Thursday, October 08, 2015

Where Does He?

Eclecticity Light is back in action and finding strange stuff.

Paul Prudhomme, RIP

The colorful chef has died.

First word of this came, as is right, from a friend in New Orleans.

Zombie Management Practices

A partial list of scary management practices which will not die:

  1. Inflating performance evaluations so marginal performance gets pushed up into "Meets Standards" or higher.
  2. Tolerating bullies if their numbers look good.
  3. Selecting an applicant on the basis of race, national origin or sex instead of whether he or she is the most qualified person for the job.
  4. Treating some jobs as if they are a lower caste.
  5. Issuing employee handbooks with harshly-worded employment at will language.
  6. Trying to come up with jazzy new names for what is more accurately called the Personnel Department.
  7. Monitoring performance via numbers that are obsolete by the time they are reviewed.
  8. Holding staff meetings that do nothing but waste time.
  9. Creating jobs that don't have a career ladder.
  10. Keeping job descriptions where the most accurate phrase is "other duties as assigned."
  11. Spending more time buying a new computer than selecting a new employee.
  12. Not doing what has been promised.
  13. Reading reports instead of going to see.
  14. Keeping people who pull down the entire team.
  15. Letting good performers leave without trying to persuade them to stay.

Getting Down with Plato

It has been years since I studied the philosophy of Plato. A few nights ago, I found myself in-between books that I'd consider for late-night reading and so picked up the Signet Classics edition of The Great Dialogues of Plato.*

It was like meeting an old friend.

So it's Plato time. 

I've decided to follow the approach used in school: start with Plato and then move on to Aristotle. [Aristotle was my favorite back then and I'll see if that remains the case.]

It will be time well spent.

One thing I've already noticed: how much modern political and legal commentary resembles the Sophists. That, my friends, is not a compliment.

[*A great edition. Check it out. Truly a bargain.]

Quote of the Day

It is the friends you can call up at 4 A.M. that matter. 

- Marlene Dietrich

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Nicely Done

A collection of photographs showing the construction of the Eiffel Tower. 

Very impressive.

The Beauty of Body Language

A business meeting in the original "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."


My guess is that the weekly emails for most people in business include:

  • Messages you didn't need to see but which someone wants to be able to say you could have seen.
  • Messages asking why you didn't respond to a message you never received and which - this is my favorite part - the sender knows you never received.

Questions on Ethics and Expectations

  • If an executive or manager is permitted to bend ethical standards when operating in foreign countries, will that tolerance for the unethical be miraculously expunged once the person returns home?
  • Is it likely that the people who shout down speakers on campus and who see nothing wrong with excluding others if their views do not fit a narrow left-wing perspective will suddenly become tolerant when in a job that involves personnel selection or choosing manuscripts for publication?
  • If a person, without permission, passes confidential information to another with the caution that the information should be kept confidential, why should the recipient be expected to maintain a higher standard than the giver?

Quote of the Day

Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more. 

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Dinner with Characters from Novels

Image result for treasure Island

We've all heard of the "If you could invite (seven, ten, etc.) famous people from history to dinner, which ones would you invite?" exercise.

Here's a twist: If you could invite seven to ten characters from novels for dinner, who'd be on your list?

[Update: My own list is in the comments below.]

First Paragraph

At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country

- From All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Path

When those around us emphasize pragmatism and technique, it can be easy to put values and truth in a secondary position. If we are ultra-eager to get somewhere, there may be little concern with the chosen path and yet the path will shape us and its destination may be some place very different from the one we desired. 

Although we take paths in life, those choices do not resemble hiking. In life, the smoothest paths are often the most dangerous.


It used to be that a driver's license was the ultimate identification; indeed, it, your birth certificate, Social Security card, and voter registration card were the main ones. 

But there also were the library and insurance cards and every club you joined issued a card whether or not you used it. The stack grew larger.

Take some time today and count how many passwords you use. I have pages of them and the suckers keep changing for security reasons.

A few months ago I found an old postcard addressed to my great aunt in Glendale, Arizona. All it had for an address was her name and city. It somehow got to her.

They knew who she was. 

Quote of the Day

He who craves or shuns things not under his control can neither be faithful nor free, but must himself be changed and tossed to and fro and must end by subordinating himself to others. 

- Epictetus

Monday, October 05, 2015

Art Break: Utrillo

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Maurice Utrillo.

One Photo

This photo at Cultural Offering should be posted near the entrances to all public events.


Film Break

The trailers for:

Quorums and Boards

I was recently drawn into a lengthy discussion on quorums and boards. 

Set the quorum requirement too high and a drop in attendance may make it difficult to conduct business. Make it too low and you may find a minority deciding major matters. Permit proxy voting and you can inadvertently discourage attendance at board meetings.

Two items I've found to be helpful over the years:

  1. Make the board meetings meaningful. If there is no important business to decide, then the meeting should not be held. Members need to know that their presence is needed.
  2. If you do encounter quorum problems, make a practice of holding an executive committee meeting as soon as the general board meeting concludes. [Word the agenda in that manner so you aren't tied to starting at a specific time.] The executive committee serves as a safety net and permits you to handle important business if the board failed to have a quorum,.

Never Underestimate

Never underestimate the unspoken but intense desire of people to screw up a good thing.

Do It

"Do it" is often the best response to the following situations:

  1. That responsibility should be delegated.
  2. That responsibility could be delegated.

Quote of the Day

And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more. 

- Erica Jong

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Film Trivia

Combining the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories, which of the following individuals won three Oscars for acting?
  1. Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, and Jack Nicholson.
  2. Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Cooper, and Joseph Cotten.
  3. Dustin Hoffman, Cary Grant, and Gregory Peck.
  4. John Wayne, Robert Mitchem, and Charles Laughton.
  5. Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Walter Brennan.
  6. Al Pacino, Peter O'Toole, and Alec Guinness.
  7. Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Humphrey Bogart.

[The correct answer is 5.]

Celebrities and Dictators Update

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg had an unusual request for the Chinese president.

The story is fluffy but the comments at Althouse's blog are far more interesting.

First Slice

It is October 3 and I've had my first slice* of pumpkin pie of the holiday season.

[If my doctor happens to read this, he should substitute "carrot" for "pumpkin pie."]

*A modest portion barely worthy of mention.

The Man Who Wrote Ringtones for Donald Trump

The Paris Review has the story

Not surprisingly, Trump comes across better than the writer.

Dry Humor at the Secret Service

In one email included in the report, an assistant director of the agency writes of Chaffetz, "Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out." That director told the IG that he did not go further than making the suggestion and did not direct anyone to leak information about Chaffetz. Still, the report described the behavior of agents and supervisors as reprehensible.

The entire Vox story is here.

Nice try. If the assistant director of an agency that you work for says that some information "needs to get out," it is an order and not a suggestion. 

Miscellaneous and Fast

Anderson Layman's Blog has one amazing rodeo clown.
Althouse: Was it easier to be skinny in the 1980s?
Shatner's back: "A Christmas Horror Story."
Krauthammer on Putin's 16 month window of opportunity.
The trailer for "Labyrinth of Lies."
Political Calculations analyzes academic standards at the University of Phoenix.
Andrew Munro's Blog: Show up, sit down and write.
Wall Street Journal Law Blog: What does it mean for a jury to deliberate?
The trailer for "Escobar: Paradise Lost."

White Knuckles

David Kanigan describes a leisurely drive to a meeting. An excerpt:

If you’ve never driven the East Side Highway, think Daytona 500 with a crudely straightened 3-lane track.  Three lanes made for 2.5.  Traffic, sardines, tightly packed. There’s zero room for a slip, no room for wandering. Hugging your left shoulder is a 4-foot cement girder offering a bumper car cushion. Intermittent drains (sink holes) are distributed every 1000 feet to release rain water.  Off your right shoulder, another car – open your window and finger brush the door panel.  You grip the wheel, white knuckles, and Glare, eyes panning up front, left, right and down (especially down to avoid the abyss) and then back again. The Gotham Death March.  I push the pace with the cabbies, we dart in and out, looking to gain one car length, maybe two.

Random Thoughts

As you move through life if you want to trip over a rock that is in front of you, focus on the far horizon or keep looking back over your shoulder. ~ If appreciation is absent or not shown, the more the person does, the more the lack of appreciation will be felt. ~ Beware of people and movements with all of the answers. ~ If you think reasoning is more valuable than experience, you may be lacking both. ~ One test of a person's morals is how many double-standards he or she is willing to tolerate. ~ If you want to see the poor state of modern journalism, read a news story about a subject you know well. ~ Big business can be arrogant and dumb. Big government can be arrogant and dumb and can put you in jail. ~ If we only see the results we may overlook the process. ~ In any dispute, power flows to the side which knows what it wants. ~ Internists are intellectuals and surgeons are fighter pilots. ~ One of the best moments of my life was when I began listening to classical music. ~ In the future, the chair in the waiting room will conduct tests on you before you see the doctor. ~ Every morning has promise and every evening carries a summation. ~ What you do when you are not working may affect your career more than what you do during the workday. ~ "Who guards the guardians?" is a good question. Another is "Who advises the advisors?" ~ We haven't recovered from the cultural shift favoring the anti-hero. ~ When a necessity seems too unpleasant, then expect to hear that it is not a necessity. ~ Read a good book this weekend and take some time to study a tree.

Quote of the Day

Life itself is the proper binge. 

- Julia Child

Friday, October 02, 2015

Jagged Thoughts for Jagged Times

Nicholas Bate nails it.

Praise Wisely and Well

Wally Bock notes some pitfalls of praise.

Music Break

Herbert von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker with Beethoven's 7th Symphony.

It doesn't get better than this.

Recharge or Reproach?

It's been one of those days.

I think Recharge is the better choice.

Comic Art

Plumb loco, baby.

At Comically Vintage.

The Winter Fool

Goodreads has an excerpt from a Hemingway novel that for some odd reason has been coming to mind more and more nowadays whenever I read the newspaper.

And I'm not talking solely about economics.


Beware of:
  • Pretending to take action.
  • Over-promising.
  • Saying yes when you should say no.
  • Not getting enough perspectives.
  • Assuming a problem is minor.
  • Failing to confront.
  • Failing to reaffirm the mission.
  • Sitting on bad news.
  • Monitoring "ancient " history.
  • Being indiscreet. 
  • Fatigue.
  • Ruts.
  • Glib excuses.
  • Your ego.

Speech at the Stadium

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova examines Joseph Brodsky's commencement address.

It is thought-provoking. Check it out. An excerpt:

Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo — the opposite of the V-sign and a synonym for surrender. No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc. The menu is vast and tedious, and this vastness and tedium alone should be offensive enough to set one’s intelligence against choosing from it. The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything; it could be argued even that that blame-thirsty finger oscillates as wildly as it does because the resolve was never great enough in the first place. After all, a victim status is not without its sweetness.

Quote of the Day

This reminds me of a conversation which I once had with the Hon. Frederick Douglass. At one time Mr. Douglass was traveling in the state of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his color, to ride in the baggage car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same price for his passage that the other passengers had paid. When some of the white passengers went into the baggage car to console Mr. Douglass, and one of them said to him: "I am sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner," Mr. Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting, and replied: "They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me." 

- Booker T. Washington