Friday, March 31, 2006

Freedom for Iran

A website devoted to human rights in Iran.

The stories are heart-breaking.

The Rabbit in Winter

As his 80th birthday approaches, Hugh Hefner is pondering his legacy.

Matthew Scully is not impressed.

Working on the Railroad

How would you like to go to work and drive this?

Profile in Wobbling

Chirac has offered a compromise and has sown contempt.

Brave Woman Reviews Brave Man

Christina Hoff Sommers reviews Harvey Mansfield's book on manliness.

The Old Workplace: Don't Go Back!

Lileks is in solid form today:

Nothing’s more pathetic than returning to a place where you used to work, and expecting some sort of hail-the-conquering-hero reception. The new people don’t care about you – in fact they’re rather peeved, since you’re being shown around like King Former, and they don’t see what’s special. The old people may resent that you got out – or, if they like the place, resent the implication that you were better than they. Or they don’t care one way or the other. A few strained words with the old crew, an attempt to reuse a catchphrase or some job-specific lingo, and then it’s done. Never works. Always makes everyone feel off. Never go back, I say.

Click here for the rest of his “bleat.”

Slow down!

Bravo to this CareerJournal article on the dangers of working too hard.

[It hit home with its warning that as one ages, the body just doesn't run as well on Diet Coke and pizza.]

Over the next two weeks, I have to deliver several speeches, teach classes, revise some workshops, research a new project, and conduct coaching. Your schedule is probably much worse.

We'd better slow down so we won't miss anything.

Space Tourism Update

The ticket prices are already dropping for space travel and you'll be able to lift off much sooner than you might expect.

The space tourism industry's revenues are expected to top $1 billion by 2021, according to Futron, a Maryland-based aerospace consultancy. And it's a measure of how fast things are moving in this nascent market that Space Adventures barely got a single mention in Business 2.0's recent cover story about business opportunities in space. We told you about Richard Branson and Burt Rutan's plans to launch Virgin Galactic flights from spaceports under construction in New Mexico and California, also starting in 2008. And we told you that's (Research) Jeff Bezos, Mr. Get-Big-Fast himself, is building a spaceport in West Texas for the space vehicles that his mysterious new startup, Blue Origin, is constructing.

But now Space Adventures has vaulted over all three famous names in the new space race, the goal of which is to part wealthy would-be astronauts from their money. (Space Adventures' tickets from the UAE and Singapore to sub-orbit will cost $100,000, half the price of a ride on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.)

Creative Thinking: Solve This Puzzle

Here’s a puzzle that’s been around for a while. I first saw it in a book that claimed there was no answer, but there is one. Look it over and see if you can solve the darned thing before clicking below for the answer.

"Have you ever heard about the three men that were out on the town? After having consumed more drink than they should, they decided to wear it off by staying overnight in a hotel. The desk clerk charged them $30.00 for the room. Shortly afterwards the desk clerk realized that he had overcharged the three men by $5.00. He calls the Bell Boy over, gives him the $5.00 and explains to him that he had overcharged the three men and asked him to go up and give them the $5.00. On his way up, the Bell Boy thinks they will be happy to get a refund so why don't I give them each $1.00. They will be happy and I will have picked up $2.00. But when he does that and gives each man $1.00, that means they only paid $9.00 each for the room, which is a total of $27.00; plus the $2.00 the Bell Boy pocketed is a total of $29.00. But they gave the desk clerk $30.00! Where did the extra $1.00 go??"

Click here for the answer.

Boycott Borders

Andrew Sullivan and a growing number of bloggers are attacking the Borders bookstore chain for its cowardly decision not to carry a magazine that contains photos of the Danish cartoons.

I usually don't support boycotts, but this case is an exception and one on which all ranges of political opinion should agree.

Sullivan is correct. At least Borders is out front with its reasons: They're afraid.

Not a bold position for people who are in a business that depends upon freedom of speech.

Perhaps some of their executives should stroll over to the History section and read up on what appeasement accomplished in the Thirties.

Hanks at Starbucks

AdRants reports that Tom Hanks has agreed to star in a movie based on the book, How Starbucks Saved My Life.

The premise sounds interesting: 60 year old man, downsized and divorced, gets job at Starbucks.

Or does that sound uninteresting?

Quote of the Day

"One of the worst things about life is not how nasty the nasty people are. You know that already. It is how nasty the nice people can be."

- Anthony Powell

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Happiness through Adversity?

Those who weather adversity well are living proof of one of the paradoxes of happiness: We need more than pleasure to live the best possible life. Our contemporary quest for happiness has shriveled to a hunt for bliss—a life protected from bad feelings, free from pain and confusion.

This anodyne definition of well-being leaves out the better half of the story, the rich, full joy that comes from a meaningful life. It is the dark matter of happiness, the ineffable quality we admire in wise men and women and aspire to cultivate in our own lives. It turns out that some of the people who have suffered the most, who have been forced to contend with shocks they never anticipated and to rethink the meaning of their lives, may have the most to tell us about that profound and intensely fulfilling journey that philosophers used to call the search for "the good life."

Read it all here.

Hooters Air Descends

Workplace Prof Blog on BFOQs and the decline of Hooters Air.

Toughen Up, Jacques!

The French Council has upheld the legality of the new employment at will bill.

The ball is now in Chirac's court.

He'd better not wimp out.

Out of the Park

George F. Will has hit a home run on the immigration issue.


Intimidation Works

Check out this report about Borders Books taking a noodle-like stand on free speech and the Mohammed cartoon.

[HT: Instapundit ]

Managing Your Boss

Jacques Horovitz on 10 rules to manage your boss. An excerpt:

Turn grapes into wine: you are supposed to analyze the results of a market survey, and not be the mailman who passes the thick document full of statistics to your boss. So be selective; be visual; group the data; bring out what is essential. Data overload creates stress, which in turn can create denial, rejection, and numbness. As a manager, you are paid to collect the grapes (data), and turn them into wine, i.e. useful information.

Read it
all here.

[Hat tip:
Tim Riley’s City Desk ]

Negative People

I wonder if anyone has ever calculated the impact that negative people have on the workplace.

If you've been working for more than two weeks, you know the ones I'm talking about. These are the people who rush to play "devil's advocate" when a new proposal is surfaced, who eagerly pass on any rumor of a downturn, and who can turn the smallest problem into a major crisis.

For them, the glass is always half empty and it's a little dirty too. In response to the observation that things could always be worse, they say, "And they will be" or "Things could always be better."

These poor souls are not technically incompetent - some are very bright - but they can drag down a team through the drip, drip, drip of their poisonous comments. They stay in many workplaces that are not strictly employment at will because civil service and personnel boards are reluctant to terminate for amorphous reasons. Negativity resembles the old line about obscenity - you know it when you see it - but try selling that to a review board.

It is a shame that the equivalent of the Monopoly game's "Get Out of Jail Free" card isn't available in such circumstances. The closest thing, of course, is the employment at will doctrine that permits employers to fire people for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all.

Is there a third way?

Quote of the Day

"A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and pollitical matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic [twentieth] century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is - beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements issued from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events...Above all, we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget: that people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas."

- Paul Johnson

Check Out These Skylines!

These photos of the best city skylines in the world are extremely interesting.

Granted, they don't show the unattractive aspects of these places but there is something grand about them.

[Via ]

The Scramjet

Tests are being run on an extraordinarily fast jet. It reminds me of the predictions that some day, students in Los Angeles could go to their high school prom in Tokyo.

[HT: ]

Business Ethics

This 2001 Graziadio Business Report interview with ethicist Michael Josephson, founder of The Josephson Institute of Ethics, is worth reading. An excerpt:

GBR: Is it difficult to create a truly ethical business environment and still have a focus on profitability?

Josephson: The way I like to look at it is analogous to sports. The purpose of sports is to win, but -- at least at its best -- it is to win with honor. The purpose of business is to make a profit, but do it with honor. It's to find a way to make a living that does credit to your life. Whether you are a laborer or whether you're a commodities trader, the idea is that you should not be making a living, in my opinion, in any way that demeans society or yourself. When we start interpreting work to mean simply making money, then we forget that what we do in our work is, maybe more than anything else we do, making our lives. We normally devote the highest portion of our waking hours to our jobs. I believe there can be some jobs that probably by nature don't have big intrinsic value, but that person can still interact with people in a positive way and play a positive role in society.

Buy That Room!

Another investment: condo hotel rooms.

March 30, 1932

What was happening on this day in 1932?

Here's an article from The Guardian on events in Germany that were mere hints of what was to come.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is exploding. Anita Ramasastry examines the problem:

How did the thieves get consumer information in the first place? Reports indicate that the problem probably stemmed from a security breach at a major office supply retailer - one that reportedly (and perhaps unwittingly) uses cash register software that stores customer PINs.

This was not supposed to happen: It is against MasterCard and Visa rules for merchants to retain sensitive debit card information, such as mag-stripe data (the information on the back stripe of the card) or PIN numbers. Indeed, merchants who store such information can be fined by the companies, by agreement - for they may have made customers sitting ducks for fraud.

Read the entire article here.

Leadership Studies

A serious writer is asserting that playing a video game is a solid lesson in leadership:

In this way, the process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace.

I will withhold judgment until I've checked out the game.

In the meantime, you will find me in a fetal position on the floor.

Hub Cap Ads

One of my co-workers, Lou Rodarte, told me several weeks ago that he'd seen this type of hub cap advertising on taxi cabs but I've yet to see a single one.

In the past few weeks, there have been reports of ads printed on eggs and the bellies of pregnant women.

In comparison, putting ads on hub caps sounds pretty conventional.

Mexican Coke

More speculation that Mexican Coke may indeed be "the real thing."

[HT: ]


Imagine doing business with a company that compiled information about your political convictions, religious beliefs, health, and family. Now imagine that this company turned around and made such information, along with your name and hometown, freely available to the rest of the world.

If you've purchased something on, you've dealt with just such a company. The culprit is Amazon's Wish List, a tool that lets you build a list of books and other items you might be interested in checking out. Such lists can be viewed by anyone, unless you take an extra step to specify privacy. Indeed, it's possible to use the Wish List information to create databases of apparent liberals, gun owners, teenage girls, and so forth, and even to map them by location.

Read the rest of the Inc. article here. Why don't these companies operate on the assumption that you want privacy unless you specifically indicate otherwise?


One of the common conditions that I encounter among executives and managers in my coaching practice is a secret belief that they have bamboozled their way into what seems to be success. Some day, they fear, the world will catch on and they will be revealed as frauds.

Each of these people has an unquestionable record of accomplishment, but they discount awards, corner offices and stellar reputations as simply the result of luck, charm or smooth talking.

Think of that the next time you enounter someone who appears to have it all together. Strip away the glossy surface and you may find a lot of insecurity.

All the more reason to be a little kinder out there and to pause to give ourselves credit for achievements.

Great Moments in PowerPoint.

"As you'll see by looking to the right."

Important PowerPoint tips: Large font, few bullet points, and easy to read colors.

[ ]

Military Wit

Here's a great collection of the wit of military staff officers.

My favorite: "If we wait until the last minute to do it, it will only take a minute."

Eliminating The Middle Man

Here's an interview with Charles Murray on his extraordinary idea.

We can expect to hear extensive analysis of this concept, if only because of concerns about Social Security and retiring Baby Boomers.

The Mullahs are Nervous

Iran is starting to crack down on bloggers.

Apparently the regime is so popular that it is afraid of people scribbling their thoughts over the Internet.

For the Older Applicant

In addition to several other tips, CareerJournal recommends not trying to hide your graduation date on a job resume.

Don't think "older." Think "experienced."

Quote of the Day

"There is one thing you really have to give Cat Stevens credit for. Once he went away, he stayed away. He left his career behind. True, he did poke his head out of the foxhole recently, but basically the rest of us haven't heard a peep out of him for twenty years. Twenty years isn't a lifetime, but I'll take it. If only every other Baby Boomer would follow Cat's inspiring example, this place would be Paradise."

- Joe Queenan

Top 10 List

Letterman's "Top Ten Signs You're on a Lame Spring Break."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

European IQs

The European league of IQ scores is in.

Which country has the highest IQ scores? Stop engaging in stereotypes and click here.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Geek Arms Race

Now ThinkGeek is pushing a remote controlled missile launcher for your office entertainment.


Richard J. Newman takes on protectionism:

The Durabrand 10-inch portable DVD player available at Wal-Mart retails for $199.94. A group of senators would like to raise the price to $254.67. The Creative Zen Nano Plus 512-megabyte MP3 player seems like a bargain at $89.72; less so at $114.39, the price the senators would prefer that you pay. The price hikes would be the result of a 27.5 percent tariff on goods imported from China, a proposal sponsored by Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina that is scheduled to come up for a vote in the Senate this week.

Read the entire thing here.

Clean Desk Bigots

Do you have a prejudice against people who have messy desks?

As this Fortune article notes, many people do.

Obviously, anything can be taken to an extreme, but if the desk is not a health hazard, is reasonably well organized, and does not harm the user's efficiency, what's the problem?

A Million Laughs

Just what I've always wanted: an attache case that can zap thieves with 80,000 volts.

Of course, it can also provide great amusement on commuter trains or in carpools. ("Hey Ed, can you hand me my briefcase?")

[HT: ]

Only in America

A man goes out drinking, tries unsuccessfully to outrun a New York subway train, and then collects $1.4 million. The award just got upheld by New York's highest court.

Taking Dixie Down

Why did the Confederacy fall?

A new book suggests a structural problem:

From almost the moment its government was established, Eicher writes, the Confederacy began to bring itself down. Given that the country was founded by a group of men suspicious by nature of central government, some amount of infighting was inevitable. But Confederate leaders squabbled more than they governed. The Confederate Congress thought it should wield supreme power; the governors thought the states should. And Jefferson Davis, once an ardent states’ rights advocate, changed his tune when he became president. In March 1863 he wrote, “Our safety—our very existence—depends on the complete blending of the military strength of all the States into one united body, to be used anywhere and everywhere as the exigencies of the contest may require for the good of the whole.”

How Much Justice Can You Afford?

Workplace Prof Blog looks at the legal fees in the airlines bankruptcy cases and thinks they are outrageous.

The charges for faxes and photocopying have become real bill builders for many law firms but, of course, those are only part of the picture.

Job Security for Non-Existent Jobs

"Massive" protests in France on the proposed change in employment law.

Anyone arrested should be required to take Economics 101.

The Pete Rose Rule

Here's part two of Howard Wasserman's two part series on baseball, steroids and the law.

Great Moments in Multiculturalism

''You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

- General Sir Charles Napier on the British plan to abolish the practice of suttee in colonial India

Make It Easy and They Will Drink

Seth Godin asks why your hotel room key can't be used on the Coke machine down the hallway?

Environment and ADD

If you feel rushed and distracted, you may be a victim of "environmentally-induced attention deficient disorder."

So says psychiatrist Edward Hallowell. Here is his prescription for improvement.

The End of Fabrication?

Charles Krauthammer is accusing Francis Fukuyama with fabricating a statement.

Fukuyama is becoming the Robert McNamara of our time: usually wrong but often celebrated.

[HT: ]

What's Sioux for Scrabble?

A Scrabble tournament is being held to preserve the Dakota Sioux language.

Very Strange

Elevator moods?

[Via Web Zen ]

And It's Not Las Vegas


Name the fastest growing city in the world!

[HT: ]

More on Murray

Andrew Ferguson on Charles Murray's plan to replace the welfare system.

[Hat tip: ]

Culture Watch

"Marriage is for white people."

This article by Joy Jones is chilling.

[HT: ]

Managing Strategy

Harvard Business School professors Robert S. Kaplan and Andrew Pateman argue here for the creation of an Office of Strategy Management in large organizations.

I think they make a strong case.

EEOC Statistics

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is busy.

Much as we'd like to think that discrimination is a thing of the past, there are, as this Washington Port article shows, enough Neanderthals out there to produce serious cases.

The good news is the bigoted employers truly are the exception.

Immigration and Assimilation

Michael Barone on immigration legislation and, dare we say it, assimilation.

Quote of the Day

"I've got a problem with being stuffed into boxes. Put me in a room of conservatives and I start running to the left; put me in a group of liberals and I start running to the right."

- Abigail Thernstrom

Monday, March 27, 2006

Watch Out for Overtime!

I missed this:

$400,000 a year stockbrokers are claiming that they are hourly employees.

Take a Break: Lazy Muncie

This video has been making the rounds of the Internet.

Give it time. It is weird and oddly appealing.

[HT: Rob Long Martini Shot]

What Has Four Legs and an Arm?

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, has more on The Pit Bull Paradox.

He's sunk his teeth into the topic and won't let go!



The Hurwitz Group looks at cybercrime and concludes that the vultures will always be with us.

Dwindling Trust

An international study indicates that trust in business and government is falling.

Only one nation's government has seen trust increase in recent years.

Now which one could that be?

Let's narrow down the choices: Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia, France, Canada, Poland, Japan, Spain, United States, Cuba, Brazil or Chile?

You can find the answer here. It's a little surprising.

[HT: ]

12 MPH Hog

Will a Bombardier Embrio be in your transportation future?

These may be hot items in Sun City in 2020.

[HT: ]

Divert! Divert!

Business Week has produced the Top 10 Desktop Diversions.

The Border Debate

Law professor and Instapundit Glenn Reynolds makes a lot of good points on the illegal immigration issue in this post.

An excerpt:

The debate stinks: Most opponents of illegal immigration aren't racists. Most supporters aren't enemies of American civilization. The immigration problem is hard because it pits two things we care about -- freedom of opportunity and control of our borders -- against one another. It's also made harder because people fear that immigrants -- without the pressures of earlier eras -- won't try very hard to assimilate. Those fears may be overblown, but they're real, and the cries of racism, plus the occasional bit of Aztlan-irredentism from the fringes (calling for the reconquest of California, Arizona, etc., by Mexico), make them stronger.

Business Scorecard: Pretty Darned Good

Sebastian Mallaby of The Washington Post looks at American business and concludes that it is doing very well indeed.

We need more stories like this. Remember the old days when James Fallows was proclaiming the superiority of the Japanese government-business system?

Frugality Chic

The founder of IKEA drives an old Volvo and travels economy class.

He also encourages employees to write on both sides of the paper.

[HT: ]

Master and Commander

Most of the books that I recommend on this site are management books, but here's a notable exception that is made enthusiastically.

Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of novels about a Royal Navy captain and his surgeon friend during the Napoleonic Wars is one of the most enjoyable works of literature ever written. The first volume, Master and Commander, is perhaps the slowest, but you quickly realize that you are in the hands of a true novelist. These are not simple swashbucklers and they can teach a lot about leadership.

If you haven't read them, you are in for a treat.

Batter Up!

Howard Wasserman on FindLaw starts a two-part series on baseball, law, steroids, and Barry Bonds.

Krauthammer and TIME on Iran

Charles Krauthammer considers the prospects of an Iran with nuclear weapons and concludes that we should be very worried.

He may underestimate our capacity to deny danger.

TIME magazine gives a review of the problem. It is not encouraging.

[Have you ever noticed that the Americans are the ones who have to do the heavy lifting? Why doesn't the European Union have the capacity to act? Robert Kagan's analysis of American and European power, as discussed in Of Paradise and Power, is looking wiser by the day.]

After Your Speech

Stephen D. Boyd has some good tips on what to do after your speech.

I like the part about keeping track of stories and examples that were used so you don't repeat them at a later date. (Although I've had some clients sign up to attend the same presentation over and over just because they like the subject. They say they learn something new each time. I hope they are right.)

An additional step I'd suggest: Know what the previous speakers said. I attended a dinner once where a politician told a humorous story. Another politico arrived later, was introduced, and then proceeded to tell the same story.

At first, the audience thought it was done on purpose, but then, as it became evident that there would be no deviation, chuckles began. The speaker, thinking he was succeeding beautifully, responded with enthusiasm and continued with the story. The chuckles then turned to laughter, even before the punch line had been delivered. Someone should have slipped him a note, but no one did. I'm sure he remembers that evening and cringes.

Acts of Kindness

WaiterRant has an extraordinary post. Read it to renew your faith in people.

It is interesting how so often we remember the small gestures over the large ones. Children recall something you said that you don't even recall. Co-workers mention something you did that boosted their careers and you draw a blank.

We encounter people every day who carry burdens that we don't even suspect. Being kind and respectful is the least we can do.

Who knows? They may remember it 30 years from now.

Nose Count

How many lobbyists work in Washington, DC?

According to the National Journal, the numbers are in dispute.

ADA Wins Illusory?

Overlawyered cites a study that indicates that the high win rate for defendant employers previously touted in other studies may have been misleading. Out of court settlements need to be considered.

Another item that should be calculated: the cost of preventive actions that are taken not for management reasons but solely to head off lawsuits or to improve the defense case if a lawsuit should occur.

Quote of the Day

"Don't believe all the baloney people tell you when they're describing what they're going to do for you someday soon. Nem di gelt. (Take the money.)"

- Henny Youngman's advice to young comedians

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Murray's New Program

Charles Murray, who had enormous influence over the welfare reform that was passed during the Clinton administration, wants the government to give every citizen $10,000 a year.

Instead of sending taxes to Washington, straining them through bureaucracies and converting what remains into a muddle of services, subsidies, in-kind support and cash hedged with restrictions and exceptions, just collect the taxes, divide them up, and send the money back in cash grants to all American adults. Make the grant large enough so that the poor won't be poor, everyone will have enough for a comfortable retirement, and everyone will be able to afford health care. We're rich enough to do it.

Read it all.

"Cool-Pose Culture"

Orlando Patterson examines the harm that the “cool-pose culture” has had on young black men.

An excerpt:

An anecdote helps explain why: Several years ago, one of my students went back to her high school to find out why it was that almost all the black girls graduated and went to college whereas nearly all the black boys either failed to graduate or did not go on to college. Distressingly, she found that all the black boys knew the consequences of not graduating and going on to college ("We're not stupid!" they told her indignantly).

So why were they flunking out? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black.

This is reminiscent of points made by Myron Magnet in his book,
The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties’ Legacy to the Underclass.

[Hat tip:
Ann Althouse ]

Where Will This Story Go?

Did Russian President Putin plagiarize his doctoral thesis?

That's what's being alleged.

Space Photos

It is difficult not to be in awe of the technology that permits us to see these photos the Cassini spacecraft took of Saturn's moons.

It Must Be The Uniform

Which job is the sexiest?

I know that "management consultant" immediately comes to mind, but there's a surprise winner.

[Via ]

A Cozy Little Dwelling

Click here for a virtual tour of the Bill Gates estate.

[HT: ]

Yankee? Dixie? Other?

What type of American English do you speak?

Here's a quick test.

[Via ]

Quote of the Day

"Heaven for climate, hell for society."

- Mark Twain

Ah Yes, I Remember It Well

What if you had a perfect memory?

James McGaugh is one of the world's leading experts on how the human memory system works. But these days, he admits he's stumped.

McGaugh's journey through an intellectual purgatory began six years ago when a woman now known only as AJ wrote him a letter detailing her astonishing ability to remember with remarkable clarity even trivial events that happened decades ago.

Give her any date, she said, and she could recall the day of the week, usually what the weather was like on that day, personal details of her life at that time, and major news events that occurred on that date.

Like any good scientist, McGaugh was initially skeptical. But not anymore.

Click here for the entire article.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

Who Rules?

Claire Berlinski on the riots in France:

When Margaret Thatcher took power in 1979, an urgent question hung in the air: In Britain, who rules? It was a question to which Britain's powerful unions had a ready answer: We do. Men such as Arthur Scargill, the head of the miner's union, were convinced that although they would never lead Britain, it was within their power to run it and to run it for their benefit through labor laws that anyone beyond the union halls could see would destroy the nation as a competitive economic power. Thatcher so thoroughly crushed both Scargill and his union that neither recovered. For a brief moment, power politics stood revealed. The unions had made a bid for power. They lost.

The same question is now being raised in France: Who rules?

Read it all.

[Thanks to ]

Not So Nice

Many email problems can be avoided by simply giving yourself time to think over the message and by never sending one when you are angry.

This email, however, indicates a deeper problem. How would you like to work there?

Added touch: They call themselves The Nice Agency?

The Wireless Leash

American Demographics looks at Generation Wireless:

Getting a cellphone is a rite of passage for teens. Just 12% of children aged 8-12 have a wireless phone, but that jumps to nearly half -- 49% -- for ages 13-15, according to a Harris Interactive youth survey last year. By ages 18-21, cellphone penetration (81%) is in line with the average for all adults (80%).

The top reason teens cite for getting a cellphone is safety, according to Telephia, a market research firm. That’s not surprising: Parents decide when their children go wireless. “Parents love kids to have mobile phones,” said Glen LeBlanc, research director for wireless services at NPD Group. “It’s an electronic leash.”

No wonder I don't like cell phones. They're leashes!

Recusal or Hint?

Justice Scalia on detainees.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Where No Shatner Has Gone Before

Well, if you thought your schedule was busy, consider this news:

William Shatner has another business.

The man is everywhere. He has a current TV show and gazillions of reruns, not to mention those PriceLine commercials.

Now he's got a DVD club.

And for some reason, I have an irrational desire for a membership card.

Microsoft Announces

Office 2007 will be delayed to January.

But can we believe them?

Will the anticipation never end?


Demonstrations and Wrong Signals

I'm wondering if these huge rallies against immigration legislation will wind up having a counter-effect.

For one thing, many of the people interviewed in articles admit that they are here illegally. As a result, the size of the rallies seems to confirm the claims of those arguing in favor of restrictions that the borders are out of control. There are many great arguments in favor of immigration, but "I got here illegally and you should accommodate me" is not one of them.

Mexico's objections to a fence are equally unpersuasive. If Mexico, for some reason, decided to build a fence to prevent Americans from entering illegally and the American government protested, that would be rightly seen as an arrogant infringement upon Mexico's rights. Border restrictions, of course, are not focused solely on Mexican immigrants. Will South American nations be able to produce enough jobs for their populations? If those jobs are not produced, where will those people go? Will Mexico welcome them to stay or simply send them north?

Debates should be held on how to create a reasonable immigration policy but while this is occurring - and it will take time - the border has to be stabilized. Or are the protesters aiming for de facto repeal and nonenforcement of the current immigration laws? If they want to repeal those laws, let their supporters in Congress submit legislation to that effect.

Laptop Dancing has been gushing over the Skooba Sleeve laptop computer case from RoadWired.

It looks neat but also check out their
MegaMedia Bag.

Opting for The Corps

An increasing number of Naval Academy graduates are choosing to serve in the Marine Corps.

That's one of those many bits of information that doesn't seem to jibe with the conventional wisdom of newsrooms.

[HT: ]

"The only reason I can think of is stupidity."

Ryanair, the low fare airline in Europe, carried more passengers than British Airways in February.

Its CEO, Michael O’Leary, gave a pretty blunt interpretation of how to make money in the airline biz back in 2004:

FLUG REVUE: Are there any things in aircraft which you regard as superfluous and would happily do without?

O'Leary: Most of it is standard furnishings that everyone needs: seats, air-conditioning, lighting and so on. We have opted out of adjustable seat backs. We used to spend $2 million a year repairing them. On average, our flights are only one hour 15 minutes long. So why do we need adjustable seat backs? Get rid of them! The sunblinds save us around $1 million a year. They cost about $50,000 per aircraft new. If you can save $50,000 on something so pointless, then you simply leave it out. But most of the fittings one cannot do without. Let me give you another example: we don't carry any freight. Why? It makes the plane heavier, costs more kerosene and the Eurocontrol air traffic control charges are higher. So we cut all that out.

FLUG REVUE: Why have the low-fare airlines been following such a different pattern in Europe and America? The Americans, for example JetBlue, have live TV. And Frontier has big kitchens so that they can serve fresh coffee.

O'Leary: The only reason I can think of is stupidity. There is only one authentic low-cost airline in the USA, and that is Southwest. And only one in Europe, and that is Ryanair. JetBlue may sell cheap tickets, but its profitability is falling back again, as you can see if you look at its business figures.

Read the
rest here.

Fighting the Barbarians

Arnaud de Borchgrave’s article on terrorism is reminiscent of Trotsky’s observation that you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you:

Rather than try to steal or buy one of thousands of Russian tactical nukes, or nerve gas artillery shells, a WMD terrorist is far more likely to knock off the night watchman, lower the chain-link fence somewhere in Switzerland or Italy and drive off with sufficient materials for a nuclear device. Actually making a nuclear bomb after that is the easy part; the recipe is on the Internet.

Mr. Nunn, chairman of the board of trustees at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says we appear to have forgotten the "devastating, world-changing impact of a nuclear [terrorist] attack. "If a 10-kiloton nuclear device goes off in Midtown Manhattan on a typical work day, it could kill more than half a million people," he explains. Ten kiloton is a plausible yield "for a crude terrorist bomb," according to Mr. Nunn.

Hauling that volume of explosives would require a freight train 100 cars long. As a nuclear bomb, it could easily fit on the back of a pickup truck.

Another Nunn scenario has a terrorist group with insider help acquiring a radiological source from an industrial or medical facility; say cesium-137 in the form of powdered cesium chloride. Conventional explosives are used to incorporate cesium into a "dirty bomb," then detonated in New York's financial district. A 60-square block area has to be evacuated. Millions flee the city in panic. Only two dozen are killed but billions of dollars of real estate is declared uninhabitable. Cleanup will take years -- and many more billions.

Thomas Sowell

An interview with Thomas Sowell, extraordinary economist and force of nature. If you haven’t read his many books, give him a try. An excerpt:

Similarly, Mr. Sowell says his interest in "international perspectives"--most notably demonstrated in his lengthy trilogy on cultural history published in the 1990s--initially came from reading Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan's 1963 classic study, "Beyond the Melting Pot." "It was really the first book I read about different ethnic groups. There were many different patterns. And more than anything else, each group had its own pattern.

"The left likes to portray a group as sort of a creature of surrounding society. But that's not true. For example, back during the immigrant era, you had neighborhoods on the Lower East Side [of Manhattan] where Jews and Italians arrived at virtually identical times. Lived in the same neighborhoods. Kids sat side by side in the same schools. But totally different outcomes. Now, if you look back at the history of the Jews and the history of the Italians you can see why that would be. In the early 19th century, Russian officials report that even the poorest Jews find some way to get some books in their home, even though they're living in a society where over 90% of the people are illiterate.

"Conversely, in southern Italy, which is where most Italian-Americans originated, when they put in compulsory school-attendance laws, there were riots. There were schoolhouses burning down. So now you take these two kids and sit them side by side in a school. If you believe that environment means the immediate surroundings, they're in the same environment. But if you believe environment includes this cultural pattern that goes back centuries before they were born, then no, they're not in the same environment. They don't come into that school building with the same mindset. And they don't get the same results."

Get Down!

After extensive debate and analysis, the following is offered for your weekend entertainment:

Finger Breakdancing.

I wonder where - and if - that guy works.

[Hat tip: ]

Quote of the Day

"A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If Not Higher

Early every Friday morning, at the time of the Penitential Prayers, the Rabbi of Nemirov would vanish.

Read the rest here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Crystal Ball Gazing

Fast Company has four predictions about the workplace of the future.

Not bad at all.

Fear of Speaking Up

This Harvard Business School study on the fear of speaking up at work should spark discussion in many workplaces, but it probably won't in the ones where it is most needed.

One of the hidden fears in many workplaces that I've seen: The concern that some form of retaliation will occur, even if it is years later. Often, that fear is triggered by various stories that are circulated, some of which may be completely inaccurate.

Managers need to be on the alert for those rumors and respond in a credible manner. If management botched a decision, the mistake should be admitted. If the story is wrong, then it should be corrected. Water cooler legends, however, should not be ignored. They can help to feed the fear.

"Deliberate ignorance?"

Will the overturning of the conviction of Frank Quattrone have repercussions in the Enron trial?

TIME magazine notes:

In the case of Quattrone, known for leading IPOs for Amazon and Netscape during the dot-com boom, the appeals court said the trial judge erred by instructing jurors that Quattrone did not have to intend or knowingly commit a crime when telling subordinates via e-mail to "clean up" their files during a government investigation of Quattrone's former investment firm. The government argued that Quattrone was e-mailing specifically about subpoenaed documents. The defense said he wasn't. The trial judge told the jury it didn't matter.

The ruling has put more attention on the instructions that Judge Simeon T. Lake ultimately will give to the jury in the Enron trial. "In the Enron trial there's going to be a battle royal over a jury instruction known as deliberate ignorance," says Houston attorney David Berg, author of The Trial Lawyer: What It Takes to Win. " In Lay and Skilling's case it's, 'I didn't know what was going on in the company.' Deliberate-ignorance jury instructions have held a person criminally liable when their denial of knowledge doesn't make sense. But now the judge is going to have to instruct the jury that Skilling and Lay had to know about the criminal behavior that's been alleged against them."

Read the rest here.

65 Actors?

Movie director Dan Ireland talks about auditioning 65 actors for a part, filming without permits, and his credo:

Be dedicated, passionate, obsessive and don't settle—don't ever settle. Settle is not a word that belongs in [an artist's] vocabulary—or, if it is, you're in the wrong business. You can never take no for an answer if you're really passionate about something. I had a lot of doors close on my face for Whole Wide World and I was rejected by everyone. The greatest compliment I ever had was from someone who said, 'oh my God, you made what you said you were going to make.' And I thought: Isn't that's how it's supposed to be?

Personal Appearance Discrimination Update

Discriminating against men who wear beards - an especially vicious form of prejudice - may decrease as beards are reported to be back.

Note this article.

Aside from my natural bias on the subject, I think it depends upon the match of man and beard. If it works, it works.

[Thanks to Ann Althouse who posted a photo of Ulysses Grant that did not do him justice.]

The Language of Business?

President Chirac walked out of a European Union conference because a Frenchman chose to address the group in English.

Reports that Chirac was in search of some good bangers and mash have not been confirmed.

The British tabloids, of course, will have a grand time with this.

[HT: ]

Who Is Trusted?

Atheists are the least trusted group in the United States, according to one survey.

[HT: ]

Digital Hierarchy of Needs

I'm sorry I missed this when it was released:

The Digital Hierarchy of Needs.

Be sure to scroll down.

[HT: ]

Toxic Leadership

Breaking the spell of toxic leaders is examined in this Ivey Business Journal article.

[HT: ]

Why Lawyers Blog

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an amusing and probably accurate analysis of why so many lawyers become bloggers and/or authors.

Creativity + mind numbing work = Key factors

Their take on why counselors encourage students to consider law school is also on target.

Insight from Monty Python

Years ago, who could have predicted that the minds of terrorists would be accurately depicted in a Monty Python movie scene?

"What have the Romans ever done for us?"

[Hat tip: ]

Bad Companions

Andrew Sullivan on the new documents indicating closer ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.

I have a feeling we will be seeing much more evidence of this as the Iraqi archives are released.

Please Waddle Away

A German hotel decides to charge guests according to how much they weigh.

Of course, this may simply be another sign of the famous German sense of humor.

I hope that there's a follow-up report next year to see if the hotel is still in business.

When It Absolutely, Positively...

Fed Ex Chief Information Officer Rob Carter on infotech:

I think it's easier to copy than it is to innovate. There's no question about that. So when we launch something new, they're hot on our heels. That's why we simply have to keep moving.
We have a philosophy -- it came out in the Marine Corps -- from the early days, that says, "Move, communicate, and shoot." That's one of our strategies.

And in that order, by the way. It's not "Shoot, communicate, and stand still." So we move, communicate, and shoot, and it's a very important thing. We have an innovation team that does nothing but look for new opportunities to come out of the gate with something that'll be a whack on the side of the head to them.

It’s a fascinating interview.

He's discusses a new technology that permits you to track all of the packages that are being sent to you, including ones you didn't even know had been sent.

Read it all here.

Supernova Burnout

How do you deal with "supernova burnout?"

Perri Capell has the answers.

[P.S. Is that like Double Secret Probation?]

Wearable Technology

Expect fashion and technology to merge in the future, according to this Forbes article:

According to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group, wearable technology still accounts for less than 1 percent of the U.S. fashion industry's retail sales. Although this sector is still in its infancy, the fashion industry as a whole is exhibiting solid growth. Last year, total U.S. apparel sales reached $181 billion, an almost 4 percent increase from 2004.

However, Cohen says wearable technology will eventually become a basic commodity, much like bluejeans. "Why buy a basic pair of khakis when future ones will be able to keep your legs warm with heating coils built into the lining? The future of technology in fiber and products is only a few years away."

As usual, expect to see wearable tech and smart clothing first adopted by fringe groups such as skiers and students before the concepts catch on with the mainstream. NPD expects that ski-wear and active-wear companies, such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas and Timberland, will be the most likely to drive development. Last year, Adidas released Adidas 1 footwear, a running shoe with an embedded microchip that monitors the terrain underfoot and accordingly adjusts the level of shock absorption provided by the shoe's heel.

Read it all here.

[HT: ]

On the Seas

Check out this live tracker of ship locations.

There are some busy waters out there.

Exec Briefing

Here's today's executive briefing from the Associated Press.

[HT: ]

Quote of the Day

"The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency."

- Eugene McCarthy

Thursday, March 23, 2006

But We've Got High Self-Esteem!

The USA ranks 15th in math proficiency?

Other numbers from U.S. News & World Report:

Percentage of engineering Ph.D.'s awarded in the United States that go to foreign-born students: 56

Percentage of 24-year-olds with a math or science degree in:
Finland: 13.2 percent
France: 11.2 percent
Spain: 8.1 percent
Georgia: 5.9 percent
United States: 5.7 percent

Read more here.

Dangerous Thinking

I'm preparing an article and/or posting on why some managers love bad management. Proposing positive management techniques or strategies is a waste of time with such people because they don't want to improve.

They enjoy negative behavior.

Not shocking? Well, let me toss in another idea: Perhaps those managers aren't the minority.

A Deal's A Deal

Look at what the City of Los Angeles is doing to police officers who violate their five year employment contract.

Culture Watch

Dragging us down a rather sleazy part of Memory Lane, James Lileks laments the fall of the Frederick's of Hollywood catalog, which once let you know "what Elvira would wear to the altar if she married Prince."

Not Your Usual Game

Once again, ThinkGeek has come through with a neat game of ancient laser tag, although I suspect that their grasp of history may be a tad questionable. (Too many mummy movies!)

If this keeps up, I'll start wearing black t-shirts, eating pizza at 3 AM, and sleeping on computer magazines. [Well, two out of three aren't bad.]

The Virtual World

If you'd like to take a virtual tour of some cities, check this out.

In some cases, virtual may be better than actually visiting.

Steyn on Iraq

Canadian journalist Mark Steyn on Iraq:

But in Iraq today the glass is seven-ninths full. That's to say, in 14 out of 18 provinces life is better than it's been in living memory. In December, 70% of Iraqis said that "life is good" and 69% were optimistic it would get even better in the next year. (Comparable figures in a similar poll of French and Germans: 29% and 15%.)

I see the western press has pretty much given up on calling the Ba'athist dead-enders and foreign terrorists "insurgents" presumably because they were insurging so ineffectually. So now it's a "civil war." Remember what a civil war looks like? Generally, they have certain features: large-scale population movements, mutinous units in the armed forces, rival governments springing up, rebels seizing the radio station. None of these are present in Iraq. The slavering western media keep declaring a civil war every 48 hours but those layabout Iraqis persist in not showing up for it.

Read it all here.

[HT: ]

Whatcha Reading?

Here's one former CEO's recommended reading list.

I've posted my own version in the past and will be putting up an update.

Frequent visits to the management sections of bookstores can spark depression and frustration: depression because of the fairly large number of fine books that demand attention and frustration because of the mediocre stuff that is even more numerous.


A great observation from Philip B. Crosby:

"Executives spend most of their time on finance and turn the rest over to functional professionals whose main concern is to protect their own turf and pride. It is hard to find any of these who are more interested in the company as a whole than in the success of their own functions. It is as if they feel they have to get reelected all the time."

See that in your organization?

Law Prof Bans Laptops

A law professor is under fire for banning laptop computers from the classroom.

I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, the professor should be interesting enough to capture the attention of the students. On the other hand, it does create a barrier between students and instructor and the professor can justifiably wonder if the student is reviewing class notes or answering e-mail.

Put yourself in the shoes of the professor. You are talking and a large portion of your audience is making more eye contact with their computer screens than with you. It would be the same if a chunk of the audience tended to look down at their paperwork and not at the speaker. The students may have a good reason for doing so but it is not conducive to communication.

I haven't banned laptops from my management workshops but it is a close enough call that I can understand a professor who does. In short, I think she's getting a bum rap.

[Hat tip: www.instapundit ]

How's The Gov?

Here are the approval ratings for all 50 governors.

[Hat tip: ]

Get Wired

Get ready for a mixture of Coca-Cola and coffee: Coke Blak.

Close Associates. Very close.

Here's a new term that we'll be hearing more about: the office spouse.

Quote of the Day

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges - Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go."

- Rudyard Kipling

Through the Desert...Again

I'll be teaching today and then returning to Phoenix.

Will be in full blog mode soon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Too Cool

You know that you've often wanted to roar down the highway on a McLean monocycle.

See the video here.

[HT: ]

Smoke and Mirrors

Is China cracking down on goods counterfeiters?

This Business Week review is not encouraging.

And I Blame You!

I know some executives who would love this sculpture.

Not Their Finest Hour

Victor Davis Hanson gives a post-mortem on the Dubai port management deal.

He leaves no one standing.

Expletives Deleted

When, if ever, is it appropriate to use profanity in the workplace?

CareerJournal has a good range of opinions. I think the sales executive who has negative conclusions about sales reps who don't swear is as strange as someone who'd run and hide in the corner if profanity is uttered. I suppose that someone who has religious beliefs against swearing couldn't work for him.

Nit Pick Report

Australia, in a move to attract tourists, has had an ad campaign using the line, "So where the bloody hell are you?"

Britain objects to one of the words and Canada objects to another.

Details here.

The Joy of Soy

WaiterRant at the health food store.

Dave Barry on the Liberal Arts Advantage

Dave Barry explains how he chose his major in college. An excerpt:

I discovered that in the sciences, they expect you to know the right answers to questions. For example, if you took a chemistry class, you might be asked how many protons are in a uranium atom, and you would be expected to know EXACTLY the right number. Math has the same problem. So I picked English, where there often is no right answer, and even if there is and you don't know it, you can get a good grade by writing about how you FEEL about not knowing it. This is the essence of the liberal arts.

Please Take One of Our Worthless Brochures

Marketing wizard Seth Godin looks at organizational and corporate brochures and has this observation:

People won't read them.

[That's been our take on most employee handbooks. They are written in such dry prose that any employee with an IQ greater than a clam chooses to chuck the darned thing into a drawer.]

Going for the Gold

BusinessPundit examines a study that indicates that given the choice between pay for performance and a fixed salary, women are more inclined than men to go for the set pay.

Could this indicate a greater skepticism toward pay systems, especially ones presented by men?

Quote of the Day

"Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything."

- John Kenneth Galbraith

Personality Testing

CareerJournal has an excellent article on the use of personality testing to screen job applicants.

Such testing can be helpful, but it also has some dangers, not the least of which is exposure to Americans with Disabilities Act claims.

One observation that I'd add from experience is that the type of employer that rushes to use such testing is the same type that rushes through the selection process. They want some magic mood ring to sort out candidates and don't want to do the hard work that a thorough selection requires. Some outfits spend more time determining which computer to purchase than in personnel selection and yet hiring an employee is a far more costly and important decision.

Read the article here.

Read All About It

Glenn Reynolds explores what newspapers could do to save themselves.

One of his best recommendations: Stop insulting the intelligence of the readers.

I don't expect that to be adopted soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fear of Flying

If you believe that your fear of flying is affecting your career, you may be right.

On the other hand, you may also be in good company.

Details here.