Friday, August 31, 2007
Eclecticity has a profile of a father of the year.
Hawaii has a pro-smoking ad to reassure Japanese puffers.
Citizen Brand recalls time well spent with Gordon Lightfoot, who may be 70 but we don't have to believe it.
Cory Doctorow on what not to wear to your next job interview.
I was just interviewed by a local news station about a story they were doing on daring hackers that have started advertising their abilities to destroy a person’s life for as little as $20 per month. Apparently the deal goes something like this: you make a deal with a hacker to destroy somebody’s life by signing them up online and the hacker will ensure the target can’t get a good job, can’t apply for credit cards, will be denied for loans, etc. The interviewer wanted to know if I thought that this was really happening or if it was some kind of joke and was really that easy.
I’m not in the revenge business myself, but I suspect that this is a great way for the hacker to get a little extra money for something they do anyway. Last time I checked, the going rate on the black for a “full identity” (enough information to become another person) is up to $5 in some countries. If we apply the supply and demand model that seems to mean there is a wealth of supply but lagging demand.
A survey of executives by Chief Executive magazine concluded:
Republican Best: Mitt Romney
Republican Worst: John McCain
Democratic Best: Barack Obama
Democratic Worst: Hillary Clinton
- Your parents
- Your children
- Your spouse
- Your third grade teacher
- Your prom date or lack thereof
- Your neighbors
- Your co-workers
- Your boss
- Your computer
- Your hair or lack thereof
- Your weight
- Your car
- Global warming
- City Hall
- The president, prime minister, or chancellor
- The Saudis
- The church
- The Bossa Nova
- Kids these days
- Washington, DC
- Talk radio
- The Internet
- The infrastructure
Thursday, August 30, 2007
It's a bit disappointing that a thrashing was not administered but one can't have everything. An excerpt:
It seems that, if any adult wants to dispute the right of young thugs to misbehave, then not only does he or she do so at considerable personal risk, but with the express disapproval of the forces of law and order.
The implication is that there can only be two figures of authority on the streets - the thugs and the cops. Everyone else must creep around, averting their eyes, hoping that someone will call the police: which might be all right if we could really hope that the police will come, and if there were really enough police to deal with all the forms of anti-social behaviour.
Wall Street executives at Burning Man? You bet. Though there’s nothing farther from the cutthroat, moneymaking world of Wall Street than the anticapitalist, anticorporate festival of radical self-expression known as Burning Man, we found several New York business executives and Wall Street types who are heading out West this week and staying through Labor Day. In the dusty, storm-ridden desert flatlands north of Reno, Nevada, is a place dubbed Black Rock City, home of the biggest little countercultural festival in the world.
“I first went out there in 2003 because a classmate from the Stanford Business School had an art project on the playa,” says a senior executive for a major Wall Street company, who asked not to be named. One of the main draws for him and most of the other 50,000 participants expected this year are the massive collaborative art projects, like last year’s giant Belgian Waffle or the 50-foot stick figure that gets torched at the end of the week—the burning man that gives the festival its name.
Find the rest of the Portfolio article here. Be sure to wear your baseball cap backwards.
Set aside the floating candles and the shifting staircases: The answer is Style.
Modern elementary schools look like factories in which people sort rags or hammer on blocks. The architecture does not inspire or announce, "This is a place where something special occurs." The same thing can be said of many business and government offices. It is as if some evil-minded administrator once decreed, "Let's put up boxes of steel and glass and squeeze the majesty out of life." No wonder workers glance longingly out the window at the trees and not at any structure. The architects have sold us a bunch of crap. Occasionally as an apology, they toss a feeble excuse for sculpture in front.
Now shift to lifestyles. We once watched Cary Grant and Grace Kelly portraying lives that elevated our hopes. They and other stars showed us how people with values and style behaved. The anti-heroes and automatons are now supreme and when an exception arrives on the screen we almost weep in gratitude. I won't even start on the dreck that passes for popular music and late night television has fallen from a place where once you might have seen Jack Paar or Dick Cavett talking to Buckley, Vidal, Mailer, or Updike to a spot where Jay and Dave let stars do infomercials for their latest film.
We have become so practical and utilitarian. I majored in "Government" as an undergraduate. Now it's called "Political Science" although it is anything but a science. The word might, however, impress the Board of Regents. Perhaps "sciences" don't get their funding slashed as quickly as the softer subjects. The same mentality that believes there is such a thing as "Social Science" doesn't flinch at using concrete boxes to house students nor does it consider just what sort of people those boxes will produce. No problem. They can join a growing tribe of pragmatic careerists that combines avarice with adolescence and scoffs at values and sacrifice.
Little things make a difference. We could use a renewed dedication to the type of conduct that elevates the individual and the society. Dropping the notions that Coarseness = Truth and Refinement = Hypocrisy and that Style is a waste of resources will be a good start.
We can have lives of beauty.
[HT: Jonathan Wade]
But for the media ponderers there's a more troubling issue than the restoration of trust. It's the possibility that too many people now simply don't much care about the major media anymore. Normally the great media combines would overcome periods of lassitude by forming up focus groups to tell them what to do next. Hah! They want "Survivor"! Alas, living as we do now in a world of seemingly infinite choice, it is possible not to care for a seeming infinity of reasons, which is why the established media are having such a hard time knowing what to do.
Mr. Paxman identified one reason not to care: "In the last quarter century we've gone from three channels to hundreds. . . . The truth is this: the more television there is, the less any of it matters." Once there was a time when TV announcers used to say, "Stay with us." Now no one stays. They go surfing, endlessly seeking a five-minute wave of TV that will take them just a little higher than the five minutes they just watched.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Don't miss this article on visualization in Smashing magazine.
Click through and be sure to scroll down. Creative stuff. Beats the pie chart I drew in grade school.
[HT: Guy Kawasaki ]
[It reminds me of the story about the Columbia University administrators who urged then Columbia president Dwight Eisenhower to direct the students to stay on the sidewalks and not to walk on the grass. Eisenhower replied, "Put sidewalks where the paths are."]
That sentence will cause some readers to crouch behind the sofa. "Another leadership book by a CEO?" they'll gasp. "Can't we be spared another tale of corporate heroism?"
Fortunately, Mr. Stahl does spare us at least most of his heroic tales in this readable review of leadership lessons. My favorite anecdote was how Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta once used a mistake to teach a powerful lesson. Goizueta had noticed an error in an internal management report. He called Stahl, who had just arrived in Austria for a week of review meetings. The conversation went as follows:
Goizueta: "This report is wrong. It needs to be fixed. Find out how this could have happened."
Stahl: "I am already aware of the error, Roberto, and our financial people are working on the issue. As soon as I get back to Atlanta next week, I'll resolve it, and will let you know the outcome."
Moment of silence.
Goizueta: "Jack, what flight will you be on tomorrow morning to fix this problem?"
Stahl: "I have meetings scheduled here in Austria all this week - it's being worked on, and I will focus on it as soon as I return to Atlanta from Vienna next week."
Goizueta: "No, Jack - I want you back here on the first plane tomorrow to deal with this."
Stahl notes that Goizueta used the mistake as an opportunity to send a powerful and pointed message about the importance of accuracy in reports. One can imagine the effect that the story of Stahl's early return had as it rippled through the organization.
Although this and similar examples of the intangible aspects of leadership may be the most interesting parts of Lessons on Leadership, they are not necessarily the most helpful. Stahl is a systems advocate who is aware of the continuous need to search for what he calls "cracks in the execution of details" and he deftly covers the importance of developing people as well as creating a high-performance organization. With regard to the latter, he notes:
Great performance and results do not happen by accident. They are most often the product of improvements in overall critical capabilities, which are driven by the leadership of the organization. However, even good leaders sometimes miss this point: Like sustainable increases in performance, new strategies also require organizational capability shifts.
He sees connections. He appreciates how cost reduction programs may require negotiation training for the employees who will have to bargain for low-cost raw materials or how a new information system may be needed to measure the costs and expenses. He notes that cries for new products should also be accompanied by a reassessment of how new products are developed. Stahl clearly understands how positive pressure in one area can cause a negative result in another.
Since this is a leadership book for a general audience many readers will find sections that are more than familiar. That is the nature of general leadership books, however, and it should not detract from the real value of Stahl's ideas. [He tucks "Valuing a Business Using the Discounted Cash Flow Approach" and "Determining the Cost of Capital" into the back of the book, possibly so they won't scare off the average reader.]
I found Lessons on Leadership to be a practical and insightful guide on how to gain control of the myriad details and pressures that confront the modern leader/manager. If you are a new leader or a seasoned one who wisely wants to review your assumptions, it's well worth your time.
Check it out.
But Mr. MacDonald was looking to own, not rent, and so he kept going. It turned out that rock star Alice Cooper has a restaurant in Phoenix. An employee at Alice's restaurant, looking to live rent free, offered an afternoon hanging out with her boss. Mr. MacDonald promptly traded quality time with Mr. Cooper for a snow globe branded with the logo of the rock band KISS. Enter the actor Corbin Bernsen, who starred in the TV show "L.A. Law" years ago and now appears on the series "Psych." Mr. Bernsen owns more than 6,000 snow globes. He offered a speaking part in his new movie in return for Mr. MacDonald's.
Then, in July of last year, the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan, entered the barter-sequence. It gave Mr. MacDonald a renovated 1920s house on Main Street in return for the film role, which it then raffled off in a local "American Idol"-style audition won by a town resident named Nolan Hubbard. Mr. MacDonald and his girlfriend, Dom, moved to Kipling, having achieved their goal of turning a paper clip into a house. Mr. MacDonald, by the way, now has a movie deal with DreamWorks.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
We wouldn't starve if the mysterious disappearance of bees, dubbed colony collapse disorder, or CCD, decimated hives worldwide. For one thing, wheat, corn, and other grains don't depend on insect pollination.
But in a honeybee-less world, almonds, blueberries, melons, cranberries, peaches, pumpkins, onions, squash, cucumbers, and scores of other fruits and vegetables would become as pricey as sumptuous old wine. Honeybees also pollinate alfalfa used to feed livestock, so meat and milk would get dearer as well. Ditto for farmed catfish, which are fed alfalfa too.
And jars of honey, of course, would become golden heirlooms to pass along to the grandkids. (Used for millennia as a wound dressing, honey contains potent antimicrobial compounds that enable it to last for decades in sealed containers.)
In late June, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns starkly warned that "if left unchecked, CCD has the potential to cause a $15 billion direct loss of crop production and $75 billion in indirect losses."
Unfortunately, the improvements in lethality that we have already seen are just the beginning. The arc of productivity growth that lets small groups terrorize at ever-higher levels of death and disruption stretches as far as the eye can see. Eventually, one man may even be able to wield the destructive power that only nation-states possess today. It is a perverse twist of history that this new threat arrives at the same moment that wars between states are receding into the past. Thanks to global interdependence, state-against-state warfare is far less likely than it used to be, and viable only against disconnected or powerless states. But the underlying processes of globalization have made us exceedingly vulnerable to nonstate enemies. The mechanisms of power and control that states once exerted will continue to weaken as global interconnectivity increases. Small groups of terrorists can already attack deep within any state, riding on the highways of interconnectivity, unconcerned about our porous borders and our nation-state militaries. These terrorists’ likeliest point of origin, and their likeliest destination, is the city.
Small boned: 180 lbs.
Medium boned: 200 lbs.
Large boned: 250+ lbs.
Small boned: 225 lbs.
Medium boned: 250 lbs.
Large boned: 300+ lbs.
Small boned: 250 lbs.
Medium boned: 300 lbs.
Large boned: 400+ lbs.
Mr. Geist notes, "Using this system to calculate your own exact personal ideal weight, simply take your current weight and add 8 pounds."
Source: The Big Five-Oh!: Facing, Fearing, and Fighting Fifty by Bill Geist.
His book is, of course, must reading for those who have been fifty, are fifty, or some day expect to be fifty.
- No decision should go to the decision maker unless he or she needs to make that decision. Keeping trivial and minor decisions at a lower level saves time and prevents distraction.
- Only excellent work should go to the decision maker. The boss should not have to play editor or proofreader. Will some bosses do so? Sure, but that does not mean the staff should engage in reverse delegation or turn in half-done work. All bosses have their quirks and any staff officer with basic smarts will commit those biases to memory so future work will be as change-proof as possible.
- Adverse information should never be omitted. The staff officer's role is to clarify, not to decide. This means surfacing the negatives as well as the positives.
- Err on the side of excessive coordination. It will save no time and will create enemies if a staff officer fails to obtain the ideas and positions of others who may have a substantive interest in the decision. Doing so will also jeopardize losing the trust of the decision maker.
- Recognize that the best can be the enemy of the good. The staff officer who seeks perfection will frequently find that the work's quality has been damaged by its tardiness. Timely decisions are needed. Go slowly on irreversible decisions and quickly on ones that can be easily reversed.
- Always present more than three options. Anyone can produce three options: Do nothing, do everything, and do a middle option that is favored by the staff. A good staff officer knows that some very creative options are often discovered when the list of options is increased. Savvy decision makers are righly suspicious of the old "three option sandwich."
- Give a recommended course of action. That's your job. It doesn't mean that the recommendation will be accepted but it gives the decision maker the advantage of seeing what is, in your judgment, the best option. Staff work that is inconclusive and neutral is incomplete. Have the courage to stand by your research.
The recent discovery by a retired businessman and climate kibitzer named Stephen McIntyre that 1934--and not 1998 or 2006--was the hottest year on record in the U.S. could not have been better timed. August is the month when temperatures are high and the news cycle is slow, leading, inevitably, to profound meditations on global warming. Newsweek performed its journalistic duty two weeks ago with an exposé on what it calls the global warming "denial machine." I hereby perform mine with a denier's confession
I confess: I am prepared to acknowledge that Mr. McIntyre's discovery amounts to what a New York Times reporter calls a "statistically meaningless" rearrangement of data.
But just how "meaningless" would this have seemed had it yielded the opposite result? Had Mr. McIntyre found that a collation error understated recent temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius (instead of overstating it by that amount, as he discovered), would the news coverage have differed in tone and approach?
Read the rest of Brett Stephens's "denier's confession."
Monday, August 27, 2007
"That kind of carelessness simply isn't acceptable for a job of this nature," intoned the partner. That sounded just fine to me and we proceeded. We had about 500 applications to whizz through on the first pass. We hit a snag. A big snag.With the first pass completed, we had no applications left. None. Count 'em again - not one.
Read the rest of Rowan Manahan's post on the next generation of job-hunters.
A dark-purple elixir with a cult-like following, MonaVie is an antioxidant-rich concoction whose main ingredient is the Brazilian açai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), long touted among health nuts for its anti-aging ingredients.
Vitamin-water it's not: MonaVie costs $40 a bottle, and you can't get it in stores; it's marketed only through the company's network of thousands of individuals who sell it out of their homes (think Avon or Tupperware).
- Clear responsibilities and authority.
- Limited phone calls.
- A team without factions.
- A meeting with a clear agenda.
- An e-mail box without spam.
- Leaders who make decisions.
- Workers who take initiative.
- A limited open-door policy.
- Supportive family members.
- Access to resources and information.
Reason Foundation analyst Adam Summers has written a new study of occupational licensing (available here) that catalogues some of the absurd requirements to get occupational licenses. Does a hair braider really need hundreds of hours of instruction in all aspects of cosmetology, hardly any of which he will ever use? Is it essential to the well-being of young children that directors of day-care centers possess master's degrees? What's the point of refusing to license a car service unless it has at least 10 cars?
Some states require licenses or credentials for all manner of jobs, while others seem to get along just fine with a much more targeted list. California has been burdened for years with an uncompetitive business climate, and part of the reason is that it requires licenses for 177 different job categories. Next door, Arizona licenses only 72 job categories and Nevada only 95. No wonder job growth is much higher in those states.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent is powerful because it is restrained. Employing a tone that might accompany a CPA's report, Laqueur dissects the impact of Europe's declining population as well as its alienated Islamic groups and rapacious welfare systems and concludes that a perfect storm may be on the horizon.
For those readers who have been following the demographic projections, Laqueur's statistics will not come as a surprise, but to cite just a few:
- Russia's current population of 145 million is shrinking annually by 2 percent and within 50 years is expected to be one-third of its current size. Its population may be surpassed by those of Turkey and Yemen.
- The United Kingdom's population is expected to decline from its current 60 million to 53 million in 2050 and 45 million in 2100.
- Germany's population is expected to decline from its current 82 million to 61 million in 2050 and 32 million in 2100.
- Italy's population is expected to decline from its current 57 million to 37 million in 2050 and 15 million in 2100.
- Spain's population is expected to decline from its current 39 million to 28 million in 2050 and 12 million in 2100.
- In 2050, the median age in the United States will be 36. In Europe it will be about 53.
In short, many of the European nations are in this box: Their populations are shrinking and aging. In order to maintain the generous benefits of their welfare states, they will require younger workers. A large portion of those younger workers, however, will be Muslims who may - or may not - desire to be assimilated into or maintain democratic societies. Consider the extent to which American minority groups with 10 to 14 percent of the population can affect American political stances and then imagine what the effect would be if such groups favored sharia law and opposed freedom of expression and equal rights and you may gain a sense of what Europe will be facing.
Laqueur follows writers such as Bruce Bawer and Mark Steyn in stating this concern and yet his international relations and scholarly credentials give added weight to his arguments. There is little doubt that his book will be widely read in the United States. One hopes that it receives an even larger readership in Europe.
Three years ago, UCLA law professor Richard Sander published an explosive, fact-based study of the consequences of affirmative action in American law schools in the Stanford Law Review. Most of his findings were grim, and they caused dismay among many of the champions of affirmative action--and indeed, among those who were not.
Easily the most startling conclusion of his research: Mr. Sander calculated that there are fewer black attorneys today than there would have been if law schools had practiced color-blind admissions--about 7.9% fewer by his reckoning. He identified the culprit as the practice of admitting minority students to schools for which they are inadequately prepared. In essence, they have been "matched" to the wrong school.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Flitting across this crowded stage are some better-known figures: Harry Truman, who declined to call the program the “Truman Plan” not out of modesty but for fear of riling Republican opponents; Josef Stalin, whose aggressive action toward Czechoslovakia greatly helped Vandenberg to overcome congressional resistance; Ernest Bevin, the overweight, ebullient, and ineffably proletarian British Foreign Secretary, who was the Plan’s biggest fan; and the diarist and wit Harold Nicolson, whose condescending characterization of the United States (“a giant with the limbs of an undergraduate, the emotions of a spinster, and the brain of a pea-hen”) now reads like postimperial sour grapes. The United States in 1945 was a giant, all right, but with the wealth of a Harriman, the altruism of a Marshall, and the sheer dedication of men like Clayton, Vandenberg, Hoffman, and Bissell, it was surely a benign colossus.
"Why should we should tell them that?" groaned some of the executives and managers. "All you are doing is encouraging them to file elsewhere. We'll wind up spending large amounts of time dealing with some outside investigator."
I replied that the main goal of any internal complaint process should be to determine the truth and then take appropriate action. Why hide information from the employees? Let them know their options and then move forward to make sure that the internal investigation is prompt, thorough, and impartial.
After several years of following that approach, we were able to monitor the results. The number of internal and external discrimination complaints had not risen; in fact, they had fallen dramatically.
I recall that development whenever I see executives and managers who are so intent on hanging onto power that they wind up losing power. Their focus is invariably on the wrong thing. They are seeking control when they should be after credibility. That sin isn't confined to operations and folks in the field. Propose giving away information and power and many soft-skilled HR types are just as eager to pull up the drawbridge and station the archers.
The natural tendency may be to hunker down. Our professional commitments, however, should cause us to question whether that is wise.
But it's not just workers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs who enjoy the benefits of good grub on the job. Plenty of companies in a variety of businesses in every corner of the country offer meals on site. The menus are diverse, and so are the reasons for offering food service. Some employers cite productivity as their prime consideration; when employees eat in the company's cafeteria, they save time they would have spent foraging at nearby fast-food chains and delis. "I want people to be well-fed and satisfied," Michael Bloomberg, the current New York mayor and former chief executive of Bloomberg, the financial data business he founded in 1981, told Fast Company magazine in a 1995 interview. "I want them to be able to grab a cup of coffee with a colleague and hash things out. But most of all I want them to stay here. I don't want them leaving."
By 2001, the Bank of Japan had lowered interest rates to zero and people were paying banks to keep their money. Japanese commercial property had tumbled to two-thirds of its value from its 1980s peak, when the wooded imperial estate at the center of Tokyo was worth more than the entire state of California.
When Japan’s bubble burst, it took a painfully long time for reality to set in. During the baburu (or bubble), demands on workers had soared; the sarariiman (salaryman) was expected to be available 24 hours a day, enabling him to evolve into one of the highly admired kigyo senshi (corporate warriors). In exchange for this servitude, he was supposed to have a secure job for life. That all collapsed along with the economy.
Sawa Kurotani, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Redlands in California, has written of “the death of the sarariiman way of life.” She says that Japanese corporations “began radical restructuring and downsizing to survive in global competition.” Suicide rates soared (they were twice the rates in the United States and higher than anywhere except the former US R and its satellites, plus, for some reason, Sri Lanka), with many cases declared to have been karojisatsu, or triggered by excessive stress. The most common method was tobikomi: jumping from a platform into the path of a train.
Friday, August 24, 2007
St. Louis is as good a place as any to begin this glove story, as it is the home of Rawlings, currently in its 120th year as a supplier of all manner of baseball equipment. In 1920, Rawlings introduced the first glove to feature laces between the thumb and forefinger (previous mitts were no more than padded workmen's gloves).
That glove, called the Bill Doak, began an evolutionary process that today culminates in the Rawlings Primo, the most expensive baseball glove ever made. It costs $400. Yes, $400 - that's a little over a week's pay for a typical Wal-Mart employee. (At least that employee won't be tempted to blow his wages, as you'll never find the Primo on Wal-Mart's shelves.)
Two years in development, the Primo features Italian leather hand-sewn into an advanced three-layer design that, Rawlings claims, can be broken in to suit specific positions. In a season dominated by batting achievements (Barry Bonds' record*, Alex Rodriguez's 500th homer), Rawlings hopes the Primo will reestablish its status as the preeminent glove-design house, a position that is under threat from rivals like Wilson, Mizuno, Easton and Nike (Charts, Fortune 500).
- The appetite to take charge;
- Confidence to seek challenge and embrace risk;
- Capacity to act;
- Ability to engage and inspire; and
- Shaping experiences.
Baum interviewed and researched a series of leaders to glean his lessons and provides ample anecdotes about their challenges and victories. This strengthens his analysis but also goes against the title since a large portion of the book is focused on other leaders and not on Jack Welch.
[One feature of the book was a real pebble in the shoe: In any references to Welch's pre-greatness days, Baum spells Welch's name in lower-case letters (e.g. "jack's competitiveness and desire to win continued to be nurtured...") and then switches to all-caps when the great man has reached Olympus. I found that to be beyond irritating. Somewhere in this world there is an editor who deserves to be flogged.]
Although I would have preferred to learn more about jack's/JACK'S leadership, Baum's book provides enough juicy executive suite stories to make you forget The Great One. I particularly liked the emphasis on character that was a thread throughout the book and especially appreciated the fact that Baum's leaders don't magically transform anything. They adopt strategies that nudge, shape, and eventually improve; in short, they achieve the sort of results that we see in the real world.
The example of how Jim Broadhead, the CEO of Florida Power & Light, decided to deal with a resistant team and implement needed changes while fending off a potential shut-down of a nuclear power plant by the federal government could serve as a guidepost for any leader who has to grapple with outside regulations. The tips on obtaining the shaping experiences in learning to lead may be regarded by some as obvious (e.g., "Connecting with others") but if they are so obvious - and certainly items such as creating your personal board of directors are not - then why aren't more people doing them?
My advice is simple: If you want to get the most out of Stephen Baum's book, forget about jack welch/JACK WELCH/Jack Welch. Forget about gaining insightful lessons about leadership. Looking for those will only distract you from the book's real merits. Instead, regard the book as a series of guidelines from an extremely savvy coach who has some tips that will truly help your career.
That's where the real meat is.
For a mom-and-pop immigrant dry-cleaner to defend against Roy Pearson’s consumer-fraud claim demanding tens of millions of dollars over an allegedly lost pair of pants cost nearly six figures and nearly drove the Chung family out of business, which is why they were willing to settle that meritless case for $12,000. And the case still isn’t over, even after a trial victory. A loser-pays rule would hypothetically compensate the Chungs, except it is unlikely Pearson could ever pay the $83,000. Judges need to do more to throw cases like this out early: there is no reason the Pearson case had to go to trial and run up the bill for the Chungs. A recent Supreme Court case, Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, gives more freedom to judges to discard cases without plausible theories of recovery earlier in the process.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Reading these personal accounts, I remembered being 17. I’d never been outside North America, but I’d paid attention in history class and, being curious about the world, had read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Babi Yar, 1984, John Gunther’s Inside series, several books about the USSR, and much else. I had an uncle who’d been in a Nazi POW camp, a Polish-speaking grandmother who felt blessed to be an American citizen and not a Soviet vassal, and a Cuban schoolmate whose father, a journalist, Castro had tortured and blinded. I knew what totalitarianism was. The young people who get taken in by the Peace Racket, though, seem not to have had much of a clue about anything before visiting Haiti or Ghana or wherever. And their peace studies classes and international adventures don’t exactly wise them up. A peace studies student at McGill University, recounting her internship with a “Cuban NGO” (as if there really were such a thing!), refers enthusiastically to her participation in “the largest demonstration in Cuban history.” She doesn’t elaborate, but the reference is clearly to a government-organized protest against the U.S. trade embargo. This perilously naive young woman has no idea that she was the tool of a dictatorship.
The other day King Zahir of Afghanistan died at the age of 92. Sad and all that, but he’d lived a full life. Do you know what a full life in Afghanistan boils down to? Do you realize how unusual it is for anyone in Kabul to die at the age of 92? Male life expectancy in the country is 43.6 years – and not because the wiry lads in the Hindu Kush all expire in mid-jihad or bushkazi match: female life expectancy is only 43.96 years. That’s to say, if you were born in the mid-Sixties, passed through middle school in the disco era and danced with your teenage sweetheart to George Michael and Duran Duran, you should be dying any day now.
Zahir Shah was older than an average pair of Afghans put together. The King came to the throne in 1933, a year which is as remote to the typical Afghan as the Civil War is to us. Back then, the other new rulers on the international scene were President Roosevelt and Herr Hitler. But never mind his coronation, most Afghans weren’t even around for his abdication in 1973: The median age in the country is 17.6 years. Even if you survive the appalling childhood mortality rates, eking out three-score-and-ten is the longest of long shots. If you’ve ever met Afghan men, you’ll know that feeling when you run into some aquiline weathered Pushtun warrior with white hair and a wispy beard framing a leathery old face that wrinkles up every time he smiles. And the old-timer full of ancient folk wisdom from the Khyber Pass turns out to be 38. He looks like Anna Nicole’s late husband but at school he was three grades below Demi Moore’s boy toy. In such a world, a 92-year old man is a phenomenon – and, even in his dotage, King Zahir looked healthier than many of the fortysomethings running the country.
Read the rest of his essay here.
James Dean in a driving safety ad.
Business Week looks at the labor shortage: myths and realities.
Ron Rosenbaum examines - with a knife - professor Stanley Fish's discovery of a coffee shop called Starbucks.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
So it is with jobs. Some of us are lucky. The invisible stamp on our foreheads says 2014, maybe, or “good for 32 years if kept in a cool, dry place.” But the stamp is there. And there’s nothing any of us can do about it.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
If this becomes a trend, will it influence the naming of children? Will parents be tempted to go for domain-friendly monikers?
(I'll talk it over with my children: Google and Yahoo.)
Here's an essay he wrote in 2002 on fantasy ideologies. It's worth revisiting. An excerpt:
To be a prop in someone else’s fantasy is not a pleasant experience, especially when this someone else is trying to kill you, but that was the position of Ethiopia in the fantasy ideology of Italian fascism. And it is the position Americans have been placed in by the quite different fantasy ideology of radical Islam.
The terror attack of 9-11 was not designed to make us alter our policy, but was crafted for its effect on the terrorists themselves: It was a spectacular piece of theater. The targets were chosen by al Qaeda not through military calculation — in contrast, for example, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — but entirely because they stood as symbols of American power universally recognized by the Arab street. They were gigantic props in a grandiose spectacle in which the collective fantasy of radical Islam was brought vividly to life: A mere handful of Muslims, men whose will was absolutely pure, as proven by their martyrdom, brought down the haughty towers erected by the Great Satan. What better proof could there possibly be that God was on the side of radical Islam and that the end of the reign of the Great Satan was at hand?
As the purpose of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia was to prove to the Italians themselves that they were conquerors, so the purpose of 9-11 was not to create terror in the minds of the American people but to prove to the Arabs that Islamic purity, as interpreted by radical Islam, could triumph. The terror, which to us seems the central fact, is in the eyes of al Qaeda a by-product. Likewise, what al Qaeda and its followers see as central to the holy pageant of 9-11 — namely, the heroic martyrdom of the 19 hijackers — is interpreted by us quite differently. For us the hijackings, like the Palestinian “suicide” bombings, are viewed merely as a modus operandi, a technique that is incidental to a larger strategic purpose, a makeshift device, a low-tech stopgap. In short, Clausewitzian war carried out by other means — in this case by suicide.
In the 1990s, most people who played video games were teenagers. Now the average gamester age is nearly 30. Cultural products aimed at tots and preteens capture the attention of adults. "SpongeBob SquarePants," intended for the 6-to-11 age group, draws almost 19 million viewers from the 18-to-49 crowd. Some famous museums, uncomfortable with their adult role as guardians of historical memory, have gone adolescent, staging exhibits on motorcycles, hip-hop and "Star Wars" movies. Many college courses, even on major campuses, make rainy-day activities at summer camp seem profound.
Such examples of America's descent into perpetual adolescence populate Diana West's provocative "The Death of the Grown-Up." Ms. West, a columnist for the Washington Times, argues that the country is suffering a case of arrested development, with teen tastes and desires eclipsing traditional adult conduct and values. A good deal of evidence supports her. An obsession with play and self-expression and a resistance to limits--conventional hallmarks of adolescence--are increasingly strong "adult" themes too.
Read the rest of John Leo's essay here.
Update: Eclecticity suggests a link.
Monday, August 20, 2007
- There are sufficient opportunities for advancement within the organization.
- The reader is interested in those opportunities.
Those are pretty big assumptions. The career advice books that feature examples from Fortune 500 companies are discussing scenarios that are worlds apart from the average person's reality. Giant organizations offer far more opportunities for advancement and the inspirational stories of people who took advantage of those chances don't resemble the places where a grand opportunity may open up every six or seven years.
The issue of interest also is different. Larger outfits don't just offer more opportunities, they also have a greater likelihood of offering something of genuine interest. A company of 10,000 employees or less is going to have much less running room for people who are ambitious than will one of the mega-corporations.
I'm familar with the Horatio Alger-like stories of people who created their own job opportunities by thinking of a new product or service. That can occur if the organization is receptive to such creativity. Many places, however, let the dead hand of bureaucracy stifle such energy.
My point is that individuals who are preparing themselves for advancement within a particular organization need a realistic appraisal of whether that organization will provide enough serious opportunities for their talents.
Many workplaces face a serious morale problem: What to do with highly skilled middle managers who are all dressed up with no place to go?
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The junior member's suggestion at the staff meeting was interpreted by one of the department heads as a veiled criticism of his professionalism. An enemy was created who would later strive to thwart the junior member's advancement.
At the annual retreat, a division head was stunned to learn that some comments he'd made to a group of interns several years ago had inspired one of them to develop a highly successful program. The division head could not remember what he'd said.
The department director asked the secretary why, year after year, all of the Special Action Reports were printed on blue paper. The secretary said she wasn't sure but she would find out. It was discovered that a department director seven years and three directors ago had said she liked the color blue.
Comic-Con is a mixture of seminars, on such topics as 'Klingon Lifestyle', 'Gays in Comics', 'How to be an Internet Geek Superstar', parties, autograph sessions, a giant exhibition hall with stalls from comic-book companies, artists, toy manufacturers and, of course, presentations from the big studios trying to hype their films.
Fittingly, it takes place in a convention centre the size of the Death Star. At 2,700,000 square feet, even comparing it with football pitches (about 60, actually) becomes meaningless. It stretches across the horizon and it takes 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The entry queue on the first day winds around the entire building.
- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 1
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The occasion for this gathering, which drew attendees from 10 different nations and all over the U.S., was to discuss the work of the late Peter Drucker, the renowned management philosopher who held that "free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business; it can be justified only as being good for society."
Drucker, who died two years ago at age 95, was no starry-eyed sloganeer. And he sure wasn't against making money. "Actually," he wrote, "a company can make a social contribution only if it is highly profitable."