Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Extraordinary Man

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: "Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals."

Here's the rest of the story about Manute Bol: Christian, athlete, and hero.

Must Reading: The Woot Memo

What does a CEO tell the employees after their company has been acquired by Amazon?

Well, in the case of Woot, he writes this memo. Here's a sample:

Other than that, we plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot – with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organizational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office furniture. Nevertheless, don’t worry that our culture will suddenly take a leap forward and become cutting-edge. We’re still going to be the same old bottom-feeders our customers and readers have come to know and love, and each and every one of their pre-written insult macros will still be just as valid in a week, two weeks, or even next year. For Woot, our vision remains the same: somehow earning a living on snarky commentary and junk.

[HT: boingboing]

Change and Urgency

Kotter: What I found at least a decade ago is you don't start by saying, we're going to change the corporate culture. That's the end result. It's a very good end result, but it's not where you start, and it's the wrong goal.

Tradition is a very powerful force. You see cases [in which] people work their butts off for a few years, and they do find new ways of doing innovation and marketing, and it works, and then they take their eye off the ball to do something else, and it all starts to creep back toward tradition. It's all about making it stick, and that inevitably changes the culture.

Read the rest of the Business Week interview with John P. Kotter and Nancy Dearman here.

Robinson Interviews Steyn and Long

Peter Robinson discusses Reagan's effect on American politics with Mark Steyn and Rob Long:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

A Film for November

For those of us who are hard-core Potter fans, November is a long wait.

Here's the trailer for the Harry Potter film . [Note that there will be two parts and the second film will be out later.]

[HT: Instapundit]

Miscellaneous and Fast

You Are What You Read

The old anti-censorship line was "No girl was ever seduced by a book."

As much as I oppose censorship, I've always regarded that thought as rather feeble. It denies the impact of literature. Just as many of us are uplifted by what we read, so too may we be brought down via the same activity.

I've gotten to the point where my reading is carefully selected depending on what I want my mood to be. Russian literature can be gloomy (although I still read it) and an Inspector Maigret novel makes me want to sit at a boulevard cafe and wonder about the lives of strangers.

So what do you read when you want to get pumped up and which writers do you avoid?

The Pre-Fab Candidate

Cultural Offering has the ad for "Senator Clint Webb."

We have more than one of these guys in high office right now.

Hamlet's Blackberry

This sounds interesting: a new book on the dangers of digital distractions.

Quote of the Day

You moon the wrong person at an office party and suddenly you're not "professional" anymore.

- Jeff Foxworthy

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Big Daddy"

Michael Barone reviews the checkered life of the late Senator Robert Byrd, a man who will long be known for his successful pillaging of the American treasury.

Here's a video of the distinguished Senator humbly speaking of his work.

Best/Worst States 2010

Which states are rated the best and worst for business by over 600 CEOs?

Chief Executive magazine has the results.

Before checking, guess which came in first and which came in dead last.

Pulp Fiction Break

Pulp Serenade looks at "To Kiss, or Kill" by Day Keene, which has a memorable beginning:

“You never can tell what a big, tough Polish boy will do when he finds a nude blonde in his bathroom.”

Sorting Through the Contradictions

Since a sizable amount of the advice that we receive in life is contradictory, such as "Be direct" and "Be kind," we devote a great deal of time deciding which guidance best fits the situation.

Ethicist Michael Josephson advocates that an ethical principle should be abandoned only to further another true ethical principle which, in the decision maker's conscience, produces the greatest amount of good in the long run. [Skeptics who rush to point out the loophole about conscience should acknowledge that if a person is determined to evade a standard, then even a tightly worded guideline won't work.]

Many of the contradictions that we face, however, are less a matter of doing good than of being effective. The question of whether a manager should meet with a supervisor once a week or more or less often is unlikely to produce ethical questions unless an extreme is involved, such as extensive micromanaging or outright neglect and indifference.

While in the middle ground, how should we sort through the contradictions? One alternative may be to stand on the shoulders of Josephson's guidance and ask, "Which management principle will, in addition to being ethical, produce the greatest amount of good performance in the long run?"

Worry Lines: Age Discrimination in the Land of Youth

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten explores the issue of age discrimination and screenwriting. An excerpt:

But what use is the best of dye-jobs (no doubt available in Hollywood) if the first thing potential employers see is one's date of birth? Thus the Guild's concern, and it's hardly a paranoid one. Yet even if online resumes provided by IMDb exclude an explicit statement of age, a writer's credits are still going to give him away. If you scripted episodes of "Happy Days," don't expect producers to believe that you are in your thirties.

Is there anything screenwriters can do? Maybe it's time for a fifth-column assault on the culture of youth worship, which, itself, is getting awfully long in the tooth.

Quote of the Day

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny. . . ."

- Isaac Asimov

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Question Not to Ask a Candidate

Mickey Kaus, reflecting on his losing primary race against Barbara Boxer:

A musician I know says that when she goes backstage after friends of hers have played a particularly disastrous set of songs, she says either a)"Hey guys you really did it!" or b) "Did you have fun?" As a longshot candidate I can testify that "Are you having fun?" quickly becomes a really annoying question, and it gets asked by about 80% of people you encounter. Translation: "We can't think of any other reason why you might be doing this." I gave up explaining that it would be worth doing even if I wasn't having fun.

[Execupundit confession: A congressional candidate came to my door the other day. I almost asked him if he was having fun.]

World Cup Fans

The New York Post provides a slide show of World Cup fans.

I'm surprised the cameras are ever pointed at the field.

10 Reasons for Protest

When hearing someone protest an alleged offense, it can help to determine if the person is:

  1. Genuinely offended;

  2. Not really offended but instead is trying to show that he or she is more virtuous than the alleged offender;

  3. Feigning offense in order to gain an advantage;

  4. A professional protester who makes a living from selective outrage;

  5. An advocate who would argue as vehemently for the other side if employed by that side;

  6. Genuine but hypersensitive and inclined to search high and low for offense;

  7. Protesting simply because others are doing so;

  8. A natural contrarian;

  9. Trying to divert attention from another matter; or

  10. Driven by bias more than by reason.

Makes the Smart Car Look Big

Wired reports on the 74 miles per gallon car of your dreams. An excerpt:

Many leading automakers are embracing compacts and subcompacts, which could comprise one-third of the U.S. market by 2013. But to say the T.25 is tiny is to say John Isner and Nicolas Mahut can play tennis. At just a hair over 4 feet wide and just shy of 8 feet long, it’s smaller than a Smart ForTwo or Toyota iQ yet can seat three.

A car that small opens up all kinds of possibilities in a congested urban setting. Parked nose to the curb, three will fit in a single space. With a turning radius of just under 20 feet, the car will almost literally turn on a dime. And the T.25 is so narrow you could drive two abreast.

Style and Self-Deception

I was once perplexed by an executive who, although thoroughly incompetent, seemed to thrive. Promotions and desirable assignments drifted his way. He had some connections to be sure, but no more than some other contenders, and yet his blunders never caught up with him.

What I missed at the time was he had two characteristics that several of his rivals lacked:

He was charismatic and he looked the part.

Do not underestimate the power of that combination. Consider Fidel Castro, a brutal dictator by any standard. He is the chief warden of an island prison-state where people are imprisoned and tortured for speaking out for basic liberties and yet he attracts an array of fawning visitors and admirers. Why? Because he is charismatic and looks the part. Make him a bland banker-type in a rumpled suit and many if not all of those enraptured supporters in Europe and the United States would be calling for his scalp.

They are not judging him by reality. They are judging him by what they wish he would be; by their romantic image of the brave revolutionary. Castro stands as an extreme example of the tendency of many to view reality through the mists of a dream instead of a clear window.

Sometimes, the thugs and the incompetents are the most charming and attractive people in the room. They may be eloquent. They may dress well, have great smiles, and hug small children.

But they are still thugs and incompetents.

Settling In

It is a beautiful day outside. Mozart is on the stereo. A cup of French Market coffee and chicory is close at hand. The first sip is like fuel-injection. A sparrow hunts for food outside my window. I've gotten a head-start over the weekend. Several priorities are clear. Late last night some great ideas came to mind and, unlike many late night ideas, they still look promising this morning.

Nice start.

Great Moments in Education

Eclecticity points to the latest brilliance to come down the pike. [The cartoon is priceless.]

Relics of a Brutal Regime

Every sip is a protest. Petra Mgoza-Zeckay, a pleasant, rosy-cheeked woman, takes a sip of water. "I don't drink Coca-Cola anymore, ever since the day (former German Chancellor Helmut) Kohl handed out Coca-Cola on Karl Marx Square." She takes another sip of water. She also lost her taste for bananas, which were also handed out during Kohl's appearance.

It is May 1, 2010, and Mgoza-Zeckay is sitting in a brown armchair in her living room in Leipzig. A bouquet of red carnations, a symbol of the workers' movement, is on the table. She says she was an "ML teacher" until 1990, a professor of Marxism-Leninism at Leipzig's Karl Marx University. Today, her profession no longer exists.

Read the rest of the Der Spiegel article here.

Hard Chair, Hard Heart, and Cookies!

This post is bringing it back to me now.

A training project in Houston for a Fortune 500 company. The training area was an entire floor in a high-rise, the rooms were very well-designed, and at break times in the afternoon, the kitchen staff brought in platters of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

[HT: Instapundit]

Quote of the Day

Someday we'll look back at this moment and plow into a parked car.

- Evan Davis

Saturday, June 26, 2010

On the Reading Stack

What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis

Corporate Canaries by Gary Sutton

Tocqueville on American Character by Michael Ledeen

The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, Jr.

The Little Big Things by Tom Peters

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

What Every Executive Needs

ThinkGeek has a sale on Executive Magnetic BuckyBalls.

"Acting White"

In the Haven't Read the Book But It Sounds Interesting category:

Here's a Rod Dreher post and some links to interviews regarding Stuart Buck's new book, "Acting White."

How to Make an Entrance

Back by popular demand: Charles Laughton in David Lean's "Hobson's Choice."

The Kagan Nomination

The hearings start on Monday. George F. Will has some questions for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. A sample:

  • If Congress concludes that ignorance has a substantial impact on interstate commerce, can it constitutionally require students to do three hours of homework nightly? If not, why not?

  • Can you name a human endeavor that Congress cannot regulate on the pretense that the endeavor affects interstate commerce? If courts reflexively defer to that congressional pretense, in what sense do we have limited government?

In a series of posts, John Phillips has been analyzing Ms. Kagan's record with regard to employment and labor law.

Miscellaneous and Fast

The Horror Film Exercise

We've all watched horror films where the characters seem to have lost their senses.

On a stormy night, when they are stranded in a large, secluded, country estate and the electricity has gone and the bodies of a few members of their group have been found, they light some candles . . . and decide to split up into small search parties.

Or, there is a mad killer in the area. A couple finds evidence that he has been living at the old, abandoned cabin, but wait, the cabin has a dark basement! They can barely see down those stairs! So where do they go?

A good exercise: See if you can describe some assumptions and activities your team has embraced that might cause an outsider to shout, "Don't go into that room!"

Quote of the Day

You find out your mistakes from an audience that pays admission.

- Edgar Bergen

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fred Wilson on Business

Check out the always interesting Tim Berry on Fred Wilson's 10 ways to start a business.

One of Wilson's memorable lines: "The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary."

The Nudge

My post on "What's in a Nudge?" is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Pink: "Can we fix it?"

Daniel H. Pink looks at self-motivation and the management wisdom of Bob The Builder. An excerpt:

In a nifty set of experiments, three social scientists explored the differences between what they call "declarative" self-talk (I will fix it!) and "interrogative" self-talk (Can I fix it?). They began by presenting a group of participants with some anagrams to solve (for example, rearranging the letters in "sauce" to spell "cause".) But before the participants tackled the problem, the researchers asked one half of them to take a minute to ask themselves whether they would complete the task – and the other half to tell themselves that they would complete the task.

The results?

The self-questioning group solved significantly more anagrams than the self-affirming group.

Insubordination and the General

Employment attorney John Phillips weighs in on whether General McChrystal was insubordinate.

Rather than get into the issue of insubordination, which can be a swamp, I believe that the General demonstrated very bad judgment in having a Rolling Stone reporter within 50 miles of his inner circle and that the juvenile remarks of his staff should have been nipped in the bud. Those officers helped to sink their commander. If McChrystal had been essential to the war effort - such as another Grant - then the President might have considered taking him to the woodshed but another element has been added to the equation since the days when McClellan and Hooker caused Lincoln so much woe: instant worldwide publicity.

It is much more difficult for a commander-in-chief to tolerate such behavior in a wired world without looking weak. Mix in the fact that a highly capable replacement was available and McChrystal was heading toward the door.

When Pop Became Soda

A terminology survey: When referring to soft drinks, do you use the term pop. soda, or soda pop?

When I was growing up in Phoenix, the common term was "pop." Soda was a drink with ice cream that was served at a counter in the drugstore. As more and more refugees from eastern and midwestern winters arrived, "pop" was heard less often. I rarely hear it now.

Perhaps it was replaced by "latte."

[HT: Instapundit]

World Cup: "Terror in its legs"

"I take all responsibility, all responsibility," said Marcello Lippi, the same coach who guided Italy to the 2006 World Cup title. "If a team shows up at such an important game with terror in its heart and terror in its legs, and a team is unable to express its ability, it means a coach has not done what he should have done."

Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article on Italy's loss.

The Man Who Was Misunderstood

He was misunderstood at the marketing firm where he had lots of great ideas but no one agreed and he thought his boss was a manipulator and possibly even prejudiced so he left for a slot at a manufacturing company only to be disappointed that he had another loser of a boss and his co-workers were just out for themselves and it wasn't long before he was at the tech firm and you know they look sort of exciting from the outside but once you get there it's just the same as everywhere else with a bunch of people who seem so promising and then, one by one, they begin to disappoint you.

Quote of the Day

I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me.

- Warren Buffett

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Passive Thought

You are not consciously thinking about a topic but you are passively thinking about it as you engage in other activities.

We've all done this. We've permitted our thoughts to percolate a while before we pour them into a cup.

I wonder if this passive thought eventually gives us a clearer picture because our subconscious has slowly taken away the irrelevant. We see by not seeing and focus by not focusing.

"Chant Camp"

A dab of civilization: Anonymous 4 at Stanford University.

Steyn on Objectivity and Modern Journalism

By the way, speaking of “screeching to the converted,” a 2008 Pew Research poll (i.e., the work of impeccable liberals) found that Fox had the least politically skewed audience of any news channel. Among Fox viewers, 39 per cent identified as Republican and 33 per cent as Democrats, while over at CNN 51 per cent of viewers identified as Democrats but only 18 per cent as Republicans. A lot of Fox’s success is nothing to do with its politics, but reflects the simple fact that it’s more fun to watch than the portentous and somnolent CNN. Yet, given all that braying, mocking and vilifying of opposing views that professor Dornan assures us is Fox’s stock-in-trade, it seems to have a remarkably diverse audience. Unfair but balanced, to coin a phrase.

Read the rest of Mark Steyn here.

How Standards Are Eroded

First, we have the standard. Then, we apply it. Then instances of its application are discussed by people who focus solely on the effects of the application and not on the reason for the standard. Many of those participating in the discussion believe there should be no standard at all but that is rarely admitted. Invariably, some of the cases seem harsh or unfair and those judgments are reached without balancing them against the reason for the standard. As a result, exceptions are sought and obtained because it is difficult to defend a standard when only the facts and impact of an individual instance are considered. With such a slant, the standard's benefits seem remote, if not nonexistent. Eventually, the exception becomes the standard. Once that happens, the process starts over again.

Changing: Getting Past Discomfort

Let's break a pattern today! The incomparable Nicholas Bate shows how and why.

Quote of the Day

In the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, and look around you.

- Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Entertainment Break

A clip from "The Way We Live Now."

I haven't seen the series but the book is marvelous.

The Turkish Problem

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Lee Smith, author of "The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations," on the return of the Ottomans:

A few months back, I was dining with a friend at an Armenian restaurant in Beirut, and at the end of the meal he gracefully sidestepped the Turkish question by ordering a “Byzantine” coffee. The waiter laughed grimly. “Aside from coffee and waterpipes,” asked my friend, “what did the Turks leave us? They were here for 500 years, and they didn’t even leave us their language. We speak Arabic, French, and English. No one speaks Turkish. Their most important political institutions were baksheesh and the khazouk.”

Baksheesh is bribery, and the khazouk is a spike driven through its victim’s rectum, which the Ottomans used to terrify locals and deter potential insurgents. The Ottomans were hated here and throughout the Arabic-speaking Middle East, not only by the regional minorities (Christians, Jews, Shia, etc.) but also by their Sunni Arab coreligionists. All felt the heavy yoke of the Sublime Porte.

In the last few weeks, however, half a millennium’s worth of history has been conveniently forgotten, perhaps even forgiven, as Turkey has emerged as a regional power and the guarantor of Arab interests—against Israel, to be sure, but more importantly against Iran.

Murray on Human Accomplishment

Back by popular demand: Charles Murray's 1998 speech on human accomplishment. An excerpt:

Only ten thousand years ago—a flicker of an eyelash in geological perspective—humans were physiologically pretty much as we are now. We were shorter, largely a function of nutrition, and probably more of us were at the low end of the bell curve of IQ, also largely a function of nutrition. But it’s doubtful that much was different at the high end of the bell curve, on any measure of ability. Each of us in this room had our counterparts in that world—people every bit as smart, handsome, aesthetically alert, industrious, with senses of humor as witty or ribald. And yet they lived a daily life only marginally different from that of the animals they hunted. They had managed to build shelters for themselves, to use fire, to make a few kinds of tools. But they had done those things millennia earlier—let me repeat, millennia earlier. And nothing much had changed. Daily life still consisted of a struggle to avoid dying—not to avoid dying some years down the road, but to avoid dying that day or a few days hence. Ten thousand years later, look at the world around us. World-sub-now minus world-sub-then equals what I mean by human accomplishment.

Think of human accomplishment as the resumé of our species. Our personal resumés leave out a lot. They leave out how generous we have been, how kind, how reverent. They leave out the things we shouldn’t have had to do in the first place. "Stopped beating my spouse" does not get included on a personal resumé. And so it is with the resumé of our species. It does not record our spiritual progress. It does not include "Defeated Hitler," or much of any other kind of military accomplishment, for, sadly, military accomplishment is seldom something we can be proud of without also being ashamed of whatever led to it. Our human resumé does include things like the cathedral at Chartres, the Razumovsky Quartet, champagne, the water wheel, chopsticks, and the Declaration of Independence.

Danger Signs

A classic line from Eclecticity: Beware of Ensigns with clipboards.

I'd add:

Beware of CEOs who've just read a business bestseller.

Beware of bureaucrats who want to study your area.

Beware of politicians with a "comprehensive" plan.

Beware of speakers who "just want to say a few words."

Beware of door-to-door solicitors who "don't want to sell you anything."

Plates That Nag

I think the only answer to a plate like this is to cover its message with a large hamburger or a steak.

Quote of the Day

Ambition is a dream with a V-8 engine.

- Elvis Presley

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Enchanting Glimpse of Barcelona

Idea Anaconda points to an extraordinary short film:

Take yourself back to the streets of Barcelona in 1908 via a camera mounted on a cable car.

Peter Hitchens on Faith and His Sibling

Peter Hitchens, author of The Rage Against God, writes about his journey to faith and the mended relationship with his brother Christopher. An excerpt:

Word spread around my trade that I was somehow mixed up in church matters. It was embarrassing. I remember a distinguished foreign correspondent, with a look of mingled pity and horror on his face, asking: 'How can you do that?' I talked to few people about it, and was diffident about mentioning it in anything I wrote. I think it true to say that for many years I was more or less ashamed of confessing to any religious faith at all, except when I felt safe to do so.

Workshop Composition

Let's see, we've got two flirts, five hostiles, 12 indifferents, one who'll later realize that he's in the wrong room, three who wonder why the other managers aren't here, four who love the subject, five who hate the subject, 10 who aren't sure what the subject involves, one who thinks he's an authority on the subject, seven who are covertly watching the two who are having an affair but are pretending to barely know one another, three who only came for the donuts, five who will complain about the coffee, six who are texting friends who are in other workshops, two who wish they'd brought sweaters, 15 who don't want to be called upon, and five who are already listening carefully.

Let's roll.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.

- Robert J. Sawyer

Monday, June 21, 2010

20 Signs: Read. Copy. Post.

This is not Max DePree.

Another "must read" from Cultural Offering as he examines Max DePree's 20 signs of entropy.

Silva's Thrillers

I normally choose some soothing reading for late at night; works that will ease me into sleep, such as philosophical tomes or arcane classics. My wife, however, has recently gotten me hooked on the Gabriel Allon spy thrillers of Daniel Silva.

Not the sort of thing to read late at night but very good indeed. I'm into the second volume. It does not make you want to be arrested in Switzerland.

Price War and Barnes & Noble are in a price war over their e-readers.

[P.S. I'm still in love with my Kindle. It's one of the best purchases I've ever made.]

The Rosetta Stone of Management

Focus on efforts more than results. Make sure that you aren't inadvertently rewarding negative behavior. Seek to change attitudes by changing behavior. Recognize that achievement fuels dedication and dedication fuels achievement. Err on the side of overdelegation. See things through a window, not a mirror. Encourage individual initiative. Don't run if you're on the wrong road. Praise but don't overpraise. To the greatest extent possible, deal with people one-by-one. Lead by example but also talk about key values. Worry more about actions than about motives. Get rid of poor performers before they drag down your team. Expect to work in bursts. Never embarrass someone. Choose substance over style. Tell people what you want but also tell them what you don't want. Look for problems produced by procedures. Respect your time. Seek to foster a climate of trust, both in ethics and competence. Preserve your energy. Never stop developing your skills. Be curious. Learn how you learn. Stress ethical values more than legal compliance. Squash caste systems. Don't solve a team problem with an individual solution. Learn to lead by leading. Get out from behind your desk and talk with your associates. Listen more than you speak. Listen carefully for what is not said. Seek balance. Develop people. Be able to shift from one leadership style to another. Recognize that there are times to be autocratic. Go somewhere and think. Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Beware of strengths that may also be weaknesses. Be benevolent but don't tolerate cruelty or bigotry. Learn from your mistakes. Understate your case. Reduce fear by increasing control. Be wary of rapid agreement. Consult mavericks. Seek clarity in all things.

Go Play in the Street

Via Common Good, an article on the disappearance of stickball and other street games in New York City.

Lean Times

You are a well-known intellectual with several major books of nonfiction under your belt. You write an 800 word opinion piece for a major newspaper. Your check has arrived. How much were you paid?

Charles Murray has the answer.

Saving the Camp

If you had a base camp in the jungle, you and your team would have to get out some machetes and chop back the jungle in order to maintain a clearing for your work.

If left unattended for two or three days, the jungle would grow back. Given a week its unrestricted growth would begin to overwhelm the camp. After two weeks of neglect, it would be difficult to determine if the camp had ever existed.

There are several things you know:

  1. You can't chop back the entire jungle.

  2. It makes no sense to chop back more than is operationally required because you'd be wasting energy and time.

  3. Daily chopping is easier than chopping every two or three days but it may provide a sense of less accomplishment since the growth would be smaller.

And yet daily chopping is usually the best route. We get into trouble incrementally and we can stay out of it - the same way.

How do your in-boxes - both hard copy and electronic - look right now?

Ruffneck Scarves are for Winners

A shameless plug: One of my nephews, Erin O'Brien, is a co-owner of Ruffneck Scarves, the noted maker of football (soccer) scarves.

Needless to say, I'm very proud of him. I'll have to negotiate to get an version.

Quote of the Day

An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.

- Lao-tzu

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Remembering Dad

What Would Dad Say has posted some reminiscences from bloggers about their fathers.

Quote of the Day - Father's Day

Small boy's definition of Father's Day: "It's just like Mother's Day only you don't spend so much."

- Unknown

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poetry Break: For Men May Come, and Men May Go

SpokenVerse with "The Brook" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Really Being There

What are you doing in the next 30 minutes? And then the next? And the next?

Some of us - guilty party here - are thinking so many chess moves ahead that our view of the immediate is clouded. How many conversations, meetings, and events do we partially attend?

No wonder we look back at periods of our life and recall so little. We weren't really there. There is a well-known Hollywood expression about actors who are so disengaged that they are said to "phone in their parts."

Are there any parts you're phoning in?.

"The Catcher in the Rye": The Film

In the past, stars have queued up for a chance to play its young anti-hero Holden Caulfield. The list reads like a Who's Who of Hollywood glitterati, including Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tobey Maguire.

John Cusack once said his only regret at turning 21 was that he had become too old to play Holden, while Ethan Hawke said at age 16 he became convinced he "was Holden Caulfield".

More here on the barriers to making a film out of "The Catcher in the Rye."


The Cranky Professor is going to host it in June.

No More Email?

Writing in Fast Company, Austin Carr wonders if email is going away. An excerpt:

Is email really finished?

According to Sandberg, only 11% of teens email daily, a statistic she sees as a sign of the coming transition to SMS and social networks. But in 2005, another study found that less than 5% of American teens aged 12-17 preferred email over instant messaging for digital communication. Now, five years later, many of those teens are entering the business world--but we haven't seen AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and G-Chat overtake good old-fashioned email.

At least not yet.


The president is starting to look snakebit. He's starting to look unlucky, like Jimmy Carter. It wasn't Mr. Carter's fault that the American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran, but he handled it badly, and suffered. He defied the rule of the King in "Pippin," the Broadway show of Carter's era, who spoke of "the rule that every general knows by heart, that it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart." Mr. Carter's opposite was Bill Clinton, on whom fortune smiled with eight years of relative peace and a worldwide economic boom. What misfortune Mr. Clinton experienced he mostly created himself. History didn't impose it.

Read the rest of Peggy Noonan here.

Quote of the Day

There is more stupidity around than hydrogen and it has a longer shelf life.

- Frank Zappa

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Happiness Discovery

From 1991, Michael Crichton on the subject of happiness:

In fact, the more attention you lavish on yourself, the more unhappy you become. People focused on their bodies, their clothes, and their career aren't happy. Look around, and see if it isn't true. Devoting a lot of attention to yourself is actually a prescription for misery.

If you want to be happy, forget yourself. Forget all of it — how you look, how you feel, how your career is going. Just drop the whole subject of you. We all know this is true because we've all had the experience of doing some task — even cleaning the sock drawer or washing the dishes — and for a while, forgetting ourselves entirely. And when we blink our eyes and come back, we realize we've been happy.

Churchill Break

The opening credits and music of Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years.

Good stuff. Note who did the music and the narration.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Convenience and Decisions

My post on when convenience rules decision making is up at U.S. News & World Report.

Novak: The Liberating Balance

“If you had your way, what programs would you propose in order to end poverty such as we recently saw in Bolivia and Brazil?” Pope John Paul II asked me more than once at the dinner table in his apartment. I always made three simple yet basic recommendations. The effect of these is to restore the balance Bell described, in a way that frees the natural energy and creativity of people to create wealth and improve their lives.

Read Michael Novak's response to the Pope's question here.

Sowell on The Depression

What the government decided to do in June 1930 — against the advice of literally a thousand economists, who took out newspaper ads warning against it — was impose higher tariffs, in order to save American jobs by reducing imported goods.

This was the first massive federal intervention to rescue the economy, under Pres. Herbert Hoover, who took pride in being the first president of the United States to intervene to try to get the economy out of an economic downturn.

Within six months after this government intervention, unemployment shot up into double digits — and stayed in double digits in every month throughout the entire remainder of the 1930s, as the Roosevelt administration expanded federal intervention far beyond what Hoover had started.

Read the rest of Thomas Sowell on a mind-changing page.

Quote of the Day

Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries.

- Bill Cosby

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I See Giant Woodchucks

Dental surgery today. Am taking pain pills.

Hallucinations to follow.

World Cup Pictures

I stand second to no one when it comes to the shameless pandering for international readers. Vanity Fair has photos of the World Cup stars.


“The thing that made me feel not so bad was she was old. I mean 70 years is a long time to live.”

- statement by a young woman, who is accused of driving a van while under the influence of drugs, jumping a curb, and killing a woman working outside of her house.

Take some time today and read the rest of this post from View From the Ledge.

Inside the M&Ms Lab

Adfreak has the new M&Ms commercial regarding an M&M/pretzel combination. Rather cute and, as Adfreak notes:

Do the ends justify the means? I'm going to have some pretty conflicted emotions about eating 10 or 12 bags of these things in one sitting. Let's just assume I'm putting them out of their misery.

Comments from the Internet

From "newsjunkie" at The Telegraph:

Given the present ugly mood that exists in America, the Haitian economy could stage a quick recovery by exporting voodoo dolls of BP executives - pins provided. Ones with a foot in their mouth might command a price premium.

A Word for the Firing Squad

Ann Althouse points to a revived debate in Utah over the use of a firing squad versus lethal injection in death penalty executions.

I've never understood the appeal of lethal injections. To me, there is a certain Dr. Mengele quality to it that is repellant. A firing squad of skilled marksmen is far preferable although it may possess a certain air of nobility that criminals who've earned the death penalty do not deserve. [I recall reading that the firing squad was denied Nazi war criminals due to that reason. They were hanged.]

A Coach's Standards

Classic story: Coach John Wooden, Bill Walton, and a haircut.

Quote of the Day

It costs a lot to build bad products.

- Norman R. Augustine

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Humor and Skills Break

The trailer for Napoleon Dynamite.


Either/Or distinctions can be very misleading. In so many cases, we are dealing with Both/And. Some examples:
  1. You are not either a manager or an employee. You are both a manager and an employee.
  2. You are not either a leader or a manager. You are both a leader and a manager.
  3. You may not be either part of the problem or part of the solution. You may be both part of the problem and part of the solution. Or you may be neither.

It is tempting to accord a quick label, but human endeavors are mixtures of good and bad motives, great and not-so-great activities, and elements of spirit that may fall in-between. This does not prevent us from accurately judging actions as good or bad. There are times when Either/Or applies. Understanding a wider range of alternatives, however, can help us choose the best one and have a clearer picture of reality.

BP and Crisis Management

The calls for a boycott of BP miss a basic rule of crisis management; one that some seem to miss: Once a crisis has hit, the most important thing is to control, isolate, and resolve the crisis and mitigate its effects.

It isn't to assign blame. It isn't to research the root causes. It isn't to plan new programs. It is to control, isolate, and resolve the crisis and mitigate its effects. If one group of experts and technicians isn't doing that then you bring in a group that can. You want to end the crisis, of course, but until that occurs, your job is to keep it from getting worse and to reduce the level of harm.

I've written earlier about the importance of squishing organization charts when faced with a mega-crisis. The top decision maker should have a direct line to the primary action officer on the ground so resources can be applied, authority granted, and unfiltered information given and received.

This technique will be damaged by efforts to acribe blame, if only because those efforts encourage a detachment rather than an engagement with the action. Decision makers may be tempted to distance themselves from responsibility lest some of the blame fall in their direction. The effective decision maker, however, actively strives to discourage rhetoric and actions that may turn needed allies into adversaries.

In short, the rescue squad members must avoid internal squabbling while the patient is still in need of their help. All focus must be on the job at hand.

A Writer's Career

From True West magazine, a few observations about Robert J. Conley, the new president of the Western Writers of America:

The taciturn Conley, born in Cushing, Oklahoma, in 1940 is a genius. He takes over as president of Western Writers of America in June in Knoxville, Tennessee, becoming the first American Indian—he’s an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees—to serve as the organization’s prez. He also brings to it a certain wit and dry sense of humor.

Some samplings:
On the Little Bighorn: “There was a BAE [Bureau of American Ethnology] ethnologist with Custer. He didn’t turn in his report.”
On his goals for WWA: “To not get impeached.”
On when he knew he wanted to write: “I never did. I’ve never made up my mind yet what I want to be.”

The Wisdom of George Eliot

Tom Peters has some great George Eliot quotes. Among them:

The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.

Quote of the Day

I will not say that all of the people in the motion picture industry are crooks, but I will say that all of the crooks in Hollywood are in the motion picture industry.

- Zane Grey

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shophouse Living

Dwell looks at a home in Singapore. An excerpt:

Entering Yeo’s house is a ritual itself. From the busy street in Singapore’s Joo Chiat neighborhood, you pass over a threshold that seems to lead into another century, into a narrow vestibule dominated by a screen made of three ten-foot-tall hand-carved antique panel doors (discovered by Yeo on an antiquing expedition in Beijing). Two smooth wooden benches are tucked nearby, to make shoe removal easy. Barefoot, with the nubby texture of a pebbled concrete floor to soothe your soles, you follow your host around to the other side of the screens, anticipating some Oriental palace beyond. But behind the ceremonial entryway, there’s a big surprise. The interior of Yeo’s house is a thoroughly minimal space of concrete floors, mirrored cabinets, low-slung furniture, dramatic glass-railed balconies, and a roof that opens to the stars.

Poetry Break: Rudy The Kip

Cultural Offering, Kipling, and Derbyshire bring us "The Gods of the Copybook Headings."

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.

They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.

But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw

I'm loading into my suitcase for an insanely packed bounce across America. It's only two days after my latest book, MEDIUM RAW, was released and already, my pupils float unseeing in my skull, my head is full of mush. I've been interviewed about 60 times in the last few days and every time I answer the same question in the same way, I hate myself nearly as much as I hate the contents of my suitcase -- whose only crimes are overfamiliarity.

Slipping on my shirt, the boots, packing and repacking over the next few days will, I know, soon come to feel like putting on an old, previously worn jester suit at some rennaissance fair of the Damned. Green Bay, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Cincinatti, Austin, Miami ... Reeling off the names, it sounds like a James Brown song, "Night Train" -- which I will no doubt be humming to myself during many pre-dawn drives to airports.

Yes, Anthony Bourdain is going on the road .

Should You Study French?

This should go over well in Paris:

A former British Foreign Office minister says French is useless and students should study Mandarin or Arabic.

[A sign of the changing times: My high school offered classes in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Latin. I'm sure that line-up isn't offered today. I took French.]

The Undertaker's Query

Here's a request from A Simple, Village Undertaker. An excerpt:

OK, where am I going with all this? I am very curious about the public’s changing perception of funeral service. I hope to perform, stealing a trendy term, a variation of a SWOT analysis….Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I want to casually poll some people who are Internet savvy and willing to take a few minutes to put down their thoughts.

[HT: Eclecticity]

Father's Day Suggestions

Stanley Bing lists what he wants for Father's Day. It ranges from a Maybach to a cheese log and a tie.

Of course, I want world peace, a large Swiss bank account, and a clean environment.

If that's not possible, some books.

Bate: Without a Doubt

I believe that the ability to appreciate the insight of Nicholas Bate is directly linked to the amount of one's experience in the workplace. The greater the experience, the greater the appreciation.

Not Just Any Vampire Story

"Vampire stories?" I repeated. Despite a secret fascination with werewolves—something strikes home for me about the need for anger management to keep you from going all beastly during a crisis—I had never really been a fan of vampires. I wasn't reading the Twilight books or watching True Blood. I never even read Interview With the Vampire—even though I dated a psychic vampire back in the early 90s—and my Tom Cruise allergy kept me from the movie.

The editor clarified: "Victorian vampire stories."

"Oh, I see." He knows I have a weakness for the atmosphere of Victorian genre fiction, from Raffles relieving the aristocracy of the burden of wealth to pissed-off ghosts chasing M.R. James's bumbling antiquarians. Who can resist an era in which first aid for any trouble begins with a shout of, "Brandy! For God's sake, bring her some brandy!"

Read the rest of Michael Sims here.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

The Leather Chairs Account

Law professor and Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has become a tad cynical:

As my father-in-law said, when they want to raise taxes, it’s always for teachers and firemen — but when they actually get the money, it goes to buy leather chairs for guys you’ve never heard of who work downtown.

When You are in the Trenches

When you are in the trenches:

  1. You learn what to watch for and what to ignore.

  2. You know the importance of small pleasures.

  3. You quickly figure out who is very good, who talks a good game, who is quietly reliable, and who is dangerously inept.

  4. You know that rank and importance are not synonymous.

  5. You chew over information before swallowing it.

  6. You try to pick your own squad.

  7. You'd rather have dry socks than a brilliant speech.

  8. You romanticize neither your enemies nor your allies.

  9. You double-check.

  10. You are always ready to move.

Quote of the Day

The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.

- Woody Allen

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Monks

I sometimes think that large organizations should have a group of "monks." These monks may be retired or they may still be drawing full pay. They would be male and female and from all levels in order to prevent too narrow a view. Some may even be from outside of the organization. There would be no more than twelve. Some secluded offices would be provided. A few could serve as monks and then return to full service but that would be rare.

Their job would be simple: Study, think, and argue. Advise any manager who seeks your assistance. Consider how the organization can be improved and what needs to be confronted now in order to prevent a crisis later. Surface what everyone knows but no one speaks. Make recommendations when you feel they are appropriate but most of all, make your presence matter.

My guess is the organization would benefit greatly.

Great Moments in Government Update

ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund.

And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.

Read the rest of The New York Times article here.

[HT: The Cranky Professor]


Congressional oversight conflicts? How could this be?

We need Captain Renault to make an inquiry.

Culture Break

From "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev.

A Dash of Optimism

After reading the Arthur Laffer piece on the economy going south and grass growing in the streets this item via Cultural Offering was good to see.

The Dentist

I have a dental appointment today that promises to be interesting.

At least that is how I'll choose to describe it.

In general, dental work doesn't bother me. Root canal? Just give me the drugs. Cavities filled? Yawn. Crown work? Hmm. It depends.

This is in the It Depends category.

[UPDATE: Where did I put that pain medicine?]

The Big Droid X

Future Lawyer has some helpful info on the upcoming Droid X, another phone I need to consider once I get rid of my Korean War model.

Determining the Best Candidate for the Job

Some reasons why employers have difficulty selecting the best person for the job:
  1. They know very little about the actual job requirements.
  2. They disagree over the necessity and priority of various job skills.
  3. They say they want A but really want G.
  4. They are threatened by a highly qualified candidate.
  5. They don't care much about who gets the job.
  6. They know who is going to get the job regardless of how the selection process is handled.
  7. They rely heavily upon screening mechanisms that address a limited range of what is needed to be successful on the job.
  8. They know what it takes to be successful but are forced to ignore those standards.
  9. They don't have the time to make a thorough analysis of the candidates.
  10. They give too much - or too little - weight to a part of the candidate's background or qualifications.
Question: When does a quest for an excellent candidate cloud the ability to find a pretty good one?

Diet Calculations: Give or Take a Cookie

What would happen to your weight if you added a tasty chocolate chip cookie to your daily diet without making any other changes? So you don't exercise any more than you do today and you keep eating everything else that you're eating today. Except for that extra 210 calorie chocolate chip cookie.

Read the rest of Political Calculations here.