Monday, June 30, 2008

David's Airline

Writing in The New Yorker, David Owen outlines the rules for his airline. An excerpt:

As always, tipping back in your seat is fifty dollars, payable to the person sitting behind you, unless you are sitting in front of me, in which case the charge begins at a hundred dollars and my permission is required. Ask nicely, and if we can agree on a figure I will ask a flight attendant to unlock your seat.

Music Argument Break: Top 10 Rock Albums

Cultural Offering has given us a bold and thought-provoking list of the 10 greatest rock albums.

Some other contenders for consideration: Layla by Derek and the Dominos; Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds; and Stranger in Town by Bob Seger.

Not to mention the hard rock tunes of Wayne Newton.

21 Ways to Get Attention

  1. Speak softly.

  2. Show up early.

  3. Think several steps ahead.

  4. Refrain from frequent praise.

  5. Don't tell others everything about yourself.

  6. Don't complain.

  7. Defend an underdog or a maverick.

  8. Use few words.

  9. Speak last.

  10. Speak slowly.

  11. Be reliable.

  12. Avoid fads.

  13. Be creative.

  14. Emphasize ethics.

  15. Avoid vulgarity.

  16. Go out of your way to be thoughtful.

  17. Remember names.

  18. Listen carefully to others.

  19. Read good books and listen to good music.

  20. Neither impose nor hide your religion.

  21. Be courageous.

Quote of the Day

Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought.

- Hazlett

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lessons from Foolishness

If I ever compile the lessons I've drawn from years of blunders, the multi-volumed work will include the following:

Beware of apples and oranges. False comparisons rest at the heart of most fallacious arguments. A great many of the examples assembled to support a point are not the same.

Do not underestimate the role of fatigue. Basic rule: when you are tired, you will make mistakes. Get some serious sleep.

Avoid vexatious people. This comes from a line in Desiderata and it is dead-on. The haters and trolls are not worth your time.

Slow down to appreciate the nature of your work and to enhance its quality. It is far more refreshing to be a craftsman than an assembly line worker.

Read a wide range of opinions and especially seek out those in disagreement with your beliefs. See if you can find something worthwhile in their reasoning.

Lower your expectations. If you expect others to be angels they will disappoint you. You should also have reasonable expectations for yourself.

Don't keep score as to who gets what. If you do, you'll frequently conclude that you were shortchanged.

Beware of what your job is doing to you. More people worry about what they eat in the morning than where they go in the morning. Consider whether your job is building you or destroying you.

Don't believe in magical solutions. We dream of elevators while trudging up stairs. We need to enjoy the climb, realize that we've arrived at the right floor, or move to another building.

The Good Old Days

The other day I was looking through Douglas D. Martin's chronology of Arizona history. Here are some of the events for 1884:

January 13: Black Canyon stage robbed near Gillett.
March 28: Five Bisbee bandits are hanged simultaneously at Tombstone from one gallows.
April 21: Black Canyon stage held up near Soap Springs.
June 1: Black Canyon stage held up and robbed.
October 18: Highwaymen rob travelers on Black Canyon road and hold up stage again.

Who says that travel hasn't improved around here?

Quote of the Day

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

- Thoreau

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Cool Tools has the details on the $50 and Up Underground House Book.

Only a Joke

It was only a joke. He'd quipped that a manager's personality couldn't trigger an electric door. Those who were present chuckled. The observation was, after all, true. That accuracy may caused the remark to circulate far beyond the initial group.

There is no evidence that the bland manager ever heard about witticism but some of the manager's friends did and, blandness aside, their buddy was pretty well liked so they made a mental note to return the favor some day.

It was a small example of how matters can get blown out of proportion. Knowing both men, I believe that if the bland manager had heard the comment, he would have laughed. He might not have appreciated the humor but he wouldn't have wanted it to affect the other guy's career. He also knows he's not in the running for any charisma awards.

Sometimes though the offended party is not the one who was targeted.

National Fans

The English striker Gary Lineker once said, "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."

Read the rest of Matthew Kaminski on Europe's bloodsport.


Guy Sorman explains why he loves his Kindle. An excerpt:

It so happens that I recently had to fly from New York to Seoul and back, in connection with the Korean release of one of my books (on paper, so far). What do you do on a 14-hour flight if you do not care for the mediocre movies that the airline offers? You read. But how many books can you pack in your carry-on luggage to keep you company on such an interminable journey? I ambitiously decided to read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which some pessimists consider a timely rediscovery for those living in the U.S. You can guess what comes next: yes, I downloaded Gibbon in seconds on my Kindle—all eight volumes—for a modest sum. Would Korean Air have accepted Gibbon’s eight volumes as carry-on luggage? Doubtful: he’s too heavy. While I did not make it through all of Gibbon during the trip, I could browse his thick volumes on my Kindle screen. I could even take notes and mark pages.

He also cites some negatives. I have become a major Kindle fan and share his frustration that some authors are not available. [No Bellow?] Nonethless, it is an amazing device.

10 Ways You'll Erode Trust

My post on 10 ways you'll erode trust is up at the U.S. News & World Report "Outside Voices" page.

Quote of the Day

Go very light on vices such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain't restful.

- Satchel Paige

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keeping the Dream

An ad campaign that captures the essence of being a Cubs fan.

Direct Action

One way to save part of the Everglades: buy it. Sort of a Nature Conservancy approach.

Lord Jim and Lost Honor

Here's a thought-provoking piece by Bret Stephens on an executive eluding trial by hiding in Namibia and some lessons that can be gleaned from Joseph Conrad.

Much to ponder there. A friend of mine once wondered how people could have known their fate and still stayed in the Alamo. The answer for many of them may have been that they knew something worst would have happened to them had they fled. Lord Jim's greatest flaw may have been his inability to forgive himself and yet one of his greatest virtues could be that he did not easily do so.

The Computer Meeting

I'm convinced that a conversation similar to the following took place at one time in the computer business:

"Okay, the design looks functional enough. The darned thing is even attractive, in a rather sterile way, but aren't you making it too simple?"

"Ah yes. We understand your concern, but turn it around and check out the back."

"It's a mass of wires going every which way."


"The average user won't have any real idea as to which wire should go where. It looks like a fire hazard."

"We know. At one point a team member suggested color-coding and simplication. We fired him. He went to work for a rogue outfit in California."

'This is fantastic. It will keep our customers frustrated, confused, and in awe of our expertise. But what if they click for Help?"

"That's the real beauty of the process. Here, read one of our explanations."

"Let's see. Jargon. Unexplained abbreviations. Numbers. They won't be able to sort this out. The damned thing is like another language!"

"Some of us wanted to use Esperanto but we felt that might be too insulting. Instead, we've adopted a vocabulary that the average person won't possess. Any steps that might be logical to an outsider have been jettisoned."

"I take it that the Joe or Jane on the street has not been consulted?"

"Ah, there you are wrong. We did bring in some outsiders for a focus group, but only so we could retain the most confusing segments. That saved us from slipping into clarity."

"That's fantastic. What's next?"

"We charge them for technical support."

Quote of the Day

Management is 85% of the problem.

- W. Edwards Deming

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Step Back, Geezers

There are some brilliant humorists hidden in the most unlikely places. This comment was to a post by G.L. Hoffman at the U.S. News & World Report Outside Voices section on "How to Manage an Office Full of 20-Somethings":

I am a 20-something and you just need to realize that you are all old and wrinkled and outdated and we are the ones with fresh new ideas so you shuld repect that. and we are used to staying in touch with our friends and peer group and parents so we can stay in touch and it's not fair for you to ask us to turn it off durig the workday. i'm not hapy at my current job but am looking for a new one to find bosses who will pay me what i am worth because i have a college degree and probably know all the latest trends in the business world more than the other people at my job. i do think its a good idea for the old timers to learn the currnet social networks or step back so we can. i could teach them a few things, I bet.

Role Models, Questions, and Happiness

You may recall Arnold Schwarzenegger's formula for becoming governor of California: to form a mental picture of everything a successful candidate would do and then do it.

A collection of questions may arise in other endeavors. "What would Jesus do?" is asked by many Christians when considering daily spiritual guidance. A simple dieting question is, "What and how much would a thin person eat?" Employees are often urged to consider "How would my actions look if described on the front page of the newspaper?"

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl suggested pretending that you've already done something and then asking yourself how you would feel. That's not a bad question but it may not sufficiently distinguish between how we'll feel immediately after the event and how we'll feel a day later. As Dennis Prager notes in his book on happiness, there is a difference between happiness and fun. Many activities may be fun in the short-term but they won't bring happiness.

And perhaps that's one of the many rubs: sorting out the daily struggle between short-term and long-term interests. A short-term pack of wolves nips at our heels while the long-term bear hibernates. Eventually, of course, the bear will awaken and pay us a visit.

We then learn that we should have given him far more attention.

Humor Break

Writing in City Journal, Stefan Kanfer reviews Jim Holt's Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes. An excerpt:

Other times it aims higher: “In some languages,” said the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin, “a double negative yields an affirmative. In other languages, a double negative yields a more emphatic negative. Yet, curiously enough, I know of no language, either natural or artificial, in which a double affirmative yields a negative.”

“Suddenly, from the back of the hall, in a round Brooklyn accent, came the comment, ‘Yeah, yeah.’”

Quote of the Day

Betterness comes in all magnitudes, but it is not likely to come in any sustainable portion if unsustainable efforts are wrongly urged on the organization. What is surely unhealthful is to invite raging evangelists periodically to whip people into believing the latest fast fixes.

- Theodore Levitt

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Project Kansas

Damn Interesting has the story on one of the most highly publicized blunders in American corporate history.

Many of you will recall the passionate response it unleashed. But was it really a blunder or was it a calculated move?

Johnny Bunko was a Rebel

I'm going to withhold judgment on this unusual career advice book [admirable self-restraint] until it hits more than ten weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List.

Which it probably will.


The committee members were so baffled by the computer jargon used by the techies that they agreed one member would periodically ask, "Can you put that in plain English?"

The approach may have been simple and yet it worked. Most of us have the tendency to slide into language that shoots past many in our audience. That's why the expert who can translate the complicated or specialized into easy to understand terminology is so appreciated.

It's not talking down to people; it's talking to them rather than at them.

Professional jargon is an obvious danger but so too is any reference based on an experience or interest your audience might not share. Military and sports terms are prime sources of confusion but so too are fashion and literary references. Have you ever been frustrated by a writer who uses a quotation in another language and doesn't provide a translation?

That person may have a priority but clear communication isn't one of them. The unclear use of jargon is not quite as bad but it can run a close second.

The Croc named Mugabe

If you want a break from business books, a fascinating perspective on life in an impossible environment is When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin.

It is particularly insightful due to the current news about dictator Robert Mugabe's squelching of free elections in Zimbabwe.

Quote of the Day

No one can be right all of the time, but it helps to be right most of the time.

- Robert Half

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Stanley Bing on what four dollar-plus gas is doing to Los Angeles:

I rented a car at LAX and took the 10 into town. It was clear sailing the whole way. Yesterday, I went to the office and it took me ten minutes. There was a minor hangup at one traffic light. And then, this morning, I made a trip that used to take me an hour… in eight minutes. It was creepy. It was like the early scenes in an apocalyptic movie. The fluid road stretched out before me, and my rented Avalon cut through it like a hot shark through the overly warm Pacific. And now I’m here, with time to kill.

I've noticed a similar reduction in traffic in Phoenix. More bus riders. More scooters. A lot more telecommuting. The accountant in the office next door comes in on a Segway a few days a week.


The On the Verge Tribe

It has taken me many years to discover the On the Verge tribe. My excuse is they are disguised and hidden in our midst.

Members of the tribe may be spotted by their tendency to surface certain topics when you are just on the verge of taking action. For example, these are classic On the Verge revelations:

  • Just before you walk into the board meeting, the On the Verge team member will note that the statistics in your report aren't "quite accurate."
  • Shortly before you depart for the weekend, the On the Verger will casually mention the deadline that was supposed to be two weeks from now has been moved to Monday.
  • Few vacations will ever begin without an On the Verger passing along a rumor that the boss is planning to reorganize the department.
  • The project that the team has worked on for months and is about to roll out will receive an extra dosage of stress when an On the Verge team member notes that he felt from the beginning it wouldn't work because of strong opposition from a crucial, but hitherto unmentioned, source.

When confronted, tribal members usually resort to one response: "I thought you knew." This ingenius defense mechanism, which does not require a blowgun, can paralyze their victims with self-doubt and spark extended analysis of whether or not the withheld information should in fact have been discerned.

That is a psychological trap from which few emerge.


In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one’s time; it was a mark of intelligence. “This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”

Read the rest of Christine Rosen on the myth of multitasking. An excerpt:

[HT: Andrew Sullivan ]

Quote of the Day

When a man is happy he does not hear the clock strike.

- German proverb

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Next Car? Perhaps an Ox

This electric car from Norway is looking better all the time. I think they are grossly underestimating the market for these. An excerpt from Business Week:

An electrified people's car for the 21st century, the Ox is a preview of Think's next-generation production vehicle, due out in 2011. Roughly the size of a Toyota (TM) Prius, the Ox can travel between 125 and 155 miles before needing a recharge, and zips from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 8.5 seconds. Its lithium-ion batteries can be charged to 80% capacity in less than an hour, and slender solar panels integrated into the roof power the onboard electronics. Inside, the hatchback includes a bevy of high-tech gizmos such as GPS navigation, a mobile Internet connection, and a key fob that lets drivers customize the car's all-digital dashboard. Pricing has yet to be announced, but the company's current vehicles cost less than $25,000.

The Surveys on Anti-Americanism

Fouad Ajami is skeptical of the poll results on anti-Americanism. An excerpt:

I grew up in the Arab world in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and anti-Americanism was the standard political language – even for those pining for American visas and green cards. Precious few took this seriously. The attraction to the glamorous, distant society was too strong in the Beirut of my boyhood.

It is no different today in Egypt or Pakistan. And what people tell pollsters who turn up in their midst with their clipboards? In Hosni Mubarak's tyranny, anti-Americanism is the permissible safety valve for Egyptians unable to speak of their despot. We stand between Pharaoh and his frustrated people, and the Egyptians railing against America are giving voice to the disappointment that runs through their life and culture. Scapegoating and anti-Americanism are a substitute for a sober assessment of what ails that old, burdened country.

Telling the Market How to Think

It can be very tempting to tell the market how to think.

I've frequently seen this in the area of managment consulting. The clients should want this and should prefer that but they don't. They have their reasons.

A meeting with the president of a firm that had shot from miniscule to international within just a few years has never left me. After I gave my usual sage advice about a particular project, he replied, "You know, that's good guidance. That's exactly what I would have said in my days as a lawyer. But this is why I want to handle it differently." He then outlined an approach that made enormous sense from a managerial standpoint. In my eagerness to push a particular strategy, I had looked past his concerns.

The different perspective of the market does not mean that the market is far-sighted or even correct but that it has its own logic and those of us with products and services to sell have to set our ego aside and pay attention to that logic.

This old problem recently arose in another setting. A community group has operated with the perspective that it needs to reach young people in order to shed a "senior citizen" image. Programs and publicity campaigns have been designed to reach a younger crowd. What has been missed is that the market has been shouting, "Older people are going to be more interested in your services. Why not aim at them?" The group has ignored the most receptive portion of its market because of a notion of what the market should be rather than what the market is. With a more realistic adjustment, it will reap much better results.

You may have similar scenarios in your business. Our biases can lead us onto treacherous trails when a smooth and grassy path is nearby.

Quote of the Day

The difference between journalism and literature is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.

- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Robert Palmer Break

Back by popular demand:

The late and great Robert Palmer with Addicted to Love and Simply Irresistible.

Choosing Your "Character"

Roy Robins has an inspired answer to the question, "If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose?"

I'm still thinking about that one.

Racial Attitudes

Writing in Commentary, Linda Chavez calls for an honest conversation about race. An excerpt:

A single statistic tells the tale. As against the 10 percent or fewer of American whites who hold negative views of blacks, the same mid-1990’s survey of intergroup attitudes cited above registered over three-quarters of blacks holding negative views of whites. To be sure, not all studies report such negative findings; nor do pollsters try, at least directly, to measure black attitudes toward whites as frequently as they do the reverse. But the handful of surveys that have indirectly probed black attitudes reveals a depressing and, as we shall see, indicative pattern.

Surviving the Unthinkable: Denial and Deliberation

John Robb reviews Amanda Ripley's book on surviving disaster. An excerpt:

Denial keeps you from realizing that you are in danger. It’s rooted in bad risk assessment, overconfidence, and a lack of relevant experience. Bouts with denial can delay your response, as Ripley illustrates through the testimony of Elia Zedeno, who relates her painfully slow escape from the 73rd floor of Tower One on September 11. Once you realize the extent of the peril, though, fear might take over. Deliberation requires overcoming fear to regain the ability to think clearly. Ripley tells the story of U.S. Ambassador Diego Asencio, taken hostage by armed assault on the Dominican Republic’s embassy in Bogota, Colombia. His experience put him through Ripley’s survival arc, and it was only through a period of “self-talk”—in which he realized that he was more worried about dishonorable conduct than death—that he overcame his mind-numbing fear. Asencio’s initial passivity is also common among groups. Contrary to popular understanding, group behavior during disasters is rarely panic-driven, but more often extremely docile and overly polite. Getting a group to respond and act effectively often requires aggressive behavior, like barking orders.

Top Five on Sailing

Sir Robin Knox-Johnson gives his top five list of books about sailing.

Quote of the Day

When my horse is running good, I don't stop to give him sugar.

- William Faulkner

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Travel Break: Istanbul

Nick Trend takes us to Topkapi Palace and explores the harem. An excerpt:

Did the sultan flick his handkerchief at his girl of choice for each night? Possibly. Did some have strange proclivities which tended in the dark and dreadful way that our guide seemed to be implying? I’m not sure I really want to know. But Sultan Ibrahim I, who died in 1648, certainly seems to have had an obsession with finding more and more obese women, and is rumoured to have ordered the drowning of his entire harem of 280 girls on a whim.

Conflicting Traits

Is it possible to suffer from impatience and procrastination?

Speaking strictly from personal experience I can assure you that it is. I combine massive impatience with sizable amounts of sloth. They wrestle like bear cubs on the field of my nature until one eventually pins the other.

Each brings its benefits and that fact may explain why so many of us are not simply one theme, one approach, one strategy, but many. Think of yourself or your own circle of friends and associates. Have you not witnessed:

Sarcasm and kindness?

Sensitivity and cruelty?

Openmindedness and intolerance?

Creativity and rigidity?

Passion and indifference?

And, of course, the old duo of intelligence and stupidity.

Perhaps these combinations serve as safety switches to prevent the excesses of any single trait. At least I hope so.

That sounds so much better than acknowledging that perhaps we're just strange.

Quote of the Day

LSD? Nothing much happened but I did get the distinct impression that some birds were trying to communicate with me.

- W. H. Auden

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tackle This!

John Phillips, who lives and breathes employment law, points out a daring and unique approach to sensitivity training.

Thank You for Your E-Mail Message

Thank you so much for the intriguing e-mail message.

You will receive a detailed response as soon as I [check one]:

  • Understand why it was sent to me;

  • Forward it to 12 other people;

  • Retrieve it from the company's attorney once the harassment investigation has concluded;

  • Decipher the jargon/abbreviations;

  • Get rid of the attached virus;

  • Develop a taste for coarse humor;

  • Figure out a way to waste your time.

Novel Approach

My U.S. News & World Report post this week is on the workplace wisdom that can be found in fiction.

Password Irritation

Just got a notice from an employment law newsletter regarding a report that comes free as part of my subscription. I've subscribed to the newsletter for years and so have been under the delusion that they sort of know me.

I click on the free download and am then prompted/required to enter my password. For some odd reason, I have not chosen to memorize that password along with around 15 others that are only used occasionally. I'll dig it out at some point over the next week or so in order to get the report.

No doubt the content of the report will be fine but I'm wondering why they could not have simply sent it to the subscribers without requiring a password in order for it to be downloaded. I send documents to my clients without requiring an extra step in the downloading process. What should have been a moment of great convenience has become one of frustration.

Am I missing something here?

Is Himmler on the Postcard?

When personalized customer service goes a bit too far.

Unabomber Papers

David Gelernter on the latest exchanges in court regarding the Unabomber.

Our Most Important Daily Task

The most important daily task is not to complete one great project, but to refrain from doing harm. Our five paces forward will be lessened or destroyed if we also take four or six paces backwards.

This danger grows because we don't measure such swings every day. If we did so, we might be spurred into corrective action. Instead, we rush forward with our attention focused solely on whether or not we are achieving the positives and miss the extent to which we are accumulating what will eventually be a heavy and possibly lethal load of negatives. Many days, we make no progress at all because our time has been consumed by activities that simply restore the status quo.

That is why a realistic study of achievement must include self-discipline. We would do well to reduce our analysis of others and devote more time to understanding the mystery that is ourselves.

Quote of the Day

British military historian Sir Michael Howard wrote, "I am tempted to say that whatever doctrine the armed forces are working on now, they have got it wrong. I am also tempted to declare that it does not matter.... What does matter is their ability to get it right quickly, when the moment arrives." Howard was exactly right. As we, the leaders, deal with tomorrow, our task is not to try to make perfect plans. It is not possible to make perfect plans, but we will not be held to a standard of clairvoyance. Our task is to create organizations that are sufficiently flexible and versatile that they can take our imperfect plans and make them work in execution. That is the essential character of the learning organization.

- Gordon R. Sullivan and Michael V. Harper, Hope Is Not a Method

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Snares in the Agenda

Pretend that you are about to conduct a board meeting. Which of the following motions will eat up most of the time?

  1. To remove reserved parking spaces for board members.
  2. To spend $1,200,000 on a research study.
  3. To change the organization's slogan from "Making You Glad" to "Making You Happy."

[If you answered 1 and 3, you understand the psychology of committees. If your answer was 2, you are far too rational.]

First Impressions

One of my strongest friendships grew out of an argument.

I was advising an organization on discrimination issues and the attorney was to prepare a department's defense.We both had a completely different take on an individual case. We parried for a while and the meeting ended with each of us convinced the other was wrong. Friendship seemed unlikely at that point.

Fortunately, our responsibilities forced us to work together and we eventually became allies and then friends. I suspect it was because we both left the door open to friendship.

You don't always get that chance. I knew one person who would dramatically and unfairly sever ties with people. Once the declaration was made, the offending party was deemed beyond the pale. Given the unreasonableness of the judgment, I doubt if the relationship was missed.

There are also those strange occasions when one just flat-out dislikes another and the reason is difficult to discern. ["I do not like thee, Dr. Fell. The reason why I cannot tell. But this I know and know quite well. I do not like thee, Dr. Fell"]

I once strongly recommended a man for a job and then learned, from several reliable sources, that the fellow hated me. I have no idea why and still have fairly warm feelings toward the man. Perhaps at some point I was unfair or sarcastic but I honestly can't think of the occasion; in fact, I still recommended him for the job since I saw no reason why his animosity toward me should have any bearing on the selection.

Those odd instances, of course, show the deceptive nature of first impressions. One of Joni Mitchell's songs has a line about people who come up the hills from all around you, making up your memories and thinking that they've found you. It can be stunning to learn of the assumptions that others hold about your background and opinions. That should encourage us to exercise some restraint with our own assumptions.

Quote of the Day

It's probably a bad idea to ask how much anyone gets out of a book. ("None of us," writes Ned Rorem, "can ever know how even our closest friends hear music.") The question is especially complicated when applied to the young. I think of myself at nineteen reading Proust. What was going through my mind? Probably chiefly delight at the notion of myself reading Proust. When young, one does a great deal of reading that, if one is going to be among that small portion of people who go on to take books seriously, will have to be done again.

- Joseph Epstein

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Water as the New Oil

Business Week raises another subject for us to worry about: water.

[Having grown up in Arizona, I've heard about water issues all of my life. My grandfather, a cotton farmer, used "waterstealingcalifornians" as one word. Of course, the farmers in California had their own version regarding Arizonans.] An excerpt from the article:

If water is the new oil, T. Boone Pickens is a modern-day John D. Rockefeller. Pickens owns more water than any other individual in the U.S. and is looking to control even more. He hopes to sell the water he already has, some 65 billion gallons a year, to Dallas, transporting it over 250 miles, 11 counties, and about 650 tracts of private property. The electricity generated by an enormous wind farm he is setting up in the Panhandle would also flow along that corridor. As far as Pickens is concerned, he could be selling wind, water, natural gas, or uranium; it's all a matter of supply and demand. "There are people who will buy the water when they need it. And the people who have the water want to sell it. That's the blood, guts, and feathers of the thing," he says.

Freedom 101

Consultant, author, blogger, and professor Nicholas Bate gives us 101 things to ponder in Freedom 101.

And once we're done pondering, he'll tell us to put our thoughts into action.

If Studio Execs Rewrote Movies

Hollywood is known for rewrites of classic stories. While the creative department can sometimes completely distort the original tale, consider how the scripts would look if studio executives revised various roles.

Captain Bligh in "Mutiny on the Bounty." While on a cruise, your ungrateful staff has turned psycho and you're set adrift in a lifeboat with a few loyalists. You manage to survive on the Atkins Diet for several weeks but later find civilization, a size 29 waist, and the comforting knowledge that some day those ungrateful swine will swing from the gallows. It's payback time.

Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." Your evil nephew has been poisoning the morale of your hitherto holiday-obsessed but reasonably loyal clerk, Bob Cratchit, and persuading him to destroy office supplies (e.g. coal). Although you have not fired Cratchit out of fear that his wrongful discharge case might gain sympathy from a jury due to the shameless antics of a disabled relative, your decision may have been unwise. Shivering with fear in the darkness of your humble home, you are beginning to suspect someone has slipped hallucinogenic drugs into your evening gruel. Suddenly, there is a pounding at the door.

Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind." Your business stopped using slaves due to an abrupt change in the labor laws but then started using prisoners. You've had two husbands who conveniently died and your third husband is a former smuggler who consorts with prostitutes. Your stock has dropped and your public image needs a make-over. While you are in the middle of an executive briefing on outsourcing, your agent rushes in and breathlessly announces that a Mr. Larry King, who was a year ahead of you in school, wants to schedule an interview.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Where's Audrey Hepburn? Rogue outfits at Royal Ascot.

Cultural Offering notes the bizarre logic behind a judicial power grab.

Wally Bock on the need for downtime.

Tim Berry outlines how to create a habit.

YouTube is experimenting with full length video.

Beautiful planes: Donald at 2Blowhards visits the Air Force Museum.

Must reading: Robert Samuelson on learning from the oil shock.

Revisionist history: Victor Davis Hanson and Pat Buchanan. [My take: Hanson wins.]

Kevin Kelly at Cool Tools lists books that changed his life. [And provides a photo of his library!]

Quote of the Day

The first and great commandment is don't let them scare you.

- Elmer Davis

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Culture Break: Berlioz

Berlioz, Roman Carnival Overture.

Need I say more?

Food for Thought: Chesterton 101

From The American Chesterton Society web site, a series of lectures. An excerpt:

Chesterton does not write merely to amuse; he amuses to make a point. And the point is never as light and airy as it first appears. It doesn't seem like much to learn that the purpose of lying in bed is that it should have no purpose. There should be no excuse for it, no reason, no justification. So? So this: our simple pleasures should not be connected to a regimen or some scheme, or worst of all, to a habit. Moreover, our simple pleasures - like lying in bed - should not be denied for something over-rated like excessive wealth or even excessive health. These are secondary things. They are not the primary things. It is the primary things which have been ignored, and the secondary things which have been emphasized all out of proportion. "If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals," says Chesterton, "it is the modern strengthening of minor morals. Thus it is considered more withering to accuse a man of bad taste than of bad ethics. Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made an essential and godliness is regarded as an offence." Chesterton can see from a century ago that the world was headed to a time when smoking a cigar would be considered more offensive than performing an abortion.

Skim Trend?

Writing in the First Things blog, Nathaniel Peters examines the question of whether the Internet is affecting not only what we think but how we think.

I purposely mix my Internet scans with slow reading. It all depends upon the material. Some writers can and should be read quickly. Dickens, Faulkner, and Shakespeare, however, have to be read slowly in order to be appreciated and, in Faulkner's case, to be understood; in fact, sitting on a front porch and sipping a cool drink might help with Faulkner.

Russert's Advice

Some great career advice from Tim Russert, journalist extraordinaire:

More seriously, he added, "Look, you just have to get out there and do it." Russert took in the swarm of people on Lexington Avenue and asked "Where are you from, son?"

"Bucks County, Pennsylvania," I said. Russert gestured to the people rushing by. "All of these folks," he said, "don't let them intimidate you. When I first started working for Pat Moynihan, I thought all of these Ivy League guys were ahead of me, that I could never catch up. Then Senator Moynihan took me aside one day, when I told him I didn't think I had it in me to compete in the big leagues, and he said, 'Tim, what they know, you can learn. What you know, they'll never understand.'"

Quote of the Day

The greatest enemy of communication is the illusion of it.

- Pierre Martineau

Monday, June 16, 2008


The executive entered the meeting and listened to the representative of an interest group. The representative was a demagogue and several times in the course of the hour was caught distorting facts. As the meeting progressed, the executive began to place distance between himself and the employees who had to deal with the representative. By the end of the meeting, it was clear that he had sold them out.

In doing so, he destroyed his credibility. If he'd taken his position as the result of inadequate information or because one of the employees had behaved inappropriately, that would have been a different matter. The key factor was he was aware of exactly what he was doing and everyone else, including the demagogue, knew that. His behavior was a profile in cowardice.

There was another reason for the executive's conduct. He knew that the employees could not harm him but the demagogue might.

I'm sure that every employee there was aware of the distinction. I'm equally certain that they never forgot the lesson.

Waiting to be Appointed

I believe it was David Maraniss who wrote about Boomers who would dearly love to be appointed to the U.S. Senate but are unwilling to dedicate the time needed to get elected to that body.

So it goes with many positions. We would love to be dropped via helicopter into the status and the power. If that feat were performed many of us would serve capably. It is the process that is repellant. As Oscar Wilde said of socialism, it would take too many evenings.

Nelson Rockefeller prepared for the presidency by studying issues. Richard Nixon both studied the issues and spent time listening to precinct captains in Iowa. You know which one got his party's nomination.

Gaining appointments is no easier. True, there are some who luck into certain slots but your usual appointee did more than submit a letter of interest. Hidden behind many appointments is an intensive campaign of persuasion. Sammy Glick has an advantage over Mr. Smith because Sammy's dedicated to promoting himself.

This may not be pretty but it is all too real. Whenever you admire the merchandise, be sure to check the price tag.

Location Location

Business Week has a slide show on whether you are in the best city for your job.

I was surprised by the relatively low salaries in New York City.

Quote of the Day

A Penthouse study recently found that one quarter of American men would seriously consider swapping five years of their lives for a healthy head of hair. It further reported that men fantasize more about having good hair than they do about women. (I would question the latter finding were it not for the distinguished reputation enjoyed by the Penthouse Institute in the research community.)

- Bill Geist, The Big Five-Oh!, 1997

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mind the Boat

I made an attempt in 1983, but the weather got very rough, the boat hit me twice, and emotionally I wasn't as strong as I should have been. So when the boat pilot said, "You're doing very well, all the other swimmers have quit," that didn't encourage me. I thought, "I've beaten them." And I climbed up the ladder into the boat. I'd swum 18 miles and had only five to go. In 1986, my boat hit a sandbar and I stood up 400 yards from France. [Authorities ruled that attempt fell short of the full channel crossing.] I went back and did it three weeks later. So legally, I'm in the books as having done it once.

Read the rest of the interview with the 70-year-old who plans to swim the English Channel.

Ethics on Campus

Noted employment attorney John Phillips examines an ethics scandal at West Virginia University. An excerpt:

A scandal began brewing at WVU when the daughter of the Governor of West Virginia ( a former classmate of the WVU president) was retroactively given an MBA after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that WVU had no record of the degree claimed on the daughter’s resume. The daughter complained to the president, who assigned a review of the matter to college administrators. They eventually granted the degree, after giving the Governor’s daughter credit for classes she didn’t take.

The plot thickens and John notes the ethically challenged nature of universities.

Men and Depression

Rowan Manahan, who is a braver man than I, on why men are rarely depressed. Some samples:

All phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.

You know stuff about tanks and engines.

A five-day holiday requires only one suitcase.

You can open all your own jars.

You get extra credit for even the slightest act of thoughtfulness.

Your underwear is €10.00 for a three-pack.

Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.

Finding a Pace

A daily challenge is to find a pace when our normal, and not undesirable, pattern is to work in spurts.

A pace implies an even flow but that is not how our days go. We focus and produce and then do otherwise. The latter is not necessarily goofing off; it is simply doing otherwise, taking our minds off of the activity in order to restore them or to muster whatever is needed to focus once again.

We seek an even speed while applying the brake at certain points. We schedule our work hours when it might be wiser to set our non-work periods. That could well be more accurate.

Perhaps work is not something we escape from, but something we escape to.

Quote of the Day

I think the reward for conformity is everyone likes you except yourself.

- Rita Mae Brown

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Five on Cities

Pete Hamill gives his top five list of books about cities.

[I'd add Hemingway's A Movable Feast.]

Conversation with a Troll

She makes a point of meeting weekly with each of her direct reports.

Oh, one of those micromanagers! I know the type.

No, she's doesn't meddle but is genuinely interested in finding out about their operations.

She must not trust them.

She trusts them, but she wants them to know if there is any way she can make their jobs easier.

Are you ever naive. She's just trying to get dirt on them.

Not so. She's a big believer in servant leadership.

That's a scam. None of those management types care about their employees.

Don't be ridiculous. I've known many managers who've stood up for their team members.

Right. Only because it was in their best interest to do so.

So if they don't stand up, they're uncaring and if they do so, they're manipulative?

That's about right.

Would you do that if you were in management?

Sure. Only a sucker would fail to look out for #1. You don't know these characters like I do.

Perhaps not, but I've just learned quite a bit about you.

Quote of the Day

We should consider every day lost in which we have not danced at least once.

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Road

I realize that reading about a post-nuclear war world is not everyone's idea of an enjoyable time, but Cormac McCarthy's The Road is extraordinarily good and even uplifting. It is a tale of a father's effort to protect his young son and maintain decency amid a whirlwind of madness and cruelty. Beautifully written. Absolutely outstanding.

Google Goes PC

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed Google's tendency to ignore certain holidays.

Old America, New America

Peggy Noonan sees the presidential race as one between Old America and New America.

21 Ways Bright Ideas Are Squelched

  1. We don't have time for any new approaches.
  2. Can we just focus on what's in front of us?
  3. Let's stick to the knitting.
  4. Don't fix what ain't broken.
  5. Don't be an egghead.
  6. The boss wants something that's tried and true.
  7. We can't afford to be creative.
  8. Just meet the deadline.
  9. That's not a "best practice."
  10. We'd be laughed out of the office.
  11. I'm not dedicating any resources to that.
  12. And just when would that turn a profit?
  13. If you know what's good for you, drop it.
  14. Submit it to the committee.
  15. If that approach was any good at all, someone would have already done it.
  16. That sounds way too simple.
  17. That's outside your area of expertise.
  18. Is anyone else supporting this?
  19. You're moving too quickly.
  20. They'll never buy it upstairs.
  21. Let's wait until somebody else does it.

Quote of the Day

The vice presidency is sort of like the last cookie on the plate. Everybody insists he won't take it, but somebody always does.

- Bill Vaughan

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Miscellaneous and Fast

A novel a week and 10,000 women: the work of mystery writer George Simenon. [HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

Eclecticity reminds me that I need to raise my training fees.

Ed Driscoll quotes
an expert on unfair campaign coverage.

Rowan Manahan and some guy named Peters
on personal branding.

A twist on the Johnny Appleseed concept,
only this time with a bike. [HT: Guy Kawasaki ]

It's a grand time to be in the car business: Bob Nardelli talks about Chrysler.

Cultural Offering points us to
the ten most worthless college degrees. [I like English Lit and Philosophy!]

Rip Torn
gets a bum rap.

Liz Wolgemuth on how to be indispensible to Steven Spielberg.

Daniel Henninger looks at who is drilling for oil...and who isn't.

When Every Problem is a Nail

Christina Hoff Sommers on the gender-equity hammer. An excerpt:

The feminist reformers acknowledge that few science departments are guilty of overt discrimination. They claim, however, that subtle, invisible "unconscious bias" is discouraging talented aspiring women. Therefore, the major focus of the equity movement is to transform the academic culture itself--to make it more attractive to women by rendering science less stressful, less competitive and less time consuming. Debra Rolison, a senior research chemist at the Pentagon's Naval Research Laboratory and a leader of the equity campaign, describes the typical university chemistry department as "brutal to people who want to do something besides chemistry around-the-clock." MIT biologist and equity-activist Nancy Hopkins says that contemporary science "is a system where winning is everything, and women find it repulsive." Kathie Olsen, deputy director of the National Science Foundation, draws the revolutionary conclusion, "Our goal is to transform, institution by institution, the entire culture of science and engineering in America, and to be inclusive of all--for the good of all." To this end, the National Science Foundation has launched a multi-million dollar grant program, called ADVANCE, devoted to "institutional transformation" through gender-sensitivity workshops, interactive theater and the like. ADVANCE is well named: it is the advance guard, softening up the hard sciences for the coming of Title IX enforcement.

The Search for Predictability

I once read about a pizza parlor that advertised in the local neighborhood by leaving coupons door-to-door. It also had a Yellow Pages ad. That was pretty much the sum of the marketing strategy. When business dipped, they ordered up another batch of coupons and got them out to the folks. Every time they did that, their business picked up.

In short, they'd mastered how to create a customer.

If only all business were so simple. People wonder why business owners run useless ads here and there, ads that border on the desperate, and the answer is, of course, the businesses don't know if the ads are useless. They suspect that many of them are a waste of money but no one, not even Seth Godin, can say for sure. Like the oil company executive who said his company's secret is, "We drill more wells," business owners figure no one really knows what will trigger the consumer's Must Buy signal so they try a bit of this and a bit of that. What reached the customers last year will be ignored by them the next.

I recall developing a workshop on disability rights with the knowledge that a major change in the law was coming and employers would want to get supervisors trained in its nuances so they'd be ready when the new statute kicked in. I couldn't give the thing away. Two years later, it was one of my most popular classes. I forgot that sometimes urgency has a lag time. A similar experience has surfaced with harassment prevention training. It is a large part of our training now but, if experience is any guide, will begin to slip in a year or two and then will nudge up again.

The search for predictability is a quest for the Holy Grail. In some areas, it works. Write an affirmative action plan for a client this year and odds are they'll be back next year when it expires. With items that don't have a roll-over or expiration date, however, matters are far more complicated and once the secret has been found, it must never, ever be lost.

After all, not everything is as compelling as pizza.


From David Robinson's review of Maggie Jackson's book, Distracted:

Mr. Seligman and Ms. Duckworth turned their attention to eighth-graders, surveying the students about their habits and drawing on the reports of teachers and parents as well. They found that students' purported level of self-control – their willingness to delay gratification – proved "twice as predictive as IQ" when it came to "final grades, selection into a competitive high school, hours spent doing homework, hours spent not watching television, and time of day at which homework was begun." Yet for every article about self-discipline and academic achievement in the PsychInfo database, an online exchange for research papers, there are more than 10 about achievement and intelligence.

Quote of the Day

I realized then that we never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace.

- Peggy Tabor Millin

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cultural Surrender

Bruce Bawer, writing in City Journal, sees gradual surrender to intimidation by terrorists. An excerpt:

The cultural jihadists have enjoyed disturbing success. Two events in particular—the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam’s oppression of women, and the global wave of riots, murders, and vandalism that followed a Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed—have had a massive ripple effect throughout the West. Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology—which teaches us to belittle our freedoms and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive—people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions. These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis—infidels living in Muslim societies.

Tech Probs

FYI: I'm using a hammer and chisel on Blogger today to get posts up.

Ditch the Cockatoo

Anne Fisher examines 13 dumb job interview moves.

Where to Hunt

I was in a meeting with a very wise man. We were discussing the elements of a rather complicated project; a pioneering one with possibilities and drawbacks.

Most of our discussion revolved around how to make the various stages work. The more we explored those, the more complicated the project appeared. It was at that point when he looked up, winced, and slowly described how the goal might be achieved through the use of some existing channels rather than chopping a rough path through a rainforest.

The simplicity and beauty of his approach reminded me of an old management maxim:

If you want to go hunting, start at the zoo.

Book Review: Escape from Corporate America

Escape from Corporate America by Pamela Skillings is a practical and amusing guide for those who are seeking a new career.

The book is an easy and enjoyable read, mainly because it combines interesting anecdotes from a variety of industries with clear, to-the-point advice on the likely suspects of any frustrated worker's dreams. Employees who feel trapped in their jobs will see section after section that speaks to them, addresses their fears, and outlines avenues of escape.

The recognition of the fear factor (e.g., the section on "Worst Case Scenarios and Bag Lady Fantasies") is one of the book's major strengths because it tackles one of the prime reasons why people stay in jobs they hate.

If you are a frustrated worker and considering a career change, some time with Ms. Skillings's book will be time well spent.


Get ready for We're probably going to be seeing a lot more sites like this.

Quote of the Day

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

- Earl Wilson

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Silent Killer

The greatest competitor for many businesses isn't some other company but instead is inertia; the tendency of the potential customer to do nothing. You may offer a marvelous product or service and your marketing will run up against the wall of Things are Good Enough that stands in the other person's mind.

Likewise, in the workplace itself, rests the danger of Indifference. The employee relations problems that can sink the effectiveness of teams do not stem from turf building and miscommunication but from indifference to the mission or to individual responsibilities. That attitude produces the other problems. Other goals are given such priority that the crucial ones are not consciously abandoned; they aren't given serious consideration at all.

Indifference is a silent killer that saps energy and destroys passion. It should be rooted out with the same vigor used against other dysfunctional attitudes. The effective performance of jobs requires certain levels of enthusiasm, commitment, and urgency. Those levels are not too much to demand of others and of ourselves. The individual who cannot meet them will not contribute to the team.

Quote of the Day

We can't all do everything.

- Virgil

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dangerous Praise

We may sense that giving praise can be dangerous but then we quickly dismiss such fears by thinking, "It's praise. Who can object to something favorable?"

And that is where we first err. Praise, when mishandled, can be as cutting as a knife. Its related blunders may continue to wound years later.

Consider the following and assume that in each scenario the praise is sincerely meant:

Poorly-timed praise. Combine the giving of praise with an event or an audience that will dismiss or overpower it due to dismal timing and what should have been a kind gesture will be squandered. The recipient will probably know it has been squandered and will be accordingly resentful.

Embarrassing praise. Many people take criticism better than praise. Sometimes this is due to cultural proclivities, especially if the praise is given in front of others. The old line, "Praise in public, reprimand in private" doesn't always apply to praise.

Diluted praise. If you are going to praise, do so without footnotes or caveats. If you include either, your qualifiers will be remembered long after the praise is forgotten.

Inflated praise. Praise can be overdone. Once hyperbole arrives, credibility departs. Make sure that your words are credible.

Daily Aarghs

Some frustrations that will be familiar to those of you who are in business:

  • Charge less and many will think your product is lousy.

  • Charge more and others will think you're too expensive.

  • Charge a lot and a surprising number will believe you're great.

  • Rapidly deliver high quality and many will appreciate it.

  • Rapidly deliver high quality and others will assume the job must not have been very difficult.

  • Defer to the wishes of your managers and you'll drive the lawyers nuts.

  • Defer to the wishes of your lawyers and you'll drive the managers nuts.

  • Manage autocratically and you'll get few complaints.

  • Manage collegially and you'll get a lot of complaints.

  • Give leeway to some employees and they'll appreciate the freedom and your vote of confidence.

  • Give leeway to other employees and they'll fear the freedom and long for strict boundaries.

  • Keep close to some customers and they'll enjoy your guidance and concern.

  • Keep close to other customers and they'll suspect you're just trying to land another project.

Quote of the Day

As a general rule, if you want to get at the truth - hear both sides and believe neither.

- Josh Billings

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Real and Token Forces

KANDAHAR—Ask American troops in Afghanistan what ISAF means, and you are opening the door to a running joke: "I Saw Americans Fight," and "I Suck at Fighting," and "I Sunbathe at FOBs" (a reference to the heavily fortified and largely safe forward operating bases) are among the more popular punch lines. In fact, ISAF is the acronym for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which is made up of soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and 35 other nations.

And the U.S. soldiers who offer up the jokes are only half kidding. Their point is a serious one: that troops from the United States—along with just a handful of other countries—do the bulk of the heavy fighting, while a number of other ISAF detachments are limited by their own governments' combat restrictions. These include prohibitions, or "caveats," against, for example, fighting in the snow for troops from some southern European nations. Other soldiers are required to stay in calmer areas of the country or to keep their aircraft grounded at night or to consult their home legislatures before operating near the volatile Pakistani border.

Read the rest of the U.S. News & World Report article here.

New Attitude

There was a time, not too long ago, when the best way to cast a television show was to make a list of the biggest stars you could think of who were currently having money troubles. And then you'd work your way down the list until money troubles plotted on the X-axis and size of part plotted on the Y-axis met, and, suddenly, you'd have a cast.

Do yourself a favor. Read the rest of Rob Long's essay on his entrepreneurial attitude.

VP Sweepstakes

Michael Barone looks at the process of selecting a vice presidential nominee.

"Staircase Wit"

"Staircase wit" is an German expression that describes the clever remarks and repostes that come to you only after you leave a party and are out on the staircase.

We have similar experiences in the workplace. Insight is often tardy and arrives after the meeting, phone call, or retreat has ended. I've often recommended to clients that they have a follow-up contact with former employees to supplement the observations made during an exit interview in order to catch those delayed bits of wisdom. During the rush and emotion of the initial meeting, much can be lost.

Routinely adding a "follow-up thoughts" segment to important meetings can provide similar benefits. More than a few people will object, however, that this extra stage would delay progress. Another criticism is that the quality of analysis at the initial meeting may decline since attendees would know their comments have a safety net.

These criticisms may be correct. I have not seen the follow-up option used frequently enough to determine whether its advantages outweigh the drawbacks but occasional use has convinced me that the approach is worth exploring.

Quote of the Day

A vacant mind invites dangerous inmates, as a deserted mansion tempts wandering outcasts to enter and take up their abode in its desolate apartments.

- Hilliard

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Touch of Old Joe

Music break: Joe Cocker - With a Little Help from My Friends.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Eclecticity provides a typical day at the office.

One Laptop Per Child is struggling.

Tim Berry vents against
stupid business plan bashing.

Michael Ledeen on
why the mullahs will keep on fighting us. [He has an interesting take on the Iranian economy.]

Cultural Offering has the clip of George Will and Stephen Colbert.

Does Australia have a shortage of blokes?

Defense analyst Frederick W. Kagan looks at the two candidates for commander-in-chief.

India's business schools may need an upgrade.

Fouad Ajami on the evolving Iraq debate.

Cool Tools has just the thing for long flights: trampoline shoes.

A British ad campaign against binge drinking raises the ultimate fear.