Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Command Decisions

It is a memorable day when you learn that there will be times in life when you have to make a quick decision based on partial information. You don't have time for study. You can't consult experts. Events are closing in and the worst thing you can do is freeze up. Your decision probably won't be perfect - in fact, bet on that - but it will be needed and whatever requires fixing will have to be fixed in the mud and the rain and the dark.

Critics may later question your actions and yet you have one powerful consolation: They weren't there. You were. And something needed to be done.

Blogger Appreciation Day

Probably a blogger.

This is Blogger Appreciation Day.

You probably noticed the crowds in the stores and people leaving work early for lavish parties.

Entertainment Break: Life is a Contact Sport

The trailer for "Any Given Sunday."

Geneva Motor Show

The two-seater can accelerate from 0-62mph in 3.1sec and from 0-124mph in 8.5sec and has lapped Ferrari's Fiorano test track in 1min 23sec - that's faster than any other Ferrari road car. Top speed is quoted as over 211mph.

First Paragraph

In the wilderness a man made do. Given any choice in the matter, James Marshall wouldn't have retained Jennie Wimmer as cook and housekeeper for his construction gang. She was stubborn, surly, belligerently unimaginative in the kitchen - and fully aware she couldn't be replaced. She cooked what she wanted, when she wanted. She served the best portions to her husband, Peter, and their seven children. The hired hands, who bunked in the opposite end of the double log cabin that sheltered the Wimmers, were left with the toughest beef, the stringiest mutton, the stalest peas, the driest biscuits, and without the pumpkin and apple pies that varied, ever so slightly, the monotonous diet. Meals were served at Jennie's whim, yet she grew furious if the men weren't seated and ready when she deigned to deliver the food.

- From The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and The New American Dream by H.W. Brands

Music for the Morning

As good as it gets: The Byrds with "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Crank it up.

The Landlord's Tale

All of us have our stories as renters. In City Journal, Bret Stratton gives a fascinating account of what it's like to be a landlord. An excerpt:

Years later, I sat at McDonald’s with my elder son, Ted, 28. The first generation (my father) scrapes, the second generation (me) tries to keep things on keel, and the third (Ted) needs tutorials in toughness because it doesn’t remember the first. I told my son not to forget the little things: pens, checks, camera, Post-it notes. I said, “Lesson One: Write everything down. You don’t want to think about ‘cold water leak, Apt. 24’ all day.” Lesson Two: Be wary of restaurant workers, particularly chefs and servers. They come home late, party hard, and wake up the solid-citizen tenants in the building. Lesson Three: ABC, for “Always Be Closing”—closing a deal, that is, which, in my case, means collecting the rent. That’s from a David Mamet play and was an inside joke between my son and me. My son, like every other young person, enjoys quoting movies verbatim.

Daily Tools for Creativity

  • PaperMate Profile ballpoint pens. [I buy them by the box. Marvelous product.]
  • Legal pads. [Yellow. White. Doesn't matter. Can't have too many.]
  • Moleskine tablets. [For saving lengthy ideas when on the run.]
  • Index cards. [For keeping on track and many other tasks. Is there anything they can't do?]
  • Flip charts. [If I can't see it, I can't see it.]

Notice: Nothing electric.

So what are your essential creativity products?

Quote of the Day

To attract men, I wear a perfume called New Car Interior.

- Rita Rudner

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Paragraph

Calhoun parked his small pod-shaped car in the driveway to his great-aunts' house and got out cautiously, looking to the right and left as if he expected the profusion of azalea blossoms to have a lethal effect upon him. Instead of a decent lawn, the old ladies had three terraces crammed with red and white azaleas, beginning at the sidewalk and running backwards to the very edge of their imposing unpainted house. The two of them were on the front porch, one sitting, the other standing.

- From The Partridge Festival by Flannery O'Connor

Miscellaneous and Fast

The trailer for "Kiss of the Dragon."
Great escape: Martin Cruz Smith's "Three Stations."
The trailer for "Lone Star."
Aside from the treason: Leaker nominated for Peace Prize.
The trailer for "The Grocer's Son."
Model student: Tyra Banks at Harvard.
What position is that? Yoga and sex scandals.
The trailer for "Sin City."

Bing's Best Quiz

Stanley Bing has developed a quiz to determine the best companies to work for. A sample question:

My boss ...

A. Is a titan of Excellence. God bless her.
B. Is a smart guy and can hold a drink.
C. Would club a baby harp seal.

Economists and Comedians

At Anderson Layman's Blog, Abbott and Costello discuss unemployment. An excerpt:

COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment
rate in America.
ABBOTT: Good "subject". Terrible "times". It's about 9%.
COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
ABBOTT: No, that's 16%.
COSTELLO: You just said 9%.
ABBOTT: 9% Unemployed.
COSTELLO: Right 9% out of work.
ABBOTT: No, that's 16%.
COSTELLO: Okay, so it's 16% unemployed.
ABBOTT: No, that's 9%...
COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 9% or 16%?
ABBOTT: 9% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.

Be sure to read the entire thing.

Bock on Specifics

Wally Bock notes that effective supervision requires attention to the specifics.

I've encountered supervisors who want to handle every person and situation in exactly the same manner, even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

It is as if they want to be a machine. Unfortunately, it is a poorly functioning machine.

Your "Ready to Screw Up" Checklist

  • Lazy?
  • Tired?
  • Incurious?
  • Sloppy?
  • Hurried?
  • Indiscreet?
  • Close-minded?
  • Unprepared?
  • Distracted?
  • Naive?
  • Cynical?
  • Abrasive?
  • Arrogant?
  • Smug?
  • Scattered?
  • Timid?
  • Ignorant?
It only takes one of these for a major screw-up.

Quote of the Day

When a supporter of William Jennings Bryan bragged that his candidate made 19 speeches in a single day, an opponent asked, "When does he think?"

- William Safire

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rules for Gentlemen

This poster at Cultural Offering is quite good.

We need to renew the concept of being a gentleman and honor gentlemanly conduct. If we don't, the boors will take over.

The Joys of "Illustration"

Arnie Fenner at Muddy Colors explores the virtues of Illustration magazine.

How Can They Not Love Us?

How popular is your state? Check out the polling.

1939: A Year for Great Movies

You may have to click away any footer ads in order to see the categories, but here's a brief review of the Oscar winners in 1939.

It was an extraordinary year for films.

A Family Tale: When Joe Queenan's Son Bought Apple Stock at Less Than $20

As I look back on things, I think my kid's had it in for me from the start. If my son really loved me, he would have told me to liquidate my dud mutual funds and put my entire 401(k) into Apple back when he was a freshman in high school. If he had, I'd be worth eight hundred million dollars today and living in Tahiti. Instead, he kept all his cunning instincts to himself. He bought Apple for next to nothing without giving me a head's up that the stock was poised to explode. He hung me out to dry. And he cleaned up.

Read all of it here.

The Artist's Eye

The greatness of John Singer Sargent can be seen in this unusual portrait:

Great Book Title Series

Check out this one:

The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin

P. D. James Honors Jane Austen

It’s no wonder that there’s an enormous appetite for Jane Austen sequels. But whether the authors play it straight, or introduce vampires and zombies, Austen imitations inevitably disappoint. Still, hope springs eternal in the Janeite breast, and the announcement that P. D. James was writing a murder mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice created eager anticipation—especially among Jane Austen lovers who are also fans of the reigning queen of crime.

Read the rest of the review of Death Comes to Pemberley here.

Monday Index

Opportunities: Abundant
Creativity: Dawning
Resources: Available
Energy: Pumped
Attention: Waiting to be focused
Time for your direction: Now

Quote of the Day

How many shrinks does it take to change a light bulb? It only takes one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.

- Anonymous

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crystal Ball

And what was the Best Picture prediction on this site? Here.


Toscanini directing "El Salon Mexico."

How to Be Free

The incomparable Nicholas Bate recommends that we take some time out today and make a decision:

"... that people become free every day in an instant when they wake up and realise that the thing for the majority of us in this part of the world is that freedom is a decision not a goal, qualification nor purchase. A decision. And that's pretty damn cool.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Music Break (Ultra-Mellow Version)

Astrud Gilberto: "Fly Me to the Moon."
Julie London: "When I Fall in Love."
Nat King Cole: "Nature Boy."
Pat Boone: "Thee I Love."

Cultural Offering

One of the joys of blogging has been discovering Cultural Offering. It is a blog unlike any other. You can find posts on literature, music, business, and politics next to ones about family and local figures. Some Bach may be next to an account of a barbecue. All of it works.

The site has a gentle warmth to it, causing me to feel as if I know Kurt Harden's family and neighbors. Picture a mixture of Andrew Wyeth, Jim Harrison, and Norman Rockwell seasoned with appropriate dashes of irreverence.

I highly recommend daily visits.

[Update: The link has been fixed.]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Sensory Dispensary: "I Paint."
FutureLawyer gets a new computer and a bargain.
The trailer for "Copying Beethoven."
Colonoscopy: Its virtues.
Heather Mac Donald on California's demographic revolution.
The trailer for "The Letter."
Foreigner: "Jukebox Hero."

First Paragraph

Shivering but rapturous, the warrior stood in the snow on a wind-beaten pass in the Alps. His olive skin was chapped and his eyes were watery from the icy wind. But he felt no discomfort. As he looked across the white peaks, he saw faint green plains in the distance. Those plains were Italy, and the twenty-nine-year-old warrior, named Hannibal, had been dreaming about this moment since he was nine years old.

- From Hannibal and Me by Andreas Kluth

Poetry and Prose on the Job

The prose part of your job is the substantive stuff; the work that comes with deadlines and a tangible result. The poetry part involves the creation of feelings and relationships. It may be the slight touch that you add to a report that lifts it from the drone of bureaucratic text. It may be the 30 minute meeting over coffee with a client or a co-worker.

Many of us choose to focus almost exclusively on one side or the other. If we favor prose, we regard the poetry folks as schmoozers and light-weights who avoid the heavy lifting and do little of substance. If we favor poetry, we see the prose people as drab drudges who don't appreciate the importance of beauty and relationships.

The best of us can do - and appreciate the necessity for - both.

Bock's Igniters

This is as good as it gets. Check out Wally Bock's weekend imagination igniters. A quote from General Al Gray:

"We cannot expect our subordinates to exercise boldness and initiative in the field when they are accustomed to being oversupervised in the rear."

Alibis Yes! Accountability No!

In an upside down world, you can shun homework, not study as hard as your peers, goof off in class, stroll around with an attitude, mock achievers, boycott libraries, listen to junk, party late, drink heavily, smoke weed, sleep in, and take pride in a vulgar and limited vocabulary.

Not to worry.

Rest assured that someone, somewhere, will say it's not your fault.

Quote of the Day

Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you.

- Satchel Paige

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Locked in an embrace"

The discovery of a prehistoric hug.

Rather moving.

It's a bird! It's a plane!

Art Contrarian looks at the distinctive design of the Curtiss-Wright Condor and the issues of speed and comfort in the days when air travel was often combined with rail travel.

No Bunny Slope

You don't need to ski or snowboard to appreciate this video at Anderson Layman's Blog.

Formal Distractions

Much has been written about how informal distractions, such as telephone calls and impromptu interruptions, can throw off a work schedule, but much less attention is devoted to the formal distractions that consume far more time.

For example, rather than worrying about the phone calls and interruptions related to a standing committee's work, it may make more sense to consider whether the committee itself should exist. If its work can be better accomplished via other avenues, the committee is a time-waster and a distraction from other, more worthy, endeavors.

Standing committees, like government programs, need sunset laws. Their very existence should be periodically reviewed.

Team Project Index

People assigned to project: 10
People working on project: 2
People who strongly care about the result: 2
People who will want to influence the result even if they do not care about it: 8
People who will do the necessary homework: 2
People who will weasel out of any serious work: 6
People who might do a minor task if asked nicely by the workers: 1
People who will volunteer to help the workers: 0
People who think the serious workers are too pushy: 4
People who are keeping distance in case the project doesn't work out: 5
People who will want credit if the project is a success: 10
People who will seek to escape blame if the project is not a success: 8
People who will vow never to get roped into such a project again: 2

Quote of the Day

Keep strong if possible; in any case keep cool.

- Sir Basil Liddell Hart

Thursday, February 23, 2012

He's Back!

Now we can resume wondering, "Where does he find those things?"

Thoughts About Work: "Toads"

Philip Larkin reads his poem.

New Film

The trailer for "Act of Valor."

Thoughts Upon Leaving a Meeting

"What was that about?"
"I should not have joked about his kid's finger painting."
"It was going great until Carson decided to show that PowerPoint."
"I didn't know the old guy in the corner is the president."
"Words good. Vibrations bad."
"That went so well I'm worried."
"Note to self: Avoid the leather sofa."
"No coffee? What are we? Barbarians?"
"Darwin was wrong."
"Did we ask for the order?"

No One Answers

A Simple, Village Undertaker wonders how many of us keep the contact information for people who have died.

I do, especially in my address book. One of my favorite clients passed away at a young age around 12 years ago. I still have her contact information in my address book, am sad every time I see the entry, but can't bring myself to erase it.

The listing reminds me of her and the fact that every day is a gift.

Portlandia: "I don't have a driver's license."

The cyclist in "Portlandia." I think I've met him.

"Can't Do People"

The "can't do people" are creative, but only when it comes to finding reasons not to do things.

They hug barriers, love delays, and bask in complexity. They memorize qualifiers, move only in committees, and know the way to every bureaucratic maze. They never have enough information and, in their eyes, deadlines are mythical beasts. They can muster a legion of ways to say "No" and, on good days, "Not now."

Since they often are well disguised, a crucial career skill is being able to spot them.

First Paragraph

Paul Christopher had been loved by two women who could not understand why he had stopped writing poetry. Cathy, his wife, imagined that some earlier girl had poisoned his gift. She became hysterical in bed, believing that she could draw the secret out of his body and into her own, as venom is sucked from a snakebite. Christopher did not try to tell her the truth; she had no right to know it and could not have understood it. Cathy wanted nothing except a poem about herself. She wanted to to watch their lovemaking in a sonnet. Christopher could not write it. She punished him with lovers and went back to America.

- From The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry

Quote of the Day

The world belongs to the energetic.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Music Break: Durante

The great Jimmy Durante: "Make Someone Happy."

Less = A Lot More

FutureLawyer says your next computer monitor might be a Pico Projector.

Check out the video.

Art Break: Square-Brush Style

Art Contrarian looks at square-brush painters.

50 Blogs for Managers

Online MBA has a list of "50 Blogs that will make you a better manager." It's an impressive list.

Music Lessons

One of my regrets is never having taken music lessons. Learning to play the piano is on my list and since we already have one in the house, it seems logical.

I once toyed with the idea of bagpipe lessons (spare me the poisonous barbs) until I heard about various throat ailments that often afflict pipers. Since public speaking is part of my job, that seemed risky. One sage recommended learning an instrument that can be taken on trips but the guitar quickly defeated me and other portable instruments never grabbed my attention. Besides, who wants to torment passengers on cruise ships and trains?

So the piano it is.

I'm not rushing into lessons, but the mere act of writing this post has nudged me closer to beginning.

Managers Learn That...

They can't do it all. Projects usually take longer than expected. Some things must be overlooked. The person who talks the most about working hard is seldom the hardest worker. You have to listen for the unsaid. Time must be carefully preserved. One person can sink a team. It's important to know the difference between a fast decision and a slow one. Indiscretion is a career-killer. People and organizations are not inherently logical. Many a lie has been wrapped in a beautiful package. People long to be important. Some jobs are dead-ends and others are dark alleys. Convenience can trump merit. People are seldom purely one thing or another. Groups can be amazingly stupid. You need to look the part. Excuses are irritating. Common values cannot be assumed. Inertia is one of the greatest forces in the world. Communicating clearly is a demanding task. Saying no is a valuable skill. Creativity is nice but execution is crucial. Untreated problems fester. You never know it all.

Quote of the Day

Life's a voyage that's homeward bound.

- Herman Melville

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What to Worry About and What Not to Worry About

At Cultural Offering: A famous writer's advice to his young daughter.

Not a bad idea although my children may feel they have received more than enough advice.

Americana: Steak 'n Shake

Some instant flashbacks to the days when I was in officer basic school at Fort Benjamin Harrison and discovered one of the local restaurants:

Steak ‘n’ Shake exists on a simple concept: a diner that makes “steakburgers” and milkshakes — and a pretty decent cup of chili. The kitchen is open for the world to see. The interior is all black and white tile and gleaming chrome. In fact, the concept is so simple it led to the two simplest (and maybe worst) slogans in restaurant history. “In sight, it must be right,” and “It’s a meal.”

Miscellaneous and Fast

The downside of wind turbines.
The trailer for "Bread and Tulips"
The Happiness Project with some great quotations on happiness.
William McGurn on the media double-standard.
The trailer for "Mrs. Palfrey at The Claremont"
The Hammock Papers is a treasure trove.
The trailer for "The Blue Max"

First Paragraph

It was nine forty-five a.m. on April 11, 1986, when Special Agents Benjamin Grogan and Gerald Dove spotted the two suspects driving a stolen black Chevrolet Monte Carlo on South Dixie Highway. The pair had been robbing banks and armored trucks in southern Dade County over the past four months. To catch them, Gordon McNeill, a supervisory special agent with the Miami field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had set up a rolling stakeout. "They had killed two people; another woman was missing," McNeill said. "They had shot another guy four times. In my twenty-one years with the agency, I never felt more sure that when we found these guys, they would go down hard."

- From Glock: The Rise of America's Gun by Paul M. Barrett

Casting Directors

We may think ourselves bold while others regard us as rash. Our analytical nature may be derided as indecisiveness. What we call reserved may be labeled stand-offish. Our drive may be tagged as pushiness.

Every virtue has a downside and people do not always view our conduct in the light or from the angle that we would select if we were able to direct their attention or write their script.

They will choose their own place to stand and will cast us in the role they devise. All we can do is to behave in a manner that will encourage the right decision.

Quote of the Day

We are not creatures of circumstance; we are creators of circumstance.

- Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, February 20, 2012

On a Lighter Note

Since it is Presidents' Day, here's some history you may not have gotten in school:

Back to the "Diner"

John Podhoretz fondly recalls "Diner."

Here's a trailer for the film. [See if you can recognize the stars.]

Leadership's Values

Wally Bock on the alchemy and mystery of leadership. An excerpt:

I ran my little shop the best way I knew how and I tried to make sure we were always clear what the mission was and how we were doing. And I wanted everyone who worked for me to leave with skills and experience that would make them better people.

Beyond that, my "style" was really my values. Work hard. Do good things. Try stuff. Take care of each other.

The List of Two

There is one project I need to complete today in order to be prepared for a meeting tomorrow.

There is another project that I'd like to complete today but, if pressed, it could be done tomorrow.

And there are around seven other minor projects that are jumping at my window. They need to be completed soon.

Today's Main Objectives: The first two.

Secondary Objectives: Avoid being distracted by the others until the first two are done.

Success Story: Augustus Saint-Gaudens

The young man had more in mind than the exposition. He planned to enroll at the École des Beaux-Arts and remain in Paris as long as need be. Like young painter George Healymore than 30 years before, he had something he was determined to accomplish, and thus become accomplished himself. He considered himself bound to be a sculptor. That no American had ever been accepted as a student in sculpture at the École did not deter him. But first he needed a job. In his pocket he had $100 saved for him by his father from his own small wages.

Read the rest of David McCullough's article at American Heritage.


I will do this.
Well, I mean I'd really like to do it.
I'll certainly do it if other matters don't interfere.
And if I have the time.
And if there are enough resources because, you know, things are pinched right now.
Of course, I'll have to be in the right mood.
Or else I wouldn't do it justice.
After all, I want to do it right.
But you can bet that I'll do it.
Some day for sure.

A Look at Abraham Lincoln

Historian Richard Norton Smith gives a fascinating review:

Washington: They Knew the Man

Historian David McCullough on the greatness of George Washington.

Quote of the Day

Almost by accident, then, America got a very strong presidency - or, rather, an office which any particular president could make strong if he chose. He was much stronger than most kings of the day, rivaled or exceeded only by the 'Great Autocrat," the Tsar of Russia (and in practice stronger than most tsars). He was, and is, the only official elected by the nation as a whole and this fact gave him the moral legitimacy to exercise the huge powers buried in the constitutional thickets. These powers were not explored until Andrew Jackson's time, half a century on, when they astonished and frightened many people; and it is perhaps fortunate that the self-restraint and common sense of George Washington prevented any display of them in the 1790s, when they would certainly have led to protest and constitutional amendment. As it was, the new republic got a combined head of state and head of government entrusted with formidable potential authority.

- Paul Johnson

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Perfect for the Weekend

The trailer for "George Harrison Living in the Material World."

Miscellaneous and Fast

Cultural Offering is collecting views from your desk.
Dave Van Ronk: "He Was a Friend of Mine."
Wally Bock has some weekend imagination igniters.
The trailer for "The Prestige."
Tanmay Vora considers comprehension and meaning.
The trailer for "Fast Five."
Utpal Writes on seven signs of mediocrity.
Stanley Fish attends a conference where people listen to one another.
Thomas Sowell on economic meddling.
The trailer for "House of Flying Daggers."

Art Break: Gerrard

Art Contrarian looks at the work of military illustrator Howard Gerrard.

First Paragraph

My interest in university teaching was initially aroused by the leisure it promised. "Every century has its cushy profession," the English poet Philip Larkin said. "It used to be the church. Now it's academe." Larkin was right. Do the math: assuming one does not teach in the summer - and the vast majority of professors do not - college teaching is roughly a six-or seven-month job, and during those months one generally goes into the office two or three days a week. Not bad, not bad at all.

- From Goodbye, Mr. Chipstein by Joseph Epstein

The Cost of Ignorance

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti reviews Engineering the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk and the Failure of Regulation by Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus. An excerpt:

Friedman and Kraus’s examination of the 2008 financial crisis ends with a broader critique of economic policy in the administrative state. The role of government in the early 21st century is to acknowledge and “solve” the problems identified by public opinion and mass media. But since the world is infinitely complex, the people and their representatives delegate authority to experts in the civil service, whose business at places like the Federal Reserve, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Environmental Protection Agency, and elsewhere is to simplify problems and implement rules. In the final analysis, however, the experts are just as ignorant of the future as the rest of us, and each new rule has unintended consequences that may interact with the other rules in dangerous and unknown ways.

Quote of the Day

It's good to shut up sometimes.

- Marcel Marceau

Friday, February 17, 2012

Effective Communication via Loose Python

Back by popular demand:

Jack, the python got loose again. Don't go in there alone. It takes two to handle him.

- Sign on front door of hunter's isolated cabin in western United States

[Source: Quotable Business by Louis E. Boone ]

Lord of the Immunity

Ann Althouse examines tips on how to win "Survivor."

As We Approach the Weekend: "I Feel Fine"

Hard to beat: The Beatles in concert.

Iatrogenic Government

The tenants in the Harmons’ three rent-controlled units are paying an average 59 percent below market rates. The Harmons would like to reclaim one apartment for a grandchild, but because occupants of two of the units are over 62, the Harmons would have to find the displaced tenant a comparable apartment, at the same or lower rent, in the same neighborhood.

Read the rest of George Will's essay on a rent control case that is long overdue.

"Deshoppers" a.k.a. Crooks

Further back in the line are Natasha and her baby son Louis. Natasha is returning a pashmina, worn recently at a cousin's wedding. She gives a broad grin and a knowing wink to the person behind her, as a refund of $225 is credited to her store credit card. She also receives a goodwill discount voucher of 10% as part of the store's customer loyalty initiative.

Meanwhile, in the store's security office two teenagers who have been apprehended for shop-lifting stand forlornly. But have they really committed a worse crime than the likes of Jayne, Dorothy or Natasha?

No, the customer is not always right. Read this disturbing article by Tamira King and John Balmer at Harvard Business Review.

Apple's "1984" Ad

Some people started going wobbly when that "1984" ad was aired.

The story can be found at Eclecticity's new leadership blog: Leadership Schpleadership.

Stroup on No Nonsense Leadership

You will be infinitely better at what you do – (even, probably, more likely to actually be viewed as a genuine “leader“) if your professional reading shelves have more books on management that were written 40 years ago by Peter Drucker or 80 years ago by Mary Parker Follett than the latest wildly best selling book on leadership by professor this or internationally acclaimed expert that.

Talent Search: Never Heard of Him

I am ashamed to say that it took me years to realize that not every person with major talent in our society is well known.

Despite knowing about writers, artists, and inventors who had extraordinary abilities and yet lived lives of obscurity, my knee-jerk assumption was that merit would eventually be rewarded, if not with wealth then at least with some form of celebrity.

That assumption started to crumble while I was reading a crime novel by Elmore Leonard in the days before he gained his current celebrity status. The high quality of the book was apparent and I was stunned that so many inferior writers were better known. [Although Leonard had achieved a niche reputation as a writer of westerns, it wasn't until the publication of "Glitz" that he began to enter the celebrity mainstream.]

Some may say that Leonard's example goes against my argument because he was eventually recognized but I assert the opposite. What if he'd died earlier? What if "Glitz" had not taken off?

Since that revelation of the obvious, I've gone out of my way to learn about talented people who are on the fringes and who may, or may not, remain there. Many deserve that location but there are more than a few who are either very good or shockingly good.

That search for the unheralded talent pool should not only take place in our cultural lives, but also in our workplaces. In any sizable organization, there are people who have large amounts of unacknowledged and underutilized talent.

They are worth checking out.

Cough Cough

Should scientists be permitted to create killer viruses?

Der Spiegel reports on the latest development:

Fouchier is attracting so much attention because he has created a new organism. And although it is tiny, if it escaped from his laboratory it would claim far more human lives than an exploding nuclear power plant.

Entertainment Break

Back by popular demand: The trailer for "Delicatessen."

Let the Good Times Roll

At The Telegraph, Nigel Tisdall is getting ready for Mardi Gras. An excerpt:

It seems to have been like this for ever. In 1920, when Prohibition arrived and agents were despatched nationwide to assess the severity of the problem, New Orleans was found to have 5,000 bars. While it took an inspector 14 minutes to be offered an illegal drink in New York, here it was just 37 seconds – generously proposed by his taxi-driver.

Diluted Respect

"At last the Dodo said "Everybody has won, and all must have prizes."

- Alice in Wonderland

This will be one of my annual rants: It was a very poor decision to drop the Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday holidays. Each man was extraordinary and deserved a national day of respect.

Bate: "It's got to keep distraction at bay."

What's your system?

Art Break: Part Two of The Hermit's Temptations

Art Contrarian continues his review of how various artists have addressed the temptation of Saint Anthony.

Living Above the Shop

I visited my insurance agent yesterday.

He's been my agent for years and his office has been in a variety of locations. This was my first visit to the latest one and on the street just outside his door I could spot the distinctive Nash Metropolitan that is his guidepost.

The office is in a relatively new building on a charming street that had been an area to be avoided. The bottom floors are businesses and above them are condominiums; in fact, some are connected so you can live in the two floors above your shop. Although that arrangement is common in other cities, it is new to Phoenix and it may do much to keep people in the areas where they work so business locations can double as residential neighborhoods.

Years ago, when I worked in downtown Phoenix, it was well known that the place was deserted by seven in the evening. Once past that hour, you could see a second shift take over - a rough bunch you would not care to meet - and working late was dangerous. I sometimes wondered how much productivity was lost due to people who decided that burning the midnight candle was not worth the potential cost.

Living above the shop has a multitude of advantages.

Dickens: "Making a Lingering Meal...."

At Cultural Offering: Dickens on lawyers. Brutal and insightful.

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For the better part of the last five years I have been living in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. When I first came here, almost thirty years ago, Vallarta was a fishing village of some two thousand souls. There was only one road to the outside world - and it was impassable during the rainy season. I arrived in a small plane, and we had to buzz the cattle off a field outside town before setting down. There was one taxi and one hotel, the Paraiso, which catered to sailors, muleteers and traveling salesmen. It was best to have a room on the top floor - the Paraiso had one toilet for each floor, and they all ran over.

- From An Open Book by John Huston

Quote of the Day

Productivity is a function of attitude, and cost is a function of productivity. So it all comes down to attitude.

- John Charvat

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Music Break: The Commitments

From "The Commitments" - a truly great film - "The Dark End of the Street."


Political Calculations has a great collection of OK Go videos.

Fun and unusual stuff.

What Was Said: A Translation

"I'm fine."
[Meaning: "Leave me alone."]

"The project is on track."
[Meaning: "Leave me alone."]

"We expect to meet the deadline."
[Meaning: "Leave me alone."]

"We've ordered the equipment."
[Meaning: "Leave me alone."]

"Chris assured me it would be done."
[Meaning: "Help!"]


So much of life involves relationships. Which ones need to be:
  • Renewed?
  • Repaired?
  • Improved?
  • Initiated?
  • Avoided?
  • Expanded?
  • Reduced?
  • Reviewed?
  • Ended?

Don't Expect

Don't expect to be clear to others if you aren't clear to yourself. Don't expect loyalty from others if you are not loyal to them. Don't expect people to overlook the gap between your words and your actions. Don't expect to be worthy of respect if you lack self-respect. Don't expect your plans to go smoothly or for people to heed your every whim. Don't expect your team to be passionate when you exhibit indifference. Don't expect people who have many reasons to be unfair to embrace fairness without prompting. Don't expect information to convey wisdom. Don't expect achievements to be noticed. Don't expect success without hardships and hard work. Don't expect people to read your mind. Don't expect gratitude. Don't expect things to remain the same.

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At seven o'clock on a cold April morning we are sitting in Phil's kitchen drinking coffee. There is a wind up, jerking at hanging laundry like an Indian wrestler and meowing around the corners of the building. The sky is gray as a dirty handkerchief. I say, "It'll clear up. It always does. April mornings are very deceptive."

- From I See By My Outfit by Peter S. Beagle

Quote of the Day

There are a lot of people who know the 'smart' way of getting things done, but they also run roughshod over people that they are supposed to be working with. I don't want that.

- General Mark W. Clark

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music Break: The Beauty of Simplicity

From Aaron Copland's "Our Town."

Miscellaneous and Fast

The trailer for "The Man on the Train."
Cultural Offering: State tax climates.
The trailer for "Shakespeare in Love."
Althouse: The school that went too far.
The trailer for "The Agony and The Ecstasy."
The trailer for "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid."
The trailer for "Manhattan Murder Mystery."
The Happiness Project examines getting to bed on time.

Worth Frequent Review

How many of your bad habits are disguised as solutions to other problems?

Team Management Book

Book review in pipeline:

Who's in the Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them by Bob Frisch

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The Quality of Life Task Force: four sweatshirts in a bogus taxi set up on the corner of Clinton Street alongside the Williamsburg Bridge off-ramp to profile the incoming salmon run; their mantra: Dope, guns, overtime; their motto: Everyone's got something to lose.

- From Lush Life by Richard Price

Promotion Checklist

  1. Performing your current job very well.
  2. Letting others know how well you perform your job.
  3. Having a detailed knowledge of the selection process.
  4. Flawlessly preparing all of the appropriate application materials.
  5. Not making unnecessary enemies.
  6. Knowing who will make the final decision.
  7. Knowing your likely competitors and how they compare to you.
  8. Knowing how the incumbent has been regarded.
  9. Knowing what the decision maker wants maintained.
  10. Knowing what the decision maker wants changed.
  11. Having a well-placed friend or two prepared to put in a discreet word for you.
  12. Being ready to handle the job.
  13. Looking and acting the part.
  14. Preparing for the interview.
  15. Undergoing a mock interview.
  16. Knowing your weaknesses and strengths.
  17. Knowing why you want the job.
  18. Getting your thoughts organized and yourself in the proper frame of mind.
  19. Avoiding overstatements.
  20. Having a concise statement of what you can do for them and why they should hire you.
  21. Wanting it without wanting it too much.

Protecting Good Ideas

"That's a very good idea."

"So should I take it to the committee?"

"I'd sooner push it into traffic. This is not the sort of idea one takes directly to a committee."

"Why not?"

"Because the members will either strangle it or make so many modifications that what once was a promising proposal will be unrecognizable after it is dropped by their sharp little claws."

"Other items go to committee."

"Those items are durable. They can be thumped, pierced, and kicked without serious damage. Your idea is fragile. It may have to be introduced in segments. It might be necessary to develop a strategy to get the committee to rule out all of the characteristics of approaches that are not your idea, so that all that remains is to adopt your idea. By then, it will be their idea. Remember the old line: 'No one argues against their own data.'"

"That may take time."

"True, but it is more promising than trying to revive a shattered idea. Things will probably move much more quickly than you imagine."

"So what's the first step?"


Quote of the Day

When a leader arrives, people are full of panic, uncertain what to do and defeatist about the future. When the authentic leader has spoken, they have been given back their courage.

- William Rees-Mogg

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Music Break

Back by popular demand: Frank Sinatra, "Just The Way You Look Tonight."

"Outrageous History"

This place has always been majestic, awe-inspiring and dangerous.

The people who came here, and continue to arrive, are strivers, connivers and survivors. What follows are some of the outrageous characters who made Arizona what it is today.

The Unbeaten Path to the Better Mousetrap

An "old lawyer in a very small firm" is absolutely correct when it comes to the virtues of WordPerfect.

I started using Word after using WordPerfect for years. Today, despite additional years of using Word almost exclusively, my conclusion is that WordPerfect is greatly superior due to its ease of use, especially by those of us who do not want to spend hours with a technical manual. If our clients had not switched to Word, we'd still be using it.

Valentine Music

Elvis sings "Love Me Tender" on The Ed Sullivan Show.

When History Tales Were on Prime Time

Look at this listing of some television shows that ran from 1949 to 1970:

26 Men, Adventures of Jim Bowie, Adventures of Kit Carson, The Alaskans, Annie Oakley, Bat Masterson, The Big Valley, Black Saddle, Bonanza, Boots and Saddles, Branded, Brave Eagle, Broken Arrow, Bronco, Buckskin, Buffalo Bill Jr., The Californians, Casey Jones, Cheyenne, Cimarron City, Cimarron Strip, The Cisco Kid, Colt 45, Custer, Dakotas, Davy Crockett, Death Valley Days, Deputy, Dundee and the Culhane, Frontier Doctor, Fury, Gene Autry, The Gray Ghost, Guns of Will Sonnett, Gunslinger, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, High Chapparal, Hondo, Hopalong Cassidy, Iron Horse, Johnny Ringo, Judge Roy Bean, Klondike, Lancer, Laramie, Laredo, Lawman, Law of the Plainsman, Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Loner, The Lone Ranger, Mackenzie's Raiders, Maverick, Men from Shiloh, Northwest Passage, Range Rider, Rawhide, Sgt Preston of the Yukon, Sheriff of Cochise, Stagecoach West, Steve Donovan - Western Marshal, The Rebel, Restless Gun, The Rifleman, Rin Tin Tin, Riverboat, Road West, Roy Rogers, Rough Riders, Stoney Burke, Sugarfoot, The Swamp Fox, Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers, Tales of the Texas Rangers, Tales of Wells Fargo, Tate, Temple Houston, Texas John Slaughter, Tombstone Territory, Trackdown, Union Pacific, The Virginian, Wagon Train, Wanted Dead or Alive, Wild Bill Hickok, Wild Wild West, Wichita Town, Yancy Derringer, Zorro.

I bet that many of you grew up watching at least seven of those shows. Setting aside the issue of historical accuracy, there was a lot of history on prime time in those days.

It is a shame that we've moved so far away from those subjects.