IF I HAD A TIME MACHINE,

By Irving Vanderblock-Wheedle.

If I could visit ancient Hellas,
I’d have to look up all the fellas.
To learn what oratory means,
I’d make my way to Demosthenes.
For history, I’d take long rides
To hear the tales from Thucydides.
I’d walk through Athens’ seedy lanes
And trade jokes with Aristophanes.
And, since I’m calling on the greats,
For physick, I’d see Hippocrates.
The priests in their white clericals
Would lead us all to Pericles,
And I’d say, “If you plan to write us,
Address us care of Democritus.”
And, best of all, I’d learn to speak
Quite fluently in ancient Greek.

RESULTS ONLY.

Lately we have been hearing quite a bit about the “Results-Only Work Environment,” or ROWE as it is acronymized. The idea of the Results-Only Work Environment is that employees are judged only by the results of their labors. Instead of telling employees that they need to be here doing that at this time, managers tell them that this result is needed, and if the thing is done on time they ask no questions about how the result was attained.

This sounds obviously correct. It is, in fact, what you do when you want anything that is really important to you. Suppose you decide to order a meal from the Nepalese place down the street. Do you go into the kitchen and tell the cooks what to do with their knives, how hot the burners should be, how much of each ingredient should go into each dish? No; you simply demand this kind of momo, and expect that you will get the result you desire from people who know how to make momo without your instructions.

Then why are all work environments not Results-Only Work Environments? There are doubtless many reasons, but the foremost is that the Results-Only Work Environment works only when there are results to be expected. At any given moment during the work week, six out of ten office teams are performing a buzzword. If you asked any of them to define what the result of the performance would be, they could only give you another buzzword. What are you doing? “Leveraging our core agilities!” What will you achieve? “Synergy!” Fine. I expect sixteen pounds of synergy on this table by Friday afternoon, but I don’t care how you get it there.

There is, however, a secondary reason, and for this reason Dr. Boli expects that the reign of ROWE as a management buzzword will be short. It is perfectly obvious that, if employees are capable of making results happen without the constant supervision of managers, then there are far too many managers in the world. It does not matter, therefore, if the company prospers under the ROWE regime. It does not matter if the stacks and stacks of glossy blue synergy pile up faster than ever before. Sooner or later the shareholders are going to start to ask why there are so many managers standing around doing nothing and getting paid for it.

Then the managers will have to justify their existence, and they can do that only by proving that they have to manage. And then the results will cease to matter, because they will have run up against a force far more powerful in business than mere prosperity. They will have run up against religion. It is desirable, all other things being equal, that the company should make a profit; but it is religious dogma that business-school graduates must prosper and be respected and beget more business-school graduates. You cannot ask why it is so, any more than you can ask why Huitzilopochtli demands human sacrifices. It is the order of the cosmos.

So enjoy the Results Only Work Environment while it is still a brief fad. If you work in such an office, make the most of your worker autonomy in these last few sunny days of ROWE. Pile up heaps of results to draw on during the long, cold winter when the business-school graduates are having their revenge.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR.

Sir: This morning I was driving through the Tubes when I happened to glance at the car to my left as it passed me (at quite a high rate of speed, I might add, which occasioned some squealing of brakes a few yards down), and what I noticed, specifically, was the license plate, which was one of those specialty plates on which the driver had chosen the letters to spell out something that indicated to the world his sense of what was vitally important in life. Specifically, the plate spelled out this slogan:

DRV FSTR

I was really delighted to see that someone cared deeply enough about my own favorite charity to specify a license plate with that slogan. In today’s world of rapid suburbanization, many droves of cattle have been left homeless, and drove fostering is more vital than ever. Nor should we forget the benefits for the fostererers. I mean the people doing the fostering. Cattle can be very affectionate animals, and of course, alternatively, they can be delicious. Either way, opening your pasture to a foster drove of homeless cattle can be a rewarding and indeed life-changing experience. I am absolutely sure about the life-changing part.

So I ask your readers, Won’t you please consider giving pasture space to a homeless drove of cattle today? And to that driver I saw in the Tubes this morning: I should like to offer you my sincere thanks for spreading the word about the homeless-cattle problem to all the morning commuters around you. But you might want to slow down a bit. You drive like a maniac.

—Sincerely, Albertina Cuyp, Dormont.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL DEAD LANGUAGE.

One of the handy sidebar tools in the Microsoft Edge browser is a translator. It will translate any language you can think of. Azerbaijani, Bashkir, Divehi, Faroese, Inuinnaqtun, Upper Sorbian. It will translate Klingon.

Not Latin.

You may ask yourself: How many people are likely to want something translated from Latin, and how does it compare with the number of people who are likely to want something translated from Upper Sorbian?

In the fifteen seconds he was willing to devote to the problem, Dr. Boli was not able to think of a good answer to how many people need to have things translated from Latin. But we can at least guess how many people are likely to be producing content on the Internet in some of those lesser-known languages. There are roughly 13,000 speakers of Upper Sorbian in the world. There are (by the last census) 1,316 speakers of Inuinnaqtun in the world. Let us assume that every one of them is a content producer. If they work eight hours a day producing content, it will take them decades to create as much content as is already available on the Internet in Latin.

What, then, does it mean that Microsoft Edge will not attempt to translate Latin? When we see the omission of Latin—which is actually quite typical for language tools (remember how long it took to get usable polytonic Greek in the computer world?)—we immediately begin to think that there is a giant cultural assumption at work here. The assumption is not just that the past is worthless: it is that it would be wrong not to repudiate the past. You would feel dirty if you programmed your translator for Latin. The eighteen people who communicate on the Internet in Inuinnaqtun should be encouraged; the millions of scholars of worthless dead things who need to read Latin should be told what we think of them.

Under the circumstances, we should give Google some credit for attempting to translate Latin, even if the results are usually comical.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

On this day in 1605, Guy Fawkes and friends did not blow up Parliament. Thus began a longstanding colorful British tradition of not blowing up parliament, in spite of daily temptations.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR.

Sir: Isn’t it awful how oppressed people are oppressed? I think all the oppressors in the world should wake up, see the damage they’re causing, and stop oppressing people. But here’s my problem. I wanted to tell the oppressors exactly that, but I couldn’t find any oppressors. All I could find was a bunch of oppressed people. I talked to some people who sure looked like oppressors to me, but they assured me that they were actually the oppressed. The poor were oppressed by the rich, but the rich people I talked to were oppressed by poor people who wanted the government to take more taxes from them. The members of privileged majorities were oppressed by minorities demanding equal rights. Everywhere I looked, the powerless were oppressed by the powerful, but the powerful were also oppressed by the powerless somehow.

So I’m writing to tell you that I have discovered clear evidence of alien life forms on our planet. The proof is simple. Everyone agrees that a whole lot of oppressing is going on, but no human being is doing the oppressing. Therefore the culprits must be life forms beyond our knowledge and understanding. Or cats. I wouldn’t put anything past cats. —Sincerely, Barnsworth W. Kriegsrumtopf, Swisshelm Park.

A NEW NOVEL FROM AN OLD FRIEND, AND TWO BOOKS OF POEMS TO DROOL OVER.

Mr. Samuel Hazo is a titan in the world of poetry, the former poet laureate of Pennsylvania and an outsized influence on younger poets. And now, at the age of 94, he has just published a new novel, available from our friends at Serif Press.

I Want It to Happen book cover

I Want It to Happen: Love as a Saga is, on the surface, a simple romance. But it is put together with the usual Samuel Hazo care, every word meticulously chosen to create the illusion that no thought went into it at all.

Mr. Hazo has been busy. At almost the same time as his new novel, he came out with a new collection of poems written in the last six years: The Less Said, the Truer, published by Syracuse University Press.

Samuel Hazo will also be reading his own poetry in Pittsburgh this Saturday at the Beatrice Institute’s Holy Slang: A Weekend of Poetry. He will be joined by the equally legendary Jane Greer, founder of Plains Poetry Journal and beacon of the New Formalist movement. By coincidence, she also has a new book out from Lambing Press: The World as We Know It Is Falling Away, a stunning collection of poems that may leave you thinking the best days of English poetry are ahead of us.

The World as We Know It Is Falling Away book cover