Saturday, October 31, 2009
I was one of those parents. My children were students at P.S. 87 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, also known as the William Tecumseh Sherman School. Our school enjoyed a reputation as one of the city’s education jewels, and parents clamored to get their kids in. But most of the teachers and principals had trained at Columbia University’s Teachers College, a bastion of so-called progressive education, and militantly defended the progressive-ed doctrine that facts were pedagogically unimportant. I once asked my younger son and some of his classmates, all top fifth-grade students, whether they knew anything about the historical figure after whom their school was named. Not only were they clueless about the military leader who delivered the final blow that brought down America’s slave empire; they hardly knew anything about the Civil War, either. When I complained to the school’s principal, he reassured me: “Our kids don’t need to learn about the Civil War. What they are learning at P.S. 87 is how to learn about the Civil War.”
Were it not for Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy, I might have accepted the reassurance. But Hirsch, as it happened, had cited an experiment that found that college students unable to comprehend a difficult passage about the Civil War by historian Bruce Catton were also likely not to have learned anything about the Civil War in the early grades. From that point on, my wife and I accelerated our children’s supplementary home schooling and sometimes used the Core Knowledge Foundation’s guide to the “mere facts” that children should know in each grade.
Read the rest of Terry Teachout's essay here.
Serious contenders: Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Shining
Serious contenders: Dracula, Ghost Story, The Haunting of Hill House, The Exorcist, The Mist, The Shining
[Unconventional contenders: Film: The Wizard of Oz; Book: The Federal Budget.]
Friday, October 30, 2009
"Holmes for the Holiday."
On the other hand, if they want people to know when the film is coming out, the line is brilliant. You hear it once, you don't need to be reminded. It's not witty, but think of how many witty ads you see where you are hard put to remember the product three minutes later.
Sometimes, not-so-witty is very bright.
Smart leaders understand these dynamics. They focus on changing only what needs to be changed because it isn’t working — the recipes that aren’t up to snuff or the product features that bother customers — and they keep what works, even if it’s a legacy from the past. Second, they understand the costs and risks of change and losing focus, so they don’t overburden the company by trying to do too many new things at once. Every business has a few core elements that make it successful, and the shrewd leader focuses on the minimum amount of change needed to improve those things, not making a bunch of other disruptions in activities that matter less.
[HT: Jim Stroup]
And notice how daunting the prospect of Chinese as a world language is, with a writing system that demands mastery of 2,000 characters in order to be able to read even a tabloid newspaper. For all of its association with Pepsi and the CIA, English is very user-friendly as the world’s 6,000 languages go. English verb conjugation is spare compared to, say, that of Italian—just the third-person singulars in the present, for example. There are no pesky genders to memorize (and no feminine-gendered tables that talk like Penelope Cruz). There are no sounds under whose dispensation you almost have to be born as a prerequisite for rendering them anywhere near properly, like the notorious trilly rˇ sound in Czech.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]
Yesterday I heard that the somnolence theory has now been supplanted by the story that the two were cruising the web and lost track of the time. This summons up a couple of images to my mind. I’m thinking they weren’t just Googling. I’m willing to bet that if they were online, it was some kind of World of Warcraft thing. As good as YouTube or Wikipedia might be, you don’t lose yourself in it the way you do when a Orc is about to hammer in your brain pan and send you back sixteen levels. There they are, 37,000 feet up, a planeful of people behind them, whacking away at their joysticks in some digital dungeon? I can buy that. In the days I was addicted to DOOM, I used to spend the entire night blasting away at hideous monsters, so in the zone that I didn’t realize that the sun had risen until my wife came in to tell me it was time to go to work. So maybe that’s what they were doing when they were out of touch for 78 minutes. As an explanation, it still seems pretty lame to me. Maybe one was sleeping and the other was earning experience points as a Zarkon warrior or something like that.
- Heavy rubber masks that got so hot you had to remove them every ten steps and wipe your face;
- Halloween costumes that were made from whatever happened to be available in the house ["Here's an old sheet. Be a ghost."]; and
- A custom called Devil's Night which, in our area, was the night before Halloween. In essence, it was an extra day for begging for candy but some mild vandalism was implied. This died out in the Sixties.
In recent years, some interesting costumes have appeared at our front door. Three boys wearing boxes with cords attached came as the Internet. Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived with pumpkins. And several Goths have come by but I'm not sure if they were in costume.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Read the rest of Dr. Helen here.
To test how teams of autonomous robots working together could explore an area, Fink’s team built a miniature lab version of the system, as seen in the image above. At just 4 feet by 5 feet, it’s not exactly the surface of Mars, but it allowed the team to test a piece of software that picks out anomalous objects in a landscape, the Automatic Global Feature Analyzer.
The software doesn’t try to place what it reads in images into known categories. Surveying a scene, it doesn’t try to identify certain kind of rocks or geological features. Instead, it just looks for the odd stuff out — the Waldo — in the scene. For a place like Mars, where we know a lot of the territory is similar and seemingly lifeless, the weird stuff is probably the good stuff.
Asking the question is important, but receiving an honest answer is even more important. Too often, the answer may be:
- Pretending to address a problem none of us really want to resolve.
- Meeting because we always meet at this time.
- Consulting others on a decision that has already been made.
- Protecting turf.
- Making sure the group doesn't do what it might do in our absence.
- Massaging an ego.
- The person who routinely plays dumb in order to avoid embarrassing others.
- The team members who devote most of their time to sabotaging one another.
- The manager who long ago mistook timidity for deliberation.
- The employee who hates the workplace so much he won't leave until it is perfect.
- The executive who secretly longs to be an artist.
- The director who measures personal success solely in dollars.
- The burnt-out case who is just going through the motions.
- The grizzled veteran who barks at people but genuinely cares for them.
- The smiling chief of staff who'd cut your throat for a quarter.
- The young supervisor who has better judgment than several department heads.
- The quiet technician who is a vast reservoir of untapped knowledge.
- The lawyer who keeps nudging top management to do the right thing.
- The worker who has been looking forward to retirement from the first day on the job.
I got some great advice once: "The relationship trumps the issue." Like a lot of entrepreneurs, and especially social entrepreneurs, I get pretty fired up and attached to my own viewpoints. At times when I have disagreed with someone, when the stakes are high, I can take it personally and it's added distance between me and the person. Remembering that the relationship trumps the issue is key.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I've known individuals whose peers thought they were manipulative or lazy but upper management had them tagged as extraordinary performers. [They were, but only when it came to impressing upper management.] Conversely, their competitors may have secured the trust and respect of peers but were little known by the folks who would make promotion decisions.
Aside from knowing how your own reputation fares at various levels, you are wise to know the people who know; the ones who will give you blunt but accurate assessments of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of Tom, Dick, and Maria. That information is invaluable when assembling teams or allies.
Eventually, your knowledge of who's real, who's improving and who's fake or dangerous should approach that person's. At the back of your mind should be the equivalent of George Marshall's little black book in which he assessed the caliber of officers he'd met in his career. [Hmm. Patton is good for this and Eisenhower is good for that.]
Trust me. It will come in handy.
Please read it before uttering a word.
- Unprepared? Don't speak.
- Your point has already been made? Don't speak.
- Eager to "share something" that is off-topic? Don't speak.
- Want to impress the boss? Don't speak.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Read the rest of David Brooks on the fatal conceit here.
[HT: Robinson and Long]
So what is it? The answer, Ms. Herron (Merron?) is precisely that pop culture permeates the world of young Americans. Why pursue even more of it in college? Learn new things. Get what you can't get just living in the world soaking up the things you naturally love and enjoy. What is the point of going to college?
Once hooked, Pincus says, players spend real money on virtual goods to help them advance to higher levels — thereby enriching Zynga. And although playing requires only short spurts of time, the game never ends, as Zynga's designers keep adding levels so that players come back for more.
Here’s the snag: Getting a medical certification may be harder than you think. Some doctors are telling patients, once symptoms are described, to stay at home. The physicians may prescribe medication over the phone, but they don’t want swine flu victims coming to their offices and infecting other patients and medical staff. Thus, no medical certification.
A basic question. An important question. And one to ask frequently because it smokes out the dodges, dreaming, and distortions that are behind so many fine speeches. When the answer is given, then ask:
- "Is that a plausible response?"
- "Has that ever worked in the past?
- "Do the institutions that will be in charge of achieving those actions have a good record of performance?"
- "Is the desired improvement worth the cost?"
- "What might be the unintended consequences and do they erase the benefits?"
It's a good mind-stretcher because it breaks the usual pattern and forces us to think anew. [Some people are great mind-stretchers but that's a subject for another day.] I was reminded of mind-stretchers while reading The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, the novelist whose Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became the classic film Blade Runner.
The Man in the High Castle explores a dark world in which Germany and Japan, after winning the Second World War, have carved up various nations, including the United States. Dick raises interesting questions, such as what would have happened if FDR had died before Harry Truman was vice president and a less capable replacement stepped into the White House. He does a good job of illustrating how so many major developments can be near-run things and how one person in a key position at a particular time can make an enormous difference.
What are other mind-stretchers? I'd recommend:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Doomsday by Connie Willis
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Monday, October 26, 2009
Which is all to be good, with one caveat. Doing the direct opposite of the jerk or the loon may put us in equally dubious territory. In order to determine the proper path, we must dissect the poor behavior and identify just where and how the person crossed the line.
This takes time - too much for those who want comic book simplicity - and yet the process can be enormously rewarding. Analysis is further complicated by the elusive factor of personality. One person can succeed beautifully with an approach that would spark a riot if used by another. Consider this description of a famous leader:
Anyone who served anywhere near him was devoted to him. It is hard to say why. He was not kind or considerate. He bothered nothing about us. He knew the names only of those very close to him and would hardly let anyone else come into his presence. He was free with abuse and complaint. He was exacting beyond reason and ruthlessly critical. He continuously exhibited all the characteristics that one morally deplores and abominates in the boss. Not only did he get away with it but nobody really wanted him otherwise. He was unusual, unpredictable, exciting, original, stimulating, provocative, outrageous, uniquely experienced, abundantly talented, humorous, entertaining - almost everything a man could be, a great man.*
All of which illustrates that leadership is far more than a mere checklist of mannerisms. It can achieve its greatest heights when dusted with a mixture of poetry and personal magic.
[*Sir George Mallarby, Undersecretary in the Cabinet Office, commenting on Winston Churchill.]
BusinessPundit has a map of the United States by distance to a McDonald's restaurant.
I for one am sick of reading the "Man Up, Barack" editorial, which is then regurgitated by friends and neighbors as if they were the sole authors of this retread banality. Invariably, the person suggesting that Mr. Obama man up thinks of himself as a tough-as-nails hombre. In reality, they are usually the kinds of people who send their kids to Oberlin College, swoon over Andrea Bocelli, and think Jimmy Carter was a macho man. Teamsters they are not.
A related twist may be found in many other conditions. There are people who are too ignorant to know they are ignorant, too biased to know they are biased, and too insensitive to know they are insensitive. Being able to spot those flaws would constitute - as is said in so many recovery programs - the first step toward recovery and yet it requires a basic level of self-awareness and honesty.
Greater study and exposure to varying viewpoints can help to achieve that level. The sign of an educated person is a healthy skepticism toward sources of information. An alert history student quickly learns that there are various schools of historians and that the slant provided in a particular text should not be taken as holy writ. This warning applies as well to the opinions of the professors, journalists, and . . . bloggers.
- Mark Bowden
Saturday, October 24, 2009
We are surrounded by distractions and yet are often so absorbed by what we plan to do in the future that we fail to appreciate - and attend to - the now.
And that, of course, is the trick: being able to shift from a glance down the block to the task immediately before you and then back again. Finding a zen-like peace in sharpening a pencil well, organizing the files, or focusing on a conversation while also having the capacity to think ahead.
Mother Teresa said she helped people one person at a time. Zig Ziglar said he started on his path to better health when he realized that he'd never eaten anything by accident. Each alluded to the power of the incremental.
Is there greater meaning and satisfaction to be found in the accumulation of well-done micros as opposed to the completion of a macro?
Sony/ATV was a calling card that separated him from being a mere musical megastar. By following Paul McCartney's advice and buying up music catalogues, Jackson bet wisely on a segment of the music business that has actually grown over the past few years, as music gets licensed for new uses, like ring tones and advertising and TV shows like "American Idol" and video games like Rock Band.
Here is his report on an Ours Brun Rosemary honey from France:
Flavor: Pleasant mix of cashews and golden raisins -- sweet, but not cloying.
Consistency: Medium thick, but will separate of over time, the thinner honey rising to the top and the thicker honey falling to the bottom.
Fragrance: Light floral bouquet.
Allen reported over the radio that most of the honey that is found in American supermarkets comes from China.
Friday, October 23, 2009
[I think there may be a correlation between advanced age and vampirism. Lately, I've started to avoid mirrors.]
As more manufacturing was outsourced, workers said they no longer felt as if they were building planes. They were simply snapping them together. They obsessed about the loss of institutional knowledge. Managers who had fired people, meanwhile, confessed deep, pervasive grief—what researchers sometimes call "executioner's lament." Moore says they tended to become emotionally numb and disengaged.
In the greatest surprise of all, the researchers discovered that the people who had been laid off often were happier than those left behind. Many had new jobs, even if they didn't always pay as well. Over and over, Moore says, average depression scores were nearly twice as great for those who stayed with Boeing vs. those who left. The laid-off were less likely to binge drink, often slept better, and had fewer chronic health problems.
I especially liked his point about letting customers know what was done "above and beyond." There are times when we've done work at no charge and have not mentioned it to customers. It shouldn't be brought up in an obnoxious, look-how-much-we've-sacrificed sort of way but it should be noted.
[HT: Cultural Offering]
The basic problem is here is that many (most?) of the compensation deals the Obama administration is shredding were set in employment contracts. Granted, some of those employment contracts were signed after the law setting up pay "czar" Kenneth Feinberg's position and empowering him to review pay packages at TARP firms. But a lot of them are pre-existing contracts and it's those contracts that are the main concern.
David Frum asks:
Suppose we discovered that during the tense days of September and October 2008, executives at the big banks were ordering lavished catered dinners for themselves at their offices. WE'd all disapprove. Those executives should have been eating sandwiches at their desks! But would it be OK for the government to order the banks to refuse the invoices from the catering company?
And then it struck me: He resents the questioning because the candidate is a member of his group, not because it is inappropriate. And members of his group are beyond questioning. Their credentials are to be presumed. The resentment may also stem from the fact that the executive knew little of the person's judgment and abilities. That task was regarded as a waste of time.
I am both amused and frustrated at how many times I've seen this attitude. Decision makers who demand high levels of scrutiny for individuals outside of their group unknowingly drop their standards when one of their own is proposed for an honor or promotion. All of the fine talk about merit becomes mere sound. This is different, they insist. This candidate is unassailable.
What they mean is this candidate is one of our own.
Apologists argue that there are bad outcomes in any endeavor, that it's unfair to single out self-help when, say, conventional medicine kills thousands each year. The difference is that in medicine, practitioners share demonstrated expertise in methods that evolved over time and have been tested and retested for efficacy. A bad outcome in a field with proven benefits is unfortunate. A bad outcome in a field with little basis for existing in the first place is unforgivable. As noted psychologist Michael Hurd told me, "Gurus encourage these poor, already troubled souls to literally take leave of their senses, as if departing reason will somehow liberate you."
Thursday, October 22, 2009
[I recall reading "A Burnt-Out Case" while down in the dumps in law school. Not a wise move.]
So I started Alexander Kent's "The Midshipman Bolitho" series about a young man in the Royal Navy in 1773.
It was just the ticket. A mission to West Africa. Kill the pirates. Free the hostages.
Run up the Union Jack!
Read it. You'll thank me for it.
No. As a general rule, the United States adheres to the "free public services doctrine," which states that the cost of law enforcement, fire suppression, and search and rescue should be shared by all taxpayers. However, there are some situations in which the state can demand payment for a rescue operation from a particular person. Under federal and state restitution laws, for example, the victim of a crime can try to recover any costs that were incurred as a result of that crime. Since the Colorado government was itself the victim of the balloon boy hoax, the state can argue for restitution on those grounds. (The cost of a rescue involving aircraft can be tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars.) The same principle holds true for wildfires, which led to a federal court fining a homeless man $101 million last year.
He looked down at “Bloom County: The Complete Library” with the same expression of disinterest. “This is an amazing book, amazing to see,” Breathed said, sounding anything but amazed. Then he delivered the droll punch line. “When you write about it you should say, ‘This guy is a fraud and a cheat.’ There’s your headline.”
Take a standard-issue product, throw in the expertise of a chiropractor and variable sizes and shapes, add some secret density formulas, and you have a niche market. We tested four services, including a do-it-yourself option that had us do everything but wrestle geese to pluck their soft feathers.
John F. Kennedy said to forgive your enemies but never forget their names. Small wounds can produce long memories. All of us have inadvertently slighted someone, possibly without even suspecting any harm. We should silently pray that our victims have a statute of limitations.
But do we have one as well?
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The truth of the market is that the market you sell to isn't filled with true believers. It's filled with human beings who make compromises, who tell stories, who have competing objectives. And as a result, the truth of the market is that the products and services that win (if win means you can make a good living and make positive change) are rarely the products and services that are beloved without reservation by the true believers.
Unlike the U.S., Mexico's legal system has no jury trials. In the majority of cases, there are also no oral arguments, meaning lawyers don't stand in front of a judge to plead their client's case. Judges usually never meet the accused. Everything is done via paperwork. Judges are subject to a Napoleonic code of justice, meaning laws are strictly codified, leaving them little room for judgment.
There are times of the day when we are most prone to negative actions, such as watching mindless television programs, overeating, gossiping, etc. Look at your schedule and you'll probably spot your vulnerable zones. We do not consciously book negative actions. They slip into the unbooked territory; those times when we have let down our guard.
Those are the hours that need to be filled with more productive activities. Doing so gives us the dual benefit of the positive action itself and the avoidance of the negative action.
Those open hours need to be filled in consciously and productively or they will inadvertently be devoted to actions that can be truly harmful.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
At that point, the story moves quickly as the deadly new agent races around the planet, thumbing its nose at all vain attempts to stop or contain it. Governments and individuals will do desperate things, some rational and others not so, like deploying the military to try to close borders or using firearms to keep possibly infected strangers at bay. Hospitals will be overwhelmed at first and later forced to lock their doors. To avoid interpersonal contact, people will hole up in their homes, causing government offices, schools, and businesses to close. Many public officials will be forced to quarantine themselves from a diseased population and retreat to undisclosed locations, which will only fuel the public panic. Riot police in biohazard suits (if there are even enough to go around) will increasingly be called upon to beat back waves of sick, scared, and helpless civilians, desperate for food, water, and medicine. This won't just be the case in failing states like Somalia and Yemen, but also in successful ones like France and the United States.
- Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times are Tough by Duncan Mathison and Martha I. Finney.
- SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
Reviews to follow.
Stop having “huge discounts” on some things trying to lure customers in for a bargain. Today every store, every restaurant and every service company now offers “huge discounts” and people would be insulted if they didn’t see a price reduction. BUT…people will stop in, call you for help, and at least give you a try if they could get something for FREE.
That's the teaser.
Click here and read the rest from Political Calculations (a must-read site) about how managers can stop wasting time and money.
Temporary Halloween stores, which in past years haven’t had as many available spaces to choose from, are taking over the vacated spots of shuttered Linens ’n Things, Circuit City, and other big-box stores. This is helping landlords not only fill up empty spaces and earn rent, but also avoid big financial penalties by restarting the clock on agreements with other tenants to fill the larger retail spaces within a certain time period.
And the locations are perfect for a business based on just a few weeks’ worth of traffic.
Read the rest of the Portfolio article here.
- James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield, Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money
Monday, October 19, 2009
[HT: Idea Anaconda]
CANDIDATE: What (his face started to heat up) NO I did not!
BOSS: Yes, you did. You called my cell phone over the weekend while you were eating out Saturday and talking to your wife about resigning. It was a 10 minute call - I heard everything.
"I'm sorry, I thought you knew" is one of their favorite phrases. If pressed, they also employ language that implies prior candor regarding items that have been hidden. [When they say, "As we all know," rest assured that what is about to be disclosed was neither known nor admitted.]
Simple, methodical, and relentless pursuit of the truth is the best way to box in the slippery manager. The facts are against them so they try to elude detailed examination of the facts and cloud their trail with theories, crises, and distractions.
Watch for what is said but, more importantly, watch for what is not said. As with any accomplished magician, their efforts will lead you in one direction when you should be looking in another.
One tip: Ask yourself, "What simple facts do I not know?" and "Do I have confirmation that what has been asserted is the truth?"
Less favorable are the contributions of his children, made all the more damning by their evident desire to say something nice. In a chapter titled "Fatherhood I," Stephen Altman gives a chilling account of what it was like to be the son of the man many considered America's greatest living director: "At one point, I think I was around ten . . . he had everybody sit down in his Malibu mansion . . . and told us that if it ever came down to it and he had to choose between all of us and his work, he'd dump us in a second." Stephen then tries to qualify this, inadvertently providing the coup de grâce: "I don't know, maybe it was alcohol that made him say it. It's hard when you're young to know when people are drunk and belligerent and surly or hungover."
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
A $19,000 purchase two years ago is now valued at $150 million.
As I read the article by Peter Bregman, however, it seemed more like a recommendation to build a distinctive and competitive advantage. That can be very different from not fitting in. It may be possible to fit in with the general culture of an organization while being a highly creative thinker. Furthermore, exhibiting an inability or reluctance to fit in during a job interview can be lethal.
It's a thought-provoking piece. Just how much "distinctiveness" will your organization tolerate?
The media battle between Conan O'Brien and the mayor of Newark, New Jersey; or
The White House communications director extolling Chairman Mao in a speech to high school students?
It may be cuter in the video than in real life.
Dedication doesn't enter into it unless weird sleeping patterns constitute dedication. His comment, however, triggered some thoughts. Those three other people probably picked the gym for the same reason I did: It never closes.
Our firm has used a Fed Ex/Kinko's outlet because of the reassurance that if we need to pick up copies of consulting or training materials at midnight, they're open.
And that may be the operative word: reassurance. Some might emphasize convenience, but I think the deeper attraction is the "I will always be here for you" one. That goes beyond convenience. It is not simply an open door. It is an embrace.
So now I'm thinking more about how to convey that same sort of reassurance to clients. There have been times when I've given out my home telephone number and yet I don't routinely do that. My home number has seldom been used by clients, but that's not the point. They know they have it.
That small gesture may make more of a difference than we realize.
Friday, October 16, 2009
After three years of losing money, Google came up with the idea to sell little text ads on its search-results page. The ads a user was shown depended on what they had searched for, making them particularly attractive to advertisers. Adding to the enticement was that Google only charged advertisers if a user clicked on their ad. It was a revolutionary idea which turned into gushers of money for Google. The year before they began serving up these ads the company had revenues of $86 million. The next year (2002) revenues jumped to $400 million. The year after that they stood at $1.5 billion, and they've continued to increase at a phenomenal pace ever since.
In April of 1972, he was sent into the midst of 30,000 North Vietnamese soldiers who were invading South Vietnam along with five South Vietnamese soldiers. He survived behind enemy lines for a week seeking to rescue a downed American flyer. Somehow, he found the man, badly wounded, and got him out while engaged in a constant, nonstop firefight with the enemy. Disguised as a local, in a sampan, he got the pilot to safety.
A few months later, in another action behind enemy lines, Tom was shot in the face and was barely able to escape to a nearby Navy vessel, thanks to the heroism of another Seal named Michael Thornton.
Read the rest of Ben Stein's article here.
The history of American food is really a history of immigration, and the nostalgia that comes with a cuisine's decline is an indicator of an ethnic group's confidence in its American identity. When a group first attains critical mass in America, its restaurants are mostly for its own members. Later, as these groups gain confidence, they begin selling their more accessible foods to a general public craving cheap exotic eats. These dishes then mutate into American form, a la chow mein, and the group's American-born children typically spurn these foods as they try to assimilate. Around the third or fourth generation, the descendants of immigrants are secure enough in their American credentials to explore their "roots." Shortly thereafter, food nostalgia sets in, and the quest for the "authentic" begins.
Make a habit of goofing off on Friday night and you may have much busier - and perhaps panic-driven - Sunday evenings.
Even with the extra work, Friday is a day of promise. Breathing space beckons with its lure of a sizable portion of time devoted to recovery and reflection.
Some helpful Friday questions are:
- What have I overlooked in the past four days that can be addressed today?
- Which meetings for the coming weeks can be scheduled, but not held, today?
- As I look over my list of contacts, which people have been neglected and need to be contacted?
- Can I do a better job of booking time for projects, not meetings, for the next two weeks?
- Can I devote at least one uninterrupted hour today to thinking?
- Can I devote three to four hours to intense action; the level and sort of activity that occurs on the day before a vacation?
“The first concussion was during preseason. The team was doing two-a-days,” he said, referring to the habit of practicing in both the morning and the evening in the preseason. “It was August 9th, 9:55 A.M. He has an 80-g hit to the front of his head. About ten minutes later, he has a 98-g acceleration to the front of his head.” To put those numbers in perspective, Guskiewicz explained, if you drove your car into a wall at twenty-five miles per hour and you weren’t wearing your seat belt, the force of your head hitting the windshield would be around 100 gs: in effect, the player had two car accidents that morning. He survived both without incident. “In the evening session, he experiences this 64-g hit to the same spot, the front of the head. Still not reporting anything. And then this happens.” On his laptop, Guskiewicz ran the video from the practice session. It was a simple drill: the lineman squaring off against an offensive player who wore the number 76. The other player ran toward the lineman and brushed past him, while delivering a glancing blow to the defender’s helmet. “Seventy-six does a little quick elbow. It’s 63 gs, the lowest of the four, but he sustains a concussion.”
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Until about the 1970s, the firms that held most of the power on Wall Street were establishment institutions. The downside of this is that Wall Street tended to be inbred, clique-ish, unimaginative, inefficient, intellectually flabby, self-satisfied, and effete. (This was largely the three-martini-lunch crowd that had gone to elite schools and whose fathers and grandfathers had held more or less the same jobs.) The upside was that it was inbred, clique-ish, unimaginative, inefficient, intellectually flabby, self-satisfied, and effete. Which is to say, the global economy wasn't exactly at risk of being super-charged by these guys. But neither were they going to flame out spectacularly.
All of the building's spaces lie along a ramp that rises gently from the ground to the top-most floor; the entire building wraps around a single, light-filled atrium, thus bringing airy, natural light throughout. Meanwhile, the various rooms have been designed with flexible partitioning, so that in the future the occupants won't be bound to a layout that seemed natural 10 years ago, but no longer makes sense.
[The rolling contest starts at five.]
Think of how often you've seen that mistake!
In retrospect, I should have said, "Time out. I propose that we erase everything we've said up to this point. Can we start over again with a blank slate?" We then could have proceeded by focusing on the central subject.
That might have worked because the disagreement was not over a fundamental or crucial point. It was on an issue which was irrelevant to the purpose of the meeting.
There is certainly no guarantee that the tactic would have been successful, but it would have been worth the attempt. We finally got around to the areas of agreement but the detour consumed a lot of time. It was not a waste of time, however, because the experience provided one more lesson in the perils of communication.
- The teacher who nudged you to consider a different perspective.
- The parents who nudged you to say "Please" and "Thank you."
- The boss who, rather than tearing your work apart, quietly showed how it could be improved.
Bold gestures and words have their moments, but the nudges of life are more powerful, possibly because they are often not recognized and are barely felt.
How do you lead? You nudge.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I see these policies as a sign of craven behavior. Rather than having to make - and defend - a decision, organizations seek to place all responsibility on a mindless mechanical process.
I'm surprised they don't use mood rings.
- Less memorization and more translation. If you cannot explain a concept in plain language, you probably don't know it.
- Less procrastination. Work in increments and then review. Don't permit masses of work to accumulate. Recognize that most of us do our best work in short bursts.
- More engagement. It is a rare professor who does not appreciate a serious student. Don't make a habit of darting out at the end of class. Stay and ask questions if clarification is needed.
- Less resistance. Learning can be like swimming. You can panic at the sense of being overwhelmed or you can relax, comprehend the surroundings, and eventually move forward.
- Clear vision. Knowing the subject is not the same as getting a high grade. Understand what is needed for the grade and don't confuse that with a deeper knowledge of the subject. Try to achieve both.
- Act like a great student. What do the best students do? They don't spend a lot of time groaning about how tough the class is. They seek help and create a system for absorbing the information.
- Know your barriers. What sort of learner are you? Does your impatience cause you to rush through analysis? Are you too analytical? Are you trying to fit the square subject in a round hole? Which parts of learning do you enjoy and which do you dislike? Is your ego causing you to try to bend the subject to your viewpoint rather than accepting the reality of the subject?
One of my minor hobbies is assigning dates when places start going to hell. In California's case, I say it was around 1960, just as it was about to overtake New York as the country's most populous state. After that, the Sixties literally and figuratively kicked in, with California bearing the brunt. By 1990 I lost my desire to live there. (Well, if I had gobs of money, I can think of a few places such as Carmel and Santa Barbara that I might find tolerable.)
[But note this gem from the comments: "California will continue to be important as long as Starfleet Headquarters continues to be based in San Francisco."
Even if Obama does end up making the correct decision on Afghanistan strategy (by which I mean adding troops, since counterinsurgency is manpower-intensive), the public agony over his deliberations may already have done incalculable damage. The Afghan people have survived three decades of war by hedging their bets. Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment to their country, they are deciding, at the level of both the individual and the mass, whether to make their peace with the Taliban—even as the Taliban itself can only take solace and encouragement from Obama's public agonizing. Meanwhile, fundamentalist elements of the Pakistani military, opposed to the recent crackdown against local Taliban, are also taking heart from developments in Washington. This is how coups and revolutions get started, by the middle ranks sensing weakness in foreign support for their superiors.