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Master plan?

[ 2011-09-13 16:30]     字号 [] [] []  
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Master plan?

Reader question:

Please explain “master plan” and this sentence: “Don’t wake me up without a master plan.”

My comments:

If the speaker had his way, he might as well stay in bed all day.

Master plan here means an overall plan for all activities to be scheduled for the coming day. Suppose that these are tourists to Beijing, and the speaker, a child a young man (for it sounds like some youngster speaking) is talking to his parents. He wants to know before hand what exactly they’re going to do tomorrow. He wants to know exactly when, for instance, he’s going to be asked up for breakfast, what park they’re going to visit in the morning, whether they’re going there by bus, the subway or taxi, where exactly they’re going to have lunch and in the afternoon, whether they’re going to visit the Summer Palace or the Fragrant Hills, whether they’re going to have a banquet with their auntie’s family downtown for dinner and whether they’ll allow him to go to the karaoke bar with a few former school buddies afterwards, if, that is, the parents insist, he has any energy left after another eventful day.

In other words, the young person wants to have minute details of the next day’s travel schedule in hand. Otherwise, he’s not going to get up at all – he won’t be roaming round the capital city with his parents again “like a group of flies with their head cut off” (or he just might have said as much).

A pampered child speaking this is to be sure.

Pampered children notwithstanding, “master plan” refers to the original overall plan that covers everything, and everything long term, with every little detail taken into consideration and a step-by-step execution strategy spelled out.

You may have heard of the term “master tape” (if that is, you’re old enough to remember the olden days of the cassette tape recorder), which refers to the original recording of a performance, from which all other duplicates (copies) are made.

Cassette tapes are a day or two of the past to be sure, but then perhaps you’ve heard of the “master list”, the original list of luminaries (important persons) attending the meeting, from which all other printouts are based.

Or the “master copy” itself, the original copy from which all other copies come from.

The original copy is in many cases very important, hence the master plan is kind of important as it guides people from activity to activity or (this just pops up) the Party from victory to victory, as they used to say.

The Party, by the way, used to have a master plan for the country in the form of Four Modernizations, modernizing the country in terms of agriculture, industry, national defense and science and technology. This was a master plan promulgated in the 1970s and 1980s. As we approached the second millennium however, nobody mentioned the Four Modernizations again – I guess all those goals had long been reached by then and so it was no point talking about it any more.

The point is, beware of master plans. In fact, beware of any plans. As John Lennon once succinctly put it, “life is what happens while we’re making other plans.”

In short, people who make plans change plans.

And so why not live out the day on the fly? Why make so many tiresome plans while you, of all things, travel?

I guess the above-mentioned speaker really just wants to stay in bed, and in fact, all day, to play computer games on his iPad or some other gadget.

Oh, well, never mind. Let’s move on to examine more media examples of “master plan”:

1. The U.S. Department of Energy is moving quickly with no master plan to shut down a project that would have buried the nation's nuclear waste in Nevada, the department’s inspector general said in a report made public Friday.

Department officials have used focus groups and set a Sept. 30 deadline to end the 28-year-long Yucca Mountain project, according to a memorandum dated Wednesday from DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman.

Friedman's findings were reported Friday by Stephens Media’s Washington bureau and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

His report compares closing the $10.5 billion Yucca Mountain project 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas to decommissioning the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas after Congress killed it in 1993.

“We know of no other comparable single project termination in the department’s recent history as consequential as Yucca Mountain,” said the report, titled, “Need for Enhanced Surveillance During the Yucca Mountain Project Shut Down.”

“A planning framework would have increased the likelihood of overall success of the effort,” the report says. It doesn’t specify consequences of no master plan.

An attached letter tallies more than $2 million in equipment, desks, cubicles, printers and supplies moved from offices at the Yucca Mountain site and Las Vegas to the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.

- Nevada nuke site to close without a master plan, AP, July 23, 2010.

2. The New Orleans City Council will decide this week whether to adopt the latest draft of the proposed master plan for the city — or send it back to the City Planning Commission for more tweaking. The proposed “Plan for the 21st Century: New Orleans 2030” is nearly two years and $2 million in the making. Literally thousands of New Orleanians have weighed in on the document (www.nolamasterplan.org). The good news is that much progress has been made toward writing a plan that will guide the city’s physical development for the next 20 years. The not-so-good news is that significant work remains to be done. The council therefore should send the plan back to the planning board with specific instructions for improving it. The council appears poised to do just that.

The most important element of the plan is already in place: Once adopted, the master plan will have the force of law. That aspect will not change because voters embedded it in the City Charter. That does not guarantee, however, that the plan will be comprehensive, workable, coherent, properly prioritized, internally consistent, user friendly and sufficiently protective of the city's historic character and uniqueness. The plan must be broad enough in scope to provide a long-term vision, yet focused enough to articulate specific goals, policies and actions to make that vision a reality. Above all, it must be realistic. The proposed plan needs improvement across all those areas.

The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), a local nonprofit think tank, has followed the planning process since its inception and released several reports assessing various drafts of the plan. BGR’s latest report, “A Need for Clarity,” concludes that the most recent draft “still falls short of the requirements for a good master plan.” (The entire report is available online at www.bgr.org.) BGR notes that the latest draft is better than the one put forth last September, but it still “does not provide sufficient guidance on the physical development of the city” for the next two decades. BGR adds that it “strays from its mission by covering an array of issues unrelated to physical growth and development.” Examples of “inappropriate topics” include recommendations for improving police-community relations and hiring practices for firefighters. “While important, such topics are not appropriate for a master plan,” BGR states. We agree.

- New Orleans’ Master Plan, BestOfNewOrleans.com, April 19, 2010.

3. Jimmy Carter approached his career with all the pragmatism of a practical man, and the deep-rooted morality of a religious one. American politics is increasingly dominated by what's called the religious right; conservatives who share an anti-scientific world view, who treat evolution as a heretical theory, and universal healthcare as dangerous socialism. But Carter was of the religious left, a very different beast. He has a profound faith, rooted in his Baptist upbringing. He and Rosalynn read the Bible to each other every night and have done so for “30-something years”. (They read in Spanish, so that they can practise their language skills at the same time; they’re relentless self-improvers.) “I read a chapter one night,” says Rosalynn. “And he reads a chapter the next night.”

Politics wasn’t so much a life choice he made, as the culmination of a sequence of events. “I was the chairman of the school board, and I was concerned about the public school system,” he tells me. “I served as governor for as long as the constitution would permit me, and after that I ran for president in 1975. As you probably know, I was elected.”

I heard, I say. Was there really never a master plan?

“Not at all. It was always just the next step. When I told my mother I was running for president, she said, president of what?”

- Jimmy Carter: ‘We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war’, The Observer, September 11, 2011.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)