Travelling long distances to remote mines on planes gives me opportunity to read and listen to music. In the past two weeks I have been on nine flights as I traversed great distances to Yellowknife, Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Dallas, Guatemala City, Houston, and back home to Vancouver. Here are some of the books that I have read and some of the music I have listened to.
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly is that perfect light read as you grow sleepy on a long flight. Set in Los Angeles, it is the story of the crass defence lawyer representing drug lords, murderers, and prostitutes. Then one day he realizes that the client he failed to defend adequately is innocent. What to do? That is the essence of the thriller which, in its own paperbook fashion, examines the issue of the death penalty and the risks of killing an innocent man.
Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod is a collection of short stories by a Canadian master. Twenty minutes a story, so time for a snooze between each. And you need respite between each story, for each leaves you exhilarated yet exhausted. So intense is the insight and emotion wrought in simple tales of people working, running, and striving for the ordinary. Why don’t I do the ordinary? is the inevitable question.
AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State by Charles Freeman is a history of the struggles between the factions that were the Christian religion in 381. For that is the year that the Emperor Theodosius issued a decree in which all subjects were required to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This decision was based on politics and pure power mongering. Maybe it was an honest attempt to reconcile Greek philosophy, Jewish writings, and early versions of some of the writings that became the New Testament. Not for those who are of closed mind, fundamental beliefs, or trinity oriented.
Catastrophe: A Quest for the Origins of the Modern World by David Keys tells of the plague that caused the fall of Rome and other civilizations in the mid-sixth-century. Again this book shatters all previous notions of sin and morality-lapses as the cause of the fall of civilizations. Rather we have the story of rats and fleas that killed the majority of the population along trade routes and set in motion the dark ages and the Chinese, Arabic, and Western world as we have it.
Then in one of those book stores that clutter every airport I bought The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Still to read that one.
Once the plane is aloft, I put on those noise-cancelling Boise earphones and attach the iPod to listen to music. I recall the best were a few CDs: Jimmy Summerville, a rock star singing in contralto; Maria Padilla by Donizetti, all three CDs thereof—sadly no DVD available; reissues of Beatles records—I grew to maturity listening to those evocative songs; a tribute to Loretta Lynne and her song of being a coal miner’s daughter—who can resist this one; Juan Diego Florez and the 50 or so songs I have of this extraordinary new opera tenor; and finally Mahler and those long symphonies that can fill a whole flight with magic music.
There are also those magazines that I so love. How nice to page through them, read the occasional article, and dump them in the garbage bin at the next airport as I sip coffee or down a beer before the next flight. There is Rolling Stones, The Economist, The New Yorker, Bicycling, Opera News, and more. I could feed an African village on what I spend on magazines.
None of this is intended as a tribute to mining in distant places or to the glories of travel. As a consultant I know I should work on the plane. But who cares? I can make it up once I get there—although I am usually well prepared before I leave. I charge the client for my travel time. Even though I never work to his benefit. I am travelling to his benefit!
The travel time is a precious gem when in complete private (in public) I can indulge my senses with music and words. I do not envy those who are frantically typing a report, or reviewing a presentation, or scribbling comments on a long-overdue report. If that is what your consultant does on the plane, fire him, for he is inefficient and is not spending quality time in the office on your project.
Rather seek out a consultant who is well prepared or so able as to be able to respond on demand on arrival. Avoid those hacks that have to waste your time on planes when nobody can concentrate properly. Or those who are so overworked that they need air time to do work for you. You can be sure they will be ill-prepared for the meeting and ill-informed about the background of your project, Instead they will bull-shit: just like the sea-gull who flies in, shits, and flies out.
The lesson learnt and the message of this posting: hire consultants who can read, listen to music, and sleep on route to your mine. Those who cannot are not ready for you when they arrive at your mine.