the carriage during a train delay; soldiers and students that create obstacle courses in the aisle by placing their cumbersome bags in strategic locations; parents that don't care if their children play noisy games on telephones or portable computers as long as they leave them in peace; and groups of youth that profit from the lack of parental supervision to sow their oats.

Don't get me wrong. With the correct attitude, any of the above actions can be entertaining and help the time go wrong. Also, many trips are quite unremarkable. To be fair, this behavior is not unique to Israel. Still, for me, the best solution is to limit my trips to Tel Aviv to the minimum and enjoy my quiet life in the north.