Dear Arab Nations,

March 4, 2011

Do not ask for our help.


Go this road alone.

Yes—doing so will result in more death, more struggle, more strife. But do not ask for our help.

We could supply guns, technologies and training; and all these would catalyze your fight for freedom. But do not ask for them.

Even if you don’t ask for help, we will come to you and very quietly offer it.

Don’t take it.

Of course that’s easy to say from within the sunlit walls of freedom, but know that it’s said with an eye on history.

The people who will come to help have families, friends that make them happy. They do things like play the piano, ride bikes in the park, barbeque, smile. They are good people. But you don’t want their help.

They will take you to dinner and buy presents for your children. They will listen to your terrible stories, even lend a shoulder for tears. And then they will conduct business.

They do not see your revolution. It’s not malicious; it’s nothing personal. It has nothing to do with Christianity or Islam. Our revolution was fought by our great-grandfather’s great-grandfather. It’s not that we don’t empathize with you; it’s that we can’t empathize with you.

Your revolutions have become our opportunities.

If you reject us, many of your countrymen will cry, “Why has America forsaken us?” Show them Iraq, where we say now that we need to stay a while longer. Show them South Korea, Japan, Germany or any other country where America has involved themselves in conflict and point to the military bases on the outskirts of humble villages. Show them the shakier governments that depend on our hand and how that same hand quietly shapes policy for those people. Show them fallen governments and how quickly our friendship can disappear.

That will be your future.

Because we don’t help—we trade. We provide ammunition if you provide leverage. It’s that simple.

So go this bloody road alone. It truly is, for the good of your future.

And good luck.


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Caleb’s recent column on Bleacher Report: Learning From Bill Walsh.

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Caleb Garling lives in San Francisco and wrote The St George’s Angling Club, available at

Dear 9-5 Commute and Workday in the Office,

November 19, 2010

Welcome to the beginning of the end.  For most people, you will become a relic.  Market forces will savage you throughout the working world, leaving only a few areas untouched.  “Work from home” is too juicy a selling point for employers with prospective hires.  Enlightened managers will realize that face-to-face oversight doesn’t add as much value as they’d want to believe.  The cost savings of a small or non-existent office will drive them further.  On top of all that, your death will help alleviate crowded highways, pollution and gas dependency.  While this will scare unions, the auto industry and of course, oil companies, the advantages are too high.  Larger forces are at work, that of the global marketplace.

You claim two major advantages: 1) The walk-around/watercooler/meeting effect of casually talking through business issues.  And 2) management keeping an eye on employees.  But the rest of the time people are at their desk, which could be on the moon, getting work done.  Nothing about these advantages can’t be solved with today’s tools.  The walk-around effect?  It’s already dying.  I’ve had people instant message me from ten feet away.  How often do people send a one sentence email to a person down the hall? More and more we’re shifting our communication onto the wires.  Without you 9-5, we’ll just set up a standing video conference and pop our head into someone’s screen when we want to chat.  Meetings?  Same deal, and anyone can vouch that a significant percentage of company meetings shouldn’t happen anyway.

Management’s watchful eye?  Sorry 9-5, every computer has smart ways of saying whether someone is “online” or not.  In addition, it takes two seconds to equip them with screen sharing for a manager’s quick check in.  Employees may grimace at the big brother effect, but they know this will happen in the office anyway.

The real point is this: most office jobs are driven by results, not office hours.  The successful manager will still give his team smartly-assigned projects, success metrics, due dates and say, “Tell me how I can help.”  And if the project needs collaboration, we’ll get on the phone, video chat, share our screens, set up dually-editable documents, whatever.  Face to face contact will not outweigh the productivity disadvantage of commuting and being stuck in a cube under florescent lights all day.  For instance, some people don’t work well until after lunch; others can’t form two smart sentences after lunch.  Who cares if someone is working on a project at 1 PM or 1 AM, as long as it’s done by next Friday?  If someone was up until midnight because their kid was sick, they shouldn’t have to trudge through your slog the next morning, nurse a coffee, star blankly at their screen, all while churning out poor-quality work.  Let them sleep in.  And get the work done on their hours.  The quality will be better.  That’s the goal, right?

One of the last arguments against your death, 9-5, is the alleged importance of a “company environment”.  For firms getting off the ground: mostly true.  For firms off the ground: bullllllshit.  The days of “Yeah, Company!” are over.  That crap just breeds closed-door cynicism.  Sure, a recent grad may come into the office starry-eyed, but it takes about a month before they’re saying, “Okaaaay, so this is what it’s like.”  People want to get paid to do work they (somewhat) enjoy, and go on with their lives.  The days of being an IBM man with a crisp suit are over.   These days, most college grads have had four different employers by the time they’re thirty.  There are too many bright lights in the world to think that your company is one worth caring about.

So 9-5, let’s recognize exactly what you are: a condition of a business relationship.  I want what’s best for me.  My employer wants what’s best for it.  If I can bring my talent and we both can save the time and money of managing and being in an office all day, then we’ll get it done.  Like most seismic shifts, it will take some time and there will be fatalities.  Managers who blur their want of control, with an actual need for control will fade alongside you.  But those that acknowledge that an employee is a node on a grid of creation and adjust and shape their businesses accordingly will survive.  They’ll get that deliverable by next Friday and won’t care if it was done by someone in their underwear.



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Caleb Garling lives in San Francisco and wrote The St George’s Angling Club, available at


Dear Internet,

August 27, 2010

First, my compliments.  I can’t believe how much you’ve grown.  We can all stay in touch with friends.  We read news from around the world whenever we want.  We check out foreign cities as if we were walking them.  We learn about topics we didn’t know existed and can debate them with people we’ll never meet. All of it.  Thank you.  You’re making lives more efficient, giving people time back in their day (if they want it), and the world is a better place because of it.

You’ve done all this at such a young age and in a lot of ways, I’m sure that makes you proud, but at the same time, a little nervous.  You’ve gotten by on other’s perception that you’re going to grow into something great and your way has been paid largely on that bet, not your merits and ability to support yourself.  It’s okay; most kids grow up that way.  But I know you’re starting to realize that mom and dad are a little tighter with allowances and asking about your homework a little more sternly, and because you’re mature beyond your years, you’re asking yourself, “What am I going to be when I grow up—how will I support myself?”

My dear Internet, it’s a question, in one way or another, that everyone’s asking themselves all the time, so don’t worry it’s perfectly natural and I do see that you are taking strides to figure it out.  Like the advertisements you hang as we surf your pages.  Good idea, but you have a long way to go to make that model work: we’re pretty focused and don’t like to be bothered.  Or the notions of making us pay for premium content and services.  Also a good idea, but such a plethora of free information, thought and products are created everyday, it’s harder and harder to pull out the credit card.

But you’re young and persistent, and have not stopped thinking there.  Like accessing the data we’ve given you to get a better idea of what We look like, so you can better target your products.  This is strategic, but We like our privacy—at least the perception of it, so tread carefully.  Or the idea of tiering the speeds with which we access you and making us pay for faster service.  Also a good idea.  Your access is not an inherent right.  We pay for how much electricity or water we use, we should pay for how much bandwidth we use.

But here is where I’ll caution you, Internet, because those last two ideas dip their fingers into people’s pots more uncomfortably than the first and I know you’ve got others in the wings.  You may look at Oil, Banking, Insurance and your other vertical siblings and notice that when They really want something crucial done for their business, They don’t turn to the market and Their customers, They turn to the government.  They put an arm around Congress, take them on a date and nine months later there is a beautiful piece of legislation.  I see you’re already eyeing this a little here and there, like for instance Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman/CEO, being an “informal technology adviser” to The White House.

Be careful.  Unlike your older siblings, we love you because there is a certain fun and freedom in your eyes.  Don’t ruin that—stay young, stay open, stay fun.  A few years ago Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s business card playfully said “CEO…bitch,” and now he’s doing public chat sessions with foreign dignitaries.  Your vertical siblings are wrought with executives that hee-haw in alligator-skin cowboy boots, sport suites costing more than our cars or sit so stoically you’d think they couldn’t smile at their own child.  Don’t let us see you follow a similar path; don’t let us see you filling public offices with your alumni; don’t let us see you laid out on long tables with name cards, answering uncomfortable questions from the same people you once took on a date.  Please.  Don’t.  In a sense, I’m asking you to not grow up to Big Internet.

And that’s probably not possible.  The world is a tough place—you are determined, and you will do what you can to support yourself, even if it doesn’t make us proud all the time.  I guess that’s just the natural course.

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Caleb Garling lives in San Francisco and wrote The St George’s Angling Club, available at

Dear People Who Care about Tiger Woods off the Golf Course,

March 26, 2010

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Stop clicking on the stories when they come up on Yahoo or ESPN.  Stop watching when it’s mentioned on SportsCenter.  Stop giving careers to sketchy lawyers.  Stop giving book deals to porn stars.  Stop acting as if Tiger owes one thing to one person except his family and friends.  Stop being a pawn in the circus.  Stop paying attention.

You own a set of Tiger Woods golf clubs and feel betrayed?  Sell them and pipe down.  Your kid looked up to him?  Take some responsibility for letting your kid have a role model you don’t know.  You just find the whole thing “sort of interesting”?  It’s a big world out there and if you do some work, you may find some stuff that’s way more interesting.

Same for you media.  You’re doing your job as a reporter?  Stop being lazy and find a real story.  You’re doing your job as a columnist?  Stop being dumb and come up with your own opinion.  You’re doing your job as a producer?  Show some sack and make interesting something else in the wide wide world of sports.  All of you are cashing in on America’s pathetic tendency to slow down at a car crash.  You know we look, we gossip, we have opinions on business that is not ours.  And you feed that.

But yes, the responsibility does ultimately lie in the individual who tunes in, who forms judgments based on other’s perceptions, who put these slimy lawyers on the map, who cause floozies to come out of the woodwork and rain crocodile tears about how Tiger broke their heart.  It does come back to us.  So when Tiger returns (and lays waste) to Augusta, mute the TV when the chatter heads start innocently wondering “how he must feel after all that’s gone on.”  Just watch the greatest golfer in the world playing the greatest course in the world, and not only have some respect for him, but for yourself.

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Caleb Garling lives in San Francisco and wrote The St George’s Angling Club, available at

Dear Lower Back,

March 16, 2010

Look, I appreciate the job you have, but to be honest, everyone seems to be on the same page, except you.  What’s up?  Knees and Ankles do their work without comment when we go for a jog.  Heart plods along 24/7 with only a murmur.  Liver doesn’t bitch when he has to filter and clean up a big mess Sunday morning.  Even Digestive Tract is pretty calm in the face of an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet.

But not you.

I can’t sit in one position for more than ten minutes without you writhing like some sadistic plumber has you with a monkey wrench.  I can’t go for a jog without you creaking and popping like you’re taking sniper fire in Vietnam.  Your complaining has gotten so bad that I actually check in with you before I pick up the groceries or tie my shoes, because of the off chance that I move too quickly and you start crying like a little bitch.

Cut it out.  We’re all in this together.  I know you have a tough job working the middle and carrying all that weight, but that’s what you signed up for, so suck it up.  I mean, your work has gotten pretty easy since college as Chest and Arms aren’t nearly as heavy as they used to be.  All their weight seems to have migrated to your annoying half-brother, Stomach.

Bottom line: we all have our positions and play them without commentary.  They all have their ups and downs.  I don’t hear a peep out of Colon.  Otherwise you’re going to find yourself laid up on the couch, wearing one of those emasculating braces that make people think you’re some prude eighteenth century matriarch.

Teamwork, buddy.  I need you.  Get back in the game.


Dear City Citation Bureaucracy,

March 16, 2010

I broke the law.  I did.  I drove in a bus lane when I was coming home from work on Friday.  It was open. There were no buses in sight.  The traffic was bad and I tore into that wide open lane like an Olympic ice luger.  Then the blue lights came on, and the siren.  I pulled over and took my punishment.  I didn’t say a protesting word to the cop.  He seemed busy and stressed out—so busy and stressed out that he didn’t see seven cars pass us, also in the bus lane— and was nice enough to give me the lesser infraction.  I broke the law.  Now, I am going to pay my fine…hold on…just reading this faded type on the back of the ticket to see how…

[2:05] Huh.  There is no website listed, but I bet there is one.  They must have just forgotten to mention it here, on the ticket.  I’ll just Google it.  Umm, yes, here it is.  Fifth search result.  Clicking there…Perfect!  I can just enter my ticket number, like so, and now I’ll just pay my—

Hm.  The cop said the fine was $50.  But I read that you are charging me $170.  Those numbers are different enough that I don’t think I’m remembering incorrectly.  I’m not late and haven’t received any other violations so this seems to be some sort of mistake.

No matter.  These things happen so I’ll just call this number you left me on the ticket.  Okay, I pressed (1).  And yes, now (3) seems like the closest option to my situation.  Great, (1) again, of course I’ll have this call in English.  Oh, interesting music choice, not what anyone I know has ever put on in their entire life, but there is nothing wrong with a little cheap jazz every—oh, hi female automated voice.  Great, you appreciate my call and will get to me as soon as possible.  Thanks.  Back to the smooth jazz…

[2:32] Yup, automated voice, I know.  I’m really enjoying this music now because it’s the seventh time I’ve heard this song, so you don’t have to keep interrupting to tell me that you appreciate my call and—oh it’s ringing!  Great!

“Yes, I’d like to ask a…oh sorry, my ticket number is 010-63…You don’t process tickets that begin with 010?  But this is the phone number on my…okay, sure, give it to me…Thank—.”  Huh, hung up.  She must have been busy.

[2:40] Alright, now we have the number.  I’ll just dial, and it’s ringing.  Great.  Oh an answering machine for extension 3392.  That can’t be right, this is the number the Customer Service Rep gave me to pay for any traffic or moving violation…unless she gave me the first number on an outdated sheet of paper tapped to her cubicle that hasn’t been synched up to anything else in the city system since 2006.  That can’t be right.  I must have copied it down wrong.

I guess I’ll look online and see if there is something there.  Oh, fantastic!  I didn’t even see this number right where I tried to pay online the first time.  It’s—oh, wait—this is the first number I tried calling, from my ticket, that didn’t work.  Huh.  It seems to be out of date on their website too.  They must be so busy that they can’t update this stuff.

[2:55] I guess the best course of action is to just look the main number to the Traffic and Police Department and get the right number that way.  Those main number directories are always useful and have everything listed.  That’ll be the easiest since the number on the other pages of the website are out of date.  Here’s the mainline number on the .gov homepage.  Perfect!  Dialing, ready to navigate a phone tree and…

“Oh, excuse me, hi, um, Marion.  Um, I was just looking for a directory… what?…I’m just trying to clear up a discrepancy in my traffic…okay, well I tried calling that number and it…I know…but…I did that and it didn’t work…Sure, give me the other number you have.  Thank—” Huh, she hung up too.  Everyone is so busy over there these days.

Okay, dialing this number now.  Perfect.  (1) For Traffic violations.  And yes, (4) because my violation number does not end in a letter.  Great, (3) because I don’t have any other outstanding violations.  Okay, now I’ll enter my date of birth.  And my driver’s license number.  And the ticket number.  Huh, you’d think those would be tied to the ticket number.  No matter, this is the right path.  I can feel it.

[3:07] Great, there are five callers in line in front of me.  Different music this time, guess I should diversify my smooth jazz repertoire.  Oh, great, now there are only three people.  Dang, that’s too bad: they started the song over.  This is the right path, I can tell.  I’ll have this over and done—oh, perfect only one person in front of me.  Darn, they started the song over—but it’s ringing now!

[3:27] Oh.  It stopped ringing, guess it’s just transferring to someone so I can clear this little problem up.  Huh.  The dead air is a little disconcerting but no matter, the phone is still engaged with some number because it hasn’t turned off.  Hmmm.  More dead air.  I wonder if—‘call has been disconnected?’  Oh man.

That’s really too bad.  They must be having phone problems.  This is interesting though.  Looking at my watch, I’ve spent the last eighty-two minutes trying to sort this out.  I guess the best course of action for me is to just suck up the $120 difference and pay this ticket online.  They’ve been so nice as to provide this website so I should just use it.

Though, maybe it would be worth it to get in my car and drive down to city hall, where I am sure there is ample, cheap parking, and go to room 145, as indicated on my ticket and protest that way.  I doubt there is much of a line.

What do you think City Citation Bureaucracy?


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Dear Old Bluesman Playing a Sad Guitar,

March 16, 2010

Thank you.  Somehow, you still manage to fingerpick and sing from everyone’s common soul.  While your calluses amble up and down the neck, always making it just in time to fret the right note, we can’t help but close an eye and nod at the conduit you create between the world and the deep, often sad, chambers of our heart.  Your words are often so simple that they pass by like leaves and we miss the poetry with which you’ve bottled humanity.

These days, you’ve been footnoted and pushed to basements, so let me say this: No matter what, never stop playing your music.  Please.  For better or for worse, some day we’ll be robbed of the inspiration that makes you pluck your guitar and sing of sad days.  Losing your real voice will be one of the painful casualties of progress.

So just keep playing and let us get you while we can.