Sunday, April 26, 2015

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Music for a Saturday Night

BBC Proms in 2014: Ravel's "Bolero."

First Paragraph

For the farmers in the valleys, hills, and plains of America and the fishermen scattered down its endless coast, Europe in the eighteenth century had little meaning. Few realized that their lives were tangled in a web of forces - diplomatic, social, economic - that stretched from London to Moscow, or that their fate might be settled on the plains of India or amidst the isles of the Caribbean. But it was so. For nearly a century Britain had been locked in a struggle with France; on its outcome the fate of the world depended. 

- From The American Revolution by Bruce Lancaster

Film Break

The trailers for:

On the Training Trail

A recent project: One of my clients is sending me out to train their managers and supervisors at different locations around the country. I used to have a travel territory which was linked to the Southwest Airlines region but before that I'd achieved true road warrior status by training in 100 cities in one year. [The only states I've missed are Wisconsin and Vermont.]

This particular class is interesting because it has sort of a Supervision in One Day approach and a lot of topics are covered. When I surveyed last week's class for their burning questions, the first one out of the box dealt with building the supervisory skills of employees. A great question and one which differs from the all-time favorite question of a few years back: How do I motivate my employees?

What have I learned from teaching around the country? 

Simply this: The issues that face supervisors and managers in New York City are the same as the ones facing their peers in Atlanta or Anchorage or Los Angeles. People are tired of management-by-best-seller. They hunger for practical solutions.

Despite that commonality, each class teaches me a bit more about organizations and the challenges facing employees. I listen carefully and learn along with the participants. That is truly as good as it gets.

It will be fun.

On the Summer Job Training

As soon as I saw the post at Cultural Offering about summer jobs, one question came to mind: "Do the chickens have large talons?"

Name that film!

[Update: Steve Layman of Anderson Layman's Blog quickly provided the answer in the comments. Another memorable scene.]

Raymond Chandler Saturday

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

I was getting one in a flossy new place across the street from the apartment house where I lived. It had been open about a week and it wasn't doing any business. The kid behind the bar was in his early twenties and looked as if he had never had a drink in his life.

Read the rest of "Red Wind."

Quote of the Day

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. 

- John Quincy Adams

Friday, April 24, 2015

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Natural, Beautiful, and Dangerous: Calbuco

Maxim has some extraordinary photographs of the volcano explosion in Chile.

There Was a Reason

There was a reason for the decision. It may not have been wise but it was thought to be smart at the time and the clever people favoring it believed not taking that course of action would be unwise.

Today, we find it difficult to understand how anyone could have made the decision but we need to remember:

There was a reason for the decision. It may not have been wise but it was thought to be smart at the time and the clever people favoring it believed not taking that course of action would be unwise.

Watching History

Matthew Lang points to an amazing elevator ride.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Tanmay Vora: Lessons from 9 years of blogging.
Esquire on the best summer movies.
Wally Bock: A baker's dozen of things to master.
Anderson Layman's Blog is doing the pop corn dance.
Seth Godin: The crowd disappoints.
Eclecticity Light offers one cute hedgehog.
Eli Lake: The shifting estimates on Iran's break-out time.
"The Mother of All Babes": A documentary on Jane Birkin.
Bravo: Robert Downey Jr. walks out on interview.
The Telegraph: Italian police foil terror plot against the Vatican.
Peter Wehner on the Clinton scandal.
Fortune: The survival of Dr. Pepper.
WSJ Law Blog: Google sued for age discrimination.

This Morning

This morning I need coffee and focus. 

Several projects require attention and the early morning hours are great for making progress. If I get enough done then my reward will be reading some management books for an hour. There is also an idea dancing on the outskirts of my mind and I hope to lure it in for a visit. It seems attractive.

But before anything, I'll take the coffee out for a peek at the sunrise.

Art Break: Goldbeck

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Walter Dean Goldbeck.

Quote of the Day

People who think they're generous to a fault usually think that's their only fault.

- Sydney J. Harris

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday Evening

Today's workshop went very well. Great questions and observations from a bright bunch. It is evening and John Williams's excellent soundtrack to The Cowboys is playing in the background.  A stack of paperwork is on my desk. The dog has had her walk. An email from a client has "O Wise One" in the subject line. [He has a sense of humor.] I just booked another business trip out of state. The briefcase I use for training materials is on its last legs. Can one feel sentimental about a briefcase? Yes. No doubt about it. Friday awaits.

First Paragraph

The city was hers for a single hour, just the one magic hour, only hers. The morning of the accident, between three and four A.M. when the streets were empty and the angels watched, she flew east on Wilshire Boulevard at eighty miles per hour, never once slowing for the red lights along that stretch called the Miracle Mile, red after red, blowing through lights without even slowing; glittering blue streaks of mascara on her cheeks. 

- From The Watchman by Robert Crais


Some generalizations to string together the specific examples. Bits of humor. Many reminders of things they learned years ago but have forgotten. A few new guidelines along with several items which may jar their assumptions - at least they did mine - and spark new practices. Much listening because each class has far more instructors than the person in the front of the room. The goal, as always, is simple: Give them practical information which is easy to understand and which can be put to immediate use.

The Idea

The idea was appealing and many benefits would flow if the plan were executed but the more I listened the more disturbed I was by the fact that one of the essential requirements involved catching a unicorn or something to that effect.

Quote of the Day

Goodness is easier to recognize than to define. 

- W. H. Auden

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Instant Reaction: Oh Wow!

At this photo at Cultural Offering.

Gentler times.

Music Break

Here today and will be again: Leonard Bernstein's Candide Overture.

Abbey's World

Ron Dungan at The Arizona Republic has written a memorable portrait of the remarkable Edward Abbey:

He scribbled in a journal, one of many he kept over the years: "No job. No home. Another baby on the way. My little pile of movie money flowing away like sand down a wash. My latest and greatest book ("Black Sun") rejected by one two three publishers. So far."

The world, in time, would come to know Edward Abbey as a writer, environmentalist and a central figure in the debate over conservation in the West.

Looking Forward to Sippican's Second

Sippican Cottage has a new book in the pipeline. 

His first book was so good I started reading it one afternoon and there went the afternoon. What can I say? The man can write.

He is living proof that Creative Writing departments should have a furniture-making division.


David Kanigan's blog features Lucy Kellaway's observations on having worked 30 years at the Financial Times. An excerpt:

A third colleague, also a long-timer, complained that staying in the same place meant getting dragged down by politics and that old grievances fester. Possibly; though I see it the other way round. Long service has cut me adrift from politics and has meant I don’t have to waste time working out who is trustworthy and who isn’t, as I know that already.

Wisconsin's John Doe Investigations

An excerpt from David French's article in National Review.

John Doe investigations alter typical criminal procedure in two important ways: First, they remove grand juries from the investigative process, replacing the ordinary citizens of a grand jury with a supervising judge. Second, they can include strict secrecy requirements not just on the prosecution but also on the targets of the investigation. In practice, this means that, while the prosecution cannot make public comments about the investigation, it can take public actions indicating criminal suspicion (such as raiding businesses and homes in full view of the community) while preventing the targets of the raids from defending against or even discussing the prosecution’s claims.

The Slight

The Slight is an odd plant, often encountered in the course of a career. You may choose to keep it or get rid of it but you should never water it.

Delaying Our Conclusions

When Chou En-lai was asked his opinion of the French Revolution he reportedly said that it's too soon to tell.

As I grow older, I have greater appreciation for that response. There are events which some regard as successes or failures and my reaction is similar to Chou's. It's not that I'm immune from early pronouncements - certain news stories come to mind - but some subjects require a dose of sobriety because:

  • We have very few facts.
  • Many of the facts we have are not facts.
  • The assumption that history shows that X or Y decision was a disaster assumes that the initial situation would have been frozen in amber while the other events played out. Let us remember: That. Does, Not. Happen.
Experience teaches humility. [It also dampens enthusiasm.]

In many cases, that's healthy.

Quote of the Day

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else

- Booker T. Washington

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sharp Dressed Man

Back by popular demand. Crank it up.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Getting Promoted

Writing in Entrepreneur, Andrew Benett on five ways to miss the promotion boat.

Organizations should regard job recruitment as talent assessment; i.e. an opportunity to evaluate the available talent. 

Ideally - and I can already hear lawyers groaning - that should involve telling candidates how well they presented themselves during the interview and what they could do to be more competitive in the future. I base that suggestion on having seen people make mistake after mistake in seeking promotions and yet the employer's oral boards repeatedly failed to level with the individual, choosing instead just to say, "Another candidate was selected."

The Golden Rule should guide those instances.

Music Break

Singer/song writer John Stewart with "Dreamers on the Rise."

Health Food Update

Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Icing

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Icing.

Today's Notecard

Take my wife to the doctor. Send revised proposal to a client. Work on an affirmative action plan. Arrange for a new photograph. Review an online class. Work on an online class. Prepare for upcoming presentation. Contact friend in Oregon re a group's funding strategies. Return call regarding a nonprofit board.

At some point in there I need to shine my shoes.

Wait! Why wasn't that first?


"Perhaps" may be weak when spoken but it is powerful when silent. 

Consider how many extraordinary things began when one person looked at an object, an idea, or a person and thought, "Perhaps."

Quote of the Day

Be as you would seem to be

- Thomas Fuller

Monday, April 20, 2015

Shelf Life of the Twinkie

Althouse points to the food news you've been waiting for

Survivalists, rejoice! 

It's time to fill the basement. 

[I was always more of a Sno-Ball man but Twinkies could do in a crunch.]

Movies and Management Quiz

This was first posted here on November 4, 2006.

Some lines from movie dialogue demand to be used in the workplace. Here are some obvious candidates although some are obscure. See if you can match the line with the film.
[Answers are at the bottom of the post.]
  1. Marketing "Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here."
  2. Discipline "The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me."
  3. Community Activists "Tom, those are the Causeheads. They find a world-threatening issue and stick with it for about a week."
  4. Safety "Mrs. Nordberg, I think we can save your husband's arm. Where would you like it sent?"
  5. Records Management "It's in that place where I put that thing that time."
  6. Job Description "I am a river to my people!"
  7. Motivation "Positive thinking is fine in theory, but whenever I try it on a systematic basis, I end up really depressed."
  8. Persuasion"She tried to sit on my lap, and I was standing up at the time."
  9. Corporate-speak "You keep saying that. I do not think it means what you think it means."
  10. Benefits "I caught you a delicious bass."
  11. The Competition "Who are those guys?"
  12. Diversity  "What we have here is called 'failure to communicate.'"
  13. Career Counseling "I just want to say one word to you - just one word.... 'plastics.'"
  14. Ethics "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms."
  15. Persistence "As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they're not going to lick me! I'm going to live through this, and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again - no, nor any of my folks! If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill! As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
  16. Testing "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
  17. Compliance "Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules."
  18. Confrontation "That's mighty brave talk for a one-eyed fat man."
  19. Courtesy "Sir, you have no call to get snippy with me."
  20. Technology "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"
  21. Appearance "I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?"

[Answers: 1. As Good As It Gets; 2. Animal House; 3. PCU; 4. The Naked Gun; 5. Hackers; 6. Lawrence of Arabia; 7. Barcelona; 8. The Big Sleep; 9. The Princess Bride; 10. Napoleon Dynamite; 11. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid; 12. Cool Hand Luke; 13. The Graduate; 14. Wall Street; 15. Gone With The Wind; 16. The Silence of the Lambs; 17. Five Easy Pieces; 18. True Grit; 19. Fargo; 20. Batman; 21. Working Girl.]


My work today - completion of a class workbook - does not involve real carpentry but I've come to regard it as similar to that admirable trade. The table now needs to be assembled, sanded, stained, and polished. I carefully take each stage and avoid jumping ahead or unduly rushing through any point. Pleasure can be found in the details and each part will be examined to see if there is anything which causes the slightest discomfort. [I saw a word last night which needs to be changed. It is close but not quite right.]

Breaks are taken for perspective and the equivalent of sweeping the floor.

Boil It Down

If we are able to boil an issue down to one line both our thoughts and our communications are clearer. 

  • The purpose of this meeting is to:
  • The problem with your performance is:
  • The reason why the product is not selling is:
  • The reason why we are reluctant to adopt that approach is:
We may even be able to summarize a virtue, feature, concern or flaw in one word. Some examples:
  • Inspirational
  • Unreliable
  • Premature
  • Respectful
  • Arrogant
  • Fun
  • Loyal
The process itself is helpful. I've never found it to be less than, what is the word? Beneficial.

Quote of the Day

Grow antennae, not horns. 

- James B. Angell