Monday, February 28, 2011

Read and Heed

Cultural Offering has a "bad meeting case study."

So true. I have seen meetings during which a flag could have been raised at the point when all that follows will be in descent.

Lewis Sued

Michael Lewis, author of "The Big Short," is being sued for defamation. I haven't read the book, but enjoyed his first best seller, "Liar's Poker." Anyone who read that one no doubt recalls The Barracuda.

Chairing the Member

Raw politics in a classic from Hogarth.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Cover Artist

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Ernest Hamlin Baker.

The Charisma of Competence

Why Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels may be far more formidable than the usual presidential candidate. An excerpt:

Mr. Daniels is convinced that as president, he would know how to fix the country's debt and swelling entitlements. He's less sure he has the stomach for pursuing the job.

"A friend of mine said to me, 'Mitch, you have a fatal flaw as a candidate.' And I said, 'I have a lot of them. Which one did you have in mind?' And he said, 'You can live without it.'"

Quote of the Day

Business schools give students the illusion of relevant learning: an illusion later dispelled at work. Business school students learn a vocabulary that enables them to speak authoritatively on subjects they do not understand. They also learn a set of principles that have demonstrated their ability to withstand large amounts of disconfirming evidence.

- Russell L. Ackoff

Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Start the Weekend

systems analysis research + ear infection = creativity + exhaustion

When Cakes Go Wrong

More from Cake Wrecks here. Brutal stuff.

Music Break for Friday

Back by popular demand: The Cure. Just start dancing.

The Building of Dreams

In the science fiction film, the protagonists escape a variety of challenges and eventually find themselves in the Building of Dreams. They see other people moving about quietly, occasionally taking someone else's dream from a shelf and staring into it or sitting and pondering their own. They find entire areas dedicated to one type of dream or another. The overall atmosphere is infused with thought and creativity. New dreams are brought in. Old ones may be sold. Many are taken away from the building so they can be studied elsewhere. The main character can hear people recommending - or even arguing about - dreams, but the voices are subdued and the dream containers are treated with respect. All seems carefully organized. This is clearly a special place.

They are in a library.

Change: Outwitting the Bureaucrats

If you want to avoid making a major mistake while introducing change in an organization, emphasize process instead of a program. Implement on-going procedures and monitoring mechanisms that will continue long after you and other change advocates have departed.

Boards and bosses are transitory. Projects end. Procedures and systems, however, can have a life of their own and, in most cases, they are long-lived. The seasoned bureaucrats know this. They have seen flashy reformers come and go. The bureaucracy's time-tested strategy involves delay, dodges, confusion, and persistence. They will be glad to let others grab the limelight so long as they retain control of the system.

Their point of strength is also their point of vulnerability. Don't knock your head against the wall of personalities. Save your breath when it comes to declaring grand programs. Quietly change the procedures and the benchmarks. Inject monitoring points that cannot be eluded. Design a new set of rewards and punishments.

Turn the system on itself. They are not counting on that.

Quote of the Day

I'll take the money-hungry over the power-hungry any day.

- Dennis Prager

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Human Factor

Some blogs are interesting and some make you a better person. Michael P. Maslanka's blog does both. Here is one example. Here is another. A memorable excerpt:

In the midst of intense litigation and trial, the challenge for lawyers is never to forget what an opposing counsel told me 25 years ago: "Once this is over, we will take off and go on to the next case, but we leave behind the litigants and witnesses. A lawyer should never forget this."

From Mom and Pop to Mega

Seth Godin on the atomic theory of business size. An excerpt:

Rightsizing your business is one of the most important decisions you can make. Just because you're thriving at one scale doesn't mean that a little more effort or a little more investment magically take you to the next. They probably don't.

Want to sell your popular donuts at Whole Foods? That's a quantum leap, not an incremental step.

Creativity Thought

The Cranky Professor has a good question about The Pantheon. Hmm.

Which Would You Prefer?

Workplace A is exciting and chaotic. There are few rules. The place is reorganized every two weeks. You never quite know what your job is and yet everyone hustles, plays hard and jokes, and no one expects order to arrive anytime soon. Some staff meetings are at 2 a.m. The Employee of the Month gets to drive a BMW sports car.

Workplace B is quiet and very organized. People are polite and caring. Voices are subdued but laughter is often heard. In the mornings and afternoons, a coffee trolley is pushed down the hallway and people talk about the job while sipping from china cups and nibbling on cookies. The latest dispute was over the use of a semi-colon.

Workplace C is a mess. Anything you do will be an improvement and there is a complete openness to change because all acknowledge that any new idea might just be a life preserver. The timid left long ago. You are a little embarrassed to admit you work there and yet every day you can make a difference.

Workplace D is a war zone. The factions have been sniping for so long that they have forgotten why they were formed but there is a daily rush and the pay is unbelievable. You may never see your family, but when you escape in seven years it will be with a lot of money. Few people stay longer than that.

Do They Work at the Same Place?

Do they work at the same place, these perceptive associates who have given me such diverse views of their department? They attend the same meetings and read the same memos and hear the same jokes in the break room. They follow the same rules and share a mission.

And yet.

And yet the chemistry is slightly - and sometimes more than slightly - different for each of them.

Perhaps that is how it should be. It may be their strength.

Quote of the Day

Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.

- Bill Cosby

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting Away from It All in the Movies

Telephone Etiquette

Which of the following do you find to be a lapse of telephone etiquette? Which is the worst?
  1. Fast and/or garbled voicemail messages that you have to replay five times to decipher what was said.
  2. Callers who assume that you recognize their voice.
  3. Secretaries who call and then ask you to hold until their boss comes on the line.
  4. Late in the evening or early in the morning calls on minor matters.
  5. Telephone solicitors who act as if they know you.
  6. The use of cell phones in restaurants.
  7. Call waiting.

Save Those Articles for Later

Hmm. TiVos for reading? Business Week has the details.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Write It Down

That brilliant idea that you had yesterday afternoon? You may remember it now as being very insightful. Unfortunately, that may be all you recall.

I have a very good memory and yet the number of thoughts that can sort of drift away is formidable. That's why a Moleskine or a notecard is usually within reach. It may be a sign of geezerdom to be scribbling away in a coffeeshop but who careth? Those scraps of paper get the job done.

Comparing my memory now to what it was when I was 20 is unfair. There were fewer ideas and responsibilities back in those glorious days. No wonder a sign of youth is the belief that they know it all.

Quote of the Day

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

- Philip K. Dick

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Well, At Least He Liked Dogs

Eclecticity has a slide that a CEO used at manager orientations.

"Bachelor Cuisine"

“Never go to Costco hungry. But if you do, a Leatherman tool works really well for cutting up the roast chicken you start eating in the parking lot. And you will be extremely grateful for that roll of paper towels you find in the trunk of your car, trust me on this. ”

More here.

Gaming the System

In New York City, the No. 2 guy in the fire department retired on a pension worth $242,000 a year. In New York State, a single official holding two jobs and one pension took in $641,000. A lieutenant with the Port Authority police retired with an annual pension of $196,767, and 738 of the city's teachers, principals and such have pensions worth more than $100,000 a year. Their former employer, it goes almost without saying, is steamed. Their former employer is me.

Read the rest of Richard Cohen here.


The interviews with the management team have been "sponge time" during which as much information as possible is soaked up. The next stage is reserved for analysis. The stage after that will be devoted to questioning the analysis. Only then will it be wise to shape the conclusions.

Once the conclusions are formed, one more round of questions followed by any needed revisions and then action.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Appearance of Impropriety

"Do you really believe that they are guilty?"

"Not at all, but the appearance of impropriety is present and we cannot have that."

"So you are going to trash their reputation based upon an appearance that you admit is not representative of reality."

"It may seem harsh, but we want to set a higher standard and that means they cannot even come close to a violation."

"And yet if we were to judge your own behavior, we can conclude that although you do not have evidence to prove that they are guilty, you have chosen to treat them as if they were guilty."

"It may appear that way."

Quote of the Day

Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.

- Laurence J. Peter

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pink Armadillo Attack

I'm worried. If the Japanese keep making movies as good as this one, Hollywood's days are numbered.

Harry and Herbert

Richard Norton Smith on a presidential friendship. An excerpt:

Nearly one and a half centuries after the second president undertook to explain himself to the third, Herbert Hoover opened his heart to a most unlikely correspondent. "Yours has been a friendship which has reached deeper into my life than you know," he told Harry Truman in December 1962. I gave up a successful profession in 1914 to enter public service. I served through the First World War and after for a total of about 18 years. When the attack on Pearl Harbor came, I at once supported the President and offered to serve in any useful capacity. Because of my various experiences . . . I thought my services might again be useful, however there was no response. My activities in the Second World War were limited to frequent requests from Congressional committees. When you came to the White House, Hoover continued, "within a month you opened a door to me to the only profession I know, public service, and you undid some disgraceful action that had been taken in prior years."

George Washington

An appropriate clip for the day from the series, "John Adams."

McCullough on History

Historian David McCullough in an address at Hillsdale College:

The task of teaching and writing history is infinitely complex and infinitely seductive and rewarding. And it seems to me that one of the truths about history that needs to be portrayed—needs to be made clear to a student or to a reader—is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. History could have gone off in any number of different directions in any number of different ways at any point along the way, just as your own life can. You never know. One thing leads to another. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Actions have consequences. These all sound self-evident. But they’re not self-evident—particularly to a young person trying to understand life.

Nor was there ever anything like the past. Nobody lived in the past, if you stop to think about it. Jefferson, Adams, Washington—they didn’t walk around saying, ”Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?“ They lived in the present just as we do. The difference was it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for us, they didn’t either. It’s very easy to stand on the mountaintop as an historian or biographer and find fault with people for why they did this or didn’t do that, because we’re not involved in it, we’re not inside it, we’re not confronting what we don’t know—as everyone who preceded us always was.

Drop "Presidents Day"

The rather dismal story of Presidents Day cries out for reform. There should be one day to honor George Washington and another for Abraham Lincoln. The achievements of each man should be studied and celebrated in schools throughout the land. We should abandon this bland, commercialized holiday that dilutes what should be an acknowledgement of greatness.

I put my flag out today for George Washington, not for James Buchanan or Warren G. Harding.

Shouting to the Heavens

A good review before the end of any business meeting: How many of the matters have a "specifically who does exactly what by precisely when" designation, how many are vague, and how many involve a shout to the heavens regarding the sad nature of the world but no earthly corrective action?

I see the latter in situations where one group does not want to direct, and the other group does not want to accept, responsibility. Each side leaves the room with the alibi that the other knew of the problem/challenge/project but failed to do its job. If neither side breaks the logjam, nothing will happen.

Quote of the Day

The reflection upon my situation and that of this army produces many an uneasy hour when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in.

- General George Washington, January 14, 1776

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Everything in Its Place

Uh oh. The Happiness Project on fighting clutter.


Joseph Epstein on the arcane nature of politics in Chicago. An excerpt:

For a brief patch, 1983-87, Chicago voters went for idealistic incompetence, and elected a black mayor, Harold Washington, who died in office. It wasn’t, I think it fair to say, quite worth it. This was the period in Chicago known as the Council Wars, in which the 50 aldermen of the City Council, a group that makes Ali Baba’s 40 thieves look like l’Académie française, was divided down the line between black and white, with ugly racial feeling right out in the open. Like an unsuccessful movie, the Council Wars left no one to root for, with scoundrels on both sides of the divide. Black or white, when a Chicago alderman speaks on television, one mentally crayons in the eye-patch, the hooped earring, the parrot on his shoulder.

Over-Coached and Over-Organized

On an August night 15 years ago, I drove to Coney Island to play basketball. Arriving just after dinner, I set up camp at a court on the corner of Mermaid and 25th Street, nestled beside a large public housing project. I ran games late into the night with a small group, including a hulking gentleman named Tank who had a mouthful of gold teeth, and a younger chap, Nick, who was missing a finger on his right hand. Nick’s torso was dotted with small, round scars from old gun wounds.

Read the rest of Jonathan V. Last on the rise of street soccer.

Gleaning Knowledge

Guy Kawasaki has an article on the lessons we can learn from:

(a) Justin Bieber
(b) Harold Robbins
(c) Lady Gaga
(d) Attila the Hun
(e) John Paul Jones.

The answer is here.

Tablet Improvement

FutureLawyer finds a keyboard for his tablet.

For those of us who are keyboard-dependent, this is good news. [I rely upon FutureLawyer to product-test all items technical.]

Where Does He Find That Stuff?

A fun break at Eclecticity. You will smile.

Medical Ethics in Wisconsin

Fake medical excuses being handed out by doctors at the Wisconsin demonstrations?

I’m a physician. I take care of patients. Yes indeed, if I were to give a doctor’s note to someone without conducting a proper medical evaluation (however brief), I’d be guilty of improper behavior and ethics and could be brought before the medical licensing board.

However, there’s another name for this: FRAUD. The teachers will use these notes to justify their absences and collect their pay. Both the doctors and the teachers are perpetrating a fraud.

Read the rest at

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scott and Sellers: Dr. Strangelove

Here's an unusual glimpse at two very talented individuals, George C. Scott and Peter Sellers. It was made in connection with "Dr. Strangelove" and you only hear one side of the interview, but it is nonetheless a revealing clip. Scott's line about Afghanistan is memorable as is the array of accents from Sellers.

100 Movie Quotes

From The American Film Institute : 100 movie quotes.

What's missing?

Quite a bit. Think of what could have been gleaned from "The Third Man" and "Get Shorty."

Pass the Sand

A public sector executive was telling me how much he appreciated the close relationship that his management team enjoyed with the union. I could understand his relief that not every day was a battle.

At the same time, of course, a danger lurks behind the smiles. What if the close relationship creates an unspoken understanding where pay increases and perks that should be resisted are embraced in the name of peace? Management and labor may sing "Kumbaya" while picking the taxpayer's (or shareholder's) pocket. A general rule: Whenever there is a coalition for comfort, you can reasonably expect that other concerns, such as excellence and fiscal responsibility, will be much lower priorities.

I had the same reaction when a close friend was enthusiastically recounting the good old days of nonpartisanship in our local politics. The example that he cited had turned out very well indeed. The overall interests of the state were, by most measurements, advanced. Both parties behaved well. Little imagination, however, was needed to see how those quiet agreements could drain the conflict and dissent that are necessary if issues are to be seriously examined. Lubrication is needed for the wheels of organizations to turn, but there are moments when sand provides the traction for serious progress.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quote of the Day

Well done is better than well said.

- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, February 18, 2011

Presentation Technique

Political Calculations has a very interesting way to present information:

Mapping crime in San Francisco.

Street Theater in Madison

Law professor/blogger Ann Althouse is covering the union protests in Wisconsin.

You'll find some of her commentary and photos here and here and here.

Evaluating Bureaucrats

A checklist when reviewing the performance of people who play bureaucratic games:
  • Partial release of information.
  • Delayed responses to requests.
  • Creative misinterpretations of clear instructions.
  • Playing the victim.
  • Passing the buck.
  • Losing documents.
  • Over-coordination.
  • No coordination.
  • Overly cozy relationships with interest groups.
  • Favoring turf over mission.
  • Failing to surface fatal flaws.
  • Overstating obstacles.
  • Misconstruing legal opinions.
  • Leaking information to opponents.
  • Missing important meetings.
  • Paralysis by analysis.
  • Overloading the decision maker with trivia.
  • Making highly selective interpretations of responsibilities.
  • Spending wildly toward the end of the fiscal year.
  • Placing regulatory compliance far above customer service.

Evil Plans - MacLeod

Bob Morris reviews Hugh MacLeod's Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination. An excerpt:

MacLeod speaks from extensive personal experience as he discusses his struggles years ago the lessons he learned from them. He has paid a hefty “tuition” to obtain the real-world knowledge he gained and now shares, as he did in an earlier book, Ignore Everybody. In that book and in this one, he provides an abundance of his brilliant illustrations. Some are hilarious. Some have the impact of an ice pick stuck in the ear. All are precious gifts. They remind me that, long ago, Oscar Wilde offered this admonition: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” MacLeod presumably agrees but, I suspect, would cite another admonition from the Gnostic Gospels, part of the New Testament apocrypha: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Quote of the Day

Never assume the obvious is true.

- William Safire

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Corelli Break: Simply Wow

Go to Cultural Offering for a bit of genius both in music written and music performed.

You will like it. Guaranteed.

The Productivity of Silence

Those monks were onto something.

This modern, ultra-connected, world with a multitude of interruptions creating an attention-deficit culture is not an environment that is conducive to deep thought. All of the emphasis on communication and meetings overlooks the need to hide.

I await the day when companies will have sound-proof work capsules that provide a zone of thought and productivity. No e-mail. No phone. No Facebook or Twitter.

Just focus and flow.

Quote of the Day

Dr. Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse. He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced one abscess, extracted one molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema, and had produced a miracle by a feat of medical prestidigitation.

- The first paragraph of Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remarkable Hollywood Lives

Stefan Kanfer gives his top five list. An excerpt:

In 1956, after a party at Elizabeth Taylor's house, Monty lost control of his car and slammed into a tree. Surgeons could reconstruct the handsome face but not the wounded psyche; he grew fatally dependent on drugs and alcohol. Bosworth argues convincingly that it was Clift, even more than Marlon Brando, who personified the postwar leading man: anxious, vulnerable, dislocated.

A memorable example of the greatness of Montgomery Clift can be seen here.

Doing Your Homework

Some work on various committee projects over the past year has reminded me of a great truth: A large number of people do not do their homework.

These are not dumb people nor are they lazy, but for some reason they frequently fail to check schedules, read minutes, monitor actions, and follow through on commitments. Have all of us fumbled in those areas? Sure, but we try not to make a habit of it and when we err, we apologize and blush a little.

This revelation, such as it is, is tied to another great truth: More contests are lost than won.

Great Stuff: Ways to Improve

Marvelous advice on improvement at Cultural Offering.

What is Tolerated?

A key question in workplaces is "What is tolerated?"

If negative behavior is tolerated, you can expect to see more of it for there is a fine line between "tolerated" and "encouraged."

A few examples to be on the alert for: Gossiping, forming factions, frequently using sarcasm, being insubordinate, badmouthing others, shunning people, being arrogant, being cruel, being willfully ignorant, failing to take initiative, manipulating, lying, conspiring, whining, withholding information, following the letter but not the spirit of rules, playing favorites, harassing, and engaging in turf wars.

Quote of the Day

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.

- Wendell Johnson

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Stanley Bing proposes some killer apps. An excerpt:

In the future, it is possible that if you can't express a thought in a single character, it's not going to get heard. The letter "h" will be accepted as the universal symbol for the word "hi," for example, just as "k" has come to replace "Yes, I'd love to have dinner with you -- I've been missing you and looking forward to spending some time with you after several weeks of really hard work where we've had no time to be together." Other letters of the alphabet will be quickly assigned similar duties, and if you don't like the idea, I've got a letter for you that can't be printed in this magazine.

Car Ads

Reka posts her favorite SuperBowl car commercials. [Mine was the Darth Vader one.]

Totten and Schwartz

Stephen Schwartz was raised a communist in the San Francisco Bay Area and once worked for the Cubans. Then he became a Republican and converted to Islam in the Balkans. When he’s not busy with his duties as the director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, he writes books and articles for magazines like The Weekly Standard.

Read Michael J. Totten's interview of Schwartz.

Making the Future

But I never cleared a single dark forest by plopping myself down in the path and giving up. And not one single time did my worrying pay dividends.

Start the day right. Read the rest at Cultural Offering.

Management Study

You examine the space between the boxes on the org chart, listen for what is not said, watch for the exceptions to the rules, and regard the description of how the place operates as only the first draft of a very long story. You hear the slight hesitation and catch the qualifiers that are carefully placed in what seems like a bland recitation.

You are a traveler asking for directions from people who have asked you to be their guide.

Quote of the Day

Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery.

- Jack Paar

Monday, February 14, 2011

Novels with Insight

My list of novels with special insight on human nature continues to grow:

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd; A River Town by Thomas Keneally; The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Conner; Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry; The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope; David Copperfield by Charles Dickens; The Warden by Anthony Trollope; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres; Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo, and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

Please feel free to add to the list.

Valentine Gift

Back by popular demand: Five for Fighting with "100 Years."

Frank and Friends

Cultural Offering presents four different musical styles for Valentine's Day.

Let Us Discover

Very interesting.

A Fortune article on how Best Buy has discovered that cluttered beats curated in China. I know some American museums that might want to take this to heart.

Hurray for Bollywood!

Writing in Reason, Shikha Dalmia on Bollywood's impact in an unlikely area. An excerpt:

But the Muslim country most in the grip of Bollywood mania is Pakistan, India’s cultural twin in every respect but religion. As with the Beatles under communism, the more aggressively Pakistani authorities have tried to purge Bollywood from their soil, the more its popularity has grown. During the country’s four-decade-long ban on Indian movies, Pakistanis smuggled VHS tapes and installed satellite dishes. When the ban was finally lifted in 2008, the Bollywood scene in Pakistan exploded. Not only have Bollywood movies been playing to packed houses, but Indian movie stars—despite Islam’s taboo against idol worship—are treated like demi-gods. The latest fad among Pakistan’s urban nouveau riche are Bollywood theme weddings in which the bride and groom dress in outfits worn by a movie’s stars and hold their wedding reception in elaborate tents patterned around the movie set.

Jerome and Emily

Here's an unusual Valentine to Emily Dickinson fans.

Quote of the Day

To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven.

- Karen Sunde

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Parisienne Walkways

Getting mellow is very nicely done at Sensory Dispensary: Gary Moore and Phil Lynott.

An Evening with Lewis and Freud

Freud and Lewis take turns throughout “Freud’s Last Session” becoming each other’s patients for psychoanalysis—a pursuit that sometimes leads to frustration, but always clarifies both their motives as they deliver their philosophical arguments. As the arguments of the play move more deeply into the men’s personal biographies, we start to see their commonalities. Indeed, the main satisfaction of the play is the irony of two extraordinary intellects arguing religious belief on rational grounds, at the same time trying to uncover each other’s hidden motives, getting at the “world beneath the world.”

At one point, Lewis remarks that it is madness to think the two could settle such questions in an afternoon. Freud replies that the greater madness would be not to think about such things at all.

Read all of Allison Elliott's review ."

Amid the Stillness

Perfect for Sunday: A chant from Anonymous 4.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Workplaces of the Highly Creative?

Check out these workplaces. Your office might not be that messy after all.

[HT: Althouse]

First LP

Eclecticity on the first LP he ever purchased. My first LP purchase was the one shown above.

[And some people are wondering, "What's an LP?"]

Business Travel Memories

Driving out of the Oakland airport through early morning fog and listening to the eerie beginning of "Nixon in China." Being delayed at O'Hare. Opening a hotel room door in Jackson, Mississippi late one night and finding a young woman asleep in the bed. (I quietly backed out.) Being stranded in Atlanta due to thunderstorms. Being delayed at O'Hare. A beautiful drive along the Gulf from Beaumont to Houston. Going through the Holland Tunnel. The Buddy Holly statue in Lubbock. Spending the night at the World Trade Center. Standing in a Detroit highrise and looking over into Canada. Rocketing out of the John Wayne Airport due to its bizarre take-off rules. The changing leaves in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. The Lincoln Fox sculpture at the Albuquerque airport. Being delayed at O'Hare. The lemon cake in the hotel restaurant at L'Enfant Plaza. The marvelous view on the flight from Seattle to Anchorage. Finding a stranger's address book tucked inside a fold of my suitcase. Interviewing workers at a cotton gin in La Mesa, Texas. The passenger on the Honolulu flight who thought he was going to Indianapolis. A cabbie in Puerto Rico who was a master of trivia. The New Jersey conference room with a partially collapsed wall. The green hills behind the Kahala Hilton. Watching an old man with a cane dancing near the River Walk in San Antonio. The wired-up workshop audiences in New York and Los Angeles. The Miami Beach hotel that was surrounded by vultures. The ultra-polite audiences in San Juan. The egrets in the swamp land south of New Orleans. Finding a client's office on an old plantation site in the Mississippi Delta. The first view of Pittsburgh. A scary trip through a late night thunderstorm in Montana. The tunnels of Houston. Being delayed at O'Hare.

Who is John Galt?

Timely: The movie trailer for Atlas Shrugged.

The Basics

Staff meetings and retreats often cover a multitude of topics while participants assume that agreement exists on core values. It makes sense to learn where people stand on the basics. I suggest periodic discussion of the following:

  • Courage

  • Loyalty

  • Accountability

  • Trust

  • Caring

  • Honesty

  • Initiative

  • Tact

  • Wisdom

The Stockman Temptation

Andrew Ferguson on the classic budget battle between Stockman and Weinberger:

Even more horrifying, in Stockman’s telling, was his boss, who refused to kick the snuffling porkers away from the trough. President Reagan was a dope. He was given to saying silly things to his budget director. One of the silly things that Reagan liked to say—over and over again—was “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.”

Quote of the Day

Amateurs discuss tactics and rank amateurs discuss grand strategy while professionals discuss logistics.

- Old military saying

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Excitement Never Ends

Gala - Black tie - Can I go home now?.

FoxFury Multi-LED Headlamp

You know you want one. CoolTools has the details.

The Media and Toyota

Sometimes it's no fun being right. Last February I wrote that the concern about uncontrollable acceleration in Toyota (TM) cars was just so much humbug. As the findings on the government investigation into these allegations proved, I was proven correct. What I would prefer, however, is that the media would take the time to report a story accurately rather than just stir up a public frenzy in pursuit of ratings.

Read the rest of Ed Wallace in Business Week.

The Magnet

I wandered into the coffee shop and was three steps inside the door when a little elderly man with a blue ball cap approached and began a tale about a burglar who'd stepped on a pit bull. I listened politely to his vivid description of the injuries, asked a few questions, waited while he outlined what happened at the trial, and then escaped to the lunch counter where I wondered, "Why me?"

Some of us are loon magnets. Whether it is Grand Central Station, Times Square, or Wakiki Beach, at least one local crazy will feel compelled to tell me his theories about the latest space landings or his mistress in Baltimore. It's not that I look all that cordial. [New acquaintances have often told me of their surprise that I am actually friendly. As for size, I'm more linebacker than chess-player.] There must be a hidden signal that tells the bizarre, "This man wants to hear your story. Leave nothing out."

I'm tempted to make a pre-emptive strike. When any of these characters shuffles up, I can launch into my own strange tale before they utter a word. I'll keep babbling in various dialects until they back away. My repertoire has plenty of material. For example, there was this pit bull....

Quote of the Day

That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.

- Last words of Lou Costello

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Incomparable Bate

Just another day in the life of Nicholas "The Man Who Never Sleeps" Bate.

[I wonder how many books he wrote on that flight.]

Quick! Post a Cute Animal Picture!

Sad but true: Eclecticity points to the competition.

An Ethics Chat

I'm talking to a couple of groups today about ethics.

Attendance usually has to be mandatory for such sessions since few people think it wise to tell the boss, "I think I need a class on ethics." There is also a reluctance to raise the subject due to fear of being labeled weak or self-righteous.

When the subject is broached, however, people eagerly discuss it. You can tell that they have questions or rules of thumb and are interested in getting other ideas. Many probably underestimate the good influence they have had on others over the years.

Some savvy in-house people will start the program. I'm the old trout brought in at the end to give additional perspective.

It will be fun.

Quote of the Day

One is very crazy when in love.

- Sigmund Freud

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Is That a Real Confession or an iPhone Confession?

An iPhone app for confession? What's next? Avatars?

FutureLawyer is on the case.

The Cheat Day

Rick Knowles, who is seriously into physical fitness, is dieting, but he also has a "cheat day."

Happy in Holland

I posted this item on the Dutch years ago and it's still drawing comments. You never know what will strike a nerve.

Political Bias in Academia

"Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”

Read the rest here.


Entertainment Break: Check Out "Grand Hotel"

I watched Grand Hotel recently and was reminded of what a truly great film can be. [It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1932.]

Story, casting, and flow are all superb. If you have never seen it, you are in for a treat.

Subtle Intimidation

Mary Jo Asmus explores an often overlooked issue:

You are a leader who is skillful at creating and sustaining healthy workplace relationships. You don’t use fear or threats to get what you want. Despite your skill, you may unknowingly intimidate others in a more subtle way. In fact, you are probably more intimidating than you think you are; most leaders don’t see it in themselves.

Luggage Blues

Cultural Offering goes shopping for luggage and comes up with zip.

After some recent trips, I am beginning to appreciate the virtues of the old hard-shell gorilla-proof cases.

Multiculturalism No. Assimilation Yes.

Douglas Murray on the European shift against multiculturalism. An excerpt:

Multiculturalism is a deeply misunderstood idea. That was one of the reasons for its political success. People were led to believe that "multiculturalism" meant multiracialism, or pluralism. It did not. Nevertheless, for years anybody who criticized multiculturalism was immediately decried as a "racist."

But the true character and effects of the policy could not be permanently hidden. State-sponsored multiculturalism treated European countries like hostelries. It judged that the state should not "impose" rules and values on newcomers. Rather, it should bend over backwards to accommodate the demands of immigrants. The resultant policy was that states treated and judged people by the criteria of whatever "community" they found themselves born into.

Quote of the Day

I look better, feel better, make love better and I'll tell you something else...I never lied better.

- George Burns

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Thoughts from Big Spaceship

There are a couple of great rules in this post by Miki Saxon.

Read them. Remember them. Live them.

"Cybercrime Central"

Among law enforcement officials around the world, the city of 120,000 has a nickname: Hackerville. It’s something of a misnomer; the town is indeed full of online crooks, but only a small percentage of them are actual hackers. Most specialize in ecommerce scams and malware attacks on businesses. According to authorities, these schemes have brought tens of millions of dollars into the area over the past decade, fueling the development of new apartment buildings, nightclubs, and shopping centers. Râmnicu Vâlcea is a town whose business is cybercrime, and business is booming.

Read the Wired article. Scary stuff.

Darwin and the Big Wave Surfer

From William Langwiesche's article in Vanity Fair:

The problem is that there are too many surfers in the world and too few good waves to ride. This may come as a surprise, given the extent of global coastlines, but most surf is unrideable or uninteresting, and good locations are small. The North Shore, for instance, is only 13 miles long. It contains several dozen renowned surfing spots—particularly the “inside breaks” of Pipeline, Sunset Beach, and Waimea Bay, one after the other, close to the shore—but their takeoff zones are typically just a few yards wide, and they are crowded with surfers vying for advantage. Bradshaw calls this the dark side of surfing. The crowding is compounded by the fact that, even on good days at good breaks, good waves are relatively infrequent, and when one finally arrives, even if it is large, it usually offers enough space for just one good run. What goes on as a consequence Bradshaw calls natural selection. Actually, he calls it Darwinism, and means the same thing. It’s not about survival so much as getting the rides. In the minds of people like Bradshaw, the two are related. If you leave a challenge unanswered, the punks will start stealing your waves. There are a lot of punks in surfing. Bradshaw said, “Yeah. I’m not afraid to go for it. I’m not afraid to be underwater for a long time. And I guarantee you I have stood on people.” By people he meant men. For some reason this never comes up with women.

Time to Get Creative

At Psychology Today, Mark Batey argues that creativity is the number one skill for the 21st century.

My pick: Street smarts.

Reagan Remembered

Historian Edmund Morris on five myths about Ronald Reagan:

5. He was an "amiable dunce."

Yeah, right, Clark Clifford. Ronald Reagan only performed successfully in six different careers: radio sportscaster, movie actor, trade union president, corporate spokesman, two-term governor and two-term president of the United States. Lucky for him he wasn't hampered by Jimmy Carter's intelligence!

Quote of the Day

I've said to my wife repeatedly, I just want on my gravestone, 'He loved dogs' and 'Bueller, Bueller.'

- Ben Stein

Monday, February 07, 2011

"The Youth Unemployment Bomb"

While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. Here's what makes it extra-worrisome: The world is aging. In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder.

Read the rest of the Business Week article here.

Middle Earth Update

"The Hobbit": They start filming in March.

How It Happened

This will keep you up nights. You can find the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report here.

Crossen's Picks: 2010 Books

Responding to a reader's question, Cynthia Crossen listed the best books by women in 2010.

She then listed the best books by men.

Little Big Man

Myron Magnet on the vision of James Madison:

Yet once a free people gives government the power to use force as the Framers were doing through the Constitution, a further problem arises. Men must administer that government, men with the same human nature as everyone else, often with its worst defects in abundance. What motives, after all, drive men to seek elective office? “1. ambition 2. personal interest. 3. public good. Unhappily the two first are proved by experience to be most prevalent.” Such men often have “interested views, contrary to the interest, and views, of their Constituents,” whom they easily hoodwink by masking their “base and selfish measures . . . by pretexts of public good and apparent expediency.” Since “power is of an encroaching nature,” Madison warned, “all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” You can argue that “honesty is the best policy” or that considerations of reputation and religion ought to make officials behave virtuously, but experience shows that they don’t—and they especially don’t in large groups like legislatures, where “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

The Rules and The Rule-Makers

Take a few minutes today to read this post from Sippican Cottage. An excerpt:

I'm living in a strange world where people for whom I have no regard draw finely calculated and ultimately meaningless distinctions about everything down to the scope of activities allowed for pedophiles to roam the earth, at the same time they ban children playing tag in the schoolyard. Such distinctions are meaningless because anyone who is prepared to commit a great offense is not concerned about the rules governing small ones.

[HT: Anderson Layman's Blog]

Your Zoo

If Franklin D. Roosevelt was accurately described as "The Lion and The Fox," how would you be described? I've known some people who fit the FDR description. I've also encountered these combinations:

  • The Badger and The Lion

  • The Otter and The Snake

  • The Butterfly and The Sloth

  • The Owl and The Eagle

Brief Escape

Quote of the Day

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do.

- Dale Carnegie

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Yuppie Blues

Back by popular demand: Tom Rush and The Remember Song.



Here are some observations from the great coach.

4 Steps to Happiness

Worth pondering: A 2009 post by Gretchen Rubin on how to be happier in four easy lessons.

Arriving Early

Those of us who like to arrive early for meetings are used to being alone. That is not bad since, aside from our fear of being late, we often like some quiet time to collect our thoughts. "Winging it" is not in our nature.

At the same time, the pre-meeting period can be fertile ground for good ideas, most of which are unrelated to the subject of the meeting. [There is something about being told to think of A that causes many of us to think of B or Z.]

I have a theory that the more closely booked the meetings, the lower the quality of the meetings themselves. The real benefit of the meeting may not really start or end at the scheduled time. The take-offs and landings may be the most important part of the flight.

Thoughts on a Draft Post

  • Close, but not quite ready.

  • I'm not sure if I agree with that.

  • How does this differ from previous posts on the subject?

  • Is that fair?

  • That's too clever.

  • I really like that section but it adds nothing to the piece.

  • I find it interesting. Will anyone else?

  • There's been too much written on that subject.

  • Will anyone realize that was meant to be humorous?

  • Be sure to give a "Hat Tip."

  • Get rid of the "thats."

  • And the "ands."

  • Shorten the sentence.

  • You're covering too many topics.

  • Check that spelling.

  • Don't rush it.

  • Make it clearer.

  • Sleep on that one.

Quote of the Day

The world belongs to the energetic.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson