Thursday, November 30, 2006


Here are 40 facts about sleep...and the fact that you're reading this means you may be sleep-deprived.

[HT: reddit ]

Sneezing Video

My co-workers know my germophobic ways. One was sick today and stayed home and out of gratitude I sent flowers and bought her a Corvette.

That's why they won't be surprised when I whip out this humorous video at the next staff meeting.

[HT: Neatorama ]

Environmentalism More Hip Than Hippie

From a sustainability point of view, a blog seems highly superior to a book. After all, books consume paper. Timber! Toxic metals and solvents from the inks seep into the environment. Not good. Books require container ships run on fossil fuels to ferry them around the globe, and often arrive in oversize, plastic-bubble-stuffed packages from Bad and just plain wrong.

But take another look at that blog -- on your computer, which itself generated no small amount of chemical waste to produce. Each component was manufactured in a different country, requiring ample fuel to bring it all together. In three years it'll be left for dead at the dump, leaking its own noxious brew into the soil. Ugh.

Book or blog? Paper or plastic? Beef or chicken? After reading Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century, a book based on the popular blog, it's difficult to look at anything in the same way again. Every banal choice becomes freighted with the future of the planet.

Read the rest of Jenn Shreve’s review here.

Also check out: Tech Central Station has an interview with Bjorn Lomborg, the skeptical environmentalist.

[HT: Instapundit ]

Our NATO "Allies"

Still another story on the failure of some NATO countries, France and Germany in particular, to commit sufficient troops to combat zones in Afghanistan.

I don't think the leaders of those nations have the slightest sense of how much they have alienated the average American.

On the other hand, the sacrifices and friendship of nations such as Britain, Australia, Poland, and Denmark won't be forgotten.

Lileks Does Lantern

James Lileks must be preparing to teach a deconstructionist literature class on The Green Lantern.

Yes, his ward is on drugs. It's such a shock he doesn't even notice how someone shot a flare gun at the back of his head. Does anyone have a ward anymore? It was common in '71 for courts to award custody of minor boys to unrelated single men who run around at night in tights shooting criminals with arrows, but I think that’s changed. I blame judicial activists.


Some sites (such as this one) should be better known and here's one to check out:

DonorsChoose permits you to donate as little as ten bucks to help fund a teacher's class project. You get to pick the project and, well, Cool Tools has the details. Click here.

The Power Game

Despite all of the books and articles about teamwork and collegial leadership, there are times when a supervisor must exert power.

Don’t let being collegial dilute your power. Asking for advice is simply that. When you ask others for advice, you have not abdicated authority. You are simply getting another opinion. Don’t let them trick you into thinking otherwise.

If you have to confront a snake, play the perception card. If a team member is disrespectful or insubordinate, confront the person. The person will probably deny it, but the matter should not end there. (Confessions occur all the time in Perry Mason episodes but seldom in workplace confrontations.) Your response should be, “That is how I perceive your behavior and since I am your supervisor and the author of your performance appraisals, you’d better start working on changing that perception.”

Don’t let others browbeat you. The person who shouts or says abusive things should be stopped at that point and you should calmly state the ground rules. You’ll be glad to hear out the person but basic courtesy and respect must be given or else there will be no discussion.

Don’t get team-played. If confronted by a sizable group that appears to be more of a lynch mob than people who are sincerely seeking redress, note that you will be glad to meet with a representative. If they don’t pick one, tell them to do so. No representative, no meeting.

Beware of stacked decks. Watch out for rules that favor the other side. Either ignore or replace them or counter with rules that favor your side. Remember that the very act of participating in a process is a concession. You should always determine if you’d be in a more powerful position by withdrawing.

Don’t have weak allies. It’s better to have one valiant ally than 500 wimpy ones.

Cover your back. Know all possible avenues of attack and have them covered. If surprised, buy time so you can collect your thoughts.

Penalize negative behavior. If you want a matter resolved promptly, it should be clear that delay will produce a worse result for your opponent, not a better one.

Remember a major rule of negotiations: The side that cares least controls. If you find yourself caring too much about an outcome, you are indirectly giving power to your opponents. Change your attitude. And always be ready to walk away from the table.

Life Story

American Heritage tells the story of Life (magazine, that is):

In 1936 Luce was already a formidable magazine publisher, having started Time in 1923 and Fortune in 1930. He knew that a wider use of photographs was helping tabloids like the New York Daily News attract readers, and Time editors were themselves including plenty of pictures. Luce thought a magazine that gathered the best images of breaking news, along with visuals on the arts, show business, and the human experience, would be a hit. For $92,000 he bought a moribund humor magazine called Life in order to use its name.

Magazine editors, partial to the written word, had always seen photos and drawings as secondary to text. Life reversed the notion, relying on pictures buttressed only by explanatory captions.

Don't Recline

Like window-seat lovers and aisle-seat devotees, travelers are split into two philosophical seat-recline camps -- recliners who believe they are entitled to a little more comfort (and perhaps sleep) versus upright travelers who prefer to use their tray tables for reading or working. Battles over cabin space can get nasty, from annoying kicking of the reclined seat to heated arguments. Many tall travelers admit to trying to send a message through a seatback by repeatedly bumping and kneeing the reclining passenger in front, or holding a newspaper up high so it brushes the head of the recliner.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal article here.

My take: Given the fact that airline coach sections resemble cattle pens, unless the seat behind you is unoccupied, it is impolite to recline. I’m 6’2” and when the person in front reclines, it is extremely uncomfortable. And in many years of flying, I’ve never had anyone ask permission before reclining a seat.

[HT: Buzzmachine ]

The Man with Two Briefcases

One of the most interesting juggling acts in the business world:

Carlos Ghosn, who's heading both Nissan and Renault.

Will he be getting a third briefcase?

Dowry Killings

It seems like every other day produces a story resembling something out of the 13th century. This article on dowry killings in India is one of them.

The largest prison in Delhi, Tihar Jail, has a "mother-in-law" cell block, currently home to roughly 120 women, some of whom are serving 20-year sentences for murdering their daughters-in-law. The majority of these crimes stem from disputes over dowry: A bride whose dowry payments are viewed as inadequate is burned to death by her in-laws or husband, the cause of death listed as "kitchen accident." According to India's National Crime Record Bureau, one dowry death is reported every 77 minutes. The bureau recorded 7,026 dowry deaths in 2005 alone.

Since India opened up to foreign investment in 1990, the country has seen a rise in dowry-related violence alongside its economic boom. Dowry deaths surged from 400 a year in the mid-1980s to 5,800 a year in the mid-1990s, according to a 2001 report in Time magazine. The fact that more people are coming forward to report the crimes accounts for part of this increase, but official figures are still thought to reflect a mere fraction of the total number of dowry killings.

How Generous are Americans?

John Stossel examines Americans, charity, and a book that is getting a lot of attention:

After the Asian Tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged $900 million to tsunami relief. American individuals donated $2 billion -- three times what government gave -- in food, clothing, and cash. Private charities could barely keep up with the donations.

Americans' preference for voluntary contributions over forced giving through government is one way in which Americans differ from other people. (Don't think it's forced? See what happens if you don't pay your taxes.)

Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks's new book, "Who Really Cares", points out that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. Individually, Americans give seven times more money than people in Germany and 14 times more than Italians give. We also volunteer more.

The Putin Problem

Leon Aron, writing in Commentary, on what Putin wants:

The ideology behind the Putin restoration rests in the first place on a distinct interpretation of recent Russian history. When Putin came into office, the fall of the Soviet Union and the reforms of the late 1980’s and 90’s were generally accepted as the consequences of a free, if imperfectly implemented, choice of the Russian people. Today, that crucial decade-and-a-half is seen in a very different light. Many key policies from that time are now viewed as shameful mistakes, deeply harmful to the country’s interests and committed by leaders who were at best naïve and weak, at worst venal and perfidious—if not, in fact, participants in a vast plot perpetrated by outsiders intent on weakening the Soviet (and then Russian) state. As Putin himself famously declared, the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Key postulates of Russian national political culture—so magnificently and, many of us thought, permanently banished by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin—have now returned in force. It is once again respectable to say that the glory of Russia is the state, that what is good for the state is necessarily good for the country, and that the strengthening of the state is society’s primary objective. Hence, the state functionary (naturally conceived as a model of enlightenment, probity, and public spirit) is today considered a far more effective agent of progress than a free press (so sensationalist and profit-seeking), the voter (so uneducated and fickle), the judge (a bribe-taker), or, heaven forbid, the private entrepreneur.

Quote of the Day

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.

- Franklin P. Jones

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Patriotic Wildflowers

Christopher Gray reflects on flying the flag:

They sprang up in a day, like April wildflowers. Big ones, small ones, expensive ones, cheap ones, linen, cotton, polyester—there were even color printouts from the Web. Five years later, the American flags that covered the city in red, white, and blue have almost all faded away.

I had long suspended a flag on the wall outside my office, between the two windows—I loved how the wind would lift it up, splashing the room with red and blue. So I was a touch proprietary about the flags that popped out after 9/11—it fits my sinful pride to feel superior to all the Patriot-Come-Latelys. But I was also happy to see them, as if in one of Childe Hassam’s World War I paintings—not just on Fifth Avenue, but across the city. To judge from photographs from the 1940s, New York had a hundred times the flags displayed in 2001 than flew during the “Good War.”

I had never liked flag wavers. But I began to respond to the flag after working up-country in Nigeria in 1975. When I returned to the U.S., I realized that we were so rich. Not money so much as infrastructure: courts, roads, sewage, telephone lines, health systems, and, especially, a tradition of fairness and freedom—what a privilege to live here! This vegetarian hippie kissed the ground at JFK.

First Names and Success

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but would a businessperson without a popular first name be as likely to savor the smell of success in the executive suite?

Maybe, because success is mainly merit-based, but a common name doesn't hurt, according to research by Lee McPheters, senior associate dean with the W. P. Carey School of Business. To his surprise, McPheters found that six names accounted for 35 percent of the highest-paid executives in Phoenix. The names are, in order: Robert, John, Steve, Richard, Donald and William.

Read the rest here.

Unfortunately, the Frank Zappa family names Moon Unit and Dweezel did not make the list.

[HT: BusinessPundit ]

Diplomacy Update

Back by popular demand:

Leighton Davis’s Responses to People on the 6 Train That Hopefully Convey My Feelings in a Polite Way.

Defending Civilization

Historian Victor Davis Hanson on our greatest vulnerability:

But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.

No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.

What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking--won at such a great personal cost--to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?

Read it all here.

Enjoy That Holiday!

A Rasmussen Reports poll (story via Adfreak) indicates that 69 percent of adults prefer the greeting "Merry Christmas" while only 23 percent prefer "Happy Holidays."

"Happy Holidays" has always struck me as something cooked up by a bureaucrat whose job is to drain as much meaning as possible out of a phrase.

Has it ever evoked a warm feeling in any recipient?

As a public service, here is the real meaning behind many "Happy Holidays" greetings:

(a) "I am giving you the politically correct, corporately approved, greeting for a certain season which shall be unnamed. Wink."
(b) "Hey, it sounds better than 'Enjoy Whatever Holiday.'"
(c) "I am a aficionado of the bland."
(d) "I regard you as so fragile and weak that if I say 'Merry Christmas' or a greeting for any other religious holiday you will break into little pieces."

Spain's Boat People

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell examines Spain’s immigration problem. An excerpt:

Spanish laws towards foreigners are generous, and punctilious about human rights. They also invite chicanery. You cannot detain an immigrant for more than 40 days unless you charge him with a crime, and you cannot deport an immigrant unless you know where he comes from. If he can keep his mouth shut for a month or so, or if he can mis direct the bureaucracy until his 40 days have elapsed, he's in like Flynn. A common way to throw authorities off balance is to pretend to be from somewhere else. Since Spain does not have an extradition treaty with strife-torn Ivory Coast, for instance, many of the Senegalese who have arrived by boat in recent weeks have claimed to be from there (even though the two countries speak mutually exclusive sets of African languages). In October, Pakistan demanded that a half dozen boat people (out of hundreds taken off a rusty old freighter and "repatriated" there) be sent back to Spain. They turned out to be from Indian Kashmir, not Pakistanis at all. You have to be pretty unlucky to get repatriated. Of the 30,000 Senegalese who have arrived this year, only 4,000 have been sent back. The others are put on flights to the Spanish mainland, with an expulsion order in their pocket. Such orders are virtually never enforced. For a migrant, this is roughly a 7-out-of-8 chance of settling in Spain indefinitely: excellent odds.

Draining the Swamp at Siemens

The corruption scandal at Siemens: bribes, slush funds, and…decentralization?

The story from Spiegel:

In order to understand why the Munich-based multinational is so susceptible to corruption cases, it is necessary to go back to the large-scale restructuring that took place in 1989. The 15 divisions which were newly created at that time were given a considerable degree of autonomy, and they were also allowed to carry out financial transactions without supervision by the company's headquarters. The small central management enthroned above them was mainly responsible for company-wide issues, while also checking up on the newly created divisions.

The division heads learned to value this new-found freedom, and apparently dipped generously into funds that Siemens maintained in order to make general payments in foreign countries. At that time, these expenses were disguised as consultant fees or commissions, and they were even tax deductible.

Quote of the Day

Cowardice does not make you safe. It makes you a safe target.

- Dale Amon

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

WWI Photos

Some unusual color photos from another world.

You'll have to move the screen laterally to see all of them.

[HT: Reddit ]

Danger, Will Robinson!

Well, the important things go drifting away into the fog of memory but you can probably remember a surprising number of the 100 greatest catchphrases from television.

[HT: Adfreak ]

Paycheck Discrimination: A Big Case

Linda Greenhouse, writing in The New York Times, on the Ledbetter case:

Is each new paycheck, reflecting a salary lower than it would have been without the initial discrimination, a recurring violation that sets the [statute of limitations] clock running again? Or does the passage of time, without fresh acts of intentional discrimination, render the initial injury a nonevent in the eyes of the law?...

[T]he E.E.O.C. ... has long applied what is known as the “paycheck accrual rule,” under which each pay period of uncorrected discrimination is seen as a fresh incident of discrimination. So although the 180-day limit applies to discrete actions like a discriminatory refusal to hire or failure to promote, it does not, in the view of the federal agency charged with administering the statute, prevent lawsuits for the continuing effects of past discrimination in pay.

Further discussion of the Ledbetter case here and here and here.

[HT: Althouse ]

Paradox of Military Technology

Max Boot, author of War Made New, on “The Paradox of Military Technology”:

“Irregular” attacks carried out by tribes, clans, or other non-state actors are as old as warfare itself; they long predate the development of modern armed forces and the nation-state. The religious fanaticism which animates so many of today’s terrorists and guerrillas is equally ancient. But technological advances have made such attacks far more potent than in the distant past. The progeny of the second industrial revolution—assault rifles, machine guns, mortars, rocket launchers, landmines, explosives—long ago spread to the remotest corners of the globe. Fighters who a century ago might have made do with swords and muskets now have access to cheap and reliable weapons such as the AK-47 capable of spewing out 100 bullets a minute. More advanced technologies, from handheld missiles to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, give even a small group of insurgents the ability or potential ability to mete out far more destruction than entire armies could unleash just a century ago. And thanks to modern transportation and communications infrastructure—such as jumbo jets, the Internet, and cell phones—insurgents have the capability to carry out their attacks virtually anywhere in the world.

September 11 showed the terrifying possibilities of such unconventional warfare. It is easy to imagine that in the future super-terrorists will be able to kill hundreds of thousands, even millions, with effective weapons of mass destruction. All of the materials, as well as the know-how needed to craft such devices, are all too readily available.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons has the greatest ability to trump U.S. military hegemony. The atomic bomb is more than sixty years old. It belongs to an age of rotary-dial telephones and fin-winged cars. It is a miracle that it has not been used by maniac dictators or political radicals since 1945, but that streak won’t last forever. And while information age technology offers a reasonable chance of stopping a nuclear-tipped missile, there is much less probability of stopping a terrorist with a nuclear suitcase. There is little in theory to prevent al Qaeda from carrying out its oft-expressed desire to create an “American Hiroshima.” In the words of Eugene Habiger, a retired four-star general who once ran antinuclear terror programs for the Department of Energy, “it is not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”

Read his entire essay here.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

A Simple Pleasure

A dated but wise article from Claudia Rosett on the pleasures of reading aloud:

One of the best memories I have is of a freezing afternoon in Chicago, years ago, when my family, home for the holidays, ransacked the bookshelves to read aloud the stories, poems or passages we found most beautiful and my father choked up while trying to read the closing lines of "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White. It is the story of a spider who saves a pig; more than that, it is a tale of mortality and abiding love: "It is not often someone comes along who is a true friend" was part of what he read aloud. It was the first time I had seen my father cry.

Spike Who?

Terry l. Woodard had just graduated from Morehouse College. A classmate named Shelton Lee asked him to pony up a few thousand bucks for Lee's film project. Short on cash, Woodard turned Lee down. What a mistake. You know the young filmmaker as Spike Lee. He scraped up enough money to make the 1986 hit She's Gotta Have It. A triumph for a film not made by a big studio and costing only $175,000, the flick grossed $7.1 million at the domestic box office, and its investors continue to receive profit checks. A 20th-anniversary DVD of the sex comedy has been planned, but no release date is set. Along the way Lee has produced 22 other films that did a combined $433 million at U.S. box offices.

Read the rest of the Forbes article on investing in films by clicking here.

[HT: Commerce Bucket ]

Background Checks and Diversity

Via Workplace Prof Blog, a study revealing that employers who conduct background checks are more likely to hire black applicants.

Recruitment Problems Checklist

A checklist of significant recruitment problems:

- Rushed selection process

- Unclear job requirements

- Insufficient outreach

- Recruitment outside of the personnel system

- Failure to post openings

- Tapping successors

- Vague selection criteria

- Untrained interviewers

- Inappropriate questions

- Failure to provide reasonable accommodation of disabled applicants

- No weighting of interview questions

- Poor setting for the interview

- Insufficient follow-up questions

- Failure to check with former employers

- Use of hiring quotas

- Failure to notify unsuccessful contenders of the selection decision

- Failure to provide the new employee with a substantive orientation of the job.

The Air War Against Nazi Germany

Fredric Smoler reviews Donald L. Miller’s Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany (Simon & Schuster, 688 pages, $35):

Did it work? It is now fashionable to assert, with very selective use of partial evidence, that strategic bombing was and will always be a failure, an assertion that gains a little force from the way bombing’s enthusiasts tend to overstate their case. After the horrors of World War I, strategic bombing’s enthusiasts claimed that their method of making war would be swift and decisive. Some of them also thought it would be relatively humane, some that it would win wars without land forces being involved at all. Most thought that we could bomb with pinpoint precision by daylight, without fighter escorts, and at relatively trivial cost in American lives. None of this turned out to be true. Strategic bombing was nonetheless for a long time the only way the Western Allies could make war on Adolf Hitler, and in the long run it was a devastatingly effective weapon, one that made a decisive contribution to destroying the Third Reich, and the intensity of arguments to the contrary seem directly proportional to ignorance of modern scholarship on the war. Miller knows this, and he is illuminating about the much-misquoted and seldom-read Strategic Bombing Survey conducted after the war.

The judgment of modern specialist historians, which Miller agrees with, is that strategic bombing worked, although not in the way intended, which is to say either alone or by destroying German morale. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, strategic bombing almost certainly did do appalling damage to German morale, but the demoralized subjects of an efficient tyranny became more passive and more dependent on that tyranny. Strategic bombing made its very significant contribution to victory in other ways. It forced the Luftwaffe’s fighters to stay over Germany, where American escort fighters destroyed them. That made the advances by the Allied armies much cheaper; in some cases, it made them possible. It diverted vast German resources into air defense, and by the end of the war it paralyzed German war production. The premier historian of the air war, Richard Overy, says that in 1944 the effects of the bombing deprived front-line German forces of 50 percent of the equipment and ammunition they would otherwise have received.

Turn Down the Heat

2Blowhards is analyzing chocolate art, one of most neglected areas of talent since black velvet portraits of Elvis.

Judging the Book by Your Cover

Penguin has published some books with blank covers so customers can design their own.

[HT: kottke ]

The Enemy's Plan Book

Michael Novak on what the Islamists have learned:

What we have discovered in Iraq is the weakest link in the ability of the United States to sustain military operations overseas. That link is the U.S. media. They are Islamists' best friends.

Experience shows that the mainstream press of the United States is alienated from the U.S. military. In addition, the American press is extremely vulnerable to anti-U.S. propaganda. Thus, the American public will be fed nearly everything that foreign adversaries--our band of brothers--wish to feed it about the war. Therefore, I write: Maxim # 1: To defeat America, impose upon the imagination of its media your own storyline.

Even if you can muster only 10,000 soldiers over the entire countryside of Iraq, paint the narrative like this: The Americans are irresistible occupiers, and yet they cannot prevent small (even individual) acts of destruction. Daily, unrelenting acts of destruction demonstrate that chaos rules. The American strategy, and the American storyline of the war, are invalidated by continuing chaos, highly visible, every single day, on worldwide television. The new dominating story is that the Americans cannot win.

Quote of the Day

The world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong in the broken places.

- Ernest Hemingway

Monday, November 27, 2006

Smothering Customers

James Lileks gives a tip that should be posted in every car dealership:

Today's how-to hint: driving off customers. It's simple. Smother them. I got a call the other day from the fellow who sold me my car. He's a great guy, and as long as his conversation doesn't begin with, "Say, you haven't noticed your skin sloughing off the bone when you run the heater, have you? Napalm got into the production line somehow. Damndest thing," I'm glad to hear from him. But it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I'd spent the previous day driving home into the night, and I didn't sleep until 2 a.m. He called at 8:30 a.m. on a post-holiday no-school sleep-in day. The only reason I want my dealership to call at 8:30 a.m. is because the GPS system has become self-aware and is targeting my model with death-lasers from space. And even then, I'm thinking 8:45 is more appropriate.

O.J. Book Titles

The O.J. Simpson book deal is mercifully gone but the list of possible book titles lives on.


“The streets were empty. There was darkness everywhere. Vultures perched on trees, and we all dressed in black hoods, carrying our scythes. But then you came.”

An editorial in the Sacramento Bee, sarcastically responding to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent comment that "Sacramento was death—until I got there."

Source: Sacramento Bee

[HT: Governing ]

Cab Stuff

One man abandoned his drunken girlfriend asleep and told the cabbie that he was leaving her as a tip. Another driver was lumbered with a man wearing only underpants. Other taxi drivers in the capital have reported finding a machinegun, an antique telescope and a bag of diamonds worth £100,000 on the rear seats of their cabs.

London emerged as the quirkiest and most forgetful place from the survey of 2,000 cabbies in 11 cities around the world.

The research was primarily aimed at assessing the quantities of business equipment lost in taxis daily. The survey suggested that, in the past six months alone, 54,872 mobile phones, 4,718 handheld computers, 3,179 laptops and 923 computer memory sticks were left in London cabs.

Find the rest on what gets left in London’s cabs here.

NY Times Books

As the end of the year approaches, get ready for the traditional "Most Notable" lists.

Here's The New York Times Book Review's list of the 100 notable books of 2006.

[I read a lot of nonfiction and fiction but the Niall Ferguson book is the only one on my reading list.]

[HT: kottke ]

Starbucks and Ethiopia

An issue to watch: Starbucks, Oxfam, and Ethiopian coffee.

Issues in India

Two surprising issues that might harm India's economic growth: HIV and drinking water.

The Passive-Aggressive Team Member

Over the years, Morgan been on several of my teams. A self-described team player, he (or she, for that matter) would quickly deny that any of these actions are negative or aggressive, but you be the judge. These are some of Morgan's favorite practices:

- Not giving a team member a "heads up" about a disagreement and then sandbagging the person with a collection of negative comments at the team meeting.

- Keeping silent during discussions of various options, then later badmouthing the option adopted by the team.

- Losing research material that supports an option he opposes.

- Calling team meetings and somehow "forgetting" to invite potential dissenters from his preferred course of action.

- Researching only one side of an issue and presenting it as a thorough study.

- Placing the option he favors between two strawman alternatives.

- Pretending to consult others on a course of action that is already in motion.

- Stacking subcommittees with his cronies.

- Leaking confidential information to stir up opposition to team proposals.

- Routinely making commitments to others and then ignoring them.

Stonehenge as Healing Center

An interesting new theory on Stonehenge: that its stones were thought to have healing powers and it was the Lourdes of its day.

This may make more sense than the ancient astronomical site theory and the study of the remains that have been unearthed has a certain "CSI" tone.

What Constitutes Success?

Some food for thought:

Which of the following people would you consider to be an overall success? Would any of them stand out above the others?

Mary has a graduate degree from Harvard, is an executive earning $300,000 a year, speaks four languages, and yet, in job after job, is hated by most of her colleagues.

Luther's goal was to become company president but he crossed some powerful people and was shunted to a side job. His family life is fine but he has hit a professional dead-end. He earns $70,000 a year, is twice as capable as people earning three times as much, and is well-respected in his professional niche.

Karen had the grades and ability to go very far, but she only wanted a relatively easy job with good benefits so she could pursue her true love: oil painting.

Roberto's wife is the main breadwinner. Roberto stays home, takes care of the children, and teaches a night class several days a week at the community college.

Carol describes herself as "married to the job." She travels on business for two weeks out of every month, has a cat that is cared for by neighbors when she's not around, is a meticulous dresser (she spends a sizable amount of money on shoes), and volunteers once a month at a shelter for battered women.

Kim got out of prison two years ago after serving four years for selling heroin, has since worked as a counselor in a drug recovery center, and has had two articles published in religious magazines on her experiences.

Carl works as a custodian. He dropped out of high school, later got a GED, has been married for 30 years, and has four children, each of whom has graduated from college. Carl's passion is fishing.

Quote of the Day

For some people, it's always 1968.

- Glenn Reynolds

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Religious Symbols: British Airways Makes a Turn

Workplace Prof Blog on the decision by British Airways to reverse its position and let an employee wear a necklace with a cross.

Power Desk?

There are various versions of power desks.

The conventional, in which the technology is hidden in the desk, and the unconventional, where the desk looks like it's going to impale your opponents.

Rock Pillows

I could use some of these cushions. They're the perfect feature for a cutting edge office.

P.S. A couple of these babies for the lobby!

Wrong Target?

Charles Krauthammer thinks that Borat went after a familiar target and it wasn’t anti-Semitism:

With anti-Semitism reemerging in Europe and rampant in the Islamic world; with Iran acquiring the ultimate weapon of genocide and proclaiming its intention to wipe out the world's largest Jewish community (Israel); with America and, in particular, its Christian evangelicals the only remaining Gentile constituency anywhere willing to defend that besieged Jewish outpost -- is the American heartland really the locus of anti-Semitism? Is this the one place to go to find it?


American Heritage looks at the roots of Microsoft:

Gates already stood out at Lakeside, his Seattle private school. The son of a wealthy, high-powered lawyer, he was the smartest kid in class, and he knew it. Obsessive and fiercely competitive, he had a photographic memory and a knack for math and science and would chortle at students who failed to master physics concepts in one try. But he didn’t understand true passion until he started eighth grade in 1968. Over the summer Lakeside had bought a teletype machine linked by a phone line to a mainframe computer downtown. Gates soon became one of a cluster of proto-techies who jostled to spend all their free time punching BASIC commands onto rolls of yellow paper tape.

Frequently a chubby sophomore stood at the teletype breathing down Gates’s neck. His name was Paul Allen. He and Gates became fast friends in the newly christened “computer room.” “We both were fascinated with the different possibilities of what you could do with computers,” Allen recalled. “It was a vast area of knowledge we were trying to absorb.” But as much fun as he had programming ticktacktoe and lunar landing games, Gates, a born capitalist, saw more lucrative possibilities. He, Allen, and two other classmates formed the Lakeside Programmers Group in the fall of 1970. Their sole mission: to make money. “I was the mover,” Gates later said. “I was the guy who said, ‘Let’s call the real world and try to sell something to it.’”

The first opportunity came while he was still in eighth grade.

Seven Virtues of Procrastination

1. He who hesitates is sometimes saved.
2. Some problems solve themselves.
3. Bold action does not always equal wise action.
4. Delay permits coordination and coordination can mean greater support.
5. Procrastinators learn to resist peer pressure.
6. Many deadlines are artificial.
7. Problems become clearer with age.

Do You Have a Spy Personality?

The CIA is using personality tests - well, sort of - and this article tells of their humorous bent.

Rhapsody in Brilliance

Their first musical, A Dangerous Maid, enjoyed modest success in 1921; so did For Goodness Sake in 1922. Neither production featured any hits; that sort of triumph would wait another two years. By then, George had established himself as America’s first crossover musician, linking the raucous nightclub and the decorous concert hall in something he called Rhapsody in Blue. Conductor Paul Whiteman remembered the audience at Aeolian Hall on the epochal afternoon of February 12, 1924. In addition to Sergei Rachmaninoff, Victor Herbert, and Jascha Heifetz, it included “vaudevillians, concert managers come to have a look at the novelty, Tin Pan Alleyites, opera stars, flappers, all mixed up higgledy-piggledy.” That motley group reflected Gershwin’s rhapsody, played by the composer himself. From the first clarinet glissando to the fluent chords in the middle to the broad melodic finale, Rhapsody in Blue enthralled the audience. All of haute New York seemed caught in the skeins of George’s music. It suggested the rhythms of black jazz, the melancholy strains of Yiddish folk melodies, the kinetic force of Manhattan in the Speakeasy Era, as well as the art of the Old Masters.

The crowd went wild, and even though a few critics carped at the composer’s use of “colored jazz music,” most were intrigued. The New York Herald critic was typical: “Mr. Gershwin will be heard from often, and one music lover earnestly hopes that he will keep to the field in which he is a free and independent creator, and not permit himself to be led away into the academic groves and buried in the shadows of ancient trees.”

Read the rest of Stefan Kanfer’s article on George and Ira Gershwin here.

Snake Charmers Protest

BHUBANESWAR: Snake charmers set loose scores of cobras on the Mahatma Gandhi Road near the state assembly on Sunday during a protest against the government, causing passers-by to maintain a safe distance.

Police moved in and directed the owners of the venomous snakes to put them inside their baskets as they are not allowed to display the reptiles in a public place.

A large number of snake charmers from Padmakesharipur village on the city's outskirts, who have been hit by a government decision that serpents cannot be kept confined in private custody, staged the protest to demand that the ban on public shows be lifted.

Read the rest here.

[HT: Dave Barry ]

"You Disreputable Slimeball"

Law professor blogger Ann Althouse responding to a comment on her post on Andrew Sullivan’s criticism of Mormons:

Glenn Greenwald is such an idiot. Am I supposed to respond to this foolishness? Glenn, you moron, in case you didn't notice, Sullivan is mocking Mormons in general. That's what bothered me. I don't object to the word "Christianists" if it is used fairly to refer to something that is the equivalent of "Islamists." I use the word "religionists" myself. See here, here, here, and here. Words like this mean something and have a place. The key is to use them in the right place. I criticize Sullivan when he shows a hostility toward ordinary religious people who aren't trying to bully their way around the political world. There are distinctions to be made here. Why not take a little trouble to try to understand the person you are criticizing before you write, you disreputable slimeball? (And your writing is putrid.) [But I do love the pathetic jealousy of your post title.]

Wow, my responses are pretty calm compared to that.

Fat Assumptions

Dieting may be more dangerous than being overweight. A study challenges many of our assumptions about dieting and obesity. Excerpt:

One of the principal targets of the obesity crusaders has been the school vending machine. However, the banning of these machines and their stocks of snacks and sweets is very much at odds with the most recent science on children, junk food, and obesity. In 2004, a World Health Organisation study of 8,904 British pupils found that overweight children ate sweets less frequently than normal-weight children did. Children who ate larger amounts of junk food actually had less chance of being overweight.

One large-scale American study spent three years tracking almost 15,000 boys and girls aged between nine and 14 to investigate the links between body mass index and the consumption of fruit and vegetables. It found no correlation, and concluded that "the recommendation for consumption of fruit and vegetables may be well founded, but should not be based on a beneficial effect on weight regulation".

The parallel claim of an adult obesity epidemic is equally unsubstantiated. There has been significant weight gain among the very heaviest segment of the adult population. However, this has not been true of most of the individuals who are labelled overweight and obese, whose weights have only slightly increased. In America, it is true that there was a rapid increase in the number of overweight people in the early years of this decade: but only because the classification of what was "overweight" was reduced from those with a body mass index of 27 to those of 25. Overnight, previously normal weight people discovered they were overweight.

Quote of the Day

If you ain't got a choice, be brave.

- Western saying

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rule Britannia?

Will Great Britain break up?

Check out this article from The Telegraph. An excerpt:

A clear majority of people in both England and Scotland are in favour of full independence for Scotland, an ICM opinion poll for The Sunday Telegraph has found. Independence is backed by 52 per cent of Scots while an astonishing 59 per cent of English voters want Scotland to go it alone.

Books That Make a Difference

Writing in Tech Central Station Nick Schulz examines David Brooks's contention that there are no "big books" nowadays and gives a list of contenders.

Wal-Mart's Mexican Bank

Daniel Altman examines a new twist in globalization:

In the bad old days of globalization (some would say they’re still with us), companies from wealthy countries went abroad in search of looser regulations on the treatment of workers and the environment. Sweatshops and polluted water supplies ensued. But whoever thought a big business would leave the United States in search of a less stringent… banking code?

That’s what Wal-Mart is doing. The retailer plans to open a bank in Mexico to offer cheap accounts to underserved people, and presumably to anyone else who wants one. The Mexican government is allowing Wal-Mart to put branches in its stores, and it’s actually pleased that the company might spur some competition among local banks who’ve previously ignored potential working class customers.

Steyn Speaks

From an interview with Mark Steyn by The New Culture Forum:

NCF: Looking across now to France, with the Presidential election coming up. The Muslim population is actually far greater than in Britain. The country seems to believe that because it opposed the Iraq war, they will not be attacked. How do you see the situation there developing?

MS: I think the continental countries have particular problems. The idea that Mr Sarkozy can be France’s Reagan, or that Angela Merkel can be Germany’s Thatcher, I’ve never given much credence to, because the reality is that the German or French population are not yet in the situation that the British and the American electorates were at the end of the 70s. In other words, they have not yet accepted that the old way is kaput, and I think that, as far as the Germans and the French are concerned, yes it’s true that a lot of them think that there are far too many Muslims in their cities and they are getting pretty sick of the crime and all that, but they haven’t yet realised that one of the reason why they are in these situation is because of the unaffordable social programmes, welfare entitlements, the cradle-to-grave welfare, the paid vacations, the controlled job market and all the rest of it that’s created this situation.

If you are going to have immigration, at least you should have immigration from multiple sources. Once your immigration becomes overly dependent on a particular source then there’s a cultural component to it, effectively it becomes a demographic transformation. If your immigrants are drawn in equally from the two hundred countries on the planet, there is no cultural component to that issue. Once they become overwhelmingly drawn from one particular self-segregating demographic, there very much is.

Gates's View

Michael Barone looks at Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates’ book on the presidents and finds some interesting perspectives. An excerpt:

He served in the White House under four presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush. And, as deputy to William Casey and then William Webster, he had ready access to the Reagan White House. As a career civil servant, albeit one who rose rapidly and to very high ranks, Gates tends to see continuity between different administrations. He argues in his memoirs, for example, that many of Reagan's policies had their roots in the Carter administration, including the defense buildup and the stress on human rights: "Indeed, the secret that all five of the Presidents and their political advisers hid from the American public was the extraordinary continuity in U.S. dealings with the Soviet Union from administration to administration. Hidden because, regardless of philosophy, the public approach of challengers in our politics is usually to tear down rather than to promise to build upon the work of incumbents—especially if the incumbent is of the other party.

"In truth, the roots of Nixon's SALT negotiations and his strategic programs were, for the most part, in the Johnson administration. Ford embraced Nixon's détente until Soviet actions forced a change. Carter's human-rights campaign built on Ford's signature of the Helsinki Declaration. He continued all but one of Nixon's strategic weapons programs as well as, ultimately, Ford's approach to SALT. Reagan's strategic programs, covert confrontation with the Soviets in the Third World, economic pressures, eventual engagement on arms control, and attacks on the legitimacy of the Soviet government itself built on Carter's efforts in each arena—even though partisans of both Presidents would rather have their tongues turn black and fall out than admit this."

Tech's Drawbacks

I was thumbing through an article on how technology makes our lives easier and, being somewhat contrarian in such matters, immediately thought of ways in which it makes our lives more complicated. Some examples:

- The person who emails a question today probably expects a reply either today or tomorrow. In the past, a person would send a letter to you and not expect a reply for a week, maybe two. On the surface of that example, technology benefits the sender but not the recipient. On the other hand, if the rushed reply is of lower quality than one given after more thought, then technology hasn't helped either side.

- The person who sends an email to a mass of co-workers, then immediately discovers an error, has used a device that permits mistakes to be made more quickly.

- A Google-preserved mistake is forever. Old letters containing mistakes are sometimes tossed out.

- The use of cell phones creates the expectation that you can be reached anywhere at any moment. Sometimes you don't want to be reached.

Any others?

Wii Ad

Here's a pretty slick ad from Japan:

Two sales people introducing Americans to a video game system. Charming.

"Wii you like to play?"

[HT: Adrants ]

Top Books on PR

Michael Kempner lists his top five books on public relations.

I'd add Jerry Della Femina's book on advertising: From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor.

Quote of the Day

A man has got to know his limitations.

- Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force

Disney's Genius

A modestly talented cartoonist whose real strength lay in his uncanny ability to anticipate the next big technological innovation, young Walt Disney was indifferent to money and material comfort, unfazed by the long string of setbacks he encountered as a fledgling motion picture animator, and completely unabashed when it came to borrowing and losing large sums of money from friends and family members who were inexplicably generous in financing his dreams.

Almost from the start, he and his brother Roy, who managed the business end of Disney Bros. Studios (later rechristened Walt Disney Enterprises), seemed to be several steps ahead of the crowd. His first major animation project was a silent series called the Alice Comedies, which anticipated Who Framed Roger Rabbit by more than 60 years, with its combination of a live human actor (Virginia Davis, who played Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland) and animated companion characters.

After a fallout with double-crossing business partners, Disney, as always on the verge of bankruptcy, worked night and day to develop a new character, a mouse with human-like qualities who would combine his own sense of adventure with a puckish spirit. In developing Mickey Mouse, he had to labor behind the backs of his staff animators, who were working in connivance with his former business partners to push him out of his own fledgling studio.

American Heritage reviews Neal Gabler’s new book on Walt Disney.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Have Some Moe

Liberal writer John Moe spent some time in Red State America and met a bunch of nice people.

He's turned it into a book.

[HT: 2Blowhards ]

Midways Time

On the Moneyed Midways is up at Political Calculations blog.

It has a collection of posts from various blog carnivals.

The History Channel's Competition

The satirical Uncyclopedia looks at The Bureaucracy Channel.

[HT: digg ]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Racism: Apply it as a cosmetic and look at what happens. A clever ad campaign.

Coca is being placed in cookies and cola in Columbia.

Our Russian friends are sending rockets to Iran. [HT: Drudge ]

Lip-readers can now determine what Hitler was saying in his home movies. [HT: linkbunnies ]

Moving On Up

A new study from the University of Essex analysed speed-dating sessions, and found that every extra inch of height a man has over his fellow Romeos correlates to an increase in the number of women who want to be introduced to him of 5 per cent.

Furthermore, statistics show that tall men earn far more than their shorter comrades and are more likely to be offered promotion. I was, I realised, being discriminated against because of my height.

Whenever a female scanned the room for potential boyfriend material, I would be filtered out, or dumped in the friends-only (maybe) category, along with the fat bloke who eats with his mouth open.

I had to take action, I had to rise above this prejudice. I had to grow. Apart from restyling myself as a goth, a cowboy or a glam-rocker — and embracing the high-heeled footwear they can get away with — at first there seemed no obvious way of discreetly gaining those few vital inches of height. Thank God for the internet. A cursory search led me to products I had never heard of. Easiest to use, and cheapest, are the “height-increase insoles” or “lifts” that you insert into your existing shoes. More expensive are the ready-made or bespoke “status shoes” which have their lifts built in.

Read all of John Bamber’s quest for height by clicking here.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Web Worst?

Is this the worst designed web site ever?

I'm sure I've seen worse but I just can't think of one right now.

[HT: reddit ]

Wee House

There are days when we are so overwhelmed with the clutter of possessions that a place like this small house looks very good.

Assorted Interviews

Dated but still interesting, interviews with:

James Michener

Oprah Winfrey

Stephen Ambrose

Shelby Foote

James Earl Jones

Milton Friedman

Hamid Karzai

Andrew Weil

Tom Wolfe

Hungry Architecture

Encouraging news: Architecture that "eats" smog.

[HT: fark ]

The Immigration Game

Peggy Noonan on the hard facts of the immigration problem:

You know the facts. Immigrants are here in huge numbers, unlawfully, in the age of terror. They swell the cost of local life--emergency rooms, schools--which has an impact on local taxes. There are towns and cities that feel, and are, overwhelmed. And no one will help them.

The essential reason, I think, is that America's elites don't want America's borders closed. Businesses want low-wage workers; intellectuals are wed to global visions of cross-border prosperity; politicians want Hispanic loyalty and the Hispanic vote. It's not convenient for any of them to close the borders. If Americans on the ground are enduring difficulties over this, it's . . . too bad. This is further eroding America's already eroding faith in its institutions.

Improving Performance Evaluations

James Heskett at Harvard Business Svchool's Working Knowledge has a lively exchange with readers on what needs to be done with performance evaluations.

My own take: The best evaluations that I've seen are brief and monthly. This permits problems to be addressed early, prevents employees from dodging the supervisor and then improving performance three weeks before the annual evalution is due, allows the easy use of incremental goals, and pushes supervisors to let good employees know that they are appreciated.

Every supervisor that I've known who uses monthly evaluations would never go back to the old six or twelve month system. Some time is spent up front, but far more time is saved down the road.

Quote of the Day

[The] global struggle against terrorism...will last a generation and more. But this I believe passionately: We will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy - that somehow we are the ones responsible. This terrorism isn't our fault. We didn't cause it. It's not the consequence of foreign policy. It's an attack on our way of life. It's global. It has an ideology. It killed nearly 3,000 people, including over 60 British, on the streets of New York before war in Afghanistan or Iraq was even thought of....If we retreat now, hand over Iraq to al-Qaeda and sectarian death squads and Afghanistan back to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, we won't be safer; we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril.

- Prime Minister Tony Blair

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Furniture Store Beats Church

This just in:

The Swedes trust IKEA, Volvo, and Saab more than they do the church.

Why am I not surprised? But who is to blame: the Swedes or the church?

P.S. I know some people who regard going to IKEA as a quasi-religious experience.

Political Ad

This is not the best political ad that I've ever seen but it is pretty darned slick.

Perhaps too slick. What's its point?

[HT: reddit ]

"Kramer" Hires Help

Michael Richards has hired a crisis management expert to handle the damage control from his "racist when angry" tirade.

All well and good.

It's rather disappointing, however, when the expert's first move is to seek to get the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on board. Both of those gentlemen are damaged goods when it comes to credibility. Contacting them is a cynical and empty gesture.

Lawyers in Love

When Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly ran this ad, it created an uproar. Is the ad demeaning to women?

Slate is on the case.

Like a Steel Trap

There is a collection of lines from essays by high school students. Some samples:

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a ThighMaster.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.

This one has a certain Raymond Chandler-flair:

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

[HT: Neatorama ]

The View in 1620

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

From the record of Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of the Plymouth Colony, based on an account by William Bradford. Read the rest in The Wall Street Journal editorial here.

Food The Color of Your Computer

Since food is going to be a backdrop topic of today (It's Thanksgiving, in case you wonder why all of those people are at your house), you might want to get some nifty recipe ideas from the Fifties, an era noted for its cuisine.

James Lileks, author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food, gives a tour of cooking with gelatin.

Gaps, Markets, CEOs, and Basketball Players

A memorable Paul Graham essay on “Minding the Gap.” An excerpt:

In the United States, the CEO of a large public company makes about 100 times as much as the average person. [3] Basketball players make about 128 times as much, and baseball players 72 times as much. Editorials quote this kind of statistic with horror. But I have no trouble imagining that one person could be 100 times as productive as another. In ancient Rome the price of slaves varied by a factor of 50 depending on their skills. [4] And that's without considering motivation, or the extra leverage in productivity that you can get from modern technology.

Editorials about athletes' or CEOs' salaries remind me of early Christian writers, arguing from first principles about whether the Earth was round, when they could just walk outside and check. [5] How much someone's work is worth is not a policy question. It's something the market already determines.

"Are they really worth 100 of us?" editorialists ask. Depends on what you mean by worth. If you mean worth in the sense of what people will pay for their skills, the answer is yes, apparently.

A few CEOs' incomes reflect some kind of wrongdoing. But are there not others whose incomes really do reflect the wealth they generate? Steve Jobs saved a company that was in a terminal decline. And not merely in the way a turnaround specialist does, by cutting costs; he had to decide what Apple's next products should be. Few others could have done it. And regardless of the case with CEOs, it's hard to see how anyone could argue that the salaries of professional basketball players don't reflect supply and demand.

Garage Cooking

The mechanics/cooks at Jalopnik give step by step guidelines on deep-frying a turkey.

How Much Oil?

It will be 25 years before world oil production reaches its peak?

Daniel Yergin’s group thinks so.

[HT: ]

Thanksgiving Quiz

Jack Kelly, writing in American Heritage, unearths some odd facts about Thanksgiving. A quick quiz:

1. The tradition of an “official pardon” for the turkey given to the president dates back to (a) Abraham Lincoln; (b) FDR; (c) Theodore Roosevelt; (d) George H. W. Bush.
2. Benjamin Franklin proposed that the turkey be the bird in the official seal of the United States. True or False?
3. Per capita, Americans eat how much turkey each year? (a) 17 pounds; (b) five pounds; (c) 12 pounds; (d) 26 pounds.
4. The two turkeys pardoned last year by President Bush were sent to: (a) The National Zoo; (b) Virginia’s Frying Pan Park; (c) Iraq; (d) Disneyland.

1: d
2: False
3: a
4: d

Quote of the Day

Never order food in excess of your body weight.

- Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Strategic Vision

From gapingvoid.


The History Channel has videos on President Kennedy's assassination.

Still jarring. Still sad.

Presumed Guilty

Frances Kemp booked an aisle seat on a recent British Airways (BA) flight because she had a bad leg that required extra space. Her 76-year-old husband Michael occupied the middle seat. A nine-year-old girl took the window position.

When a stewardess asked Frances to switch seats with her husband, she declined. The stewardess explained that the seating arrangement breached the airline's child-welfare regulations and moved the child.

Michael is a retired journalist with no criminal record; he made no contact physical or verbal with the girl; no complaint or request to move was received; the child's mother was elsewhere on the plane. The girl's welfare was deemed to be in peril solely because Michael was male.

BA has openly joined the ranks of airlines such as Air New Zealand and Qantas that view all men as a danger to children. It is difficult to know how many other airliners share this policy as it is rarely announced and can be enforced invisibly when seats are booked.

Read the rest of this amazing story by clicking here.

[HT: reddit ]

No Hobbit

Rats! Director Peter Jackson has confirmed that he won't be making The Hobbit.

Those of us who are hard-core Middle Earth fans can begin the grieving process.

Gen Y and Networking

Writing in Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Report, Teri C. Tompkins, Nancy C. Wallis, and Kent Rhodes examine Gen Y and networking.

An excerpt:

Employee network groups, also more recently called affinity groups or employee resource groups, can be beneficial to both management and employees. First formed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, network groups typically focused on race and gender.

Today network groups are more likely to be acknowledged for improving overall company performance as they are to be credited with improving recruiting and retention efforts and with providing an avenue for broader perspectives regarding company performance.[1] Texas Instrument’s (TI) diversity director Terry Howard says, “I think employee networks are part and parcel of any effective diversity strategy. I can’t imagine working in an organization that didn’t have them.”[2]

In spite of the benefits of network groups, the 2005 Workplace Diversity Practices Survey Report by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) states that still only 29 percent of companies support network groups.[3] And where network groups do exist, often companies are underutilizing their potential. Nonetheless, companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Eli Lilly, and Ford each have multiple employee network groups which increases the likelihood that these companies are friendly, not just tolerant, to groups that can experience marginalization in the workplace. Such groups make it more likely that all employees will have a voice and thus contribute to a more collaborative, vibrant, and participative environment.

Jive Turkeys

Political Calculations blog has done the math: The number of turkeys in the United States has been dropping - depending, of course, on your definition of a turkey - but the size of the turkeys has been increasing.

In other words, they've been supersized.

Lileks: A Frenzy of Gold Bond Stamps Nostalgia

James Lileks looks at Thanksgiving ads and remembers the wizard behind Gold Bond stamps:

This Gold Stamp Bond Gold Book Bond book was my mom’s; it’s completely full, but unredeemed. No surprise; she was a saver. They gave Gold Bond stamps at the grocery store, and I remember the machines on the counter, right by the little platform on which you wrote your checks. My mom would let me lick them and put them in the book sometimes. I’d look at the thick books in the drawer, cinched with rubber bands, and think we were rich.

They certainly made money for the fellow who founded the company – a canny bird named Curtis Carlson. I interviewed him for a magazine cover stoy in the mid-80s, and I was a bit daunted; I was Little Master Lileks, and he was this Captain of Industry with great reserves of quiet self-confidence. I remember what he said about the Depression: there was a lot of money to be made if you wanted to work. He was one of those kids who sold papers and caddied and shined shoes, and that was in the spare time off from his other nine jobs. His company was eventually valued at 16 bazillion dollars, or something like that. They bought TGIF Fridays, ran all the Country Kitchens, and of course have that little Radisson hotel brand you may have seen here and there. It all began with tiny little glued pieces of pseudo-money.

Read the entire post here.

Robert Altman, R.I.P.

"My short-term plan is to wake up tomorrow morning and my long-term plan is to wake up tomorrow morning."

- Robert Altman, who died yesterday, in an interview with The Telegraph four months ago

"I got goose bumps and then punched myself in the face."

No one can say that Mr. Chandler didn't "bring it" in his performance, at times pointing his index finger skyward, hand over heart, and caressing the microphone with both hands. "And we've got Bank One on the run. What's in your wallet? It's not Capital One. It's which card are you?" he sang passionately, wearing a tie and conference name tag. "And we'll make lots of money. Forever I can sing about trusting and teamwork and doing the right thing. We'll live out our core values, while the competition crawls."

A corporate video of the performance was leaked to YouTube and replicated on servers as far as New Zealand. Public response was uncharitable. Many noted that Mr. Chandler, who has had some musical success, could really sing. But more found it hard to watch. "Goodness, that had a car crash quality to it," wrote one viewer. Words like "awkward" and "painful" came to mind. Someone proclaimed they had to watch the video through their fingers and others theorized that this must have been a veiled marketing campaign, if not a joke. "I got goose bumps and then punched myself in the face," one person wrote.

From Jared Sandberg’s CareerJournal article about a corporate video featuring some employees singing about the merger of Bank of America and MBNA.

I made a conscious decision not to post the video. It was too painful.

Turkey and Gravy Soda? White or Dark?

Jones Soda is noted for its unusual flavors and just in time for Thanksgiving, here's its Holiday Pack, featuring Turkey and Gravy soda, Sweet Potato, and other treats.

Why cook when you can drink gross liquids?

[HT: Adfreak ]

Motivational or Not

Catherine Rampell looks at Jonathan Black's book on the world of motivational speakers and finds that the author may have had a personal agenda.

Throwing stones at motivational speakers is an easy sport - remember the father in Little Miss Sunshine? - but one person's mawkish can be another's inspirational. The fact that much of their advice is pretty basic should not discredit it.

Many of the major corporate disasters of our time did not occur because someone failed to do something complicated. They happened because a person or a group failed to do the basics.

Syria's Not-So-Hidden Hand

Michael J. Totten, who has written some fascinating travelogues on the road in Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq, has posted some thoughts on what appears to be an on-going attempt by Syria to seize the government of Lebanon.

Coffee Snobs

An AP Business story on the rise of a new cult:

ARLINGTON, VA. — America's most finicky coffee drinkers tout their caffeine connoisseurship in many, often contradictory, ways. They spend a bundle at Starbucks, or refuse to patronize big chains. They only drink espresso, or decline any cup of joe they didn't brew themselves.

Then there are people like Chris Becker of Arlington, whose coffee worship involves a ritual that places him at the outer edge of the country's java culture.

Becker roasts coffee beans at home.

[HT: Newsvine ]

Quality Wins

This is no surprise:

The Toyota Camry is Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year.

There's a simple reason: It's a great car.

7 Ingredients of a Good Apology

1. Choose a time and place when you will not be interrupted.
2. Don't add footnotes, exceptions, or modifiers and especially avoid any remark that implies the person "had it coming."
3. Linking your behavior to some larger issue like world affairs or the environment won't get you off the hook. Stay focused.
4. You may choose to explain your behavior but this is dangerous ground. Many explanations sound like justifications.
5. Keep it short. Long apologies often drift into irrelevant or harmful subjects.
6. Make eye contact.
7. Be sincere and sound sincere.

Quote of the Day

I didn't get a toy train like the other kids. I got a toy subway instead.

You couldn't see anything, but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by.

- Steven Wright

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Geek Shirts

Although my extraordinary tech skills peaked with the Commodore computer and Pong, I'm tempted to get one of these.

Discrimination Against Asian Americans

Yale freshman Jian Li has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Princeton for rejecting his application for admission, claiming the University discriminated against him because he is Asian.

The complaint, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights on Oct. 25, alleges that the University's admissions procedures are biased because they advantage other minority groups, namely African-Americans and Hispanics, legacy applicants and athletes at the expense of Asian-American applicants.


Li, who has a perfect 2400 SAT score and near-perfect SAT II scores, was rejected this past year from five of the nine universities he applied to — Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania — and accepted to four: CalTech, Rutgers, Cooper Union and Yale.

Read the rest of the Daily Princetonian article here.

[HT: Center for Equal Opportunity ]

Where's That Muse?

The always-worth-reading Kathy Sierra on "waiting for the muse."

Great Roger Ebert line:

"The muse never shows up at the beginning."

Sarcasm at the Airport

Via Angela Gunn at Tech Space, a collection of flight-related messages from Overheard in New York.

An excerpt:

AirTran flight attendant over intercom: We hope you ladies and gentlemen had a nice flight, and we ask that you all press your faces against the windows so Delta can see what a full flight looks like.


"Policy is what happens."

David Maister passes along a couple of profound rules:

After a speech I gave, Francis Sheridan, whose title is Resource Efficiency Manager at 3 CES/CEOEE, sent in this comment:

“About ten years ago, while still a manager for Washington State, I took a week's class from a person considered, at the time, maybe the most talented and accomplished person in Washington State government, Dick Thomas. He'd been Chief of Staff for the Governor, house majority leader, president of Evergreen State College, etc., and a very cool guy to boot.

When I took that class, he said two things over and over until I, for one, wanted to kill him—-figuratively, of course. Long after the class ended I finally began to understand the wisdom of these two simple thoughts:
1. Policy is what happens.
2. Peoples' feelings about the process largely determine their feelings about the outcome of the process.”

Disciplinary Index

Number of times the employee violated policy: 12
Moments when co-workers wondered if management would take action: 53
Supervisory hints to the employee that correction is needed: 5
Times the supervisor thought the employee was improving: 3
Times the employee was actually improving: 0
Occasions when the supervisor directly spoke to the employee about the problem: 0
Actual documentation of an incident: 1
Mention of the problem on the employee's performance evaluation: 0
Supervisory consultation with human resources: 0
Supervisory training sessions on disciplinary actions: 0
Number of local plaintiff attorneys that handle wrongful discharge cases: 700

Language Diversity

Here's an interesting post in Workplace Prof Blog on an article by Cristina Rodriguez on language diversity in the workplace.

In general, I think that "English only" rules in workplaces can be a form of overkill and yet the article may underestimate is the extent to which team cohesiveness can be harmed if language is used as a form of exclusion. For example, if three people are in a room and two of them start using a language that the third does not understand, the third person has just been excluded.

Common courtesy would solve many of these problems.

Rogues' Gallery

Michael Totten, no friend of either party, has assembled a brutal gallery of embarrassing photos of politicians.

Thank God the rest of us always produce beautiful pictures.

Why Didn't I Think of That?

Neatorama has the details on the Japanese spa where you can swim in saki, green tea, coffee, or, yes, red wine.

Jack and Steve

If the Fifties were such a cultural wasteland, why is it they had Steve Allen interviewing Jack Kerouac (Here's a video) and we have David Letterman interviewing Pamela Anderson?

Of course, the deprived Fifties also had Hemingway and Steinbeck but we've got...hold on, I'm sure some names will occur to me.

[HT: boingboing ]

When a Dream Boss Leaves

Writing in Business Week, Liz Ryan has some thoughts on what should have happened when a dream boss resigned. An excerpt:

For sure, it would have been wonderful for the local human resources rep to have stopped by for a chat, not just with Allison but with each of the employees affected by the boss's departure (or all of them as a group). Sadly, too many HR people are clueless about their responsibilities to the employees in their care, who would naturally be concerned and in need of answers when their boss heads out the door.
But in my view, the HR person is not the principal villain in Allison's story. The person who has fallen down most on the job is her boss's boss!

Here is a manager who accepts a resignation letter from a manager on his or her team, writes and publishes a job opening, begins to interview candidates, and otherwise goes on about his or her business…all without any conversation with the managerless employees. That goes beyond poor leadership. Allison's boss's boss is asleep at the wheel.

"Subtle, fast and deep."

A great article on Lawrence Sager, the dean of the University of Texas at Austin law school. I love Dworkin’s letter of recommendation and Sager’s advice to the students:

A few years ago, Sager considered leaving NYU for Boston University, where his wife taught.

Ronald Dworkin, one of the most cited legal scholars of all time, wrote the briefest of recommendation letters.

"Sager is subtle, fast and deep," Dworkin wrote. "You should hire him."

Still, his casual, almost rumpled way inspires familiarity.

"Many academicians can turn you off, but he is the reverse," said San Antonio attorney and former U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler, who serves on the UT Law School Foundation's governing board. "He is always capable of keeping one's attention."
Students said they also have found Sager to be attentive. Mindful of the lingering perception that the school is unfriendly to black and Hispanic students, he reacted swiftly to a recent "ghetto fabulous" party hosted by some law students.

Sager condemned the party, telling students: "Should the possibility of this sort of conduct present itself, please, please think twice. And then think twice again."

Read the entire article here.

[HT: Althouse ]

Unusual Opening

Qualified candidates should have some experience in the field, and most importantly, must be capable of delivering accurate and insightful readings to the public over the phone. We are looking for credible, reputable psychics, clairvoyants, astrologers and tarot readers who can deliver high-quality readings for our clients."

No, it’s not a job on Wall Street. This is from the Eccentric Employment site.

Ten Signs of Ego Creep

1. Undue emphasis on the use of titles.
2. Frequent turf wars with other work units.
3. Little or no self-deprecating humor.
4. Denigration or expulsion of dissenters.
5. Increased attention to status symbols, such as office size, parking spaces, etc.
6. Distancing from former associates.
7. Exaggeration of past achievements.
8. Aversion to sharing credit.
9. Results emphasized over the nature and quality of efforts.
10. Status and power trump mission.

Quote of the Day

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.

- Jacques Maritain

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Real Fugitive

Forty years ago today, Dr. Sam Sheppard carried an unloaded pistol in his pocket as he awaited the verdict in his second trial for having allegedly bludgeoned his wife to death. If convicted again, he planned to pull out the empty gun and die in the resulting fusillade from courtroom guards. Having spent 10 years behind bars, he said, “I wasn’t going back.”

Read the rest of Jack Kelly’s November 16 article on the Sheppard case here.

The Truth Hurts. Learn From It.

Mary Schmidt's "Why You Didn't Get My Business" is marvelous.

And yes, I've done some of those things. [Ouch!]

[HT: The Social Customer Manifesto ]

No Time to Stumble

Victor Davis Hanson on whether Western civilization will rise to the challenge:

We in the West write novels and film scripts about killing our American President, while those in the Middle East plan it, as their latest vows to blow up the White House attest. Better yet, we supposed liberals--not Nazis, communists, or monarchs--now will censor our own cartoons, operas, films, novels, and Pope, as if the Enlightenment was a mere construct. If we find the struggle to stop Islamism is too costly or at least too bothersome, maybe appeasement of it will prove less so.

In short, while the Islamists get bolder and crazier, we become more timid and all too rational, quibbling over this terrorist's affinities and that militia's particular grievances--in hopes of cutting some magical deal with an imaginary moderate imam or nonexistent reasonable militia chief or Middle East dictator.

Well beyond us now is any overarching Churchillian vision of our enemies. We lack the practical understanding of an FDR that all of these Islamists loathe us far more than they despise each other. Their infighting, after all, is like the transitory bickering of thieves over the division of loot that always pales before their shared hatred of the targeted bank owner.


The hostess escorts a young couple to my section. As they walk to their table I notice they’re looking around nervously, like they’re out of their element. Maybe the Bistro’s the first fancy restaurant they’ve ever gone to. I sigh inwardly. Experience tells me I’m gonna get a lousy tip.

The couple sits down and opens the menus. The girl’s eyes widen when she sees the prices. She says something to the boy I can’t hear. He holds up his hand reassuringly. His expression says he’s saved his pennies. He’s got it covered.

As I approach the table I notice a weird halo enveloping the boy’s head. As I draw closer I realize his angelic countenance is not of divine but chemical origin. The kid’s used so much hair gel I’m afraid the overhead lights will combust his head. The young man completes his ensemble with shiny sharkskin pants and a t-shirt that looks sprayed on. I’m envious the kid can get away with that look. I haven’t been that skinny since I was in high school.

Read the rest of WaiterRant’s experience here.

Crow's Feet Perhaps

Workplace Prof Blog discusses an interesting case about the FMLA coverage of employers who have an aggregate of 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.

The case involved the question of how do you measure those miles, by surface or as the crow flies?

The answer: By surface. (We aren't crows!)

Cutting the Pay of Smokers?

Writing in Fast Company, Ian Wylie notes tough times ahead for smokers:

Smoking is no longer welcome at the movies. Philip Morris's leading brand, Marlboro, is reckoned to have featured in 74 of Hollywood's top-grossing films in the past 15 years, but this week the world's largest tobacco manufacturer ran up a white flag. "We do not want our brands or brand imagery depicted in movies and television shows," reads an ad running this week in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and other industry publications.

Is this what the endgame for Big Tobacco looks like? Here in Europe, home of the moody, espresso-primed drag, public policy and opinion are swinging decisively into action. Ireland, Italy, Malta, Norway and Sweden have all banished tobacco from the workplace, restaurants and even pubs. Spain's partial ban allows smoking only in tapas bars and cafés or lounges. Even in France, a coming decree will ban smoking in restaurants next year, and in all public places from 2008.

Now in Italy an association of personnel managers has this week recommended smokers' pay be cut on the grounds that workers who take smoking breaks do an hour a day less work than others.

Carnival of the Capitalists Time

The Carnival of the Capitalists is up at

As usual, an eclectic collection of posts on management, business, and finance.

"Unsafe is Safe"

Do traffic signs make you reckless and inconsiderate?

Psychologists have long revealed the senselessness of such exaggerated regulation. About 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers. What's more, the glut of prohibitions is tantamount to treating the driver like a child and it also foments resentment. He may stop in front of the crosswalk, but that only makes him feel justified in preventing pedestrians from crossing the street on every other occasion. Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow.

The result is that drivers find themselves enclosed by a corset of prescriptions, so that they develop a kind of tunnel vision: They're constantly in search of their own advantage, and their good manners go out the window.

The new traffic model's advocates believe the only way out of this vicious circle is to give drivers more liberty and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves. They demand streets like those during the Middle Ages, when horse-drawn chariots, handcarts and people scurried about in a completely unregulated fashion. The new model's proponents envision today's drivers and pedestrians blending into a colorful and peaceful traffic stream.

Read the entire Spiegel article here.

[HT: Drudge ]

O.J. Simpson, Author/Murderer

Another home run for Christopher Hitchens as he zeroes in on the O.J. Simpson mess:

And there are still people who write articles that refer to him just as "O.J." or "the Juice." Somewhere in these colloquial and jocular allusions, there may be a clue about the free pass that we seem to grant to celebrity crime. I don't happen to know Mr. Orenthal James Simpson, and I don't make a habit of using nicknames for psychopathic killers (I don't say "Osama" either) so call me pompous and old-fashioned if you will, but he's "Simpson" to me. And it's no news to anybody that he butchered two innocent people at close quarters, so there's no disclosure-value in this creepy business proposition. Nor is it news that he has escaped even the civil verdict in the case, by sheltering his assets under Florida's shady homestead law and by having his NFL pension considered inviolate. (Attach the assets of a former football "great" who has been ordered by a court to compensate his victims? How un-American can you get?) The only question is whether, having wholly devastated two families and part-orphaned two children, and having laughingly refused to pay a cent of the judgment against him, Simpson can find any new ways of inflicting pain and insult. I had previously thought that his cheery attendance at the "Slasher" convention might mark the low point, but there you go.

Read it all here.