Friday, June 30, 2006
Indeed, despite its vaunted reputation as a juggernaut of American culture, McDonald's has come to function as an ecumenical refuge for travelers of all stripes. This is not because McDonald's creates an American sense of place and culture, but because it creates a smoothly standardized absence of place and culture — a neutral environment that allows travelers to take a psychic time-out from the din of their real surroundings. This phenomenon is roundly international: I've witnessed Japanese taking this psychic breather in the McDonald's of Santiago de Chile; Chileans seeking refuge in the McDonald's of Venice; and Italians lolling blissfully in the McDonald's of Tokyo.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
It continues to linger, of course, as many immigrants appear to be here solely for economic opportunity and our elites cringe at the concept of assimilation. All in all though, surveys indicate that for all of the screaming, Americans hold some very strong bonds. Even our politicians haven't reached the severe personal divisions that can be found in Britain and, to a much greater extent, in France and Italy.
Part of our glue is pragmatism. Americans will listen to the ideologues if they propose something that works. The Street Smarts Test that is applied by the average voter saves us from the fanatics. I recall a person who observed that you can put together a sensible argument that the voters have always chosen the best candidate for president. Partisans will object, of course, and yet the less passionate are one of the keys to our preservation. It may dilute the passion but it also dilutes the poison.
This traditional, all-American tradeoff between liberty and risk works OK in a country populated with standard criminal types; most eventually work their way up to a police database. But what about the world of Islamic fanaticism whose recruits, notably suicide bombers (or pilots) are nearly all first-timers? Does "our system" mandate that we allow an Islamic fifth column to fly beneath the radar of probable cause and into buildings? Do we have to settle for catching bottom-feeders like the Florida plotters while the smart boys, planning a smallpox attack in Detroit, stay below what they've read is the threshold for FBI curiosity or a FISA warrant?
Daniel Henninger on the challenge of rights versus security in an unusual war.
The option to bring friends could create a lot of stress. Which friends would make the cut? Do you invite talkative friends or ones who would sit back and let you press Warren for investment tips? You don't want someone talking about his golf game or her trick knee as the clock ticks away.
A reality TV show is missing the boat on this one. They could film the planning for the lunch, the lunch itself, and then Warren walking away shaking his head.
These lists can frustrating because (1) they are vague; (2) they leave out a lot of neat jobs; and (3) their definition of "best" is debatable.
An array of futurists is featured in this Slate article. Excerpt:
Robb is no visionary. His basic take on the future is that the same historical forces that have been at work for thousands of years will still be at work, and that America won't be immune to them. The fact that street gangs in São Paulo can firebomb police stations, that Maoist guerrillas are threatening India's high-tech prosperity, and that a handful of rebels are stealing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of oil in Nigeria and Iraq all affect us directly. Living in New York or Los Angeles, it seems hard to imagine that the constant kidnappings that terrorize the rich in Mexico City will ever happen here. Then again, we never thought terrorism would happen here, either.
Several other thinkers share Robb's thoughts on techno-realism. Philip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle, is convinced that "the comfy chair revolution" will strengthen the hand of fundamentalists worldwide. In Longman's future, the forces of reaction won't win by force of arms; they'll win by outbreeding the secular world. Then there's Barry Lynn, a former editor at the magazine Global Business and author of End of the Line. Lynn has become an unlikely anti-globalization guru by arguing that the global supply chains we count on are too fragile to survive a major shock. We're at risk whenever there's an earthquake in Taiwan, a terrorist strike in Saudi Arabia, or a power failure in Portland.
Ms. Sleiman often works until 10 p.m. on weeknights and usually puts in five hours of work on the weekends. She had to give away her dog, Bean, because she didn't want to leave him alone at her apartment all day or pay a dog walker.
I think this is a sad story. She actually wants to work in a place that treats associates like Kleenex. There is a big difference between working long hours because you love the work and doing so because you are hoping that some third parties, who may be completely indifferent to your best interests, will reward you.
Another point: Did she show her dog more consideration than her firm has shown to her?
Hard as it is to believe, not all states permit the easy sale of explosions and I live in one of the risk-adverse ones. That's why this video of some real Americans setting off a huge amount of firecrackers created a certain longing for my childhood of cherry bombs and Roman candles.
I only wish they'd set them off at night...in somebody's living room.
That would have been neat and daring.
Two formative experiences had made Eisenhower a staunch advocate of a national system of superhighways. The first came in 1919, when as a young Army staff officer he accompanied a cross-country motor convoy meant to determine how the nation’s roads would accommodate the newly motorized armed forces. Struggling along roads that he described as “from average to non-existent,” the 81 cars and trucks took 62 days to cross the country, averaging 5 miles an hour.
By contrast during the occupation of Germany after World War II, the future President saw firsthand the Reichsautobahnen, the national high-speed highways that Hitler had ordered built beginning in 1933. Besides accelerating commerce, the roads had proven a boon to the German army. Eisenhower became convinced that America needed something similar.
Read the entire article here.
In the United States, on the other hand, the social ethic is egalitarian, regardless of wealth. For all his riches, Bill Gates could not approach a homeless person and say, “Here’s a $100 bill. I’ll give it to you if you kiss my feet.” Most likely the homeless guy would tell Gates to go to hell. The American view is that the rich guy may have more money, but he isn’t in any fundamental sense better than you are. The American janitor or waiter sees himself as performing a service, but he doesn’t see himself as inferior to those he serves. And neither do the customers see him that way: They are generally happy to show him respect and appreciation on a plane of equality. America is the only country in the world where we call the waiter “Sir,” as if he were a knight.
From a 2002 article by Dinesh D’Souza on what’s so great about America. Read it all here.
Yes and no.
I've worked in both sectors and can attest that the idea that governmental employees are overpaid slugs is, in general, a myth. Some of the most professional and hardest-working people I've encountered are in government and some of the worst performers are in the private sector.
That said, let's consider the differences:
- Budgets. Size makes a difference here. Small, private sector firms can be much more budget-conscious than larger private firms or governmental agencies because they are closer to the edge. They live with the immediate impact of cash flow. There is more of a sense of We rather than They.
- Terminations. Private sector firms are less likely to carry deadwood because their adherence to the employment at will doctrine makes it easier to fire people. In contrast, public sector managers know that terminations of employees who have passed probation can be appealed to the civil service board and they will have to make the case or the employee will be restored to the job. That encourages public sector managers to get their evidence in line but it can also cause them to tolerate or transfer poor performers.
- Publicity. Private sector managers know that unless they do something extreme, their chances of hitting the front page of the local newspaper are remote. Public sector managers live with the prospect of news coverage or a complaint to a political board. One citizen can complain to a city council and people scurry to investigate the allegations. One shareholder complains at an annual meeting and people yawn.
- Service expectations. Customers who are upset with a company's performance can walk across the street to a competitor. That's not so with irate citizens who know they have fewer options. If you think that means that governmental employees have less fear when it comes to ticking off a customer, see the above paragraph.
The differences are there, but the similarities are greater. All in all, the name of the employer is less important than its character and competence.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Our objective in any war is not revenge but success. Confederate soldiers who swore allegiance to the U.S. were pardoned after the Civil War, even those who had killed Union soldiers. We gave amnesty to legions of Japanese and Germans who'd killed thousands of Americans in World War II.
And those amnesties were granted after total victory. In conflicts in which there is no unconditional surrender -- civil strife that ends far more ambiguously as in El Salvador and Chile, for example -- amnesty and reconciliation are the essential elements for the establishment of a stable democratic peace.
In Iraq, amnesty will necessarily be part of any co-optation strategy in which insurgents lay down their arms. And it would not apply to the foreign jihadists, who, unlike the Sunni insurgents who would join the new Iraq, dream of an Islamic state built on the ruins of the current order. There is nothing to discuss with such people. The only way defeat them is to kill them, as we did Zarqawi.
But killing them requires depriving them of their sanctuary. Reconciliation-cum-amnesty gets disaffected Iraqi Sunni tribes to come over to the government's side, drying up the sea in which the jihadists swim. After all, we found Zarqawi in heavily Sunni territory by means of intelligence given to us by local Iraqis.
1. Most blues begin ‘‘woke up this morning.’’
2.‘‘I got a good woman’’ is a bad way to begin the blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line.
I got a good woman— with the meanest dog in town.
3. Blues are simple. After you have the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes.
got a good woman
with the meanest dog in town.
he got teeth like Margaret Thatcher
and he weighs 500 pound.
Read the rest here.
When you email, always do so in the heat of the moment. Remember to be aggressive and/or defensive, but also embrace hyperbole, gross exaggeration and mischaracterization. Be sure to pad your “To:” and “Cc:” lists extensively so that nobody is left out. Unless you’re talking specifically about them, in which case you should not include them.
Pepper your speech with phrases from other languages. Latin is a good start. Ergo, ergo (be sure to pronounce this “AIR-go” and not “ER-go”). After uttering the phrase, be sure to pretend you said nothing at all, or else explain the phrase with some impatience, and/or a patronizing tone. Ergo (dryly now: “That means ‘therefore’”), ergo. Consider the liberal use of “air quotes” while speaking (further, consider throwing some personal style into your air quotes, such as one palm facing out and one facing in).
[HT: BusinessPundit ]
Patience, of course, depends upon one's definition of time. What may seem patient to one person may be dilatory to another. When Chou En-lai was asked his opinion of the French Revolution, he replied, "It's too soon to say." American attitudes - so well summarized by the Nike slogan "Just do it" - favor action and equate lengthy pondering with indecisiveness. Americans are extremely tolerant of mistakes that are made in the course of action. They recognize that such things happen. They are less understanding, however, of the leader who will not get the wheels moving. That is one reason for the lasting affection for President Franklin Roosevelt's approach to dealing with the Great Depression. He may not have always done the right thing, but he did something.
Americans are skeptical of any leader or intellectual who wants to think it all out ahead of time. They know the world doesn't operate that neatly. The commander who can make decisions in response to changing circumstances will be far more effective than the cloistered intellectual who is risk adverse. George McClellan's knowledge of Napoleon's battles would have wowed the Harvard faculty but it was the mud-splattered and action-oriented General Grant who won the Civil War.
But that brings us back to time and specifically the issue of timing. In some crucial matters, leaders know that there will only be one bite at the apple. Resources must be developed. Execution must be tested. The same critics who moan for fast action today will later shout that rash behavior produced disaster. The wise leader has to distinguish between decisions that can wait and decisions that must wait.
With regard to the latter, the leader has to adopt an attitude of indifference. Despite our desire for a world in which everything happens now if not sooner, certain projects require large dollops of time. It takes a gutsy leader to stand up to the pressures of precipitate action; a leader, in short, with courageous patience.
Perched on the edge of a bright white power sofa on the supernaturally quiet eighth floor of the News Corporation’s global headquarters, the last thing Rupert Murdoch looks like is a fire-eyed revolutionary. Starched cuffs. Courtly manner. A month past his 75th birthday. But then he starts talking. “To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control.”
And he’s smiling.
Read the whole thing.
My own list:
Chariots of Fire
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
The Third Man
My Fair Lady
The Maltese Falcon
The In-Laws (with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin)
Mountains of the Moon
The Madness of King George
Master and Commander
To Kill a Mockingbird
Physical Coercion. The large, menacing employee or boss uses size or physical ability as a form of intimidation. Many employees, who fear the humiliation of being intimidated more than being beaten itself, defer to this individual. These individuals thrive in unregulated areas, where supervision is nominal and where there are no other forces to counter the aggressor.
Deceptive Coercion. This approach can be used by both large and small. The idea is to gain control over the other person through the manipulation of information. The most common application is the lie. Many people view lying as a simple character flaw. They miss the extent to which it is a tool of coercion. Individuals who cannot gain power through honest persuasion or through physical coercion use deception.
Manipulative Coercion. This approach may involve deception and even physical coercion, but it can also encompass the use of charisma and favoritism as well as the withholding and granting of privileges. As in the case of all of these approaches, the manipulator may rationalize the behavior by asserting that it is necessary to accomplish the mission. The charismatic manipulator can be especially effective as emotionally dependent followers suspend independent judgment in order to maintain the approval of the manipulator. Factions on teams may withhold approval from a co-worker
It is not unusual to find teams in which there are tacit alliances between coercive personalities. For example, a physically coercive person may be allied with a manipulator and both may use deception with each other and with outsiders.
Organizational success can be seriously determined by the degree to which physical coercion is banned, deception is scorned, and manipulation - which will always be with us to some degree - is minimized.
More here on the problems surrounding the production of the new Airbus A 380 super jumbo jet.
- Milton Friedman
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I've wondered a lot about why startups are most productive at the very beginning, when they're just a couple guys in an apartment. The main reason may be that there's no one to interrupt them yet. In theory it's good when the founders finally get enough money to hire people to do some of the work for them. But it may be better to be overworked than interrupted. Once you dilute a startup with ordinary office workers-- with type-B procrastinators-- the whole company starts to resonate at their frequency. They're interrupt-driven, and soon you are too.
Errands are so effective at killing great projects that a lot of people use them for that purpose. Someone who has decided to write a novel, for example, will suddenly find that the house needs cleaning. People who fail to write novels don't do it by sitting in front of a blank page for days without writing anything. They do it by feeding the cat, going out to buy something they need for their apartment, meeting a friend for coffee, checking email. "I don't have time to work," they say. And they don't; they've made sure of that.
It's time for a bizarre products break.
Highly practical: A combination USB pen, MP3 Player, FM radio, and voice recorder.
Very strange: Bacon-scented air freshener strips for your car. Just the thing to impress a date.
Whimsical: A tropical island hammock tied to fake palm trees. I may put this in my office.
The car fits into half of the standard parking space. It's eight feet long and five feet wide and, I believe, has pretty neat look.
My prediction: It will be a hit...if the price isn't crazy.
Unfortunately, that's shooting fish in a barrel. We all can come up with stories of terrible customer service. [I'm 6'2" and will not take airline customer service seriously until they provide more legroom in coach.]
What is interesting, however, is when an outfit gets it right; not just somewhat right, but so memorably right so you want to run out and tell your friends to use that company's services or products.
What do I recall lately?
- A Bookman's Bookstore clerk who acknowledged a relatively minor inconvenience and immediately handed me a ten dollar credit. I'll go back to them.
- A Marriott hotel audio visual specialist who worked out the kinks in a PowerPoint projector and then checked back periodically to ensure that all continued to go well. [I've trained around the country and have always been pleased with Marriott. service.]
- An airport van driver in Seattle who took a detour to avoid rush hour traffic, explained the route, gave some tips on the traffic system, and kept his sense of humor.
Do you have any other examples of extraordinary customer service?
[HT: pajamasmedia.com ]
One reaction to some British investment bankers accused of conspiring with Enron being extradited to the United States for trial.
Well, there are prisons and then there are prisons. If they are denied bail, the odds are greater that they will be with other investment bankers than with rapists and drug addicts.
Not that there's anything wrong with being an investment banker.
831 flavors and counting. Of course, in addition to the traditional ones, they include flavors such as smoked trout, black beans and rice, Diet Coke, and asparagus. (Ham and cheese didn't catch on.)
Contestants relate stories about their bad bosses. You may think the stories are simply amusing or horrifying.
I, on the other hand, see them as promising full employment for consultants.
[HT: Angela Gunn ]
Instead of having to make a telephone call for an update, customers can quickly see the status of open service dispatches on a computer screen.
"We've removed the mystery of what's going on out in the field," Meyer said. "It's just representative of a different paradigm for infrastructure services."
The tracking ability is the most recent in a string of deals involving Google.
What happened to the human shields? I didn't think it was wise or principled of certain activists to go to Baghdad in 2003 and swear to put themselves between Iraqi civilians and undue harm. (To most Iraqis and Kurds, they looked like sheepish guards who were standing between Saddam Hussein and what was rightly coming to him, and there were protests at their presence. And they did seem to leave when things became nasty.) But the idea of witnessing for peace in this manner has its attractions. That new hero, Rep. John Murtha, repeated a familiar slur the other day, attacking Karl Rove for supporting the war from an air-conditioned office—as if a person with a White House job has no right to an opinion on the war. But would not now be the ideal time for those who hate war to go to Iraq and stand outside the mosques, hospitals, schools, and women's centers that are daily subjected to murderous assaults? This would write an imperishable page in the history of American dissent.
A string of Easy Button commercials premiered in January 2005 and also aired during the Super Bowl a month later. In one spot, called "The Wall," an emperor uses the button to erect a giant barrier as marauders approach; another shows an office worker causing printer cartridges to rain down from above.
Online, Staples created a downloadable Easy Button toolbar, which took shoppers directly to Staples.com, while billboards reminded commuters that an Easy Button would be helpful in snarled traffic.
As a result of the advertising onslaught, customers began asking about buying real Easy Buttons. In September 2005 the company began selling $5 3-inch red plastic buttons that when pushed say; "That was easy." This quarter it will sell its millionth button.
Not since Taco Bell sold 13 million talking Chihuahuas in 1998 have customers so coveted a product based on an ad campaign.
By selling the Easy Button as a sort of modern-day stress ball, Staples is turning its customers into advertisers. Homegrown movies starring the button have appeared on video-sharing site YouTube.
Read the rest here.
Or perhaps a lot of people.
I'm not wild about the practice, but the reaction of some critics is overblown. The biggest danger I see is you forget about the automatic quote in the signature and then the quote doesn't match the tone of the message; e.g., a somber subject is concluded with a line from Jack Handey.
[Some sports just don't catch on. Baseball is very popular in the Domenican Republic and not so in Haiti. Go figure.]
The picture isn't pretty.
If you've talked with any emergency services folks, you know that we aren't close to being able to deal with the equivalent of several hurricane Katrinas simultaneously striking major cities. As for businesses, think of what you'll do when workers are ill or have family members who are ill and when people are afraid to be around strangers for fear of infection.
Intel, Intel,The leading company,
Intel, Intel,We work in harmony…
We are proud to say we lead all the way, Technology today…
With a better show to the front we go,Just watch us as we grow.
Intel, Intel,The place for you to be,
Intel, Intel,The happy family…
Hey, I feel like working!
[HT: BoingBoing ]
Every American man age 40 and above carries a sad tale of how he gave/threw away/otherwise lost his childhood collection of baseball cards.
[HT: Kottke ]
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Here is an illuminating comparison. In 1970, average incomes in South Korea were about half those of Mexico. By 2004, average per capita Korean incomes ($19,148, expressed in constant "2000 dollars'') were more than twice Mexico's ($9,178).
I'll add an observation: Also compare South Korea's experience with that of Egypt. South Korea was devastated at the end of the Korean War. Egypt was in far better shape for years. But Egypt fell prey to socialist rhetoric and a huge government bureaucracy.
A cable company sends out a technician to a customer's house.
The tech calls headquarters for help and when they put him on hold for over an hour, he dozes off on the customer's sofa.
Since the customer is a kind and understanding type - a law student - he videotapes the sleeping employee and the video mysteriously (ho, ho) gets out on the Internet.
The tech gets fired.
Did it ever occur to the law student to behave like a normal human being and just wake the guy up?
It caught on. Facebook, the company he co-founded and ultimately left school to run full time, is now the seventh-most trafficked U.S. website, according to comScore Media Metrix. The site connects seven million (and counting) registered users at colleges and high schools across the globe -- a full 80% of the student social-networking market.
Read the rest of this Inc. article on the remarkable story of Mark Zuckerberg.
The key word is "simulates."
I'll go out on a limb: This will never be as popular as the traditional book. It is a poor substitute for the beauty of the book reading experience.
This article on how corporate security professionals should handle interviews has some great points that can be easily translated into other types of job interviews.
Before issuing more cries for radical change at FEMA, reformers should look to the lessons of the agency’s reorganization in the 1990s, which focused on natural disasters rather than national security. Its turbulent history shows that while the agency can marshal resources for natural disasters and build relationships with states and localities, it lacks sufficient resources to take on too many tasks. Today, FEMA faces a protean terrorist threat and an increasing array of technological hazards. To address contemporary threats, the agency must hone its natural disaster expertise and delegate authority for disaster response to states and localities. True, delegation runs the risk of returning to the days of ad hoc disaster preparedness, when government poured money into recovery without reducing vulnerability to disasters. Nevertheless, decentralizing response functions is the best way to prepare for an increasingly complex array of disasters, as the risks and strategies for recovery for different kinds of disasters vary so dramatically from region to region.
If there was a product on the market that caused blacks, or any other group, to end up at the bottom of the class, flunk out in large numbers, and suffer in the job market there would be an uproar for the Federal Trade Commission to pull the product immediately, coupled with calls for congressional investigations. Lawsuits would abound. Not so with racial preferences. Maybe it’s just easier to scam black students than fix the structural problems causing poor performance.
Who Reads the Newspapers?
- The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.
- The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.
- The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country.
- USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand the Washington Post. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie chart format.
- The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn't have to leave LA to do it.
- The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and they did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.
- The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country, and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.
- The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.
- The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are Democrats.
- The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.
- The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.
The Mini Cooper is a mega-hit in the United States.
The eminent, on the other hand, are almost forced to work on a large scale. Instead of garden sheds they must design huge art museums. One reason they work on big things is that they can: like our hypothetical novelist, they're flattered by such opportunities. They also know that big projects will by their sheer bulk impress the audience. A garden shed, however lovely, would be easy to ignore; a few might even snicker at it. You can't snicker at a giant museum, no matter how much you dislike it. And finally, there are all those people the eminent have working for them; they have to choose projects that can keep them all busy.
Outsiders are free of all this. They can work on small things, and there's something very pleasing about small things. Small things can be perfect; big ones always have something wrong with them. But there's a magic in small things that goes beyond such rational explanations. All kids know it. Small things have more personality.Plus making them is more fun. You can do what you want; you don't have to satisfy committees. And perhaps most important, small things can be done fast. The prospect of seeing the finished project hangs in the air like the smell of dinner cooking. If you work fast, maybe you could have it done tonight.
[HT: BusinessPundit ]
But there were other lessons this day well beyond differing approaches to enjoying nature in the High Sierra. In the general store and restaurant, all the various cliques seemed to get along. I can imagine that these groupings are not altogether static or all inclusive either. Most all of them when aged may some day end up alike as nearly invisible trollers, like the older fishermen puttering along with their rods and reels in the quiet coves and out-of-way eddies of the lake.
Even in this age of political acrimony, Americans in their individualism retain their creed of live and let live, and an admirable tolerance for what they don't go in for. For all the recent hype about our supposed age of small-mindedness and the strategies of "personal destruction," politics is not a divide that daily separates us into warring factions--and not so based on skin color, religion, or even income. America is no Bosnia, Rwanda, or Iraq--or even Europe with its rigid class demarcations and doctrinaire ideologies.
Read the whole thing here.
[HT: Real Clear Politics ]
They permit supervisors to rush through the hiring process with an impatience fed by the need for assistance. Few restraints are placed in their paths.
Once the person gets on board, however, the situation changes. If the employee is a poor fit, the supervisor knows that the freedom of action that existed prior to hire no longer exists. Out of fear of wrongful discharge and discrimination lawsuits, many employers shy away from decisive action. As a result, supervisors play a game of procrastination and denial and their employers encourage them.
The co-workers who have to work alongside a poor performer see management's reluctance as what it is: a sign of weakness. They also regard it as an indirect insult to their own professionalism for the lowest acceptable standard of performance becomes the new standard.
The solution is simple yet difficult. Recruitment and selection have to be improved and coaching and discipline have to be expedited. This can be done, but the willpower to do so must be present. Once it exists, the road opens to a much better workplace. But that fortitude must come from the top and too often willpower's substitute is indifference.
- Paul Johnson
Monday, June 26, 2006
“Englishmen pay their debts.”
- John Gedge, an 84-year-old resident of a nursing home in East Sussex, England, who recently mailed a five-pound note to Philadelphia's Fairmount Park to pay a $15 speeding ticket he received there on July 15, 1954
"The first three letters were easy to sign; I just signed 'Dad'," joked Buffett, while signing a letter pledging funds to his daughter Susan A. Buffett's foundation. "I'm not sure a billion has ever been sent with a letter that says 'Dear Suze.' I wanted to make sure I never wrote one that started 'Dear Anna Nicole Smith'," he quipped.
Warren Buffett on giving away 85% of his fortune.
Its slogan: "Nothing is made from scratch."
Naturally, it's a hit.
[This follows my own practice of avoiding "authentic" whatever restaurants. "Authentic" often means "unimproved."]
We can imagine the options that Microsoft faced at this point. Option one: Gates could make an enormous "bet the company" gamble by investing in building a new operating system called Windows and attempt to migrate his base of DOS users to the new standard, ideally before a competitor would reach critical mass with its own system. Option two: He could exit the operating-system part of the market, cede that to his larger, better-funded competitors, and instead focus on applications for which Microsoft's small size and nimbleness might be more of an advantage. Or, option three: He could sell the company or otherwise team up with one of his major competitors. While Microsoft would lose its independence with option three, such a move would probably tip the balance of power in favor of whichever company he chose to partner with.
All these options would involve big commitments to hard-to-reverse courses of action and involve major risks. The conventional wisdom is that Gates chose option one, and the big bet paid off, enabling Microsoft to continue its dominance of desktop operating systems and spend the next decade fighting antitrust regulators. But that is not actually what happened. What Gates and his team did was much more interesting—they simultaneously pursued six strategic experiments.
Read the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge analysis of just what Microsoft did here.
Which means now you can wear them in New York.
Click on the CafePress block to the right or the Execupundit store line.
The Department of Motor Vehicles, here and in many foreign countries, is a place of long lines, sour bureaucrats (think Patty and Selma Bouvier, Marge Simpson's chain-smoking spinster sisters), and bleak interior decorating. By the time you get to the front of the photo line, you need to shave again. Since access to government clerks is normally allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, people pay with their time rather than their money. This is inefficient: Suppose you're in a big hurry and would be willing to pay a lot to avoid waiting, while I don't mind waiting. Then you could go ahead of me, making you a lot better off and me only a little worse off, which reduces our collective frustration. One way to achieve this efficiency would be to charge a higher price for expedited service. Yet, an expedited government service option typically does not exist. So, in some countries, the offer of a bribe in exchange for quicker processing is a common form of corruption—reducing the social cost of waiting in line.
A crucial factor is developing a system that can be used on a daily basis. Too many rah-rah motivation techniques will fire you up for a few days and then fade.
It keeps getting back to "What would an effective person be doing now?" and "What would an effective person do next?"
Her point about intuition is key. Don't go over your mind's transcript of the meeting. Consider how you felt about the person. The words are often the least important part of the message.
How and whether this will work will be an interesting thing to track.
One observation amid all of the Wal-Mart-bashing: Big is not always bad. I'm a bookstore lover and, as a general practice, try to give business to smaller stores. The decision , however, depends upon the quality of service and selection, not the size. Some small bookstores have terrible customer service. Should we shed a tear if those louts get driven out of business?
Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Welshman who is Britain's independent reviewer of counterterrorism laws, has wide access to classified intelligence about terrorism plans. He is the last person you would expect to hype the dangers. For one thing, his party, the Liberal Democrats, has reaped electoral gains by opposing Tony Blair's war on terror, particularly Blair's belief that Iraq is a front in that war. For another, Lord Carlile has made a name for himself as a civil libertarian — a champion of legal underdogs from the terminally ill to the transsexual — and civil libertarians are the ones who have led the opposition to antiterror measures. "How serious is it?" he asked, sitting beside a conference-room table in his law chambers off the Strand on a sunny morning this spring. "Very. Complacency, tempting though it is, is the worst possible attitude. We've been fortunate we haven't had more attacks. There will be more."
It depends upon:
- The nature of the workplace. Is your organization supposed to be nonpolitical such as a City Clerk's office? How would customers feel it they overheard the discussion?
- Timing. Are emotions running too high for a calm discussion?
- How well the participants know one another. Relative strangers may be more inclined to ascribe bad faith to each other.
- Whether both sides are committed to maintaining a positive relationship. This commitment will strengthen civility.
- Whether the participants are genuinely willing to consider other perspectives. Are they more interested in clarity than in being right?
- Whether the participants can agree to disagree. Can they hear each other out without harming the team or their relationship?
- How often the discussions occur. The more frequent the discussion, the greater the potential for harm.
- Whether the participants can discuss matters in a polite manner in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
If those items are not present, the team may be stronger if its members save political discussions for their private lives.
James Lileks gives us a tour of dork wear. Remember, as bad as it is, in those days you could find worse. Much worse.
[HT: Neatorama ]
Businesses today are developing their own systems of tradecraft for some of the same reasons we did in the CIA: They want to gain a competitive advantage through a better understanding of the competition and the environment in which they operate. In the business world, tradecraft is called "competitive intelligence" (CI), and it is not industrial espionage; illegal or unethical actions have serious repercussions. CI is a structured, judicious method of informing business strategy. More importantly, it's an innovation engine that drives better business outcomes.
At least one company, however, has put the vacation dilemma into the laps of its own employees. UCG, a Rockville publisher of business newsletters, electronic magazines and directories, has had an open leave policy since 1994. That means none of its 1,000 employees has a set amount of sick leave or vacation time.
The enlightened plan stemmed from a realization that no matter the policy any employer puts in place, someone will ask to change or bend the rules. Because many employers have to go through all sorts of machinations when it comes to vacation time anyway, UCG decided to let its employees judge how much vacation they need and when. "We have a lot of respect for our employees, and they know what they need to get the job done," said Jerry Purcell, director of human resources at UCG. The employees need to work through their managers when they determine which days they need off. But there is no limit.
[HT: The Cranky Professor]
Sunday, June 25, 2006
3A. IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?
I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.
Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400.
My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations with the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven.
I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin.
I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But I have not yet gone to college.
During the two-millennium age of the goddess of fish, Pisces, Brown says that the Christian ideal was that “man must be told what to do by higher powers because man is incapable of thinking for himself.” But does Dan Brown of Phillips Exeter and Harvard really believe that towering intellects who became Christian converts by the thousands in the first one thousand years, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Tertullian, Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Augustine, did not think themselves out of the ancient paganism, Roman and Greek philosophy, and all that they then heard from the seers of Persia and Egypt? He is surely too smart a man not to have read in such sources himself. Christianity vanquished pagan Greece and Rome by giving better arguments to ancient human perplexities and hungers. It did not win over the Empire by force of arms, but by force of ideas.
As any fan knows, the original explanation for Big Blue's power and skyscraping leaps was gravity. He comes, the story goes, from the destroyed planet Krypton, where gravity was stronger than it is on Earth.
Under this theory, Superman on our planet is like a human astronaut bounding around on the moon, only more so. The same applies to any of his other feats of strength, Kakalios says.
The biggest problem with this idea, says Michael Dennin, a physics professor at the University of California, Irvine, is that he can also walk normally—rather than bounding around like an astronaut on the moon.
Another problem is that he remains powerful no matter how long he stays on Earth. Because weightlessness forces people to use their muscles less, "astronauts get weaker with time," Dennin says.
I like to be the support system. I like to give the director what he wants and help him realize his vision. I like working with the director, rather than be the guy who comes in and says, 'we don't have the money here,' which is kind of a style that some producers have—they're in there just for the fiscal responsibilities. Because I worked so closely with [director] Peter [Bogdanovich] and [his ex-wife and collaborator] Polly [Platt], it was always about getting it right. I have this rule: never show them anything you know you can't get.
[I've always thought that New Yorkers got a bum rap in the courtesy category.]
Bombay came in last. Moscow also didn't fare too well.
Asia was the rudest continent.
[HT: Kottke ]