Thursday, July 31, 2014

Art Break: Sheridan

Art Contrarian looks at the work of John E. Sheridan.

Accent Reduction Training

How long would you have to think before concluding that a "Southern Accent Reduction  Training Program" might not be a good idea, especially in Tennessee?

From FindLawThe class, which was to meet for 90 minutes a week for six weeks in August and September, was advertised as being designed to "give employees a more-neutral American accent, and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it."

Now if they'd offered a class to teach people to sound like Shelby Foote, that'd be another story.

[HT: Fred Stork]

Making Teenage Mistakes the Rest of Your Life

I remember being 16 and sitting in a windowless room at my school in Carluke (Lanarkshire, Scotland) with the school career advisor. She was a middle age lady with messy hair who clearly wasn't much interested in me or my future career. As if reading from a script she said "...I think you should get an apprenticeship at Ravenscraig as a turner or draughtsman...". Now the "Craig", as we all knew it, was a great place (long gone and much missed steel works); my Grandfather worked there and a couple of my friends were keen to do apprenticeships. However, this suggested career direction didn't make any sense to me. I was studying the 3 sciences, was hopeless at mathematics (I got a C "twice" in my exams) and metal work and technical drawing were terrible distant memories - of confusion, nasty teachers and failure. Why on earth would I want to be an engineer?

Read the rest at McArthur's Rant.

The Thrill of the Law

There is a gap between what people think lawyers do and what they actually do. 

FutureLawyer has the picture.

"Turtles All The Way Down"

Possible origins are cited at Wikipedia. My favorite:

After a lecture on cosmology and the structure of the solar system, William James was accosted by a little old lady.
"Your theory that the sun is the centre of the solar system, and the earth is a ball which rotates around it has a very convincing ring to it, Mr. James, but it's wrong. I've got a better theory," said the little old lady.
"And what is that, madam?" Inquired James politely.
"That we live on a crust of earth which is on the back of a giant turtle,"
Not wishing to demolish this absurd little theory by bringing to bear the masses of scientific evidence he had at his command, James decided to gently dissuade his opponent by making her see some of the inadequacies of her position.
"If your theory is correct, madam," he asked, "what does this turtle stand on?"
"You're a very clever man, Mr. James, and that's a very good question," replied the little old lady, "but I have an answer to it. And it is this: The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him."
"But what does this second turtle stand on?" Persisted James patiently.
To this the little old lady crowed triumphantly. "It's no use, Mr. James---it's turtles all the way down."
—J. R. Ross, Constraints on Variables in Syntax 1967

New Marketing Techniques

Type A:

  1. Send an unsolicited email.
  2. Follow-up the next day with an email chastising the recipient for not responding.
Type B:

  1. Don't send an email the first day.
  2. Send an email the next day wondering why the recipient has not responded.
There must be some research which shows that criticizing sales prospects is effective.

Quote of the Day

Seek simplicity, then distrust it. 

- Alfred North Whitehead

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

And Then

It is getting late and I'm in the zone. 

The house is quiet. My wife has gone to bed. I am working on the content of an online class. Reviewing scads of material. Checking out conflicting opinions. Thumbing through outlines. Typing in portions on specific points. Feeling good that I've finally hit on the right order and flow. 

Feeling calm.

And then the dog slips into my office and clears her throat behind me.

As soon as my heartbeat is normal I'm going to bed.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Crashing Tablets and Competing with Amazon

See the interview with Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly.

Top Schools

Check out Forbes' list of America's top colleges. Also check the cost.

Great Moments in Journalism

"Israel's incursion into the Gaza Strip triggered a bloody war." 

- From a Spiegel Online article on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

I wonder how they might have covered other stories:
  • "Polish military action against German troops triggered a bloody war."
  • "American naval fire on Japanese planes triggered a bloody war."
  • "Union firing from Fort Sumter triggered a bloody war."

To the South of France

I'm going to get up every morning and shave over a basin and then put on a suit. Sharp. I'm going to walk down a street made of little stones. There will be baskets of flowers depending from iron hooks mortared into the stuccoed buildings. The dogs will lift their heads but not bark as I pass by. I will have a cane, for no particular reason. I will buy a newspaper in the wrong language and a baguette, and pay with some form of coin. No matter what it costs, it has to be paid for with coins.

Read the rest at Sippican Cottage.

Smells to Reassure

I read this list at Cultural Offering and decided to make a pot of coffee.


  • He had hair down to his shoulders and sported a large mustache along with faded and torn blue jeans, sandals, and a yellow Mickey Mouse t-shirt which hadn't seen soap in weeks. Most of the rest of us in that room were well-scrubbed Army officers dressed in starched Vietnam era khakis. One old dog, a civilian, looked like George Smiley and smoked a pipe. We asked questions.
  • The bar was on a quaint cobblestone street. They were in a dark corner speaking flawless German and blending in nicely with the locals. We ignored them.
  • The two greasy-haired giants covered with sweat and grime and with chains for belts slowly explained what can go wrong very quickly in a biker bar.


"Why do we do A?"
"Because Alex was a big fan of A."
"Who's Alex?"
"Alex was the VP in Cleveland."
"Why don't I know him?"
"He left around five years ago."
"So why are we still doing this? Alex is gone and we're in Dallas."
"True, but Alex was very close to Ellen, if you know what I mean, and Ellen is still here."
"Where? I've never hear of her."
"She dropped the Ellen and now goes by her initials: E. A."
"But I take it she also dropped Alex."
"That's true. But she oversees our area and a few others."
"And she likes A?"
"We don't know but Alex might have gotten the idea from her and so...."
"And so we're still doing it."
"And you're worried that she might get mad if we stop doing A?"
"That's about the size of it."
"Isn't that crazy?"
"Perhaps. Do you think we should stop doing it?"

Quote of the Day

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem. 

- Theodore Rubin

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Art Break: 1930s Illustrators

Art Contrarian looks at the work of some noted illustrators of the Thirties.

The 500-Pound Sprinter

I talked to a man the other day about entering a 500-pound sprinter in a track meet. 

He didn't realize that was our topic. He thought it was about getting a board to take on a new task. My point was that even if you give great pep talks and provide the best running shoes and the smoothest track, a 500-pound sprinter is not going to be a serious contender.

The same reality applies to individuals and groups that lack the capability to perform a particular task. You can hope. You can dream. You can throw all of your coins in a fountain and make a really big wish.

But this isn't the movies. It's not going to happen.

Far better to explore an option with a better chance of success. 

Look at your plans. How many of them involve 500-pound sprinters? Can you whip that sprinter into shape or do you need another contender?

Dictator's Checklist

  • Gain complete power.
  • Introduce terror so people keep their heads down and don't ask any questions. 
  • Create a system of informers so they won't know who can be trusted. 
  • Hammer them with propaganda which praises blind obedience. 
  • Put them in community groups which will consume time and energy amid the scrutiny of neighbors. 
  • Hand out a few impressive titles so bullies will have status. 
  • Have everyone constantly on the alert for enemies, real or imagined. 
  • Tell them how much you care about their aspirations.
  • Remove anyone who exhibits the slightest sign of disloyalty.
  • Reward people who have notable flaws and who are psychologically dependent upon pleasing the ruler.
  • Make it clear that relatives and friends of "criminals" will also be punished.
  • Get confessions so even those who know better may harbor a slight doubt of the accused person's innocence.
  • Re-write history to remove any troublesome facts.
  • Create a ruthless inner circle to deflect silent criticism from the ruler.
  • Establish an ethical system based on gaining the approval of the ruler.
  • Subvert the courts.
  • Twist the law.
  • Indoctrinate the children.
  • Destroy property rights.
  • Cultivate a privileged class of intellectuals.
  • Use credulous journalists.
  • Make everything secondary to the survival of the regime.
  • Say that all of this is done for the people.
  • Keep saying that.

Quote of the Day

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. 

- Groucho Marx

Monday, July 28, 2014

Simplest Work Rule

You know the work which you need to do today: the work you've danced around and nibbled at and studied from all angles?

Do it.

The ISIS Start-Up

Fortune has the story of how guns and oil are getting ISIS one million dollars a day.

Le Malaise

Something is adrift in France. Rarely has the public mood been this miserable and the sullenness as omnipresent as it has been this summer. A president currently resides in Elysée Palace who was mercilessly booed during the July 14th military parade. It doesn't seem possible for Hollande to get any less popular, and yet his popularity continues to fall from one low to the next.

Read the rest of the Spiegel Online article here.

Daily Questions

  • When to think and when to act.
  • When to cease and when to persist.
  • When to engage and when to back off.
  • When to rest and when to toil.
  • When to listen and when to ignore.
  • When to assume and when to explore.

Quote of the Day

Most of what exists in the universe - our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas - has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact. 

- Richard Koch

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Some items to ponder today:

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Writers on Writing

1989: A Paris Review program featuring George Plimpton and Paul Theroux

[Plimpton mentions his book, The Writer's Chapbook, which is excellent and, for some reason, now missing from my bookshelves. Hmm.]

Neither a Typo Nor a "Speak-o"

Althouse reacts to Jonathan Gruber's convenient switch. She notes:

The inconsistency between what Gruber said in the friend-of-the-court briefs in the current litigation and what he said in 2012 doesn't persuade me that he "made a mistake" back then. In 2012, the effort was to pressure and frighten the politicians in the various states so that they would set up the exchanges. Now, after so many states resisted that pressure, the effort is to preserve the federal exchanges that were set up. At both points in time, Gruber said what served the goals of the program.

What's more likely, that he "made a mistake in some 2012 speeches" or that he's lying now?

Health Food Update


From 2013: The Pioneer Woman shows how to make French Silk Pie.

The End of Poirot

Mr. Suchet’s portrayal was, in the classic British tradition, built from the outside in. Christie provided a template — short and fastidious, with a dramatic mustache and an egg-shaped head. To this Mr. Suchet added a stiff, military posture and a slightly mincing penguin’s waddle of a walk that could turn into a surprisingly nimble run on the rare occasions when action was called for. Add a small assortment of expressions — gimlet stare, disapproving frown, twinkling grin — and across roughly 80 hours of screen time a full portrait emerges of pride, loyalty, fastidiousness, kindness and implacable principle.

Read the rest of The New York Times article.


The CEO was unhappy with the performance of one of his top executives so he fired him and brought in another hot shot. That person knew his predecessor was good but he figured that person must have missed something so he enthusiastically assumed the post. The new person also failed. The chief executive tapped another person for the slot only to be disappointed again. Then another and another failed to meet the chief executive officer's expectations.

One day, the frustrated CEO sat in his office, stared out the window and muttered, "I wonder if there is a common denominator in all of these cases."

How to Succeed in DC

Here's a 2008 Washingtonian "self-interview" by Victor Gold that is a must-read for political junkies. An excerpt:

A theme this election year is that Washington is more partisan than ever. That true?
Mere campaign blather. When Nixon was inaugurated 40 years ago, he promised to “bring us together” because people were wringing their hands over how “partisan” politics had become. And George H.W. Bush in 1989 said we needed a “kinder, gentler” atmosphere in Washington, followed by Bill Clinton’s promise to end partisan “gridlock.” Partisanship is the nature of democratic government. If you’re looking for a non-partisan capital, move to Beijing.

Not Hard to Find

It is not hard to find:

Those who work only for a paycheck.

But it is also not hard to find:

Those who love the job, hone their talents, and enjoy their co-workers and customers. 

It's too easy to gripe about the first group and overlook the second.

Big Jules

Algis Valiunas examines the importance of Jules Verne. An excerpt:

Each of Verne’s heroes is a nonpareil, the most remarkable man in the world—as long as the reader is immersed in his particular story. Only in other Verne novels—and in television commercials for a Mexican beer—can one find his equals. And the ideas in the novels are of interest chiefly for being indicative of the thinking done by persons of that time who are no longer esteemed for their thought.

Quote of the Day

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them . . . well, I have others. 

- Groucho Marx

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Man of Many Watches

Congratulations to Rick Georges, a.k.a. FutureLawyer, for the Above the Law article on how Rick uses technology in his law practice.

You need such gizmos when you spend most of your days at the beach.

Music Break

BBC Proms: "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter.

A Smoking Gun?

Ryan Radia at the Competitive Enterprise Institute on the day "Mr. Mandate" talked about the state exchanges.

Peter Suderman on the story as well as some updates.

More from:
["Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx]

Nanny State Update

National Journal on the federal government's actions against school bake sales.

These people have lost their minds.

[HT: Drudge Report]

Quick Bits of Advice at the End of the Work Week

  1. Give your life a larger purpose.
  2. Don't tell yourself stories.
  3. Be alert to opportunities but don't chase every one.
  4. Count on it taking longer.
  5. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
  6. Learn how you learn.
  7. Seek wisdom, not cleverness.
  8. Stop making excuses.
  9. Avoid bad influences.
  10. Determine what you really want.
  11. Focus.
  12. Don't coast.

It's Friday. You Need This.

Guitarist John Williams playing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez at the BBC Proms.

Bock on Business Books

Wally Bock has an excellent post and points to some other posts on the importance of reading business books (and novels too, for that matter). 

One of my regrets is that I didn't read as many business books as I should have in the early stage of my career. That practice would have prevented more than a few scars.

You Don't

  1. You don't insult people and then expect them to cooperate with you.
  2. You don't act as if you know more than everybody in the room when you know less than everybody in the room and they know it.
  3. You don't dress like a Hell's Angel and expect to be regarded as a bank president.
  4. You don't enforce minor rules and expect that your victims won't use those same rules as weapons.
  5. You don't take care of yourself before taking care of your team.
  6. You don't switch priorities so frequently that people throw up their hands and wait for the next change.
  7. You don't take good performers for granted and then expect them to stay.
  8. You don't assume that everyone shares your opinions.
  9. You don't make commitments and then drop people on their heads.
  10. You don't expect people to read your mind.

Quote of the Day

Westerners have abandoned an ethical basis for society, believing that all problems are solvable by a good government. . . . In the West, especially after World War II, the government came to be seen as so successful that it could fulfill all the obligations that in less modern societies are fulfilled by the family. . . . In the East, we start with self-reliance. In the West today, it is the opposite. The government says give me a popular mandate and I will solve all society's problems. 

- Lee Kuan Yew