Saturday, July 31, 2010
- A quick look at 24 hours in Paris.
- Po Bronson discusses NurtureShock.
- Immigration protest as the Mets play the Diamondbacks.
- Melvin and Howard: The trailer.
- From Britain: Top 10 chocolate recipes.
- Cool Tools: Suggests going Japanese for neat pens.
- Dem Pundits: Early indicator of a Hillary for President campaign?
Which gets me back to the hammies. With the Kia Soul, the company found a perfect match of brand and brand image as exemplified in the TV ads. You couldn't have done the same commercials with a car named Morning (another Kia model). The whole joke is that the Soul has so much soul that it's the car of choice for people who aren't part of the bland, boring, middle-aged go-nowhere American culture. I don't know if Kia is specifically targeting African Americans, but they certainly are capitalizing on the marketability of gangsta culture to a young buying population, no matter their ethnicity.
[Execupundit note: I'll ignore the "bland, boring, middle-aged go-nowhere" jab. I've wondered about the implication that the Soul is super-small; i.e., small enough for a hamster.]
Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded of one of their rules: Don't use a tactic that irritates voters. The primary in my district has 10 candidates for Congress. Several of them are using automated phone banks. As a result, it is not unusual to get four or five calls in an evening. Several of the campaigns have called more than once.
We have also been swamped with mailing pieces, although those are less of a bother than a phone call. Run across the room, bump your knee against the end table, and then get to hear a recorded political pitch and you'll understand where I'm coming from.
I also noticed an interesting twist in one candidate's campaign brochure. She is claiming to be the only candidate with "real" private sector experience. Since one of her opponents has worked as a management consultant, I assume that doesn't meet her description of "real" private sector experience. Not a wise move. As a management consultant, I'd advise her to drop that line.
One of the memorable stories from the campaign management class was that phone banks should never be used in a place like Las Vegas. Why? Because the many residents who work at night are sleeping during the day. Waking them up is not an endearing act.
We might want to expand that advice to areas outside of Las Vegas.
- Know when to keep your mouth shut.
- Maintain basic competence.
- Show up on time.
- Don't fight with your co-workers.
- Be reliable.
- Take initiative.
- Give a damn about the job.
- Be nice.
- Don't embarrass anyone.
- Help others.
Friday, July 30, 2010
This is the holy grail of artificial intelligence," said project director Kate Tillman, explaining that the robot instantly performs millions of computations to ensure feelings of unresolved anger and simmering resentment remain deeply buried within its complex circuitry.
Gary Wolf on "The Data-Driven Life." An excerpt:
...Instead of entering his future appointments, he entered his past activities, creating a remarkably complete account of his life. In one sense this was just a normal personal journal, albeit in a digital format and unusually detailed. But the format and detail made all the difference. Lipkowitz eventually transferred the data to his computer, and now, using a few keyboard commands, he can call up his history. He knows how much he has eaten and how much he has spent. He knows what books he has read and what objects he has purchased. And of course, he knows the answer to his original question. “I was thinking I was spending an hour a day cleaning up after this person,” Lipkowitz says. He shrugs. “It turned out it was more like 20 minutes.”
[HT: Productivity Consultant Matthew Cornell]
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Read the rest of Tim Berry here.
It's particularly glaring at security conferences. This week is Black Hat, BSidesLasVegas and DefCon. You'll find plenty of researchers who resemble punk rockers, folks who aren't interested in giving a PowerPoint presentation in suit and tie in front of a boardroom full of top brass. You won't see a lot of people dressed like executives. That would be too out of place.
A friend of mine who spends most of his time around CSO-types gave Black Hat a try a couple years ago. He came back and reported that the crowd was "too freaky" for his tastes. I laughed, imagining how he would have felt roaming the halls of the earlier Black Hats, before it became tamer and more commercialized.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Norwegians set up camp 70 miles closer to the pole and set out first, on Sept. 8, 1911, with a five-man team on four sleds pulled by four teams of 13 dogs each. By contrast, the British set off on Oct. 24 with 16 men, 12 sledges and two experimental motorized sledges. They had just 22 dogs and 10 ponies. Three ponies had already died of cold and hunger during the winter. Two others fell through the ice and were eaten by killer whales. Scott, in fact, wrote in his diary that he was concerned about the Norwegians' superior dog handling. He was right.
I didn’t dare breathe a word. And certainly nothing altered in my external life. But everything had changed inside me. Norman P. had obliterated denial. He had forced me to own up. I may be a bum, I told myself; I may be a loser, I may still have a long way to fall before I hit bottom. But the truth is I ain’t happy being a bum and a loser and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life at the bottom.
Read the rest of Steven Pressfield's post.
In Mother New York's new campaign, "The Crazy Life," Virgin Mobile seems to be staking its claim as the cellular service for the mentally imbalanced. Well, I suppose Droid cornered the market on sci-fi geeks, and Apple has a lock on self-centered hipsters, so there weren't many niches left. The insane need cellphones too, mainly to talk to themselves.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I have been on both sides of the process, as a writer and as a query proofreader. Being edited sometimes felt like having my bones reset on a torture rack. I don’t ever want to do that to a writer, but I probably have from time to time. “What is this, the adverb police?” a writer who shall remain nameless once said in my earshot. “You betcha,” I wanted to say. I don’t remove every word ending in “ly,” but I like economy and concision.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]
"In the realm of technology it's possible for us to teach our students a tool that their bosses don't have, and they can provide that added value from day one," Gallaugher says. "Social media skills are the ones that can set them apart. Those are the skills that employers are looking for."
For a long time as a young teacher, I believed the danger of prostituting their minds by believing falsehoods was the preeminent, or even singular, intellectual danger my students faced. So I challenged them and tried to teach them always to be self-critical, questioning, skeptical. What are your assumptions? How can you defend your position? Where’s your evidence? Why do you believe that?
I thought I was helping my students by training them to think critically. And no doubt I was. However, reading John Henry Newman has helped me see another danger, perhaps a graver one: to be so afraid of being wrong that we fail to believe as true that which is true. He worried about the modern tendency to make a god of critical reason, as if avoiding error, rather than finding truth, were the great goal of life.
Read the rest of R.R. Reno here.
On refunds: "You're not getting a refund so **** off."
Monday, July 26, 2010
Read the rest of Claudia Rosett's wish list for WikiLeaks.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The combination of qualities that enabled Nicklaus to win 18 majors and has enabled Woods to win 14 is freakish. To take just one example, Woods has an astonishing record of sinking difficult putts at critical moments, including on the final hole with victory at stake. That’s not just a matter of reading the greens accurately and having a good putting stroke. It’s a product of a mental state that the rest of us can barely imagine, the product of a Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths—including, one sometimes suspects, telekinesis.
The role of those psychological strengths is why so much of the commentary about Woods’s play since he returned is beside the point. The commentators focus on whether his component skills are returning to their pre-scandal levels. He can return to precisely the same place on the bell curves of the component skills that he occupied before the meltdown in his personal life, but the package will not be the same. Tiger Woods has experienced a sort of concussion to that Chinese puzzle of psychological strengths, and there must be some residual damage that won’t ever go away.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Phaedra: The love scene and theme.
Cultural Offering: Is there anyone who does not like Legos?
How smart is this bird?
Soft Power: Abe Greenwald on its limits.
BP oil rig: Safety alarm off?
Cool Tools: Need some spark?
Sarah's "cover" is that she is a bilingual guide and passionate advocate for the extraordinary spectacle that opens before us: the first medieval castle to be built with entirely medieval methods and materials for 500 years; and the first castle of its kind to be built for nearly 800 years.
The Château de Guédelon is not a film set; it is not a restoration; it is not a hey-nonny-no-medieval theme-park. It is an exercise in archaeology in reverse: discovery by building up, not by digging down. By 2023, it will be a full-sized castle with battlements and a moat and six towers.
Read the rest of The Independent article here.
- I, Claudius by Robert Graves
- Claudius The God by Robert Graves
- Julian by Gore Vidal
- Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem
- The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
- A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell
- Imperium by Robert Harris
Friday, July 23, 2010
Generations of such deficiencies do not disappear overnight, and they affect the momentum of a culture. In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks' average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.
Policy makers ignored such disparities within America's white cultures when, in advancing minority diversity programs, they treated whites as a fungible monolith. Also lost on these policy makers were the differences in economic and educational attainment among nonwhite cultures. Thus nonwhite groups received special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts.
Don’t assume personal friendship transfers to a professional relationship. Maybe it does, but just because you play softball with someone does not mean he can find you a job at his company or properly present you and your skills to the right person. Sometimes it is better for us to present our own skills to the HR manager than have someone who really doesn't know us in this way present them.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with that phrase of yore, it refers to the days when the carpet was in the boss's office and an employee was summoned in for a stern lecture. People would say, "Jack was called in on the carpet and told if he ever did that again he'd be fired."
And, in most cases, Jack never did it again.
My nostalgia for such times comes from seeing employers who resort to major discipline for behavior that, in the old days, would only cause someone to be called in on the carpet. Employers often engage in overkill; launching investigations and suspending and even firing people in a rather clinical manner. In the Blondie cartoon series, Mr. Dithers might scream at Dagwood Bumstead, but he wouldn't fire him. Nowadays, Dithers would be backed up by a cadre of HR types and lawyers. His every word would be scripted and Bumstead would be examined like a bug on a pin.
Now don't get me wrong. I fully realize that there are times when such formalism is needed. We don't want the carpet sessions to be slaps on the wrist for major offenses. There is, however, a need for some more informal remedies.
How have we arrived at this state? Two factors come to mind: Lawyers and the fear of confrontation.
Managers joke about needing to carry a lawyer around in their pocket. Unfortunately, the line isn't far from the truth. Not only is there the fear of potential litigation in itself, there is also the need to get a second opinion in order to protect your back from an upper management team that may be more than eager to withdraw support due to that same fear of litigation. That fear leads quite naturally to a fear of confrontation because handling a matter informally requires a certain amount of guts. In the heat of the moment, something improper might be said. A step might be missed. A rule might be misinterpreted. Confrontation is unpleasant. In the cartoon, Dagwood would slink back to his desk but he never called an employment attorney.
It may be argued that this new, bloodless approach to addressing problems recognizes the progress that has been made with regard to employee protections. I believe that is true. At the same time, it would help to explore a third way between the extreme of unlimited and abusive supervisory power and the bureaucratic escalation that turns minor matters into major ones.
That third way involves courageous and responsible management that is willing to address matters in a proportionate manner and call people in on the carpet.
First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships.
The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity -- your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American. This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
There's the ad for the Australian Sex Party - which certainly beats anything I've seen from the Republicans and Democrats - and then there's the candidate in Wisconsin who wanted to have "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch'" under his name on the ballot. For all of its faults, I found the latter item to be admirably revealing. It may aptly sum up the candidate's world view.
JournoList contributors discussed strategies to aid Mr. Obama by deflecting the controversy. They went public with a letter criticizing an ABC interview of Mr. Obama that dwelled on his association with Mr. [Jeremiah] Wright. Then, Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent proposed attacking Mr. Obama's critics as racists. He wrote:
"If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them—Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists. . . . This makes them 'sputter' with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction."
No one on JournoList endorsed the Ackerman plan. But rather than object on ethical grounds, they voiced concern that the strategy would fail or possibly backfire.
Update: Andrew Sullivan isn't buying the view that there wasn't "a line."
- The homework was done.
- The supporting evidence says what they claim it says.
- The person running the project today will be running it next year.
- The attorneys were asked the right questions.
- Our goals and definitions are the same.
- The people who say they want to help do indeed want to help.
- Making it easier means making it better.
- This is a high priority with those who can quickly overturn it.
- The potential for abuse has been adequately contained.
- The benefits will not, in the long run, produce highly negative results.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Shirley Sherrod, the former Georgia director of Rural Development, said she received a phone call from the USDA‘s deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook on Monday while she was in a car. Cook told her that the White House wanted her to call it quits.
“They called me twice,” Sherrod told the Associated Press. “The last time they asked me to pull over the side of the road and submit my resignation on my Blackberry, and that’s what I did.”
Some links on the Shirley Sherrod story: The video and the link with the above quote.
[From what I've read so far, it sounds like she should get her job back.]
A convenient injustice is a practice which is unfair but is nonetheless permitted to continue because those who could - and should - correct it believe that it would be inconvenient to do so. Some of these individuals will come up with creative, but ultimately unpersuasive, arguments to defend the practice while most will concede its flaws and will note that it really should be changed. You will then hear how hard it would be to change the practice, how they have to pick their battles, and that they will leave it to others to make the change. Some day, at any rate. In the meantime, they won't utter a public word against it.
Their view that the practice would be difficult to change is often inaccurate but any corrective action would involve some inconvenience on their part. And that is where our old friend Inertia enters the room. Inertia feeds on convenience and loves a good cover story. As Joan Didion noted, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." Rather than admitting that they benefit from the injustice or, at the very least, are willing to sit by and permit it to continue, these passive accomplices conjure a scene in which the injustice is a force of nature, as uncontrollable as thunderstorms, and something to be accepted and not challenged.
With rare exception, I find them to be very nice people.
Which makes it all the worse.
This Inc. article confirms what we knew all along, right?
[HT: Nicholas Bate]
Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article here.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Any theory of time travel has to confront the devastating “grandfather paradox,” in which a traveler jumps back in time and kills his grandfather, which prevents his own existence, which then prevents the murder in the first place, and so on.
One model, put forth in the early 1990s by Oxford physicist David Deutsch, can allow inconsistencies between the past a traveler remembers and the past he experiences. So a person could remember killing his grandfather without ever having done it. “It has some weird features that don’t square with what we thought time travel might work out as,” Lloyd says.
In contrast, Lloyd prefers a model of time travel that explicitly forbids these inconsistencies. This version, posted at arXiv.org, is called a post-selected model. By going back and outlawing any events that would later prove paradoxical in the future, this theory gets rid of the uncomfortable idea that a time traveler could prevent his own existence. “In our version of time travel, paradoxical situations are censored,” Lloyd says.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Read the rest of the City Journal article in which Nicole Gelinas looks at some of the top books on the crisis.
I doubt if it is possible to schedule a burst for, say, nine or ten o'clock and expect that the experience will be like 0 to 70 mph in 10 seconds. Some pre-burst time may be necessary; i.e., we schedule a work period from nine to twelve, knowing that the first 10 to 15 minutes may involve accelerating to high speed.
Even with the acceleration time, however, we may be able to gain the benefits of the burst of highly productive activity. With that comes the knowledge that all bursts are followed by slow-down periods; time well-suited for routine meetings, study, and goofing-off.
So have you scheduled your burst times today?
39. We live in good times. We got complacent. We lost our frontier-land mentality. Bring it back and all will be OK.
40. Distractions, well distract. Reduce them by 75%.
41. Forget time. Notice where you place your attention. Ensure it is appropriate.
42. Write, paint, make music, bake bread, chop wood, carry water, plant flowers... to stay sane in a world of over-brimming briefcases full of electrons.
It had been a few years since I'd thought of him. He was a Falstaffian figure - a man of size and many appetites - who was no stranger to beer and pizza and who drove an old pink Cadillac convertible that he dubbed "The Pink Sink." He was very kind, funnier than hell, talked a mile a minute, played the guitar, and had an upholstery business where all of his employees called him Fat Jack.
He was also impossible to dislike. My guess is he easily made the Most Extraordinary Character list of everyone who ever knew him.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
- Harvard: Dropping final exams?
- John Phillips: Steinbrenner on management.
- Political Calculations: On the Moneyed Midways.
- Adfreak: The end of the world on Facebook.
- Cool Tools: Coin-sized pocket screwdrivers.
- Commentary: Building shelters in Israel for the next war.
- Female Czech MPs: The calendar.
- Recipe from The Historical League: Mint Chocolate Icebox Cake.
The survey asked two questions: "Do physicians order more tests and procedures than patients need to protect themselves from malpractice suits?" And, "Are protections against unwarranted malpractice lawsuits needed to decrease the unnecessary use of diagnostic tests?"
Overall, 91 percent of doctors surveyed agreed with both statements.
We study Government over here and Psychology over there, and History, Economics, Business, Drama, English, Sociology, Education, Theology, Math, Biology, French, and other subjects in their respective boxes.
And each class mysteriously lasts a semester long.
Matters are not as neatly arranged when we get into life. The subjects become blurred and we discover that the best advisors are those who know enough about related boxes that they are able to connect them. If we are truly fortunate, we begin to see the connections ourselves and even challenge connections that we and others have assumed.
I say "fortunate" and yet the more links one sees, the greater the appreciation of our enormous ignorance. Which practices do we now confidently adopt that in future centuries will be given the same derision that we now accord to the physicians of old who placed a dead pigeon at the head of a patient in order to draw out illness?
Are your reputation and knowledge so undisputed that all you need to do is to give an occasional nod or cast a rare vote? You watch other members create, propose, and work on ways to achieve the committee's goals and what do you do?
You are a mystery to many of us. We are waiting for you to get in the game. We have heard that you did well on other projects and assume that certain skills earned your current rank. The more we learn of your achievements elsewhere, the more baffled we are by your practice of sitting, smiling, and doing nothing.
Not just a little. Not merely some minor chore. Absolutely nothing aside from voting and that doesn't count since a trained parrot could say "Aye" or "Nay" without stating the reasons.
Those of us who like to get things done cannot comprehend going to meeting after meeting without making a single contribution. We do know that some people who would work would love to be in your place. Please do us and yourself a favor. Either start making a serious effort or resign.
You'll probably feel better and we'll certainly feel better.
Friday, July 16, 2010
HH: But you upset your comrades, because you asked this director, you know, why can’t we criticize Castro, and you write, “if the most salient figure in this state was immune from critical comment, then all the rest was detail. Ah, never forget how useful the obvious can be.” And so, when I was reading your part about the Palestinians, no one could ever criticize Arafat. The same obvious detail about these societies has always been there.
CH: Sure. The obvious is very handy. I mean, there was a very famous movie director called Santiago Alvarez. He’s internationally well known. He was brought to this sort of seminar camp that we were partly work, partly propaganda, partly Marxist debate. And I asked him well, what’s it like working in the arts in Cuba, and he said you know, we have very untrammeled, it’s not like the Soviet Union, you know, there’s great artistic freedom here. And there was indeed in those days quite a lot of burgeoning of magazines and movies and so on in Cuba, and cultural writing. It was brief, but it was real. But then, and I said well, would this, for example, would this extend so far as to criticism of the leader, Fidel Castro? And he said well no, obviously not. We wouldn’t expect to be able to say anything critical or rude about the supreme leader. And I thought well, that’s not an exception, is it? I mean, it’s not, with the exception of that, everything’s okay? He’s the most important person on the island. So I made this remark, repast, and a terrible coldness descended on the meeting. And I was later told the people would, started to view me as a potential counterrevolutionary, which people really were talking like that. It was as if one had been called a capitalist running dog, or I forget how it goes now, lackey of the bourgeoisie, or hyena or something. But people actually do talk in this way. It was very educational.
Read the rest of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Christopher Hitchens.
For example, let's say you are surveying a group of people about which types of management training are needed. It can make a huge difference if the answers are based on what the individual needs versus what the individual thinks might be of interest to other members of the group. In the latter case, it is conceivable that the entire survey group could list "time management" as being a desirable topic when, in reality, not a single person would enroll if the class were offered. Why? Because they are basing their answers on an assumption about the group's need instead of their own.
The opposite, of course, is the person who views what the group wants through his or her own criteria and concludes that "If I don't like it, then it shouldn't be offered."
I mention this because conversations can be quickly derailed if these slants are not identified and taken into account. It is important to know if the person is giving an unvarnished personal reaction or one that has been treated with other considerations. Either way, it can turn Yes into No or No into Yes.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I'm writing the last ten pages of a book. I thought they were already written because the darned thing has gone through many drafts but a gnawing mouse in the back of my mind finally convinced me to follow a basic rule:
So I'm simplifying. And do you know how hard that is? But it is the right thing to do. I'll have it done no later than tomorrow.
I can get excited looking over the selections at Levenger and other shops, even if I'm not ready to move into some of the price brackets.
One reason for my reluctance is my tendency to use briefcases as project boxes. I have one briefcase for one on-going area of my work and several others for similar specialties. The "training briefcase" is especially-designed with nifty compartments for odds-and-ends. It is kept rigidly apart from the others.
Although leather briefcases are hard to beat when the standard is appearance and flair, one of the best cases I have is a Swiss Army black canvas case that has wheels and can carry a laptop computer, a sizable number of files, and three small men. I also have one of those aluminum cases, several leather ones, and a sturdy Land's End canvas one that looks as if it has gone through the wars.
My question: Is there a particular type of briefcase that you'd recommend?