Saturday, February 27, 2010
- John Huston
Friday, February 26, 2010
I like pens. Never much liked pencils. Too much maintenance and their erasers made a mess of things. I liked crossing out. A single line. Zip. Gone but not forgotten. Sort of like a graphic GPS – shows you where you’ve been and where you’re going. Besides, once I wrote the word down, if I decided to use it again, it was easily found.
And blue ink. Has to be blue ink. Not sure exactly why although thinking about it, before computers, we were told when we wrote in ink it had to be blue. And when I worked in advertising in print production, I was told that all signatures on the preprinted letters we sent out had to be in blue. Because it stood out. I still sign my letters in blue.
Be sure to read it all.
They compare favorably, of course, with the vicious Nigerian 419 scamming spammers who famously blanket the inboxes of the world with heart-rending stories of how their brother/sister/uncle or they themselves were once the King of Ruritania and now are trying to get their billions of dollars out of the bank, with your help. Those guys have actually killed the rare but not unheard-of idiots who actually dropped everything and went to Africa to assist in the extraction and stayed to be kidnapped for ransom.
Stanley Bing takes aim on spammers .
But their scams must be working for them.
Some other observations from:
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The latest handbook, further, suggests that we might add a fourth G to Mr. Mechling's three: green. Scouts for years have learned safe camping with minimal impact, and now they have an eco-friendly manual. But that's still not good enough for some. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the fishing merit badge eliminated. The Scouts have yet to do so, but the handbook now recommends tofu in camp stew, so who knows if PETA will triumph? The first edition, in contrast, described how to cook frog legs.
Dan McCarthy writes an excellent blog on leadership. He has written a series of thoughtful and timely posts containing career advice. They are worth reading and pondering.
1. Don’t Settle
Never being on time for a meeting with a subordinate.
Always making subordinates wait for a scheduled meeting.
Taking phone calls during a meeting with subordinates.
Canceling or calling meetings at the last minute.
Back in the 1960s, when so many foolish ideas flourished simply because they were new, a New York Times columnist tried to make the case that we were all somehow responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
That was considered to be Deep Stuff. It made you one of the special folks when you believed that, instead of one of the rest of us poor dumb slobs who believed that the man who shot him was responsible.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
King’s best trick has been to insist that anyone who spurns a cultural icon must be a snob. By making this argument, he’s stopped reviewers in recent years from looking too closely at what he’s writing. Because the truth is that, as praise for his books has become a shibboleth for open-mindedness, King himself has become one of the worst writers in America.
It's a tough question. Several years ago, with some trepidation, we put a page on our web site to give a whimsical view of the personalities of our firm's partners. We worried about whether doing so would seem too informal or frivolous but decided that it would be fun to have a page that is a tad unconventional. We expected that the page would become sort of an inside joke with our current clients.
What surprised us was how often clients and prospects commented favorably on the chance to get a humorous peek beyond the standard pinstriped biographies. It should be acknowledged that we did not get into any territory that might be knocking on the door of controversy - although car preferences and sports teams may do so in some quarters - but showing that we don't take ourselves too seriously could explain the appeal.
Have you noticed anything of a similar nature in your career? So much career and business advice goes in the opposite direction, there may be an advantage in showing the person behind the job title.
- One copy of "The Road" for tips on dealing with marauding bands of cannibals.
- Ponchos, because they look neat.
- Flares, for entertainment.
- Lawyers, guns and money, in deference to Warren Zevon. On second thought, we can skip the lawyers and money. But go for plenty of guns. I also like that sling shot idea.
- Gopher traps. [See "O Brother, Where Art Thou" for guidance.]
- Pop Tarts. Hurricane survivors swear by them.
- Small bottles of Wild Turkey, for use as currency.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
- Government audits of any sort.
- Budget calculations.
- Disputes between employees.
- Inquiries from the boss.
- Phone messages from sales reps who won't take no for an answer.
- Any project that may reveal an embarrassing gap in their knowledge.
- Projects that are unfinished due to procrastination.
- Is our product or service something which takes from people and gives little in return?
- Will they greatly benefit from its use or will they later regret their purchase, however small the price?
- Are we playing psychological games to trick them into buying or are we exploring whether it makes sense for that particular individual?
- When we make a sale, have we acted as the customer's ally or as a competitor who has just scored against an opponent?
- Do we respect our sales prospects and customers or do we regard them solely as a source of income?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Malcolm Gladwell countering Steven Pinker regarding Gladwell's book, "What the Dog Saw":
Here and then here.
Read the rest of Lou Cannon on the passing of Alexander Haig.
[HT: Real Clear Politics]
Read the rest of Eric Felten's article here.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Vroom: Via Dr. Helen, America's Most Dangerous Drivers by Profession.
Simple but effective: The 1939 trailer for "Gone With The Wind."
Jonathan Chait has a Rodney King moment.
Idea Anaconda notes the need to make churches more appealing to men.
George F. Will on populism and Sarah Palin. [HT: Instapundit]
Adfreak: The making of a very creative Old Spice commercial.
Krauthammer on the "structural failure" argument.
Classic: 1964 interview with Alfred Hitchcock.
- You dropped your reluctance to admit the real problem, and
- You finally noticed the common denominator.
Another factor may have also contributed to your myopia: A tendency to get too sophisticated. Some problems hide in mazes. Most are far more visible. As the medical maxim notes, "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."
I'd add: And look for the elephant.
Here is a household version of a Rube Goldberg device. It is beautifully done and I guarantee that you'll smile.
Watch it and then you can spend a rainy Saturday building one in your house. [My favorite part is the Slinky.]
I've read The Man Who Never Was. It's an amazing story.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The first one that went out:
From: Sackett, Bob
Sent: January 11, 2010 8:39 AM
To: DL - Everyone
Subject: Some Guidelines for 2010
From now on, I want everyone to follow a few rules to help us hit on all cylinders in 2010:
1. You must call me “Kemosabe”
2. High fives when things are going well
3. Make “rub your eye” motions when things are not
4. Haircuts every Thursday, I’ll pay
5. Teambuilding in the Best Buy parking lot, BYOB
6. Hugs will be our primary means of communication
Looking forward to a good year.
Though New York had bounced back from a bad war—the city had burned in 1776—it was not a particularly comfortable place, even by the standards of the day. Philadelphia, thanks to Benjamin Franklin, had swept streets. New Yorkers dumped their offal in the gutters, to be eaten by pigs and wild dogs, and the Supreme Court met above the bleating animals of a Broad Street farmers’ market. Abigail Adams complained that it was “impossible to get a servant from the highest to the lowest grade that does not drink.” An influenza epidemic in May of 1790 laid Madison low, and nearly killed Washington.
When he was not ill, the president relaxed by riding a 14-mile circuit to Morningside Heights and back. He attended plays at the John Street Theater and at his residence, where he saw an amateur performance of Julius Caesar. He also went to the circus. In the summer of 1790, he took Jefferson and Hamilton on a three-day fishing trip off Sandy Hook.
Read the rest of Richard Brookhiser here.
[And who would not have wanted to be on a fishing trip with Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton?]
"Oh, so you deceived."
"No, no. I didn't intend to deceive. I just didn't mention anything that might have disturbed the other person."
"But you were aware that the omission would cause the other person to believe something that you knew was not true."
"Well, yeah. But I didn't lie."
"How do you think that person will feel if the news of your creative editing is revealed."
"I don't know."
"I'm not sure if you're being honest about that. How would you feel?"
But this is an interesting time. It's easy to say that concern about federal spending is old, because it is. It's at least as old as Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. But the national anxiety about spending that we're experiencing now, and that is showing up in the polls, is new. The past eight years have concentrated the American mind. George W. Bush's spending, the crash and Barack Obama's spending have frightened people. It's not just "cranky right-wingers" who are concerned. If it were, the president would not have appointed his commission. Its creation acknowledges that independents are anxious, the center is alarmed—the whole country is. The people are ahead of their representatives in Washington, who are stuck in the ick of old ways.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
An approach that I think is helpful: Don't just get the names of former supervisors as references. Also get the names of former colleagues. You may learn more from the people who worked alongside the applicant on committees than you do from the supervisor.
Nobody was interested in a profile of a woman who used to eat roadkill, make moonshine, and sit around reading Sartre with her alcoholic and probably-genius father, a woman who later went on to get her GED, put herself through college, and become a NASA rocket scientist who helped figure out the mess behind the Challenger explosion before turning her back on that world for a life that felt more authentic and invigorating.
Yeah, I can’t see the appeal whatsoever.
Read the rest of the Wired article by Paige Williams here.
- Col. T.N. Dupuy
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
From the article by John Podhoretz:
What a life he lived! I'm talking about a man who grew up on the Lower East Side, a Yiddish-speaking son of a pious working-class father who made his way to Columbia University in the late 1920s — there to edit theColumbia Spectator along with the man who would be his lifelong friend, Herman Wouk. In the 1930s he worked for what was called the "exploitation department" of Warner Bros., I believe, writing press releases about Jimmy Cagney's command of Yiddish and showing Cagney around New York during a publicity tour. (He knew Babe Ruth too.) He then became a journalist, and had a storied career, going from the New York Herald Tribune to PM to other places, as a labor reporter and city editor and foreign correspondent. He wrote cover stories for Newsweek about the anti-imperialist wars in Africa in the late 1950s and 1960s. In his 50s he decided he needed to educate himself better and went to get himself a Ph.D. in history, then became a teacher, and then, in his 60s, embarked on yet another career as a Sovietologist of distinction. He was writing regularly until he was 95.
And saved a bunch of lives.
And in 1962, on the recommendation of EMI recording executive George Martin, the company signed a new group called the Beatles to a recording contract. Over the next decade the company earned millions of dollars from the Fab Four. It was so much money that EMI almost didn’t know what to do with it. Meanwhile, a middle-aged bachelor engineer named Godfrey Hounsfield was working at EMI’s less glamorous electronics business. Hounsfield was a skilled, unassuming scientist, quietly leading a team that built the first all-transistor computer. Flush with money broken out of teenagers’ piggy banks, EMI let Hounsfield pursue independent research.
I took enormous strength from reading about Grant and what he went through. He was a truly admirable figure. The response he had after the first day in Shiloh was one that I often repeated to our troopers during the tough moments.
As you'll recall, the Union forces were almost driven into the river in the first day at Shiloh; terrible casualties. It's the night of the first day, it's raining, he's got his slouch hat on. Rain is literally running off it, got a wet cigar on his mouth, the cries of the wounded all around him. There's no shelter because the wounded are inside anything that has a roof on it, so he's sitting in this chair under a tree and it's dark. And out from the darkness stomps Sherman, his most trusted, I think, subordinate leader during those war years. And Sherman says to him, "Well, Grant, we had the Devil's own day today, didn't we?" And Grant says, "Yup. Lick 'em tomorrow though."
Of course, they don't have to work alongside your problem.
That's why a key line in dealing with lawyers - or HR types, for that matter - is "We cannot tolerate this." You then have to be prepared to back that up with supporting evidence, general and specific. The line is important because they may assume that you can tolerate it. In fact, you've probably been tolerating it for some time and only approached the dismal duo of Law and HR after exhausting your patience or depleting your supervisory bag of tricks. Can you blame them for thinking that they may be looking at two problems: the one you brought in and the one that is you?
As a result, part of your strategy must be to convince them that you are not a problem reporting a problem. You must impress them with your professionalism and your reasonableness. Your demeanor should cause a little cartoon bubble to float above your head and that bubble should read "Good witness." If you appear to be disorganized, vindictive, uncertain or prejudiced, other bubbles will appear.
This is especially challenging because, due to the procrastination that you must vow never to repeat, your mood may not be the best. Restrain yourself. Understate your case. And zero in on the solid proof that reasonable action must be taken.
If you need more proof, bear-hug the lawyer and HR. Bring them into the process so their fingerprints are all over your plan of impending action. This will increase the likelihood of their support in the future. As was once said, people seldom argue against their own data. You want your strategy to become their strategy.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
- "How to Discipline an Employee Without Upper Management Getting Weak-Kneed and Selling Me Out Later"
- "Briefing Your Team on What is Happening When You Don't Have a Clue"
- "Techniques for Maintaining a Straight Face When Someone Who Can Harm Your Career is Speaking Utter Nonsense"
- "Staying Motivated When the Weasels are Winning"
- "How to Survive Being Logical in an Illogical Workplace"
- "Secrets of Successful Loons"
Monday, February 15, 2010
And how will we know how good we are? Once we've learned how bad we were. Or are.
In order to achieve that rather unsettling state, we have to learn more. It's possible to be praised in one firm for achievements that would be average in another so trophies and salary bonuses aren't a reliable indicator. Many of us once regarded ourselves as good leaders and managers and later came to realize our limitations.
The formula for success involves constant learning through study, reflection, and action. Given the current economy, that is more important than ever.
Our employers may have other plans. We need to invest in ourselves.
Here are several things I've noticed:
- I miss Jim McKay but Bob Costas is extremely good.
- I also miss the lengthier coverage that was given in the old days. It was nice seeing more events and award ceremonies.
- Not missed: The East German and Soviet judges.
As the company grew to become the world's largest automaker, it failed to adjust its corporate structure to accommodate its altered scale. And in its zeal to deliver profits as well as revenue, it may have overlooked fundamental principles that used to underpin its business.
As names were mentioned, I silently noted the ones that were absent. A couple of possibilities would have sunk the projects on the date of their appointment solely on the basis of reputation. These people had burned bridges with several key players and generated wholly unnecessary animosity.
Had they been appointed, all would have been sweetness and light on the surface, but cooperation would have evaporated. The desire not to help an enemy would have trumped any desire to see the project succeed.
"Plays well with others" is a virtue that goes far beyond the playground and people can have very long memories of those who do not.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Do you ever wonder why CEOs are prone to buy dubious management fads that have Flavor of the Month stamped on the cover?
I suspect that these hard-nosed decision makers are especially prone to misjudgment when confronted with social science-related subjects, such as diversity and affirmative action. Unfortunately, there are plenty of "experts" willing to encourage those misjudgments if sizable amounts of money are involved.
This is not meant to mock. Their stumbles are a reminder to all of us that a combination of humility and skepticism may be needed when we step outside of our zones of knowledge.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Organizations don't naturally wonder about what their employees want. Unrewarded genius is the norm. As some wag put it, fools rush in and get the best seats.
If you want something, you have to ask for it. Don't hint. Don't expect justice. And don't think the decision is obvious.
- Richard Farson
Thursday, February 11, 2010
On another level, however, the minutes are an illustration of citizen initiative and decentralized power. A diverse group of people with a common unifying interest has regularly built upon the earlier work of other citizens; a process that, in this particular case, has been going on since 1864. They may not be efficient because there are other demands on their time, but via the power of the incremental and the efforts of folks who sacrifice evenings and beaver away at projects, they eventually get things done.
Boring? Sure, but also very impressive.
Strategies fail for lots of reasons. One of the most common is that strategies are, all too often, not created to move toward a defined future, but simply in response to a threat. For example, in the early eighties, Pepsi had a strategy of “winning on cost.” It was how they thought they’d take market share from Coke, which at the time was beating them in most domestic markets. Unfortunately, that strategy wasn’t linked to a clear vision (other than “kill Coke”), so they made some sales decisions that weren’t sustainable, in terms of impact on long-term profitability.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Michael Ledeen gives his perspective on the context but not on the event. An excerpt:
I believe that the Iranian regime has assembled the largest armed force in history to protect it from the Iranian people’s righteous indignation on Thursday the 11th. There will be hundreds of thousands of police, revolutionary guards, Basij, and people bused in from the countryside to Tehran.
Additionally, the regime is shutting down communications, especially in Tehran. Iranian Tweeters say internet is largely gone, and cell phones are not working. None of this is new, and in the past the dissidents have managed to beat the censors; it will be interesting to see if the mullahs’ trusted advisers (mostly Chinese) are more effective this time. They certainly have failed in China, and the Iranian authorities have demonstrated an almost supernatural ability to screw up their own plans.
At 15th Avenue and Tea, the quest to cultivate highbrow customers continues. There’s a wall covered with excerpts from Plato’s dialogues. Blended drinks are banned from the premises, and you can safely assume that Bearista Bears, the highly sought-after plush toys that Starbucks has been selling since 1997, won’t ever appear here either.
Read the rest as Michael Calore examines its pros and cons .
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
. . . DC today is the province of taxi drivers and SUV owners who seem simultaneously confused and overconfident. As I eased down the street in our little Japanese sedan, I quickly surmised that none of the drivers in the bite-sized tanks surrounding me had ever seen snow before. Three blocks later I revised that opinion: I don't think any of them had ever seen cars before. Certainly not the ones they were operating.
The evidence that the threats of the 21st century are going to be that much different from the threats of the 20th is lacking. Likewise, there is no evidence that a “new way of war” is evolving or that we somehow had a previously flawed understanding. In fact, the use of the new words strongly indicates that those using them do not wish to be encumbered by a generally useful and coherent set of terms that military history had previously used. As war and warfare are not changing in ways that demand new words, it is odd that people keep inventing them.
Avatar, the latest cinematic science-fiction epic, turns out to be a half-a-billion-dollar case of reinventing the Ferris wheel. The final product is a hyper-gaudy, brainless attraction that goes round and round and deposits you exactly where it picked you up, only you’re poorer and dumber and you’ll never get your 2 hours and 40 minutes back.
While they come from diverse ethnic and regional backgrounds, most of the men involved in homegrown plots fit a similar profile: they are middle class and well-educated. The same can be said of many, if not most, Islamist terrorists, whether it be the son of the former Nigerian finance minister who attempted to bring down a plane on Christmas Day near Detroit; the seven British doctors (and one medical technician) who plotted to carry out car bombings in 2007; or Osama bin Laden himself, whose family operates a massive construction empire worth billions of dollars. This reality contradicts the trendy, post-9/11 contention, as wrong then as it is now, that terrorism is caused by poverty.
Read the rest of Michael P. Maslanka's post here.
Monday, February 08, 2010
Lewis’s advice to his correspondents often took the form of quotable epigrams. To a new wife who felt guilty over her mixed emotions about pregnancy, Lewis observed about guilt feelings, “You can’t help their knocking on the door; but you mustn’t ask them in to lunch” (3, 310). To a mother who asked Lewis to write a letter to her troubled daughter, Lewis answered prudently, “I think advice is best kept till it is asked for” (3, 320). On the same subject to the same correspondent, Lewis observed in another letter, “If few can give good advice, fewer still can hear with patience advice either good or bad” (369).
- Leave all humor at the door.
- Make sure your appearance is thoroughly professional.
- Don't badmouth the old boss.
- Don't criticize other managers or employees.
- Avoid any semblance of pandering.
- If you don't know something, admit it.
- Don't understate the impact of past mistakes.
- Make no assumptions regarding the boss's management proclivities.
- Be able to discuss and recommend alternatives to current policies.
- Know your subject area inside-out.
- Don't overwhelm the boss with details, but have them at hand.
- Be respectful of time.
- Expect interruptions.
- Know all areas of risk and all available resources.
- Don't brag.
- Know three things you'd like changed and three things you want to remain the same - just in case you are asked.
- Be prepared to note what is done well and what can be improved.
The best thing about the Who Dat Nation is how nice they all are. I’ve been to a lot of conventions, some of them in New Orleans, but also in Houston, Miami, Dallas and of course, Vegas, and this Super Bowl was, without question, the most pleasant gathering of happy drunkards I have ever attended. Some people get annoying or mean when they’ve been sopping up alcohol and shrimp for three consecutive days. Not this bunch. This was simply a gathering of excited, happy people bobbling around like kids saying “Who Dat?” to each other until game time.
Read the rest here.
No word on whether Israel has a surprise planned for February 10.
[HT: Drudge Report]
The larger reality is that a lot of important talks happen here that have implications up and down the IT security food chain. It's also important to note that a lot of the young ruffians who come here are the very people who find the security holes so they can be fixed. They also build a lot of the technology CSOs lobby their upper management to invest in.
Tyler Shields of the Veracode Research Lab gave a talk about those BlackBerry phones security execs can no longer live without. His message: The BlackBerry is full of weaknesses an attacker can exploit to target the larger enterprise network.
Many CSOs have become equally dependent on their iPhones, and they are increasingly being used to conduct business. Guess what? Those devices are equally at risk, according to Trevor Hawthorn, founder and managing principal at Stratum Security. He gave a presentation on how the bad guys can attack through your iPhone apps and tap into your GPS to track your whereabouts.
Courtney, 21, is a student at Penn State University. Tucker Max, 33, six feet tall, extrovertedly good-looking, and usually photographed latched to a girl, a bottle of booze, or a cheeseburger, is an honors graduate (in three years) of the University of Chicago. He has a law degree from Duke University, whose admissions committee was so impressed with his academic record that it awarded him an academic scholarship. Yet his only experience practicing law to date has consisted of getting fired from a $2,400-a-week summer-associate job at a prestigious Silicon Valley firm for, among other things, showing up intoxicated at the orientation meeting and complaining that he couldn’t see anything because he had lost his contacts in a hookup with a girl he had met at a party the night before; informing a female recruiter at the firm that he was “calling a porn line” when she walked into his office unexpectedly; and getting fall-down drunk at a firm retreat and shouting the F-word at a charity auction attended by the partners and their spouses. His email account of the last escapade made its way to laughs around the country.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Brees once threw 73 passes in a college game and then apologized afterward for not throwing more.
Even more on the TV day that never ends.
Reagan had just "survived" the economic recession and was preparing to blow up the world. My professors reacted to conservative views with attitudes ranging from puzzlement to disgust. In my Capitalism Versus Socialism class the socialist viewpoint was ably represented by a former SDSer; the capitalist viewpoint was butchered by a professor with views barely to the right of the socialist prof. It wasn't that they couldn't understand conservatism; they had no interest.
My experience was similar. I never had a problem with decidedly left-wing professors - one of the best teachers I encountered was a Marxist teaching assistant - but their knowledge of conservatism was cartoonish.
Read the rest here.
[Well, that certainly addresses a major issue: Getting college students to think more about sex.]
Use calm, assertive energy: Caesar teaches humans that screaming, yelling and anger only serve to escalate the energy of the dog to that level; they are ineffective at best and can be destructive. Organizational leaders who use these techniques must also find a way to stop using these emotions that can be “caught” like viruses in the organizations they lead.