Book Review: Memoir 'rantings' touches on many topics

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"Rantings of a Machine Tool Salesman," by Scott Walker of New Marlborough, was composed over 20 years, written one page at a time, at the pace of one installment every two weeks. Walker has more than 40 years of experience in international sales in the machine tool industry as president and now chairman of Mitsui Seiki (USA). They "build machines that are `computerized mini-factories' for making things for customers in aeronautics, automotive, and the general manufacturing companies." In 1999, the idea of a bi-weekly newsletter to be sent out to all employees with their paychecks was floated by a colleague and Walker agreed, assuming that others at the company would take turns writing them. By the end of the first year, Walker was the sole scribe and has assembled a remarkably cohesive collection. It is actually the story of an interesting life in thought, as captured in discreet chapters.

Not one of these newsletters contains any whiff of a boring business report. "The goal, communicate with everybody." The newsletters cover many meaningful topics such as: Don't Let Terrorists Win, Why Work? How Do You Learn? The Snow Continues (Living in New England in winter!), What You Say and How It Translates, or Life's Work. Writings cover exotic cultures, wine making, timber framing and woodworking, international economies, and comparative philosophies on living. Personal stories as a national darts champion when he owned a pub, scuba dive master, martial arts competitor, wooden boat sailor, oil-on-canvas artist (Walker discovered that the practice of oil painting actually remedied a diagnosis of dyslexia.), rock and roll guitarist, and a deep reading list, attest to Walker's passions. It is no wonder that a man who is such a "collector of hobbies" is also an absorbing writer of these "rantings" that are a memoir, an examination of a life well-lived, an encouragement and a very good read that, as chronologically selected newsletters over the years, cover a lot of our history, as well.

Each newsletter never fails to deliver startling facts or to leave the reader with much to think about. For example, one newsletter early on (July 23, 2003 — Thought for the Day) specifically explores the concept of the number "one billion." In an industry of extremely high precision, where so much depends on the success of outcomes, these numbers warrant reflection. So, as the number "one billion" has become commonplace in our world, shouldn't we know how much it is exactly? By way of analogy, Walker delivers in a concise message what he discovered through researching:

1. A billion seconds ago, it was 1959.

2. A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive.

3. A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

4. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate Washington spends it.

Every newsletter chapter has a consistent message that, "It is important for us to maintain contact with each other, regardless of our background, culture or beliefs." This collection of newsletters is clearly a wonderful tribute to a leader who maintained contact and context with his company and everyone working there. A commendable practice for every organizational leader and the resultant book version is a fascinating new genre.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com.

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