Thursday, September 30, 2010

Music Break: Oasis

Some music by Oasis and, if you are a fan of The Avengers, you'll see an old friend in the video.

Junk Food Weight Loss Diet

At last, a diet that has real appeal:

Losing a double-digit chunk of weight in one month was a piece of cake for Mark Haub. On August 25, the Kansas State University professor of nutrition began a 10-year-old's dream diet of Twinkies, Ho Hos, and brownies for each meal. Thirty days later and 15 pounds lighter, Haub not only feels great, but his bad cholesterol is down, his good cholesterol is up, and his blood pressure is fine. But while he is pleased about his new, trimmer self, that's not the reason he switched to junk food. He wanted his students to see for themselves that any diet can produce weight loss­—and if accomplished with a menu all but guaranteed to wreak havoc, then weight shouldn't be the sole standard for good health.

Needs and Demand

A reminder from Seth Godin that should be read, say, once a week:

Needs don't always lead to demand.

Remembering Ted Williams

I had two heroes when I was a child: Charles de Gaulle and Ted Williams.

Wally Bock has written an interesting profile of the latter. [DeGaulle's baseball skills remain a mystery.]

Checking Your Virtues

You're analytical: Do you over-analyze issues to the point of wasting time or being indecisive?
You're a great schmoozer: Do you schmooze so much that you are becoming an irritant and are neglecting other responsibilities?
You are deferential: Do you defer so much to others that you are regarded as weak? Would it make more sense just to hand total responsibility for a particular issue over to others?
You are decisive: Are you weakening the decision making skills of your staff? Are you rushing through decisions that deserve more thought?
You are collegial: Are you going along with the group and is the consulting process consuming too much time?
You are a stickler for procedures: Is your rigidity keeping information from you? Are you missing the big picture?
You are results-oriented: In your hurry to get things done, are you failing to refine the efforts that can more consistently produce the desired results?
You are a pragmatist: Are you settling too often for the easy solution instead of the best solution?
You are a perfectionist: Is your quest for perfection becoming a form of paralysis?
You are cautious: Are you closing the door to new ideas and beneficial experiences?
You are creative: Is your creativity producing a lack of focus?
You are a hard worker: Are you giving yourself enough time to think?
You are upbeat and optimistic: Are you failing to see the dangers?
You can spot subtle messages: Are you reading too much into things?
You are eloquent: Do you rely on your ability to talk your way out of problems?
You are an achiever: Are you assuming that will be the case in all endeavors?
You are knowledgeable: Are you failing to consider the thoughts of others?

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.

- Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Philosophy of Bayonet Training

In 2004, with ammunition running low, a British unit launched a bayonet charge toward a trench outside of Basra, Iraq, where some 100 members of the Mahdi Army militia were staging an attack. The British soldiers later said that though some of the insurgents were wounded in the bayonet charge itself, others were simply terrified into surrender.

Instilling such terror is at the heart of the philosophical argument for keeping bayonet training, historians say.

More here.

[HT: Instapundit]

Road Tapes

Anderson Layman's Blog has a great selection of music in a single post. Quite impressive.

"Just Signatures"

From "School for Scoundrels": How your staff would like you to make decisions.

Religious Discrimination Cases Spike

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Muslim employees filed a record 803 religious discrimination charges for the year ended September 30, 2009. That’s up 20% over the year before. That exceeds the number of charges filed in the year after 9/11. There’s little doubt that these charges will set another record for the year ending September 30, 2010. The EEOC has taken this spike in Muslim-related religious discrimination charges seriously, filing several lawsuits on behalf of Muslim workers.

Read the rest of employment attorney John Phillips's post here.

Picking the Jury

Employment attorney Michael P. Maslanka on the three things not to do in voir dire.

[You remember Voir Dire? It's a small town in Idaho.]

Nonjudgmentalism and Multiculturalism

From a 2009 essay by Clive James on feminism and honor killings:

Of all the liberal democracies, Australia is the one where the idea is most firmly entrenched among the local intelligentsia that the culture of the West is the only criminal, all other cultures being victims no matter what atrocities they might condone even within their own families.

The Danger and Advantage of Labels

We all know the danger of labeling people.

The complainer whose last four complaints had no merit may have just surfaced a worthy grievance so we must grit our teeth and be open to the evidence.

At the same time, common sense dictates that we shouldn't be oblivious to someone's record. The person who has been deceptive in the past is not worthy of the same unquestioning trust that we give to those with unblemished behavior.

Still, there is an appealing aspect to the hope that this time, things will be different. Perhaps the person has turned around. Perhaps we can find common ground. Such wishful thinking is entirely understandable. Many, if not most, of us believe in redemption.

What is truly dangerous is when we blindly embrace the fairy tale and ignore the warning signs. It is hard to conceive of how, in the Thirties, seasoned and well-educated diplomats could spend more than five minutes looking at the madhouse that made up the top leadership of Nazi Germany and think that those people had the same aspirations for peace.

Such blindness reveals the mindset of someone who would point at a lion and seriously declare, "That is not a lion." Before abandoning the obvious label, we should require far more compelling evidence than the sum of our hopes.

Tweeters of the World, Unite!

Writing in The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell doubts that the revolution will be tweeted.

The Way I Like to Make Major Decisions

We all have our ways of making major decisions. A brief description of my own would be:

I like to see the background material and the analysis in writing. I then can use that as a basis for discussion but you'll lose me with only an oral report.

Give me more than three options. The three options approach tucks a moderate option between two extremes, such as "Do nothing" and "Do a lot," and as a result the middle option looks more attractive than it may deserve. Besides, when there are more than three options, we really start to get creative.

Crazy ideas are welcome. As we brainstorm, we may find that the crazy idea makes sense or that a portion of that spliced onto a more conventional option may produce a formidable approach.

Along those lines, I like to think out loud so the fact that something is mentioned doesn't mean I favor it. I also tend to stare off in the distance a lot when sorting those thoughts. Rapid agreement makes me wonder what we've overlooked.

I am not chained to previous approaches and am willing to throw aside one of my ideas if someone else has something better. We are not here to score personal points. Major turn-off phrase: "We've always done it that way."

I prefer the best but will accept the "highest attainable under the circumstances." I'm not inclined to second-guess the person who is closest to the action. Easily reversible decisions can be made quickly. Decisions that are hard to reverse should be made slowly.

The overall approach comes from Hannibal: "We will either find a way or make a way."

That's mine in a nutshell. How would you describe your decision-making style?

Quote of the Day

Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.

- Julie Andrews

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Breathe

Earlier this evening, I glanced over drafts of posts that were started once upon a time but which were, for whatever reason, not finished. I was reviewing one that seemed especially post-worthy ["Danger, Will Robinson!"] but, currently being under the weather, am reluctant to post it lest I discover in the morning that all merit had evaporated.

The word for tonight is Nyquil.

The lovely green liquid is calling my name. I hope to be in better shape tomorrow. One shot plus a few pages of a book on Stalin's inner circle should do the trick.

At least for tonight.

Entertainment Break: Puzzles

Improve your mind.

Play jigsaw puzzles at National Geographic.

And You Thought Your Car Payments Would Never End

Germany will make its last reparations payment for World War I on Oct. 3, settling its outstanding debt from the 1919 Versailles Treaty and quietly closing the final chapter of the conflict that shaped the 20th century.

More here from Der Spiegel.

Happiness Project Group

Thousands of people have requested a kit from Gretchen Rubin on how to start a Happiness Project Group.

Culture War: ROTC at Harvard

Harvard President Drew Faust probably didn't expect criticism when she said she looked forward to reinstating the Reserve Officer Training Corps once the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is ended. But Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican and a lieutenant colonel in the state's National Guard, said he couldn't understand Harvard's priorities: how could the university maintain its four-decade ban on the ROTC while promoting the Dream Act, a plan to provide amnesty to students who are in the United States illegally? Why hold the ROTC hostage to a change in military policy?

From John Leo's column at Minding the Campus.

Alarm Bell: Municipal Corruption

The city was paying seven other mid-level functionaries salaries ranging from $229,992 to $422,707, while mayor Oscar Hernandez and three part-time council members were earning nearly $100,000 each, mostly for sitting on an array of dummy boards whose meetings consisted of little more than calls to order and adjournment. An August 25 Times story details a typical block of such meetings held on one evening in 2006:

The Planning Commission met from 8 p.m. to 8:03 p.m. The Redevelopment Agency followed from 8:03 to 8:04, the Surplus Property Authority from 8:05 to 8:06, the Housing Authority from 8:06 to 8:07 and the Public Finance Authority from 8:07 to 8:08.

Read the rest of Daniel Foster's National Review article on Bell, California.

Europe According to the French and Others

Europe Tomorrow has alerted us to humorous maps of European stereotypes.

Quote of the Day

The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him.

- Russell Baker

Monday, September 27, 2010

Joys of Aging: The Musical

Comedian Robert Klein sings an ode to a medical procedure that opened up a whole new world for him.

Concept Cars

A slide show of concept cars.

Some are neat and some are dorkish and at least a couple look like they could be produced soon.

New Kid on the Block: Big Questions Online

Here's a new website worth checking out: Big Questions Online.

It has an interesting variety of topics. I can see many links in the future.


I'm fighting the blahs today: problems that my doctor describes as sinus and ear, a phrase that I now associate with "red in tooth and claw."

All I know is the blahs are accompanied by occasional periods of exhaustion. This weekend, I took some ear medicine that the doctor prescribed and that may have made things worse.

This departure from my usual sunny self may inspire a return to a home remedy that caused my doctor, after I vividly described it, to stare at me for a few seconds. He obviously spotted brilliance and had little to add.

Anyway, I'm gathering together my computer work projects and am tackling them in bursts. In-between, various remedies will be applied. I'm trying to recall if any involve chocolate.

Getting High on the Job

This will put your job in perspective: A helmet cam video showing what it's like to climb to the top of a broadcasting transmission tower.

A very high transmission tower.

[HT: Bill Wade]


Adfreak has 66 great movie taglines from the last 30 years.

My favorite: "From the brother of the director of Ghost."

Quote of the Day

A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

- William Blake

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thought for Sunday

From Philo of Alexandria via Instapundit Glenn Reynolds:

"Subsidizing the markers of status doesn't produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Policies Based on Illusion

The great historian of Soviet Russia, Robert Conquest, once wrote something about the dangers of na├»ve diplomacy that I’m reminded of daily. “We are still faced with the absolutely crucial problem of making the intellectual and imaginative effort not to project our ideas of common sense or natural motivation onto the products of totally different cultures,” Conquest observed. “The central point is less that people misunderstand other people, or that cultures misunderstand other cultures, than that they have no notion that this may be the case. They assume that the light of their own parochial common sense is enough. And they frame policies based on illusions. Yet how profound is this difference between political psychologies and between the motivations of different political traditions, and how deep-set and how persistent these attitudes are!”

Read the rest of Bruce Thornton's article here.

Waiting for Superman

This film is already sparking a lot of discussion. The trailer for "Waiting for Superman."


When you are not running errands or tending the yard or reading, here are some great options:

Eclecticity has poster art from a gentler time. One look will take you back.

Idea Anaconda has some music from 2010 that will make you smile and then wonder why we can't hear more of that 1670s music.

The Victorian Influence

Writing in True West magazine, G. Daniel DeWeese looks at Western wear. An excerpt:

On the Old West frontier, Victorian clothes became a link to the civilized lives people had left behind. The clothes were an absurdly refined contrast to the people’s rough and tumble existence in a wild and untamed land.

In truth, contemporary Western wear is rooted more in Wild West shows and early rodeos than with the buttoned-up Victorian garb commonly worn before the turn of the 20th century. Yet you’ll still see some important holdovers from that era.

HR Terms That Don't Wear Well

First, let's address the common use of the title, "Human Resources."

It sounds like something from a Soviet Five Year Plan. ["Comrade Beria wants to talk with the human resources who failed to show sufficient vigor during the harvest."]

And that was supposed to be an improvement on "Personnel?" I liked the simplicity of "Personnel." Besides, I'd rather be a person than a resource.

"Human Capital" is even worse than Human Resources. You are no longer a resource. You're now sort of like a coin. Yeah, you're a dime or a quarter, but hey, that's better than a penny.

"Talent Management" has echoes of Hollywood. [And yes, there are people in the broadcasting and film industries who refer to some individuals as "The talent." Cringe.] It also seems a tad condescending. And if our talent is so darned talented, why does it need to be managed? Why not just inflate it to "Brilliance Management?"

I'm open to suggestions. If you have a term that's better than "Personnel," let me know.

Trying Too Hard

Art Contrarian looks at the work of industrial designer Richard Arbib. An excerpt:

Arbib's designs are, well, distinctive. But totally at odds with either the hand-sweep or the watchband. He was involved with styling Hamilton watches for the better part of a decade, so presumably sales were acceptable. I think they look awful and apparently others agree because most watchmakers have avoided such styles for the past 50 years.

They're On The Case!

Perhaps I missed it, but after looking at the web sites for CNN, ABC News, CBS, and MSNBC, I found no mention of the recent testimony regarding the Justice Department's handling of the Black Panthers voter intimidation case.

I did, however, find information on Ms. Lohan's legal difficulties.

Bluetooth Bandit

Cultural Offering has a great video on the perils of modern technology.

Trouble in Europe

Bruce Bawer, author of "Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom," speaking on how multiculturalism has facilitated appeasement of extreme Islamists in Europe:

The question and answer period is covered in parts Five through Eleven.

Quote of the Day

It's not a good idea to put your wife into a novel; not your latest wife anyway.

- Norman Mailer

Friday, September 24, 2010

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Something for Everyone's Desk

Anderson Layman's Blog has Rotary's 4-Way Test for ethical decision making.

I teach workshops on that topic and am a major fan of the Josephson Institute of Ethics decision making framework. Various ethical decision making models have their benefits, but a big advantage of the Rotary 4-Way Test is its simplicity.

A person does not need to recall helpful rules from Kant, Mill or Bentham to able to get "in the ballpark" for most issues with the Rotary Test.

Bias in the Justice Department

More allegations that the Justice Department was biased in its handling of the Black Panthers voter intimidation case:

Coates dismissed as weak the department's rationale for abandoning the case, saying the department let one of the Black Panther members off the hook because a local police officer had determined he was a Democratic Party poll watcher. Coates called it "extraordinarily strange" for the department to rely on this and urged the commission to consider what the legal backlash would have been if the Panthers had been members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Here's the transcript of the testimony of Christopher Coates before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. It appears that the problem goes far beyond the handling of a single case.

This could - and should - become a very big story.

Fighting Don Quixote?

Stanley Fish may not be safe in any faculty lounge in America if he keeps writing columns like this one on a film about a wind turbine controversy in upstate New York:

“Windfall” devotes 20 chilling minutes to Tug Hill. Filmmaker Laura Israel took her cameras there thinking that perhaps the reality would not bear out the Meredith naysayers’ fears. But, she reports, it did: “When you look out the window in the Flat Rock Inn, you see turbines; when you look in the rear view window of your car, you see turbines; when you look at a reflection in a puddle, you see turbines; when I closed my eyes to go to sleep I saw turbines spinning; they did start to take on the characteristics of the creatures from ‘War of the Worlds.’” A native of the town (“I’ve been here my whole life”) stands in front of his property and asks the camera, “Would you consider retiring in my home?”

It's Witchcraft!

Employment attorney John Phillips looks at the recent stories about witchcraft and applies them to religious discrimination in the workplace.

[Be sure to read the comments.]

Rocket Days: A Friday Nostalgia Break

It is a rare person who will be able to look at this photograph at View From the Ledge and not experience a longing for the days when most cars didn't look alike.

Too Perfect

Michael Santarcangelo is discussing a security program in this article but his point could be applied elsewhere. An excerpt:

But when we delved a bit deeper, we uncovered that she perfectly adhered to the privacy policy. In fairness, she felt that if she was responsible for the policy, she had an obligation to follow it to the letter. So to those she was judging with the pink stickies, she was "perfect."

After listening, I asked a simple question, "Did you always follow the policy?" Her answer was expected: No, she didn't. So I asked her if she had an "aha" moment where it came clear and she changed her ways. She did. Then I asked if she had shared that moment with others. She had not.

No More Than Necessary

You do not have to have a foreign policy. You need not worry about every sparrow that falls. You can stay up all night fretting over the decline of the rain forest and not one tree will be spared. If you don't purchase from a particular store, it is unlikely that your restraint will push them into bankruptcy. The report that was not perfect was fine and a perfect one probably would have missed the deadline. No one noticed that you wore your old socks. They didn't care that a hair was out of place. You really don't have to have an expensive car or watch or pen to make a good impression. Your initial nervousness endeared you to the audience. Your career will not end because you failed to read all of last week's newspapers. The gossip-mongers forgot about you hours ago and are onto someone else.

Why keep adding unnecessary pressures when there are enough unsolicited ones on your desk?

Quote of the Day

Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.

- John Lehman

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Music Break: Amanda Jenssen

Don't miss this.

Amanda Jenssen singing at Europe Tomorrow.

Decline is in the Mind

Unfortunately, we are mired — as in the case of many complex societies that become ever more top-heavy and bureaucratic, when salvation alone is found in becoming less so — in a new peasant notion of the limited good. Anything produced is seen to come at the expense of others. Absolute wealth is imaginary, relative wealth is not. We would rather be equal and unexceptional than collectively better off with a few more better off still.

Read the rest of Victor Davis Hanson here.

Publishing Options for Your Tweets

Guy Kawasaki has information on services that permit you to turn tweets into a newspaper or magazine format.

Knowing Right Is Not Enough

Michael P. Maslanka notes what employment attorneys can learn from Saint Paul.

Employers should take it to heart.

Two Management Books to Read Again and Again

There are two small management books that have had an enormous influence on me. They didn't get a lot of attention when first published - at least not as much as they deserved - but I find that I keep returning to them to refresh my perspective and stir my thoughts.

They are:

Management of the Absurd: Paradoxes in Leadership by Richard Farson, and

Thinking About Management by Theodore Levitt.

These are very deep wells and you'll draw from them often.

Quote of the Day

A study of economics usually reveals that the best time to buy anything is last year.

- Marty Allen

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Music Break: A Little Ennio in the Night

Back by popular demand: Ennio Morricone with his greatest soundtrack.

Jobs of Tomorrow? How About Some Jobs Today?

Here's a gallery on the 10 best jobs of the future. [HT: Instapundit]

I notice that "management consultant" is not listed, although it may relate to a few of the titles, such as Thought Hacker.

Since some corporations already have anthropologists and historians on the payroll, I am offering my services - at an appropriate salary - as a Corporate Curmudgeon. The job will entail telling top management when they are screwing up by the numbers.

There will be a generous severance package.

Let Me Read the Ceiling

Anyone who is worried about the Kindle would have flipped out in 1959. Paleo-Future has the details on the Electronic Home Library.

Old Jim

Many thanks to Cultural Offering for introducing me to the work of Jim Harrison.

Close to the Customer

Devour data. Managers will need to have their "ears to the ground" in order to hear changes as they are coming. That means you'll need to seek out fresh sources of information, intelligence and data. You'll need to follow the example of leaders like A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, who required his top executives to go out into the field and talk to the ordinary women who use P&G products.

Read all of Alan Murray's column in The Wall Street Journal. The guidelines cited strike me as basic management, regardless of the time period.


Henry Kissinger once commented that the politics of the faculty lounge are so vicious because the stakes are so small. I've been thinking about that lately while watching the tactics of a board of directors. Years ago, while serving as president of a homeowners association, I discovered that the subject of nuclear war evoked less anger than a pothole on a local street.

It is no surprise that mayors are subjected to violence more than any other officials. This is not simply, I believe, because they are more accessible, but because the issues are more immediate and regarded as much more personal.

In his essay on the work of boards, C. Northcote Parkinson coined the Law of Triviality: "Briefly stated, it means that the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved." In other words, a board may pass a multimillion dollar item after five minutes of discussion and then spend almost an hour debating the purchase of a small shed.

This emphasis on the minor encourages a mean and ungenerous pettiness. In such an environment, disputes can rapidly become personalized - community organizer Saul Alinsky noted the galvanizing power of a designated culprit - and dubious methods quickly justified, at least in the minds of the abusers.

Pettiness is a poison that afflicts little minds; especially those individuals who go through life concerned that someone, somewhere, is taking advantage of them or getting more than their fair share. These are folks who hold irrational grudges and who constantly keep score; habits that invariably lead to unhappiness.

Left unchecked, pettiness can drive off good performers who have neither the time nor the inclination to swat gnats. Because of that, petty behavior should not be regarded as a minor infraction.

Quote of the Day

Beware the Four Beasts that invariably devour their keeper: Ego, Envy, Avarice, and Ambition.

- Dee Hock

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Professional Investment

My post on investing in your professional life is up at U.S. News & World Report.

The Relationships

This person's technical skills are impressive. That person is a marvelous analyst. That other individual can predict certain developments in a way that is close to magical.

But they are not lone operators. The team will only succeed if they pay sufficient, positive, attention to their relationships with one another.

Consider how often we slide past that crucial point. We are focused on details and goals and, amid those pressures, taking the time to get to know someone better or to learn about that person's worries and hopes seems like a distraction.

If we hope to get things done though, we need to get the relationships right. It is an important daily chore, and yet if done correctly, it becomes a pleasure.

Quote of the Day

Anybody can direct, but there are only eleven good writers.

- Mel Brooks

Monday, September 20, 2010

Zero Judgment Update

Another account of when "zero tolerance" removes common sense.

Return of "The Diplomat Knows"

Back by popular demand: The Diplomat Knows.

Project Prisoner

You know what I'm talking about.

I'm not sure. Why would I resist working on a project that is quite important and which I'll be glad to have completed?

You're asking questions again. I'm the one who gets to ask the questions. Why are you resisting this project?

If I were resisting it - and I'm not confessing that I'm doing so - it might be because I've already put so much time into it that the thing has ceased being a project.

What is it?

It is a filthy rat, a ravenous beast, a rabid monkey - no, a vicious gorilla - on my back. I've put in my time with it. I don't want to see the damned thing again!

I thought you weren't resisting the project.

I'm not. But it's no longer a project. It is a creature.

What if we promise that if you do just a few things on it, clip one or two nails so to speak, you won't have to see it again?

You promise?

You heard me.

Just don't call it a project. Call it The Thing. Then we'll both be clear.


Quote of the Day

We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.

- Robert Wilensky

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yuk It Up

Prepare to smile. Anderson Layman's Blog has a video of John Cleese visiting a laughter therapy group.

[It reminds me of how Norman Cousins used laughter in recovering from serious illness.]

The Power of Design

After having some much more expensive watches break down recently, as an interim solution I picked up this very inexpensive but quite well-designed Coleman field watch. [Yes, it's the same company that makes tents and lanterns.]

Verdict: Still out but the simplicity of the design makes me smile every time I look at it.

Cognitive and Catchy

Paracademia has the "Cognitive Bias Song."

The Tremors Cult

And speaking of films, Wired readers rise to the defense of "Tremors."

The Decline of Low-Budget Films

In this interview with The Wall Street Journal, producer Roger Corman discusses the decline of the B-movie:

So what changed?

Drive-ins faded away and the cost of distribution got bigger. And then “Jaws.” Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times: “What is ‘Jaws’ but a big-budget Roger Corman film?” What he didn’t say was it was not only bigger but better. I’m perfectly willing to admit that. When I saw “jaws,” I thought, I’ve made this picture. First picture I ever made was “Monster From the Ocean Floor.” This is the first time a major had gone into the type of picture that was bread-and-butter for me and the other independents. Shortly thereafter, “Star Wars” did the same thing. They took away a lot of the backbone of the picture we were making.

[Execupundit note: Later in the interview, Corman mentions that the Internet may permit a comeback for low-budget films. I think he's correct. The Internet may break many of the distribution barriers for small film-makers. It could be revolutionary in scope.]

Pleasant Cruise. A Few Pirates.

Here's an excerpt from an account of an encounter :

The speedboat was now parallel with us, its seven Somali occupants sussing us out as a potential target. They were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, clearly visible to the trained eye of one of my fellow lecturers, Brigadier Hugh Willing. We were about 200 miles off the Somali coast, so the pirates must have been operating from a "mother" ship, perhaps a captured Taiwanese fishing vessel, a few miles over the horizon. Captain Brocklehurst fired two warning shots with a flare gun to show the Somalis that he knew they were there. Slowly the speedboat fell astern of us and veered off westwards. The impressive defences on Discovery – rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail, bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull – must have deterred them.

Uncommon Knowledge: Harvey Mansfield

Peter Robinson interviews professor Harvey Mansfield on the subject of western civilization:

The Age Game

There is no escaping the ageing process – though many pretend it is possible and try hard via surgery and hair dye – other than by death. But there is an escape from an old-attitude. Some aspects of growing older are altogether delightful. You can get away with murder.

Read the rest of Susan Hill's article here.

Where Was Gabriel?

I wonder how many avid readers of Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon novels could hear the reports of the arrests regarding a plot on the Pope's life without thinking of those thrillers, some of which involve terrorist threats against the Pope.

If you have not read the novels, I recommend starting at the beginning. [A button for the first novel - The Kill Artist - is currently on the right side of this page.] The series is extraordinary.

And for further information, Daniel Silva's home page is here.

Quote of the Day

If a society is to preserve its stability and a degree of continuity, it must know how to keep its adolescents from imposing their tastes, attitudes, values, and fantasies on everyday life.

- Eric Hoffer

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blog Changes

You may have noticed that the blog roll has been expanded. If I've been linking to your site and your blog is not yet listed, never fear. We're operating from a group of lists and it should be up in due time. If it isn't, send me an email. Sometimes, things just happen and my memory needs a nudge.

If your blog was dropped, it is because it has become inactive - that last post during the Truman administration was a tip-off - and not because of any disagreement. I link to a diverse group of bloggers and you don't have to agree with me to get a link. If a blog, be it right-left-middle, is mean, however, it won't get a link.

I also don't do "quid pro quo" links. If I like your blog, I'll probably link to it and I hope you'll follow the same approach, but it's your call.

This is a modestly successful blog; sort of a small corner drugstore as opposed to the major chains such as Instapundit and Althouse. I'm not pandering when I say that although I don't have a huge number of readers, the ones I do have are so many notches above the norm that there is no real comparison. I read comments on some other sites and they make me extremely appreciative of this audience. [I was recently likened to Darth Vader in a comment on one of my posts that bounced around the Internet. I had to smile at that one.]

I'm also amazed at the high quality of so many of the blogs out there. [You know who you are because I link to you all the time.] If these are written by a bunch of eccentrics in pajamas - as the media establishment likes to snort - then some magazines should issue sleep wear to their staff.

I continue to be slow in commenting on comments. Please forgive me. By the time I get around to responding to some remarks I'm sure the original commenter has moved on to other things. This is not something I'm proud of.

You'll be seeing some tweaks here and there but the core of will remain the same.


Sloth. Pure sloth.

Mindless Entertainment, Music, and Duck

Get out your jumpsuit. OK Go are at the park, and it will never be the same again.

[But I'll bet they had a lot of fun making the video.]

Code Words

The EEOC had evidence that Area Temps used the following code: “hockey player” for white males; “basketball player” for black males; “small hands” for females; and “chocolate cupcake” for young black females. It’s a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for temporary agencies to succumb to client demands like these. It’s also a violation for employers to demand this kind of a selection process.

Read the rest of employment attorney John Phillips's post here.

Dire and Casually Reported

Author and columnist Diana West notes that a Seattle cartoonist has gone into hiding.

"Oh yes, well that's terrible, of course. Can you pass me another muffin?"

Most Expensive City?

What is the most expensive city in the world?

Tokyo? Nope.

London? No.

New York? Nah.

Yuma? Just kidding.

It's one you might not have expected.

The Odyssey

Check out:

The CD set of The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles and read by Sir Ian McKellen.

It doesn't get better than that.

7 Ways to Drive Off Customers

How do companies frequently drive off customers? Although the list is ever-growing, here are some proven techniques:

  1. Insult them in an ad. There is a home improvement store that I will go out of my way to avoid because of its ads of a couple of years ago which portrayed men as wimps.

  2. Have an ultra-confusing website. When they make you spend an hour or more trying to get a simple telephone number or chopping through a jungle of questions, they've made a lasting impression.

  3. Have poor customer service at Customer Service. Have you ever left a message with the Customer Service folks that wasn't returned for days?

  4. Don't apologize when you screw up. It is noticed when they jump ahead several steps and forget to acknowledge that something went wrong.

  5. Treat job applicants in an indifferent manner. Those people who apply for jobs are customers or potential customers. They also have a sizable pool of friends and relatives who won't forget how HR jacked around someone dear to them.

  6. Keep one unenthusiastic sales person on your payroll. Calculate how many people that employee can turn off in the course on a month.

  7. Create a language barrier. Have a Customer Help Line that is staffed by people with a remote understanding of English and who speak with such a strong accent that the customers have difficulty understanding what is said. [Another version is the computer store where the sales reps speak exclusively in computerese and smirk when asked for an explanation in plain language.]

These are easy ones. Any others?

The Dual Role

There are many days when the primary role of an HR manager shifts back and forth between protecting the individual from the organization and the organization from the individual. These shifts may occur several times in the course of one meeting.

The savvy HR manager will be wary of getting stuck in one role. The decision to shift should always be dictated by ethics and common sense.

Quote of the Day

You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood, place it in the navel of a firefly and still have room enough for three caraway seeds and a producer's heart.

- Fred Allen

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Books with a Slant

This photo at BusinessPundit is wrong in so many ways.

First, you cannot have too many books.

Europe Tomorrow

At Europe Tomorrow:


I had my annual physical exam yesterday.

It went well though some test results are still pending. Once past the dreaded scale - I follow Calvin Trillin's rule that clothes add 13 pounds - things went quickly, but were not rushed. I've found that the internal medicine specialists tend to spend more time with you, asking questions and rechecking your file. They are the intellectuals of the medical profession.* I like that. I once dropped a doctor who seemed less than thorough. Since I dislike visiting doctor's offices, I want the time there to count and don't want to leave wondering if something was missed. George Kaufman said he wanted a doctor who would rather spend the weekend studying medical books than be on a golf course. I'm with George.

My doctor is relatively young and he does seem more like a medical book than a golf guy. I've had some excellent older doctors, but they kept retiring on me. This one is very bright, asks good questions, and is eager to explain things. He should be around for a while.

I once went to a doctor who would listen to my answers and then, in a strong German accent, would reply, "Wrong!" He'd explain why I'd failed to give a thorough response or why my layman's diagnosis was pathetic. I grew to like him once I got through the Stalag 17 flashbacks. He accurately diagnosed a condition another doctor had missed.

Every year, more seems to be computerized. "Do you want a flu shot?" my doctor asked. Tap. Tap. Click. And in a few minutes a nurse appeared to give the shot.

I found that this visit didn't trigger the usual jitters. I must be getting old.

*The surgeons are the fighter pilots.

Quote of the Day

One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.

- Rita Mae Brown

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Power of the Nonverbal

Check out this brief clip of the great Louis Calhern in "Executive Suite."

Hitchcock Break

The trailers for:

The Fashion of Writers

Bad News for the French Wine Industry

Who says the French are secular?

Believers are crowding the streets of Paris!

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Most of us are familiar with the police interrogation technique of "good cop, bad cop." The "bad cop" berates the suspect and asks tough questions. The "good cop" is friendlier and offers a better deal or at least some respite from the "bad cop."

There are times when committees need a bad cop. I'm not talking about a devil's advocate who points out the flaws in a proposed course of action. I mean a person who is willing to say what no one else is saying about not just a proposal, but the group itself, its history, its conflicts, and - to use an overused term - its hidden agenda.

Whereas the devil's advocate role in a group should be rotated around so one person doesn't get stuck with that responsibility, I've found that the bad cop role has less mobility. The reason is the bad cop says truths that are so hard to take that the role can only be assumed by someone who is beyond ambition; an ultra-senior person or one who doesn't have an eye on advancement. This is a person who doesn't care if the china gets broken just so what needs to be said is said.

Bad cops are rare on committees and boards. They have the capacity to irritate everyone - even those who agree with them - and few people have the requisite personality. There are times, however, when the bad cop glitters and sparkles and, although never thanked, saves an organization.

Quote of the Day

Literature is news that stays news.

- Ezra Pound

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harassment and Revealing Attire

Here is an analysis of the story of the female reporter at the New York Jets practice from employment attorney John Phillips. An excerpt:

Inappropriate conduct constitutes sex harassment only if it’s “unwelcome.” Since the early days of sex harassment cases, there’s been the question of whether revealing attire can provoke harassment to the point of making it “welcome.”

In an exhaustive article written by law professor Theresa M. Beiner, this question is considered. (Here and here.) Surprisingly, Professor Beiner’s research shows that few employers have used dress as a defense. Rather, dress is usually made an issue by the female.

Whatsamatta You?

This used to be on many a morning radio show: A performance once heard, never forgotten.

Ivy League Fading

Which graduate is more attractive in today's job market? Sorry, Ivy Leaguers. This is where state schools win out.

A survey released this week bolstered the argument that the luster of private elite colleges might be fading. Under pressure to cut costs and simplify hiring efforts, U.S. companies are increasingly recruiting from large state schools over private elite institutions, according to The Wall Street Journal's survey of recruiting executives in nearly 30 industries including finance, consulting, marketing and technology.

Read all of the Fortune article here.

The Fear Factor

Writing in City Journal, Bruce Bawer on the reaction to the proposed Koran burning. An excerpt:

Needless to say, the truly important things went unsaid on those network news reports. Nobody pointed out that we wouldn’t be fretting like this if there weren’t something very special about Islam. You could announce plans to burn a stack of Bibles, or the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Dhammapada, or the Book of Mormon, or Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, or a truckload of copies of The Watchtower, or any other non-Muslim religious text without making the White House and Pentagon call emergency meetings and put embassies around the world on alert. How little time it’s taken for us to get used to paying Islam a unique degree of “respect”!

Hunkered Down

I work in a building that used to have an architectural firm on the entire top floor while the offices of accountants, insurance brokers, staffing firms, and consultants took up the ground floor.

The architects and the accountants have left. The architects probably opted for cheaper digs since their new location requires running to your car if you work late. The accountants were definitely looking at reducing costs. One relocated to a condo. That's a shame. We enjoyed watching him commute to work on a Segway.

What's struck me is how many of the remaining firms are mystery businesses; performers of some niche specialty. They've hunkered down. Some are moving to smaller offices in the building. It's like musical chairs.

The landlord is reducing rent and yet right next door a store that sells expensive cupcakes has just opened. Business seems to be brisk.

Another niche.


He was a gatekeeper and there were two types of people he kept from entering his territory: Those who could make things worse and those who could make things better.

It was understandable why the first group was excluded, but barring the second group baffled many people. Why would you keep out someone who can make things better? They didn't understand. The gatekeeper has a system. It may not be the best system - that is not his concern - but it is a system that works for the gatekeeper. He knows it inside-out. He could recite its nuances in his sleep. He is very comfortable with that system.

Making things better for the gatekeeper is not seen as an improvement - it is regarded as a threat - for even an improvement disrupts the gatekeeper's system and he is a lover of stability. Those who speak to the gatekeeper about the virtues of their ideas and how much they will help the gatekeeper may as well be speaking Martian. The gatekeeper may respond with "We're in pretty good shape here" or even "Let us study that for a while." That will be a long while.

It can be difficult to spot some gatekeepers. A few have learned how to imply openness when they are really barring the doors and gatekeepers may have bosses who are also gatekeepers. The trick is to keep climbing the ladder until you find the non-gatekeeper who has a larger perspective and who may be astute enough to know that comfort can lead to stagnation.

Quote of the Day

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.

- Erma Bombeck

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vatican Library Goes Hi-Tech

The Telegraph reports that the Vatican Library has had an extensive renovation. An excerpt:

The library, started by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s, includes the world's oldest known complete Bible, dating from around 325 and believed to have been commissioned by Emperor Constantine, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity.

The library's frescoed reading and research rooms will officially reopen on Sept 20.

Around 5,000 scholars are given permission to conduct research each year but only the Pope is allowed to take a book out of the library.

Career Advice from Adrian Savage

While digging through some papers, I found this bit of wisdom from Adrian Savage, who used to write the now departed and deeply missed Slow Leadership blog and who wrote many fine management articles under the name of Carmine Coyote:

You don't need a life plan. You don't need motivation, self-confidence, peer support or even luck. All you need is the willingness to take the most obvious step - then repeat the process again and again, regardless of how you feel. Try it. Happiness comes from seeing the results of your efforts. You don't need it before you start.


I suspect that if the truth were known...
  1. Many tombstones would read, "I Wish I'd Spent More Time at the Office."
  2. A large number of attorneys think their clients are out of their minds.
  3. There are many congregations in which the members possess a stronger faith than the minister.
  4. The average Beltway journalist would support the creation of an American House of Lords, provided they -and others who believe as they do - would be members.
  5. One of the key abilities of a college graduate is to be able to go through four years of indoctrination and be an independent thinker.
  6. Human Resources departments would be transformed if the organization's entire leadership team had to reapply for their jobs every four years.
  7. The massive amounts of information that swirl about us do not mean that we are better informed, but instead become the means through which we can pretend to be better informed.

Miscellaneous and Fast