Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Bee Biz

This post at Instapundit.com on the rising price of honey sparked a search for news you can use: How to start a bee hive.

IKEA Lights Up

Cool Tools checks out the solar-powered lamp at IKEA. Nifty.

Sofia Vergara: Not in the Balkans

Some friends were talking today about Sofia Vergara. I was completely mystified. It sounded like the name of a city in Eastern Europe. Question answered.

"Bathed in the golden light": Howard Jacobson Interview

The great Howard Jacobson, winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel, "The Finkler Question," talks about writing, melancholy, humor, and more.

Miscellaneous and Fast

An end to the Naipaul-Theroux feud?
Nana Mouskouri: "Plaisir d'amour."
Trailer: "For a Few Dollars More."
Brief video: Maynard Dixon and Arizona.
City Journal: Hollywood films on the economy.

As a Leader, You are Expected to Notice When...

One of your associates repeatedly puts down his team members; There is a chill in the office area when a certain person arrives; The team that accomplished the most did not get recognized; A person's work always needs to be carefully edited for mistakes; The manager's description of what was achieved over the past twelve months adds up to around two months of work; People who talk a good game get promoted; The quiet employee has a good idea; The HR department regards employees as nuisances; Some team members are slacking off and letting others do all the work; The truth is tucked in-between two banalities; There was a split-second hesitation when you asked, "How's it going?"; A team leader has an unflattering nickname; An employee is interfering with the work of others; The rumor mill is working overtime; People are withholding important information; Someone has retired on the job; A manager is kissing up and kicking down; The team has split into warring factions; A person's sense of humor is creating problems; There is far too much emphasis on the short-term; People are bouncing too many decisions upstairs; Deadlines keep getting missed; Customer complaints are rising; A career is being sabotaged; There is an epidemic of cynicism; Negative behavior gets rewarded; Those who make the numbers are permitted to be abusive; The culture mistakes activity for results; Good employees are resigning.

Will you notice all of these? No. But many people will assume you do. A savvy leader will create a climate of trust in which this behavior is spotted and addressed by others as well as the person at the top. Open your eyes and ears.


A few words were spoken at the meeting that no one but Ted noticed because, after all, a lot was said, but for Ted those were enough to alter his view of the speakers because although the remarks were casually made they told him more about the individuals than years of work and later he'd reflect that the words could not have had greater impact if they'd been shouted through a loudspeaker and people were ordered to underline each one.

Quote of the Day

When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.

- Peter Drucker

Monday, May 30, 2011

New York State in a Rearview Mirror

In a City Journal article, Fred Siegel examines the New York exodus:

For more than 15 years, New York State has led the country in domestic outmigration: for every American who comes to New York, roughly two depart for other states. This outmigration slowed briefly following the onset of the Great Recession. But a new Marist poll released last week suggests that the rate is likely to increase: 36 percent of New Yorkers under 30 are planning to leave over the next five years. Why are all these people fleeing?

The Destructive Master

Art Contrarian looks at the work and strange story of Walter Everett.

The Negativity Game

Someone has done a good deed. Let's find ways to criticize it!

  1. "Show-off."

  2. "I bet there's an ulterior motive."

  3. "Well, she could certainly afford it."

  4. "That's the least he could do."

  5. "Should have done something else."

  6. "I know someone who did much more."

  7. "It has a few flaws."

  8. "Why was that done now? Just asking."

  9. "It's a drop in the bucket."

  10. "I would have done it better."


I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

Read the rest and a
brief profile of Alan Seeger.

Mild Man

A question. Which British general of the Second World War wrote in his memoirs about a battle he commanded: "I was, like other generals before me, saved from the consequences of my mistakes by the resourcefulness of my subordinate commanders and the stubborn valour of my troops"?

Read the rest of
Max Hastings's 2004 article here.

Memorial Day - USA

This is a day to remember and honor those who made sacrifices that preserved - and preserve - our freedom. Words are inadequate. Emotions are fleeting. Our gratitude, however, should be constant.

Quote of the Day

The greatest danger is not that we aim too high and miss it, but too low and reach it.

- Michelangelo

Sunday, May 29, 2011


In New York magazine, Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt talks about his new venture: a speakers bureau with an audience of one.

Air France Mystery

The interim report on the Air France crash raises more questions. An excerpt from the Globe & Mail article:

“The inputs made by the pilot flying were mainly nose-up,” the investigation preliminary timeline said, offering no explanation why an experienced, well-trained crew would seemingly do the opposite of what even the most junior pilot is taught – that when an aircraft stalls, push the nose down to regain speed.

Hazlitt's Advice

The first book I read on economics was by Henry Hazlitt.

Anderson Layman's Blog has some of his observations.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bernstein: What Does Music Mean?

From 1958, the first of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts.

Cheap Father's Day Gifts

Okay, if you're strapped for cash a card will do, but unless he is a complete ogre you should get your honored father something beyond that for Father's Day. As a public service, I suggest some inexpensive gifts:

A bottle of Aqua Velva aftershave. What Would Dad Say once recommended this as a Christmas gift and the old guy was right on target. It can be found in any drug store and, let's be blunt, it does the trick. Real men like it because you can slap it on and the scent is pretty much gone within an hour. If you want to move up several notches, get your father some Bay Rum. Nothing fru-fru about those choices.

A paperback novel by Elmore Leonard, Daniel Silva or Ed McBain. Read the first paragraphs and you'll see why Dad will like them. It can even be a copy from a used bookstore. Trust me. He won't care.

A map of an exotic location. Men like maps. You don't even need to frame it. A map of London, Paris, Moscow, Cairo, Tokyo or Berlin will spark dreams.

A paperweight. Not one of those expensive crystal jobs, but something that can be used as a paperweight, such as a toy animal, car or plane. The paperweight part is just a cover story. The fact is he wants a toy. [I write that while looking at a small lead Foreign Legionnaire on my desk.]

Any other nominees?

Gray Lady Dead?

The Slate satire of the final edition of The New York Times.

Moral Combat

I'll chime in with the chorus on this one. Michael Burleigh's book on World War II is brilliant.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Emerging explorer: Outside interviews Alexandra Cousteau.
Great moments in the legal profession: Paralegal or a buxom distraction?
Susan Tedeschi: "Angel from Montgomery."
"Pretty standard, really."
Dr. Evil and son in therapy.
Davids Medienkritik: A blog on German press coverage of America.

Best-Read Cities

At The New Yorker, some head-scratching about Amazon's list of best-read cities.

It doesn't surprise me that some of the nation's largest cities aren't on the list.

Speaking Tips: The Introduction

From 2006, a very important skill: How to introduce a speaker.

Quote of the Day

When do you want to do the most good for other people?: When you are reading a book on ethical behavior or when you are happy?

- Dennis Prager

Friday, May 27, 2011

Doing Things

When you are in a seriously passive organization, one of the most amazing things you can do is to do things.

Such organizations like to appoint committees and produce white papers and hold meetings, lots of meetings, and rethink matters, and then split the difference and, when the dust has settled, move on to another activity which is really just another form of inactivity. The person who enters such an organization and wants to do things is a threat to stability; a walking breach of professional etiquette. He or she will quickly be labeled as rash or overly ambitious or simply ignorant of the nuances of decision making.

The advocates of doing little or nothing will not regard themselves as such. They will be able to cite a multitude of occasions when they proposed a motion or named a subcommittee but, when pressed, will be able to give little evidence that they have moved the organization forward.

At that point, they get Orwellian. They will define inactivity as progress and regression as a form of victory because, after all, we have to live in the real world and there are times when pushing forward is just reckless.

And when will they want to move forward? Some day, they reply, just you wait.


An amateur video of market day in occupied Krakow, 1939.

Team Chemistry

At Fast Company: LeBron James, the Miami Heat and teamwork. An excerpt:

High-priced talent doesn't ensure success. The free-spending New York Yankees can tell you that. Or the Knicks, who are now trying to emulate Miami. Movie moguls, too. Remember when Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen looked like a can't-miss team at DreamWorks? Turns out, no one bothered to account for the polarity of their personalities.

The Vow

At Unhappy Hipsters:

Was it too soon to regret his drunken vow to shelve only Nordic bestsellers?

The Known Unknown and Jobs

Professor Stephen L. Carter runs into an explanation of how regulation affects hiring.

Alan Jacobs on Reading

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs receives a highly favorable review by Trevor Logan in First Things. A sample:

At one particular point in the book, Jacobs recalls the impact of a high school teacher’s anecdote of rereading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time every summer. This initially perplexed Jacobs. How could someone not get sick of reading the same book over and over throughout a lifetime? And doesn’t this go against the conquering “booklist” mentality? He thought this ritual was something people only did with sacred texts such as the Bible. It wasn’t until he matured as a reader that he began to understand the manifold pleasures that one piece of great art could give over and over again.

Sex at Yale

Writing in City Journal, Heather Mac Donald looks at sexual politics at Yale:

...Given the full-throated public raunch demanded by students and accommodated by the administration, the sign WE LOVE YALE SLUTS isn’t much more than an actual description of the campus scene. But the basic principle of feminist domination is: “If we use crude, sexualized language, it’s ‘strong women celebrating their strong bodies.’ When a hapless man uses such language, it’s ‘crippling assault and harassment.’”

Writing and Cory Doctorow's Vision

Cory Doctorow's latest science fiction work has some scenarios that may not be that far away. An excerpt from The Wall Street Journal review:

A blogger and tech-oriented activist who is co-editor of the popular website BoingBoing.net, Mr. Doctorow is certainly trying to make his future happen. For years now, he has been releasing his literary works online under what is called a Creative Commons License. So, though novels like "Little Brother" and "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" (2003) have been published in hardcover, paperback and e-book by major houses, they've also been available free for download.

Quote of the Day

Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tip-toeing away with more than it brings.

- John Updike

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Back by popular demand:

The Knee Wars

I messed up my knee the other day. It seemed much better yesterday and then acted up again today. I decided to check out knee problems on the Internet.

Big mistake.

Not only are there scads of articles but some of them have a certain scare factor that I'd rather omit for now. So I've scurried back to basics: Elevate the leg. Use Ben-Gay ointment. Tell the family that my only request is to be waited on hand and foot. Make that hand and knee.

The reaction has not been promising. I think I'll Google "bedside manner."

DSK Fallout

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Anne Elisabeth-Moutet on French women and the DSK story. An excerpt:

This was the last straw for many. Thursday night, Hélène Jouan, newsmagazines editor in chief at France Inter, the country’s answer to NPR, broke into the cozy apologies of a panel of male editors on a prime time special on France 2, the national TV network, to accuse the entire male-dominated French political class of a quasi-harassment culture in which politicians view women journalists as “available”—making it possible to turn a blind eye to early warning signs of the DSK disaster.

Poetry Break: Yeats

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

Cyril Cusack reciting William Butler Yeats's The Second Coming.

Here is the text.


Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project examines six happiness boosters that may make you feel worse.

Joplin Photos

These satellite photos of Joplin, Missouri are jarring.

[HT: Drudge Report]

DSK Update

Ann Althouse on a report of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's new living quarters which, as one might suspect, are a far cry from Riker's Island. The tip was a nice touch.

Bock on Solitude and Leadership

Wally Bock has an excellent post on the use of solitude to improve your leadership. An excerpt:

Study. Some of your time alone should be devoted to a learning project. For business it might be "understand financial statements" or reading a specific list of business books. But some development projects can be "learn more about the music of Beethoven" or "learn to make my own sushi."

The Writing Place

Cultural Offering has some photos of the studies of various writers. [My own home office is veering toward Bradbury's. Tolstoy's is way too tidy.]

Early Morning

Quick shower. Strong coffee. Say a prayer. Catch the sunrise. Listen to the birds. Review your list. Plan the order. Speed-read the paper. Check the obits. Make some toast. Get ready to move. Know your goals and - just as important - what you don't want to do. Work in bursts. Take short breaks. Ask "What am I overlooking?" Think ahead. Focus on the next ten minutes. Get at least one important thing done. Thank someone. Be forgiving. Don't just restore, advance.

Quote of the Day

Endure, and preserve yourselves for better things.

- Virgil

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poetry Break - Lewis Carroll

"I have answered three questions and that is enough...."

Great fun: You Are Old, Father William.

Clever Ads

Reka points to some truly creative advertising. Be sure to check out all of the ads.

The Zoo

"The management team went to a special workshop last week. It was pretty informative."

"What did you learn?"

"We learned about our management styles. For example, I'm a Bear and Rachel is a Wolf. I think Tom's a Raven. Each title, of course, denotes various characteristics."

"Were there any Weasels or Slugs?"

"You're being cynical again."

The Wild West of Publishing

Jane Friedman on three publishing trends that writers must stay on top of. The old world of publishing passeth and many of the key players brought it on themselves.

"Indiana Jones is old school...."

What have we gotten from the space program? 17 pyramids. An excerpt from The Telegraph:

Because the ancient Egyptians built houses from mud brick, which is must denser than surrounding soil, they left a clear fingerprint that the researchers could identify as tombs, pyramids or homes.

The technique is so powerful that it can even be used to monitor sites for looting.

Peak Versatility

Art Contrarian looks at the work of commercial artist Bob Peak.

The Perhaps Important

Large portions of my days are consumed by The Perhaps Important. If this is not addressed, matters might get much worse. [Perhaps not, but who knows?] And if this RFP is not read, a great opportunity might be lost. [To play it safe I'll give it a scan.]

If items only came with clear and accurate labels, what a happier world this would be. I can think of a few:

  • Trivial and Will Remain So

  • Minor If You Handle Immediately

  • Appears Simple But Is Really Complex

  • Overlook at Your Peril

  • Full of Snares

  • Ignore It and It Will Go Away

  • Hidden Fun

  • Neat and On a Silver Platter

Quote of the Day

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.

- Yogi Berra

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Music Break: Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss with:

Down To The River To Pray

Carolina In My Mind

Detachment - continued

Anderson Layman's Blog carries on the earlier discussion of detachment. An excerpt:

Nobody says it is easy, but if one works at it, one discoversthat detaching with love is a great difference maker. It shouldbe noted that detachment with love works best when applied with acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion.

Creativity Break: Miniature San Francisco

Via Fast Company, here's what happens when you combine more than 100,000 toothpicks and 35 years along with an artistic spirit.

Spitball Dart Decision Maker

At Neatorama, a quick and enjoyable way to make decisions.

And now you know what is in the CEO's credenza.

The Higher Education Bubble

At Instapundit, what appears to be an application of the Pareto Principle to higher education.

Memorizing Poetry

In 1943, when Winston Churchill was on a tour of the Maryland countryside, he recited all of the verses to "Barbara Frietchie." He had memorized that and many other poems years earlier while a young army officer stationed in remote areas.

I've decided to have a personal revival of that practice, starting with some easy stuff and then working upwards. There are a few poems that I memorized in elementary school that are still with me.

Let's hear it for Longfellow!

Age Verification

FutureLawyer points to the best age verification test of all time. Years ago, a noted mystery writer who reached major success and was suddenly surrounded by young and beautiful women, had a knowledge compatibility test. He'd ask prospective dates, "Who is Whittaker Chambers?"

If he used that question today, he'd be a very lonely man. We can find ourselves preserving terms from our childhood or even our parents' childhoods. When I was young, I was told to "Put the milk in the icebox" even though we had a refrigerator. My parents had grown up with iceboxes cooled by blocks of ice. In those days, the iceman did indeed cometh.

I still occasionally use that term. It has a flair.

Tuition Leap

Time Capsule

Jump ten years ahead.

Looking back at your current practices, which ones do you think the managers of the future will regard as especially foolish or quaint?

Quote of the Day

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

- Mark Twain

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Incomparable Bate

At Cultural Offering, you can download a poster based on Nicholas Bates' Professionalism 101 series.

The Bleat from Lileks

James Lileks is reporting on serious weather and shopping in Minneapolis:

Throughout the day it rained and stopped – the sun shone, then the skies darkened again and there were torrents, then sweet sentimental spring sunshine again. It’s like living with an alcoholic parent. When it stopped raining I went into Home Depot with the giant Swede; he had to get blinds, I had to get arborvitae. Three arborvitae. They will replace the three that died over the winter. Apparently you have to dig deep and add mulch and fertilizer and soak them with hummingbird tears and shield them from surprising noises. It makes me wonder how the plants ever got going in the first place.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Quick Glance: iPad or Newspaper?

Okay, readers more likely to skim over articles when using... an iPad or reading a newspaper? Editor & Publisher knows.

Looking for Beauty

I once heard an interview with a Holocaust survivor who had dedicated the rest of his life to the study and creation of beauty.

We take beauty for granted. It is not unusual for us to look past acts and surroundings that should cause a sudden pause in appreciation. How would our lives change if, rather than being attuned to the negative and so alert for insults, slights, and blunders, we instead made a serious effort to spot - and appreciate - beauty?

To the Dentist

A dental appointment this morning.

That means, of course, seeing a large tank of tropical fish. I'm sure some psychological studies have asserted the soothing nature that slowly swimming exotic fish have on the average patient. It certainly works on me.

I'll see I can find Nemo.

Another One for the WWII Shelf

Recently started: Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh. [My copy's subtitle is "A History of World War II." Some marketing wizard must have made an adjustment.]

Whichever the title, it is an extraordinary book and a good counterweight to some of the revisionist histories. Burleigh's writing style reminds me of Paul Johnson's "Modern Times."

Quote of the Day

Qualifications are only base camp.

- Nicholas Bate

[See the rest here.]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Civilization Break

It is the weekend and you can never get too much Corelli.

Conan The Creative

My formula has always been I'm big on preparing. Prepare like crazy. But then just as you're heading out, half an hour beforehand, forget all of it. It's there. It's in your reptile brain. Go out but feel loose enough to grab opportunities as they come up. Don't just stick to the plan if you see an opportunity. Now sometimes you go out there and the energy is such that you just stick to the plan and you do fine. But when you get out there and the energy is particularly good, I'm the first one to throw out things left and right and just go for it. The show is always best when it's just play. When you're playing, there's a tension, yin-yang tension between think beforehand and then just get out there, between preparation and improvisation. And that's been a lot of my career, finding the balance between those two.

Gear Up

National Geographic's Steve Casimiro has a blog with some very neat advice on outdoor gear. The review of this compact spotlight reminded me of the definition of a flashlight: a device for holding dead batteries. An excerpt:

But then I discovered Surefire’s M3LT ($550) and whoa, nelly. This “combat light” pumps out a shockingly bright 400 lumens. On a trip last week through Utah’s canyon country, I used it repeatedly to suss out camp spots, search for the trail ahead, and illuminate the North Rim of the Grand Canyon way over in Arizona. Indeed, the M3LT is so bright, you could easily use it for self-defense—just point and click and that attacking grizzly would be blinded. I’m not kidding.

Wally and Niccolo

Wally Bock encounters a misquote of our old friend Machiavelli in a conversation about a promotion.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Gourmet Cooking

A commenter at Ann Althouse's blog offers a brilliant twist to a recipe for cooking English peas:

"This was outstanding! I did make a couple modifications. I eliminated the butter, and in place of the peas I substituted one can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs."

End of the World Postponed

Apparently New Zealand is still around.

The Reading Stack

  • Better Under Pressure: How Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others by Justin Menkes [Review pending]

  • Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II by George MacDonald Fraser

  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
Late night reading: Refiner's Fire by Mark Helprin. A few years ago, after several unsuccessful tries, I discovered the key to appreciating Helprin. He must be read very slowly. There are single paragraphs that possess a stunning poetic beauty.

Health Guidelines: Your Food is Trying to Kill You

Steven Malanga on the morass of government nutritional advice. An excerpt:

The scientific controversy grew more intense. In 1992, an authoritative review of 19 cholesterol studies worldwide found that, while men with cholesterol levels above 240 were disproportionately likely to suffer heart attacks, men with cholesterol levels below 160 were disproportionately likely to die from all causes, including lung cancer, respiratory disease, and digestive disease—an outcome that suggested a relationship between low cholesterol levels and disease, something that scientists had never considered. The study also showed no difference in mortality rates for men with cholesterol levels between 160 and 240, even though the guidelines advised keeping levels below 200. Perhaps most surprisingly, the study also found that cholesterol levels made no difference at all in death rates among women. There was little doubt that some public-health researchers wished such research would go away. “Some people don’t want to talk about it,” said Michael Criqui, an epidemiologist at the University of California at San Diego and an associate editor of Circulation, which published the review. “They think it is going to impede public-health measures.”

DSK and Elite Attitudes

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell explores French attitudes regarding the fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn:

There are two ways to look at the anger that rose up in the French press after Strauss-Kahn, disheveled and humiliated, was photographed after his arrest. The first is to see an understandable discomfort with an act of lèse-majesté. The other is to see a public grown servile and sycophantic. The French press may have been worried about seeing Strauss-Kahn’s name dragged through the mud, but it was quite content to print the name of his alleged victim.

Book Review: Change Anything

Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler is a fascinating book. Having long held the usual assumptions about willpower, I was impressed with the counter-arguments that willpower, to a certain extent, is ineffective because it is not combined with a multi-faceted strategy:

"...We tinker with an exercise bike, try a stop-smoking patch, put up a motivational poster, take training courses, and so forth. The bad news is that more often than not we bring these influence tools into play one at a time. Little good that does. The forces that are working against us are legion - and they work in combination. So when it comes to solving personal problems, people are not only blind, they're also outnumbered."

Their study notes six sources of influence: Personal Motivation (Keeping in mind what you really want), Personal Ability (Gaining and monitoring control of your progress), Social Motivation (Turning accomplices into allies), Social Ability (Getting help and support from others) , Structural Motivation (Linking behavior to appropriate rewards and punishments), and Structural Ability (Changing the environment to support your goals).

Armed with those, you play scientist and conduct an on-going analysis of habits that contribute to the behavior which you wish to change and engage all of the six sources in your campaign. When days don't go well, you analyze what went wrong and, in essence, fall forward by adjusting your strategy to counter your failure. [One of their findings is that successful people stumble as much as they succeed but they develop a winning strategy via trial and error. In short, they study themselves and then adopt new approaches.]

This brief review does not do justice to a book which has specific chapters on each of the sources as well as detailed guidance on getting unstuck at work, losing weight and getting fit, getting and living out of debt, fighting addiction, and improving relationships.

One to be read and re-read. An extraordinary analysis of personal change. Check it out.

Quote of the Day

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.

- Albert Einstein

Friday, May 20, 2011

Theroux's Tao

The Telegraph has an excerpt from Paul Theroux's new book, The Tao of Travel.

The Loud Cell Phone Talker

A case that may spark a fund ...for the prosecution:

A woman who was escorted off an Amtrak train by police last weekend after she allegedly refused to stop talking loudly on her cell-phone has the Internet cheering her fate.

Civilians and quiet-car champions are supporting her ejection for violating policy at high volume during the 16-hour journey. It doesn't help her cause that she became belligerent when confronted about it by one of her fellow passengers.

[HT: Lou Rodarte]

Atomic Safari

A handful of dilapidated roads cross the zone, half-overgrown with weeds and grasses, and the whole area is littered with pockets of intense radiation, but nature doesn't seem to mind. All nature seems to care about is that the people, along with their domestic animals, are for the most part gone. The zone is reverting to one big, untamed forest, and it all sounds like a fantastic success story for nature: remove the humans and the wilderness bounces right back. Lured by tales of mammals unknown in Europe since the Dark Ages, we're setting out on an atomic safari.

Read the rest of Henry Shukman's Outside magazine article on a visit to Chernobyl.

Obvious and Not So

I've written before about the importance of using generalizations and examples in presentations. Generalizations help to bring order to the universe of detail while examples bring the lesson into the real world.

There is also a balance between the obvious and the subtle. Any presenter who assumes that certain points are obvious may soon face a bunch of blank stares. There is, of course, the fear that audience members may be insulted if the basics are emphasized and yet a brief review of the basics may be secretly welcomed by those who feign a sophisticated grasp of the subject.

Some points, however, require a careful delineation between the interesting but trivia and the subtle and important. We are after the latter. Look for them in these areas:

  • What is not being done if energy is devoted to a particular task;

  • What was not said in a report;

  • How a seeming defeat may be a hidden victory and vice-versa;

  • How commonly accepted terms or metaphors may create misleading visualizations of the situation;

  • Whether a halo or horns effect is distorting our assessment of a decision;

  • Whether PowerPoint bullets are glossing over the significance of certain issues;

  • Whether different definitions are used for the same term depending upon the context;

  • What was the intent of the rule-makers;

  • What is the position of the wisest opponents; and

  • Where the loopholes and vulnerabilities are to be found.

Affirmative Action's Shelf Life

Victor Davis Hanson believes that Affirmative Action should stop. An excerpt:

But wait, it can become even more Orwellian: does a Japanese or Chinese immigrant simply arrive in America and claim victim status by virtue of an identity superficially akin to those in the past oppressed? Or are these claims not enough to qualify Asians for the sort of preferences extended to Latinos? If so, does an illegal immigrant who crosses the border, and whose entire family has always lived in Oaxaca, suddenly deserve special consideration in American college admittance because he can far better claim some sort of tenuous connection to a supposedly victimized collective? I challenge universities to explain a logical system for their admissions and hiring, which specifies what racial characteristics and what precise formulas of racial heritage they use, and on what basis of present and past discrimination they are predicated on. My assumption is that they simply embrace “diversity” and in ad hoc, rather sloppy fashion decide themselves who at any given moment contributes to the “rich mosaic” and who does not.

Quote of the Day

I'm now at the age where I've got to prove that I'm just as good as I never was.

- Rex Harrison

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Boom Break

You've had a long day and Neatorama has what you need: a massive underwater rock quarry explosion. Watch it around 50 times and then go to bed.

Wild Kingdom

My front porch is turning into Wild Kingdom. A family of white geckos has long had residence there and now some snails are starting to check out the territory. The geckos are cute, eat bugs at night, and hide during the day. The snails are cute, like night and early morning, and do whatever it is that snails do. [My plants are too rugged and can't be harmed.] The bird gangs that frequent my yard pay them no mind.

One neighbor had a raccoon family in his garage. A (pack-herd-Kiwanas Club) of javelinas was seen a few streets north and there are a couple of coyotes who wander the neighborhood and keep the feral cat population in check. Owls and hawks work the graveyard shift but the woodpeckers have moved on. Some ducks coast down to swim in recently irrigated yards.

Not seen in years: horned toads and tortoises. Pity.

It's The Black Spot!

One senses that Kurt Loder does not care for the new Pirates of the Caribbean film:

The picture’s most melancholy defect, though, is Captain Jack himself. Depp’s inspired conception of this eccentric character, with his kohl-shadowed eyes and swanning deportment, was once the series’ central delight. Here, though, the actor has run out of new places to go with it, and his dutiful reiteration of all the familiar gestures and reactions is a dispiriting thing to witness. Like this overworked franchise itself, the Captain has been squeezed dry of the fun he once provided. And yet a fifth Pirates movie is already in the works, and a sixth is also threatened. A sinking sensation is hard to dispel.

How Assimilation Works

Bruce S. Thornton on the multiculturalism front in California:

The traditional model of immigrant assimilation that helped create California cannot work if our public schools and universities subsidize anti-Americanism. One can already see where such balkanization leads: more inter-ethnic conflict and more ignorance about what constitutes America and its core principles. Meanwhile, consumerism and a crass popular culture, which increasingly constitute the common ground of being American, fill the void—and I’m not sure that a sustainable national identity can be built on a shared appreciation of fast food, bad movies, and vulgar popular music. Immigration can work again in this country. But for that to happen, schools and government must recommit themselves to teaching and reinforcing the common culture and political principles that immigrants once learned to become Americans.

"A grave violation of company rules"

A German company reels from accounts of a sex party for executives and sales agents:

Twenty prostitutes and canopy beds in an open-air bordello: A Hamburg-based insurance company has acknowledged treating its best agents to a debaucherous party in Budapest during which sex workers were color-coded according to their purpose and given stamps to tally each encounter. The company magazine later gushed about the "killer fun."

Obvious questions: What in that company's culture made anyone think that such an event would be anything close to acceptable? What are the odds that similar events will emerge?


Take anything to an extreme and it becomes a problem. Care too much and you may weaken the recipient of your kindness. Analyze too much and you may become indecisive.
So here's a question: At which point does detachment become unhealthy?

Let's set aside any examples of hermits and consider a normal person who, although voting and participating in civic affairs , seeks to maintain some independent perspective amid the hubbub of life and the sea of information. When does that quest cross a line and become counter-productive?

No answers here. Just wondering.

Say Cheese

Cultural Offering points us to the senior portraits from Hell.

Quote of the Day

Get it 'til it's perfect, then cut two minutes.

- Fred Astaire

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WWII Books

Richard Snow lists five books that he regards as essential reading on World War II.

I'd quickly add:

Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer.
Is Paris Burning? by Collins and LaPierre
The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper
The Dark Summer by Gene Smith
Churchill by Lord Moran
Armageddon by Max Hastings

How many rooms filled with books are we missing? Your recommendations?

Fighting Loneliness

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project gleans six tips for battling loneliness from Emily White's memoir. An excerpt:

White observes that making lots of plans with friends didn't alleviate her loneliness. “What I wanted," she writes, "was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her. The more clearly you see what's lacking, the more clearly you'll see possible solutions.

86 Wives

A Los Angeles Times article on an energetic 87 year-old who apparently is a time management wizard. An excerpt:

That November, at the High Court in the capital, Abuja, the lawyers called in his wives and their parents, one by one, to testify that they had agreed to marriage. At wife No. 57, the court told the lawyers to stop, and ordered Maasaba freed.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

Top Biz Schools?

The top business schools among corporate honchos.

DSK T-Shirts: Soon to Be Collectors' Items

Life is stranger than fiction.

Making the Cellphone Easier

At Cool Tools, the Moshi Moshi Manual Cellphone Handset. The name alone is worth the purchase.

Management Styles: Europe and USA

Here is
an excellent review by Bizshift's Blog on whether there are distinctive American and European management styles. An interesting quote:

“If one has to generalize, it is fair to say that Americans pursue risk and Europeans seek stability”

~ Antonio De Luca

The Home Office

Books and papers are scattered about. Several drafts of a management workshop are on my desk. A tray of used coffee mugs is in the corner. Masking tape secures a variety of reminders on the wall. A flip chart has the results of an earlier analysis of the workshop's subjects. Some bottles of vitamins are near my computer lest I forget to take them. To my right, I can see a replica of The Maltese Falcon. Hanging up high is a commendation that my uncle received for his service in France during the First World War. The sofa is covered with files, magazines, and notes.

All is well. The class is coming together.


You are undisciplined, slothful, timid, lacking ambition and drive, and perfectly willing to spend a perfectly fine day staring at the ceiling.

Oh wait. Forget those. You're ill.

Quote of the Day

I have been informed that Monsieur _______ is dead. He was a staunch patriot, a talented writer, a loyal friend, a devoted husband and father - provided he is really dead.

- Voltaire

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Noir Break

When you have a John Huston film with Louis Calhern, Sterling Hayden, and Sam Jaffe (not to mention Marilyn Monroe), you have something extraordinary. A scene from "The Asphalt Jungle."

On Work

A fascinating clip of Richard Burton talking about coal mining.

Almost As If...

At Unhappy Hipsters: Freshly bleached and scrubbed, the only reminder of ‘that day’ was a handful of scars in the wood.

[Be sure to read the comments.]

Strategy and Six-Month Sprints

From Fast Company, Gadi Amit on strategy and the future of design:

The other day, I had lunch with a design executive from a wonderful company that’s been doing everything right -- it has a strategic design agency (not mine), and it has had design thinking in its bloodstream a decade before the term was coined. And yet what it’s doing just isn’t working. By the time its last design strategy process ended, it was nearly obsolete -- too prescribed and too inflexible. My buddy had to start over again, and this time, he opted for a different philosophy: No design strategy would take a long time to define or be too stiff to bend to an evolving reality. The marching orders now are for short, concise, and dynamic processes, allowing products to be introduced into a marketplace that are well understood and within a reasonable forecast.

Konrath on Promoting E-Books

Thriller author Joe Konrath has some interesting ideas for promoting e-books and offers some motivational thoughts. Among them are:

  • There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.

  • Denial is a powerful opiate.

  • If you're selling eggs, don't piss off your chickens.

  • Before you make the key, study the lock.

The "DSK" Case

Jonah Goldberg on Bernard-Henri Levy's defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn:

Meanwhile, while Bernard-Henri is scandalized that a mere chambermaid can get a “great” man like Strauss-Kahn in trouble with the law merely by credibly accusing him of sexual assault, I am proud to live in a country where a housekeeper can get a world leader pulled off a plane bound for Paris. If something like that couldn’t happen in France, then shame on France and shame on Levy for thinking otherwise.

[HT: Instapundit.com]

Lawyers and Consultants

The lawyer will show you the lines that must never be crossed lest you violate the law. The consultant will show you the heights that must be attained if you are to manage effectively.

The lawyer will help you to avoid litigation. The consultant will help you to avoid inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and personnel pitfalls.

The lawyer may ignore poor management if it is unlikely to spark legal problems. The consultant will argue that poor management is a cancer that may eventually cause both management and legal problems.

In general, lawyers and consultants work well together. Both groups are risk-adverse. They hate being brought in late to clean up messes that could have been easily prevented had a simple phone call been made.

The organizations that need them the least, use them the most. [That's one reason why they need them the least.] The organizations that need them the most, scoff at the need for their services until a major problem arises.

At that point, they may be wanted not just for advice, but for miracles.

Quote of the Day

I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.

- Elvis Presley

Monday, May 16, 2011

Anne Sinclair

When I heard the name of the wife of the IMF chief/criminal defendant, I recalled seeing her on French television years ago. She is also a blogger.

Bring Back the El Camino?

Will General Motors bring back the El Camino if 100,000 people comment on this Jalopnik post?

One of The Glasgow Boys

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Sir James Guthrie.

Leadership Pros and Cons

Jim Stroup at Managing Leadership goes after the "leadership is inherently positive" argument.

I suggest to clients that they think of leadership
responsibilities and how well individuals, regardless of title, fulfill those responsibilities. It can be especially dangerous to imply that some jobs have no leadership responsibilities whatsoever and to treat leadership as a caste.

The discussion reminds me of how the terms "quality" and environment" - which once were neutral - are now frequently associated with the positive.

"They did a real quality job."

"Oh. Was it good or poor quality?"

The Artist

The trailer for the silent film that reportedly got a 10 minute standing ovation at Cannes.

Creativity Wanted: The Pirate Hunt

Fast Company: The U.S. Navy is using a multiplayer game to help fight pirates.

Mamet's Move

Three decades ago David Mamet became known among the culture-consuming public for writing plays with lots of dirty words. “You’re f—ing f—ed” was a typically Mamet-like line, appearing without the prim dashes back in a day when playwrights were still struggling to get anything stronger than a damn on stage. Mamet’s profanity even became a popular joke: So there’s this panhandler who approaches a distinguished looking gentleman and asks for money. The man replies pompously: “ ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’ —William Shakespeare.” The beggar looks at him. “ ‘F— you’ —David Mamet.”

Read the rest of Andrew Ferguson on the political conversion of David Mamet.