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Okay, here’s an idea that fairly defines the words “off beat.”

Some companies, such an Intel, are urging their employees to make Fridays an e-mail-free zone.

That’s right. Following in the “casual Friday” tradition that encouraged people to leave their suits and ties home on the final day of the work week (which eventually spread to the point where in many companies the entire week is spent in casual clothing), these companies are suggesting that on Fridays, people should have face-to-face meetings or, at the very least, talk on the phone.

USA Today reports this morning that a staggering 39.7 billion person-to-person e-mails, 17.1 billion automated alerts, and 40.5 billion pieces of spam (unsolicited commercial e-mail) are sent worldwide, with the average white-collar worker receiving 140 email messages a day. (I actually get about triple that.)

I sort of think this is an intriguing idea, though I can’t imagine actually doing it. Furthermore, I suspect that if someone were to ignore his or her email box on Fridays, they’d spend all weekend trying to catch up so that Monday wouldn’t be a complete disaster. The marital stresses alone might create a bigger problem than the email.

There’s also a presumption that email reduces interpersonal communication rather than enhances it, which I’m also not sure is true. I have two sons off at college, and email is part of the way we stay in touch…often at their instigation, not mine. (Cell phones help, too.) When I went to college – admittedly a long time ago – I spoke to my parents maybe two or three times a semester (I was 3,000 miles away and long distance calls were expensive), and I never wrote. In this case, technology has made personal connections easier, not more elusive. And based on the many, many emails I get every week from MNB users, I have to say that I think I have a more personal connection to them – and they with me – than would be achieved without email.

Still, the notion is interesting, if only because it makes us all think about these issues – not about the technology component, but about what communication really means.

Craig Crawford is a terrific journalist who covers politics for Congressional Quarterly, MSNBC and CBS, and he’s come out with a new book that is a must-read: “The Politics of Life: 25 Rules For Survival in a Brutal and Manipulative World.” This short book will make a great holiday present, I think – it features 25 life lessons (more, if you pay attention) that are rooted some basic truths of human behavior. Political examples are cited as a way of illustrating the lessons, but this book is more about people than partisanship, and Crawford is a conversational, accessible writer.

Some of my favorite lessons/chapters from the book: “Love Helps, But Fear Motivates.” “Better To Imitate A Winner Than Be An Original Loser.” “Never Keep Your Word If Circumstances Change.” “A True Enemy Should Be Eliminated, Never Tolerated.” And, “Victory Can Sometimes Be Concealed In Compromise.”

You won’t like everything that this book says about the human condition, but you can’t deny that Crawford is making points that are both accurate and provocative.

Read this book.

Any week in which a really good CD of rock ‘n roll gets released is a good week. But two in one week? That’s like an embarrassment of riches.

But that’s what happened this week.

First, there is Bruce Springsteen’s “Magic,” which has gotten enormous hype and live sup to every word in my humble opinion. There are driving beats and haunting melodies and lyrics that haunt and hint at a kind of wistfulness that only comes as one gets older. I really like the songs ‘Radio Nowhere,” “Last To Die,” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes,’ but the whole album is wonderful

And on the same day, the great John Fogerty released his new album, “Revival,” which is a wonderful reflection of his Creedence Clearwater Revival roots – more so than in any of his recent stuff. (He had a famous falling out with the band and their record company that soured him on any of his old music.) But this one has some wonderful songs, including ‘Creedence Song,” “Broken Down Cowboy,” and “Gunslinger” – but again, this is just great, foot-tapping rock ‘n roll.

“The Kingdom” is an action movie set in the world of Islamic terrorism, and concerns the efforts of an FBI forensic team to find out who launched an enormous terrorist attack on a military compound in the Middle East. On the surface, it sort of plays like “CSI: Saudi Arabia,” and I have no idea if it is any more factual about Middle East politics than a Rambo movie. But my sense is that if nothing else, it captures the utter confusion and despair experienced by Americans trying to apply reason to a situation founded on extreme religious and ethnic beliefs and hatreds. That may be more of a political undercurrent than an action movie deserves, but I have to say that I liked “The Kingdom” a lot, especially the performances of Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper as two of the investigators. If nothing else, the last half-hour will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I think I’ve made the point over the past week about how painful the NY Mets’ late season collapse was. But it also has been the source of some pretty good jokes …and let’s face it, if we don't laugh, we’ll all go insane. (Thank you, Jimmy…)

I had to laugh, for example, when I got a “New York Mets To New York Yankees Fan Conversion Application,” which said, in part:

“Thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the New York Yankees Fan Club. Due to an unprecedented volume of requests, we are currently processing only fan conversion applications for New York Mets fans. Conversion requests from other teams will be processed after all Met requests are processed. We expect this to take a number of weeks based on the current backlog of requests.

Please take a few moments to fill out the conversion form below to help us get to know you better, and to prescribe any required counseling to help you recover from your previous Mets fan experience.”

And, the conversion form offers a series of questions, including:

Please indicate your favorite moments in Mets history (Check all that apply):

• Nolan Ryan traded for Jim Fregosi
• Timo Perez forgets to run in the World Series
• Scott Kazimir traded for Victor Zambrano
• Al Leiter allowed to throw 164 pitches in a World Series game
• Joel Pinero (American League reject) shuts the Mets out 3-0
• Knocked out of 1st place with 17 games remaining & a 7 game lead
• Bobby Valentine thrown out of the game, comes back with fake mustache & glasses
• Armando Benitez cracks under pressure, again & again & again...

Reasons you believe the Mets have not won a World Series since 1986 (Check all that apply):

• Lack of Pitching
• Lack of Hitting
• Poor Management
• Lack of Defense
• Bad calls by Umpires
• Better and more frequent drug testing by Major League Baseball
• Prolonged exposure to jet plane noise & exhaust affects the nervous system and causes a decrease in physical coordination

Funny stuff.

I also liked the email that announced that the federal government has announced a worldwide recall of all NY Mets merchandise – not because it is made in China, but because it obviously poses a choking hazard…

But I gotta tell ya…

That’s it for this week. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

KC's View: