Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Paragraph

The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do. While they thundered about frantically above, Holston took his time, each step methodical and ponderous, as he wound his way around and around the spiral staircase, old boots ringing out on metal treads.

- From Wool by Hugh Howey

Remembering Travis Edmonson

Back by popular demand: His signature song.

I Smell Oscar

The trailer for "Nazis on the Moon."

The Hidden Workplace Barrier: Inertia

Amid all of the talk about change, it would help to acknowledge the power of inertia. Getting some organizations to change requires significant effort, even if a crisis is looming. What drives some people to hustle causes others to hunker down and all of your brilliant exhortations will be feeble prods.

You fight inertia by applying constant pressure: clear goals, monitoring mechanisms, frequent follow-up, and a reward system that favors forward movement. Without those, the slugs will freeze in place and wait for you to go away. The forces of inertia have enormous staying power and they count on your impatience.

Interior Design Update: Sunflower Seeds Required

You have to like a lawyer who has cages of large noisy birds in his waiting room.

Nanny Bloomberg

Proposed New York City Slogan: Because We Know Better.

After all, why let people make their own decisions?

Old Blue

I had an old computer and his name was Blue. Not really, but my computer is starting to resemble an old dog. Gets up slowly, occasionally wanders off,  and barks at invisible foes.

Bear with me.

Quote of the Day

The price of greatness is responsibility.

- Winston Churchill

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

Eclecticity: Where does he find this stuff?
Thomas Sowell on talking to young people about meaningful work.
The trailer for "It Happened Here."
Yes, Herman Wouk is still with us.
Elvis Presley: "Don't Be Cruel."
The trailer for "Wilde."
Liz Handlin: Top 10 Things Learned as an Entrepreneur.
The Hammock Papers with advice worth taking.

Text-Messaging a Driver Just Before a Crash

FutureLawyer gives an update on the case.

Music Break: Stones, 1964

A video of The Rolling Stones in concert in 1964. Reminds me of the audiences at my management workshops.

Learning from the Positive

Cultural Offering examines the importance of studying what went right. An excerpt:

The receptionist who handles each caller with just the right amount of niceness and who seems to magically know where everyone is at all times - in order to help.  Do we understand how she does this?

The salesman who gets the sale by regularly helping customers - and prospective customers.  Does she sell more than the other guys and how?

The executive that has a very good sense of situations and people.  Has that been captured?  Can it be?

Boasting About Incompetence

Have you ever met managers who boast about behavior which, in the minds of most observers, reveals a serious level of incompetence? I have frequently witnessed such confessions and have usually wondered about the types of behavior are not being revealed. (As the old line goes, "If this is how they act in the green wood, how will they act in the dry?"]

In most cases, the "boasting" concerns a dismissal of the so-called soft skills. "I don't pussyfoot around" and "I tell them I'm not interested in their ideas" are examples. In too many instances, the attitude is overlooked by an upper management that is conflict-adverse. The other execs shake their heads and move on.

I recall, however, the wise words of a public works executive: "We wouldn't let people abuse our machinery. Why would we let them abuse our people?"

Art Break: Alvarez

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Mabel Alvarez.

Escaping the Fog

Some days, the large tasks can overwhelm. You stare at the total workload and enter a melancholic fog. In my experience, the only way out is to focus on the completion of small tasks. You run off that document, prepare that file, and identify the first task of the project itself. Do that and then another and another. Stick to small things. Work slowly, with deliberation. The fog may not lift entirely but it will lift.

As a zen saying goes: When you are happy, sweep. When you are unhappy, sweep.

Quote of the Day

He tried to remember in what year he had first heard mention of Big Brother. He thought it must have been at some time in the Sixties.

- From 1984 by George Orwell

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Twitter: Sainsbury's Apology with Style

Is this the best corporate apology ever posted on Twitter?


Video of some children playing on a Marine Corps base. [HT: Lou Rodarte]

Academic Philosophers and the Holocaust

Historian Michael Burleigh writing in Moral Combat: A History of World War II:

Businessmen, peasants, monks, nuns, and priests did a great deal more rescuing [of Jews during the Holocaust] than academic philosophers, of whom history has recorded not a single example of altruism in this era, although they do a lot of writing on these subjects.

The Compliment

Take a few minutes today and listen to Rob Long describe how he handled a compliment from an executive. Great stuff.

Odious Comparisons

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project considers the effect that comparisons have on happiness. Dennis Prager once observed that if you assume others are happier, that only means you don't know them well enough. I've caught myself envying other people and yet I would not trade positions with them for a moment.

Envy is truly one of the greatest enemies of happiness.

Minor League Appeal

There is a special appeal to minor league baseball. The games are pleasant, less-commercial and certainly less-expensive events and you can spot future major league stars.

An added benefit: The teams often sport unusual names such as the  Toledo Mud Hens and the Charleston RiverDogs.

Alas, the Phoenix Firebirds are no more.

The Fire Down Below

A Simple, Village Undertaker points to the unusual story of Centralia, Pennsylvania where the fire that started years ago is still burning.

Quote of the Day

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

- Mark Twain

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Combat Historian's Story

At American Heritage magazine, the extraordinary recollections of historian James MacGregor Burns on his experiences with American troops in the Pacific during World War II. An excerpt:

It was late that afternoon when I left Love’s outfit to return to my own command post. No jeeps were negotiating that road, so I had to walk. The enemy often operated effectively behind our front lines at night, so after dark most soldiers hunkered down. An eerie twilight descended as I trudged along. Shortly I spied the corpses of hundreds of Japanese killed by our naval gunfire on this open ridge. A sudden movement caught my eye. I swung my gun around and then stopped short. It was the flies. Many thousands of insects boiled up in unison: they had been so congested that they replicated what they had covered. Outlines of helmets, guns, bayonets, and boots shot into the air as if in an animated horror cartoon.

Random Thoughts

Acts of omission can be as offensive as those of commission. In elementary schools, Trust, Courage, and Respect should be given more attention than Sustainability. An ally who does nothing can be as dangerous as an adversary who does everything. To reveal the quality of leadership in an organization, give it either too many resources or too few. Automatic benefits, like automatic withdrawals, are seldom noticed. Look at the components and then look at the spirit. In much of life, we may grapple with problems for which there is no word. The best leaders have no single style but their followers are pointed in a clear direction. Impatience is both a virtue and a vice and it greatly affects careers. Beware of excuses that linger or are well-tailored.

The Journey Home

Back by request: A scene from "Taking Chance."

Final Salutes

It is easy to forget that we are a nation at war. Here are some haunting photos and stories.

[HT: Instapundit]

Quote of the Day - Memorial Day

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

- From The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Evening

An Anonymous 4 CD is playing in the background. Trash bags are scattered around my home office. I'm sorting through files and project folders in an attempt to chop back the jungle. Some important meetings are coming and although I think I'm ready for them, "think" is not good enough. I'm also formulating a management theory that I really like and enthusiasm causes old scars to itch. My wife and I were going to go to a movie today but the selections were uninspiring so - being party animals - we had coffee on the patio and listened to the birds. Right now, I hear a couple of management books whispering my name.

Memorial Day is tomorrow. Perhaps that has brought this weekend's reflective mood. Pray for people and count your blessings.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

Elvis Presley on stage in Tupelo in 1956.
The Hermit Kingdom: An interview with the first man to escape from a North Korean prison.
The trailer for "Bernie."
At the Vatican: The butler did it.
CoolTools: For those in need of a grass trimmer.
Spiegel: Poland as a powerhouse.
The trailer for "Red River."

I Heart Bureaucratic Trolls

Illustration Art, an interesting account of what happened to the "I Love New York" design before and after the 9/11 attacks.

Fred Smith's Advice

At Chief Executive, you can read FedEx CEO Fred Smith's top five insights. Here's one:

Make reputational intelligence a priority: 
Your reputation is different from your brand. Smith notes that FedEx sells trust (e.g. the promise that medical equipment will make it to important destinations) and not just package delivery. You need to know what your brand is really about and emphasize it.

Facebook Revolution?

So how’s that old Arab Spring going? You remember — the “Facebook Revolution.” As I write, they’re counting the votes in Egypt’s presidential election, so by the time you read this the pecking order may have changed somewhat. But currently in first place is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, who in an inspiring stump speech before the students of Cairo University the other night told them, “Death in the name of Allah is our goal.”

Read the rest of Mark Steyn on the news from Egypt.

Saving Private Ryan: Creating the Soundtrack

An interview with John Williams about the scoring of the soundtrack. 

Catching History

Back by popular demand: A ride through the streets of Barcelona in 1908.

Those Whom "We Love But See No Longer"

Wally Bock has some thoughts on Memorial Day.

Quote of the Day

Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice.

- Samuel Johnson

Friday, May 25, 2012

Berlin: As Time Goes By

What a difference the passage of time and a whole lot of events can make. Compare and contrast these short films of Berlin in:


Piano Extravaganza

In an arrangement for eight pianos: The Stars and Stripes Forever Suite.

Career Advice: The Hazards of Following Your Passion

The problem is that "do what you love" is incomplete advice, and sometimes misleading. Marty Nemko, a career coach and author in Oakland, Calif., says he often deals with clients who pursued a passion, only to find disappointment or financial disaster—because they went into it blinded by that love.

Read the rest of Tom McNichol's article here.

Miscellaneous and Fast

FutureLawyer on sounding like a bargain.
Just out: The ASTD Management Development Handbook.
Art Contrarian: Dissent on WPA art.
Cab Calloway: "Minnie the Moocher."
Everyone can speak Italian.
Italian film noir: Milano Calibro 9 dance scene.
Ottorino Respighi: "The Flight into Egypt."
The Telegraph: The top 10 universities for law.

The Friday Catch-Up

Books to read. Workshops to schedule. Work on a client project. A speech to prepare. Computer problems to resolve. [Mr. IBM ThinkPad has problems. A penny for the old guy.]

Finding Your Thoughts in a Messy World

It is important to remember that this is not an ordered world.

Policies conflict. Experts disagree. Practices are often illogical. Priorities are unclear. Those who act as if they know what they are doing frequently do not and the most mistaken are usually wrong at the top of their lungs. So why would you assume that others can read your mind and sense your views when you're not sure about them yourself?

We need to explore via communication because we may not know what we are after until we have talked a bit about it. This is messy and requires trust for if we have to walk on eggshells around one another, we'll lose the candor needed for exploration.

Quote of the Day

Repartee: What a person thinks of after he becomes a departee.

- Dan Bennett

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Paragraph

He was, they said, born to be a warrior. He had sprung from his mother's womb a soldier, his uncle said, and when the war came he left off his plans to go from Princeton to the Inns of Court in London for law studies, and instead raised a troop of cavalry.

- From Lee and Grant by Gene Smith

Still Waiting

"You say that he's an evil and hateful person. I find that odd because I follow current affairs quite a bit and I've never seen any evidence of that."

"You haven't? That's amazing. How can you say that?"

"I can say it because I've seen no evidence of anything that is evil or hateful. Give me some examples."

"Oh, wow. There are so many."

"That's fine. Just give me one."

"I can't believe you like that guy. Everyone knows he's a bastard."

"I'm waiting for your example."

"Well, I can't think of a specific one right now, but believe me, they're numerous."

Music for Thursday

Cultural Offering has an eclectic list. [But no Slim Whitman or Carmen Lombardo.]

Nonjudgmentalism and the Remittance Men

Writing in City Journal, Clark Whelton looks at Charles Murray's new book. An excerpt:

It’s startling to see “bums”—a word rarely heard now outside the world of baseball—in cold print. But that’s just Murray’s point: “We need to drop our nonjudgmentalism.” If men of disreputable conduct are treated respectfully, Murray says, they will never abandon their bad habits.

Bombers Over the Desert

Crank up the sound and watch the video of World War II bombers over Arizona.

[HT: Bill Wade]

Negligent Texting?

Are you liable if you send a text message to a distracted driver and that distraction causes an accident?

has word of a case that could expand/explode the concept of proximate cause.

Art Break: Breitner

Art Contrarian looks at the work of George Hendrik Breitner.

Modest Proposal for Car Radio Development

At the risk of appearing to be a complete geezer, let me rant about a minor flashback that happened yesterday. Some of you will recall the old car radios that had push buttons. If you liked a particular radio station and wanted to save that setting, all you had to do was to pull out the button slightly and then push it back in. Mission accomplished. Station set. It didn't matter whether you were driving a Dodge or a Buick, go through that routine and you had a set station.

Fast-forward to today's car radios. Let us stipulate their superior sound and the ability to pick up transmissions from Mars. I have two cars and cannot set the stations on either without consulting the owner's manual. Each has different instructions and neither set is as simple as the old pull-out, push-in concept. For those of us who don't want to rummage through the glove box to preserve a station, this is a reminder that new is not always improved. Aargh.

Thanks. I feel better now.

Quote of the Day

If you deliberately set out to be less than you are capable, you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life.

- Abraham Maslow

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Harvard Alum Gives an Update

Well, I suppose he had time to write.

First Paragraph

"I am not a consensus politician..." Margaret Thatcher said, in what was to become her most remembered statement. "I'm a conviction politician." The self-designation stuck: "conviction politics" became the brand mark of her style, as well known as Harold Wilson's belief that "ten days is a long time in politics" or Harold Macmillan's nonchalant shrugging off of a Cabinet crisis as a "little local difficulty." In these ways do politicians type-cast themselves.

- From Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution: The Ending of the Socialist Era by Peter Jenkins

Jobs on Creativity

Today, Anderson Layman's Blog has a bunch of thought-provoking posts on creativity.

This comment by Steve Jobs is just one of them.

Tablet Talk from FutureLawyer

What sort of tablet does the FutureLawyer carry?

He goes into detail here.

I've carefully jotted down his advice on the wax tablet I carry around. Upon his judgment I rely.

Deciding About Greece

EconoMonitor has the Greek Exit Decision Tree.

The Distracted Executive

I read an account of an American executive who was placed in a position to monitor a potential crisis in Europe. A capable man, he brought strong opinions to his job, but none in particular about the main topic. As matters grew worse, his opinions began to develop to the point where they became fairly sophisticated and he was able to catch items some more experienced hands missed. His problem was that he became sidetracked with relatively minor operational matters that pushed his "hot buttons" and kept mentioning those in his reports to headquarters. Not only did he make enemies with his trivial observations, he also eroded the effectiveness of his reports on the truly important issues. In his case, the ancillary threatened to become the main focus.

Fortunately, events soon dragged him back to the right priorities. The bad news is that shift came in the form of the crisis he was appointed to avoid. I wonder if he could have been more successful had he chosen to overlook the irritating but minor items and dedicate his attention to the big picture.

Alarm Bells

Alarm bells should start ringing whenever:
  • A presenter gets vague on a topic that should be clear. 
  • A commitment is now described as an expectation. 
  • Someone says, "To be perfectly honest...." 
  • You hear a hasty mention of a problem sandwiched between lengthy descriptions of positive conditions. 
  • There is undue delay on actions that should be simple. 
  • Team members are using different definitions. 
  • You are given limited options.
  • An arbitrary deadline is set.
  • You quickly spot a flaw in reasoning.
  • There has been limited coordination.
  • Someone declares there is no downside.

Quote of the Day

If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, "I have a solution to the Middle East problem," and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?

- Roger Ailes

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

Music break: "The Moldau."
Trailer: "For Greater Glory."
Body language: Loren and Mansfield.
Trailer: "The Angels' Share."


We are a very bright bunch in this organization. The total number of advanced degrees and awards would impress you, I'm sure, and the values of the leadership team are top-notch. We have programs that have been carefully vetted and we strive for diversity, sustainability and other admirable goals. So when we conclude that a particular course of action is a good business practice, you can trust that it is a highly ethical one as well.

After all, you just don't find people of this caliber doing shabby things, do you?

The Short Broom

Years ago, I read about a village in Asia where the residents used short brooms that required people to hunch over to sweep and which produced back problems. When an outsider asked why they didn't use longer broom handles, their response boiled down to "These are the brooms we've always used."

The story illustrates several things, including the importance of asking the right questions. Matters were handled a certain way because no one questioned the practice and people assumed there was a good reason behind it. I saw this recently with an organization that was carefully following a course of action that had no rational basis to exist. It was just sort of "there" and by being there it gained automatic deference.

How many short brooms are in your organization?


Eclecticity ("Where does he find that stuff?") has a video of some cats re-enacting the average work day.

The Wild Workplace

Looking back over my career (with my tongue firmly in cheek), I think I've encountered:
  • 7 lions
  • 10 jackals
  • 5 elephants
  • 4 snakes
  • 2 sharks
  • 6 badgers
  • 3 foxes
  • 2 eagles
  • 2 moles
  • 8 bears
  • 6 hummingbirds
  • and numerous sloths and rats as well as a few gnats.
Some individuals, however, have switched from one species to another; occasionally going back and forth. Remember the description of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the lion and the fox? That was a high compliment.

Quote of the Day

Perfection is such a nuisance that I often regret having cured myself of using tobacco.

- Emile Zola

Monday, May 21, 2012

First Paragraph

Terror once had a precise home address. It could be found at 2 Malaya Lubyanka Street, a gloomy path behind Moscow's Dzerzhinsky Square, as if the Lubyanka Prison were merely some sort of boardinghouse or single-room occupancy hotel, full of "guests" occupying rooms according to the degree of interest aroused in the building's landlord, the KGB. The once elegant square was open to the public, but Muscovites habitually went out of their way to shun it; those waiting for word of the building's prisoners shuffled in silence, "lips blue from the cold," beneath a huge black statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, patron saint of secret policemen.

- From Retreat from the Finland Station by Kenneth Murphy

Too Hip for Doors

At Unhappy HipstersThe homeowners made a pact to never mention the mornings spent tapping walls trying to find the exit door.

Horse Sense Update

Have you ever found yourself recalling old sayings while looking at various management practices?

One bit of folk wisdom that frequently comes to mind in my consulting practice is that it does no good to shut the barn door after the horse has escaped. [I can do a lot of neat things but so far the ability to rewind history has eluded me.] Think of how often problems get addressed too late.

Art Break: The Skyscraper Artist

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Colin Campbell Cooper.

Pen Power

Paul Theroux on how you write affects how well you write. An excerpt:

Writing by hand is part of my creative process. The speed at which I write with a pen seems to be the speed at which my imagination finds the best forms of words. A long-ago introduction to the Paris Review Interviews said that authors spoke of pens and rewriting with such passion that it seemed that "writing is one of the plastic arts." I agree with this metaphor of sculpting. I was gratified to read in a Newsweek piece about intelligence last January, that "brain scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing" and "it's easier to remember something once you've written it down on paper."

Advice via Drive-Through Window

I could have given them a quick answer but they might not have trusted that. They wanted to make sure that I'd made sure and so it was important to go through a process. This was not simply for show because my fast answers are not always the right ones and the process helps me think matters through. Sometimes the result is close to my initial reaction and yet often there is a twist that elevates the caliber of the solution. Minor issues may be spotted that are not-so-minor if certain circumstances arise.

That's why we don't have drive-through windows for medical exams or management consulting.

Quote of the Day

The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.

- Raymond Duncan

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fast Company's 100 Most Creative

Here's Fast Company's list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.

Hmm. Yet another list to ponder

Law Firm Ads: That Crucial First Impression

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a collection of ads for law firms.

Look for the Silver Lining

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's inspirational message to the new college grads.


The World's Greatest PowerPoint Slide

Bob Frisch explains why it flopped

[BTW: I highly recommend his book,
Who's In the Room?]

Sci-Fi Update

The trailer for the upcoming film, Prometheus.

Portugal: The Movement of Talent

Anyone who recalls Portugal's bloody colonial wars may find this hard to believe. An excerpt from Der Spiegel:

"For every shipwreck in Portugal, there is a lifebuoy in Angola. Here a professional desert, there an oasis," raves the Lisbon weekly magazine Visão. Since the end of the four-decades-long war, Angola has seen frenetic rebuilding. Roads, railways, airports, housing, schools and hospitals need to be built. But the country also needs help organizing its electricity and water supply, developing Internet access and revamping the agricultural sector.

Cooking: Gourmet Gringo

Gourmet Gringo

Full disclosure: Years ago, I served as the literary agent for this marvelous cookbook. It is not Tex-Mex or New Mexican style, but instead has recipes for the Mexican food associated with the Arizona-Mexico border area. The author, the late Mari Meyers, was a good friend and a serious traveler who loved Mexico and who searched for great recipes that had easily-found ingredients. I was thinking of her hard work just the other day and how she personally prepared each dish featured in the book in order to make sure that all of the recipes were accurate.

Gourmet Gringo
is part of her legacy.

Facebook Guinea Pigs

Imagine approaching your teenage daughter ten years ago with the following suggestion: “Honey, let’s go buy some poster board and paste a picture of you on it. Then we can add some photos of you with your friends, and you can make a list of places you like to go, the food you enjoy, and all sorts of other fun facts about you. Then we’ll hang the board in the hallway at your school, and your friends can write their comments on it.” I don’t know what her exact reply would have been, but it would likely have been something akin to, “Are you nuts, Dad? That’s all personal stuff! I don’t want just anybody to be able to look at it!”

Read the rest of Pat Sajak's post here.

Accent Test

I took the accent test at Eclecticity. My accent? The West. No surprise.

Performance Evaluation

How often have you seen this?

People Skills: Unsatisfactory

Team Building Skills: Unsatisfactory
Employee Development: Unsatisfactory
Productivity: Exceeds Standards

Overall Rating: Meets Standards

A Habit of Learning

Wally Bock, in his weekend imagination igniters, recalls a meeting with Peter Drucker. The point about learning reminds me of a person I met who studied a different country every year. By the time of our meeting, he'd covered an impressive number.

Not a bad practice.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

"Before the Rain"
"The Man Who Fell to Earth"
"Remember Me"
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
"Mister Johnson"
"Everybody's Fine"
"La Vie En Rose"
"My Little Chickadee"

From Small to Huge

Cultural Offering has a fascinating scale of the universe. I'm embarrassed at how many of the items I didn't know.  

Quote of the Day

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

- Maya Angelou

Friday, May 18, 2012

Personality Test

At Anderson Layman's Blog, the world's quickest personality test.

Apparently, I'm very creative. I wonder what the hokey pokey reveals.

First Paragraph

It was common for American expatriates to visit the U.S. consulate in Berlin, but not in the condition exhibited by the man who arrived there on Thursday, June 29, 1933. He was Joseph Schachno, thirty-one years old, a physician from New York who until recently had been practicing medicine in a suburb of Berlin. Now he stood naked in one of the curtained examination rooms on the first floor of the consulate where on more routine days a public health surgeon would examine visa applicants seeking to immigrate to the United States. The skin had been flayed from much of his body.

- From In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

How to Create a Boring Meeting

Crank up the heat in the room. Make sure the chairs are uncomfortable. Dim the lights. Allow no refreshments other than, perhaps, a container of lukewarm water. Don't have enough cups. Have an unclear goal or, better yet, a boring one. Speak slowly in a monotone. For the two people who may not have heard it, repeat Ed's story about the fishing trip that started in Helena and wound up in Tampa. Use lots of jargon. Restate what's already been said whenever anyone strolls in late. Let people ramble. Use at least 50 PowerPoint slides. Distribute copies of all of them before you start. Announce that there will be a break in two hours. Give the history of every related topic. Tell them you're saving the important stuff for the end.

E-Mail: Off into the Cosmos

If you've ever wondered what happens when you click "Send" on your e-mail and how secure that process is, FutureLawyer and Google have some thoughts.

You Know You've Been Blindsided When...

  1. An ally announces a major change of position shortly before or during an important meeting.
  2. It is evident that there was a related meeting before the meeting and you weren't invited. 
  3. Someone has been sitting on vital information that is revealed at the meeting.
  4. A research report casually dismisses your position without getting your rebuttal.

Info: Digging Deeper

At Forbes, Paul Magnone has six questions to ask for real insight. Here's one of them:

What issue will you clarify to truly move your business forward?

Questioning Dark Matter

A huge "structure" of satellite galaxies and star clusters has been found wheeling around the Milky Way, according to a new study.
The discovery surprised scientists, in part because the structure might spell trouble for theories of dark matter, the mysterious, invisible substance that's thought to make up about 23 percent of the mass in the universe.

Read the rest of the National Geographic post here.

The Riley Affair

Writing in Reason, Cathy Young looks at the firing of Naomi Schaefer Riley. An excerpt:

It was a shot heard 'round the blogosphere. Riley was denounced as a purveyor of hate speech. Sixteen Northwestern black studies faculty members joined 
a guest post on Brainstorm lambasting her comments as "cowardly, uninformed, irresponsible, repugnant, and contrary to the mission of higher education."

Innovation: Edison's Muckers

Thomas Edison received his first patent, for a vote counter, in 1868. He invented a stock ticker and a quadruplex telegraph. He set up companies to manufacture and sell them. By 1877 he'd earned $40,000 from his inventions, a bit over a quarter of a million in today's dollars. He used the money to set up an "Invention Factory" that he hoped would turn out a small invention every week and two big inventions a year.

Read the rest of Wally Bock's post on innovation here.

Fiddling Around

Rather than diligently preparing blog posts and other material, I took some time off last night and watched "Fiddler on the Roof." I'd forgotten how good it is and the film was a nice respite from preparing marketing messages to HR directors and lawyers. Nonetheless, it has its sad parts and I started wondering which films are unadulterated pick-me-ups. If you were to pick three films to boost your mood, what would they be?

Some quick nominees:

  1. Get Shorty
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. Michael (with John Travolta)

Quote of the Day

And God created the organization and gave it dominion over man.

- Peter Townsend

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

Tanmay Vora on the importance of showing people the results.
Coffee drinkers live longer. [At least until the next study.]
R.I.P.: Carlos Fuentes.
The trailer for the new version of "Dallas."
Nanny state update: Those scary vending machines.
Paleofuture: The monument to electricity.
The trailer for "The Cardinal."
Eclecticity: Where does he find this stuff?
The trailer for "Potiche."
Andrew Ferguson: The new phrenology.
Steven Pressfield on the hero's journey in myth.

First Paragraph

His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze. Grace Cromwell hovers in thin air. She is silent when she takes her prey, silent as she glides to his fist. But the sounds she makes then, the rustle of feathers and the creak, the sigh and riffle of pinion, the small cluck-cluck from her throat, these are sounds of recognition, intimate, daughterly, almost disapproving. Her breast is gore-streaked and flesh clings to her claws.

- From Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

E-Mail: A Little Sugar

I'm not suggesting that e-mail messages be gushing. Smile buttons are not desirable. But it is easy to find e-mail messages that would benefit from a tad more warmth; indeed, a friendlier tone. People are busy. That's a given. E-mail, by its very name, implies speed and when we are in a hurry, certain things are omitted. Sometimes, direct and to the point works very well. There are many occasions, however, when the power and effectiveness of the message would be enhanced by the addition of some sweetness or gentleness.

I recall an e-mail from a very kind woman who was writing about a special event. Truth be known, she covered all of the essential points. What she left out was the human connection; some mention of the reason why the recipients should give a damn and why their attendance was important. Was that technically necessary? No. Would it have upgraded her note from a B to an A? Absolutely.

Mexican Food as Melting Pot

Back home, my friends did not believe that a tater tot burrito could exist. When I showed them proof online, out came jeremiads about inauthenticity, about how I was a traitor for patronizing a Mexican chain that got its start in Wyoming, about how the avaricious gabachos had once again usurped our holy cuisine and corrupted it to fit their crude palates.
Read the rest of Gustavo Arrellano's Reason article here.

A Day of Mixture

There are people to call and notes to write. Meetings need to be set and held. Matters, in short, need to be placed in or nudged along the pipeline, but there is also the necessity to think. That doesn't require a mountain top. At the unlikeliest of times, a thought may arrive and you'd better jot it down before it flits away.

We are being, thinking, and acting - the Army's elements of leadership are Be, Know, Do - and of course they often overlap. Part of the process is understanding which element is most likely to be overdone and which may underdone. We need the right mixture.

Quote of the Day

It's not about your passion. I know people who are passionately incompetent.

- Larry Winget

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The air conditioning is out at my house in Phoenix. The repairman is late. All subliminal efforts (Little River Band) are being applied. I may sleep in the yard tonight.

Update: Playing on loop on my computer.

Update: Can it be fixed? Will I be spared another lapse into unconsciousness?

Bipartisan Humor

As exhibited by Governor Christie and Mayor Booker.

Talking with Your Hands

How the Italians make hand gestures an art form:
Part One
Part Two

Common Workplace Activities

Reading to the deaf. Juggling on the street corner. Sweeping back the waves. Asserting that a cat is a cow. Pleasing a madman. Writing fiction. Seizing territory. Rationalizing the irrational. Pretending to act. Consulting high priests. Outsourcing wisdom. Getting fingerprints. Inventing titles. Searching for a magic button.

Losing Money is a Crime?

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog on the J.P. Morgan case. An excerpt:

Should investigators even bother? asks Yale Law Professor Jonathan Macey, in an op/ed in today‘s WSJ.
“We appear to be on the verge of making it a crime for a business to lose money,” he writes, adding that bank’s losses should only concern “J.P. Morgan stockholders and a few top executives and traders who will lose their bonuses or their jobs in the wake of this teapot tempest.” And it shouldn’t even concern shareholders that much, he adds, considering J.P. Morgan still had $127 billion in equity after the loss.

Reading, Writing, and Rewards

Nicholas Bate, who should be a daily read, has the grid on reading and writing.

Quote of the Day

Character is destiny.

- Heraclitus

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:
"Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure"
"Get the Gringo"
"The Comedy of Terrors"
"The Appaloosa"
"The Counterfeiters"

The Importance of a Healthy Temperament

I've known and studied leaders who were brilliant but abrasive, kind but egotistical, and charismatic but devoid of introspection. My conclusion: A stable and positive temperament is one of the finest qualities any leader can bring to a position. It is not a solid requirement, it should tip the scales.

You want someone who does not believe the public relations bosh and who combines insightful decisiveness with a sense of humility. The humility is important because a sure sign of danger is when the leader tries to claim credit for far too much and when there are too many "I"s in too many speeches. That danger is tripled when no one in the inner circle is willing to speak frankly to the Person of the Hour.

I like the story about the brutally candid assessment that Sam Rayburn gave to Harry Truman shortly after Truman became president. Rayburn said, "The special interests and the sycophants will come sliding in and tell you you're the greatest man alive - but you know and I know you ain't."

That line should be taped in the desk drawer of every chief executive.

Top Majors for 2022

Writing in Forbes, Alex Knapp has thoughts on the top majors for the class of 2022. An excerpt:

In the meantime, as more and more countries get richer, they demand higher-priced, better tasting foods that in turn put even more pressure on a straining  agricultural system. This will lead to the rise of Agricultural Engineering – a profession focused on developing better and more sustainable ways to grow food to meet the needs of the world. Just avoid working for the Soylent Corporation after you graduate.

Great Job Titles

Anderson Layman's Blog has just the word for your next business card.

10 Ways People Say No

  1. No.
  2. Forget about it.
  3. If you get everybody on board I'll back it.
  4. The committee will want to tweak it.
  5. We've never done that before.
  6. That is very creative.
  7. Did I tell you what happened when they tried that seven years ago?
  8. It is very bold. Perhaps a little too bold.
  9. Let me play Devil's Advocate.
  10. Do you mind if we postpone it for a few weeks?

Quote of the Day

Whatever you may be sure of, be sure of this - that you are dreadfully like other people.

- James Russell Lowell