Friday, September 23, 2011

The problems of the workplace

{Photo by rocketlass.}

Candice Millard, author of River of Doubt, one of my favorite books about Teddy Roosevelt (which is saying something), has a new book out on James Garfield, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. I'm enough of a history dilettante to admit that Garfield was mostly a blank spot for me--had a beard, was an abolitionist, got assassinated by Charles Giteau--until I read Adam Goodheart's 1861 this summer. In Goodheart's hands, Garfield is unforgettable: a passionately idealistic teacher at (and, at 26, president of!) a small Ohio college, essentially drafted into a political career, in which he somehow seems to have remained enthusiastic, serious, and intellectual.

I'm only a few pages into Millard's book, but this passage, describing a presentation at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, seemed like the right way to close out a long, busy workweek:
Admiring a sturdy saw meant for amputations, one surgeon asked rhetorically, "Who has not experienced the annoyance, in the middle of an operation, of the saw breaking or becoming wedged in the bone so tightly as to be disengaged with difficulty?"
With that, let us all remember to be grateful that we're living now, with all the distractions and irritations and problems of the present, rather than in the, well, sawbones era.

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