Many years ago, I had secretaries. I relied on them to perform functions that I could have done myself, but that I would not have done as well. Their contributions enabled me to be far more productive than I would have been without them. Over time, though, employing secretaries—in my line of work—came to be viewed as elitist and (because most of them were women) sexist. So, rather than dictating letters and reports, I typed them myself. And I made my own travel arrangements. And I created my own spreadsheets. And I screened my own calls. And I created and employed my own files and filing systems. And I developed my own PowerPoint presentations. And I performed the myriad other tasks and functions that once had been handled by secretaries (or administrative assistants, a title that came to be more palatable). Though I was reasonably good at handling those duties, I never became as proficient as people whose roles were dedicated exclusively to handling such functions. During the transition to handling my own “secretarial” duties and long, long afterward, I bought into the idea that having a secretary was more of a matter of status than an efficient way of doing business.

This morning, as I looked around my study—especially my desk—I thought back to the time I had secretaries. The really good ones were extraordinarily well-organized and efficient. They would never have allowed my desk to be so cluttered and in such disarray. They freed me to focus on the core functions of my work, too, rather than attempt to do for myself what they did so much more effectively than I could have done. A look around my desk this morning made me finally realize how unproductive it was to stop relying on secretaries. And, this morning, as I think back to all the years of doing without secretaries or, at least, employing minimal secretarial support, I wonder how much more effective I would have been, had I not subscribed to the idea that having secretaries/administrative assistants was more about status than about productivity.  This morning, I wish I had a secretary who would swoop in and organize my study, freeing me from trying (and failing) to get and stay organized. Oh, how I wish it were so.


The popular intuitive assessment that coffee pods are among the most environmentally damaging ways of making coffee may be off the mark. An article on the website reports that a Canadian study by the University of Quebec challenges that assessment. Additional information on the study is available on The Conversation’s website. The study suggests that making coffee using pods is less environmentally damaging than making coffee with traditional coffee makers. Evaluating the life-cycle of coffee, the researchers found that by far the largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions is the harvesting and production of coffee beans. Traditional coffee makers contribute more CO2 than do pods, according to the study authors. An author of the study, Luciano Rodrigues Viana, is quoted as saying, “I don’t think that capsules are a miracle solution. But it is a good example that illustrates our cognitive biases.” The upshot of the research is that wasting coffee and water in the process of making a cup of coffee with traditional coffee makers has a larger carbon footprint than using coffee capsules. Apparently, we tend to make assumptions without considering all the facts. Based on my reading of the Canadian study and some other relevant information, it seems an investment in reducing the environmental impact of coffee harvesting and production would have the largest impact on the reduction of  CO2. Perhaps dramatically cutting coffee consumption is the answer. Of course, that would have negative repercussions on coffee growers and the people whose lives are dependent on coffee production. Solutions are never simple, are they?


A formal diagnosis of diabetes leads to paying close attention to the potential impact of one’s habits on his health. I spent part of the afternoon yesterday with two diabetes educators, re-learning about some of the intricacies of the ways in which diet affects the body. This was not new, of course, but the relevance of the information was far clearer to me than it had been before. Prior to learning that my A1C blood test results confirmed the diagnosis, consideration of the impact of diet was a purely academic exercise. Now, though, it is more immediate and personal. As luck would have it, the effects of the condition have thus far been negligible. If they are to remain that way, though, I have to change my eating and exercise habits in important ways. I should have done so long, long ago. My invincibility is again called into question. Live and learn.


The news of Jacinda Ardern’s decision to step down as New Zealand’s prime minister surprised me this morning. Though I have not closely followed news about her of late, I have been deeply impressed by her since her election in 2017.  Her principled leadership— along with her energy, and vitality—are models of the possibilities toward which national politicians may strive when they put the interests of their countries and their constituents above their own personal desires. Unfortunately, she has suffered what many politicians encounter after serving their constituencies well for an extended period: what once was appreciated for its better-than-expected performance morphs into an attitude of “what have you done for me lately?” Though her reasons for leaving her post are reported to be personal, I would not be surprised to learn that the significant dip in her popularity contributed to her decision. I wish her well. And I hope her successors will be as successful in leading New Zealand as she has been.


It is still early, not yet 6:15, but I am ready to put today’s post to bed. And I am hungry, but I will wait to eat until I meet with several other guys from my church for the weekly gathering at a breakfast spot in the Village. I will have to be careful in making my choice of breakfast to ensure that it fits into my new dietary regime. Adaptation. That’s what every day is about.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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