Thursday, December 18, 2014

Music Break

Mitch Miller (remember him?) and a classic Christmas sing-along.

If I Only Had His Money

I dropped off a contract at a client's office this morning. 

As the receptionists were notifying the procurement office, a security guard said, "May I ask you a question?"


"Has anyone ever told you that you look like Warren Buffett?"

[The answer was "Yes. Many times." Which is odd, of course, because I think I look like Richard Burton.]

Engravings for the People

At Muddy Colors, William O'Connor looks at the work of Currier and Ives.

Coming Soon to Spring Break

The Dish has video of Germans playing head-pong. 

I only watched part to avoid undue excitement. 


The coffee is carefully made. It is sipped as the day's plans are slowly written on an index card. I pause and listen to the sounds of the heater, some distant birds, and the dog stretching in the other room. Ideas stagger in with sleep in their eyes. I'd forgotten they were invited but am glad they made it before I went out the door. 

If I'd rushed I would have missed them.

The Briefcases Gather

I have separate briefcases for significant projects; a somewhat cumbersome approach but it works. The technique baffles my wife, especially when she sees the cases lined up like airplanes for take-off. The reasoning is there is less likelihood of losing key items when you know that they are to be in one case and one case only.

Occasionally, I compromise and put two projects into one case but I don't like doing so because that is against the spirit of the process and a small step from barbarism. At least that's what I tell myself and, as Joan Didion once wrote, we tell ourselves stories in order to live.

We also tell ourselves stories in order to organize. Disorganization is always scratching at the door. Grab a briefcase.

Driving Back

I left the Tucson area and drove back to Phoenix through an impressive rainstorm yesterday. Even the truckers started getting cautious as visibility declined. I followed their tracks through the haze, all the while listening to NPR gushing about recognition of the thugs in Havana. The storm was especially bad around Picacho Peak and it was tempting to get off the highway but I forged on. Better now, I thought, than when it gets dark. 

There is an effort afoot to reopen passenger rail service between Phoenix and Tucson. I'd be on that in a flash. Of course they'll ruin the experience by forbidding the smoking of fine cigars. 

The rain let up as I neared Phoenix. Scores of poor devils were heading south to The Old Pueblo. 

They were in for it.

Quote of the Day

I'm not a snob. Ask anybody. Well, anybody who matters. 

- Simon Lebon

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quick Book Tip

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is extraordinarily good. Check it out. Memorable, even haunting, chapters.

10 Career-Damaging Forces

Having several of these can be very harmful. I've met some people who had all ten.

  1. Serious values deficit
  2. Ocean of distractions
  3. Tendency to blame others
  4. Desire for instant gratification
  5. Lack of discretion
  6. Impatience
  7. Bad companions
  8. Poor role models
  9. Poor work ethic
  10. Lack of basic education

And Then

I've been preparing some online workshops on leadership, supervision, and ethical decision-making and have had the chance to go back over the work of prominent scholars in those areas.

As noted here in the past, what is frustrating is when even the best thinkers give advice along the lines of "Assemble your team, explain your goals, and then achieve your objectives."

It's the "and then" part which always cracks me up. And then? Oh, that's crystal-clear. All of the gators and swamps are lurking in And Then Territory.

These are people for whom I have enormous respect. You can glean a great deal from their work and yet even these sharpies are not immune from And Then thinking. It's as if you ask them for an explanation and at the critical point they cover their mouths and start mumbling.

The "And Then" moments will get you if you don't watch out.

Quote of the Day

Being incomprehensible has become a virtue in academia. 

- Peter Drucker

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Festival of Lights

Hanukkah begins tonight.

Blessings to all.

Predictions for the Law Biz

Business of Law Blog has predictions for the legal industry in 2015

[Our Man in Florida,a.k.a. FutureLawyer, is quoted.]

Museum Re-Boot

For the GE design team, that meant working with the museum and several technology partners to fashion a critical element of the new Cooper Hewitt: The Pen, a portable digital companion for the visitor, offers the ability to not only collect information about objects seen on tour but also to save it and bring it home. Based on SistelNetworks’ vWand and near field communication (NFC) technology, The Pen amasses data on an object or design simply by touching any museum label with a NFC tag.

Read all of the Fortune article here.

Not So Obvious

Amid all of your endeavors, make sure that you are not striving, sweating, bleeding, and sacrificing to achieve something you really don't want.

Art Break: Alexander

Art Contrarian looks at the "women in green" paintings of John White Alexander.

Impatient and Polite

Those who are impatient and impolite may shout and pound tables. There is little mystery as to what they want. 

Those who are impatient and polite will give a look - a subtle one - and either change their request or leave. You need to watch carefully for their signal because they won't explain it but their position is clear to those who listen for the indirect and who study body language.

These are people who disdain shouting and who don't like to explain. They want to be read.

"I think that went well" is the verdict of the message-oriented many who've left a meeting which was a quiet disaster. 

It did go well on the surface.

Quote of the Day

We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.

- Aesop, in "The Eagle and The Arrow"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Break

Take a few minutes and soak in the beauty of Rome, the music of Handel, and the voice of Andrea Bocelli.


At Althouse: TCM presents its video review of the performers and film makers who passed away this year.

Get Bock

Wally Bock has leadership reading to start your week along with stories and strategies from real life.

Anticipated Interruptions

The interruption has not arrived but you anticipate its arrival and so your focus is thrown off, your schedule is altered, and you are hesitant to begin work which requires a flow.

We groan about the unexpected interruptions but the anticipated ones can be even more disruptive. 

Advance notice is not always an unmitigated benefit.

The Wolfe Man

From The Paris Review in 1991: George Plimpton interviews Tom Wolfe.


  • Not qualified. But one of us.
  • Not competent. But one of us.
  • Unethical. But one of us.
  • Not a very nice person. But one of us.
Don't assume that we've gotten past tribalism. There are people who've built careers on it.

Hey, It's the World

Oh, the world is so unfair and mean and stupid and yes there's a lot of beauty and you can find kind and noble people and art and music that will make you lean back in awe but few things are arranged just the way I'd like them and there's world hunger and slavery still exists and scary diseases and people who are in too much of a hurry to take time to enjoy the world.

Wait a minute.

Quote of the Day

What you get free costs too much. 

- Jean Anouilh

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Australian Hostage Story

The Telegraph on the hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. 

I quickly turned on the television and could find nothing. CNN had a program on dinosaurs. If they're this slow, they may be a dinosaur.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On the Subject of Hedgehogs

Risks and Narratives

Cultural Offering notes an article by law professor and author Stephen L. Carter on the Senate Intelligence Report authors' failure to bother with interviewing top CIA officials. [Getting the other side of the story is always such a bother when you know which result you're after.]

The debate on torture and interrogation techniques brings us to an obvious question:

"If Practice A (e.g. water-boarding) is impermissible, then what is the most severe interrogation practice which would be permissible?"

I assume it isn't a cup of tea and gentle questioning.

Sometimes the ends do justify the means. When we watch the Allied shelling of Normandy to liberate France we know that not all of those shells were hitting German troops. 

It is good that we have revulsion at even the word "torture." That reflects a healthy instinct and yet many of us who do not want to condone torture leave the door open a crack for an extreme case where there are powerful reasons to believe that a suspect might be able to provide information which could prevent a "dirty" bomb (or worse) from going off in downtown Chicago or L.A.  

That "permission in the extreme" sounds like an easy solution but the world is a messy and rough neighborhood. I'm sure that CIA operatives would counter by noting you often don't know in advance how much information a suspect possesses.

Much of this gets down to another troubling question: How much risk are we willing to tolerate?

Fitness Nostalgia

I'm sure that many of you recall the days when you could do this simple exercise at Live & Learn but I was never quite able to master it.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

The Nose Alarm

I had noble plans to rake up the leaves from the ash trees in the front yard this morning but the storm in California seems to have moved across the border. The dog nudged me this morning at 4 a.m. - I checked my watch - and, after wandering the house with her to see what she could possibly want, I watched as she returned to her bed. Mission accomplished.

Perhaps her wet nose was delivering a weather report.

Unusual Books for Christmas

  • The Devil's In The Cows by Sippican Cottage. Marvelously written short stories. A keeper.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A fantasy novel which shows you what's really beneath London.
  • The Ghostway by Tony Hillerman. Another fine adventure of Navajo tribal police officer Jim Chee.
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa. Simply brilliant. I'll say nothing further lest I give it away.
  • Souless by Gail Carriger. Vampires and werewolves in Victorian London and some of them know the Queen. Quite entertaining and humorous.
  • Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser. Scoundrel Harry Flashman in another adventure. As funny as it is politically incorrect.
  • Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin. The closest that prose gets to poetry.

Quote of the Day

Common sense is not so common. 

- Voltaire

Friday, December 12, 2014

Art Break: Tinsley

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Frank Tinsley.

Early Presents

Many thanks go to:


Eclecticity Light has a powerful reminder of "some days."

Small and Important

Not all small tasks are equal. 

Some are important components of large projects and so should take priority over seemingly large but not as important tasks. 

Be on the alert for the significant, no matter how small it may be. 


Delivery trucks roll into the neighborhood. I'm working on some items before going to the office. The dog barks when the trucks pass through and I compliment her on the quality of her barking. "That's a good guard dog bark," I say. "If I were a burglar, I would be deterred." The dog gives a regal stare. She has heard that before. 

We both resume our work.

John Driggs, R.I.P.

A friend of mine died the other day at the age of 87. 

John Driggs had served as mayor of Phoenix and right up to the end he was a bundle of energy. Just recently, another friend mentioned that he'd better contact John about some historical preservation projects. (John always had projects.) In recalling that conversation, I realize the two of us just assumed that John was going to be around. This was understandable because the man seemed to be a force of nature, filled with ideas, some of them crazy and others great, and with the energy and enthusiasm of a teenager.

John and I once drove together to a meeting in Flagstaff and I got to hear many of his stories about Arizona politics. I urged him to write an autobiography or at least dictate a few of the tales so they wouldn't be lost. I'm not sure if he ever jotted down those memories. My guess is he didn't because he regarded such doings as the sign of a career's end. And that brings up a very important fact about John:

He was an ambitious 87-year-old.

There is a lot to be said for that.

More to Do

My rule always was to do the business of the day in the day. 
- The Duke of Wellington

Since there is always more to do, much depends upon how we define the "business of the day." We need to have reserves of time to compensate for the 30 minute meeting which becomes two hours and the three minute phone call which produces a cadre of calls. 

Basic rule: Do the most important thing, then do the next, and block out time for thinking.

In order to do that, it is crucial to remain calm and know your real priorities. 

Time is rarely wasted by doing nothing. Doing so would be honest. Instead, we indulge in endeavors which are unproductive.

Spotting Problems and Opportunities

The ability to spot problems and opportunities is invaluable and we often find ourselves in one camp or the other. 

One of Napoleon's advantages on the battlefield was his quick grasp of what could be seized and exploited. His problem-spotting ability was clouded, of course, when he decided to invade Russia.

That's the kicker. One ability may block the other. The great problem-spotter overlooks the treasure in the muck and the great opportunity-spotter misses the snares. 

On one side lives excessive caution while recklessness dwells on the other.

Quote of the Day

Success is ninety-nine percent failure. 

- Soichiro Honda