Tuesday, July 31, 2012

First Paragraph

The demitasse cup of thick, sludgy espresso stopped midway between the saucer and Patrick Fenton's slightly parted lips. His arm froze and he felt cold; as if beads of fever-sweat covered his forehead. He stared past his luncheon companions, across the tiny French restaurant, through the front window that faced onto East 56th Street, eyes widened; as the old man strode by outside.

- From The Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Harlan Ellison

Management Question: Communication

Why are you talking to everyone about the performance problem except the person who has it?

Doing His Part in London

Dave Barry is covering the Olympics:

In addition to beer, Olympic Park also has sporting events, including one I went to see called “team handball.” You may never have heard of team handball, but it happens to be a sport played around the world by an estimated total of — believe it or not — nearly 23 people. Sometimes I suspect that when the players from one nation — let’s say Spain — finish their match, they run off the court, change uniforms, and run back onto the court as the French team.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/31/2923121/dave-barry-i-did-my-part-to-help.html#storylink=cpy

Damaged Goods

The man recalled a significant setback in his life.

He said that although it could still, on occasion, hurt, much like an old knee injury might act up with changes in the weather, it had been a net plus because he learned a great deal about people. "For some," he noted, "you are damaged goods. They find ways to avoid you and they aren't terribly interested in whether or not you were treated fairly. All they know is you are suddenly of less value and your loss of status might be contagious. They may also figure that if you ever recover they can mend fences."

He continued: "The good news, of course, is found in the people who stay. Never forget their names. They are gems. Oh, and never forget the names of the other group too. Forgive them, but don't forget them."

Essential Books on Arizona

If you are a fan of the Old West, you'll want this extraordinary list of 100 books on Arizona history. It has been compiled by the Arizona Historical Society and a team of historians and they did an outstanding job.

[Full disclosure: I'm an officer with the AHS but I'd be touting this collection under any circumstances. It is a great and handy resource.]

A Wise Organization

A wise organization will have enough bend that it can absorb some incompetence and knavery without breaking because invariably it will encounter both. It will have an inner circle that knows what's being feared, desired, and said in the outer circles and which worries more about smugness than dissent. It will get its arms around the way things work and will know the difference between the office politicians and the quiet producers. It will devote more time to finding solutions than to catching culprits. It will remind people of why they matter and its actions will reflect that far more than posters or slogans. It will remember that it is employing individuals and groups of individuals and will understand they require different things. It will focus on the basics, but will continually explore just what that means. It will strive to have mavericks working on teams with each benefiting from the other. It will be imperfect, demanding, creative, and supportive, and, despite the occasional crisis, will get the right things done. That will always be stressed: Get the right things done.

Speaking Candidly

Check out this post by Mary Jo Asmus on the importance of a single conversation.

First Paragraph

Down the rows of the dead they came. Neat, orderly rows of dead rebel boys who thirty years before had either dropped at the foot of earthen works a mile or so away or died on the floors of the big house overlooking the cemetery. Now there were stone markers, but for so many years there had been only wooden boards, weathered and warped, and tall posts proclaiming the numbers of the dead.

- From The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

Quote of the Day

Silence is so accurate.

- Mark Rothko

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dog Artist

Eclecticity: Where does he find this stuff?

Looking Your Best

The Telegraph is covering fashion statements at the London Olympics.

Music Break

An excerpt from the "True Grit" soundtrack.

Peterson on the Debt

From an article by Peter G. Peterson on how to handle the long-term debt:

If current policies continue, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently projected, federal debt will rise from 70 percent of gross domestic product today to about 225 percent by 2040 — not even remotely sustainable. By that point, the federal government would be spending nearly four times as much on debt interest payments as on education, skills training, research and development and nondefense infrastructure combined.

In the Scheme of Things

At Big Think, Brian Hoffstein discusses an evolving perspective. An excerpt:

With respect to the cosmos, mankind has just been born. Hypothetically, if our 14 billion-year-old universe were scaled down to just 10 years (
for the sake of comparison), dinosaurs would have been extinct 17 days ago, our earliest relative Lucy would have been playing around on the Savannah 19 hours ago, modern humans would have first appeared 80 minutes ago, the birth of Jesus just 46 seconds ago, and the declaration of independence would have been signed a mere 5 seconds ago! Think about that for a moment: what does 5 seconds mean to you in the scope of 10 years?

[HT: Andrew Sullivan]

Thoughts on the Olympics

I've been watching bits and pieces of the Olympics. [If the viewing is not rationed one can wake up in a daze and find large chunks of a day have passed.]

It struck me how much the athletes who are in a sport or event that has indisputable measures have a huge advantage. For example, if you are swimming the butterfly, there will rarely be any argument over which swimmer comes in first. On the other hand, if you are in synchronized diving, the judges may apply fairly subjective takes on how well you did. Some of their judging may even be determined by where they sat. The judges can strive for fairness and yet the nature of the sport has far more art than other endeavors. As with the famous definition of obscenity, you may know it when you see it but a clear definition is elusive.

Consider how much of your job falls into that territory.

12 Reasons Why "They" Aren't Better

  1. They don't know the job.
  2. They think they are already very good..
  3. They lack initiative and creativity.
  4. They are rewarded for doing what they do and punished if they make significant changes.
  5. They regard excellence as a threat to a secure and mellow lifestyle.
  6. They sense the need to improve but don't know how.
  7. They're distracted by others.
  8. They lack access to sufficient resources.
  9. They don't know the priorities.
  10. They don't think their work is important.
  11. They have personal problems.
  12. They are just trying to get through each day.

Quote of the Day

Teach me to feel another's woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show, 
That mercy show to me.

- Alexander Pope

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Remembering "Chariots of Fire"

A timeless story and one of the best films ever made.

Putting on The Ritz

A.E. Hotchner writing on The Ritz in Vanity Fair. An excerpt:

He led them into the Ritz, proclaimed its liberation, took command of the bar, and ordered champagne for everyone. Soon the renowned combat photographer Robert Capa—later killed in Indochina—came tooling up to the Ritz, thinking he was miles ahead of anyone else, but he was amazed to find that Hemingway had beaten him to it. Archie Pelkey, Hemingway’s driver, was standing guard at the entrance. “Hello, Capa,” Pelkey said. “Papa took good hotel. Plenty good stuff in cellar. Go on up.”

Kafka and the Whales

The huge humpback whale whose friendliness precipitated a surreal seven-year — so far —federal hunt for criminality surely did not feel put upon. Nevertheless, our unhinged government, with an obsession like that of Melville’s Ahab, has crippled Nancy Black’s scientific career, cost her more than $100,000 in legal fees — so far — and might sentence her to 20 years in prison. This Kafkaesque burlesque of law enforcement began when someone whistled.

Read the rest of George F. Will's column here.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Night Short Story

George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant."

First Paragraph

Herman Broder turned over and opened one eye. In his dreamy state, he wondered whether he was in America, in Tzikev, or in a German camp. He even imagined himself hiding in the hayloft in Lipsk. Occasionally all these places fused in his mind. He knew he was in Brooklyn, but he heard Nazis shouting. They were jabbing him with their bayonets, trying to flush him out, while he pressed deeper and deeper into the hay. The blade of a bayonet touched his head.

- From Enemies, A Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Pay Attention!

This post by Dennis E. Coates on the importance of being in the moment and paying attention sparks several reflections:

  • Listen for what people mean, not just for what they say.
  • Consider their choice of words.
  • Look for what they didn't say.
  • Watch for mixed signals, such as body language that conflicts with the spoken message.
  • Beware of signals of problems hidden within positive reports. Warning signs are often wrapped in upbeat language.
  • Consider who is in the room and how that may affect candor.
  • Consider vagueness as an alarm bell.
  • Watch for the use of details in instances where details would normally not be provided. They may be part of an effort to distract or deceive.
  • Check out the timing and the order of the message. Has little time been given to an important issue?
  • Review the premises that are used. If flawed, they will lead you down the wrong road.
  • Look for "apples and oranges" comparisons.
  • Separate style from substance. Have flash and fireworks been used to cover a hollow shell?
  • Soak in as much information as possible before analyzing.
  • Ask questions to get a picture; almost as if you are writing a stage play.
  • Check for gaps in the chronology.
  • Know the context.
  • Consider a multitude of motives.
  • Watch for the reward systems - both formal and informal - that are in play.


There are many reasons to read Cultural Offering. This is one of them. You'll find a joy of life and an appreciation of good living.

Quote of the Day

Cure yourself of the condition of bothering about how you look to other people. Be concerned only ... with the idea God has of you.

- Miquel de Unamuno

Friday, July 27, 2012

Types of Unique

The smart way to do it is to be unique before you get lucky and become famous. Take a listen to an old Talking Heads record or a house designed by Wright early in his career. They were unique before they were famous. This takes more patience, more guts and a lot more weirdness because the thing you're doing is actually interesting before it (if you're lucky) becomes popular. 

Read the rest of Seth Godin here.

Swimming with Science

At Scientific American: How Speedo created a record-breaking swimsuit.

Worst Continuance Excuse Ever

The Laconic Law Blog has it and all Hemingway fans will especially appreciate the order.

First Paragraph

Maybe you're a young graduate looking for his or her first job. Or maybe you're a veteran employee who'd like to advance up the corporate ladder. Or maybe you're a Labrador retriever who nosed this book off the coffee table, and it fell open to this page.

- From Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week by Dave Barry

The Fun of Finding X

Do you want your children to have fun learning algebra? Check out Dragon Box at CoolTools.

Helicopter Parents in the Workplace

Huffnagle also saw parents come to interviews with applicants. “When one such applicant was called back, his mother cornered the interviewer and promptly gave him a list of reasons why he should hire her son,” she says.

Read the rest of Tammy Binford's HR Hero article.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Customer focus update: "Man aisle" at a grocery store. [HT: Dave Barry]
American Heritage: When we almost lost the Army.
Political Calculations: The growth in regulations.
Fun: Woody Allen and William F. Buckley Jr.
Eclecticity: The tolerance gap.
Wally Bock: Lessons from Sam Walton.
Just say "Beats me": Jay Carney in action.
The trailer for "Munich."
FutureLawyer on lego legal drafting.
Tanmay Vora: Self-directed learning.
Big change at What Would Toto Watch?
The trailer for "Tender Mercies."
Tim Berry on displacement.
Revelation: There are Chicago values.
The trailer for "Road to Perdition."
City Journal: California's efforts regarding immigration.

When Bloggers Dream

Eclecticity is unsurpassed at finding a clean, well-lighted place to blog.

London Olympics: The Sites

Click for the official website and the BBC Sports site. Some others of interest:

Olympics Kick-Off

You saw it here first: Liam Neeson, in a nifty uniform, declares the opening of the Olympic Games.

Quote of the Day

Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.

- John F. Kennedy

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Life of Pi

The trailer is promising. I hope the film is as good as the book. [HT: Althouse]

Music Break

Michael Jackson with "Billie Jean."

Major Decision Index

Information needed: Partial
Ability to delay: Limited
Cost of inaction: Significant
Number of options considered: More than three
Consideration of downsides: Full
Resources: Sufficient
Doubts: Several or more
Guarantee of success: None

Some Very Lucky People

Cultural Offering has a video of an iceberg tsunami that will have you saying, "Wow!" You can imagine what it felt like to be in that boat.

Missing Those East German Judges?

Professors Robert Farley and Nicholas Sarantakes discuss the atmosphere of the Olympics during the Cold War.

Management Question: Style

Which part of your day will be prose and which part poetry?

Art Break: Holmgren

Art Contrarian looks at the work of John Holmgren.

The Person in the Boat

I was asked to analyze a team problem. The solution was simple and yet no one wanted to acknowledge it. If the team could be described as a boat crew, all of their efforts were being thwarted by a member who  regularly drilled holes in the bottom of the boat. Sometimes he splashed water in over the side. Other times he fought with fellow team members. When matters were rushed, he dragged an oar in the water. They succeeded in spite of him, not because of him. His sabotage was a truth which everyone knew but no one would admit. They'd become used to their slap-dash remedies and he'd become used to their accommodation of his negative behavior.

The bad news was that getting him out the door would be unpleasant. The good news, however, would begin the moment he left.

Management Question: Training

Since we don't want to pay for a decent trainer now, can we set aside the money saved so we can use it for legal fees later?

Quote of the Day

There'll be two buses leaving the hotel for the [ball]park tomorrow. The two o'clock bus will be for those of you who need a little extra work. The empty bus will leave at five o'clock.

- David Bristol, baseball manager

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First Paragraph

This is the story of a journey in a great wasteland and a search for some pure remnant of the unique and almost vanished First People of my native land, the Bushmen of Africa. The journey in fact was accomplished barely a year ago, but in a deeper sense it began long before that. Indeed, so far back in time does all this go that I am unable to determine precisely when it did begin. I know for certain only that no sooner did I become aware of myself as a child than my imagination slipped, like a hand into a glove, into a profound preoccupation with the little Bushman and his terrible fate.

- From The Lost World of the Kalahari by Laurens van der Post


Back by popular demand: Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby with "True :Love."

Pros and Cons of Gossip

Gossip can range from minor information and harmless amusement on down to the poisonous creature that destroys reputations and careers. It is easy to say "Never, ever, gossip" but such strictures probably go against human nature. We like "news" - there's a special joy in being one of the first to hear it - and a hard truth is that those who take themselves completely out of the gossip pipeline quickly find that their informal information sources have dried up. 

I once supervised an office that had liaison officers in all of the departments. We made a big deal of training those officers and they were indeed vital when sensitive matters arose but they also served as a valuable back-channel for distributing and receiving information in a manner that put no one on the spot. They could be a focus group, listening post, early warning system, and advisor all rolled into one.

It is a rare veteran of office politics who can't reach the precise person in a department who will have the true story behind the official one.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Jalopnik: Jarring video of a go kart accident.
CoolTools: Chemical light sticks.
The trailer for "The Secret Agent."
Michael P. Maslanka: Do vacations, long or short, really refresh and restore?
The trailer for "Looper."
Anderson Layman's Blog: A photo of two protesters.
The trailer for "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels."
Journalism and religion: What the Chick-fil-A boss said.
The trailer for "Edison, The Man."
Dog bites man: Political prejudice at Yale.
The trailer for "Love in the Time of Cholera."
Dr. Helen: What are your favorite science fiction books?

When to Confront and When to Work Around

There is a certain cost-benefit analysis that goes into workplace problems. Some considerations are:
  1. How serious is the problem?
  2. Does the problem constitute a threat of any sort?
  3. How imminent is the threat?
  4. What are the potential costs?
  5. Who will bear heavy burdens?
  6. Is a less expensive and/or less painful solution lurking in the near future?
  7. Is confronting the problem the decision maker's clear responsibility?
  8. Can the problem be disguised as a non-problem or a minor problem?
  9. Can a non-confrontational response be shaped as a higher, more reasonable or more noble effort or is it undeniable weakness?
  10. Can the response be delayed?
  11. Does the decision maker have influential allies who will continue to give support through thick and thin or will they seek distance once any controversy arises?
  12. After the decision is made, can mirrors be used without hesitation?

Quote of the Day

You will find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

- Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Music Break: "The wind is in from Africa"

Joni Mitchell with "Carey."

Fire Pros

I had a great afternoon today talking about leadership with some chiefs and other fire personnel at the Desert Southwest Fire & EMS Leadership Conference. I don't know of any civilian profession that has as many genuinely nice and bright people. There is an unmatched sense of dedication and the challenges they face are well described in this interview with Alan Brunacini, a legend in the fire service.

Airports as Disease Hot Spots

The security lines at JFK and LAX can be horrendous. But these airports have something in common worse than the gripes of jaded travelers. A new study finds that they, along with Honolulu International Airport, are the most likely to facilitate the spread of a major pandemic.

Read the rest of the Scientific American article here.


Most of us, at various times, have lapsed into discourteous behavior if only inadvertently. It is easy, when work is pressing and time is scarce, to rush past or discount the feelings of others. At such times, courtesy seems like a costly option; one which we cannot afford. Our workplaces often put it so far below other concerns that its demands are more like a nudge than a commandment.

Courtesy needs to be revisited and re-emphasized. A failure in that area can do great and invisible harm to others. If the conduct turns into a habit, it will surely harm ourselves. "Manners," the old folks used to murmur as a caution when children got out of line and their view was more than just a quaint concept. The extent to which we are courteous can determine the nature of our fortune and our soul. 

The 14 States of Mind

Nicholas Bate lists 14 states of mind that make daily life easier. Follow them and you'll have greater control over your life.

What Did You Have for Breakfast?

Probably not what Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps had, but then you aren't on a 12,000 calorie-a-day diet.

Management Question: Development

At which point does management's responsibility to develop an employee stop and the employee's responsibility begin?

Quote of the Day

Put all thine eggs in one basket - and watch that basket.

- Mark Twain

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sally Ride, R.I.P.

Astronaut Sally Ride, 61, has passed away. Here is a video of her recollection of her selection for the space shuttle.

The Challenge of Yahoo

Wally Bock gives an overview of what awaits Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo. An excerpt:

The move to CEO is one of the hardest in a career. The only move that matches it is the one from individual contributor to boss. As CEO, she will be where the buck stops and the one responsible to the Board. She will be the public face of Yahoo.

To make this even more challenging, Ms Mayer was brought in from outside over an inside candidate, Ross Levinsohn. And, to make things more challenging yet, Yahoo as a company has had a pretty rocky history.

Art Break:

Art Contrarian looks at the work of impressionist illustrator Walter Biggs.

A Person Who Knows His Job

Watch this mesmerizing masonry video and then tell me you do not wish you could do that.

[HT: Althouse]

Big Deals

Here is a simple fact if you wish to have a happy work life: You need to learn what is a big deal to your boss.

Before you object that such advice is obvious, consider how often people shoot past items that are big deals to you. I don't mean the mega-project that everyone acknowledges is a big deal. I mean the little things that may seem minor but which really are not. Some not-so-little things that I've heard bosses cite over the years:

  • Lack of punctuality;
  • Sarcasm;
  • Lack of urgency;
  • Lack of initiative;
  • Messy desks;
  • Clock-watching;
  • High tolerance for mistakes;
  • Whining;
  • Sloppy personal appearance;
  • Undue familiarity; and 
  • Lack of ambition.
These may not show up in any evaluation and may never even be mentioned, but they can be silent career killers.

Management Question: Meetings

Is this a meeting so we can say we held a meeting or is it a meeting to get things done?

Somewhat SmartWatch?

FutureLawyer is an early adopter. He's been using the Sony SmartWatch and has a review.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Habanero Love: Pepper authority.
The trailer for "Lost Horizon."
Back by popular demand: Alison Krauss.
The Telegraph: Life inside a Central African Republic prison.
The trailer for "Brubaker."
The new light bulbs: Can they harm you?
The Hammock Papers: Hemingway on writing.
C.S. Lewis on free will and the problem of evil.

Quote of the Day

Life is a zoo in a jungle.

- Peter de Vries

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mechanical Turk and the New Economic Challenge

In a chilling and thought-provoking  Weekly Standard article, Jonathan V. Last examines the brave new world of micro-tasking. An excerpt:

I have no idea what function this job could possibly serve, except to help someone game, or learn to game, the Google search algorithm. But I wasn’t getting paid to think. I was paid to type, click, copy, and paste. I completed eight of these microtasks in less than two minutes. I was paid 16 cents. Or rather, I will be paid 16 cents at some later date—provided that CrowdSource turns out to be a legitimate operation that pays its bills. Which, in the world of microtasking, is not a guarantee.

Art Alert

Hundreds of Hasselhoffs stolen! Is nothing sacred?

"My brother Bill's got a still on the hill"

Back by popular demand: Grandpa Jones with "Mountain Dew."

Back from the Beach

Good news! Cultural Offering is back in full force.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Keep Rolling

The Onion has an exclusive report on the Tour de France.

Saturday Night Short Story

One that's hard to forget: Jack London's "A Piece of Steak."

Life in the Desert

Here are some nifty photos of the dust storm that's rolling over metro-Phoenix right now.

Management Question: Execution

If your organization was a long boat with 20 people at the oars, how many of them would be rowing in the same direction?


Cultural Offering is taking some time off from blogging, possibly - if any clues are to be gleaned from his cryptic note - to star in a reality TV show involving a swamp.  Anyway, this is getting painful for those of us who rely on his offerings. Here's hoping he's back soon.

First Paragraph

In spite of the hurry, many wives and many sweethearts had come to see the ship off, and those members of her company who were not taken up with sailing her on her difficult course close-hauled to the brisk south-east breeze, watched the white flutter of their handkerchiefs far across the water until Black Point hid them entirely, shut them right out.

- From The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian 

Miscellaneous and Fast

Wally Bock: Weekend imagination igniters.
The trailer for "Flight."
Eclecticity: Gourmet dining at its best. [And yes, they're still around.]
FutureLawyer has to make an important decision.
Tanmay Vora reviews a new book on creativity.
The Robert Shaw Chorale with an old Stephen Foster song: "Nelly Bly"
Jay Cost: Are the presidential polls skewed?
Tim Ferriss is raising money for students in developing countries.
Daniel H. Pink on signs that make a point.
The trailer for "Dragonwyck."
Krauthammer: Did the State make you great?
Greg Campbell: Marijuana as blood diamonds.
Gizmodo on buying Twitter followers.
The trailer for "The Fifth Element."
From 2009: Terry Starbucker's 10 favorite leadership lessons.
Scientific American: How to resurrect a mammoth protein.
The trailer for "Topsy-Turvy."
CoolTools: A 12-volt tire inflator.
Some trailers for "The Doors."
Jessica Hagy on the six people you need in your corner.

Quote of the Day

If it's important that other people approve of you, don't attempt anything interesting.

- Steve Pavlina

Friday, July 20, 2012

Interview Tip: Find a Bar

Morley Safer on what it was like to interview Katharine Hepburn and Jackie Gleason.

Music Break: Only The Lonely

By the great Roy Orbison.

Politicizing Aurora

Peter Wehner may well speak for most of us:

A modest and civilized society would give room to the families and friends of the dead to begin to process their shattering losses. It would give room to the police to do their work and gather evidence. It would leave room for citizens of this nation to reflect with soberness and seriousness on what has happened; to participate, if only for a brief time, in a national mourning of sorts. And it might even resist the impulse to leverage a massacre into a political culture war. It would be helpful if members of the press and politicians understood this, and acted in a way that showed some measure of decency and compassion.

The Plane That Saved Britain

Wally Bock on developing the Spitfire. [More on its story here.]

Underestimating the Importance of Emancipation Day

The Emancipation Proclamation did more, and for more Americans, than any other presidential document before or since. It declared that over 3 million black slaves (representing some $3 billion in capital investment) would “thenceforward, and forever, be free” (thus transforming that $3 billion into a net zero, overnight) and turned the Civil War from being a police action against the breakaway southern Confederacy into a crusade for freedom. It was, as Lincoln himself said, “the central act of my administration and the great event of the nineteenth century.”

Read the rest of Allen C. Guelzo's article here.

Bing: Keeping Your Job

Stanley Bing has some tips on making yourself hard to fire. An excerpt:

Secret Service agents visit hookers in Colombia and get caught when stupid dude stiffs the service provider.
 Immediate consequences: dire, both personally and professionally. Lesson learned: Pay the service provider, moron! Conclusion: Nothing you do anywhere stays there.

Management Question: Performance Evaluations

If it is commonly acknowledged that the evaluations are inflated, inaccurate, time-consuming, and prone to create friction between supervisors and employees, why are they required at all?

Art Break: Cohen

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Gil Cohen.

The Leadership Maze

I'm conducting a leadership workshop at a fire chiefs conference next week. It struck me while going over the material that my views on the subject have changed considerably over the years. I'm not sure if there is currently a major writer on leadership with whom I agree on all aspects of the subject. The framework used by many is, I believe, seriously flawed. 

I'll be writing more on this later. The conference will be a great forum to talk through my ideas and to ponder the reaction from people who deal with the topic every day, often under very demanding conditions.

One Can't Be Too Careful

At Anderson Layman's Blog: A cartoon that is definitely going on the wall.

Colorado Murders

By now the news is everywhere that an evil and/or deranged person has killed at least 12 people in a movie theater in Colorado. All prayers and support should go to the victims and their families. One might hope that this event won't be subjected to political spinning but that may be too much to expect.

Tech's Promise

PayPal's Peter Thiel and Google's Eric Schmidt debate the effects of technology

The Importance of English

Employment attorney Michael P. Maslanka on English as the global language of business.

Quote of the Day

For some people, it's always 1968.

- Glenn Reynolds

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Science and Film-Making

PaleoFuture: The magazine Science and Invention looks at the 1927 futuristic film, Metropolis. An excerpt:

The magazine featured a two-page spread titled, ”Metropolis—A Movie Based On Science,” with photographs and illustrations depicting how the movie’s cutting-edge effects were achieved. The use of miniatures, sparks of electricity with forced perspective and television-telephones are all explained in illustrations credited to “Bate.”

Great Moments in American Journalism

CNN blurs breasts on a Matisse painting. I'm waiting for the Gauguin story.

Earth Wind and Fire

Mary Jo Asmus has some leadership lessons learned from nature.

"The Bear That Went to War"

Indeed, in an interview for the documentary on Wojtek, a British veteran recounted how he was taken aback when he suddenly saw a full-grown bear calmly schlepping mortar shells past him during the bloody Battle of Monte Cassino, in the spring of 1944. Whether it is true or not, the story of his support in this decisive battle gave the bear legendary status among the soldiers. With the approval of the Polish high command, the company's emblem was changed to one showing a bear carrying a massive artillery shell. 

Read the rest of the
Der Spiegel article here.

Art Break

Art Contrarian looks at exploratory-line illustrators, such as Ben Shahn.

Management Question: Decision Making

Will your reaction to a problem create a new problem that will be worse than the original?

Miscellaneous and Fast

WSJ Law Blog: Accessibility and Segways at Disneyland.
The trailer for "Hercules."
Creative version of "Bear Down, Arizona."
Althouse looks at the latest Romney and Obama ads.
Want odd looks? Carry this to the gym.
Blondie: "Sunday Girl."
The Rolling Stones: "Out of Control."
The trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises."
Florida: Armed patron foils/shoots robbers.
Peter Wehner on the law as a moral teacher.

Thanks to FutureLawyer

A very kind post at FutureLawyer, which is my favorite tech site because - unlike many techies - he doesn't speak in tongues. [He saves that for the courtroom.] Many thanks.

Lileks Goes Baltic

James Lileks has written an account of his trip to the Baltics. An excerpt:

Pilot comes on and says something in Icelandic, then in English: A passenger who checked a bag is not on the plane, so we must go back to the gate, in case it’s a bomb. Probably not a bomb, but hey, you know, better late and grounded by a storm and missing all your connections and your ship and your vacation than sorry, right? The pilot tells us the guy’s name, and everyone curses him unto his seventh generation.

12-in-1 Scissors

One look at these suckers and your imagination soars. CoolTools has the information. You know you want a pair.

Key Virtues

Let's see. Trust comes first. If you can't be trusted, you shouldn't be on the team. Reliability is part of that. You may be the most honest person in the world but if you aren't reliable, then you aren't truly trustworthy. You can't be incompetent and still be trustworthy and reliable in any positive sense. [We can exclude the "I can rely upon him to be an unreliable idiot" scenario.]

Benevolence is also important. If followers sense that you don't give a damn about them, they'll drift away and a lack of benevolence will erode your soul. We are people, not machines.

Courage is essential because, as Churchill noted, without it all of the other virtues are meaningless. It is a rare person who does not grapple with courage issues. It helps to remember that courage is not an absence of fear, but the overcoming of fear, and that the way to become courageous is to do courageous things.

Finally, urgency and ambition are needed. Passive virtues are important but you'll need the vigorous ones to get things done.

Any others that you'd add?

Quote of the Day

Be virtuous and you will be eccentric.

- Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

An Obit as Confessional

In his obituary he said: "I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later a PhD diploma came in the mail."

Read the rest here.

Bate: Productivity Paradox

Nicholas Bate, who should be read every day, has a crib sheet on productivity. Also be sure to check out his many books.

The Not-So-Little Things

I know that I have to fill out this form before the doctor will see me, but the way you behave when you design the form and the way you ask me to fill it out will change the way I think about everything else you'd like me to do.

Read the rest of Seth Godin here.

Health Food Update

A no-bake chocolate cheesecake? Tasty Kitchen shows the way.

[HT: The Pioneer Woman]

Jump in the Hammock

If you are of a philosophical or introspective bent, The Hammock Papers is one of the most interesting blogs in the world.


The context was covered. The mission was defined. Deadlines were negotiated. I told them what I wanted. I also told them what I didn't want. Specific examples were given of what could be duplicated and what should be avoided. Light, shadow, and visual aids were employed. My voice was lowered and raised to emphasize various points. I pressed them for questions on anything that might be vague. Priorities were set and I responded to all of their concerns. They assured me that clarity had been achieved. The meeting ended.

I wonder what was missed.

This? Or This? The Eye Exam Two-Step

Being someone who has a certain bias for precision, I am greatly frustrated by eye exams. The seemingly loose nature of the process causes me to feel as I would if an internal medicine physician, in the course of a diagnostic procedure, kept asking, "Well, what do you think it is?"

I don't know what it is, especially when the eye wizard is flipping lenses around and demanding that I distinguish between the indistinguishable.

"I think the first one was better," I mumble although that comment is only a faint shadow of a whisper of a guess. It's all rock-and-roll to me.

But I'd prefer that it be more like Star Trek. 

Fish on "Reading Law"

Stanley Fish reviews Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner.

Management Question: Training

If we are afraid that if we train them they'll leave, shouldn't we be more afraid that if we don't train them they'll stay? 

Quote of the Day

If you have to be in a soap opera try not to get the worst role.

- Boy George

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seduction Coach

And still another law grad enters the glamorous world of consulting.

[HT: Althouse]

First Paragraph

Although it was winter, the nearest ocean four hundred miles away, and the Tribal Weatherman asleep because of boredom, a hurricane dropped from the sky in 1976 and fell so hard on the Spokane Indian Reservation that it knocked Victor from bed and his latest nightmare.

- From The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Music Break from "Working Girl"

Back by popular demand: Carly Simon with "Let The River Run."

Book Review: The Titleless Leader

The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You're Not in Charge by Nan S. Russell is one of those books that deserves wide distribution and readership within organizations. Its lessons, in essence, revolve around themes of accountability, benevolence, curiosity, and trust, with the last being the hub of the wheel.

The accountability aspect is obvious. Leadership is not a caste system. Everyone in an organization will, at various times, have leadership responsibilities and should be expected to take initiative.The related actions, however, are unlikely to be effective without the ability to seek out and handle different perspectives and to deal with others in a caring and trustworthy manner. Russell's book has an easy, conversational tone that, as in many management books, uses checklists and summaries but then hits you with insights that may cause a pause. [I loved her "conflict as diagnostic" point about relationships.] She writes about workplace relationships but also has much on the internal "self-trust" part of the equation.

I highly recommend this book. At a time when budgets are tight and staffs are lean, we need to develop leadership at all levels and, one could argue, in all positions. I suspect that the individuals who need
The Titleless Leader the most will also resist it the most. The book is a savvy and artful blend of advice on how to deal with the white space between the boxes on the organization chart. Check it out and if you really like it, give a copy to all of your team members. Just be sure to keep your own copy because you may return to it often.

Publisher copy received for review: 234 pages