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The ongoing Yak Dialog

This week GSB is proud to bring you an essay on Yak Shaving by Alexandra
Samuel, our neighbor at Harvard.

She responds to Jeremy Brown's original Yak Shaving introduction here,
<http://www.ai.mit.edu/lab/gsb/gsb-archive/gsb2000-02-11.html>, and writes:

hi Jeremy,

I know we're way behind the curve on this, but only just came across your
"yak shaving" exegesis, and I have to say that what this term lacks is a
compelling etymological pedigree. I figured it might work much better if the
term was grounded in an historical/sociological description of the practice
of yak shaving, as practiced by Tibetan villagers who mostly find that yaks
function reasonably well in their unshaven state. But a diligent researcher
observed a not-uncommon practice among these villagers, who, while
harvesting their rice, would become frustrated with the all-too-commonly
degraded property of their paddy-bridges. Paddy-bridge construction thus
occurs most frequently during rice harvesting season, even though the
exigencies of the market should actually deter harvest-season bridge
building, since it results in delays in reaching the market that depress the
price of the harvested grain. Nonetheless, construction proceeds
apace...until the moment when the villagers finally bring their teams of
yaks to cross the bridges, and retrieve the harvested rice bushels.
Inevitably, this is the moment when the villagers suddenly remember the
lesson of the year before -- forgotten anew each season -- and realize that
the new bridge, not yet subject to the decaying properties of the humid
paddy, is slightly narrower than its predecessor. The yaks will therefore
not be able to fit across the bridge, and retrieve the rice, unless their
thick coats are shaved. In a communal ritual that is far more time-consuming
than its alternative (manually transporting the rice), the village shaves
its entire population of yaks. This event is now celebrated with a series of
yak-shaving songs, culminating in a hymn that serenades the yaks as they are
led across the new bridges towards the freshly harvested rice.

I suppose I could do the research needed to generate that kind of etymology,
but that would be yak shaving, wouldn't it?


Alexandra Samuel


GSB also points you to the follow procrastination-harnessing resources:




And if that isn't good enough, come Shave a Yak at this week's ...

            +-                                                  -+
              girl scout benefit -+-  5:30 pm  -+- 32-G9 lounge
            +-                                                  -+

               For those coming from elsewhere: Building 32 is
           Once you are in 32, just take the G-elevator to the 9th
       floor and we will be in the lounge that you will be looking at

*Jeremy Brown, Alexandra Samuel, and any Tibetan Villagers practicing Yak
Shaving (including Ali Rahimi) are entitled to a free beverage this week.

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Last updated: Fri Feb 22 19:38:53 2008