Saturday, June 30, 2007

Miscellaneous and Fast

A classic article by Ian Frazier on bad wilderness advice ("Hot dogs repel bears") he has received.

Click here for some inspiration: Winston Churchill's "We will fight on the beaches" speech.

The story behind the death of a beloved mouse on Hamas TV. [HT: Tim Blair ]

American Heritage goes inside Philip Johnson's glass house.

College Major Gap

The April release of Behind the Pay Gap by the American Association of University Women Education Foundation reported that one year after college graduation, women working full time earn just 80 percent as much as their male counterparts. The report noted that one potential reason for this difference is that female students are clustered in college majors tied to careers that lead to smaller paychecks. Areas such as education, health, and psychology are dominated by women, while men make up the majority of engineering, physical science, and mathematics majors—occupations that typically pay more.

Advocacy Journalism

Strategy Page notes the common themes used in Japanese propaganda broadcasts during World War II:

Popular music was played, but the commentary (by one of several English speaking Japanese women) always hammered away on the same points;

1 Your President (Franklin D Roosevelt) is lying to you.
2 This war is illegal.
3 You cannot win the war.

[HT: ]

Nature Documentary

Show monkey in a tree. Narrator says, “The monkey, proud and smart, in his native habitat. But one thing he does not have . . .” Show a giraffe. “. . . is a long neck, like the giraffe. Which is why nature has allowed them to combine forces.” Show monkey on giraffe’s neck. (Note: Monkey may have to be tied on.)

Then the narrator says, “The monkey can now see very far, and has protection from predators. And the giraffe has a little friendly guy to ride around on him.”

The monkey is shot by a poacher and falls from giraffe. Put ketchup on monkey to make him look bloody, but put something bad-tasting in the ketchup or monkey will lick it all off. Shoot BB gun at giraffe to make him run off.

Narrator: “The monkey and the giraffe have been separated.”

Show monkey wandering around, injured, lost and alone. Make him trip, using fishing line attached to his leg. (Try to get this on first take, because after that monkey will probably try to bite off fishing line.)

Read the rest of
Jack Handey's nature documentary here.

Top Five on America

As Independence Day approaches, David Gelernter gives his top five list of books about America.

I'd add:

Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen

1776 by David McCullough


An old but still interesting post on writers who overcame rejection...and some news on an odd new paper product. An excerpt:

Meanwhile, Hindes has made his own small piece of literary history by becoming the first author to publish his rejection letters on toilet paper (which, connoisseurs might care to know, is facial-quality but not two-ply).

"George Orwell, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and almost any writer you could name received rejection letters," points out Lulu's Bob Young. "Margaret Mitchell got rejection letters from 38 different publishers before anyone finally deigned to publish her novel, Gone With The Wind. How many talented writers are there who gave up without ever making it into print because of misguided rejection?"

William Saroyan may now be rated an American literary great but he amassed a stack of rejection slips 30 inches high — some 7,000 — before he sold his first story.
Rudyard Kipling managed to sell one article to The San Francisco Examiner in 1889, but the paper then rejected any future submissions, saying, "You just don't know how to use the English language."

John Kennedy Toole, meanwhile, received so many rejection letters for his novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, that he finally killed himself. Only the persistence of his bereaved mother led to the eventual publication of his novel and its receipt of the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.

[HT: Stumbling and Mumbling ]

Quote of the Day

Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, June 29, 2007

Obit Blog

There is a blog for everything and this one fills an unusual niche:

Petraeus's Plan

Frederick W. Kagan's testimony on General Petraeus's strategy. An excerpt:

The U.S. has not undertaken a multi-phased operation on such a large scale since 2003, and it is not surprising therefore that many commentators have become confused about how to evaluate what is going on and how to report it. Sectarian deaths in Baghdad dropped significantly as soon as the new strategy was announced in January, and remain at less than half their former levels. Spectacular attacks rose as al Qaeda conducted a counter-surge of its own, but have recently begun falling again. Violence is down tremendously in Anbar province, where the Sunni tribes have turned against al Qaeda and are actively cooperating with U.S. forces for the first time. This process has spread from Anbar into Babil, Salah-ad-Din, and even Diyala provinces, and echoes of it have even spread into one of the worst neighborhoods in Baghdad--Ameriyah, formerly an al Qaeda stronghold. Violence has risen naturally in areas that the enemy had long controlled but in which U.S. forces are now actively fighting for the first time in many years, and the downward spiral in Diyala that began in mid-2006 continued (which is not surprising, since the Baghdad Security Plan does not aim to establish security in Diyala).

Alcohol and Behavior

Q: We have a long-term employee who has an ongoing problem with alcoholism and related issues. He has been in and out of treatment more than once. Since the last time he returned to work following treatment, his attendance has been less than stellar.

Recently, he stomped off the job at the end of a workday following a loud dispute with his supervisor, who had merely asked him whether he had taken care of a serious customer service problem with an important customer.

Later that evening, in an apparently intoxicated state, the employee left an extremely derogatory and threatening voice mail for the supervisor containing numerous offensive uses of the "F" word in a threatening manner as well as several negative and derogatory statements regarding the company and its management.

Shortly afterward, he was admitted to the local hospital after apparently overdosing on alcohol and drugs.

Given that the employee's voice mail contains numerous negative and derogatory statements about the company and its management as well as his immediate supervisor, do we have to take him back if he attempts to return to work? Does his alcoholism create coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Read the rest of the article from the Nebraska Employment Law Letter here.

Informal Screening

I don't have the answers to these questions but would love to know how others would decide.

Assume the person has gotten an interview. In general, which of the following do you believe are the top two items that would most hurt a candidate's chances of landing an entry-level white collar job? A supervisory job?

  • 50 to 60 pounds overweight.

  • An unusual hair style or color.

  • A visible tattoo.

  • Revealing that an outside interest is hunting or bird watching.

  • Odd shoes.

  • A misspelled word in the resume/CV.

  • A garish tie or scarf.

  • One-time use of profanity during the interview.

  • Wearing a religious symbol such as a cross or a Star of David.

  • Talking too much during the interview.

Immigration, Diversity, and the Social Fabric

Writing in City Journal, John Leo examines the findings of Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, on immigration's effect on the social fabric. An excerpt:

Putnam’s study reveals that immigration and diversity not only reduce social capital between ethnic groups, but also within the groups themselves. Trust, even for members of one’s own race, is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friendships fewer. The problem isn’t ethnic conflict or troubled racial relations, but withdrawal and isolation. Putnam writes: “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’—that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In the 41 sites Putnam studied in the U.S., he found that the more diverse the neighborhood, the less residents trust neighbors. This proved true in communities large and small, from big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Boston to tiny Yakima, Washington, rural South Dakota, and the mountains of West Virginia. In diverse San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 30 percent of people say that they trust neighbors a lot. In ethnically homogeneous communities in the Dakotas, the figure is 70 percent to 80 percent.

Diversity does not produce “bad race relations,” Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend “to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.” Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings “may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.”

Miscellaneous and Fast

Business Week on a potentially big problem with the iPhone.

Portfolio on irritating business language. gives his 10 favorite Bnet business guides.

Felix Kent on what your name says about you.

Ross Kaminsky on why Rudy Giuliani may well get the GOP nomination. [It has something to do with a minor item called winning the general election.]

Becoming American

Peggy Noonan reflects on how people become Americans. An excerpt:

The priest, a jolly young man with a full face and thick black hair, said he was new in the parish, from South America. He made a humorous, offhand reference to the fact that he was talking to longtime Americans who'd been here for ages. This made the friends and family of Anthony Coppola look at each other and smile. We were Italian, Irish, everything else. Our parents had been the first Americans born here, or our grandparents had. We had all grown up with two things, a burly conviction that we were American and an inner knowledge that we were also something else. I think we experienced this as a plus, a double gift, though I don't remember anyone saying that. When Anthony's mother or her friend, my grandmother, talked about Italy or Ireland, they called it "the old country." Which suggested there was a new one, and that we were new in it.

But this young priest, this new immigrant, he looked at us and thought we were from the Mayflower. As far as he was concerned--as far as he could tell--we were old Yankee stock. We were the establishment. As the pitcher in "Bang the Drum Slowly" says, "This handed me a laugh."

This is the way it goes in America. You start as the Outsider and wind up the Insider, or at least being viewed as such by the newest Outsiders. We are a nation of still-startling social fluidity. Anyone can become "American," but they have to want to first.

Quote of the Day

No one gets too old to learn a new way of being stupid.

- Anonymous

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Overrated Novels

The Reader Known As Pawnking (how's that for a book title?) passed along this link to a fascinating post on the most overrated novels.

It's fun to check out the comments and the division of opinion. The old line is true: No one ever reads the same book. The point at which you tackle a work can also make a huge difference. We get the classics thrust upon us at an age when we are least likely to appreciate them.


All presenters have to answer a simple question that lurks in the back of the mind of each member of the audience:

What's in it for me?

Note the challenging nature of that question. The listener is not asking:

What's in it for other audience members?

What's of interest to the presenter?

What's in the interest of the greater good of the community?

Ah, no. Each member of the audience walks in with one benchmark. Now there are many generous and wise souls who will be flexible on the issue. They'll recognize that although they may know more about time management than the average bear, other audience members may not and so if the presenter takes some time to describe some time management techniques, these members won't take offense. They'll be patient.

Up to a point.

That's why pacing can be so important. Presenters who are dealing with broad topics have to move things along with the dexterity of a late night comedian tossing out punch lines. The comic who tells a long, drawn-out story is a portrait in courage or foolishness because if that saga bombs, they bomb. On the other hand, if they pepper the audience with a variety of one-liners, the ones that don't work will be hidden among those that do.

Presenters juggle a similar concern when addressing a variety of subjects. Moving quickly helps maintain interest and so too does the ability to pour new wine in old bottles. The fact that some audience members may have heard a lot about time management does not mean that they'll be resistant to hearing a fresh perspective.

I recommend to my classes on presentation skills that they consider the possible objections of most skeptical member of the audience when preparing their material but do not permit such individuals to ruin the mood when presenting their materials.

"What's in it for me?" is important and yet, as with all things in life, it has reasonable limitations.

Who You Know versus Deep Thought

I first began to realize that in 1995 when I was an electrical engineering student at the University of Kentucky. I applied for a co-op position at Lexmark, and never heard anything back. I applied every semester for two years. Still nothing.

Then one day an accounting professor or mine gave the class an assignment - go interview someone in your industry. I found someone at Lexmark to interview about engineering, and we kept in touch after the interview. At the end of the semester he sent me a note saying that their co-op was leaving, and asking if I wanted to co-op in his department.

Two years of following the rules got me nowhere. One hour of meeting with a real engineer got me what I wanted. He never asked for my resume. Never asked about GPA. Never asked anything except whether or not I wanted the position. It was my first taste of a major life lesson - it's who you know, not what you know.

Vile Body

Anthony Lane, writing in The New Yorker, on the creature/novelist Evelyn Waugh:

In July, 1956, Evelyn Waugh gave a dinner party for his daughter Teresa. In anticipation of the event, he wrote to a friend, Brian Franks, with a description of the menu, closing with the words “Non Vintage champagne for all but me.” Rarely has an edict been issued with such a firm smack of the lips, yet nothing could be sadder. At Oxford in the nineteen-twenties, Waugh had chosen his friends on the basis of their ability to handle, or entertainingly mishandle, the effects of alcohol; “an excess of wine nauseated him and this made an insurmountable barrier between us,” he wrote of one college acquaintance. Now, thirty years later, he would sit in solitude, grasping his glass, bullishly proud that there was nobody present who deserved to share a drop. The hint is clear enough: Waugh, and Waugh alone, was of vintage stuff.

Limited Progress in Bong Hits

Daniel Henninger on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case and why it still ties the hands of school administrators.

Meanwhile, Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, took about half a line to say, "I agree," and proceeded to write one of the most compelling essays I've seen on the decline and fall of American public education. I would happily hand out Justice Thomas's opinion on street corners (though relieves me of that burden).

What he's done is rummage back through school cases, mostly from 19th century state courts, to invoke the idea of a public school. His premise is that the schools' role was most certainly in loco parentis, in that they and parents broadly agreed on what made an adolescent grow into a good person; what schools need least is court interference in this hard job.

A North Carolina court in 1837 spoke of the need "to control stubbornness, to quicken diligence and to reform bad habits." In 1886, a Maine court said school leaders must "quicken the slothful, spur the indolent and restrain the impetuous." An 1859 Vermont court spoke of preserving "decency and decorum."

Quote of the Day

If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.

- Wilfred Trotter

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Miscellaneous and Fast

Urban Dictionary gives definitions of slang terms most of us have never encountered.

2Blowhards presents a gallery of cars that were neo-hot rods.

Roger Kimball likes The Dangerous Book for Boys.

A Pacific Ocean sunset from space.

David Louis Edelman gives a list of introductory science fiction books for literary readers.
[HT: Futurismic ]

What is Chinese for "Nuts?"

Governing magazine's 13th Floor blog has an interesting post on the possibility that candidate's names will have to be translated into Chinese in predominantly Chinese American districts in Boston. And what will the names be? Here are a few possibilities:

Mitt Romney = "Sticky or Uncooked Rice"

Fred Thompson = "Virtue Soup"

Barack Obama = "Oh Bus Horse"

Boston Mayor Tom Menino = "Rainbow farmer"

Senate Goes EU

Mark Steyn's take on the immigration bill:

There's something creepy about a political class so determined to impose a vast transformative bill cooked up backstage in metaphorically smoke-filled rooms on a nation that doesn't want it. It's an affront to republican government and quasi-European in its disdain for the citizenry. It's hard to imagine Senator Trenthorn Lotthorn as an EU Commissioner but his position on this immigration bill is basically the same as that of Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg and European "president", on the EU constitution. When asked what difference the referendum result in France would make, "President" Juncker replied:

If it’s a Yes, we will say ‘on we go’, and if it’s a No we will say ‘we continue’.

Make It Pithy

There is a famous story about the movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn. A nervous young man had been ushered into his office to pitch an idea for a movie.

"You got a card son?" asked GoldwynThe nervous young man fumbled a card out of his breast pocket and slid it across the desk. Goldwyn didn't even look at it. He turned it over and pushed it back across the desk."Write your pitch on there."The young man looked, uncomprehending, at Goldwyn."Because if your idea for your movie doesn't fit on the back of a business card - you ain't got a movie."

If someone cuts you short, and really forces brevity upon you - your 45-minute presentation has to be delivered in 12 minutes, you meet your CEO in an elevator and she asks you what's the big issue in your department right now - will you have anything relevant or persuasive to say?

Check out the rest of Rowan Manahan's observations on the importance of elevator statements by clicking here.

I'd add that the products of major corporations can be summarized in one word:

Disneyland sells Fun.

Southwest Airlines sells Freedom.

Revlon sells Hope.

What are you selling?

Curmudgeon Update: Great Leaps Backward

I posted earlier about David Maister's insight on the benefits that the old overhead projector with transparencies had over PowerPoint presentations.

His point was that by jotting observations on the overhead's transparencies, the presenter developed a closer relationship with the audience since comments could be quickly noted and points illustrated in contrast to the rigidity of PowerPoint slides.

What other "advances" have been great leaps backward? I'd nominate:

  • Call waiting. [They can wait.]

  • White boards. [Gimme the old chalk boards.]

  • Time gobbling group activities in training. [Just tell me.]

  • Automated day planners. [I'm probably in a real minority on that one.]

Any others?

Negative Autocrats

Autocratic leadership is not inherently negative. Some autocrats, Winston Churchill comes to mind, are needed to turn around operations at times when collegial leadership would be ineffective and time-consuming.

There are, however, negative autocrats who leave their organizations far weaker than was the case when they arrived. Some of their characteristics are:

  • Intolerance for dissent. The positive autocrat Churchill would argue with his generals and with Parliament but respected institutions and would back off in deference to demonstrated expertise. Negative autocrats view dissent with suspicion. Voicing contrary views is a sure way of putting your career on the fast track to nowhere.

  • Preference for security over effectiveness and efficiency. The negative autocrat's priorities begin and end with one word: ME. Everything else is optionable. They will permit staff in-fighting and rule-breaking just so long as those activities do not threaten their own security. When they do, the negative autocrat ruthlessly responds. This preference sometimes baffles outsiders who apply normal standards of measuring performance.

  • Fostering dependency. The negative autocrat does not favor independent thinkers and strong personalities. Given time, those individuals are forced out or marginalized and the inner circle is filled with sycophants whose careers lean heavily upon continuing to curry the favor of the leader.

  • Using fear. The negative autocrat invariably creates a climate of fear because fear is tied to a lack of control and such leaders only permit one person to have real control. There is an enormous amount of upward delegation as people fear taking responsibility for their decisions.

  • Favoring activity versus authority. The further down the hierarchy one travels, the more one will find frenzied activities used as a substitute for authority. There's a committee for this and one for that and each disguises the fact that there is little real power at those levels.

  • Divide and conquer. Negative autocrats break up any potential staff alliances that may threaten their power; indeed, they favor staff conflict. They rarely have a clearly accepted successor.

  • Charisma. Not all negative autocrats have charisma but when present, it usually produces harmful effects. The associates begin to suspend judgment and defer to the leader even in circumstances where the leader may be delusional.

  • Hidden intelligence channels. The close associates of such leaders spend an inordinate amount of time determining the leader's whims and biases so proposals can be fashioned accordingly.

A grand joke of negative autocrats is that they portray themselves as models of efficiency when the systems they create are anything but efficient.

Positive autocrats need short "shelf lives." Negative autocrats deserve zero.

When Arsonists want the Fire Department

Victor Davis Hanson notes what happens as the result of thug hypocrisy. An excerpt:

For years Fatah and Palestinian Authority-sanctioned terrorists themselves have undermined civil society by torturing, murdering, and bombing innocents. It was accepted by them that the laws of civilization — due process, exemption of civilians from attacks, and the rule of law — did not apply to Yasser Arafat's government that was as corrupt as it was savage. If you ever were in need of dialysis after you blew up the local clinic and shot the doctors, you could always cross the border to the nearby Zionist entity for treatment.

But suddenly such Fatah terrorists are being out-terrorized by an even more barbaric Hamas, whose thugs have even looted the Nobel Peace Prize given Arafat. What barbarians! Where is the law?

So now the outgunned Fatah gangsters are suddenly crying about the uncivilized evils of looting, gangs, and random killings. Just as Thucydides warned about insurrectionists destroying civil society, so Fatah once erased civilization's protocols on the presumption that no one else would dare do to them what they routinely did to others. How bizarre that Arafat's followers of all people are reduced to appealing to international norms of decency and legality to avoid their utter destruction in Gaza by Hamas.


An early review from USA Today of Apple's iPhone.

Quote of the Day

You are a verb; not a noun.

- Nicholas Bate

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Followers Creed

This creed was developed by some managers at a meeting at the University of Cape Town, South Africa:


  • Treat me with respect

  • Inspire me with your vision

  • Teach me

  • Are tolerant of my mistakes

  • Are visible and available

  • Talk with (and listen to) me

  • Allow me to grow

  • Don't give up, or change course arbitrarily

  • Have the courage of your convictions

  • Tell me the truth, and practice what you preach.

Source: James O'Toole's Leadership A to Z

More Bang for the Buck

Step one: Don't use "Chinese math."

Immigration and Trust

Former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont on what is needed in an immigration bill:

First, a fence.

A major fear of the proposed immigration bill's opponents is that the failure to do the obvious is an indication of an ulterior motive. If the fence isn't built first, they reason, it won't be built later.

The other side, in turn, believes that the emphasis on a fence is a ploy to avoid addressing the other issues. Build the fence, so the reasoning goes, and the rest of the changes will never occur.

This entire debate, as with many conflicts in the workplace, is fueled by a lack of trust. The opponents, however, have the edge in an important respect: There is a basic rule in crisis management. You stabilize the situation and then improve it. Seeking to improve it before it is stabilized is a recipe for chaos.

Assembly Work

Last week, General Motors (GM) brought a cadre of journalists to its new assembly plant in Lansing, Mich., where workers build the new GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook, and Buick Enclave SUVs. They let us work in the training area of the plant for an hour or so building wooden SUVs sized about right for a 5-year-old to drive. They use this mocked-up assembly line to train new workers.

All day long. Grab a handful of nuts, spin them onto a screw, and fasten them down with what is essentially a Dewalt power drill. No matter how quickly you work, the cars keep rolling down the line. If the cars are selling and the line is moving quickly, there's no getting ahead. And if you fall behind, you pull a cord to stop the line and suffer the shame of holding up your co-workers.

The work is dull for an important reason. GM has torn a page from Toyota's (TM) factory book. The company has standardized every task in the plant, making the jobs simple and repetitive in a ceaseless effort to strip out the constant of human error and to catch Toyota and Honda (HMC) when it comes to productivity.

The Sheldon Award

John Leo gives his award for the worst college president of the year to a noted defender of individual rights. An excerpt:

The last of our three finalists is president of Duke, Richard Brodhead. Because Michael Nifong made himself such a spectacular villain in the lacrosse case, Mr. Brodhead escaped without much criticism. But here is what Mr. Brodhead did: On hearing the first reports, he abruptly canceled the lacrosse season, suspended the two players named in the case, and fired the lacrosse coach of 16 years, giving him less than a day to get out.

This helped create the impression that the players were guilty. His long letter to the campus on April 20 did the same thing. He didn’t say the boys were guilty, but he talked passionately about the coercion and assault of women, the legacy of racism, and privilege and inequality — all of which fed the anger aimed at the lacrosse team.

[HT: The Manhattan Institute ]

Don't Expect Fairness

Scenario One. Management has known for some time that the employee is incompetent or insufferable but has done nothing about it until now. A new and diligent supervisor may have decided to push for termination or the employee's infractions may have crossed some border of tolerance. Whatever the reason, the powers that be now want the employee's head on a pike. Unfortunately, the employee has a file filed with Meets Standards performance evaluations. Afraid that some plaintiff attorney will make this weasel out to be a victim and a credulous jury will agree, management winds up paying for a sizable severance package.

Scenario Two. The employee has been a good performer but the job has changed. Despite additional training and time, she is not able to pick up the pace. No other vacancies are available. Management will fire a very popular and genuinely decent person.

Scenario Three. The employee is a dangerous loon but management pretends otherwise because no one wants to be in the same room when Charles Manson gets the bad news. They'll keep transferring him from department to department in the hope that one day he'll win the lottery and go off to start a cult in the hills of Nevada. The latter never happens and the employee stays long enough to retire. Some terrified co-workers throw a farewell party for him in the break room.

Scenario Four. The employee is inept but charming and so is promoted. Once hired into a field in which a year or two must pass before incompetence can be clearly established, his career is off to the races. Promotions follows rapidly. Years later, management interns will ponder the amiable but empty suit seated at the boardroom table and wonder, "How on earth did that happen?"

Out of the above scenarios, note which person got the axe without a dime.

The Seattle Freeze

Recently, a transplant to Seattle sent me this 2005 article on that city's standoffish personality and assures me that the "Seattle Freeze" is alive and well.

I've taught workshops throughout the United States and encountered a real contrast between places like Seattle (which, don't get me wrong, is a marvelous city) and places like New York, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles. I found New Yorkers, contrary to the stereotype, to be quite friendly and I seldom taught a workshop down South (or L.A. for that matter) without being invited to lunch.

The sociologist in the article has a theory on the reasons for The Freeze but I'm not sure if it contains the answer.

Quote of the Day

He hasn't an enemy in the world, and none of his friends like him.

- Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 25, 2007

Don't Just Wake Up. Wake Up Shaken.

Many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation and ThinkGeek is peddling a flying alarm clock. The flying top must be retrieved to turn off the alarm. Aargh.

Tax Dollars at Work

I predict this court opinion will be placed in many a business law textbook in the years to come.

The dry cleaner won in The Great American Pants case. [The Wall Street Journal Law Blog cited has a link to the opinion.]

Open Dialogue

Conversation with a small business owner:

"How's business?"
"Is that true?"
"Er, sure."
"If it were not true, how would you respond?"
"Why not tell the truth?"
"Because people don't go to businesses that are in trouble. If they sense a problem, that's the kiss of death."
"Slow down. You're telling me that if you're honest with your customers, they'll run away?"
"At least in that regard. They don't want to hear sad stories. They want to hear that everything is running smoothly."
"That's odd, but I guess it makes sense."
"You bet it does."
"So setting business aside for a moment, how are you personally doing?"

"Everything Matters"

The board-room was perfect: wonderful polished table, comfortable chairs. Chilled water available. Tasteful prints on the walls. Easy to operate AV with all wires hidden. Great views across London. Coffee poised; lovely pastries.

But there, in full view was a scawled note stuck on the wall with sticky tape: PLEASE LEAVE THIS ROOM AS YOU FOUND IT; DO NOT EXPECT OTHER PEOPLE TO TIDY UP YOUR MESS!

Waiting for Others?

The odds are that some of the individuals that you are waiting for a response from on a project are delaying action because they believe you owe them a response.

The Gap's Problems

Seth Godin looks at what's happening at The Gap:

They're closing about 50 stores net this year, trying to make their business match the market. At the same time, it was pretty obvious from my visit that they're working hard to save money on sales staff, store designers and other expenses. It took me twenty minutes to check out. In the old days, it would have been two minutes. My reading of the Dip is that nickel and diming is a dumb strategy.

They should close 200 or even 500 stores and keep the very best people from each store, redeploying them to their best stores. They should invest in those great stores, invest in design, in targeted marketing. In other words, instead of shrinking themselves back to greatness, they ought to avoid the nickel and diming and go back to what made them great in the first place.

Presidential Polling

Unspoken Thoughts During a Dysfunctional Team Meeting

  • "These people are so passive that if I don't start listing ideas we'll be here all week.
  • "Why did Jane assume that she should list the team's ideas on the whiteboard? When was she named to chair this meeting? What an ego!"
  • "I'm not familiar with this sort of project but I can probably just ride along with whatever the others suggest. If I keep writing they won't call on me."
  • "They want spontaneous brainstorming? Forget it. I'm not opening my mouth about anything if I haven't had the chance to study the topic in advance."
  • "Where did Seymour get that tie? A rummage sale?"
  • "I know quite a bit about the marketing part of this project, but Rex is such a jerk I'm not going to contribute any ideas. Let's watch the genius figure it out on his own."
  • "I think that is one of the nuttiest proposals I've ever seen. But wait a minute. They are so enthusiastic about it I might be wrong."
  • "If we can get this done without offending anyone, it will really help my career."
  • "How many meetings can I skip and still be on this committee?"
  • "Jane likes it and she's very sharp."
  • "Will I look like an idiot if I tell them I don't understand the marketing analysis?"
  • "This idea is absolutely brilliant. There's no way this can fail."
  • "Why can't that IT guy speak plain English?"
  • "Just look at that blouse. Ellen dresses like Madonna and then wants people to take her seriously. I bet she's had work done."
  • "As soon as I get back to my office, I'm going to try to get away from this bunch of losers."
  • "Everyone else seems so bright and confident. How did I ever get here?"
  • "If I can just get Rex Jr. to settle down at school and if Janice will get off my back about another pay raise, I just might start to have a life."
  • "And then we'll go to Tahiti and find that little bar near the beach and...."
  • "I wonder if Jane and Rex are having an affair."
  • "Just twenty more minutes of this torture and then...."
  • "No, Seymour. Please, please. We don't want to hear about the Branson account for the 500th time."
  • "I shouldn't have bought these damned shoes. Cheap pieces of...."
  • "Do they have donuts over there? Can I eat just one and still be on my diet?"
  • "I think Ellen's in love with me."
  • "Geez. When was this room last painted? 1922?"

Quote of the Day

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.

- Albert Einstein

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Living Small

Not bad.

Spare a Penny for an Old Phone

Clever stuff: An ad for Apple's iPhone that shows the plight of old cell phones once the iPhone wins our hearts.

People can submit videos of how they have disposed of their old phones.

[HT: Adrants ]

Gaining an Inner Glow

Inspirational lines, and winner of the Quality Oyster Poetry Contest, by Fintan O'Higgins:

A pretty young oyster heaved a sigh

and addressed a pint of Guinness,

“How can we bivalves express ourselves

when our glory is cloistered within us”?

Read the entire poem here.

[HT: Global Province's Poetry & Business ]

The Book Lover

My name is Michael and I am addicted to books.

If a week goes by without a visit to a bookstore I begin to have withdrawal pains. I used to think it a point of pride if I could go to a bookstore without purchasing a book, but that was only a minor victory. Like other addicts, I always had a stash at home. A big stash.

Years ago, when people began to buzz about electronic books, I knew they'd never catch on with true book lovers. A real addict likes the feel of a book, its binding, and its smell. Reading a great book can be a sensual experience. The author transports you to another world and that trip starts the moment you see the title, pick up the volume, sense its weight, and note the quality of the paper.

Here are some of the common signs of book addiction:
  • Boarding an airplane without bringing a book is unthinkable...and you begin to rate airports on the quality of their bookstores.
  • You have made pilgrimages to noted bookstores, such as Foyles in London, and/or you know all of the used bookstores within a 12 miles radius of your home.
  • It is not unusual to buy a book and then not read it for ten years because until then the time was just not right.
  • You've been known to read books while waiting for traffic lights to change.
  • Discovering a great writer is cause for celebration, especially if the writer has already produced a sizable volume of work.
  • When you see people on television who are being interviewed and there is a bookshelf in the background, you find yourself more interested in which books are on the shelves than in the interview.

Machu Picchu

A controversy has erupted between Yale and Peru over the activities of an archaeologist at Machu Picchu:

If you have visited Machu Picchu, you will probably find Bingham’s excavated artifacts at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven to be a bit of a letdown. Mostly, the pieces are bones, in varying stages of decomposition, or pots, many of them in fragments. Unsurpassed as stonemasons, engineers and architects, the Incas thought more prosaically when it came to ceramics. Leaving aside unfair comparisons to the jaw-dropping Machu Picchu site itself, the pottery of the Inca, even when intact, lacks the drama and artistry of the ceramics of earlier civilizations of Peru like the Moche and Nazca. Everyone agrees that the Machu Picchu artifacts at Yale are modest in appearance. That has not prevented, however, a bare-knuckled disagreement from developing over their rightful ownership. Peru says the Bingham objects were sent to Yale on loan and their return is long overdue. Yale demurs.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]

Quote of the Day

One can acquire everything in solitude except character.

- Stendhal

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vargas Llosa Interview

Emily Parker interviews Mario Vargas Llosa, an intellectual with no illusions about dictatorships. An excerpt:

Did this mean that Mr. Vargas Llosa supported the invasion of Iraq? "I was against it at the beginning," he says. But then he went to Iraq and heard accounts of life under Saddam Hussein. "Because there has been so much opposition to the war, already one forgets that this was one of the most monstrous dictatorships that humanity has ever seen, comparable to that of Hitler, or Stalin." He changed his mind about the invasion: "Iraq is better without Saddam Hussein than with Saddam Hussein. Without a doubt."

Mr. Vargas Llosa's broad, visceral hatred of dictatorships in part stems from personal experience, in particular growing up in 1950s Peru under the dictatorship of Manuel OdrĂ­a. "All the political parties were prohibited, there was strict censorship of radio and the press," he explains. "The university had many professors in exile and many student prisoners . . . this is the atmosphere in which a boy of my generation entered adulthood."

And No Rubber Duck

Geekologie has the details on the pool treadmill.

Ethics Investigations

This Business Week article on an ethics investigation at Wal-Mart slides past the ethical problem of not revealing the name of a known accuser:

Ethics experts are united in their view that that any company that takes its ethics seriously has the obligation to protect the identity of whistleblowers. "Some companies think they are set up to protect whistleblowers—but then you have to rely on the leadership and character of individual managers and business units to implement them," says Thompson of Johns Hopkins.

Well, mark me down as one ethics consultant who dissents. It is one thing to investigate anonymous complaints. That should be done. It is another to shield the identity of an accuser. Not only does an investigation have the aura of unfairness if the accuser is not revealed, but the non-disclosure policy may encourage litigation in order to discover the identity. Might not a disclosure policy encourage anonymous complaints? Sure. But you make ethical decisions based on the information you possess.

The Business Week article's main theme should revolve around retaliation, not disclosure. Organizations need to take tough and intensive steps to ensure that whistleblowers are not subjected to retaliation if their ethics programs are to have any credibility.

Recycling Update

Mark Steyn reports on the legal travails of the gun control advocate known as "Big Weasel."

Life's Questions

Why do retirees buy large houses?

Why does milk come in rectangular containers, while soft drinks come in round cans?

Why are gas tanks built into different sides of cars?

Why does Apple charge $150 more for black laptops than for equally-configured white ones?

Why do female models earn so much more than male models?

These may not be the answers, but they are answers...from The Economic Naturalist at Freakonomics.

Top Five: Germany

Steven Ozment gives his top five list of books on Germany.

I'd add: The Germans by Gordon A. Craig

Texting for Boomers

Teri's Brain has a post on a text messaging vocabulary for aging Boomers. My favorite:

WAIITR: Why am I in this room?

Quote of the Day

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

- William James

Friday, June 22, 2007

Working from Home

Stanley Bing on some tips for working from home. An excerpt:

DO NOT conduct any sort of business in your underwear. People will know. I don’t know how, but they will.

Litigation Breeding

Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good, on how litigation has gone astray. An excerpt:

Every time something goes wrong -- every single time -- it is possible to make a claim that something more should have been done. "There should have been a handrail. Someone should have offered to help me up. There should have been a warning." Hindsight always affords the opportunity for infallible logic.

The role of law is not to allow anyone to sue for anything, but to draw lines of what's reasonable. Do people assume the risk of activities like stepping onto the dais? That needs to be decided as a matter of law. Otherwise people don't know where they stand. They become fearful in daily dealings. No one is drawing these lines today. Justice is, literally, out of control. Cases are decided jury by jury, without precedent or legal guidance.

Judges must take back control of the courtroom. Litigants will always push the envelope. They can't help themselves. Our founders believed that "man was an unchangeable creature of self-interest," historian Richard Hofstadter observed. That's why it would "not do to leave anything to his capacity for restraint."

Miscellaneous and Fast

Eclecticity is showing "facilitator porn."

Political Calculations has done the math on how many beers you should have at the company picnic.

The Princeton Review gives its ranking of the "Best Business Schools." [HT: BizDeans Talk ]

Michael Barone on the impact of a Bloomberg candidacy. [HT: RealClearPolitics ]

China's Brilliance BS6 Sedan fails a crash test. And I mean, really fails. [HT: Instapundit ]

The ZegnaSport jacket has a solar collar so you can plug in your cell phone and recharge it.

Evil HR Lady has finally posted her photograph.

Being Credible versus Getting Things Done?

Even if you are not in Human Resources, you might want to check out HR Capitalist's take on Dave Ulrich's observations on the credible and activist sides of HR professionals.

It can apply to many non-HR areas.

Anger and Disability

Don't get angry when you read this article by Jonathan Hauer in the Arizona Employment Law Letter. An excerpt:

Relying on both Washington state law and a previous Ninth Circuit ADA case, the court disagreed: "[C]onduct resulting from a disability is part of the disability and not a separate basis for termination."

So if the employee's violent outburst was a consequence of her disorder, it was protected by discrimination laws. The court reasoned that if the employer made a decision to terminate her because of her violent outburst, it was discriminating against her because of her disability.
Now before you become too alarmed by this development, you should be aware of two things. First, the employer in this case forgot to assert a very important defense.

Under the ADA, the "direct threat" doctrine provides a defense when an employer terminates an otherwise protected employee because she poses a threat to the health or safety of others in the workplace.

[NOTE: If you read the entire article, it appears that a key word was omitted in the paragraph describing the employer's argument. The employer was arguing that the termination was not related to the disability.]

Repetitive Comments

The late Congressman Morris Udall once summed up a common feature of meetings:

"Everything has been said but not everyone has said it."

Many a meeting features a "beat the subject to death" segment in which the galleries weigh in with their opinions. I used to be frustrated with such delays but now expect and even welcome them.

Why? Because you need to get everyone on board and even stating a view that has already been surfaced is a way in which people analyze, fashion, and demonstrate their commitment. The old saying that no one argues against his own data is true. By permitting the thorough examination - and reexamination - of the key features, you are building support for the ultimate course of action.

One additional point: Don't stop listening. Sometimes, what seem like repetitive comments contain subtle differences and those may need to be addressed.


The consolation is although consultation can be extremely inefficient in the short term, it is highly efficient in the long.

Quote of the Day

The last buggy whip factory was no doubt a model of efficiency.

- Peter Drucker

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fighting Complacency

Toyota is striving to avoid "big company disease."

Take the Mug

The woman had paused at the booth in the exhibit hall at the management conference. She'd started chatting with a man who was at a modest booth. The surrounding booths were from large, well-established firms. You could tell that this guy's business was in its early stages.

A group of conference attendees was eavesdropping on the exchange, which involved the usual business pitch and questions, possibly because they were interested in what the guy was selling. As the woman started to leave, the man reached back into the both and retrieved a coffee mug with the name of his company.

He offered it to her.

She said, "Oh no. I've already got plenty of coffee mugs at home. I don't need another."

The man pointed out something unique about the coffee mug. It had some special feature or something.

The woman politely refused, thanked him, and walked on.

The man smiled, but his eyes were sad. It reminded me that one of the nicest things we can do for others, oddly enough, is to let them do something for us. The man at the booth probably wouldn't have minded if the woman had taken the mug home and given it to charity or tossed the darned thing in the trash. He wanted an acknowledgement that their conversation had been meaningful and that his gift had merit. The woman, who was quite kind, had taken a utilitarian view of the offer.

The man, however, saw it as much more.

Only in America

Dave Barry has entered the presidential race.

[He wants Keith Richards as his running mate...but then, who wouldn't?]

An excerpt from his first interview shows that he's already mastered the technique:

Q: Dave, if a duck eats then goes swimming does it get cramps?
Eddie, Edgewood, Md 6/19/07
A: I am not going to comment on any matter currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Dave Barry 6/21/07

[HT: Adfreak ]

Lesson in Delegation: A Directive from Napoleon

The following directive was given by Napoleon to one of his officers prior to the 1806 Jena campaign. Note the clarity as well as the discretion granted to the officer.

Tomorrow at dawn you depart [from St. Cloud] and travel to Worms, cross the Rhine there, and make sure that all preparations for the crossing of the river by my guard are being made there. You will then proceed to Kasel and make sure that the place is being put in a state of defense and provisioned. Taking due security precautions, you will visit the fortress of Hanu. Can it be occupied by a coup de main? If necessary, you will visit the citadel of Marburg too. You will then travel on to Kassel and report to me by way of my charge' d'affaires at that place, making sure that he is in fact there. The voyage from Frankfurt to Kassel is not to take place by night, for you are to observe anything that might interest me. From Kassel you are to travel, also by day, by the shortest way to Koln. The land between Wesel, Mainz, Kassel, and Koln is to be reconnoitered. What roads and good communication exist there? Gather information about communications between Kassel and Paderborn. What is the significance of Kassel? Is the place armed and capable of resistance? Evaluate the forces of the Prince Elector in regard to their present state, their artillery, militia, strong places. From Koln you will travel to meet me at Mainz; you are to keep to the right bank on the Rhine and submit a short appreciation of the country around Dusseldorf, Wesel, and Kassel. I shall be at Mainz on the 29th in order to receive your report. You can see for yourself how important it is for the beginning of the campaign and its progress that you should have the country well imprinted on your memory.

[Source: Command in War by Martin van Creveld ]

Dream Instructions

Here are the instructions that Alfred P. Sloan gave to Peter Drucker when he hired Drucker to study General Motors in the 1940s:

I shall not tell you what to write, what to study, or what conclusions to come to. This is your task. My only instruction to you is to put down what you think is right as you see it. Don't worry about our reaction...And don't you, above all, concern yourself with the compromises that might be necessary to make your recommendations acceptable. There is not a single executive in this company who does not know how to make every single conceivable compromise without any help from you. But he can't make the "right" compromises unless you first tell him what "right" is.

Quote of the Day

You know what your problem is, it's that you haven't seen enough movies - all of life's riddles are answered in the movies.

- Steve Martin

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Head Game

When it comes to personal productivity, Nicholas Bate recommends considering your mindset instead of your techniques:

I accept that I will never have enough time for all I want to do because I am an interested and interesting person.

I can start pushing back where the poor planning of others affects me.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Kate Lorenz gives 20 ways to impress the boss.

Exploitation of the mentally ill in Germany.

If you're a history/politics buff, you should check out Niall Ferguson's The War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and the Descent of the West. Fascinating stuff.

Christopher Hitchens on why Scooter Libby should be pardoned. [The statement by the judge is amazing.]

A waitress may win CNBC's stockpicking contest and its million dollar grand prize.

Which companies are regarded as climate-friendly?

Where's Your Time?

A great post from Rowan Manahan on what we are doing with our time. It reminded me of a couple of observations in Walter Kerr's The Decline of Pleasure:

We are all of us compelled to read for profit, party for contacts, lunch for contracts, bowl for unity, drive for mileage, gamble for charity, go out for the evening for the greater glory of the municipality, and stay home for the weekend to rebuild the house. Minutes, hours, and days have been spared us. The prospect of filling them with the pleasures for which they were spared us has somehow come to seem meaningless enough to drive some of us to drink and some of us to doctors and all of us to the satisfactions of an insatiate industry.

- snip -

A friend who dropped in to see me a few nights ago expressed two fears in the course of the conversation. One was that, if he did not slow down, he would have a heart attack. The other was that, if he did not hurry up, he would not be able to accomplish enough that was useful before he had his heart attack.


I'll call him Larry.

When he was named to head the executive committee, the unanimous reaction was favorable. Larry was amiable and he always presented a professional image. In fact, if you were to cast a chairman role in a movie, he'd have been an excellent pick.

I had to deal with Larry because I'd been designated as a liaison to the group and the chairman was my prime contact. I'd seen Larry's work only from a distance and only in circumstances in which he was part of a group. Nonetheless, I looked forward to seeing him take charge and get things moving.

That's why it was a shock when he did nothing.

And by nothing, I mean nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip.

Oh, he would talk a good game. Things were always about to take off. Plans were in motion. People were being consulted. Research was being conducted. The schedule was going to be finalized. Hey, wait until you see the flow charts!

All neat things, but nothing of substance ever happened.

I don't know if Larry was suffering from depression or if some other pressure was affecting his life. He was eventually moved out of the chairmanship. Shortly afterwards, there were some other career changes. When I reviewed his overall job history, however, the recent years didn't seem to be unusual. Larry had held a number of very good jobs but then he always moved on.

I wondered if the same lack of productivity had happened before and if Larry's entire career was based on his image. It doesn't seem possible. Many organizations will tolerate mediocre performers or inconsistent performers but Larry was a absolute nonperformer. Few places are that tolerant.

Or are they?

Scottsboro and Duke

John Steele Gordon examines the cases of the Scottsboro Boys and the Duke lacrosse players.

Beeb Binge

Damian Thompson on the BBC's addiction to bias. An excerpt:

Justin Webb, the BBC's Washington correspondent, is quoted as saying that "in the tone of what we say about America, we have a tendency to scorn and deride." (Would "we" in this instance mean Matt Frei, I wonder?) Roger Mosey, former head of BBC television news, says he has "some sympathies with what Janet Daley says generally about a liberal/pinko agenda".

Stephen Whittle, a former controller of the BBC's editorial policy, says that its journalists work within a straitjacket of unchallenged liberal assumptions.

Quote of the Day

Stupidity is an elemental force for which no earthquake is a match.

- Karl Kraus

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

For The Geek Who Has Everything

Geekologie has the details on the Star Wars Plush dolls. I bet Trump has one.

Too True

From Seth Godin: Hilarious and real.

10 Acts of Hidden Aggression

  1. Freezing the hiring of needed staff.
  2. Not permitting the firing of incompetents.
  3. Forcing the work unit to provide staff support to an ever-increasing group of committees.
  4. Not financing attendance at professional conferences.
  5. Reorganizing the work unit every six to seven months.
  6. Holding the managers responsible for decisions outside of their control.
  7. Permitting all work units except the targeted one to flaunt various rules.
  8. Failing to support the work unit in the wake of meritless attacks from community groups.
  9. Bringing in executives who have no experience in the work unit's specialty to run the work unit.
  10. Not creating a career path so the work unit consequently becomes a dead-end.

Does HR Add Value?

Evil HR Lady has some thoughts on the question of whether HR adds value.

10 Ways Not To Complete A Project

  1. Have a vague goal.
  2. Assemble an inept team.

  3. Don't review ways in which similar projects have been completed.

  4. Avoid setting interim deadlines.

  5. Don't consider the supplies or staff that will be required until the actual need arises.

  6. Be a perfectionist and let your quest for the best defeat your ability to produce the good..

  7. Delegate to others and then fail to follow up until the final deadline is looming.

  8. Permit distractions.

  9. Spend large portions of time on the optional instead of the essential.

  10. Rely on inspiration instead of experience.

Quote of the Day

Luxury is more deadly than any foe.

- Juvenal

Monday, June 18, 2007


It's been a long day. Time for a humor break.

Ken Levine has posted the classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

I've been to quite a few funerals like that.

When Being "Close to the Customer" Hurts

Business Week looks at Clayton Christensen's 1997 classic on innovation and finds it is still worth reading. An excerpt from the article, which includes an interview with Christensen:

One reason the first book was so well-received, says Roger Martin, the dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is that Christensen doesn't criticize managers, as many ivory tower professors do in their books. Rather, a major theme is that great managers miss disruptive innovations precisely because they're focused on their customers, working hard to create returns for shareholders, and trying to do everything right.

BBC Bias

A confirmation of bias at the BBC. Here's hoping it leads to some real changes.

[HT: Instapundit ]

Prima Donna Departments

Whenever prima donnas in the workplace are discussed, the tendency is to focus on individuals, not departments. There are, however, prima donna departments and you can spot them by these signs:

  • They think the rules that apply to other departments should not apply to them. In their eyes, they face special challenges that are not encountered by other departments and therefore they should be cut extra slack or should be able to devise their own procedures without interference from the "civilians" at the main headquarters.

  • They want their own departmental attorneys and HR-types and do not want to rely on ones who are independent of their department.

  • They want to investigate all complaints against their own department and justify such authority by arguing that their culture is such that their employees would not open up to outside investigators. [That is rarely true.] They deny encouraging such attitudes.

  • They may in fact provide more services or income than other departments. That adds to their view that they are special. It does not, however, justify any exemption from outside oversight.

  • They are not above using outside leverage, such as customers or public opinion, to push their claims.

  • They operate with a We - They view of the world where anyone who is not in their circle is viewed with suspicion.

Caving in to the demands of prima donna departments is always a mistake. Give one concession and you can bet they'll be back for more. Resisting takes no small amount of courage but the CEO must be prepared to draw the line. It's difficult enough dealing with individuals who are prima donnas. When that attitude extends to a department, the difficulty is multiplied.

Quote of the Day

Popularity is the pocket change of history.

- Tom Selleck

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rocket Cars

Ethnic Pride or Separatism?

John Leo on separate ethnic identity graduation ceremonies at UCLA:

Commencement weekend is hard to plan at the University of California, Los Angeles. The university now has so many separate identity-group graduations that scheduling them not to conflict with one another is a challenge. The women’s studies graduation and the Chicana/Chicano studies graduation are both set for 10 AM Saturday. The broader Hispanic graduation, “Raza,” is in near-conflict with the black graduation, which starts just an hour later.
Planning was easier before a new crop of ethnic groups pushed for inclusion. Students of Asian heritage were once content with the Asian–Pacific Islanders ceremony. But now there are separate Filipino and Vietnamese commencements, and some talk of a Cambodian one in the future. Years ago, UCLA sponsored an Iranian graduation, but the school’s commencement office couldn’t tell me if the event was still around. The entire Middle East may yet be a fertile source for UCLA commencements.

Not all ethnic and racial graduations are well attended. The 2003 figures at UCLA showed that while 300 of 855 Hispanic students attended, only 170 out of 1,874 Asian-Americans did.