Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Regaining Control

Disorderly files. Dirty car. Unanswered mail. Overflowing in-box. Missed birthdays. Unread books. Stacked newspapers. Untrimmed lawn. Bulging laundry hamper. Cancelled appointments. Postponed medical exams. Lack of fun. Uncompleted everything. Rush and rush some more to accomplish less.

How many of those are daily signals that things are out of control and how good will you feel when you start taking care of them one-by-one? If this pertains to you, start now.

Health Food Update

The Telegraph has a slide show on the best chocolates for Christmas.

Hitchens on the "Thousand Cuts"

Christopher Hitchens weighs in on the airport security issue. An excerpt:

The authors of this propaganda show a natural talent for psychological warfare. It is, one might say, "part and parcel" of the campaign they slightly unoriginally call "a thousand cuts." But the simplicity of that scheme is as self-evident as its cunning. By means of everyday devices and products, plus a swelling number of human volunteers willing to die and kill, they can strike at will and even afford to taunt us in advance. While we pay salaries to thousands and thousands of dogged employees to glare suspiciously at shampoos and shoes and toners, the homicidal adversary discards those means as soon as they are used and switches to another. How they must chortle when they see how sensitive we are to the "invasion of privacy" involved in a close-up grope or a full-on body scan. In preparing their own bodies for paradise, they know no such inhibition. If they guess that we will not even think about how to pre-empt the appalling anal strategy, they so far guess right.

Low Achiever

Addison Schacht, the protagonist of Sam Munson’s debut novel, is a foul-mouthed 18-year-old dope dealer who lives in an affluent neighborhood in Washington. He tells disgusting jokes about the Holocaust. He is rude to his single father, his girlfriend, his teachers, and his fellow students. He has few friends. He’s enrolled in the gifted and talented program at John F. Kennedy Senior High School in the District, where he’s applying to the University of Chicago. He scored a combined 1420 on the SAT, got excellent marks on his Advanced Placement exams, and won both silver and gold medals in the National Latin Exam. He quotes Virgil. He is, in other words, one of those intelligent, arrogant, and troublemaking teenagers whom you’d want to rap upside the head and ship off to a military academy in rural Virginia.

For the rest of The Weekly Standard review of "The November Criminals."

Quote of the Day

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.

- Robert Benchley

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dylan at the Gulag?

This story about the last preserved gulag archipelago camp is troubling.

I immediately recalled a line from the film "The Ballad of Cable Hogue" where, after his sleazy partners have stolen his water and are taunting him as they leave him to die in the desert, Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) shouts, "Sing a song about it?"

Christmas Flicks with a Twist

Cultural Offering is looking at nontraditional Christmas movies.

Think Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman.

Catching the Counterfeiters

From The Wall Street Journal Law Blog: The U.S. Department of Justice is cracking down on counterfeit goods:

The number of websites allegedly selling counterfeit goods dropped by about 80 on Monday, according to the Justice Department.

Federal authorities obtained orders seizing the domain names of 82 Internet sites that sold a variety of merchandise, from shoes to handbags, DVDs to sports equipment. The Web sites include “burberryoutlet-us.com,” “tieonsale.com,” “handbagcom.com” and “coachoutletfactory.com.” Click here for the story, from the BLT blog; here for the DOJ’s release.

Amnesiac Story

Novelist Steven Pressfield on why we love amnesia stories:

Friends and lovers help unravel the mystery of who we are. So do our passions. To me the practice of art or entrepreneurship is an Amnesia Story. The act is one of self-discovery. Who are we? What are we good at? What brings us joy?

Why is the practice of art or entrepreneurship a vehicle for self-discovery? Because these enterprises are ours alone. They spring from the unfeigned gifts, joys and enthusiasms of our hearts. They are us “at play”– and thus at our most authentic.

Facilitate and Nudge

You've seen symphony conductors who seem to be requesting greater volume or urging a lessening of effort. Observers as diverse as Peter Drucker and Joseph Stalin have noticed the similarity with management. Others have seen the manager's job as closer to that of the lead jazz musician in a group where improvisation is the rule.

Whatever the view, the manager is often facilitating and nudging. It helps enormously if the members can anticipate the need without encouragement or command but in many instances that is the ideal rather than the reality. Even if the group is in great shape, time will diminish its effectiveness unless there are frequent discussions of what's important. You can never afford to set the controls and walk away.

Harry Truman said that much of management consists of telling people to do what they should have known to do in the first place. Many of us will sympathize with President Truman's view and yet we can also recall times when what seemed obvious to the person on top wasn't so to those at other levels of the organization.

The workplace is often divided between those who feel that they shouldn't have to say what they want and those who are inwardly shouting, "Tell us what you want!"

Quote of the Day

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

- Arthur Ashe

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Clive James: Postcards

From the memorable Clive James travel series:

The Disappearer: Achieving No Profile

What I do for a living is unique: I teach people how to disappear. I show them how to live off the grid and erase any connection to their former lives.

My clients range from the paranoid to the extremely wealthy. I hear from victims of dangerous stalkers and the corporate whistleblower who thinks retribution is finally coming his way. This past year it’s been mostly people in the finance industry. My concern there is that six months from now it could come out that they’ve done something illegal. I don’t like to help criminals.

Read the rest of the Men's Journal article here.

Landscape Photographer of the Year

The Telegraph has a gallery of landscapes by photographer Andrew Spencer.

Great stuff. Give it a look.

Opting for the Least

When it comes to management problems, the least painful option may also be the the least effective or not effective at all. It is as if we go to a doctor and say, "I know the tests indicate that my appendix is infected and about to burst, but instead of surgery I'd prefer just to take some pills or maybe try a different pillow."

The equivalent of this decision takes place more often than you might expect. Solutions that have zero odds of working are employed in succession as matters get steadily worse. In the meantime, the organization and its members suffer because the decision makers have chosen a cosmetic solution instead of a real one.

I've heard executives say, "Let's try this and hope things get better." Whenever lines like that are uttered, be on the alert. A witch doctor may be in the neighborhood.

Top Five on Espionage

Jonathan Miles gives his "top five" list of books on the secrets of espionage.

Quote of the Day

Bureaucracies try to maximize their missions. They can't help themselves. Adult supervision is required to stand athwart this tendency, yelling "Stop!"

- George F. Will

Friday, November 26, 2010

Easing into Friday Night

Clothing: A beaten-up pair of jeans, an old shirt, a heavy black-ribbed cardigan sweater, and some ultra-comfortable Ecco loafers.

Book: "The Devil's Oasis" by Bartle Bull.

Temperature: 69 degrees.

Dinner: A piece of pumpkin pie and some French roast coffee.

Chores: Done.

All set.

Against Christian Bashing

Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson defending Christianity.

I'm a few pages away from finishing Jacobson's novel "The Finkler Question" and highly recommend it.

Celebrating the Food Chain

Mitchell and Webb with the other side of vegetarianism.

Great Moments in Television

Cultural Offering has Allen Ginsberg and William F. Buckley Jr.


An anonymous benefactor in Canton, Ohio placed a newspaper ad near Christmas in 1933 and asked for people in need to contact him. At the height of the Great Depression, many were in dire straits and responded by mail. The mysterious “B. Virdot” sent $5 (a generous sum at the time) to 150 families. Virdot never revealed his identity. Then in 2008, Ted Gup unearthed those letters and found out that his grandfather was the man who handed out the money.

Read the rest at Neatorama.

Quote of the Day

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seattle Snow & Ice

Why I live in the desert:

A film of a street in the aftermath of the snow storm in Seattle.

"Kids These Days" Factoid

Well worth checking out: Stuart Buck confronts an unsourced factoid. An excerpt:

The other night, my wife and I went to an open house at a local private school, on the theory that we might (or might not) have our 4-year-old son go to kindergarten a couple of days a week next year. One of the kindergarten teachers made a comment during her speech that caused me some puzzlement. I paraphrase from memory: "Kids learn so much these days. Did you know that today a schoolchild learns more between the freshman and senior years of high school than our grandparents learned in their entire lives?" She said this as if she had read it in some authoritative source. I wanted to raise my hand and say something like this:

That can't possibly be true. For one thing, there is no meaningful way to measure the total sum of the knowledge that our grandparents learned in their entire lives. And just think about it: Do you really think that our grandparents learned less about the world in 70 or 80 years than today's high-schooler does in 4? Have you met any current high-schoolers? Do they really seem more knowledgable than their grandparents about anything beyond computers and cell phones and Eminem?

Read the entire thing and then see this related post at Chicagoboyz.

"Research Shows..."

Writing in Commentary, Andrew Ferguson on the press, gullibility, and surveys:

As the election approached, Miller-McCune bristled with research about politics. Below the glistening surface, though, the data are almost always murky. Here’s an example from early October, chosen at random. “Experimental research shows,” one story announced, “when [voters] say they intend to do something [like vote], they are more likely to do that.” Thus if a campaign calls voters before an election and doesn’t just implore them to vote, but actively asks whether they plan to do so, voter turnout will increase by as much as 23 percent. A nifty little datum, perfect for a walk-up article before Election Day, and totally certified by science!

Except it isn’t certified by much of anything. The “experimental research” consisted of an exercise conducted by 13 Ohio State undergraduates who polled 60 of their classmates by phone shortly before the 1984 election. The results (and that 23 percent) have been cited ever since, even though later experiments with larger samples have failed to produce the same effect.

A Small Meal Before Winter Hibernation

Get a load of the menu that Verging on Pertinence has planned for Thanksgiving.

The man has, as they say in some Italian neighborhoods, a heavy fork. In comparison, I'll be attending a diet camp tomorrow.

Since he provides some nifty links for recipes (the one for pecan pie looks especially interesting), here's a pumpkin pie recipe
involving cream cheese and see if you can guess the mystery ingredient for Red Velvet Cake.

Cruise Story

James Lileks leaves snowy St. Paul and goes on a Caribbean cruise. An excerpt:

I figured the snow would delay our flight, and so it did – but not until we were on the plane and ready to go. Then we sat there and accumulated ice. You look at the wing and wish it didn’t resemble a display case full of diamonds. I am no longer a nervous flier, but you wish they’d punch it right after de-icing. How long does this last, exactly? Why not use flame? But if the pilot’s happy, I’m happy. We leaped into the sky, and I felt the usual joy married with the usual doubt: at this very minute, the house is being cracked like a walnut, and teams of thieves are forming a bucket brigade to relieve me of my possessions. Oh, that’s nonsense. It’s only Saturday. Tuesday, yes, you can worry. For now, relax. Worry about the iron.

I always leave the iron plugged in, so I have one small thing I know I can worry about.

I Think I've Hired That Firm

“The builders would either forget our instructions or just decide they liked something else more, so we would find things painted completely different colours to the ones we had requested,” Mike says. “But actually it looks rather nice, so we have left it.”

Read more on restoring a home in Marrakesh.

YouTube Ad of the Year

I posted this ad when it first came out, but it is worth seeing again, especially since the Sussex driving safety spot has won the YouTube Ad of the Year.

Short, warm, stylish, and powerful and the message comes through without any carnage.

Differences in Military Branches: What They Bring to a Civilian Job

As a former Army officer, I find this article at Michael P. Maslanka's blog on the differences between the branches of military service to be fascinating.

This was brought home to me years ago when comparing jobs with an Air Force officer. Although there were similarities, for the most part we were describing different worlds.

Nicholas Bate 101

A marvelous collection of links from the incomparable Nicholas Bate.

A Taste for Thanksgiving

The fondness of Thanksgiving, the meaning and the appreciation of the ritual, came slowly. It came with my assimilation into American life, with my marriage, and with the family I would come to acquire. I was not fond of turkey, though I made peace with the stuffing. The gravy, for a man of the Mediterranean, was irredeemable. Pumpkin pie and the cranberry sauce were more to my liking.

Read the rest of Fouad Ajami's article here.

Quote of the Day

Incompetents invariably make trouble for people other than themselves.

- Larry McMurtry

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Cars Had Style

Art Contrarian looks at car styles from 1935 - 1938. I would rank them above most of the current styles.

Governor Unconventional

From the New York magazine profile of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:

It was another day in October, another town hall, this time at a South Brunswick firehouse. For 90 minutes, anticipation had been building for a display of rhetorical fireworks. But the meeting’s last question came from a 10-year-old girl who was inviting the governor to speak at her school, and the Christie staffers seemed resigned to leaving the town hall without a moment in the bag. But then Christie did something unexpected. He created another type of moment.

Gratitude and Health

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article here.

Culture Break

Things Vivaldi: One of the many reasons for visiting Cultural Offering.

Luddite Prevention Line

FutureLawyer tries to assist a wandering, tech-challenged, soul.

10 Rules for Thanksgiving

I wrote this several years ago and it has become a Thanksgiving tradition on this site.

  1. Thou shalt not discuss politics at the dinner. There is next to no chance that you'll convert anyone and any hard feelings that are generated may last long after the pumpkin pie is finished. Why spoil a good meal?

  2. Thou shalt limit discussion of The Big Game. This is mainly directed at the men who choose to argue plays, records, and coaches while their wives stare longingly at the silverware. The sharp silverware.

  3. Thou shalt say nice things about every dish. Including the bizarre one with Jello and marshmallows.

  4. Thou shalt be especially kind to anyone who may feel left out. Some Thanksgiving guests are tag-alongs or, as we say in the business world, "new to the organization." Make a point of drawing them in.

  5. Thou shalt be wary of gossip. After all, do you know what they say when you leave the room? Remember the old saying: All of the brothers are valiant and all of the sisters are virtuous.

  6. Thou shalt not hog the white or dark meat. We know you're on Atkins but that's no excuse.

  7. Thou shalt think mightily before going back for seconds. Especially if that means waddling back for seconds.

  8. Thou shalt not get drunk. Strong drink improves neither your wit nor your discretion. Give everyone else a gift by remaining sober.

  9. Thou shalt be cheerful. This is not a therapy session. This is not the moment to recount all of the mistakes in your life or to get back at Uncle Bo for the wisecrack he made at your high school graduation. This is a time for Rule #10.

  10. Thou shalt be thankful. You're above ground and functioning in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time. Many people paid a very heavy price (and I'm not talking about groceries) to give you this day. Take some time to think of them and to express gratitude to your friends and relatives. Above all, give special thanks to the divine power who blesses you in innumerable ways.

Decision Discussion

"I want to tell them that you favor this project. That's why they should put together a proposal."

"It's the other way around. I might favor the project, but I'm not committing to anything until I see a detailed proposal. Since this is somewhat unprecedented, they can give us a draft and we can give some feedback, but eventually they will have to give us their final position. I'm not committing to anything at this point."

"But if they know that you're interested, they'll get pumped up about the project."

"If they aren't already pumped up and they need my help doing so, then perhaps they aren't really in favor of doing this. I'm interested in seeing a proposal. Period. This is a meeting, not a marriage."

"Why are you so skeptical?"

"Put it down as the product of hearing too many great stories that went nowhere. Some of those stories were told by me."

Quote of the Day

Cockroaches and socialites are the only things that can stay up all night and eat anything.

- Herb Caen

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miscellaneous and Fast

Black Friday Shopping Deals

BusinessPundit has the 10 best websites for Black Friday deals.

The excitement builds. Or not.

"But it's probably going to be us."

Instapundit has the Saturday Night Live TSA commercial.

Freedom from Oppressive Architecture

He stared in wonder at the tops of trees and the texture of the ground and vowed he'd never let the view be so controlled again.

From Unhappy Hipsters.

Paying for College

Stanley Fish has thrown a hand grenade in the room with this article on college costs.

I seriously question the extent to which technology is behind the higher costs.

Cities on the Move

From City Journal:

Nicole Gelinas with some good news on the rise of New Orleans and Sol Stern on the dynamism of Tel Aviv.

Off the Shelf

So we had a bunch of meetings and conferences and brainstorming sessions and wrote up the results in a nifty notebook and put it upon the shelf. People talked about the great ideas that were surfaced and argued and fleshed out and, let's be honest, all expected someone else to do something about them because, after all, we were just idea people at the time and no one had the time to sort out just who would get the damned thing done.

So I guess the time has finally come to stop procrastinating and to see what we can do with our marvelous thoughts. After all, it was just a few weeks ago, a couple of months at the outside, and we can now scan through them and see what can be put in motion.

Hand me the most recent volume.


Quote of the Day

We live on the leash of our senses.

- Diane Ackerman

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Culture Break

"If you give me your attention" - from the truly outstanding film, Topsy-Turvy.

Phone Upgrades

Cultural Offering has a rant on phone upgrades.

I can identify with it, but only up to a point. My cell phone is, by modern standards, a Korean War model. It's very basic. I can't get email. I never text-message. It can probably be used as a bottle-opener but I haven't tried. There are days when the thought of using it as a hammer seems plausible.

Truth be known, I hate talking over the phone. Give me face-to-face conversations, email or good old fashioned letters. People who feel compelled to talk while driving are a special mystery to me. Most of those calls are probably the equivalent of tweets - "I am now pulling into the driveway" - and will be utterly unnecessary within a few minutes.

The sole reason for my eventual upgrade will be the ability to check and send email. Having just written that, I now need to reconsider. Just how connected must one be?

Priceless 101

The incomparable Nicholas Bate has a list for Sunday.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From Ice to the Mountain of Fire

Trip leader Hendri Coetzee has three rules leading up to our entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rule #1. Everything is going to take twice as long as it should.

Rule # 2. Everything is going to cost twice as much as it should.

Rule #3. No matter what happens, don't panic!

From "Kayaking Africa" in Outside magazine.

Miscellaneous and Fast

"Stay on the Ground"

After a brief intro, a clip of Paul Theroux speaking to a group about what aspiring travel writers should do.

Great Moments in Security

From an account involving the conversation between airport security and some soldiers returning from Afghanistan who were boarding a chartered flight:

So we're in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they're going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can't take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I've had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You're not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I'm allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can't use it to take over the plane. You don't have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Honor and Shame

It is shameful that we lack the public discipline to live within our means, and will leave our children obligated to pay twice the taxes we do, for what we're spending today.

It is shameful that we've hijacked the language of rights, intended to preserve our common freedoms, in order to advance our own self-interest at the expense of everyone else in society.

Read the rest of Philip K. Howard here.

Immigration Campaigns

Now that an anti-immigration party in Switzerland is using nude models in its ads, Europe Tomorrow may be launching an intense study of the subject.

Football Art

Quote of the Day

Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go into your library and read every book.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time to Reconsider Profiling?

Charles Krauthammer on airport searches and the unspeakable:

The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn't need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning "I rely on God," killing all on board.

But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

Praying After the First Sale: El Paletero

A short film of a paletero working on the streets of Nogales, Sonora.

The Chevrolet Volt

Motor Trend names the Volt as its 2011 Car of the Year and describes it as "a moon shot":

As one of the consultant judges on this year's COTY panel, Chris brought the deep insight and professional skepticism you'd expect of someone who's spent his entire working life making cars. But our 2011 Car of the Year, Chevrolet's ground-breaking Volt, has blown him away.

George F. Will takes another view:

Quantities of everything - except perhaps God's mercy, which is said to be infinite - are limited. But quantities of the Volt are going to be so limited that 44 states can only pine for Volts from afar. Good, because the federal government, which evidently is feeling flush, will give tax credits of up to $7,500 to every Volt purchaser. The Volt was conceived to appease the automotive engineers in Congress, which knows that people will have to be bribed, with other people's money, to buy this $41,000 car that seats only four people (the 435-pound battery eats up space).


Nicholas Bate considers a technology-free Friday.


That has real appeal, sort of like Gandhi's practice of not speaking one day a week. There is a peace that can be found by withdrawing from the routine. Hold a staff meeting in a park. Set aside an hour in the workday solely for reading. Slow down and appreciate a process that you normally rush through. Did you really taste that morning cup of coffee or simply drink it?

The Other Side

The best managers, like the best lawyers, know how to argue the other side of the case.

They don't leap into rigid advocacy. They carefully test the ropes that bind together the arguments. They are reluctant to accept as gospel someone's assertion that "something" happened.

They may inwardly smile when hearing that there is only one explanation for conduct. Having been around, they well know the multitude of motives that can cause people to act against self-interest and logic.

Their ability to understand the other side is one of the most valuable commodities in the workplace.

Quote of the Day

A frightened captain makes a frightened crew.

- Lister Sinclair

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finding Happiness

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project interviews novelist Terry McMillan:

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

That no one else can give it to you.

Acting Up Brings Everyone Down

Jim Stroup at Managing Leadership is back in action!

Here's his book review of Acting Up Brings Everyone Down.

Approaching Change

Tanmay Vora looks at change, improvements, and belief in outcomes:

My gym instructor recently shared a very good insight. He observed that people who constantly focus on the pain when exercising give up sooner. He also noted that people who look for instant changes in their health after a few days of exercising also get disappointed soon.

That insight goes well with my own experience which suggests that all meaningful changes take time, demand persistent effort and are driven by strength of our belief that things will be better after a change is implemented, be it improving processes or getting in a better shape.

Newspaper Placement: Guantanamo Detainee

An important case. It was featured on page 13 of The Arizona Republic.

It can be amusing and disturbing to see which stories get the front page treatment and which are tucked in the back. The Wall Street Journal put a small description on the front page and then the full story on the third.

Quote of the Day

The predicament of Western civilization is that it has ceased to be aware of the values which it is in peril of losing.

- Arthur Koestler

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"We're Sinking!"

Back by popular demand: The Berlitz commercial featuring the German Coast Guard.

The Hideaway

This photograph at View From the Ledge has solved my question of how I'm redecorating my home office. Now if I can also add this.


I don’t know when I started signing off my e-mails with the expression “cheers.” To the best of my recollection, I had never used the word in conversation, ever, except when accompanied by a clinking wine glass. I really have no idea how it came to be so rooted in my Internet vocabulary. Out of curiosity, I searched as far back as I could in my Gmail account, and there it was at the end of almost every e-mail, except for ones I had sent to my closest friends and family, which I signed off with the teen-age-y “xoxoxo” or sometimes, for variation, “xxxooo.”

Read the rest of Susan Orlean here.

Damage Assessment

It would be difficult to calculate the amount of damage that management inflicts or facilitates when it:
  1. Promotes the office politician over the most highly respected and thoroughly competent person in the department;
  2. Fails to remove a person who drags down morale on a daily basis;
  3. Uses wink-wink, nudge-nudge hiring quotas while claiming to be nondiscriminatory;
  4. Stresses technical legal compliance far more than adherence to high ethical standards;
  5. Fails to listen to employees;
  6. Tolerates abusive people who meet sales or production goals;
  7. Squelches creativity;
  8. Mocks someone;
  9. Hogs important information;
  10. Fails to train people;
  11. Operates a caste system;
  12. Sends people to Siberia;
  13. Punishes candor;
  14. Lets important decisions drift;
  15. Believes its own publicity;
  16. Acts on heavily filtered information;
  17. Never gets out to the field;
  18. Reorganizes and then keeps reorganizing;
  19. Underestimates the competition;
  20. Regards people as expendable; and
  21. Becomes smug.

Quote of the Day

The fact to which we have got to cling, as to a lifebelt, is that it is possible to be a normal decent person and yet to be fully alive.

- George Orwell

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Great Moments in Advertising: The Gremlin

Check out this "compare and contrast" ad for the AMC Gremlin.

Trusting a 1,500 Year Old Process

Well worth your time: Cultural Offering points to the business secrets of a group of highly successful monks.

Preserving the Good Words

The paperback edition of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not have "curmudgeon" and "hornswoggle" but it does have "bamboozle" and "poltroon."

All is not lost.

Airport Security

There was a photograph on Drudge of a nun being frisked at an airport and the headline was "The Terrorists Have Won."


I suppose that when London had black-outs during the Blitz, the headline would have been "The Nazis Have Won."

Flick on those lights. That will show them.

Obviously, the terrorists would be much happier if we dropped all of our security screening. [Would we feel safer if the federal government announced that nuns and other religious personnel would be exempt from security searches?]

I traveled in Britain during the IRA terrorist days and was always singled out and searched. Seven people would be waved through by the security people and then they'd point at me. [After 9/11, I was stunned when the security screeners in a small airport in Georgia searched an elderly woman but let me through. Go figure.]

For all of the talk about privacy, screener voyeurism, and inconvenience, what is a credible alternative to the process? A German security expert once noted, "The Americans look for the bomb. We look for the bomber." He meant that the Germans place greater emphasis on examining the backgrounds and associations of people who want to board planes.

Since some people who are on "No Fly" lists are getting on planes, we may not quite be there yet.


Here are some examples of how a small change in appearance can make a huge difference.

[HT: Neatorama]

VP of HR and General Counsel Phillips

Employment attorney John Phillips, who has a wealth of experience in advising organizations on HR and EEO topics, is moving on.

He will be missed.

Quote of the Day

If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.

- Edward Hopper

Monday, November 15, 2010

Playing Video Games at the Library

Only those who haven’t checked out a book in the new millennium would be surprised that the public library is now making video games available. The image of the urban public library as a citadel of culture and quietude shielding patrons from the noisy, dumbed-down, digital world outside has taken a hit in recent years. Anyone who has logged significant time at the library has noticed an environment at odds with what Andrew Carnegie had in mind when he bankrolled the construction of 2,811 libraries—roughly 1,000 more institutions than will be participating in National Gaming Day on Saturday. It’s not uncommon to see Internet porn on library computer consoles, and for those not satiated by simply looking, library bathrooms have become popular rendezvous points. Most conspicuously, the library has been transformed into an unofficial homeless shelter during those daytime hours when the official homeless shelter shuts its doors. Libraries have become comfortable hosting many activities unrelated to the life of the mind.

Read the rest of Daniel J. Flynn's City Journal article here.

Give Me a Break Department

"...[T]his large corporation would just ride roughshod over our feelings...."

The Power of Words

For all of you would-be novelists out there, catch these observations by Margaret Millar on words and writing. An excerpt:

"I loved writing dialogue. He [Kenneth] used to like writing action. And I hate writing action. When somebody has to go someplace, I say: 'He went someplace.' That's the most action I want to write. Because to me, it's irrelevant. What's relevant are the words: the mood, and the words that are exchanged. Because you can be driving a Chrysler, or a Jeep -- who in hell cares? What matters is what you say when you get there!"

Telling the Truth in a Job Interview

Job search and interviewing expert Rowan Manahan tells the brutal truth:

My number one piece of advice to candidates for job interviews is to drop the mask and be themselves. Everything after that is tactical. If you are not sufficiently confident to speak your mind and talk at a meaningful level about your approach in the workplace, then you probably aren't going to get hired anyway; and if you do, it may well be into a square peg in a round hole situation.

I work every day with people who are having difficulties in their working lives and the majority of them will point to unpleasant episodes in those working lives arising from untruths.

[Be sure to read all of Rowan's post and don't miss his mantra.]

Yellow Lights

Red lights are used to designate danger and yellow to urge caution. If you were to walk through every aspect of a customer's interactions with your firm, which stages or practices would merit a yellow light?

We may be reluctant to attach a red light to a particular area because we may not have enough information, but a yellow one simply advises caution. It means there should be careful study. Perhaps all is well, but the initial view is that more facts are needed before reaching that happy conclusion.

If you wait for the red lights to appear, you may miss spotting the yellow ones, and those less urgent indicators are good signs. Although they may be disturbing, at least they mean that the situation has not yet reached the status of "Red." You may be able to head off real trouble.

Look around right now. Where are the yellow lights?

Quote of the Day

Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.

- Billy Graham

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flying a Camel

Nicely done: A film of a Sopwith Camel and a Spitfire.

Evidence of the great leap in aviation between the First and Second World Wars.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Just Plain Nuts Update

This is disturbing: A Japanese concert starring a singing hologram.

Border Wars

This morning, I had a long conversation with an old friend, an attorney who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and who has traveled and worked extensively throughout Mexico and Latin America. When I asked him about his latest ventures into the world of Mexican law, he described a recent jaunt in Juarez and noted that he'd feel safer in Afghanistan.

Not good news.

All the Laughs from East Germany

Europe Tomorrow has the trailer for a German film, "Goodbye Lenin!"

What? No wall?

Why We Should Walk Away From Some Deals

The incomparable Nicholas Bate with solid business wisdom that we should read every week.

Fire in the Hole!

Anderson Layman's Blog has a video demonstrating a plan that quickly went south.

Caring and Not Caring Too Much

You care so ...

you can make a difference;
you can preserve your humanity;
you can help others;
you can keep your priorities in order.

You avoid caring too much so ...

you can make a difference;
you can preserve your humanity;
you can help others;
you can keep your priorities in order.

Quote of the Day

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.

- Charles Dickens

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ralston College

When they get to Savannah, the students of Ralston College will find that the school year is the entire year, 12 months, that they are expected to dine together and wear academic gowns, that they will all be reading the same texts organized around a yearly theme (in successive years, the Self, God, Nature, Community and the Beautiful), that the texts will be “supremely difficult” and begin with Greek and Roman authors, many of whom will be revisited the next year under the aegis of a new theme, and that they will also be receiving instruction in the visual arts, mathematics, the sciences and foreign languages (at least two).

Read the rest of Stanley Fish here.

Jacobson Speaking Out


A 2007 video of British novelist and critic Howard Jacobson speaking against the boycott of Israel.

Disaster City

Der Spiegel visits a "Disneyland of Terror":

"Fantastic," says one of the Japanese, pointing to a pile of cement, "perfectly executed, down to the last detail." A perfect disaster. There is even an alligator that lives in a pond behind a collapsed parking garage filled with crushed cars.

The reptile is the only resident of "Disaster City," a bizarre ghost town the size of 30 football fields, where wrecks and ruins are carefully prepared and presented so that soldiers, firefighters and emergency responders from around the world can simulate every conceivable disaster scenario: earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires, gas explosions, attacks with chemical or biological weapons, and terrorist attacks.

Can I Get Some Coffee Cake With That?

The Daily Beast has a slide show of the 40 most fattening coffee drinks.

Rather scary. You can chug one down and get over 1000 calories.

Boss Profile

Ava Gardner describing director John Ford, with whom she worked on "Mogambo":

The meanest man on earth. Thoroughly evil. Adored him.

Humility and Drive

I believe that it was Jim Collins who wrote about extraordinary leaders who possess an unusual combination of humility and drive. It is not an either-or choice and yet many leadership stereotypes seem to push that view.

In his first book on the race for The White House, Theodore White mentioned that successful candidates have to have a "fire in the belly" in order to make it through the trials of campaigning. We later saw plenty of candidates with belly fire but little else to recommend them. Unfortunately, the stereotype of the hard-as-nails, climb-over-the-bodies-of-the-opponents leader may indirectly cause people to dismiss the humble but driven candidate as too nice, less ambitious or passive. That is a huge mistake for such individuals can be very tough operators.

They are so tough, in fact, that they scorn attempts to inflate them into something they are not.

Quote of the Day

No man needs a vacation so much as a man who has just had one.

- Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dino De Laurentiis, R.I.P.

De Laurentiis on his version of "King Kong":

"Nobody cry when Jaws die, but when the monkey die, people gonna cry."

Entertainment/Humor Break

This will put a smile on your face:

A lesser known march by John Philip Sousa and some truly extraordinary camera work.

Marketing Secret: Airships

Contractor in Afghanistan: A "Steve Day"

Michael Yon follows an American contractor in Afghanistan. An excerpt:

Occasionally I would fly to Singapore to meet with Steve or others about Afghanistan, and I realized through time that my friend had morphed into something far greater than a mere “contractor.” Keeping in mind that Steve started doing Afghanistan business in 1997. He understands counterinsurgency at its most basic level and has been doing it in Afghanistan and elsewhere for years.

Steve is one of those intellectual freaks who brushes up against a language and accidentally learns it. He speaks Spanish, Russian, Pashto to a growing degree, and other languages. His staff is international. At times when he needs interpreters, they are first rate. Far better than what most of the military affords. Steve’s interpreters are actually something else—such as business managers—they’re Afghans who are completely fluent in English, and some have travelled. The only Americans I see with interpreters this good are generals, or ranking civilians.

Great Moments in Customer Relations

A New York Times editor discusses the intelligence of the readers.

[HT: Instapundit]

Federal Pay

When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

Read the rest of the USA Today article here.

Quote of the Day

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot...."

- From Rudyard Kipling's poem, "Tommy"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Looking into His Soul

Europe Tomorrow points to the real Marlboro Man.

Raising the Veil

Althouse looks at a troubling instance of deference to religion in the Elizabeth Smart case.

Seven Deadly Ones

You should be reading the always essential Nicholas Bate as he elaborates on the seven deadly corporate sins.

The back-story:
  1. Making the simple, complex.
  2. Being reactive in a world which requires us to be proactive.
  3. Mistaking Human Resources for sheer undiluted passion, inspiration and 'I love what I do'.
  4. Thinking a stream of electrons is thinking.
  5. Aiming for anything less than excellence in everything and anything it touches.
  6. Stalking the competitor/s.
  7. Believing you can ignore making the world a better place.

Home for Lunch

This post by Cultural Offering about the pleasure of having lunch at home is a reminder of the importance of small gestures of civilization.

I had a similar routine when I was in elementary school and to this day often come home for lunch. It is truly a break and it gives me more time to think.

[A related memory: A friend once revealed his secret for a great first luncheon date: Keep the location a mystery and drive to a pleasant park, then bring out a picnic basket containing the classic red-and-white checkered blanket, fine wine and various goodies. He swore it was always a hit.]

The Excuse for Hate

Writing in Commentary, Ruth R. Wisse on the anti-Semite's pointed finger:

As it turned out, anti-Semitism was launched against a people without a homeland, but it would work just as well against Jews with a state of their own.

How so? In 1945, the Arab League was founded with the common goal of preventing the creation of Israel. So far, nothing out of the ordinary: many emerging nations initially meet with opposition. But what followed was altogether exceptional. Israel won its War of Independence, and the war was concluded with an armistice between Israel and the neighboring countries it had been forced to fight. But unlike Britain’s response to the victory of the 13 American colonies, the leaders of Israel’s neighbors, plus 17 other Arab nations, actually refused to acknowledge its existence. And the United Nations collaborated in this refusal. Instead of expelling the countries of the Arab League for failing to abide by the founding principle of the international body, the UN gave the action a pass. This monumental failure of world leadership rendered Israel, the only member state to be so treated, exceptional. The establishment of the State of Israel, undergirded by the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine into two states, meant nothing when it came to the political normalization of the Jews.

Quote of the Day

Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.

- Dorothy Sarnoff

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Novel Sample

He shook his head. "I saw you lighting a candle. Come here."

"I like candles. They're pretty."

He ran his hands through her hair. "You like their flicker. You like their transience. I understand."

"There's something you should know about me," she said. "I'm a bit of an arsonist. Not serious. I wasn't going to burn down the church. But I am turned on by fire."

He laughed and kissed her face. "Hush," he said. "Hush, my love."

In the morning he woke to twin realizations. The first was that she had left him. The second was that his sheets were on fire.

- From The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Stand and Work

CoolTools looks at the GeekDesk, an adjustable desk. Be sure to read the comments. They contain some tips on other products.

A Move

We are moving our offices from the first to the second floor in our building, which means we are going to the top floor.

I look around my office and think of all of the stuff I can get rid of, then I wonder why, if it's so darned undesirable, I didn't get rid of it sooner.

Inertia, I suppose.

After approaching the Crowded Look, I think I'll try the Sparse Look. The trick will be to see if it's still sparse in six months.

Moving is like a medical procedure. I want it done quickly, painlessly, and in my absence.

Quote of the Day

Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder.

- William Faulkner

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Phone Images

FutureLawyer has the chart on how iPhone, Android, and Blackberry users see themselves and others.


Application, Adaptation, and Abandonment...Plus Observation

The effective use of experience involves knowing which skills and insights to apply to the new environment, which must be adapted, and which must be abandoned, at least temporarily.

The story of the great sales rep who becomes a mediocre sales manager is one of a person failing to realize the skills that brought success in the previous job are not the same skills needed for the new one.

An aspect of the entire application, adaptation, and abandonment issue is a willingness to look for lessons in unlikely areas. A reason why we may refill jobs but never truly replace people is that individuals bring unique mixtures of talent and knowledge. It is entirely possible, perhaps probable, that you have caught yourself using certain insights in your current job that came from a source that no one would suspect. I recently heard a man describing how his work as a summer camp counselor during his college years helped him to understand certain types of behavior. He's using lessons from an experience that is not on his job application.

Likewise, we need to open our minds to such lessons. What is the management wisdom to be drawn from a serious illness, a termination, an early success, a touching stage drama, a canceled flight or a championship basketball game?

A Job Well Done

All you need to know: 1984. Derek and the Dominos. "Layla."

Some Art for Monday

Joseph Stein, R.I.P.

Mark Steyn on the passing of Joseph Stein. An excerpt:

The real punchline to the story is that, after Mostel left, seven other Tevyes followed before Fiddler closed in 1972, having played 3,242 performances, overtaken My Fair Lady as Broadway's all-time long-runner and been staged in more than 30 countries: the show was bigger than any star. Trouble is, how do you follow Fiddler? It's a question which not only Stein but most of his Broadway confreres found difficult to answer. Alan Jay Lerner hailed it as the 'triumphant finale to the glorious belle epoque that began with Oklahoma!', but the key word there is 'finale'.

'I disagreed with Alan,' said Stein, when I reminded him of Lerner's line. 'People's emotions haven't changed. The problem is, since Fiddler, there haven't been any musicals on the level of My Fair Lady or those great shows. You can't say, 'My God, this wonderful show failed on Broadway.' No such show came along.'

Quote of the Day

Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.

- Richard Bach

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project is reminding us to smile:

Random smiling is an example of my resolution to Act the way I want to feel: while people suppose that feelings inspire actions, in fact, actions also inspire feelings. So by acting happier, I should feel happier. And you know, I think I do. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Staff Meeting: AWOL

Back by popular demand: 25 unacceptable excuses for not attending the weekly staff meeting.

Quote of the Day

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

- Bertha Calloway

Friday, November 05, 2010

Big Mama Thornton Break

Big Mama Thornton with "Ball and Chain."

And, of course, every so many months, this one must be posted.