Saturday, January 30, 2010
Michael P. Maslanka examines a very interesting case:
- Eclecticity: The world's smallest political quiz.
- Wally Bock likes the AMA Handbook of Leadership.
- Will Wired readers buy the iPad?
- Investments: The rise of vintage film posters.
- Political Calculations: On the Moneyed Midways.
- Dieting a la Margaret Thatcher.
- Selma march slide show: Dennis Hopper's pictures.
- Ron Radosh on Howard Zinn.
- Robert Kagan on the Obama foreign policy.
- Hit in Italy: The Mussolini iPhone app.
- Spell check: Tattoos gone bad.
- Auld snacks: What audiences ate while watching Shakespeare.
- Mort Zuckerman on who is to blame for the financial crisis.
This account made my day. An excerpt:
No one yet knows it but the groundhog being escorted around by a local realtor and business leader is the Vice President of the local hospital. Each year a well-known business leader sucks it up and secretly suits it up as the groundhog. He or she walks around, waves, shakes paws and is unveiled at the end of the breakfast. As an observer, you are puzzled now but will notice how pleasant everyone is. Members of the business community, elected officials, community members and anyone else who shows up all mingle and talk as the band, Crash and Burn, sets up to begin playing rock and roll favorites for the crowd.
Friday, January 29, 2010
The central fact of the speech was the contradiction at its heart. It repeatedly asserted that Washington is the answer to everything. At the same time it painted a picture of Washington as a sick and broken place. It was a speech that argued against itself: You need us to heal you. Don't trust us, we think of no one but ourselves.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The twin accelerator and carpet problems have been widely blamed on Toyota's pell-mell expansion over the last several years in its effort to pass General Motors and become the leader in worldwide sales.
But the accelerator problems seem to lie instead with a parallel effort that accompanied expansion: an almost paranoid drive to cut costs by using cheaper materials.
The world Auchincloss describes is one in which every prerogative is owed to age--not out of filial piety or a sense of tradition, but because the elderly tend to have a stranglehold on family capital. A favorite Auchincloss theme is the way those whose lives are already behind them reach out to poison all the sexual, intellectual, idealistic, and even ethical promise of youth--to poison anything inconsistent with dynasty-formation, the moral order, or the moneyed person's whims, which grow increasingly hard to distinguish.
Carol tries to sink any proposals that are not first coordinated with her.
Ted thinks anyone who holds a high position got there by walking over the bodies of others.
And Al? Al is simply a predator who creates confusion, spreads rumors, and damages careers for the joy of it.
We like to think our civilization has evolved beyond such people, but unfortunately they are still out there. It is wise to remember that.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
SP: When it comes to generating ideas, what’s your process? Solitary? Collaborative? Is it fun, is it grueling? How, exactly, do you work?
SG: I’ve come to realize that I’m unusual. For me, it happens all the time. It spills out of me. Most of the ideas are horrible, useless and distracting. When I have a specific problem to solve, I use a more focused process. I’ll often buy a new notebook, different from the ones I’ve used before. Special pens. Then I’ll try to be somewhere with distractions (yes, with distractions) so that out of the corner of my ‘eye’ I can invent.
I’ve found that the next level up is the focused meeting. I’ll bring together energetic, smart people and outline the problem. The act of talking about it, showing off, demonstrating the options… it generates even more energy, which I return and they return and there’s a whiteboard and what-ifs and excited voices and the next thing you know, the problem retreats, head held in shame, defeated.
The brave but emotional fighter pilot or the ultra-logical but "cold fish" analyst?
After years of favoring Spock, I've concluded that I'm not wild about either one. There is more to life, if I may twist a phrase, than contained in Spock's logic and Kirk's embrace of the emotional can be more than off-putting.
The two extremes are helpful reminders that there is no single leadership style that is best. The most effective leaders use a multitude of approaches depending upon the occasion. Sometimes, it is time to be collegial and other times a more formalistic or even autocratic approach is required. That versatility, however, must be anchored to a solid core of values or else versatility will quickly sink into rank opportunism.
As for fiction, Kirk and Spock are pretty boring compared to Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.
The crowd will go wild. Steve will demonstrate how powerful his latest creation is, and he will summon various experts to aid him in this task, possibly including executives from EA Games, and maybe a famous newspaper. Its powers as a gaming tool, creative machine, navigation aid, shared family data portal, video conferencing device and entertainment center will be quickly revealed--so much of this wonder will unfold in the coming weeks.
Read the rest of the Business Week article here.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
- Employment attorney John Phillips on "the lepers of the 21st century."
- Idea Anaconda has a way to improve "Avatar."
- Ann Althouse on the passing of Pernell Roberts.
- Tanmay Vora stresses the importance of pain.
- U.S. Grant: The Most Underrated President.
- Opinions on the current President's first year from: The Nation
- Dr. Helen: Your chair is trying to kill you.
- Jon Stewart on the teleprompter in the grade school classroom.
- Jim Stroup explores the Management Uncertainty Principle.
- Spitting Cobra: Michael Yon's pictures of an artillery battery in Afghanistan.
And we wonder, "Why did I overlook that? Why didn't I at some point take an hour or two to consider the alternative course of action that now seems so right?"
One reason, I would submit, is that once we made our poor decision, we ruled out any periodic review. We stopped thinking macro and started thinking micro. Rather than stopping at certain points and asking if we were on the right track, we became oh-so-efficient train engineers, shoveling in the coal, watching the rails, and making sure that every station was reached on time. Our only questions dealt with How and not with Whether.
That's why teams - and individuals - need to set aside regular times to question their assumptions and ask, "If we were starting fresh, would we take on our current projects? If not, why not? If not, why shouldn't we change now?"
Read the rest of David Brooks on the populist addiction.
[HT: Real Clear Politics]
Monday, January 25, 2010
We got us a Black & Geauxld Super Beauxl!!!! I'm headed over to N.O. on Thursday, and I'm sure the joint will be jumpin!!! Natalie just called me a few minutes ago and held her phone out the window and it sounded like a war!!!!...Only with a hundred bands playing all at once...cannons (real ones), fireworks, gunfire everywere. Sounded like a wild scene!
- Loses files.
- Gives cryptic explanations.
- When asked for "Help," never helps.
- Brings a lot of worthless stuff to my attention.
- Surprises me with sudden crises.
- Occasionally makes subtle threats.
- Requires expensive upgrades even if there is no change in performance.
- Introduces viruses into the workplace.
- Needs frequent screening by security.
- Is impressive at first but then becomes slower and slower.
My own humble advice is that NBC should turn the task of choosing a late night host into a version of American Idol. Film auditions by Americans from throughout the nation and let the public vote. That process couldn't help but improve on the selections made since Carson retired.
My vote is for Mark Steyn.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Who are these people, these sources? They’re the kind of people who could take paychecks from Hillary Clinton and then tell reporters their version of her most intimate yearnings. They’re the kind of people who could work for Elizabeth Edwards and her husband—one strike against them right there—and then recount for public consumption the following anecdote about a domestic squabble.
Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to look away she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. “Look at me!” she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.
Who are these people, these sources? Why, they’re highly paid, well-regarded political professionals, who have risen to the top of their trade.
I'm surprised at the nominees, not because my own obscure blog is missing, but because some that very good blogs that I thought would be serious contenders are not even in the running. Such is the story of elections.
- Mark Steyn
Read all of his article here.
It can be difficult to say that a novel is about a family when in most cases there is so much more packed into the story. Using a very loose standard, I'd add:
The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Friday, January 22, 2010
- The UK trailer for "1984."
- Gail Collins versus David Brooks on political strategy.
- Tim Berry examines real free and fake free.
- Jon Stewart takes on Keith Olbermann.
- Christopher Hitchens on Gore Vidal.
- Sensory Dispensary shows the most useless machine ever.
- Wally Bock: How to hire a coach.
- CSO: The "democratization of espionage."
Read the rest of the Jalopnik article here.
[Of course, air traffic delays do not normally involve death.]
Speaking broadly: In the 2006 and 2008 elections, and at some point during the past decade, the ancestral war between Democrats and the Republicans began to take on a new look. If you were a normal human sitting at home having a beer and watching national politics peripherally, as normal people do until they focus on an election, chances are pretty good you came to see the two major parties not as the Dems versus the Reps, or the blue versus the bed, but as the Nuts versus the Creeps. The Nuts were for high spending and taxing and the expansion of government no matter what. The Creeps were hypocrites who talked one thing and did another, who went along on the spending spree while lecturing on fiscal solvency.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Whenever possible, the Clintons expressed empathy with suburban and small-town voters. In contrast, the Obama administration seems almost willfully city-centric. Few top appointees have come from either red states or suburbs; the top echelons of the administration draw almost completely on big city urbanites—most notably from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They sometimes don’t even seem to understand why people move to suburbs.
- Mark Steyn
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Today—January 20, 2010—the Dutch establishment’s most serious effort yet against Wilders gets under way, as he is forced to go to criminal court to defend his right to speak his mind. Wilders is, of course, not the first European to face legal action for criticizing Islam; such luminaries as Oriana Fallaci and Brigitte Bardot also appear on that honor roll. But Wilders’s case nonetheless feels unprecedented. To read the official summons addressed to him—a sitting member of the Dutch Parliament and the head of a major Dutch political party—is all but surreal. It is to feel as if one has been hurled back into a distant, pre-Enlightenment era; it is to feel that in one fell swoop, the illusion of freedom in Europe has been extinguished. (An English translation is available here.)
Read the rest of the Slate article here.
Read the rest here.
Examples of Classy Restaurant Names:
La Pleuve en Voiture
Ye Really Olde Countrie Manour Downes Inne
Examples of Non-Classy Restaurant Names:
The Chew 'n' Swallow
It is well known that Warren Buffett likes to hold business lunches at Dairy Queen. Are there any chain restaurants or coffee shops that you use for business meetings? [I've confessed in a previous post to a bias for Starbucks.]
It wasn’t always this way. In the 16th century, when William Tyndale translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English, thereby unlocking the Word of God to the common man, he was rewarded for his efforts by being burned at the stake. So were most of the copies of his translation. In colonial times, it was illegal to print Bibles in North America; only certain printers in England and Scotland were authorized to publish the holy book. During the Revolution those imports stopped, creating, according to The Centennial History of the American Bible Society, a “famine of Bibles.” So in 1782 the Philadelphia printer Roger Aitken printed 10,000 copies of America’s first complete English Bible. The book came with a congressional endorsement, but when the war ended, cheap imports resumed, domestic competition exploded, and thousands of copies of the Aitken Bible failed to sell. In 1791, he wrote a letter to Pennsylvania’s tax man stating that he’d lost $4,000 on the venture. Today America is characterized by Biblical obesity, not Biblical famine. A 2003 survey conducted by Zondervan, one of the nation’s largest Christian book publishers, found that the average U.S. household contains 3.9 Bibles, and U.S. consumers purchase approximately 20 million new Bibles annually. “Business analysts describe Bible publishing as a mature industry with little prospect for strong growth,” The Boston Globe reported in 1986, but year in and year out, the Bible remains the best-selling book in America.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Bravo for them.
But there are occasions when we should take away the compliment. By conforming to the stereotype in superficial ways, are they not reinforcing a system that is in need of change? Sometimes the old line of "Quietly changing the system from the inside" is more accurately translated as "Afraid to speak up."
We've heard of Groupthink. It is also helpful to be on the alert for the related problem of Group Superficial Conformity. I've seen groups vote in favor of an action that most of the members secretly opposed and yet each person voted for it because of the perception that the others favored it. Jerry B. Harvey called this The Abilene Paradox. The stereotype fashioned the expected position and there was the strong, but probably false, belief that dissent would have invited punishment.
One solution: Beware of rapid agreement and get to know the people in the room. They are far more complicated than they appear.
. . . Here's the guy who's responsible for some of the most breathtaking movies of his generation, and the real surprise is this: almost every year over the last thirty, he worked on one or more exciting projects that were never green lighted and produced. Every year, he spent an enormous amount of time on failed projects.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Read the rest of Laura Miller on the appeal of Scandinavian crime fiction.
You won't find many 13-inch screens as bright as the ThinkPad Edge's (1366 x 768 pixels), and spec-wise the computer is solid as well: 1.3-GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM, and a 320-GB hard drive. That's on par with machines like the Dell Adamo — but the Edge comes in at 40 percent the price, a mere $900 as configured here. The Edge is lighter, too, at 3.9 pounds — and its compact design makes it feel even smaller than that.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Wired reports ultra-sophisticated hack attacks on Google and Adobe.
In 1991, a book editor at Random House pulled from the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts a novel about a murder that roils a Baltimore suburb. Written by a first-time author and mother-to-be named Mary Cahill, "Carpool" was published to fanfare. Ms. Cahill was interviewed on the "Today" show. "Carpool" was a best seller.
That was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material.
Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article.
- C. S. Lewis
Thursday, January 14, 2010
You can count on some journalist asking, "Do you feel it is time for you to give back to the community?"
Hmm. Hasn't that person already given quite a bit to the community? Doesn't the tone of the question imply that building a business is an inherently selfish activity? Wasn't there a sizable amount of sacrifice and risk along the way?
This is not to decry charitable giving by businesses or gazillionaires. My criticism is directed at the anti-business bias behind the question.
Are wealthy actors or artists subjected to those queries? I doubt it.
Are Haitian buildings designed to resist earthquakes? No, for the most part. Haiti has no national building codes. Some construction companies (especially those working with relatively generous budgets) do voluntarily follow codes like the French or Canadian standards or the International Building Code.
We've rowed to various positions in hope of catching the trade winds, but there are days when the air is still.
So we hone our skills, study the maps and the heavens as well as the logs of other captains, and row some more.
Nothing stirs. And then we hear a whisper and the sails begin to fill. Grateful, we cheer, but we don't know for certain just how we caught that breeze.
Or how long it will last.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
As I listened to the reports of the disaster, two very different things came to mind: this song by Harry Belafonte and Graham Greene's novel "The Comedians" which was later made into a memorable film.
Edwidge Danticat, an award-winning Haitian-American author was unable to contact relatives in Haiti. She sat with family and friends at her home in Miami, looking for news on the Internet and watching TV news reports.
"You want to go there, but you just have to wait," she said. "Life is already so fragile in Haiti, and to have this on such a massive scale, it's unimaginable how the country will be able to recover from this."
[HT: Drudge Report]
Read the rest of the Reason article by Steven Greenhut .
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
If you recently found a shiny gold dollar coin in downtown Bellevue, thank the kindness class. Ditto if you stumbled upon a piece of glass art in Pioneer Square, or a lottery ticket taped to a bus shelter with a note saying, "This may be your lucky day."
So, this was undeniably the it: the truly life-altering break I had always dreamed of. And, I went to work. I gathered all my funny friends and poured all my years of comedy experience into building that show over the summer, gathering the talent and figuring out the sensibility. We debuted on September 13, 1993 and I was happy with our effort. I felt like I had seized the moment and put my very best foot forward. And this is what the most respected and widely read television critic, Tom Shales, wrote in the Washington Post: "O'Brien is a living collage of annoying nervous habits. He giggles and titters, jiggles about and fiddles with his cuffs. He had dark, beady little eyes like a rabbit. He's one of the whitest white men ever. O'Brien is a switch on the guest who won't leave: he's the host who should never have come. Let the Late show with Conan O'Brien become the late, Late Show and may the host return to Conan O'Blivion whence he came." There's more but it gets kind of mean.
One day over lunch, he remarked that he'd learned one thing in his career: "Today's S.O.B. is tomorrow's hero."
I often remember that observation and relate it to executives and managers who've had career setbacks. Most people are very forgiving and the avalanche of news rapidly transforms hot headlines into ancient history. Add to that the fact that come-back stories are popular and there is increased potential for a rebound.
Americans, often to their detriment, don't pay that much attention to the past. We tend to focus on the Now and the Future. "What have you done lately?" is the relevant question. Barring something horrendous, it can be relatively easy to become known for your better, and more recent, deeds.
The secret is to give people a reason to forgive and then let time do its work.
- Criminal inside: Social engineering scams.
- The formula: How food companies determine "serving size."
- Salute: The very model of a modern major general.
- Memorable scenes: The Reagan funeral and the JFK funeral procession.
- Great film: The trailer for Raise the Red Lantern.
- And from the same director: Shanghai Triad.
- Twilight star: 12 hours to paint a skin suit?
- Muslim integration in Europe: Caldwell interviewed by Der Spiegel.
The true genius of the mechanism goes beyond even the complex calculations and craftsmanship of a mechanical calendar. For example, the ancients didn't know that the moon has an elliptical orbit, so they didn't know why it sometimes slowed or sped up as it moved through the zodiac. The mechanism's creator used epicyclic gears, also known as planetary gears, with a "pin-and-slot" mechanism that mimicked this apparent shifting in the moon's movement.
Monday, January 11, 2010
From a classic 1997 Outside article by Peter Stark on the process of freezing to death.
They are we. However you provide service, remember this. If you sell cars, work at a counter, answer phones, manage million dollar accounts, "they" didn't make the mistake; "they" won't be reviewing the issue; "they" won't sign off on it - or not sign off on it for that matter; "they" didn't lose the paperwork. And you won't send it over to "them" for review.
Here is a secret: The customer doesn't really care which department missed it. The customer might agree that it isn't "your fault", but their agreement is meaningless. The customer wants a good experience and "we" deliver it.
But old Frank's isn't the only pop song that has a line or two or advice that doesn't mesh with experience or logic or which pushes a hot button. The "Nothing to kill or die for" and "no religion" lines from "Imagine" always drive me up the wall and yet I know many people who regard that song as sort of a personal anthem. [Confession: But for the one line, I like "My Way."]
There are probably loads of tunes we enjoy and yet if we'd listened more closely or gave any weight to the lyrics, the enjoyment might diminish. Gordon Lightfoot even got to the point where he'd apologize to audiences after singing "That's What You Get For Loving Me" and the ramifications of some lines are amusing. For example, isn't Carly Simon's hit "Nobody Does It Better" really saying you're a great lover but there were plenty of comparisons?
Are there any acclaimed songs with lyrics that - logically or not - bug you?
A related element that needs to be examined is the question of comfort. How many poor management practices are adopted because people just don't want the hassle that comes with being a good manager? In my experience, many. Poor management, like water, seeks its own level and being a good manager can require some pretty unpleasant tasks. Wise firms will recognize that and do their best to reduce the discomfort while encouraging the use of good management. That which is comfortable may get done. Being a good manager may never be a comfortable job but we can make it less so.
Even so, BMW is selling almost twice as many Minis and increasing production of the car, a retro version of an iconic compact. The Mini has been popularized in movies including the remake of “The Italian Job,” while the Smart appeared in new “Pink Panther” films with Steve Martin.
“It’s very difficult for Smart to duplicate the success of Mini,” said Rebecca Lindland, director of auto research at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “The primary characteristic of Smart is that it’s small. The primary characteristic of Mini is that it’s irresistibly adorable, with performance thrown in.”
Sometimes, the comments eventually show up, but if yours do not, please resubmit them. I only reject comments that are spam, defamatory, or in poor taste. Of those, 99 percent are spam. You'd be amazed at how much spam comes in the form of comments. Although it has tapered off lately, I'd sometimes get 25 or more spam comments completely unrelated to the post. Most sold gold.
I apologize for the inconvenience.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
"An assault is when a student intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes physical injury to another. Students who violate this will be immediately suspended, the Police will be contacted (Ages 9 and up), and a Review Board hearing will be conducted."
Let me think back to my elementary school days. My friends and I - the guys - often punched one another in the arm. There were no suspensions and the police were never called. If a teacher saw it, the likely response would have been to tell one of us to "Cut it out." Case closed.
If there were a serious fight, the aggressor would have been hauled off to the principal's office and suspended. The parents, not the police, would have been called.
Do the school administrators and lawyers who craft these provisions know how devoid of common sense they are?