Friday, February 29, 2008
I remember one afternoon, coming back from skiing to go to work. He was there with his paintbrushes and hailed me. He wanted to tell me something. His face choked up with laughter. It was hard to make out what he was saying, but I managed. He had been in his car when stopped by the red light in Gstaad. An old friend who knew nothing about the illness was coincidentally stopped opposite him, headed in the other direction. He leaned out the window. "What have you got?" he asked David.
"I tried to get out to him," he had a problem with the words, "that I had amytrophic lateral sclerosis. He could hear me well enough but couldn't make out what I said. He yelled back just as the light changed. 'Oh? Well I've got a Lamborghini 500S!' " It hurt David to laugh, and that was the truly unbearable burden.
I've been using them for years and they are fantastic, especially if you also get their paper punch so you can transform other papers so they can be clipped into the Circa.
It is one of the best paper management tools out there.
Starbucks' chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, has embarked on an aggressive campaign to restore the company's luster after various missteps, such as selling glorified Egg McMuffins (bad) and hawking CDs by Kenny G (worse). Stores nationwide were shut down for a few hours Tuesday so that baristas could be retrained to work the espresso machines correctly. But if Mr. Schultz is eager to improve the Starbucks experience, there's a simple place he could start: Lose the tip jars.
Read the rest of Eric Felten's article on the point of tipping.
During the second half of the 20th century, the practice of tipping largely retreated from American life. The earliest of tipped workers -- railroad porters -- gave way to flight attendants (the first of whom were registered nurses, whose station was deemed above gratuities). Gone are telegrams, the receipt of which required a tip. Men stopped getting shaved at barbershops -- where one stiffed the barber at one's peril. In June 1903, an unlucky New York streetcar conductor named John Shanno failed to tip his barber, Joseph Ferlanto. "I'll teach you not to forget to tip," Ferlanto screamed, and went all Sweeney Todd on him.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
- Keep a fast pace. The program should have a sense of momentum and, although people shouldn't feel rushed, it's best if the workshop moves at a good clip.
- Don't try to tell them everything. Let them leave a little hungry for more information.
- Give a short break (7 to 9 minutes) every hour and use odd numbers for the breaks. They tend to pay more attention to the time if you use odd numbers.
- Let people interrupt with their questions. Tell them that if a question is going to be too long or is too specialized, they should ask it over the break or after the class. By permitting them to interrupt with questions, you get their queries while they are fresh and create a more dynamic learning atmosphere.
- Use a lot of case examples and frame the ensuing discussion with practical guidelines.
- Have a simple goal: To give them information that is practical, easy to understand, and which can be put to immediate use. Never deviate from that standard.
- Don't use exercises that needlessly stretch out the time. A lot of inflated programs are hidden under the guise of group exercises.
- Take a position. People will want to hear your reasoning but they'll appreciate some clear guidance instead "Could be this and could be that" equivocation.
Treasure hunt: Looking for Nazi gold and perhaps some amber.
Men with banjos: Steve Martin and Earl Scruggs. [HT: Jonathan Wade]
WFB RIP: Adfreak remembers William F. Buckley Jr.
Calvin Trillin on race, memory, and a killing in the suburbs.
Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article on condo vultures in Miami.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The exhibition opens with a room full of visually stunning displays that are as compelling as the contemporary paintings or sculptures that viewers might expect to see in a MoMA gallery. The show begins with "Lightweeds," a striking example of data visualization by young Dutch designer Simon Heijdens. The work features light projections of silhouettes of giant weeds with realistic stalks, stems, leaves, and buds.
The plant images are produced by a software program developed by Heijdens, and the computer it runs on is hooked up to a live weather sensor outside the museum. The plants' size, shape, and movement reflect real-life conditions outdoors—meaning they would shrivel if there were a drought or flourish in a healthy mix of rain and sun. The piece is a wonderfully poetic example of how design can turn raw data (in this case, the weather) into a display that communicates information in a compelling and engaging manner. Businesses would be wise to pay attention to hip designers such as Heijdens, who also could have ideas for intriguing retail displays or arresting ways to communicate other data such as stock market fluctuations.
Thanks to Ted Goff for providing a correct link!
He will be missed.
He has, however, written an excellent post on 10 ways in which his business thinking has changed over the years.
Check it out.
- The projects that you've not completed produce far more stress than the ones you haven't even started.
- The little projects are more stressful than the big ones, possibly because you confront and deal with the large challenges.
- The desire to work in a continuous flow as opposed to in bursts can produce feelings of guilt as well as stress. The truth be known, most of us work in bursts and then pretend to work between the bursts.
Sinking deep into a blue velveteen couch in his dusky living room, surrounded by his collection of handmade knives—including one that folds into the shape of a tulip blossom and one inlaid with mastodon tusk—Berman begins the story of his downfall. "NBC wanted to do a documentary," he recalls. His eyes form sad crescents beneath a thicket of brow. Cameras followed Berman around for months, he says: at home, on the set, to the Army-Navy game, and finally, on New Year's Eve 1963, to the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, where he was to play the Café Cristál.
Berman had already earned a reputation as an exacting, even difficult, performer. Early in the one-week engagement, he was onstage when a phone rang backstage. He made a joke of it, but afterward he reminded his road manager that backstage phones should be off the hook.
A few nights later, the backstage phone rang again at a disastrous time: the last few tear-jerking moments of a sketch about his own father. Berman finessed the distraction, but when he got backstage, he freaked. "Take those phones off the hook when I'm working," he shouted, throwing his freshly lit cigarette down. "I'll pull the damn phones out of the wall!" He dashed the phone's receiver to the floor with a clunk. Then he put on his suit coat and leaned face-first into a corner, arm overhead and head down.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
[You'd think there would be more calls for a design change.]
Killed Off First in France?: More on the devil frog.
Wooing: Burton, Taylor, Shakespeare.
Not My City: Which cities have the best tap water?
Mask It: Just the thing for your next staff meeting.
- The gross incompetent whose load is being carried by the rest of the team.
- The hyper-sensitive hothouse flower who searches for insults and invariably finds them.
- The sloth who retired on the job.
- The bully who routinely destroys morale with unsolicited opinions and temper tantrums.
- The office politician who takes credit for the work of others.
- The gossip who leaks confidential information and spreads outrageous stories.
- The would-be seducer who already has at least one co-worker pondering a harassment complaint.
- The bigot who will never judge people on the basis of their real merit.
Thank you for your attention and support.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Here's some free advice: Go to Google (GOOG), enter any of your company's brands followed by the word "sucks," and you will see the true consumers' reports. Brace yourself: It won't be pretty. Wal-Mart's (WMT) unofficial Google Sucks Index turns up 165,000 results; Disney's (DIS) 530,000; Google's 767,000. What's your number?
- Neglecting your health, be it physical, mental, or spiritual.
- Taking family and friends for granted.
- Not identifying or putting off important tasks.
- Believing in magical solutions.
- Failing to raise your profile among groups that are essential to your success.
- Being easily discouraged.
- Not acquiring important skills.
- Doing trivial things at the expense of the important.
- Wanting a result while disdaining the process that leads to the result.
- Letting comfort with the known and fear of the changes that would come with success create a form of paralysis.
Don't be surprised if you are doing several items. Plans for Failure are often more vigorously pursued than Plans for Success. The biggest saboteur of many a Plan for Success is the one in the mirror.
To paraphrase an old line, he who masters that opponent is greater than any conqueror who ever took a city.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Since this is Oscar night, it may be appropriate to mention Books That Deserve a Film Version.
My modest and grossly incomplete list:
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The story of Ignatius Reilly, a true eccentric and victim of Dame Fortuna in New Orleans, who offers colorful observations while hot dog peddling, lute playing, and scrawling on Big Chief tablets.
- A River Town by Thomas Keneally. An Irish storekeeper in a small Australian town near the start of the 20th century is asked to identify a head and discovers how doing the right thing is sometimes punished.
- Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem. A Roman commander on the Rhine faces the tribes that will eventually engulf the Roman Empire.
- Dead Famous by Ben Elton. A reality television show gets a new dimension when one of the people in its camera-filled house is murdered. [An extremely funny take on pop culture.]
Any other nominees?
- You are assigned to a team with Tom, Carlos, and Mary. The team is to determine the best way to complete a particular project. When Mary starts to put the team's ideas on the flip chart, be sure to take that as a personal insult and silently vow not to share any helpful information unless you are directly asked.
- When Carlos indicates that he has some experience in a particular area, scratch that topic off of your list, let him shoulder all of the associated chores, and don't revisit it.
- When Mary begins to buckle under the weight of the majority of the work, sigh and tell the others that you suspected that she wouldn't be able to handle it. Snipe at her during team meetings and ridicule her efforts to accomplish tasks you ignored.
- Be sure to keep careful notes on the mistakes of your team mates so you can use that as evidence when the project implodes.
- If any actions are proposed with which you strongly disagree, say nothing either in favor or opposition. If the project doesn't succeed you can declare that you had serious reservations and if it works you can claim it always had your support.
- If a decision is made based on seemingly reliable information and the project blows up, attack those who supported the project and note that you always felt the information was inadequate even though, of course, there was no evidence of that inadequacy at the time.
- Ascribe negative motives to the blunders of others and always repeat negative gossip.
- Overpromise and underperform. Never attend a team meeting without an ample supply of excuses for missing deadlines.
- Speak soberly of how the team must have a commitment to open communication but never let that commitment pertain to yourself.
- Broadcast the team's troubles to people outside the team.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
There will be temptations. In the beginning you may want to be The Superboss from Olympus, giving orders crisply based on your superior wisdom and experience. You'll find that doesn't work well. You'll be tempted to be everybody's buddy. That doesn't work well either.
We found that as the price of oil rose, the aggressiveness index increased: that is, the more valuable oil became, the more hostile Russian foreign policy became. The reverse was also true: when oil prices dropped in 2001 and 2002, so did Russia’s aggression. The relationship proved strongest at the annual level: a $1.48 increase in oil prices yearly correlated with an additional “point” increase in Russian aggression. Oil prices rose from $17.37 a barrel in December 2001 to $73.88 a barrel in September 2007; over that same period, the aggression index rose from 17 to 55.
Friday, February 22, 2008
"Noble" is not heard much these days. People may be kind or cruel, generous or stingy, hard working or lazy, but to describe someone as noble sounds outdated and probably excessive.
After all, noble is so uncool. Think of a noble person and dust quickly settles on the image. Probably not up on the latest fashions. Old. Stodgy. Nice but not passionate. A model to consider, for a few seconds at least, before getting back to the real world.
We lost a great deal when being noble went out of fashion.
Did you give your word to someone? No big deal. We have lawyers who can find a loophole. Commitments are for suckers. They didn't expect you to keep your word in the first place. Move along.
Will a personal sacrifice be required? Forget it. Who has time for such quaint thoughts? Power is what matters. Setbacks look bad on resumes.
I've thought about some noble people among my family and acquaintances and the following characteristics emerged:
- A willingness to help those who are needy.
- Gentleness without weakness.
- Dedication to doing the right thing even if it hurts.
- A more than normal amount of courtesy and kindness.
- Never rushing to blame others.
- Intellectual curiosity.
- Impatience with injustice.
- A love of freedom and independence.
- Disdain for cheap and shabby behavior.
- Courage, both physical and moral.
- A pleasant nature.
- The ability to survive setbacks without becoming bitter.
- Confidence mixed with humility.
We measure so many things in life. It might improve the world if we thought more about what it takes to be noble and whether our behavior even comes close.
In "No Country for Old Men," a so-called literary thriller about a drug deal gone bad, Javier Bardem's character, a murderous psychotic, is equipped with "a slaughterhouse mechanism for killing beef cattle by driving a piston through the brain," writes Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post. "He uses it to terminate the extremely unwary who allow him to get up close and place it against the skull." In his Wall Street Journal review, Joe Morgenstern, who's been critiquing movies since the 1950s, says that "No Country" features "some of the most horrifically violent moments ever put on screen." Thanks, but I'll pass.
Hollywood's technical ability to give us realistic portrayals of violence may have caused some directors to think that such explicit scenes are necessary. Many of us are not against all violence in film but seriously question the artistic equivalent of a sledge hammer where a hint would be more artistically effective. Less is often more and many an otherwise good film has been ruined by unrestrained special effects.
Another observation: With age I've found myself running from films that are depressing. Been there. Done that. Tell me the movie has a message and I'll think, "No thanks. Saw more than enough message movies in the Sixties."
My quest is not for films that are devoid of rough stuff. I simply want to avoid ones where depressing the audience is the primary goal.
And I suspect I'm not alone.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Joseph Sternberg has an interesting experience with loose change in Hong Kong.
Bullet hitting bullet? Video of the rogue satellite being shot down.
Just windowshopping: How do you sell a perfume named Strip?
Read the rest of the Wharton article on Peter Capelli's ideas.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Take the dictator out of his romantically stylish army fatigues and put him in some Adidas wear and that revolutionary allure rapidly fades. If Castro had adopted white belt, white shoes, and sans-a-belt slacks - known in some quarters as The Full Cleveland - he'd have been gone much earlier.
I'm only half-joking but then Castro's "career" has been a study in the power of image-making.
For those who are infatuated with style, old Fidel was the "Go To" man among dictators. In truth, there wasn't much competition. Hitler and his cultish crew chose threads that just flat-out looked evil. Stalin's plain garb couldn't hide his eyes, which always seemed to be sizing someone up for a stint in the Gulag (possibly because he was), and Mussolini dressed like an usher in an ornate but slightly down on its luck theater.
Fidel's wardrobe, on the other hand, was Guerrilla Chic. Those military fatigues, even with creases, spared him the criticism that would have arisen if he'd taken to wearing gold chains, Hawaiian shirts, and alligator shoes. One glance at El Commandante and the Credulous of the Earth were eager to gush over his island prison's health care system. Although some troublesome critics occasionally found voice, Castro's reputation among many in the avant garde did not appear to suffer.
One of his principal executioners and another fashion plate, Che Guevara, is still a popular figure on mugs, t-shirts, and posters. Although Che was an early architect of Fidel's firing squads, he was quite photogenic and never slipped into jogging attire.
Less harmful versions of this image game can be spotted in the business world. We've all seen the CEO who looks the part while driving the company into a ditch. HR departments whisper about the rising young star whose appearance creates an instant halo effect in front of the interview panel but whose accomplishments, once scrutinized, do not seem to include much beyond wowing interview panels. All are testimonies to the power of the superficial.
Look the part, tap into some primal wish that you are genuine, and you'll be given a very long honeymoon period.
Of course, as Fidel would attest, it also helps if you jail your critics.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
“But I’ve never felt so FRESH,” he kept wailing, plaintively from the back seat. His face pressed to the window as he stared longingly back in the direction of the hotel.
Check out the rest of Anthony Bourdain's account .
Read the rest of the Wired article about strange world of Japanese pick-up schools.
Monday, February 18, 2008
The flu vaccine doesn't protect against most of the latest strains of the flu.
Rowan Manahan suggests that before recruiters turn up their noses at the typos of job applicants, they might correct their own behavior.
A lawsuit is filed and an air show is cancelled.
Emmylou Harris: Making Believe.
Tim Ferriss has discovered superhuman French acrobats.
Watch this combination of Bach and an extraordinary organist.
[HT: Rick Miller ]
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Up at six, weighed and measured. My targets: lose half stone; 3in off waist and 2.5in off hips; cut body fat 5 per cent. Resolved to achieve all, so attack next part of assessment - three-mile walk/jog through Devon countryside - at stupidly fast pace. Have to stop after a mile, wheezing, panting. By end, feel sick.
Minibus going back passes through Bampton village. "Look, a chip shop," says mournful voice. Faces press to window but back to farm for mid-morning snack of nuts and dried fruit. Before lunch, circuit training, then game in field, involving much dragging along of car tyres on rope.
As college admissions officers sift through thousands of application essays penned by eager-to-please high school seniors, they increasingly encounter writing that sparkles a bit too brightly or shows a poise and polish beyond the years of a typical teenager.
Read the rest of Peter Schworm's article here.
With the scramble to get into elite colleges at a fever pitch and with a rising number of educational consultants and college essay specialists ready to give students a competitive edge, admissions officers are keeping a sharp lookout for essays that might have had an undue adult influence. In some admissions offices, such submissions receive the dubious distinction DDI, short for "Daddy Did It."
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The camping was described as "challenging". By that they meant washing facilities were scarce and lavatories involved a shovel. If I didn't crash or lose the way, then I surely would be gored by a buffalo, savaged by a lion or fall into a long-drop.
But doubts were soon put to rest on our arrival in Arusha. With my chum, Patrick Drummond, an old Africa hand who was also filming the trip, I caught the twin-prop air shuttle to Kilimanjaro from Nairobi and then on to a charming lodge at Ngurdoto on the fringe of Arusha national park.
The next morning, over coffee at the base camp of African Environments, the ground handlers for Safari Drive, we were given an extensive briefing on our vehicle (a Land Rover Defender with roof-top tent), the equipment (including satellite phone and a GPS gadget), route and safety: "Never leave the tent after dark without extreme caution". They had no worries on that score - once I was in the tent there was no way I'd be venturing out till sunrise.
- Do everything to preserve your status by emphasizing symbols of prestige.
- Never compromise.
- Make irreversible decisions quickly.
- Always let others know when they're wrong.
- Don't be judgmental.
- Share your innermost feelings.
- Unleash your sarcastic wit.
- Pay attention to everything.
- Technical competence is everything.
- Focus solely on money.
- Ignore the money.
- Move slowly. You have plenty of time.
- Move quickly. Time is flying by.
- Most people wish you ill.
- No one wishes you ill.
- People expect and demand perfection at all times.
- Those who disagree are ignorant.
- Everybody does it.
- It's never your fault.
- It's always your fault.
- The one with the most toys wins.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Last Sunday, an art museum in Zurich, Switzerland, was robbed of four paintings worth $160 million. The crooks managed to overpower the staff at gunpoint shortly before closing time and make off with a Van Gogh, a Monet, a Degas, and a Cézanne, which were easily visible in the trunk of their fleeing car. Similar heists have taken place in other European museums in recent years. Why is it so easy to steal art in Europe?
Read the rest of Cyrus Farivar's article.
Smaller galleries and no guns. Europe has an especially high concentration of world-class art collections, many of which are housed in modest institutions. The art in Zurich was housed in a 19th-century villa, as opposed to a large-scale museum with a complicated entrance. Further, most security personnel in European museums aren't armed, mostly due to a culture of openness and trust, but also for reasons of expense and liability—you wouldn't want bullets flying around an enclosed space with lots of frightened tourists and precious objets d'art. While many galleries have alarms, guards, and other staff to prevent off-hour thefts, they don't always take precautions to avoid the most obvious scenario: armed criminals walking right through the front door.
American political junkies should check out the Politics 1 web site.
Sorry state? Some critics look at the state of American architecture in several large cities.
Gentler times: Audrey Hepburn and Moon River.
Worthless trivia: Which celebrity is the ideal call center representative?
Michael Knox Beran believes that calls for increased aid to Africa are part of the problem.
Forgery: Robert Fisk goes on a strange journey to discover the real author of a book about Saddam Hussein by ... Robert Fisk. [HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
At a lunch last year celebrating his 25th anniversary with Jyllands-Posten, Kurt Westergaard told an anecdote. During World War II Pablo Picasso met a German officer in southern France, and they got into a conversation. When the German officer figured out whom he was talking to he said:
"Oh, you are the one who created Guernica?" referring to the famous painting of the German bombing of a Basque town by that name in 1937.
Picasso paused for a second, and replied, "No, it wasn't me, it was you."
Read the rest of the article by Flemming Rose.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Forget about that "first come, first served" stuff.
More than one school is using an auction:
Earlier this semester, a student in an economics course at the University of Chicago tried to sell her spot online. It wasn't just any old economics course, though. The class was taught by Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the enormous best seller Freakonomics and as close to paparazzi-bait as a college professor is likely to get.
"How much is your education worth to you?!?" the ad asked. "E-mail me with your best offer."
The ad was removed soon after it came to the attention of university officials. A Chicago spokeswoman says the university "does not endorse" students' selling their seats in classes.
By contrast, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school actually encourages it. Wharton auctions spots to its M.B.A. students, allowing them to bid for their classes. They don't use real money; instead, students are each given 5,000 points when they enroll and 1,000 more for every credit they earn. An average course might sell for a few hundred points while the most sought-after ones can top 10,000.
It says as much about management as it does about history and Barnett's review of the various generals is riveting.
- A sizable percentage of our marketing doesn't work.
- Most departments have people who have retired on the job and at least one or two who are crazy.
- The boost from last year's motivational speaker evaporated by the time he reached the parking lot.
- The CEO tells everyone how important certain training is and then quietly slips out the door.
- People who are unreliable are rewarded with less work.
- The first-line supervisors know more about employment law than the folks in the executive suites.
- The HR Department is frequently regarded as more of an adversary than an ally.
- Middle managers are afraid to fire people.
- Frequent reorganizations are used to disguise poor management.
- Despite all of the hassles, most of us love our jobs.