Friday, December 31, 2010

Thanks to You All

This is an appropriate time to say thanks to all who visit this site. The new friends that I've made through blogging, most of whom I've never met, are especially appreciated.

Blogging is a strange activity. Readership numbers can shift up and down, often for no discernable reason. Bloggers are often mocked as pajama-clad eccentrics hammering away on keyboards. Thinking about and writing posts consumes time.

And yet I am continually impressed by the high level of blogs that are out there. These new voices are reassurances that the old limited systems of information are gone and are never coming back.

Bloggers and blog readers are part of a revolution in communication and learning. Things can get sloppy and crude, but the net effect is beneficial. One look at the parts of the world that try to restrict access to blogs is enough to reveal that something extraordinary is going on. You are a crucial part of that.

May the New Year be one of great happiness for you and yours.

Thanks again.

Michael

Mooing Out the Old Year

I spent part of this morning at a cattle auction.

It was the first time I've been to one. My oldest sister used to go to the cattle auctions with my grandfather. If he bought a calf, he would put it in the back seat of his car. Armed with iced bottles of Barq's strawberry pop, the two would then drive back to the farm, singing songs with the calf mooing in back.

Classic Americana.

This morning, the auctioneer moved quite a few cattle through there. I would have stayed longer but I had to find some friends. I wandered around the fairgrounds, stumbling into pigs, sheep, goats, brahma bulls, and a 4-H event that seemed to focus on teaching students to judge livestock contests. Although the weather was very cold for Phoenix, it was an enjoyable way to spend part of the last day of the year.

Just watch where you step.

Entertainment Break

Back by popular demand: Fred Astaire sings "Just The Way You Look Tonight."

The Almanac

When I was young, every year at Christmas one of my grandmothers would give me The World Almanac.

I loved them then and still do, although I've often strayed with The New York Times Almanac or the one put out by TIME.

The updates on the countries are reason enough to get an almanac, but there is another benefit: The ability to look at some statistics and ask, "Aside from the surface information, what do these figures reveal?"

I'm buying one today. Great stuff.

Entertainment, Not Homework

Check out this fascinating interview with screenwriter Rob Long on the business and future of television and the movies.

When E-Mail Goes Astray

Some engineers planning to leave a company were planning their departure, and one of the confidential emails was mailed to an old company address, where the computer system routed it to the General Counsel. Rather than notifying the prospective Plaintiffs that the company now knew what they were planning, the Company's counsel kept quiet, and then used the information to defend the lawsuit.

Read all of the FutureLawyer post here. Very interesting.

Auld Lange Syne (with Lyrics)


A tradition on this site: Dougie MacLean from his Tribute album.

Quote of the Day

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

- Carl Sagan

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Enviken

Europe Tomorrow on an unusual place in Sweden:

Anyway, I remembered reading in National Geographic a few months back about a town in the middle part of the country called Enviken. Enviken is of those small, nothing-happening-there places, with one exception: its citizens are apparently obsessed with mid-twentieth-century Americana. Rockabilly, cars with fins, women dolled up like circa 1950. It’s like American Graffiti, as directed by Ingmar Bergman. (Actually, that’s not funny, for if Ingmar Bergman had made American Graffiti he might then have gone on to make Star Wars, where Yoda is an elderly professor contemplating death, Leia is an insane woman contemplating death, and whose climactic battle consists of Luke and Darth Vader playing chess on the beach. It'd have made millions.)

Surprises: Usually Bad


Cultural Offering examines a major rule for all of us: No surprises.

Best Business Blogs

BusinessPundit gives its list of the 75 Best Business Blogs of 2010.

Ideas Update

Robert Stein, a conservative economist who served as deputy assistant secretary for macroeconomic analysis in George W. Bush's administration, says the tax code is unfair to one particular group of Americans: parents.

He says that parents invest thousands of dollars in raising members of society who eventually fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare, but retirees who chose not to raise children get the same old-age benefits as those who did.

Read the rest of the May 2010 Washington Post article here.

That Noted Finnish Humor

At Europe Tomorrow, a movie that I think I'll pass on.

The Cabbie's Story

WSJ: How has New Year's Eve in San Francisco changed over the past 30 years?

Mr. Harold: It doesn't change. It starts off slow, then it builds to a crescendo. People are good early on—and then they get drunker. People can't find a cab, and when you drive by, they give you the finger. When they get in the cab, they're drunk. They're funny. I say, "I don't mind if you're going to be sick. I'll pull over." People are in a good mood, throwing money at you.

Read the rest of The Wall Street Journal interview here.

Quote of the Day

Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.

- John Le Carre

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Change Your Font

This post at Reka-Zsuzsanna Szanto's blog about changing fonts touches on an extremely sensitive subject. I've found that you can discuss nuclear war more easily with some people than the issue of fonts.

Verdana and Ariel fans are close relatives but there is a world of difference between the Times New Roman crowd and the Comic Sans crew. [The Trebuchet advocates may be the sophisticates of the neighborhood.]

Creativity in Selections

“The Corner Office” in The New York Times from Dec. 5 has an interesting interview with Kathy Savitt. She’s the CEO of Lockerz, a social network and e-commerce site. Among other questions in a job interview, she likes to ask a candidate, "If you could take 100 percent of your abilities and create a job description, what would it look like?" Why? Because when a candidate sees the job description, he tailors his answer to fit the description (“contorts” may be a better word). She also mentions that in hiring she puts a high premium on intelligence and a very high premium on wit.

Read the rest of Michael P. Maslanka's post here.

"Think. Try. Learn."

Update from an interesting site:

Matthew Cornell reports on his experimenter's journal.

Colors and Purchases

At BusinessPundit, how colors affect purchases.

Hmm.

Chesterton, Guinness, and Brown

Terry Teachout has a clip from the "Father Brown" film and one of G.K. Chesterton.

Alec Guinness plays Father Brown.

Nicholas Was

If you received a Christmas card from Neil Gaiman, hang onto it.

Quiet Thoughts


Don't write. Call.

Don't call. Visit.

Don't talk. Listen.

Don't seeth. Think.

Don't be yourself. Improve.

Don't rush. Pace.

Don't envy. Applaud.

Don't get bored. Work.

Don't surrender. Persist.

Don't despair. Wait.

The Purpose of Words


Once we decide that our words should influence and not simply inform, we have given our message a very different mission. We craft our remarks to avoid negative reactions; the sort of response that might be triggered by more candid language that is less concerned with feelings and outcomes.

This crafting might indeed get us to our goal or it may nudge us off the bridge and into a deep chasm.

A key task as communicators is knowing whether our primary concern is informing or influencing. A key task for the listener is knowing the same thing about us.

Quote of the Day

The fool wonders, the wise man asks.

- Benjamin Disraeli

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wasted


Another year and no MacArthur Fellowship.

Music Break

The great Little Richard: Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Speak-and-write software: Dragon Dictate.
At Maggie's Farm, a 1948 appeal by Edward G. Robinson.
Jacobson Kick continued: His acceptance speech for the Booker Prize.
Elizabeth Scalia suggests unwrapping the silence.
The Beatles and nine film projects.
Victor Davis Hanson: Politically incorrect resolutions.
Wired: The best bits of 2010.
Terry Teachout: Thoughts on Jack Benny.

Fame: 4th Chapter

The fourth chapter of Clive James's book, Fame, is now online. An excerpt:

The war was as big as the world, and far too complicated to follow unless it was dramatized into a battle between good and evil. Nazi Germany was a rich source of villainous leading characters, quite apart from Hitler himself. Before the war, Hermann Goering had played a complicated role as the second man in Germany. Hitler, who suffered from no vices except an overdeveloped taste for cream cakes and mass murder, had looked austere and dedicated beside Goering, a conspicuous consumer of fine wines and other people’s property. Goering thought that he could divert attention from his weight problem by designing his own uniforms. It was a miscalculation on a massive scale. But Goering knew his way around a country estate, and this had fooled some of Europe’s more clueless aristocrats into believing that despite his regrettable fondness for building concentration camps he might be a civilizing influence on Hitler. Now the gloves were off and Goering had emerged as a simple roly-poly figure of fun. British newsreels helped the gag along with specially edited Fatty Hermann compilations plus comic voice-over. When Goering’s much publicized Luftwaffe failed to beat the RAF, even the Germans got the joke. On the rare occasions when the Gestapo wasn’t listening, ordinary Germans called Goering ‘Meyer’, ironically commemorating the moment when he had assured his countrymen that no enemy aircraft would ever appear over Germany, or else his name was Meyer.

Backyard Blizzard

At Anderson Layman's Blog, some timelapse photography of a blizzard.

Quote of the Day

I must take it on faith that there are good "top" managements. I've just never seen one.

- Robert Townsend

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wide-Track Beauty


Art Contrarian examines cars with broad shoulders.

Customer Loyalty and the Bigger Picture

Rick Knowles hits the target with this post . An excerpt:

...[T[he best vendors work to solve the entirety of your problem. If a mistake happens, or another problem surfaces, they realize that they are still in the business of solving problems instead of doing a duck-and-cover into CYA mode.

Freedom and Athens

Socrates represented a reality that Athens, after the Peloponnesian debacle, did not want to see or remember. The return to democracy following the brief period of dictatorship was accompanied by an amnesty law, which quickly became an amnesia law. To bring up past quarrels was forbidden. Mentioning the disorder that had divided the city, or even the military defeat itself, became taboo. Thus Socrates’s outspokenness, which made Athens famous, proved profoundly troubling to the war-sick Athenians themselves. But by making free speech a capital crime, Athens acted against its own past. The city, already worn out, eliminated itself, its own genius, along with Socrates.

Read the rest of Andre Glucksmann's article here.

Avenues


How you gain the insight is usually less important than the means, unless the means is also a form of insight. It may be a look, a brief conversation, a seemingly meaningless exchange at a front counter, a nudge during a football game, a novel about a bank clerk in India, a hesitation, a moment when the person carefully chooses a word - all can reveal larger things if you are ready to notice.

We walk through a mist of messages, some of which we grasp immediately while most are lost forever and still others may not be clear until minutes, days or even years afterwards. "What is to be learned here?" is a key question. Others are "What is he trying to say?" and "What is she trying not to say?"

Those who proudly announce that they only give and receive direct messages are bragging of a limited vocabulary. There is so much more out there and you may find it in a book or a look.

Complications


Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. Gain a reputation in your field and you'll be besieged by headhunters. The sole interest of employers is whether or not you can produce the goods. Burn the midnight oil and you'll achieve success.

If only the world were that simple.

Quote of the Day

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

- Ray Bradbury

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Woody Allen: The Worker

A good interview to watch before the work week begins:

TIME poses ten questions to Woody Allen.

Winter Travel Companions

For some reason, the recent travel advisories reminded me of the ending of Planes Trains and Automobiles.

Day After Christmas


Had a low-key but very nice Christmas. Great lunch. Got some very good books. Was up early this morning. Hit the espresso and toast. Am now experiencing post-Christmas fudge remorse. Wife flies to New York tomorrow. The Weather Channel is being monitored for reports. Clear day here but the Northeast sounds hellish. The exercise machine is calling my name. Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison is playing in the kitchen. Am reviewing the coming week and taping up reminders of chores on my study wall. Should get bulletin board. Put that on card and tape to the wall: "Get bulletin board."

This is a good day to hide-out with a book.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

To Each and All


A Very Merry Christmas!

Quote of the Day

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

- 2 Matthew 10

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dylan Thomas: Christmas

Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales":


Driving Skills Update

From 2007 in Portland: Cars, snow, ice, and an intersection.

Carols

Kings College Cambridge with O Come All Ye Faithful.

Loreena McKennitt with Noel Nouvelet.

"Perfectly Hedged"

Eisman stuck to his sell rating on Lomas Financial, even after the Lomas Financial Corporation announced that investors needn't worry about its financial condition, as it had hedged its market risk. "The single greatest line I ever wrote as an analyst," says Eisman, "was after Lomas said they were hedged." He recited the line from memory: "'The Lomas Financial Corporation is a perfectly hedged financial institution: it loses money in every conceivable interest rate environment.' I enjoyed writing that sentence more than any sentence I ever wrote." A few months after he published that line, the Lomas Financial Corporation returned to bankruptcy.

Fortune is publishing excerpts from its favorite business books. Read the rest of the one from "The Big Short."

And Turn Down That Thermostat!

Ebenezer Scrooge, environmentalist.

Common Thought Today


"I could use another week."

Frosty and McCartney

Rob Long names the two Christmas songs that he can't stand.

[I liked "The Little Drummer Boy" the first 10,000 times I heard it but now flee when its first notes sound.]

Quote of the Day

If you don't make things happen then things will happen to you.

- Robert Collier

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rooster and Friends

I'm not kidding. Stephen Hunter likes the new film version of "True Grit":

Each of these fellows has a face that looks like a leather cushion dragged behind a pickup over 40 miles of bad road, so that the movie also has a tone of random grotesqueness for fans of bad orthodonture and nostrils the size of volcanoes.

Word Abuse


Is it not a strange world in which predation means refraining from taking from others what is rightfully theirs and putting it into your own pocket? Look, then, at all those terrible predators on the street who so unscrupulously fail to relieve us of our wallets when we walk among them! As for those predatory German firms that make better products than anybody else, words fail me to describe their sheer dishonesty!

Read the rest of Theodore Dalrymple here.

Mindless "Entertainment" Break

A sedate and dignified Christmas with Bob Dylan.

I think Mitch Miller's buried out back.

The Selection

He would often reflect on the interviews.

One guy was an old manager. Not very polished and there was a whiff of desperation in some of his answers. It was combined with a possible rigidity. He worried that the "set in his ways" stereotype might be true.

One woman had related experience but nothing directly in the subject area. Her main drawback was she was politically connected to some executives within the organization. She dropped a few names, not knowing they were his adversaries.

Another woman flirted. Bad move. He didn't need that and he wondered about her judgment.

The final candidate was articulate, amiable, and experienced. He made one small but troublesome comment that hinted at a tendency to disregard the opinions of others, but all of his other answers were strong and well-reasoned.

He selected the fourth contender. Years later, he would look back and conclude that any of the other three would have been better.

The Costanza Option

Frank Costanza: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Cosmo Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank Costanza: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!

Cosmo Kramer: That must've been some kind of doll.

Frank Costanza: She was.

Much, much more at
the Festivus site.

[HT: Instapundit]

Time to Think


The last weeks of December through the first week or two of January provide most of us with that most valuable of commodities: The time to think.

That business book you've been planning to read? Now's the time.

That morning you've wanted for a "retreat" with yourself? Take your notepad to a coffee shop and start scribbling ideas.

Those thank you notes that have been backed up for some time? The end and the start of a year provide ideal moments for recognizing accomplishments and giving best wishes.

And there's the time-tested way to trigger insights about your career: Do something completely unrelated to it. You'll be amazed at how many thoughts will come knocking when you are not looking for them.

Quote of the Day

The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.

- Johnny Carson

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Great Moments in Decorations

File this under I Wish I'd Thought of That.

Comments of the Unprepared

Comments you may eventually hear from those who are unprepared for Christmas:

"The guy on the corner assured me the watch is genuine."

"I wouldn't say it is inexpensive. It is more like, uh, unpretentious."

"Believe me, a lot of women use Brut cologne as a perfume. It really makes a statement."

"You told me you liked Etch-a-Sketch when you were a kid."

"How can I remember what I gave you last year?"

"And check out the label. 'Made in Bolivia.' How exotic is that?"

"You know that magazine you really like? I can't remember the name but you're getting a subscription to it."

"The Years are Short"

Take some time today for a brief video from The Happiness Project.

Blogger's Choice Award Nominations

Blogger's Choice is accepting nominations for the 2011 competition.

Release the Kracken. Let the games begin.

The TSA Line at Despair.com


Despair.com has new t-shirts.

Can You Say That?



Do you want an interesting experience?

Say "Merry Christmas!" to a Human Resources person and watch the facial expressions. For many, it is no big deal but others give a "deer in the headlights" look.

Make that a nervous deer in the headlights.


[HT: Lou Rodarte]

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "Lost in Translation."

No Excuses. Write Your Book.


The incomparable Nicholas Bate, who writes a book every two weeks when he isn't in Paris or Rangoon and sometimes even when he is, has some tips on writing that are spot-on.

Is "The Shallows" Deep?

I'm sorry that I missed The Technology Liberation Front's review of Nicholas Carr's The Shallows in June. An excerpt:

Although, ultimately, Carr doesn’t quite convinced me that “The Web is a technology of forgetfulness” (p. 193), he has made a powerful case that its effects may not be as salubrious as many of us have assumed. Drawing upon a wealth of scientific studies, Carr calls into question the widely-held belief that the Net’s vast reserves of instantly accessible information have enabled us to “free up” brain space and made room for more mental processing and productivity. “Those who celebrate the ‘outsourcing’ of memory to the Web have been misled by a metaphor,” he argues. (p. 191) “When a person fails to consolidate a fact, an idea, or an experience in long-term memory, he’s not ‘freeing-up’ space in his brain for other functions,” he says. (p. 192) Instead, we are just losing that wisdom and experience, or at least dulling our intellects in the process of farming out that learning process to the Web.

Novel Gifts

Some extraordinary novels to consider as gifts:

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

  • The Time of the Assassins by Godfrey Blunden

  • The Wonderful Country by Tom Lea

Quote of the Day

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.

- Thomas Sowell

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Well-Chosen


Check out the links to some very good stuff at Anderson Layman's Blog.

Because You Always Need a Pen

One of the small pleasures of life: An extremely good and inexpensive ballpoint pen.

Planning versus Execution


Wally Bock hits one out of the park with this post on why people would rather plan than execute. An excerpt:

Planning is all about possibilities Execution is all about accountability.

Planners analyze opportunities. Execution is deals in limitations.

Planning is intellectual fun, with no responsibilities. Execution is all about work and there's lots of responsibility.

You can declare a victory when you produce a plan. Execution never ends.

Slant

Cultural Offering has a quiz to determine your political leanings.

I've seen similar quizes over the years, some elaborate and others fairly simple, and have been impressed by how many people describe themselves in a manner that doesn't really match their beliefs on specific issues.

Full Slab

Joseph Epstein reveals his gourmet side:

No food is more masculine than ribs. I know women who eat ribs, and even show a genuine appetite for them, but at bottom ribs are a guy meal. What makes them so is their fundamental coarseness. Not always but usually one has to pick them up with one’s hands. Many napkins are required to remove sauce from one’s hands and around one’s mouth. The spectacle of a man eating ribs is reminiscent to me of a 1940 movie called One Million B.C., starring Victor Mature and Carole Landis. I can still see Victor Mature, who had glistening rib-lips to begin with, gnawing meat off a bone. Men, the movie underscored, are brutes.

Quote of the Day

Be persistent. Few will support you at all, a few will get fed up wth your passion and you know your mum will support you whatever. No, you have to keep on...trying to get Chapter 4 written, venture capital funding, through to that decision maker... Whatever: persist. Another call, another letter, another meeting, another 500 words, another half-marathon, another day, another rejection, another success.

- Nicholas Bate

Monday, December 20, 2010

Puzzle Break


National Geographic has jigsaw puzzles of the atlas.

Farewell to Bob Feller


In one of the last interviews with Bob Feller before he died last week at the age of 92, the hall-of-famer said that, “trying to sneak a fastball by Ted Williams was like trying to sneak a sunbeam by a rooster.”

Read the rest here.

Oops

From The Independent of March 2000:

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

[HT: Drudge Report]

Twas The Night Before Christmas - Legal Version

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Read it all here. Very nicely done.

Frontier Justice


Read the case and render your opinion:

"Potentially Evangelical" Discrimination Case

“Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with,” Ms. Shafer wrote, “but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site.”

Read the rest of the story.

[HT: Instapundit]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Their Loss

Mental Floss has rejection letters to noted writers. The one to Gertrude Stein is especially brutal.

On Normalcy

Normalcy around here is a grand petri dish of noisy creative destruction. When John is home from college, there are seven of us sharing 2700 square feet of living space. This place is hopping.

Just one reason why Cultural Offering is a must-read site.

Throw Another iPod on the Fire


Quote of the Day

Only those who want everything done for them are bored.

- Billy Graham

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Deliberately Unsustainable Business Models


I once asked Eric Siegel, the Director of the New York Hall of Science, why museums are rarely innovative shining stars on the cutting edge of culture. He commented that as non-profits, museums are built to survive, not to succeed. Unlike startups and rock stars, museums aren't structured to shoot for the moon and burn up trying. They're made to plod along. Maybe it's time to change that.

Read the rest of this 2009 article at Museum 2.0.

Three Memorable Music Themes from TV

You Know You Want One


Grinch

I never thought I'd say this, but the idea of an artificial Christmas tree is beginning to look better and better to me.

No hassle. Little worry of it burning the house down. No disposal problems. And I can take a blowtorch to the tree stands that never quite lived up to their hype.

"Pure Passion"

Rome: Who says that romance has died?

Shoot the Day with NGrams


Here, for instance, is the NGram Viewer for these words: sin, righteous, and piety.

Rob Long is charting words on Google NGrams. He adds: The word "sin," as you can see, has been on a steep decline since 1840.

Double Secret Santa


Suzanne Lucas (a.k.a. Evil HR Lady) has some Secret Santa gift suggestions.

Brevity and Symbolism

Marvelous: Sir V.S. Naipaul's short speech at the Nobel Prize banquet.

The Missing Christmas Tunes


For a songwriter, a Christmas hit is the ultimate jackpot. Singer Mel Tormé could easily have lived his whole life just on the royalties from "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts roasting...), for which he wrote the music as a young man. The prospect of such annuities was one reason there was such an explosion of Christmas songwriting in the 1940s and '50s, when a majority of the current holiday repertoire was born. But given the rewards, why have so few songwriters since then had any luck giving Rudolph and Frosty a run for their not-insignificant money?

Read all of Eric Felten's article here.

Quote of the Day

Obviously crime pays, or there'd be no crime.

- G. Gordon Liddy

Friday, December 17, 2010

Questioning a Common Disciplinary Practice

Michael P. Maslanka has a thought-provoking post on the death of the write-up.

Back By Popular Demand: The Great Christmas Light Debate

From the late Michael Kelly:

Most of the houses in my neighborhood are white-light houses, and I have to admit they are lovely, but I was raised in a colored-light family, and I am raising Tom and Jack to be colored-light men, too. They do not take a lot of convincing on this. Boys are naturally colored lighters. We got up the first three strings of our lights the weekend before last, and another two last weekend, at which time we threw away the rotted Halloween pumpkin. I might have gotten more lights up by now except that the remaining three strings are not working. To fix them you have to go through and find the burned-out bulb and replace it, and there are a lot of bulbs in a string, and the whole enterprise is one of those things that leads Daddy to point out that this is really the sort of job Mommy does better, and Mommy claims that she doesn't know how to do it because she wasn't raised in a colored-light family. This is a cop-out, and unworthy of her.

Looking Back

Edmund Morris gives his top five list of novels of time and memory.

I know that I've read some other books that would fall in that category but none come to mind. Perhaps "Love in the Time of Cholera?"

The Bell, California Scandal


Overnight, Bell became America’s most famous kleptocracy, featured in national publications and on network news programs. The quick resignations of the three hypercompensated civil servants failed to kill the story. Further efforts by Times reporters uncovered extravagant pay packages for other city employees, outlandish fringe benefits, and loans of public funds to city workers and favored businesses. The state attorney general filed a lawsuit against Rizzo and other Bell officials, while the Los Angeles County district attorney indicted him, the assistant city manager, and six current or former city council members on corruption charges. If none of those legal actions succeeds, taxpayers throughout California can expect to fund a pension for Rizzo worth $600,000 per year, according to the Times’s calculations, while the retired police chief makes ends meet on a pension of $411,000.

Read the rest of William Voegeli's City Journal article here.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.

- Nathaniel Branden

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Californias

The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.

Read the rest of Victor Davis Hanson here.

"Little Kabul"

Writing in City Journal, Judith Miller looks at the Afghans of Fremont. An excerpt:

As a community, these Afghans are also enormously understudied, except by law enforcement. After 9/11, journalists descended on Fremont, writing stories about “Little Kabul”—a short strip along Fremont Boulevard, really little more than a grocery store, jewelry shop, bookstore, and a couple of clothing shops that sold such items as long-sleeved tunics and head scarves for women and native hats called pakol for men. In 2003, Fremont got another jolt of publicity when the young Afghan author Khaled Hosseini set part of his best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, in the Fremont area.

Chili Winner!


What Would Dad Say has won an office chili cook-off and his recipe is priceless.

Talking About Leadership



I'm delivering a keynote address today to the graduates of a leadership academy in the Phoenix area.

When discussing leadership, there is so much to say and yet so little. As with swimming, there are the central concepts, but the main lessons occur in the actual practice. Moreover, the astute leader has to know when to adjust styles and that requires knowledge of organizations and people.

It is not unusual to meet executives or managers who label themselves as collegial or autocratic. [The collegials are an especially smug bunch. Many act as if the label is a symbol of superior worth.] All types need to be reminded that the only test is whether they are effective. It is doubtful if they will be effective over the long term if they use only one style.

Unless that style is a multitude of styles.

As it currently stands, I plan to allude to Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, George Washington, and Regis Philbin.

In other words, it should be fun.

Quote of the Day

Regulations grow at the same rate as weeds.

- Norman R. Augustine

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Inciting Chaos

Spengler looks at the potential use of theological weapons:

Instead of trying to stabilize the Islamic world, suppose - just for the sake of argument - that one or two world powers set out to throw it into chaos. I am not advocating such a strategy, only evaluating its effectiveness.

Imaginary Diet


Power Shifts

Joel Kotkin on demography versus geography. An excerpt:

In the long run, each party has strong cards to play. Demographic shifts favor Democrats, while geography tilts to the Republicans. Ultimately, the winner will be the party that offers a successful strategy for economic growth—but without culturally alienating the demographic groups destined to hold the balance in the political future.

Gift Suggestions


Well, it is that time of the year again and pretty soon many of you will be wondering what gifts to give to a variety of friends and relatives. Aside from advising against buying presents at the local drugstore - I tried that one year and the reviews were unkind - you might want to consider books.

For example, let's say there are some young children on your list, some elementary schoolers. "How to Make Presentations to Councils and Boards" by Michael Wade would be a memorable stocking stuffer. Chances are you'd hear about that gift for years. It is not hard to imagine the tears of joy.

Or that irrasible uncle, the one who has been a constant worry lest his loose mouth cause him to lose his job and move in with you. Being a sensitive soul, he'd probably welcome a copy of "All I Said Was: What Every Supervisor, Employee, and Team Should Know to Avoid Insults, Lawsuits, and the Six O'Clock News" by Michael Wade. You can picture him reading it aloud to his friends at the bar. They'll beg him to loan them his copy, but he'll refuse. One doesn't part with cherished things.

I'd mention some other items, but my mind has gone blank. I wonder what's in this egg nog.

Lincoln The Man

A video of historian James Swanson talking about Abraham Lincoln.

The Year in Reading: Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell lists some of the books he read this year.

Prediction: You'll be surprised.

"Connections" Available

Kottke reports that every episode of James Burke's "Connections" is now online.

Overloaded with Law?


Writing in The Washington Post, Philip K. Howard of Common Good believes the burden of too much law can be solved with omnibus sunset laws and radical simplification.

Early Dali


Art Contrarian looks at the early work of Salvador Dali.

Quote of the Day

If it weren't for baseball, many kids wouldn't know what a millionaire looked like.

- Phyllis Diller

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Carol Break

From St. Paul's Cathedral: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Grace and Style Update

Althouse has an interesting video on how Chief Justice John Roberts welcomed Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On a Howard Jacobson Kick

I wrote earlier about how much I enjoyed The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. The book won the Booker Prize and is a real joy.

With that in mind, I picked up a copy of one of Jacobson's other books, The Making of Henry. I'm still reading it, but to give you a sense of Jacobson's style, here is the beginning:

Henry believes he knows exactly when the ninety-four-year-old woman in the neighboring apartment dies. He hears her turn off. Until now he has not been able to distinguish her from her appliances - her washing machine, her vacuum cleaner, her radiators, her television. But the moment she gives up the ghost he detects the cessation of a noise of which he was not previously aware. A hum, was it? A whirr? Impossible to say. There is no word for the sound a life makes.

"Ah well," his cleaning woman muses, once word of the death has seeped out, "what's one more?"

"Plenty, if you happen to be the one," Henry says.

The Necessity for Absence


There are times when the best thing to do is to be absent. Among those times are when:


  1. You need time to think;

  2. Your presence may be viewed as an endorsement of questionable activities over which you have little or no control;

  3. Your presence, due to your rank, will drain joy from what should be a happy occasion;

  4. You want to avoid making a commitment;

  5. The group is becoming overly dependent on your guidance;

  6. You have nothing constructive to contribute; and

  7. Your inner alarm system is saying, "Stay away."

Quote of the Day

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.

- Erma Bombeck

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Driverless Car

Don't they know they should be text-messaging?

PaleoFuture takes us back to 1957, when people dreamed of driverless cars.

Full Employment for Law Professors

From The Wall Street Journal Law Blog: Some early reactions to the health care decision.

Snow Country

From Wired, pictures and video of the Metrodome roof collapse.

Some earlier video of the blizzard in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

In the meantime, today in Phoenix: High: 81 Low: 52. We pay our dues in the summer.

Course Catalog for Autodidacts


There is a world of information out there. Many thanks to Wally Bock for passing the word about the Johns Hopkins autodidact's resource bank.

How David Outmarkets Goliath

Business Pundit has a thought-provoking interview with David Siteman Garland on multimedia marketing. An excerpt:

Getting into traditional media sources as a quoted expert is still valuable. However, I think the true value comes from once those blurbs or clips are posted online. If you tell folks, “Tune in to the Sunday morning news. I’ll be on talking about kittens!” many folks will probably miss it. But once that links up online, it lives forever and people can tune in later. Traditional media isn’t bad by any respects and you use those shiny “as seen on” logos on your website.

Weimar Istanbul?

My Man on the Street in Istanbul tells me that my blog is blocked there.

Go figure.

Anyway, who doesn't find a comparison of Turkey with the Weimar Republic to be of interest, especially on a Monday morning?

Writing in City Journal, Claire Berlinski examines the subject. An excerpt: Could there be such excitement without danger? I doubt it. Never was the Weimar Republic viewed as legitimate by its enemies, and never has the secular state been viewed as legitimate by its enemies here. Both societies have been destabilized in turn by leftist subversion, right-wing militias, assassinations, endless coup plots, the savage repression of protests and strikes. The Nazis evoked nostalgia for a social and moral past that they proposed to restore, and so does Turkey’s AKP government. Just look at the map of the Ottoman Empire, say its diplomats. Turkey is returning to its rightful place.

The Irving Connection

Sometimes, memory is a bank shot. This post about Washington Irving at Cultural Offering reminded me of a passage in Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin:

"Every room of his [Seward's] palatial home contained associations from earlier days, mementos of previous triumphs. The slim Sheraton desk in the hallway had belonged to a member of the First Constitutional Congress in 1789. The fireplace in the parlor had been crafted by the young carpenter Brigham Young, later prophet of the Mormon Church. The large Thomas Cole painting in the drawing room depicting Portage Falls had been presented to Seward in commemoration of his early efforts to extend the canal system in New York State. Every inch of wall space was filled with curios and family portraits executed by the most famous artists of the day - Thomas Sully, Chester Harding, Henry Inman. Even the ivy that grew along the pathways and up the garden trellises had an anecdotal legacy, having been cultivated at Sir Walter Scott's home in Scotland and presented to Seward by Washington Irving."

Colors for Men

Two decades ago, a very popular business guy here in my town always wore the same thing, a sincere blue suit with a vest, white shirt, various ties, black shoes. He confessed he owned three of exactly the same suit. He was my hero. I adapted his idea and now only wear black pants, black belt, black shoes, black socks. I go crazy with the shirt. I am telling you, this is a tip you know you will like, at least until Garanimals For Men hit the market.

Read the rest of What Would Dad Say here.

Quote of the Day

He who will not economize will have to agonize.

- Confucius

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Throw the Bum Out

A "laugh out loud" Eclecticity moment.

Music Break

Some Christmas carols from:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Passive-Aggressive Update

Anderson Layman's Blog has a video of "The Janitor's Revenge."

Marvelous. He may have a future in management.

Caveman

Future Lawyer is going retro with his netbook.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Modern Architecture


Where is this? Art Contrarian has the details and, of course, his critique. An excerpt:

But the real blame falls on the architect's client. Were there no adults in the room when this joke of a project was approved?

Knowing What is Not Known


One of the most valuable instincts is that which signals the entry into unknown territory.

The hair on the back of your neck might not rise, but you know nonetheless that a guide is needed and that those ripped and crumpled road maps tucked in the back of your mind are no longer useful.

I've encountered some very bright executives and managers over the years and the ones who are least likely to walk themselves and their teams into a swamp know what they don't know and know what their advisors don't know. They either seek new advisors or proceed, if at all, with extreme caution.

This does not mean they are timid. They would smirk at the word because such either-or choices are irrelevant to them. They seek only one goal: To be effective. If "soft" makes them effective, then they'll be soft and the same attitude applies to "hard."

But effectiveness requires knowledge and knowledge involves a sense of the boundaries.

Beware of leaders who believe that they and their institutions know it all. They will cite this and that study or five-year-plan and praise the glossy credentials of their inner circle.

They lack a sense of what they don't know.