Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pirate Hooded Towel

A great moment in fashion. Available at Neatorama.

Bringing Up the Nazis

As the author of eight mystery novels on Hitler and the Nazis, I'm sometimes asked why I choose to write about this subject. Hasn't the time come when, in a tidy phrase beloved of Tony Blair, we should "draw a line" under the war and move on? Indeed, the question was once put to me rather more directly in Berlin by a German publisher with whom I was having dinner. "You're not a Jew," he said. "What's it to you, what happened 60 years ago? Why do you want to keep on bringing up the past like this?"

Read the rest of
Philip Kerr's article here.

Music Break: Billy Joel

Back by popular demand: "A Matter of Trust."

Wild Thing

Sports Illustrated has the story of the classic baseball film, "Major League." An excerpt:

Charlie Sheen (fireballing reliever Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn): When I saw the script it wasn't like catnip, it was like crack. I was going to a premiere, and I had a meeting with David in the morning, so I had the script in the limo, and I was late because I couldn't put it down. Then I sat in my driveway for an hour to finish it. It was probably as good a script as Platoon, seriously.

"And"




Have you ever looked at the conflicting book reviews on Amazon and wondered, "Did these people read the same book?"

You'll find books that any objective estimate would rate from Good to Excellent get savaged by some reviewers. In those cases you can usually tell that the reviewer - not the book - is the one with the problem. More bitterness than depth is displayed. The book was bound to get their disapproval before a single page was read.

But let us be fair. There will be readers of good will who simply do not care for certain works. Their experience with the book resembles a chemistry experiment where the wrong elements are combined. Nice person. Nice book. Bad mix.

So much of life is combination. We are hardly independent operators who cruise through the world unaffected and unaffecting. The two people on the support team may be stellar performers when apart but only when apart. Conversely, they may be marginal performers when apart but fantastic when working together.

That is why any analysis of organizations and individuals should involve the study of "and."

Quote of the Day

You will always find some Eskimos ready to instruct the Congolese on how to cope with heat waves.

- Stanislaw J. Lec

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miscellaneous and Fast

Waiting for Your Ship to Come In?

Take some time today and read the poem by Colin Hay that is posted at The Hammock Papers.

More Economy of Effort

Note this post from FutureLawyer on economy of effort. I will definitely be checking out ExpressDictate.

Economy of Effort

Winston Churchill once ascribed his success to economy of effort. He advised not to stand when you can sit and not to sit when you can lie down.

Examples of that practice:


  • Taking naps. A mere 10 to 15 minutes can work wonders.

  • Putting your feet up. Bring back the foot rests.

  • Working in bed. Churchill had dispatch boxes. Similar ones can be purchased in fine office supply stores.

  • Dictating letters. I know there are mechanical options, but having a secretary who takes dictation is one of the joys of the world. I once worked in an organization with a telephonic dictation system that permitted me to dictate letters in the evening over the phone to a recording device. A late night secretarial pool would type them up and the copies would be on my desk in the morning.

  • Staff papers. Too much time is squandered in meetings on decisions that could be proposed in staff papers and circulated for comment before the decision packet goes - along with comments and recommendations - to the decision maker.

  • Any others?

Quote of the Day

You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things so that all the small things go in the right direction.

- Alvin Toffler

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Standing Up to Your Greatest Critic

“Jeff, when you’re a leader, there’s going to be at least one person at any given time who thinks he was put on this earth to be your greatest critic.”

Read the rest of
Jennifer V. Miller here.

If Possible






  • Don't just read the minutes, write the minutes.

  • Distinguish between moments when you are truly goofing off and those when you may appear to be doing so but are really letting some serious analysis percolate.

  • Read your emails over three times: once for grammar, once for substance, and once for tone.

  • Set aside some time each day to thank people.

  • Baffle your adversaries by being kind.

  • Be especially alert when things are going well.

  • Treat rising expectations as a double-edged sword.

  • Consider each person as an event and not simply as a way station on the road to an event.

  • Have a statute of limitations on feeling guilty for stupidity or thoughtlessness.

  • Pay more attention to details if your job is not to do so.

  • Round up your assumptions like stray horses so you will know where they are.

Quote of the Day

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.

- George Washington

Monday, June 27, 2011

Learning to Write

Joseph Epstein reviews Stanley Fish's book on writing. An excerpt:

After thirty years of teaching a university course in something called advanced prose style, my accumulated wisdom on the subject, inspissated into a single thought, is that writing cannot be taught, though it can be learned—and that, friends, is the sound of one hand clapping. A. J. Liebling offers a complementary view, more concise and stripped of paradox, which runs: “The only way to write is well, and how you do it is your own damn business.”

Sales: The Logic of Illogic

This product or service will be of major benefit to people who work in Specialty B. It will save time for them and will prevent some of their worse problems. It was designed with their needs in mind by highly experienced people who know the daily challenges of people who work in Specialty B.

So where can we expect to encounter the greatest sales resistance? That's easy.


From the people who work in Specialty B.

The new item may upset their routine or they may believe that their job security rests on the very difficulty of certain aspects of their job and that if their problems go, then eventually they too will go. They may believe that it will reduce their control and will introduce too much uncertainty. They may regard these dangers as a given and the benefits as mere speculation.

And so, like drowning swimmers who bat away a life preserver, they may reject the new approach.

Don't be surprised by it. Expect it.

"Flies with Beaks?"

Remembering the great Peter Falk with a scene from "The In-Laws."

Death Clouds

A good friend of mine - upon whose judgment I rely - strongly recommends Death Clouds on Mt. Baldy by Cathy Hufault: The story of some Boy Scouts from Tucson who went hiking in the mountains and got caught in an unexpected blizzard in 1958.

Judging from the Amazon posts, the reviewers concur.

Graffiti Exhibition: No Go

Any New York institution that participates in this travesty should be roundly denounced. Art in the Streets is a classic exercise of the elites’ juvenile dalliance with countercultural norms that they have no intention of adopting in their own protected lives. MOCA has never tolerated graffiti on its own premises; none of its wealthy Hollywood and real-estate-mogul trustees would ever allow tagging on their homes or businesses, either. So opposed is MOCA to unauthorized graffiti on its walls that it stationed additional security guards around its premises before the show opened, to guard against the inevitable upsurge in graffiti that the show would (and did) trigger. Yet there is no sign that Deitch or his trustees grasp the contradiction. Indeed, in a breathtaking display of stunted moral development, Art in the Streets never even addresses the seminal fact that behind every act of graffiti is an invisible property owner whose rights have been appropriated against his will.

Read the rest of
Heather Mac Donald's article here.

Poisonous Ego

Amid all of the praise-praise-praise and motivate-motivate-motivate talk, there should be much more attention given to the danger of ego.

So many of the problems of teams and organizations can be traced to that poison. Those who have consumed heavy doses can become so focused on expanding turf and prestige that their real mission is pushed into a closet with the mops and brooms.

Most of us acknowledge that this is a real barrier to progress, but consider one question: When was the last time the subject of ego was directly discussed at a staff meeting?

Quote of the Day

Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it.

- Henry Mintzberg

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Englishman Abroad

The very powerful film, "An Englishman Abroad," (see clip here) with Alan Bates at his best, is now available on DVD in a pricey but admirable collection. The main character, based on the turncoat Guy Burgess, is simultaneously charming, pathetic, and repellent.

Living History

While talking with the board of a historical society about ways to convey the excitement of history, I kept thinking of Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. Imagine what it would be like if historians could travel to other time periods? You want to study the Middle Ages? We'll arrange for you to visit.

That will be one of the challenges for museums. People don't want to stare at artifacts; they want to be there.

How to Tell a Story

Back by popular demand: The first few minutes of David Lean's film of "Great Expectations."

Internet Radio

FutureLawyer, who has a marvelous blog, is a devoted fan of Pandora.

Focus and Time

It is easy to understand why labor negotiations often reach a conclusion in the dead of night after weeks of wrangling: The teams are tired and what once seemed impossible to accept has now become tolerable.

There is a twist to the process that can be be found in other settings and it relates to candor. Put people in a room long enough to talk about a particular subject and - to borrow a science fiction term - their laser shields drop and they start to open up on sensitive topics. This may be due to fatigue or increased levels of trust but it is productive. Investigators have known this for years and yet those of us in business, who might avoid initiating third-degree interrogations, can benefit from the combination of focus and time. We get together and talk and talk and eventually open up.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Man and the Whirlwind

As I drove through a small town in a remote part of Arizona, a huge dust devil blew across the highway. I slowed down to avoid it and could see a person, clad in a white t-shirt and blue jeans, trying to outrace the whirlwind. He was able to elude the main part and get into a store building before it hit. All of the cars behind me slowed as well. No one wanted to drive into that red-brown mess.

The dust devil may well have been the most interesting event in that area. I thought, "Who in the hell would want to live out here?" and then I accelerated.

I'm Back

Having stayed at one of the few hotels in America with questionable Internet access, I have been unable to post until now.

Am recovering from the withdrawal pains.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dear Slick

Must reading: Cultural Offering's memo to all email marketers. My favorite part:

I notice from your outlook meeting request you would like to "circle back" regarding a previous communication regarding our business challenges. I remind you that your previous communication was an unsolicited mass email and, although I do enjoy "streamlining processes" in order to gain "better access and control over our mission", I think it is a bit bold of you to place a meeting on my calendar especially since I didn't acknowledge your first email.

Be sure to read the entire post.

The Drive

When I groaned about a long drive to a meeting in another city, my daughter said, "It sounds like you have an attitude."

She was right, of course.

I can remember when a hospital bed and a bunch of tubes were the boundaries of my mobility. Back then, I would have loved the chance to get behind a wheel and drive some place, any place. At that point, walking across the room was a big event. Being able to sleep through the night without being interrupted for blood pressure and temperature checks would have been a taste of paradise.

No more whining. Show me the open road.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Ad Man: Some posts re Ogilvy at 100.
$300 house? A design for basic shelter.
Heidi Klum: This ad should revive interest in "Project Runway." [NSFW?]
Victor Davis Hanson
on hubris.
The trailer: "Something Wild."

Quote of the Day

Talk too much and you talk about yourself.

- Yiddish proverb

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Medical Question

Is sitting for prolonged periods bad for your health if the music of Bach is softly playing in the background?

13,000 Years Ago

National Geographic reports on the oldest art found in the Americas:

The carved bone, which depicts a walking mammoth, was found near Vero Beach in east-central Florida in 2006 or 2007. (See a map of the region.) Since its discovery, scientists have been working to determine the authenticity of the 13,000-year-old artifact. Now, several experiments reveal the etching is indeed ancient, scientists reported recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Creativity: The New Horseless

Alexis Madrigal on what big media can learn from The New Public Library:

The library still lends books, but over the past year, the NYPL has established itself as a beacon in the carcass-strewn content landscape with smart e-publications, crowdsourcing projects, and an overall digital strategy that shows a far greater understanding of the power of the Internet than most traditional media companies show.

The Miracle Worker

My pager went off, jolting me awake. I knew it wouldn't be good news. I underestimated the situation. As I was climbing out of bed, my daughter knocked on the bedroom door. "Daddy," she said, "They said on TV that an Oakland officer was killed."

Wally Bock remembers a friend and a miracle.

The Guanciale Touch

Cultural Offering has a profile of a quiet hero. An excerpt:

This man with the waxed handlebar moustache went out of his way at every opportunity to help a poor dumb kid find his way in the world. I could go on and on but the stories wouldn't have to be about me. I've heard the same stories from other people: How Pat Guanciale went out of his way to help them when he didn't have to. That is the kind of person he is. ..and if you are a client it is the same way. "Out of his way" would be the common description of Guanciale's efforts.

Quote of the Day

If it is not seemly, do it not; if it is not true, speak it not.

- Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

J. K. Rowling's Online Treasure Hunt

Get ready for the announcements about Pottermore. From The Telegraph article:

JK Rowling is set to announce details of her latest project at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London at lunchtime on Thursday.

The author is expected to explain the details of the online treasure hunt. It is said to be a hi-tech online game, offering clues to prizes that may be hidden in the real world.

It has been reported that the game will contain clues to find an unreleased number of magic wands hidden in both Britain and America, and possibly other countries as well.

Culture Break: Auden

A reading of the W. H. Auden poem, "1st September, 1939."

Best Seller

Reactions to author John Locke's success selling e-books for 99 cents:

Glib Explanations

"They're all the same."
"They stick together."
"It's always about the money."
"Qualifications don't mean anything anymore."
"He's forgotten where he came from."
"They don't like anyone who didn't go to an elite school."
"Things like that don't just happen by accident."
"Oh yeah, but that was an exception."

Presentations: When Smooth Isn't Possible

My post on presentations that are challenging is up at the SWRCI site.

Dramatic Tension

At Unhappy Hipsters: The mushroom stood frozen in the corner, waiting for his moment.

The Dane's Eye

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Peder Severin Kroyer.

The Little Things

The little things accumulate. If they are good, fine results may ensue and if they are bad, the opposite. My guess is that in most cases the little things are as neutral as their effects.

"What have you done today?"

"I dealt with a bunch of little things that have the potential to be greater. I may never know if I removed a problem or an opportunity but it was like sweeping the ocean."

"Oh, that's nice."

Quote of the Day

The pioneers got all the arrows.

- Bert Lance

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Office Design Humbug

Four design firms planned the perfect office and they liked a lot of glass.

Spare me. There are times when I want to hide away in my office and not in some conference room. The idea that the leader always has to be seen in order to foster a climate of openness and trust is absurd. Some of the biggest weasels I've ever known were open door/MBWA fanatics.

Plus, having a bunch of people walking by is distracting.

If you want an open office, have one. If not, have the opposite.

TTD: I Need that Grated Ginger Drink

From the incomparable Nicholas Bate: "Reduce the number of wires and cables in your life" and much, much more.

Update: Correction made. He is indeed incomparable.

Lesson from the Coach

I knew a baseball coach who started every season by having the parents of his players go out on the field. He placed the kids in the stands and simulated game situations for the parents. He told the kids to shout out instructions for every play at the top of their lungs as the play was developing. "Get the guy at second." "Home, home, throw it home." The parents noticed that while they were making split second decisions about where to throw the ball or what to do in the field, they had no recollection of anything the kids were yelling from the stands.

Read the rest at
Cultural Offering.

Evil's Neighborhood

For many years, I've conducted research on the management proclivities of dictatorships. [Eventually, those findings will go into a book.]

Recently, while reading Michael Burleigh's Moral Combat, I recalled an observation by Malcolm Muggeridge that no dictatorship ever suffered from a lack of personnel applications. A look at the operation of the Nazi concentration camp system reveals a mass of administrative employees who handled matters as routine as personnel files, leave requests, and training records. Some, of course, also handled purchase orders for poison gas and tattoo ink.

Routine quickly ceases to be routine and becomes chilling.

Burleigh writes of the issue of collaboration in the occupied countries; of the people who, for sake of an income, did business with the Germans. He raises interesting questions of why some professionals, such as entertainers, are excoriated for their performances before the occupiers while those who supplied the Germans with less exotic commerce are not.

We all like to hope that we would behave honorably in such circumstances. This question, however, is worth exploring: At which point does one cross into a territory that, although not as clearly wrong as murder, puts one in the company of murderers?

Quote of the Day

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

- J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Year of Living Sneezily



This has been a hellish year for allergies. Just when I thought the coast was clear (or my nasal passages had achieved that effect), the damned things came roaring back.

This woe has been with me for some time. I can recall being exhausted every April and May while in college and catching daily naps in an ancient dorm surrounded by the blossoms of orange trees. Matters medical were then foreign to me and the weariness was ascribed to a change in the weather.

I now know better. A highly unscientific survey of friends, acquaintances, and victims confirms the suspicion that this year has been The Big One. The allergy balloon has gone up and on more days than ever before we are studying the bedroom ceiling and trying to remember the symptoms of malaria.

As for the outside world, it's like an Agatha Christie play in which characters keep disappearing, only this time we know where they are.

At home. Popping Claritin.

Danger and Your Reputation

Seth Godin has a thought-provoking post on being dangerous (in a good way).

The Wal-Mart Class Action Decision

Richard Epstein gives his analysis of the Wal-Mart decision. We'll be getting many more takes on this in the days ahead.

Update: Michael P. Maslanka weighs in.

Music for Monday

Kick off the week with Fats Domino. You will smile.

Meaningless Activity

One of the characteristics of totalitarian regimes is the requirement that their citizens be immersed in all sorts of activities. They have government-run groups for children, workers, men, women, farmers, athletes, various professions...the list is almost endless. The idea is to keep people busy on projects the regime favors so they don't have time for other thoughts, such as replacing the regime. Activity without real authority could be the motto.

I was reminded of this while examining the behavior of one organization. Everyone was extremely busy with a wide collection of activities and yet the key levers of power were untouched by the very people who should have controlled them. They'd been so distracted by their busy schedules that they had not noticed. As a result, the power had gone by default to a group that, although well-intentioned, really should not have had it. The distracted group had experienced years of frustration with poorly executed projects; projects hobbled by a power deficit it should not have had.

One of several lessons: Don't let activities cause you to overlook the real power sources.

Gradations

Is this person a constant ally, a temporary ally, an ally until difficulties arise, or an ally in name only?

Is this person a constant adversary, a temporary adversary, an adversary who may be won over, or an adversary in name only?

Our language can cloak things. We need new words.

Quote of the Day

The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.

- Church bulletin noted by Dr. Mardy Grothe in Oxymoronica

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Music Break - Don Williams

Back by popular demand: "Good Ole Boys Like Me."

Father's Day: Some Great Film Fathers

Fathers are well-depicted in these films:


  • Friendly Persuasion: Gary Cooper as the Quaker patriarch. Silent strength.


  • Taken: Retired CIA agent Liam Neeson racks up a major body count to rescue his daughter.


  • Finding Nemo: Nemo's dad (Albert Brooks) fends off sharks and jellyfish to find his son.


  • A Christmas Story: Darren McGavin played one of the most realistic dads.


  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) sets a high bar for great fathers.


  • Fiddler on the Roof: What father doesn't identify with Tevya?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Culture Break

Janine Jansen playing "A Lark Ascending."

Block's Blindfold Test



If you are a mystery fan, you'll enjoy this: In an interview at Ethan Iverson's blog, Lawrence Block takes a blindfold test (so to speak) to see if he can identify certain authors. It is evident that he really knows the field.

[HT: Pulp Serenade]

Unrewinding

Life and love: Take some time today and read this post at View From the Ledge.

In Business Fairy Tales

In business fairy tales, the best candidate is always selected for promotion, all of the team members pitch in, senseless procedures are quickly spotted and eliminated, and people do what they say they will do. People do not file meritless complaints, outside attorneys are dedicated to the truth, and union leaders and top execs are invariably noble. The new products and services are always improvements over the former ones and customer satisfaction is the gold standard. Meetings are well-run and productive and there is never a hidden agenda. The workplace is clean and safe and so attractive that people are reluctant to leave at the end of the day, which always arrives with sufficient time for a fulfilled family or social life. The mission is clear, the employee handbook is readable, and the rules reflect common sense. All crises are resolved within 24 hours and no one is hurt. Lessons are learned and grudges are not kept. People are treated like, well, people and not as machine parts that can be easily replaced. The days pass with well-paced excitement and nothing ever happens at an inconvenient time. There may be a wizard or two but trolls always work elsewhere.

And, of course, everyone lives happily ever after.

Quote of the Day

If you don't risk anything, you risk even more.

- Erica Jong

Friday, June 17, 2011

Miscellaneous and Fast

Professor William Happer on greenhouse gases.
Claire Berlinski on development and historical preservation in Istanbul.
The trailer for "Ghost Dog."
New term as in "He's an Uncle Tim."
Character glimpse: "Rome" with the extraordinary Polly Walker.

Business: Selling Invisible

“I looked at the pattern and I thought, You’ve got to be kidding me. My tax dollars for this?” CADPAT looked unlike any natural background a soldier would encounter. Using a $100 computer-graphics program, he cooked up his own digital pattern in about three hours. He posted it on the Web and labeled it GUYPAT. As luck would have it, King Abdullah of Jordan was at that moment shopping for new uniforms. A Jordanian official spotted Cramer’s design and cold-called him. “We like what we see,” the caller said.

Read the rest of
The Atlantic Monthly article here.

Format Rebellion

The readers launch a protest over the format at an HR site. [Check the comments.]

I confess to having a similar reaction on various sites. When too much clicking is involved, my natural impatience starts to soar.

Presence and a Manicure?

Dr. Helen takes on 18 things men need to know:

If any male reader out there has gotten a date by walking up to a woman and saying "You look very elegant and sophisticated" (#18), while sporting hand lotion, a manicure, and a non-interrupting style while she talks (#3), let us know. Perhaps I'm missing something here.

Numbers and the Old Ball Game

Andrew Ferguson on the statistics of baseball:

I won’t bore you with the details, but Futterman and another statistician have demonstrated to their satisfaction that teams with losing records on June 1 rarely go on to win enough games to make the playoffs at season’s end. The odds that the losers will reverse direction and become winners are one in ten. This revelation, if that’s the word for it, comes on the heels of new statistics about the count in the batter’s box, reported by the great baseball writer Thomas Boswell. Statistics show that once a batter has two strikes, his chances of getting a hit fall to near zero. The average big league batter facing a count of 0-2 has a batting average of .156. “Don’t slumber through a game thinking, ‘This bum’ll never get a hit,’ ” Boswell wrote. “Oh yes he may. As long as he hasn’t got two strikes yet.”

Noir Break

The trailer for the Stanley Kubrick film, "The Killing." Sterling Hayden. Elisha Cook. Vince Edwards. Those names alone should make you want to see it.

The Noble Bird

This post by Eclecticity about seeing a bald eagle in Virginia will resonate with anyone who has seen these magnificent birds on the wing. Most Americans are relieved that Benjamin Franklin's idea of making the turkey our national bird didn't catch on.

And speaking of poor choices, as an Arizonan I am dismayed that our state bird is the drab little Cactus Wren. We could have had the noble Turkey Vulture.

Just imagine, every year Arizona schoolchildren could scan the skies and recite the words of Edward Abbey: "Ah, to be a buzzard now that spring is here."

Great Essentials

Cultural Offering provides his list of music essentials and an impressive one it is. No Boxcar Willie or Lady Gaga.

Virtue? Yes, Within Limits.

If you could read the minds of many in the workplace you would find:

We want excellence, but not to the extent that we would have to drastically change the way we perform. We'd like fairness, provided that it can be achieved with no loss to our status. We'd like our team members to be well-informed, just so long as they remain dependent upon us for key information. We'd like to improve our professional skills, if that can be done with little effort, no disruption, and a reasonable amount of comfort.

Quote of the Day

There is nothing stable in the world - uproar's your only music.

- John Keats

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Publicity and the Film Industry

@DoktorLuther produced the greatest line seen today :

Why are they always porn *stars*? Don't those films have any supporting actors?

Prison Overcrowding and The Whipping Post



Here's a question: If you committed a crime and had to choose between being flogged or the seemingly more humane alternative of serving five years in prison, which would you pick?

Airline Seating: Seat Guru

Tired of cramped airplane seats? CoolTools extols the virtues of SeatGuru.

Brain Gyms: Bright Future?

Lumosity’s website offers 40 games designed to sharpen a wide range of cognitive skills. The signup process walks you through a series of questions to figure out whether you want, for example, to improve your ability to remember names, get better at problem solving, or develop better concentration at work or while driving. It then designs a series of “courses” tailored to your particular interests.

Read the rest at Fast Company.

The Congressman Departs

Weiner's going. I was tired of this story before it began but at least it pushed Charlie Sheen off of the radar. As American scandals go, however, this is not the end. There always remains the book deal.

Future National Problem: Kids Who Can't Think for Themselves

James Lileks reports on a "social justice" issue:

LA schools have decided to ban “flavored milk,” permitting only milk-flavored milk. The issue, of course, is childhood obesity. Flavored milk has extra sugar. Regular milk is healthier. Don’t even ask about menthol milk; it’s been banned for years. This objection by a school board member makes sense to any parent who’s ever read the nutritional label:

(Galatzan) noted the district serves fruit juices containing 27 to 29 grams of sugar per serving, more than the amount of sugar in flavored milk – 20 grams in 8 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk and 27 grams in fat-free strawberry.

Classics with Punch


A joy of reading classical literature is the realization of the extent to which people have not changed combined with exposure to a great writer's ability to spot subtle forms of behavior.

Reading War and Peace and Vanity Fair (the novel please, not the magazine!) not only entertains, but informs, and sometimes staggeringly so. I would make them mandatory reading for business, sociology, and political science students.

Quote of the Day

We had the experience but missed the meaning.

- T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Will Make You Happy?

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project lists 10 widespread myths about happiness.

EA Casual Wear

Get the t-shirt at Despair, Inc.

Getting Ahead in the Count




There are certain things that we do in the morning that place us - to use a baseball expression - ahead in the count. Our odds of having a good day are enhanced. When we overlook those, we may have to scramble to catch up to where we should have been lest we may squander the day. These items may seem small and yet they are important.

We know them, but on some days, due to no cause other than our own choice, we fail to do them. Knowing what triggers that choice can be a major productivity tool.

Learning from Art



This painting by Casey Baugh is one of Art Contrarian's "useful paintings" for learning the artist's technique.

Specialization's Gaps



One of the jarring things in life is when you see a person who possesses expertise in one area venture into unfamiliar territory. It is not unusual to find that the expert suddenly has less knowledge and common sense than the average citizen.

For years I have been amused by the assumption that attorneys automatically possess deep insight into politics, much less economics. One can go through law school and acquire precious little knowledge of either subject. Fortunately for many budding lawyer/politicians, the ability to sound knowledgeable has often been absorbed.

It is relatively easy to sense danger when an artist starts talking about business or a doctor about car repairs, but the greater test comes when an executive is very knowledgeable about three quarters of his job and yet pig ignorant about the fourth. The savvy exec learns of the weakness and devises a way to work around it. The less savvy executive may overlook the gap entirely, either out of ignorance or arrogance.

Genuine generalists are very rare. When you look beneath their credentials, you frequently find a specialist in generalist clothing. That is not bad if they know enough to get by. It can be very bad if they know just enough to be dangerous.

Quote of the Day

Give them pleasure - the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.

- Alfred Hitchcock

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's Your Number?

FutureLawyer wonders if phone numbers are heading for the scrap pile.

A question for those who may be sipping Sanka and thumbing through tapioca recipes: Do you remember when phone numbers had rather colorful prefixes?

Our prefix was Crestwood. Sounds rather nice, doesn't it? It evokes shade and cool breezes; not exactly an accurate description of our Phoenix neighborhood, but Oven was already taken.

We lost something civilized when the prefixes went away.

Modern Nitwittery

Ann Althouse on the double standard when saying one sex is better than the other.

[I propose something truly radical: Judging people as individuals.]

The Young Scholars

...Prior to about 2004, I’d write final exams with essay questions like “Compare Hobbes and Nietzsche on the question of religion” and “What is the difference between Marx and Locke on the origins of private property?” I’d correctly assume that the students had read the texts more than once and as carefully as could be expected from undergraduates. Should I do that today, I’d probably incite a riot, and perhaps as many as 20 percent of the students would flunk because they hadn’t read a word of the assigned texts.

Read the rest of
professor Jerry Weinberger's essay here.

Great Moments in Press Objectivity

Jon Stewart on the news media and the Palin emails. Truly one of the low points in the history of American journalism.

Flag Day




In a time when the forces of tribalism are still about, it is fitting to celebrate the unifying symbol of a great and good nation.

Presentation Introspection

I've seen presentations where you could tell that the presenter's main goal was just to get through the talk. There was no interest in whether the audience had retained anything. A close relative to that low standard is the university lecturer who simply drones through a mass of material in order to eat up class time and to be able to say that certain points were covered.

They were indeed covered, but not in any desirable manner.

Some serious introspection is needed for even the best presenters may adopt bad habits. Here is my review list to head off problems:


  1. Is the material organized in a manner that is of maximum benefit to this audience or is it designed to please another group? [Which other groups? Upper management, lawyers, politicians, and the community come to mind.]

  2. Is an audience being neglected? [This is especially important to remember when presentations are televised and there are multiple audiences.]

  3. Has the presenter put in information that is interesting but not really on-topic?

  4. Are too many points being covered? [My rule is to have no more than three major points.]

  5. Is there a coherent theme that links the points together?

  6. Is there a careful blend of generalizations and examples? [Both are needed for the sake of clarity.]

  7. Does the presenter have a clear sense of which parts of the message are vital and which are optional and will the presentation convey those priorities?

Vora on Mastery

Check out this excellent post by Tanmay Vora on personal mastery and the commitment to learning.

One of my hot buttons is pushed when people who should know better complain about their lack of training or personal development opportunities. Aargh. Get thee to a library.

Quote of the Day

Brilliant isn't making it on the stock exchange if you never see your kids. Brilliant isn't winning the company Porsche two quarters in a row if the third quarter you were in hospital with chest pains.

- Nicholas Bate

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Boon for History Buffs: The Old Bailey

The proceedings of the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court , are online. A description of the project:

The Old Bailey Proceedings Online makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts between 1676 and 1772. It allows access to over 197,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use.

Museums: When Strangeness Accumulates

Business Pundit takes a look at 15 weird museums.

"I Am Born"

The first chapter of "David Copperfield" is "I Am Born."

Following a chronology worked for Dickens but it is usually a disaster for speakers. Look at the expressions of the audience members. Watch as the eyes dart about the room. I can tell you what's going through their minds:

"How do I get out of here?"
"Now I know why that back row filled so quickly."
"Ten more PowerPoint slides and I will slip into a catatonic state."
"Ellen's looking good. I wonder what she's doing for lunch."
"Tahiti. No, Hawaii. No, Tahiti."
"Baxter had a heart attack yesterday. Lucky bastard."

That's why you want to plunge your audience into the story.

Remember the technique of thriller writers: Give the third chapter first.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Catherine Spaak is still around.
And so is Dick Dale.
A quick trip to Venice Beach.
How to introduce a main character: Scene from The Third Man.
Neurological twists on e-coli bacteria in Germany.
Fortune: Hank Gilman has
a pizza love story.
Recent law grads: The Middle Child Syndrome.
An exhibit on the Cactus League Experience.
Stanley Fish on talking to no purpose.

Quote of the Day

The truth is, creativity isn't about wild talent as much as it's about productivity. To find a few ideas that work, you need to try a lot that don't. It's a pure numbers game.

- Robert Sutton

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Remembering Rukeyser

This post on Anderson Layman's Blog about Louis Rukeyser brought back many pleasant memories.

Seeing the nimble Rukeyser force a group of investment advisors to speak plain English was akin to watching Michael Jordan play basketball.

I often find myself wondering what he'd say about the current mess.

Our Man in Brazil

Nelson Biagio Jr. has a great blog and a new template. Check it out.

Excellence: Sinatra

A reminder of why Sinatra was - and is - so great.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Facebook versus Real Life

A rather spooky video at Althouse: If life were Facebook.

Hitchens: The New Face of Scandal

Christopher Hitchens on the Edwards-Weiner scandals. An excerpt:

In my time at Oxford, there still persisted a quaint survival from the Victorian era. A special part of the river bank set among the willows was reserved for nude male bathing, with membership restricted to dons and clergymen. Prominent signs and barriers prevented boats and punts containing females from approaching this discreet stretch. On one fateful Sunday afternoon, however, a recent flood had washed away the signs and weakened the barriers. A group of ladies was swept past the rows of recumbent and undressed gentlemen. Shrieks of embarrassment from the boat, while on the shore—consternation. Pairs of hands darted down to cover the midsection. All but one, the hedonist and classicist Sir Maurice Bowra, whose palms went up to conceal his craggy visage. As the squeals were borne downstream, and the sheepish company surveyed itself, Bowra growled, "I don't know about you chaps, but I'm known by my face around here." How long will this traditional view endure?

Do You Wear a Watch?

This FutureLawyer post on a hi-tech Italian wristwatch is interesting but one of his side comments struck me as more interesting than the new watch.

Do you wear a watch?

I do, if only because of habit, tradition, and my inherent dislike of phones.

Civilization Break: Joaquin Rodrigo

Here's the first movement of Fantasia para Un Gentilhombre.

The Indirect Approach

People who have been in the sales wars note that it is not unusual to find that the person or work unit that will benefit the most from a product or service is the least likely to purchase it. Aiming your efforts in that direction is a waste of time.

You must instead direct your marketing to the individuals who can decide or influence a decision on behalf of the person or work unit. Having more objectivity and being less defensive, they may be far more open to your message.

Berry: Necessity and Invention

Tim Berry notes that necessity is not always the mother of invention:

Do you see what I mean? At first it’s slick and powerful, doing something way faster than the old way of doing it. And that’s productivity at its best. But soon the advances are taken for granted. The bar of expectations goes up, and you spend the same amount of time.

Which is why the saying is reversed. In these cases, it’s not like it’s supposed to be, necessity as the mother of invention. Invention becomes the mother of necessity.

No Comment

Alec Baldwin believes that Anthony Weiner is a modern human being.

The Danger of Walks

Cultural Offering, ever alert, examines an important lesson at a baseball game:

The opposing coach made a very good point: "Ever notice how errors so often follow walks?" I chuckled - our team had taken the lead so I was comfortable chuckling. But the coach was right. At any level when you start walking batters, the fielders are lulled to sleep. Walks are soporific. They require no skill on the part of the pitcher, batters or fielders and a baseball game beset with them grinds to geologic pace as the batters decide not to swing and fielders begin to notice shapes in the dirt and happenings on other fields in the park.

Steinmetz on Africa: Brilliant

Start the weekend right: Go to the site of George Steinmetz and see the galleries of his stunning photographs of Africa.

Quote of the Day

Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.

- George Orwell

Friday, June 10, 2011

Unexpected Stories

Harry Stein lists five books where history tells an unexpected tale.

I'd add Victor Herman's unforgettable Coming Out of the Ice.

Humor Break




Weird Interview Questions

"If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?" *

What does an employment attorney think of this type of interview question?

Michael P. Maslanka will tell you.

[*Is it a $350 blender?]

A $350 Blender?



CoolTools says it's worth it.

Did Sandals Play a Role?

Glenn Reynolds is worried about organic farms.

What to Call HR

"Personnel" - What does this evoke? Pea-green walls, worn tile, metal desks, and lots and lots of polyester.

"Human Resources" - Is this a strip mining operation? Are steam shovels involved?

"People Department" - Very New Agey. Let me see those tie-dyed business cards, bro.

"Human Capital" - Well, this certainly removes any warm and cuddly feelings. "Hey, you'd better put that Human Capital back in the safety deposit box."

My own choice would be simple: "Employee Recruitment and Development."

Miscellaneous and Fast

Claire Berlinski has a personal peek at the Russian demographic disaster.
Homeland Security: Napolitano on profiling.
Fashion statement for the college student.
Nicole Gelinas:
The Tappan Zee is falling down.
The New Yorker: Berlusconi, women, and Italian TV.
FutureLawyer: A retirement condo on Mars?

Pacing

As a couple of new management classes come together, I have loads of great ideas.

That is not always good.

I now have to screen them so they fit in with the pacing and so the workshop doesn't become too rich. Is it possible for a class to convey too many good ideas? I believe it can. People need time to mull over, discuss, and argue about certain points.

The process resembles the structure of a mystery or a thriller. Non-stop action wears out the reader. That's why writers will shift the scene to a cafe, a quiet park or any spot that removes the reader from the stress of what just happened.

Pacing can conflict with Content and sometimes it should win.

Quote of the Day

Just because you are following your bliss, it doesn't mean anybody's going to pay you for it.

- Joe Calloway

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I Think I Want One

Ann Althouse shows off her motorized desk.

Leadership Lessons from George C. Marshall

Wally Bock has an excellent review of the qualities of one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world.

CEOs and History

At Chief Executive, Bob Donnelly wonders, "Do CEOs read history?"

[I've seen places where anything that took place five years ago may just as well have taken place in the 1700s. It is seldom remembered or heeded.]

"An Evening with John Houseman"

Robin Williams as John Houseman reading the telephone book.

Riveting.

Talkative Audiences

I've heard people say, "Oh, it's a small audience at that workshop. People will be very talkative."

Not in my experience. I've found that large audiences encourage more discussion because audience members are less conspicuous; they can hide in the forest. Say something in a small group and you may as well be on stage.

Large groups are less inhibited. They are ready to rock and roll. They're away from the office drinking coffee, checking out one another, and planning lunch.

Small groups that have worked together can be similarly uninhibited but small groups of strangers are about as wild as a church social.

Consider those factors when preparing a presentation. It's not that you cannot get a small group to open up. It's just that it will take more work.

Systems Systems Systems

I examined an organization that was inadvertently designed to be inefficient and ineffective. Many of the operating assumptions held by its management team were dependent upon the organization having a reasonable system instead of one that foiled progress. As a result, the management team members - at least those team members who wanted progress - were frustrated.

Their tendency was to blame some of the other members or upper management. All were trapped, however, in an intricate web that had been spun over the years. The organization, to use a famous line, was getting the results it was designed to get and the results were poor.

A major turning point arrived when we were able to identify the chokepoints. One in particular had a extremely negative impact on a large number of operations.

So what happened? I'll report back. The patient is still in the Intensive Care Unit.

Quote of the Day

Be so good that people cannot ignore you.

- Steve Martin

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Don't Be a Happiness Bully

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project has "7 Tips for Minding My Own Business." An excerpt:

It's a Secret of Adulthood: Just because something makes me happy doesn’t mean that it will make someone else happy, and vice versa. I often fight the impulse to be a happiness bully, but what works for me might not work for someone else. I remind myself of the negative example of Thoreau: I almost can’t bear to read Thoreau's Walden, because he's so disdainful of other people’s tastes and values. When he writes about his own experience and views, I find his work very compelling, but he’s very judgmental and dismissive of any different vision of a happy life.

An Incident at Starbucks

Location: A very busy Starbucks in north Phoenix.
Scenario: A middle-aged man in a polo shirt and shorts rushes in and orders a coffee. When the barista starts to ring up the order, the customer holds up a $100 bill and says, "This is all I've got." The barista calls over a manager and they start a lengthy search for change. The customer adds a newspaper to his purchase. A long line forms.
Conclusion of episode: The guy gets $93 in change, says a quick "Thanks" to the guy at the register, and departs.
Questions: I know where I fall on this matter but which one of the following responses reflects your views?


  1. The guy was an uncaring jerk. He should have waited until he had smaller bills.

  2. It's not his fault. Businesses should be able to handle such transactions without undue delay.

  3. It's not a big deal and I see no ethical issues.

  4. The guy was rude but he probably didn't realize it. Can't we all just get along?

  5. The staff should have told him they can't handle such large denominations. Stiff the weasel.

  6. Nothing here that a severe flogging wouldn't cure.

Casual Comments: Trouble Brewing

"If they can't help me, I won't help them."
"Rank hath its privileges."
"He and I are having sort of a war."
"Information is power and I hang onto as much as possible."
"I communicate solely through e-mail."
"You gotta keep score of slights."
"I'll do whatever it takes to get a corner office."
"I've been doing it this way for 30 years and am not going to stop now."
"Once they promote me, I'll show them what I can really do."
"Who's the babe at the front desk?"
"They'll never miss it."
"Everybody does it."
"I don't have time to go to training."

The Che Guevara Mod Squad

The film "Network" gave us plenty of warning about the TV biz: Here's the scene where Faye Dunaway meets with her staff.

The Sounding Board

Aside from the more intense moments of coaching sessions when a specific problem is being identified or an action plan developed, there are times when the coach simply serves as a sounding board.

"This is what I'm thinking of saying at the big meeting that starts in around 30 minutes. Tell me what you think."

"Hmm. That first part sounds fine. I'd suggest dropping the last part."

"Why? That was my favorite part."

"I know. That's why it has to go. You're making it a little too personal. You'll distract them from the main message."

"I see what you mean. You have to admit it was a great line."

"Yes, but save that for some other day. See if it sounds great in a week or two."

"Okay. Got it. I'll let you know what happened."

Mission accomplished.