Sunday, December 25, 2005

Sharing Some Thoughts On Christmas Morning

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless.


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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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



* * * * *

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


Thursday, December 22, 2005

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

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

* * * * * *
Kevin and Al,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Love from Bird, Randy, Jake and Gaucha

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

* * * * * *

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

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

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

“For It Is In Giving That We Receive”

God bless.


A Different View From Iraq

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

* * * * * *

Dear friends,

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

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

Your friend


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Attention Red Sox Nation: DO NOT PANIC!!

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

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

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

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

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

Go Sox!


The Box In The Hall

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

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

* * * * * *
The Box In The Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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


Sunday, December 11, 2005

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Feliz Navidad!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

This powerful book comes with my strong recommendation.



Friday, December 09, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that you will find this additional feature helpful.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Networking In Real Time - How to Build Your Network

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

Harvard Business Review Online How to Build Your Network

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

Bob Allard is CEO of Extension Engine and Retention Engine (

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the beauty of this New England snow storm!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Happy Anniversary - The White Rhino Report Is One Year Old

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



Paul Theroux – Travel Writer Extraordinaire!

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

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

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

* * * * *

Theroux takes us to Guatemala:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Acknowledging Good Customer Service – The Ladders and Scott Barker

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Best wishes.


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

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

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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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

Visit the site – and enjoy!


Monday, December 05, 2005

A Networking Manifesto - Bob Allard Speaks

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

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

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



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

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

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

Here are the details, if you choose to participate:

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

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

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

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

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

3) Mark the side of the box as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

5) Address to:

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

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

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

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

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

Share the joy of the season!

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

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

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

God bless!