Tuesday, November 30, 2010
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.
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."
Monday, November 29, 2010
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?"
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.
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.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
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.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Book: "The Devil's Oasis" by Bartle Bull.
Temperature: 69 degrees.
Dinner: A piece of pumpkin pie and some French roast coffee.
Read the rest at Neatorama.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
A film of a street in the aftermath of the snow storm in Seattle.
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:
Read the entire thing and then see this related post at Chicagoboyz.
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.
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.
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.
Read more on restoring a home in Marrakesh.
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.
Read the rest of Fouad Ajami's article here.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
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.
Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal article here.
- 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?
- 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.
- Thou shalt say nice things about every dish. Including the bizarre one with Jello and marshmallows.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thou shalt not hog the white or dark meat. We know you're on Atkins but that's no excuse.
- Thou shalt think mightily before going back for seconds. Especially if that means waddling back for seconds.
- Thou shalt not get drunk. Strong drink improves neither your wit nor your discretion. Give everyone else a gift by remaining sober.
- 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.
- 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.
"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."
Monday, November 22, 2010
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.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
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?
Saturday, November 20, 2010
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.
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.
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]
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.
Friday, November 19, 2010
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.
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).
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.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
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.
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.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Read the rest of Susan Orlean here.
- Promotes the office politician over the most highly respected and thoroughly competent person in the department;
- Fails to remove a person who drags down morale on a daily basis;
- Uses wink-wink, nudge-nudge hiring quotas while claiming to be nondiscriminatory;
- Stresses technical legal compliance far more than adherence to high ethical standards;
- Fails to listen to employees;
- Tolerates abusive people who meet sales or production goals;
- Squelches creativity;
- Mocks someone;
- Hogs important information;
- Fails to train people;
- Operates a caste system;
- Sends people to Siberia;
- Punishes candor;
- Lets important decisions drift;
- Believes its own publicity;
- Acts on heavily filtered information;
- Never gets out to the field;
- Reorganizes and then keeps reorganizing;
- Underestimates the competition;
- Regards people as expendable; and
- Becomes smug.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
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.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Read the rest of Daniel J. Flynn's City Journal article here.
"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!"
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.]
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?
Saturday, November 13, 2010
- Tanmay Vora: Quality of Planning = Quality of Execution.
- Eclecticity points to The Shirky Principle.
- The trailer for Love Actually.
- Fistful of Talent: Bad management practice.
- Michael P. Maslanka is getting advice from Hyman Roth.
- Cultural Offering is killing rodents.
- Art Contrarian has a report and photos from Barcelona.
- Jose Carreras sings "Some Enchanted Evening."
- John Phillips looks at pets in the workplace.
- Political Calculations: On the Moneyed Midways.
- Bizarre fashion designs for office workers: here.
- An ancient report that Wonder Woman may be returning to television.
Not good news.
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.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Read the rest of Stanley Fish here.
A 2007 video of British novelist and critic Howard Jacobson speaking against the boycott of Israel.
"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.
Rather scary. You can chug one down and get over 1000 calories.
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.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
A lesser known march by John Philip Sousa and some truly extraordinary camera work.
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.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
- Making the simple, complex.
- Being reactive in a world which requires us to be proactive.
- Mistaking Human Resources for sheer undiluted passion, inspiration and 'I love what I do'.
- Thinking a stream of electrons is thinking.
- Aiming for anything less than excellence in everything and anything it touches.
- Stalking the competitor/s.
- Believing you can ignore making the world a better place.
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.]
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.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
"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
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.
Monday, November 08, 2010
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?
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.'
Saturday, November 06, 2010
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.”