Saturday, February 28, 2009

Music Break

Chris Isaak with "Wicked Game."

Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan with "Pancho and Lefty."

Eric Clapton with "Layla."

Buying American Cars

Business Week has a debate on a topic which, given the state of the U.S. auto industry, we'll be hearing much more about:

Should Americans buy American cars?

Art Break: Christian Faur

I had to subdue a lot of skepticism when I first heard of this.

Christian Faur uses crayons to make art but he doesn't draw with them, he stacks them.

The result is extraordinary.

Innovation in Hard Times

Wired interviews Vint Cerf, the "chief information evangelist" at Google. An excerpt:

On the health-care side, health care is information. Diagnosis, treatment, patient history, knowledge of pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures -- it's all information. Our own personal medical records represent incredibly important information to each of us because it can be crucial in helping to diagnose or treat a medical condition. It might be needed in a hurry should there be a need for emergency treatment, especially at a hospital you have never been to before.

Similar arguments can be made for financial information and virtually everything else that makes up our daily world. The more we can organize, find and manage information, the more effectively we can function in our modern world. You can be sure that Google will be looking for new ways to be helpful.

[Execupundit note: Not much time is required to see the downside of this grand information management.]

Ferguson and Long on Politics

Peter Robinson interviews Andrew Ferguson and Rob Long on Presidents Obama, Bush, and Lincoln:

Segment one

Segment two

Segment three

Segment four

Segment five

Google Never Forgets

Seth Godin looks at personal branding in the Age of Google:

Three interesting resumes came to the top. She googled each person's name.

The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, "binge drinking."

Preparing to Think

The restlessness that seems to foil productivity may be your mind trying to think. It is not comfortable with your current activities and is signaling the desire for reflection.

Rather than reproaching yourself for laziness or a lack of self-discipline and attempt to steer your thoughts back on the work that is before you, it is wiser to retreat to a spot that will permit you to identify and think about which topic is crying for attention.

You will know when you've directed your focus to the right area. It will feel right. You will sense the right fit between your focus and the subject. Once that is discovered, you are ready to think.

Quote of the Day

Hollywood is the place where "'Hello, he lied'" isn't funny. Nobody will ever tell you the truth about your script, about the attachments, about its chances of getting made, about its real fate at the box office - there's no percentage in the truth and, besides, you can't handle it - and so the only thing that counts, the only thing that's real, is the check that clears.

- David Kahane

Friday, February 27, 2009

Miscellaneous and Fast

Che Chic

Stephen Marche explores the modern manifestations of radical chic:

If you believe in the freedom of the press, the right to belong to a political party of your choice, the due process of law, and/or private property, then Che Guevara was a monster, plain and simple. But even with that knowledge, it's unlikely that Johnny Depp will get rid of his Che medallion. And it's unlikely that all the pseudo-hipsters who buy their Che T-shirts at Urban Outfitters will stop wearing them. No. These T-shirts send a message, which effectively boils down to this: I have vague left-wing sympathies but don't read history. I am educated enough to want nonconformity but not intelligent enough to avoid conformity. I believe in supporting the wretched of the earth but happily purchase products from multinational corporations.

Office Navigation

My post on savvy office navigation is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Professor Bloom

Good news!

There is a page featuring YouTube excerpts of Allan Bloom's lectures on political philosophy.

[HT: Andrew Sullivan ]

Searching for the Essential

Much of work should involve a search for the essential.

This is no small task since the average work day is filled with trivial distractions. Various individuals from a full range of departments compete for the chance to raise details about matters of remote relationship to anything central to the mission. Moreover, those matters may be an attractive respite from boring but more important tasks. It is easy to accord them undeserved status in order to justify goofing off.

The question is complicated because an unessential item may be on the verge of becoming essential and yet is demanding attention now. Time must also be set aside for matters that are not pressing but will be vital in several months or years.

Managers are often exorted to look far in the distance in order to spot a budding crisis. They are also told to plan their days and weeks around a set of priorities. Great benefit, however, can be gained by focusing on the next hour and then the next and then the next; always with an eye on the essential.

Some key questions:
  1. How much of my time is spent responding as opposed to acting?
  2. If I'm dealing with details, are they closely tied to essentials?
  3. Are my actions simply restoring the status quo or are they advancing the mission?
  4. Are my actions helping to achieve my first or second priorities or have I slipped further down the list?
  5. Are my actions superficial gestures or do they possess promise of serious impact?

Quote of the Day

If it hasn't sunk in already, the Woodstock generation is about to learn that love isn't all you need. You also need money.

- Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth, "Yes, You Can Still Retire Comfortably!"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Knute Rockne and Aircraft Safety

American Heritage examines the crash that raised a key issue in aircraft safety. An excerpt:

Besides Fry’s copilot, Jess Mathias, the Fokker carried six male passengers, most of them businessmen of some importance. But one was considerably more famous than the others, and in a much different area. Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach, was on his way to Los Angeles to make an instructional football film and perhaps also to schmooze Hollywood producers, with an eye toward getting other film work.

Not long after takeoff from Kansas City, Fry found himself in rapidly worsening conditions. Ice began to collect on the wings and struts, affecting the plane’s handling and stressing the wooden structures. Before Fry could even think about getting out of the storm, one wing ripped away and the aircraft plummeted into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas. The occupants died instantly, their bodies and the wreckage burning almost beyond identification. Rockne’s remains were found with a rosary wrapped in his fingers. A nation grieved for the gridiron hero.

Food. Sex. Politics. Advertising.

There's a new topic out there:

Food and Sex.

Or Sex and Food.

New Invention: The Overhead Projector

There's a new invention that leaves PowerPoint in the dust.

It's called an overhead projector and here's its greatest advantage: Unlike the standard PowerPoint presentation in which the speaker has prepared the slides ahead of time, with the overhead projector you can use sheets with previously-prepared material or you can discuss points with the audience and write down or illustrate key points as the ideas evolve!

In other words, the overhead projector enables you to be closer to the concerns and thoughts of the audience. It gives you greater flexibility as a presenter and permits those in the back of a large room to see items that would never be visible on a flip chart.

You might think that the tools for jotting down your thoughts would be expensive. Not so! All that is needed are clear acetate sheets and a grease pencil or a marker. Some overhead projectors even permit you to rig up a roll of acetate so, as your presentation progresses, you simply crank the roll to get clean writing space. This is high tech at its best.

Just imagine!

  • No more being locked in by PowerPoint slides!

  • No more feeling frustrated by an inability to jot down a point that will clearly answer audience members' questions!

  • No more worry that the group is distracted by glitz and cute graphics!

  • No more expensive PowerPoint projector bulb bills!

Achiever Update

Guess which novel has seen a surge in sales.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Bate Boost

Consultant, professor, and prolific writer Nicholas Bate has some great reminders in:

Don't Be Part of the 5% and

10 Reasons to be Cheerful.

Quote of the Day

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.

- Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twitter's Origins

Starting with a note pad: How Twitter was founded.

Risk, Reality, and Earthquakes in China

Some thought-provoking items from The Wharton School on the perception and reality of risk:

A further problem: the world's growing interconnectedness. "An earthquake in China is not just a Chinese issue any more, it's a Wal-Mart issue," Michel-Kerjan said during the panel.

The financial markets have tied countries together in ways that are not fully understood. The current financial crisis began with a small slice of the home mortgage market in the U.S. and evolved into a worldwide recession. Indeed, the global trade in securities backed by American mortgages and other forms of debt helped spread the contagion, while many experts had expected the opposite -- that these securities would dampen financial shocks by diluting risk.

For Your Next Company Retreat

In more than a dozen trips to Somalia over the past two and a half years, I’ve come to rewrite my own definition of chaos. I’ve felt the incandescent fury of the Iraqi insurgency raging in Fallujah. I’ve spent freezing-cold, eerily quiet nights in an Afghan cave. But nowhere was I more afraid than in today’s Somalia, where you can get kidnapped or shot in the head faster than you can wipe the sweat off your brow. From the thick, ambush-perfect swamps around Kismayo in the south to the lethal labyrinth of Mogadishu to the pirate den of Boosaaso on the Gulf of Aden, Somalia is quite simply the most dangerous place in the world.

The whole country has become a breeding ground for warlords, pirates, kidnappers, bomb makers, fanatical Islamist insurgents, freelance gunmen, and idle, angry youth with no education and way too many bullets. There is no Green Zone here, by the way—no fortified place of last resort to run to if, God forbid, you get hurt or in trouble. In Somalia, you’re on your own. The local hospitals barely have enough gauze to treat all the wounds.

Read the rest of Jeffrey Gettleman's Foreign Policy article

Brooks, Burke, and Obama

David Brooks looks at the optimism of the current administration and remembers the warnings of Edmund Burke. An excerpt:

All in all, I can see why the markets are nervous and dropping. And it’s also clear that we’re on the cusp of the biggest political experiment of our lifetimes. If Obama is mostly successful, then the epistemological skepticism natural to conservatives will have been discredited. We will know that highly trained government experts are capable of quickly designing and executing top-down transformational change. If they mostly fail, then liberalism will suffer a grievous blow, and conservatives will be called upon to restore order and sanity.

Growing during the Downturn

Wally Bock looks at how to help employees grow during a downturn.

It's a classic strategy. When an organization requires less time for the usual activities, it should be training.

[Less effective groups shift back and forth between "We don't have time for training" and "We don't have money for training."]

The Godfather Wars

Writing in Vanity Fair, Mark Seal reveals the battles behind The Godfather. An excerpt:

In his L.A. office, casting director Fred Roos runs through the long list of actors who were considered for the role of Michael Corleone: Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Ryan O’Neal, David Carradine, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beatty. Shortly after Roos says the name “Beatty,” the office door opens and the actor himself—whose offices Fred Roos works out of—is standing in the doorway.

“You almost got the role of Michael?,” I ask.

“There’s a story there,” says Beatty. “I was offered The Godfather before Marlon was in it. I was offered The Godfather when Danny Thomas was the leading candidate for the Godfather. And I passed. Jack [Nicholson] passed, also. And I remember something else. I was offered The Godfather to produce and direct. Charlie Bluhdorn was a fan of Bonnie and Clyde and sent me the book.… I read it. Sort of. And I said, ‘Charlie, not another gangster movie!’”

[HT: Kottke ]

Quote of the Day

Nothing infuriates a gossip more than not taking the bait.

- Mary Mitchell

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

I once knew a law school student who would abandon his studies and do the unthinkable every year: Go to Mardi Gras.

Judging from these posts, Eclecticity has conducted extensive research on the event.

Magazine Quiz

Here's the rule:

Pretend that you can wolf down as many books as you wish and there are no limits on TV and radio, but you can read only one magazine.

There are many excellent ones out there. Each has its own distinctive features. But which would be your sole choice?

My pick: Commentary magazine. [Their web site is marginal, but the magazine is great.]

Your turn.

Escaping the Education Scam

Charles Murray suggests an alternative to the B.A.:

So let's stop it. Let's use the CPA exam as a model, and substitute certifications for the educational credentials that young people take into a job interview. The certifications can be based on multiple-choice tests, writing samples, and work samples in any combination--whatever enables the employer to assess what applicants know and are able to do, not where they learned it and how long it took them.

Book Recommendation: Stalin's Ghost

People are seeing Joseph Stalin's ghost on a Moscow subway platform.

That is only one of the realities investigator Arkady Renko is having to handle in the new Russia.

Martin Cruz Smith has written several novels featuring Renko. Each is an extraordinary look at a decent man trying to survive in a bizarre environment. One chapter into Stalin's Ghost and you'll know why Martin Cruz Smith's books are far above the standard thriller or police procedural. An excerpt:

Zoya Filotova wore her black hair severely trimmed as if to defiantly display the bruise below her eye. She was about forty, Arkady thought, stylishly sinewy in a red leather pantsuit and a golden cross that was purely ornamental. She sat on one side of the booth, Arkady and Victor on the other, and although Zoya had ordered a brandy she had yet to touch it. She had long red fingernails and as she turned a cigarette pack over and over Arkady was put in mind of a crab inspecting dinner. The cafe was a chrome affair above a car wash on the beltway. No car washes tonight, not with snow falling, and the few cars that made it to the cafes were SUVs with four-wheel drive. The exceptions were Arkady's Zhiguli and Victor's Lada crouching in a corner of the lot.

Quote of the Day

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day - go fishing. If you want happiness for a year - inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.

- Chinese proverb

Monday, February 23, 2009


I recently attended a meeting in which some people were recovering from a cold or some other sneezing/hacking-related illness.

The meeting went well. Only the healthy people shook hands. People stayed back from one another. In other words, there was consideration for the healthy.

And that reminded me of an incident in a small bookstore. One associate at the front desk. No one else to check out the customers. When the front desk clerk wasn't sneezing, she was blowing her nose.

I walked out.

Now I confess to being a tad sensitive regarding germs so my reaction may have been excessive. [I returned to the same store a week later and made my purchase from a healthy sales clerk.]

But tell me, have you ever walked out of a restaurant or store because one of the staff members seemed to be ill?

Does management, in the cases where it has an option, consider that having a sick person in a key customer contact position is not doing the customers any favor? Does it care?

Pro-Stimulus But Anti-Pelosi

Arnold Kling explores whether Keynes would have supported the stimulus bill. An excerpt:

Another group of skeptics is concerned about the timing of the fiscal stimulus. Even some economists on the left, including Alice Rivlin and Jeffrey Sachs, have made the point that the long-term spending in the stimulus bill is inappropriate and even counterproductive from a stimulus perspective. I share this concern. President Obama said that his goal is to have 75 percent of the stimulus take effect before the end of 2010. Instead, I would argue that we should have 100 percent take effect by then, and 75 percent take effect by the end of 2009.

Decision Making: The Old Sandwich Technique

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith:

It was a standard joke that State Department papers always had the same three options: [1] Suffer in silence; [2] do some diplomacy; [3] nuclear war. State would boldly support the second option.

Discrimination Court Cases Drop

The odds against winning discrimination cases have some employee lawyers reluctant even to try. "We will no longer take individual employment-discrimination cases, because there's such a high likelihood of losing," New York plaintiffs' attorney Joe Whatley Jr. says. Job-discrimination case filings declined by 40% from 1999 to 2007, federal court records show.

Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article here. It's well-worth reading. The point about employers settling the more worthy cases is a good one.

Quote of the Day

Guilt is a rope that wears thin.

- Ayn Rand

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sundays Off

Call me Sloth.

Barring hospitalization, computer and connection problems, or some other extraordinary event, my practice since beginning this site has been to post every day.

I'm now going to post every day but Sunday.

What's Your Wall?

What have you found to be your greatest obstacle to getting things done?

Some suspects:

Interruptions. You are rolling along and something or some person stops the action, often repeatedly.

Insufficient resources. You need more information, authority, personnel, money or supplies.

Too many tasks. You cannot decide which barking puppy to feed, so you toss something to one and then to another.

Depression. You feel as if you are sweeping back the tide only to watch it roll in again. You may get enthusiastic about clearing one patch of sand, but here comes another wave.

Insecurity. Others seem to be so much more organized. What do they know that you don't?

Perfection. You find it difficult to complete a project because it can always be improved and you hate to turn in mediocre work.

Bo Break

A music break with Mr. Diddley and his crew.

Great Moments in Advertising: Brusha Brusha

And now, dear friends, let us recall one of the greatest advertising jingles of all time: the tune that Bucky Beaver sang while flacking Ipana toothpaste.

Those of you whose childhood years were crossed by this tune are probably singing it now.

But do you know who wrote the jingle?

This man.

Customer Service in Hard Times

Business Week examines customer service in a shrinking economy. An excerpt:

But the best performers are actually doing more to safeguard service in this recession. Bruce D. Temkin, principal analyst for customer experience at Forrester Research (FORR), says about half of the 90 large companies he recently surveyed are trying to avoid cuts to their customer service budgets. "There's some real resilience in spending," says Temkin.

That's especially true for many of the winners of our third annual ranking of Customer Service Champs. Top performers are treating their best customers better than ever, even if that means doing less to wow new ones. While cutting back-office expenses, they're trying to preserve front-line jobs and investing in cheap technology to improve service.

"Anti-Islamic activity" Update

From Islamabad, let us zip a world away to London. Among the growing population of Yorkshire Pakistanis is a fellow called Lord Ahmed, a Muslim member of Parliament. He threatened "to bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the House of Lords" if it went ahead with an event at which the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders would have introduced a screening of his controversial film "Fitna."

Britain's Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, reacted to this by declaring Wilders persona non grata and having him arrested and returned to the Netherlands.

Smith is best known for an inspired change of terminology: last year she announced that henceforth Muslim terrorism (an unhelpful phrase) would be reclassified as "anti-Islamic activity." Seriously. The logic being that Muslims blowing stuff up tends not to do much for Islam's reputation – i.e., it's an "anti-Islamic activity" in the same sense that Pearl Harbor was an anti-Japanese activity.

Read the rest of Mark Steyn's column here.

[HT: Real Clear Politics]

Quote of the Day

Put not your trust in princes.

- Psalms 146:3

Friday, February 20, 2009

And a Big Hug to HR

Another "When life gives you lemons" creativity update: A Thank You note for our times.

Small Signals

My post on "fixing the door" is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Helpful Movie Lines - Continued

Leon Gettler has picked up the "movie lines for the workplace"thread started by Cultural Offering.

He's added some excellent ones. The one from Other People's Money should be in economics textbooks.

A favorite that I forgot to mention earlier:

"I am a river to my people!" [Lawrence of Arabia]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

There's one thing to be said for inviting trouble: it generally accepts.

- Mae Maloo

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Psychology Update: The Effect of Bikinis

Shocking news from National Geographic on how men regard women in bikinis.

Words Matter

Which words have been dropped from a junior dictionary?

Eclecticity has the answers and they are disturbing.

Automating Succession Planning?

Automating traditional succession planning is a waste of time when you do it like the mob. Why do you need software to help you with succession planning if your model is "Sonny got whacked - get one of his guys to take over." You don't.

Read the rest of the Fistful of Talent post here.

The Big Mo

Essential reading: Cultural Offering on Momentum.

Let Your Answers Be Wise and Brief

The acerbic moderator of a news program once concluded an panel's interview with the famously verbose Senator Hubert Humphrey by noting that perhaps they had enough time for one more question but certainly not for one more answer.

A key talent when answering questions from audiences or panels is knowing when to stop. In general, a three minute answer is better than a 10 minute one if it is clear that you'll be glad to elaborate. Toss the ball into the court of the questioner so it is that person's decision (and so he or she will take the blame) as to whether you will devote more time to the subject.

This does not mean that you slide past some crucial context that must be conveyed for clarity's sake. That context, however, should be given in a short paragraph.

Preparation, of course, is the key. Rambling presentations are the result of inadequate preparation and its child, unclear thought. Thinking out loud is fine for brainstorming sessions but a presentation that seeks to persuade is usually not assisted by injecting new issues.

Far better to leave the listeners a little hungry for more than stuffed with information and ready for a nap.

Quote of the Day

What music is more enchanting than the voices of young people, when you can't hear what they say?

- Logan Pearsall Smith

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No More Saturns?

Jalopnik gives a eulogy for the Saturn.

Rather sad.

Recession Wisdom: Bate's Tips

Professor, consultant, and author Nicholas Bate gives us nine things to remember when selling in a recession.

A FEMA for the Internet?

Will we have a "czar" to guard against a cyber-Katrina? Business Week notes:

Former White House cybersecurity official Paul B. Kurtz, in his first public remarks since becoming an advisor to President Obama’s transition team following the election, describes his biggest worry: A “cyber Katrina” in which fragmented bureaucracies and companies fail to share critical information and coordinate responses to cyber intruders attempting to disrupt power grids, financial markets, or any number of now-plausible scenarios involving a Web shutdown. One recent fear is the cascading effects of even a partial Internet blackout that could add to economic anxieties. There’s such electronic insecurity afoot, some are even beginning to suggest building an entirely new global computer infrastructure.“The bottom line is, is there a FEMA for the Internet? I don’t think there is,” Kurtz told an audience of security professionals at a Feb. 18 Black Hat security conference in Virginia.

Horror Show: Retirement Thoughts and Challenges

One I should have posted earlier: Ask Uncle Bill has a interview with an retirement expert and some practical considerations for anyone facing retirement.

[My own retirement program kicks in shortly after I turn 101.]

Slowing Down

Let us beware of speed.

Fast cars, fast computers, BlackBerries, faxes - all facilitate our rush to disaster. We are addicted to getting many things done early that shouldn't be done at all. The fast experience is rarely as pleasurable as the slow one and we miss much along the way.

There are three villains that, when combined, conspire to produce bad acts: Speed, Impatience, and Fatique. We often cannot spot the effects of Fatique, but the first two can be controlled. Before firing off messages and projects, we should place them in a decompression chamber and revisit them a day or at least several hours later. That will not eliminate the danger, but it will reduce the likelihood of a irrevocable mistake. Furthermore, slower action will evoke an atmosphere of calm deliberation.

And that sort of workplace is very pleasant indeed.

You're Never Too Old for Junior High

A number of staffers had begun to complain about Susser’s management style. Some of the gripes sound like generic faculty-room politics: the Historian, the historians groused, played favorites, doling out perks to those who were deferential. As one staff member put it, “It’s like junior high. I was going to say high school, but it’s more juvenile than that.”

Read the rest of The New Yorker story here and an update here.

Quote of the Day

The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.

- John Locke

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Feeling Used?

Hey, Person I Need!

Long time no talk! How are you?! Sorry I haven’t written you in 17 years — boy have I been busy — but here’s some contrived anecdote to show I’ve been thinking about you. Thought you’d like to hear these few random things that are going on with me, too. Oh, by the way, I was thinking you could hire me/refer me/help me in some other way I’ve been generous enough to dream up for you. And since I’m sure you’re dying to read my resume, it’s attached. Totally can’t wait to catch up!

Read the rest of Nadira A. Hira on
networking mistakes.

What Should Be the Number One Daily Prayer of Leaders

Lord, don't let me make things worse.

Quote of the Day

Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness.

- Dee Hock

Monday, February 16, 2009

Miscellaneous and Fast

Old Boney on Management

Check out Tim Ferriss on Napoleon and information management.

Before Sending that Letter

There are times when dashing off an angry letter or email may be very gratifying.

It is understandable that one would want to put down on paper the feelings of frustration, embarrassment or betrayal.

All of that is human.

Just never send it.

Let your anger cool. Reconsider your initial analysis of the other person's motives. Look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself if an angry note will truly advance your cause.

In many cases, it won't. Indeed, it may even be used as evidence that you are rash or high-strung or not a team player. You may wind up as the main victim of your outburst.

Far better that you wait a while and then arrange a meeting with or call the other person. Those hotly worded letters and email messages have a habit of being saved and forwarded.

I've yet to see one that furthered a career.

Conversations with History

Conversations with History interviews:

Quote of the Day

Virtue is like a rich stone, best plain set.

- Francis Bacon

Sunday, February 15, 2009

From Cowboy to Railway King

Consider the unlikely background of India's railway king. An excerpt:

Lalu is a happy man: happy to have risen to become rich, beloved, and reviled all over India; happy that a grateful nation credits him with whipping its beleaguered rail system into profitability; and happy that he’s managed to do all this and somehow stay out of jail. Under his leadership, Indian Railways has gone from bankruptcy to billions in just a few years. When Lalu presented his latest budget to Parliament on February 13, he bragged, "Hathi ko cheetah bana diya" ("I have turned an elephant into a cheetah"). What’s his secret?

Is The Best In-Between?

We can skim really fast now. This is a problem for marketers, because it means that if they don't make the good parts easily findable and accessible (and bold and loud and memorable) then the whole product becomes invisible.

As consumers of information, though, I wonder if the best parts are really the best parts. Yes, you can read a summary of a book instead of a book, or watch the trailer instead of the movie, or read the executive summary of the consultant's report instead of the whole thing... but the parts you miss are there for a reason.

Read the rest of Seth Godin here.

Bork on the Law

Judge Bork was powerless to roll back this tide, but he refused to abide its logic. On close examination, Griswold’s vaunted penumbras were, he found, a perversion of the “unexceptional proposition” that it is “sometimes necessary to protect actions or associations not guaranteed by the Constitution in order to protect an activity that is.” For example, by shielding a political organization’s membership list from disclosure, a court vouchsafes the group’s undeniable First Amendment rights. In such circumstances, even though unstated in the Constitution, a penumbral right must be accorded; otherwise, the Constitution’s actual, enumerated rights are rendered illusory.

But the penumbral right “has no life of its own” independent of the enumerated right. Bork thus pierced the folly of Griswold and its progeny: the unjustifiable leap from the unavoidably penumbral aspects of specific Bill of Rights amendments to the fabrication of “a general right of privacy that lay outside” those guarantees (emphasis added). Absent tethering to the Constitution’s written protections, privacy would become whatever a judge subjectively thought it should be, rather than what “We the People of the United States” objectively undertook to safeguard. Bork would have none of it. Nothing prevented Americans from enacting laws to integrate gay men and women into the armed forces, but they would have to do it themselves. He would not pretend that the Constitution required it.

Read the rest of Andrew C. McCarthy on Judge Robert Bork.

Quote of the Day

So I spent a great deal of time and energy teaching people how to be helpful rather than arrogant and disrespectful. Believe me, arrogant and disrespectful are easier to teach.

- Philip B. Crosby

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Music of Cultural Offering

One of the great features of Cultural Offering is the site's music selections.

Note the diverse and intriguing choices mentioned in this post.

Veteran Biz Resources

Business Week lists some helpful resources for veterans who want to become entrepreneurs.

Finding the Zone

There is always something to do and often it is more productive, more meaningful, and even more enjoyable than what we are currently doing.

To hell with it.

If we constantly measure our lives against such standards, then productivity, meaning, and pleasure become oppressive. Those items, of course, can also be mutually exclusive. Always having to read faster, write better, complete projects ahead of time, and rapidly seize upon the key points is a self-imposed form of torture.

Much of our development occurs when we are away from the nagging self-improvement regimen. Our mind and perspective is refreshed. We can celebrate the Freedom of Not as in:

  • Not worrying about problems on the other side of the globe or the other side of town;
  • Not having to turn every hour into a showcase of productivity; and
  • Not having an opinion on every "major" topic.

Creating a zone of indifference into which certain troublesome demands and problems can be tucked is not only beneficial for our mental health, but also essential if we are to be free. We don't want a Nanny State. Why assume that oppressive role for ourselves?

The Style of Fenders

Donald at 2Blowhards provides a great look at the evolution of the General Motors fenders from 1936 to 1950. The photos are marvelous.

Quote of the Day

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

- Arthur Buller, "Relativity"

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Ambassador

Read this account of the heroism of a Turkish ambassador during the Second World War.

It's a moving reminder of how the good have to combat the craven as well as the evil. An excerpt from The Weekly Standard article:

He determined to oppose the subjugation of the Turkish Jews living in France. On July 31, 1941, the Turkish embassy asked the Vichy government to exempt those Jews who were Turkish citizens from anti-Semitic legislation:

The Republic of Turkey does not discriminate among its citizens on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or other elements. Moreover, the Republic of Turkey is concerned about the laws by which the French government is forcing our citizens to abide. Therefore, we hereby inform [the French authorities] that we reserve all of our rights with regard to our Jewish citizens.

After the Interview

My post on "Beware of Post-Interview Impressions" is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Where Do You Sit?

Having conducted a gazillion management workshops over the years, I've often wondered about the factors that go into where attendees choose to sit. Here are some possible theories:

Front Row Tables: The assertive, the hard of hearing, and those who live in fear of PowerPoint slides with small font.

Second Row Tables: Those who want to be close but not that close.

Middle Section Tables: Those of moderate views or who arrived after the front and the back seats were taken.

Back Row Tables: Those who like an easy escape, who don't want to risk being put on the spot, or who were forced to attend. Often, the wittiest or craziest comments come from the back row.

Now this is clearly affected by the placement of the refreshments. Put the coffee near the sides and the middle rows will flourish.

In most cases, however, the back seats are the first ones taken. We could probably charge a premium for "Back Row Seat Near Exit and Coffee."


It's Friday and as a special treat for Hans Solo/Mexican food fans . . . .

Quote of the Day

Cats and monkeys - monkeys and cats - all human life is there!

- Henry James

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Peek at Creativity: Lee Marvin

An engaging clip from an interview with Lee Marvin in which he talks about John Ford and John Wayne.

An Alibi, Not a Solution

Rather than taking time to understand and craft a serious solution to a problem, many executives and managers are inclined to:
  1. Send out a policy statement so they can say they've done something.
  2. Order some superficial training so they can say they've done something.
  3. Bring in a well known speaker for a retreat so they can say they've done something.
  4. Placate some community groups so they can say they've done something.
  5. Increase the budget so they can say they've done something.
  6. Reorganize the department so they can say they've done something.
  7. Hire a PR firm so they can say they've done something.

Lincoln on Film

Lincoln's birthday.

An appropriate time to review an extensive collection of photographs of an extraordinary man.

My Old Kindle

Amid all of the hype about the new Kindle, Eclecticity suggested that I write about my experience with the old Kindle.

I can easily sum up my experience: I love it.

What do I like about Kindle?

  1. I can carry around a bunch of books in one light package. There are 21 books that are actively on my Kindle right now. Several are large volumes that I'd rather not take up space on my already crowded bookshelves. When I've finished reading them, I can send them back to be stored at Amazon, freeing up space on my Kindle, and knowing they can be retrieved within seconds.

  2. Ordering a book is too neat for words. It's late. I'm in bed, reading a history book on the Kindle when I think of a management book that would be helpful in the development of a workshop. I click on the Kindle store button, find the book, and order it. Within 30 to 40 seconds, it has been wirelessly sent to my Kindle. I read a chapter before going to sleep.

  3. It feels right. Kindle doesn't have the sensual feel of a regular book - you won't be sniffing the pages - but it's darned close. The page-turning feature is especially neat and there's a certain humorous touch in its ability to dog-ear pages.

What are the downsides?

  1. You don't have easy access to the entire book as you do with a paper volume. This prevents informal browsing and peeking ahead.

  2. It allows highlighting and notes, but that's not quite the same as the joy of scrawling comments in the margin.

  3. Its high-tech lines are attractive and yet they do not have the visual appeal of a well-designed book cover.

  4. Unlike a traditional book, the Kindle volumes cannot be passed around among family and friends.

Summary: If you are a book-lover, you'll probably enjoy the Kindle. I wasn't sure if I'd like it and my book-buying habits haven't enormously changed since getting one, but it is a handy tool. The Kindle is one of the most useful and impressive items I've ever owned.

Quote of the Day

God made me an Indian, but not a reservation Indian.

- Sitting Bull

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't Bet On It Department

Three Legged Chair proposes a freedom of speech issue for the Academy Awards ceremony.


Peter Scallion has a list of new anxiety medications for dealing with economic gloom.

Downshifting a Presentation

At the last minute, due to an administrative snafu beyond the speaker's control, the audience is reduced by three-fourths.

The speaker has to adjust. A smaller group has a different chemistry than a larger one. People behave differently and they feel more conspicuous.

What needs to be done?

The speaker should consider the following:
  1. Strive for a more conversational tone. The general atmosphere will be more intimate and so should the presentation. You should not sound as if you are in a large ballroom when
  2. Reduce the amount of time normally accorded to any small group discussions. Since they feel under the spotlight, participants may clam up. Be prepared to draw them out in informal discussions with the entire group.
  3. Slightly increase the pace of the program but don't go too fast. You want to hit Exciting, which can exist in the land between Plodding and Nervous.
  4. Reduce the number of slides or abandon them entirely. Slides can be a barrier between you and a small audience.
  5. Give one short break per hour. Make it a nine minute break or an eleven minute one. People tend to remember and respect odd numbered breaks.

An Effective Leader Knows

An effective leader knows:
  1. Which rules can - and sometimes should - be broken.
  2. Which rules should never be broken.
  3. When to engage and when to back off.
  4. What to ignore.
  5. What is not known.
  6. The general direction of success.
  7. The general direction of failure.
  8. When to change course.
  9. Where the snares are hidden.
  10. Which opponents have valid points.
  11. Which allies are secret opponents.
  12. Where leverage may be found.
  13. When the followers are tired or scared or both.
  14. Which colleague needs reassurance.
  15. Which colleague needs to be removed.
  16. When to jump down the chain of command.
  17. When to be firm.
  18. How to delegate.
  19. How to communicate.
  20. Which priorities really matter.
  21. How to say no.
  22. How orders are altered as they seep through the ranks.
  23. How to convey a deeper meaning.
  24. When to close debate.
  25. When to expand debate.
  26. When to micromanage.
  27. What to measure.
  28. What to reward.
  29. How to nudge.
  30. How to build alliances.
  31. How to create a sense of urgency.
  32. How to discipline.
  33. How to command loyalty.
  34. How to inspire.
  35. How to set enduring values.
  36. How to give credit to others.
  37. How to be caring without being soft.
  38. How to retain humility.
  39. When to go and see.
  40. When to be reserved.

Quote of the Day

Freedom - by definition, the absence of restraint - can be encroached upon from many sides. Freedom can be destroyed by tyrants, by lawlessness - and by too much law.

- Philip K. Howard

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jobs and Aging

No show of hands required. Is your job making you old?

Miscellaneous and Fast

Stimulus and Its Side Effects

Be sure to check the figures and watch the video as Political Calculations discusses where the stimulus money is going.

Quote of the Day

If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.

- G.K. Chesterton

Monday, February 09, 2009


Well, there's the old line about famous last words being, "Hey fellers, watch this."

If you like cars, watch this.

[HT: Adscam ]

Crooks in the Workplace

There's no polite way of saying this: In bleak times, people are more likely to rip off their employers. According to a Deloitte survey, two-thirds of executives expect insider crime to rise in the next two years. Corporate grifters seem to be getting nervier. Recently, a Maryland man swiped 32 laptops from his nonprofit health-care employer and put them on eBay (EBAY). A chief financial officer changed the color of the type on some spreadsheet data from black to white so as to render the fake numbers invisible while juicing the totals—and his bonus. One regional vice-president for sales billed his corporate card $4,000 for Victoria's Secret lingerie—and not for his wife, either.

Read the rest of Michelle Conlin at Business Week.

Hurray for Bollywood!

Michael at 2Blowhards has a must see post for Bollywood fans or those simply interested in the Indian film business.

Fears and Proclivities

Updated version:

We review a daily menu of fears through lenses that may have been crafted by our proclivities.

The odd thing is many of us worry about theoretical and complicated threats more than we do about real ones. A sizable amount of time is spent stewing over something that first must go from A all the way to P or even Z before it becomes truly harmful. Next to no time may be devoted to a threat that needs only to travel from A to B.

This irrational distinction is often tied to the attractiveness of the solution than to the likelihood of the harm. In short, if a worriers prefers the solution to one fear and does not care for the solution to another, then the first fear may receive higher priority even though that does not comport with the facts. [This behavior is reminiscent of the old joke in which a person who lost a ring in the bedroom chooses to look for it in the kitchen because the kitchen has better light.]

That's why threat analysis also requires an awareness of our solution proclivities. Maslow put it well: If all you have is a hammer, every problem resembles a nail. That can be supplemented: Even if you have other tools, if you greatly prefer using the hammer, you may ignore or discount every problem that does not require hammering.

China's Dissidents

Amid all of the news of China as an emerging superpower, stories such as this one still slip out:

Although the government had long resented Mr. Gao's bold legal championing of human-rights victims of all kinds, his ultimate "crime" in the eyes of the state had been to break the public silence about persecution and torture of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians. His release in 2006 was actually a transfer to a new type of "prison en famille." It was a sentence of collective punishment for him, his wife and their two children. The terms of his suspended sentence deprived Mr. Gao of his political rights, including the right to publish. Yet nothing had been stated about 24-hour police surveillance of the entire family, frequent confinement to their apartment in a building from which other tenants had been removed, or repeated abductions and beatings of both Mr. Gao and the family. They lived in constant terror.

It gets worse.

The Rise in Cybercrime

Had Thomas been looking for real purloined credit card numbers, he could have typed a message to ccarder inquiring about price, quantity, and all the particulars necessary to complete the sale and take possession of the goods. Thomas sees these kinds of negotiations all the time, as well as purchases for a slew of other illicit items: child pornography, Social Security numbers, marijuana, checking account numbers, the requisite laboratory equipment to manufacture methamphetamine, small arms, parts needed to build improvised explosive devices, and packaged sets of unique personal information that allow the buyer to assume someone else's identity. In the cyber black market, buyers and sellers refer to these all-in-one packages as "fullz." Thomas has also seen the chat rooms, of which there are thousands emanating from computer servers around the world, used for trafficking in humans, not just their identities.

Read the rest of Shane Harris on the cybercrime wave.

[HT: Real Clear Politics ]

Quote of the Day

A little experience often upsets a lot of theory.

- Cadman

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Gaiman and Buttons

Neil Gaiman in a promotional video for the new film based on his book, "Coraline."

[HT: Jonathan Wade]

The Next Journalism

Walter Isaacson has some thoughts on how to save the newspapers.

[HT: The American ]

The Nobility of Small Things

It may be time to remember the nobility of small things; actions that, if given proper perspective, are not that small.

The individual who is a responsible and loving parent, who diligently fulfills job responsibilities, and who doesn't shirk from making the community a better place, may not make the headlines but that person is truly, to use an overused expression, the backbone of our society.

These heroes are overlooked in an age of celebrity when flash and glibness seem to trump sacrifice and courage. They are not whiners nor do they believe in the mantra of the envious that one person's achievement means that someone else has lost. They fail and move on. They face challenges in their personal lives that few, if any, of their friends know of. Their patriotism is not jingoistic; indeed, it has far more depth than the superficial allegiance of those who regard this nation as merely one of the better addresses in the neighborhood. Most are sustained by religious beliefs that are sophisticated, uplifting, and far from mindless.

Not only are these worthy citizens ignored, they are mocked as automatons living empty, meaningless lives. Scan the novels in the average bookstore, which could easily establish a Dysfunctional Families section that would rival Mysteries and Science Fiction. Ponder how Hollywood routinely depicts suburbia as inhabited by boobs, hypocrites, and the desperate.

These people do not want to be on Oprah and singled out in a State of the Union address. They don't believe their small but noble actions merit an award.

But they do want - and deserve - simple respect.

Quote of the Day

The greatest remedy for anger is delay.

- Seneca

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Noteworthy Birthday

Today is the birthday of Charles Dickens.

It deserves much greater attention but my day has been consumed with paperwork and the hour is late.

For the true fans out there, here's a helpful map.

Oscar's Blunders

Here's a very debatable take on Oscar's biggest blunders.

Perhaps I missed it, but did he mention "The English Patient?"

Miscellaneous and Fast

Emily Karrs examines Neil Gaiman's "Coraline."

Donald at 2Blowhards analyzes presidential resumes.

Music Break: Grandpa Jones sings "Mountain Dew."

Are more men than women being laid off?

Business Week looks at the world's smallest cars.

Political Calculations presents the best of various blog carnivals.

Subverting Merit

It’s hard to believe that, as part of this mission, the regents are deliberately trying to do their bit to stave off the “yellow peril.” But proponents of racial preferences have let slip some highly unsavory attitudes on occasion. My wife, Abigail, appeared on Crossfire many years ago and was asked by liberal co-host Bob Beckel whether she would “like to see UCLA Law School 80 percent Asian.” In a 1995 interview, President Clinton said that “there are universities in California that could fill their entire freshman classes with nothing but Asian Americans.” In 1998, a writer for Newsday asked, “Since Asians outscore everyone, would we accept an all-Asian class?”

Read the rest of Stephan Thernstrom's article here.