Saturday, March 28, 2015

Less is More

A prominent attic-cleaner in Ohio is attracted to the New Minimalist movement, with the exception of cassettes.

Many of us harbor a desire to reduce the amount of stuff. 

Business idea: A firm that comes in, empties your house, puts everything in storage, and then you periodically get to select a few items that will be returned. 

Groggy and Productive

I awoke at 3 a.m. Read a bit about French politics in the Thirties. Thought that would put me to sleep but it didn't. When you are reading about people who are more worried about legislating a two week vacation requirement than about the Nazis, that can get the heart pumping. I could hear the dog thrashing about, rearranging her bed on the floor, no doubt wondering about the sanity of her owner. I'd had a dream in which there were conversations with Nelson Rockefeller and then Richard Burton. I wanted to fall back to sleep so I could find out what Burton had to say. We were in a bar.

Since I was awake, I began to plan what could get done if I just got out of bed and started working. It was too early to mow the lawn but some writing was possible. Could a novel be finished before breakfast? I started to list other projects and then, zip.

Better than counting sheep.

United States War Mobilizations

Some very interesting statistics from the Bureau of the Census on military manpower:

1860 (Union only): 27,000
1865 (Union only): 1 million

1916: 180,000 
1918: 2.9 million

1939: 334,000
1945: 12 million

A Prevention Mentality

Having studied and taught crisis management workshops over the years, I've noticed a benefit and a drawback to being immersed in that topic. The benefit is obvious: you understand how crises develop and the stages for handling and, you hope, preventing them.

The drawback is you can become a tad too sensitive to potential problems. At least, some of us can. Richard Nixon wrote a very good book, Six Crises, prior to becoming president and that didn't keep him from jumping chin-deep into an alligator-filled swamp a few years later. But the myopia of The Man From Whittier was the exception. Study crises long enough and you can conjure up worst case scenarios faster than a barbarian down the street can say "knife." An event which a normal person regards as an inconvenience can rapidly become, in your keen eyes, a disaster  with plague, fire, locusts, wolves, and Attila the Hun on steroids.

Those of us who fall into that trap are heavily into prevention. The brave or pig-ignorant souls of a remedial bent completely baffle us. I confess to having a raw admiration for the proverbial fools who wander in where angels fear to tread if only because the fools often - dare I say it? - succeed. Nothing bad happens to them. They aren't chain-whipped or banned from decent society. They are splashing about while the rest of us are on the bank looking for gators.

They may not be so foolish after all.

Raymond Chandler Saturday

The first time I ever saw Larry Batzel he was drunk outside Sardi's in a secondhand Rolls-Royce. There was a tall blonde with him who had eyes you wouldn't forget. I helped her argue him out from under the wheel so that she could drive.

Read the rest of "The Curtain" here.

Quote of the Day

In dreams begins responsibility. 

- William Butler Yeats

Friday, March 27, 2015

And Just One Will Do

Wally Bock has ten sure-fire ways to fail as a leader.

Stanford's Most Popular Class

Here's what they learn: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. All reinforced by design thinking-based tools, from a daily gratitude journal to a deck of cards featuring problem-solving techniques. In lieu of a final exam—the class is pass/fail—students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. Alumni say they still refer back their "odyssey plans"—a term that Evans coined—and revise them as their lives and careers progress.

Read the rest at Fast Company.

Art Break: Penfield

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edward Penfield.

State Sponsors of Terrorism

Here is the 2013 State Department Report. The report for 2014 is due on April 30. 

We can look forward to what it will say about Cuba and Iran because, after all, they've changed sooo much.

"Get Ready to Be Surprised."

The Telegraph has an update on the Germanwings air crash investigation. It includes indications that the co-pilot was hiding his medical condition from his employer. An advertising campaign has been yanked.

Television at Its Best

Truly memorable: Check out Jeremy Clarkson, who just got sacked from the Top Gear show in Britain, test-driving a three-wheeled Reliant Robin.

Let's Get a Cup of Coffee

No one had said, "Let's get a cup of coffee. We need to talk." Instead, the problem was pushed underground where it festered. Factions were formed. Gossip and rumors fed the factions and the divisions, once minor, grew serious. Insults were perceived where none were intended. People went home in the evening and complained to family members. A few individuals who disliked being urged to make a choice between the two camps left the organization.

Some coffee and twenty minutes of clear conversation could have prevented it. 

When you are considering key values for your organization, be sure to include openness.

Quote of the Day

The leader must know, must know that he knows, and must be able to make it abundantly clear to those about him that he knows. 

- Clarence B. Randall

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Health Food Update

From 2007: The Pioneer Woman shows how to make cinnamon rolls.

Rule Britannia

Last night of the BBC Proms in 2009. Crank it up.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Never Ever

Here's something a manager or supervisor will never hear from an HR professional or attorney:

"Gee, I wish you wouldn't consult me so early about these potential personnel problems. I prefer that you wait until after all of the important decisions have been made. It's best that I be notified once all is set in concrete."

A House Guest

It was at least twenty years ago when I received an unexpected call from a friend I'd known in college. We had not spoken since college days and his call was a pleasant surprise.

It was also a warning. 

He was living in another city and he'd learned that a mutual friend, who'd been staying at his place, was heading to Phoenix on his way to the coast. I confirmed that fact and he said, "No matter what you do, don't let him stay at your house."

"Why's that?"

"I'll say nothing further. Just don't let him stay at your house."

I hadn't planned on that in any event. My wife and I were ripping apart rooms and I just expected to have a nice lunch with him.

Which is what we had. I never learned what his great transgression had been with my other friend but I suspect it was something along the lines of The Man Who Came to Dinner where the guest arrives and never leaves. True, he dropped some hints about needing some rest but I can be marvelously dim when circumstances require and so they were never seized. We shook hands, wished each other the best, and he went on his way.

I felt no need to issue an alert to anyone from here to the Pacific and continued my friendship with both the "warner" and the warned-about. I never learned the basis for the alert.

That story came back while reading Christopher Caldwell's amusing account of an unforgettable house guest. 

Unfortunately, both of my friends have since passed away. They were far better people.

What is Not Done?

It's not what they say, it's what they do. And often, it is what they don't say and don't do. 

If you want to learn a great deal about an organization, ask the people, "What do you not do around here?"

An executive gave me a one-sentence education when he remarked, "We don't recover our wounded."

Quote of the Day

Leadership begins with self-knowledge. 

- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"He Hates You"

Rob Long explains the pleasant working relationships in the television biz.

Locked Out?

The Germanwings air crash story has just gotten stranger.

Lee Kuan Yew: Extraordinary Man

The memorial services for Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore, continue.

Quartz has the story of his ever-present red box

And here is the 1994 interview in Foreign Affairs.

Buckley's Time Management

Cultural Offering looks at the work habits of one of the most productive men in the history of the world.

I smile at his practice of writing a book a year in Switzerland. I once took several days to hide out in a motel and finish a book in Yuma, Arizona.

It worked.


The idea came, soared for awhile just out of reach and then returned. Why not? was asked and yet not quickly answered because so many good ideas turn sour when exposed to reality. I wrote the idea on a note card to keep it from disappearing too soon - as the best often do - and the next day it returned with a couple of friends. I wrote them down as well.

We'll see.

A Few Books That Made Me Say "Wow!"

  • "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" by Alexandra Fuller
  • "Fortunes of War" by Olivia Manning
  • "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry
  • "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
  • "Restoration" by Rose Tremain
  • "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • "The Time of the Assassins" by Godfrey Blunden
  • "The Flame Trees of Thika" by Elspeth Huxley
  • "Life with a Star" by Jiri Weil
  • "Barchester Towers" by Anthony Trollope
  • "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub
  • "Doomsday Book" By Connie Willis
  • "The Great Railway Bazaar" by Paul Theroux
  • "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
  • "Master and Commander" by Patrick O'Brian
  • "Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Knowing Someone

"I didn't even have to apply. Remember Ed from our old organization? I ran into Ed one day and he said, "We need someone to head the widget compliance area. Come on over and work for me." Now I didn't know anything about widget compliance but things were getting strange in my current job and so in a couple of weeks I called Ed and asked him if he could raise the salary. He paused but said yes and so I went over there and I stayed until retirement. Great place to work and I learned a great deal about the subject."


  1. Has anything like this ever happened to you? If so, how frequently?
  2. In general, how often do you think selections like this take place?

Quote of the Day

It doesn't matter how beautiful the guess is, or how smart the guesser is, or how famous the guesser is; if the experiment disagrees with the guess, then the guess is wrong. That's all there is to it. 

- Richard Feynman

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Music Break

BBC Proms: Music from the James Bond films.

Strange and Sad

France 24 on the Germanwings plane crash

Here is a BBC report.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Becoming Steve Jobs

Fortune magazine reports that Apple execs are describing the new biography - Becoming Steve Jobs - as a more accurate depiction of the man they knew.

The book will be released today.

Prep Time

Identify. Focus. Research. Study. Think. Challenge. Review. Research some more. Review. Write. Discuss. Revise. Revise. Revise. Discuss. Revise. Present. And perhaps revise yet again.

In-between can come a lot of "What am I doing?" "What do they need?" "What does this mean?" "Do I agree with that?" "How shall I word this?" and "Is this clear enough?"

Sloppy, but it works.

Quote of the Day

If you go backward, you are going backward. 

- Henry Cloud

Monday, March 23, 2015

Music Break

1978. Bob Seger. "Still the Same."

Well Said

While we call our business "crisis management," more often than not we are really navigating...marketplace assaults, which are different from pure crises. A crisis is a house that caught on fire because lightning struck. The event was organic, an act of nature. In a marketplace assault, someone wanted the house to be on fire, so they torched it (and placed incendiary devices around the house to sabotage the work of firefighters). 

- From Damage Control: The Essential Lessons of Crisis Management by Eric Dezenhall and John Weber

Puff. Puff. Puff.

Sunday AM: I step on the scale. Flash. Flash Flash. Flash. Pow!  I’m up 11.5 lbs from my 2014 low. Can’t be. I get off and get on again. Flash. Flash Flash. Flash. Pow!  This accounts for the thickening, of the neck, the waist, the thighs.  Thankfully, the Man Advantage, the swell, is above the belt buckle and strategically centered where the shirt naturally puckers.  Man can let it all go — 15 to 20 pounds — before it’s obvious that he’s lost it all.

David Kanigan is jogging again. Seven miles after a long absence from the trail. And in 32 degree weather.

Oh Wow!

Eclecticity Light: Magnificent libraries.

First Paragraph

The blind man taps his cane rhythmically. Three taps, three taps, three taps to gain the attention of passing Berliners. He is a cadaverous sentry with a shaved pate under an old soldier's cap, selling pencils from a canister strung around his neck. A pyramid of dots is stamped onto the armband he wears, and his round black goggles are like two holes poked through the day, letting the night bleed through. Sigrid fishes out the coin purse from her bag as she emerges from the U-Bahn stairwell, and drops a few groschen into his cup. "Bless you," he rasps in answer to the jangle. "Please choose a pencil." She thanks him, but when he turns his head in the direction of her voice, something behind the blindness of those goggles seems to mark her. She puts the pencil into her handbag and crosses the street at the signal. 

- From City of Women by David R. Gillham

Recruitment Notice

NOTICE: The recent recruiting announcement for a managerial position invites formal applications from all qualified individuals with the following exceptions:

  1. People who have met the department head in the cocktail lounge during a professional conference may apply by providing their name and number on a napkin.
  2. Relatives of company executives may indirectly apply by remaining at home and watching daytime television while drinking beer or smoking pot and complaining about the lack of opportunities for Art History majors.
  3. Internal candidates who were present during the unfortunate scene at last year's Holiday Party may apply by telling the Chief Executive Officer that they would like the job.
  4. Any of the above cited candidates who are interested should disregard posted job requirements with the exception of "other duties as assigned."

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer

Dog Dictionary

  • Cats = Evil.
  • Couch = Secret sleeping area.
  • Destination = Opposite side of door.
  • Dogs = Fascinating.
  • Food = Insufficient.
  • Job = Eating and sleeping.
  • Mail delivery = Cause for insanity.
  • Nose = Never sleeps.
  • Owner = Companion and/or servant.
  • Pants = Napkin.

Quote of the Day

I cried because I did not have an office with a door, until I met a man who had no cubicle. 

- Dilbert

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Find Something Beautiful Today