Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Music from Another Time


Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz with "The Girl from Ipanema."

Schlep Blindness


Paul Graham writes about a serious condition that can keep individuals and organizations from doing their best or surviving. An excerpt:

There are great startup ideas lying around unexploited right under our noses. One reason we don't see them is a phenomenon I callschlep blindness. Schlep was originally a Yiddish word but has passed into general use in the US. It means a tedious, unpleasant task.

No one likes schleps, but hackers especially dislike them. Most hackers who start startups wish they could do it by just writing some clever software, putting it on a server somewhere, and watching the money roll in—without ever having to talk to users, or negotiate with other companies, or deal with other people's broken code. Maybe that's possible, but I haven't seen it.

[HT: Tim Berry]

Sign Me Up

At Cultural Offering:

I want to start a movement. I'll call it the word movement. We will use words - the proper ones - to describe people, places and things. Imagine: The President will speak. The Supreme Court will judge. We will string words together to form complete sentences. Sentences will be arranged to form paragraphs and thoughts. We won't allow 140 characters to stop us from complete, clear thoughts. Text messages will deliver complete messages. We will laugh, guffaw, chuckle, crack up.

Fender on Time Management

Freddy Fender: "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."

Some Time with The Doc


I have a physical today.

Although my doctor is both nice and capable, in my version of a quasi-perfect world, patients would be knocked out within two minutes of entering a doctor's office and awakened once all of the necessary treatment was completed. Put a few years under your belt and you feel as if you are taking an old truck in for repairs.

Of course, it is all relative. I had lunch yesterday with a friend who went through a hellish medical emergency a few months ago and made a miraculous recovery. I jokingly asked him how many doctors he now has and he named at least six.

There will be no grumbling to him.

First Paragraph

A child wants to see. It always begins like this, and it began like this then. A child wanted to see.

- From Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

Making the Rounds

Wally Bock discusses a crucial task for bosses:

Check in with your team members at least once a day. Ask about concerns or problems. Coach and encourage. Listen for issues. Help them.

Reflecting the Times


Art Contrarian, considering fashion, looks at wrong-era hair styles.

Oh, Yeah. He Also Said Something About Drugs.

From an article in The Telegraph in which Carlos Fuentes discusses literature:

Fuentes was later asked if the novel has a future.

He said: “Many people say that the novel is dead, that technology has killed the novel. But it continues to survive. Why? Because novels tell us something that cannot be told otherwise.

Too Easy

Recently saw an action film on DVD in which a man is trapped in a maze of lies, murder, and conspiracy during a visit to Berlin. One of the characters is a former officer of the East German secret police who is proud of his service. Another is an employee of some American corporations.

Three seconds to guess which one turns out to be a hero.

Quote of the Day

Do not tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done.

- James J. Ling

Monday, January 30, 2012

Something in the Air Tonight


Big political day in Florida tomorrow, but I doubt if any of the campaign commercials approach this.

Humor Break: On Hold

A Gahan Wilson cartoon on customer service.

Godin on the Pricing Formula

Years ago, my bosses and I needed to finalize the pricing for a new line of software I was launching. In the room we had MBAs from Harvard (2), Stanford, Tuck and, I think, Wharton. We had three prices in mind, and the five of us couldn't agree. So we did the only scientific thing: we flipped a coin (two out of three, just to be sure).

Read the rest of Seth Godin here.

First Paragraph

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

- From True Grit by Charles Portis

De Bono: Thinking as a Skill


Edward de Bono lecturing on his Six Thinking Hats:








"Are you employed, Mr. Lebowski?"

Back by popular demand.

Quote of the Day

I agree that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.

- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The General Strangeness of Youth

Brutal: Celebrity high school yearbook photos.

Who is the Most Improved with Time?

[HT: Althouse]

Classic Onion

From 2000:


The Game's Afoot

Sharpen your wits. Here's the trailer for "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia."

Contemplation on the Elements of "How To"

Cultural Offering: A true master shows how to iron a shirt.


At YouTube: How to carve soap.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rough Road Ahead


Anderson Layman's Blog has a great collection of road signs.

For a Good Cause

From "Portlandia": Flyer wars.

First Paragraph

In the second year of the war, Mrs. Ephephtha Bumpass saw her husband Usaph unexpectedly one cold March night. This happened way over in the great Valley of Virginia on a night of bitter frost. Usaph had come knocking on the door of the Bumpass family farm near the fine town of Strasburg and, when the door opened, he was the last person she expected to see.

- From Confederates by Thomas Keneally

E-Mail Games

Jack sends an e-mail message of questionable taste to Clyde, who likes its content so much that he forwards the message to seven other people.

Maria sends an e-mail to Ellen, seeking her opinion on a confidential matter. Ellen responds and copies Harold on the message, noting that he might have some ideas on the subject.

Kelly takes pride in answering e-mails with as few words as possible and as quickly as possible. People often complain about the tone of those brief messages.

What is it about electronic messages that causes people to abandon common sense?

Chill Wimp


The heat is out.

Since I'm in Phoenix, that is not a big deal but for one factor: those of us who live in the desert tend to be hardy during the summers but wimpish in the cold.

I'll pick out some furniture to burn in the fireplace.

We Like To Pretend


We like to pretend that:
  • Rules are suggestions
  • Plans harm creativity
  • Underdogs are always deserving
  • Institutions are loyal
  • Experience is a minor part of competence
  • Intuition is irrational
  • We can frequently beat the odds
  • Appearance doesn't matter
  • Being true to our inner self means we'll be better
  • Other people have fewer problems

Quote of the Day

It's hard to teach anything that can't be broken down into repeatable and unchanging elements. Driving a car, flying an airplane - you can reduce those things to a series of maneuvers that are always executed in the same way. But with something like leadership, just as with art, you reinvent the wheel every single time you apply the principle.

- Sydney Pollack

Friday, January 27, 2012

Murray: Fishtown versus Belmont

Writing in City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz reviews the new book by Charles Murray. An excerpt:

Most disastrous for Fishtown residents has been the collapse of the family, which Murray believes is now “approaching a point of no return.” For a while after the 1960s, the working class hung on to its traditional ways. That changed dramatically by the 1990s. Today, under 50 percent of Fishtown 30- to 49-year-olds are married; in Belmont, the number is 84 percent. About a third of Fishtowners of that age are divorced, compared with 10 percent of Belmonters. Murray estimates that 45 percent of Fishtown babies are born to unmarried mothers, versus 6 to 8 percent of those in Belmont.

Back to Nature

The trailer for "The Grey."

Candles for Mozart


At The Hammock Papers, a celebration of Mozart's birthday. Check it out.

Pleasant Surprises


A great fear of managers and executives is that some day they will get a very unpleasant surprise. That's one reason why keeping your boss well-briefed is important and why delaying the reporting of bad news can be fatal.

But let's consider the other side of the spectrum and think of ways in which something extra can create a lasting positive impression. For example, a top executive who is going to meet with a community group may be given some rough idea of the group's concerns and then be expected to wing it. On the other hand, an associate may provide information such as:
  1. A brief history of the group
  2. The names of the group's leaders, both formal and informal
  3. Whether any one person can really speak for the group
  4. Whether the executive has ever met any of those leaders
  5. How the group perceives the executive's organization
  6. What the group says it wants
  7. What the group really wants
  8. Whether the group has any hot buttons
  9. What the group definitely does not want
  10. What it expects from the meeting
  11. Any time-sensitive matters
  12. Some reasonable strategies for dealing with the group
  13. What the executive's side can gain from the meeting
  14. How the meeting is likely to proceed, and
  15. What the next step may be.
Absolutely necessary? Probably not. Very helpful? You bet. And it would most likely be a pleasant surprise.

Pleasant surprises frequently stem from things that didn't need to be done, but were, and from potential problems that were identified, then removed or reduced.

Look around. We are circled by potential pleasant surprises. Let's surprise someone.

Quote of the Day

I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: 'try being rich first'. See if that doesn't cover most of it. There's not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job.

- Bill Murray

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "Me and Orson Welles."

Great Public Speaking: Three Simple Words

Michael P. Maslanka examines a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

He says, "Three simple words explain the social revolution taking place in Albany and the South today." Doesn’t that make the listener want to hear what those words are? King does not just come out and say what he’s going to say, because the force of his message would be lost on the audience. He primes the audience to start thinking about what the words are, and he then frames what is coming by telling them what the words are not: "They aren't big words. One does not need to have a philosophical bent to understand them."

Legionnaire French


A time-tested language immersion program for multiple nationalities:

First Paragraph

Louis the Sixth of France, Louis the Fat, lay sick in his hunting lodge at Bethizy, whither his bearers had brought him from the unprecedented heat and the fetid odors of the summer in Paris. He was not old - verging on sixty - but he was failing perceptively. The chalky pallor, the bleared vision, the occasional palsy that had long marked him, were attributed to an abortive attempt of his stepmother, Queen Bertrade, to dispose of him by poison in his early years. Latterly he had grown so ponderous that he could no longer mount a horse or stoop to lace a shoe. About him in the sultry room were gathered some of his prelates and barons palatine, chief among them his lifelong friend and counselor, Abbe Suger. A confessor stood by prepared to administer the sacrament in extremis.

- From Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly

Scribble. Scribble. Think. Think.


I'm giving a fresh look at a product that we've offered via an unchanged format for years.

Perhaps I'll stick with that approach after analyzing the alternatives, but something tells me we are missing an opportunity. A modification might be an improvement and yet this cannot be a mere tinkering around the edges. I want a change that is close enough to the original to be reassuring and yet different enough to attract the eye and justify the effort.

"Different" by itself won't be adequate. It will have to be seriously better.

One test: Will people look at it and ask themselves, "Why didn't we think of that?"

The Easy One

He assured me that the item would fly through the committee meeting without any opposition and that it would barely take any time from the other work.

Alarm bells rang in the back of my mind.

The more he argued that the issue was minor, the louder the bells became. I seemed to recall an observation by Parkinson that boards will speedily approve a multi-million dollar project and then bog down on a discussion of parking spaces.

No one will be opposed to this, he said. That's optimistic, I replied, and you've been around long enough to know that. He chuckled and agreed to delay the matter.

I guess he thought it was worth a try.

Quote of the Day

The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.

- Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Art Blog to Appreciate


Check out Muddy Colors: an illustration group blog.


[Pictured above: "Men Reading" by J.C. Leyendecker]

Mr. Clean

Some housecleaning tips at Instapundit. No leaf-blower?

Once a Month for 30 Minutes


Idea: Once a month at a staff meeting, the group will discuss the meaning of a virtue. The discussion will be strictly limited to 30 minutes, encouraging the attendees to be brief and to the point. If the group wishes, a topic may be extended to future meetings but the 30 minute rule will be honored at each one. People will be given advance notice so they can assemble their thoughts.

Potential Topics: Courage, Trust, Honesty, Loyalty, Fairness, Caring, Excellence, Civic Duty, Integrity, Respect, Kindness, and Ambition.

I've worked on some teams where the results would have been fascinating.

Oratory's Slide

Elizabeth Scalia on the decline of great oratory. An excerpt:

The passing of his federal holiday gave me an opportunity to ponder what my friend Lisa Mladinich calls the "holy courage" of Martin Luther King, Jr, who found strength in knowing that his cause was a just one, despite threats, despite difficulties. Watching the old videos, I found myself moved as ever by his stunning oratory. King was capable of using imagery; he understood the power of cadence; how to energize an idea with the forward thrust of repetition. He knew how to prompt the memory retention of a listener with alliteration: "...they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Quote of the Day

The longest journey is the journey inward.

- Dag Hammarskjold

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Paragraph

The woman on the ledge was wearing a nightgown. It was only 3:30 in the afternoon, but she was dressed for sleep, and the brisk spring breezes flattened the sheer nylon fabric against her body so that she looked like a legendary Greek figure sculptured in stone, immobile, on the ledge twelve stories above the city street.

- From Like Love by Ed McBain

The Power of Phrasing

At Sensory Dispensary:

Suzanne Vega singing "Tom's Diner."

Some Days


This post by Wally Bock should be copied by bosses and taped inside their desk drawers for frequent reference.

Art Break: The Fini Image


Art Contrarian looks at the work and portraits of Leonor Fini.

Oscar

The Academy Awards nominations are out.

My prediction on the Best Picture winner: The Artist.

Vora on Team Autonomy


Tanmay Vora has written a thought-provoking post on how to foster autonomy in a team. An excerpt:

Monitor progress, not people: Monitoring people is easier, but it does not help. As a team lead, your primary role is to monitor progress, not people. Small wins on a daily basis can be a great motivator for people. When people know that progress is important, they will do what is needed to ensure progress.

The Wyeth Tradition

Anderson Layman's Blog features several of the great paintings of Jamie Wyeth.

Marvelous stuff. Makes me want to move to an island and just watch life.

In The Stacks

This post by Cultural Offering brought back many happy memories of hours spent in the library at the University of Arizona:

He walked between the stacks and took it in. His eyes stayed open but he could just have easily smelled his way through. Alphabetical. He could move quickly to his favorites or the latest interest. They waited for him. No one else around here touched them. He even checked a few just to be sure. "Idiots," he thought. They have no idea what they are missing.

Warning Signs


The lawyer doesn't want to touch it. Upper management is nervous. They want you to handle the matter but with very close supervision. There is a tight deadline. Litigation is likely. The in-house experts are inexperienced. There are conflicting standards or rules. Information is withheld. They forget to tell you things. The atmosphere is toxic. There is a huge lack of trust. Neither side is admirable. You appear to be a convenient scapegoat. Mission creep is creeping. There are factions within factions. You'll barely have time to think.

You smell a rat.

Quote of the Day

We're all born under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon.

- Konrad Adenauer

Monday, January 23, 2012

First Paragraph

Business meetings are more or less the same all over the world, and have been since the beginning of time. There is the man in charge; the man supposedly in charge; the man wanting to be in charge; their minions, their enemies and those waverers who float gently downstream, hoping things won't get too choppy. And there is always a dispute, which serves the purpose of making half-felt antagonisms real. Sometimes these are of importance and justify the energy expended on them. But not often.

- From Death and Restoration by Iain Pears

The Flag Test

At Cultural Offering: How those rating decisions are made.

Silent Thoughts


All of his allies would retire within three years and the young lions were counting the days.

Whenever she saw other department heads making important decisions she thought, "How could I have ever doubted my qualifications for this job?"

In the past decade, he'd been told by several people that he had been a major influence on their ability to achieve highly desirable positions. Each time, he silently wondered, "When do I get to meet me?"

She noticed a glance between Harold and Marie at the board meeting and knew that Elaine had better watch her back.

She was able to go through adversity that would have crushed most people, but he knew her secret weapon: She had absolutely no feelings.

No one said it but everyone was aware of why Preston spent so much time at the office. He was married to a dragon.

She regarded him as an early warning device. He maintained no position because of principle and would drop it as soon as unpopularity loomed.

He knew the rest of the oral board would never admit it, but they had given a low score to an excellent candidate because she was overweight.

The team members knew Kelly was doing 98 percent of the work but told themselves that she really preferred that arrangement.

Quote of the Day

Two things seemed pretty apparent to me. One was, that in order to be a [Mississippi River] pilot a man had got to learn more than any one man ought to be allowed to know; and the other was, that he must learn it all over again in a different way every 24 hours.

- Mark Twain

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All is Balance


Some thoughts I've mentioned before but have seen vividly displayed in some recent projects:

Exhibit too much of any virtue and you'll plunge into a problem. You can indeed be too kind, too analytical, too bold, too tolerant, and too open. I've seen organizations and departments that suffer from excessive virtues - conditions that have turned poisonous - and they fail to see how they have overdosed on a good thing.

That lack of balance is a common problem. My guess is that most of us are afflicted. Once we label something a strength, it is hard to see its dangers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Costa Concordian Values

Mark Steyn on the sinking of the West. An excerpt:

In fact, “women and children first” can be dated very precisely. On Feb. 26, 1852, HMS Birkenhead was wrecked off the coast of Cape Town while transporting British troops to South Africa. There were, as on the Titanic, insufficient lifeboats. The women and children were escorted to the ship’s cutter. The men mustered on deck. They were ordered not to dive in the water lest they risk endangering the ladies and their young charges by swamping the boats. So they stood stiffly at their posts as the ship disappeared beneath the waves. As Kipling wrote:

We’re most of us liars, we’re ’arf of us thieves, an’ the rest of us rank as can be, But once in a while we can finish in style (which I ’ope it won’t ’appen to me).


First Paragraph

The thirty-five-ton Titan truck hissed and rocked on its suspension as it came to a halt. Shoulders hunched, it gave a dead-eyed stare over the line of scrimmage which was the chain across the opening of the port gates. On the wood paneling behind the cab were two hand-painted film posters of big men holding guns - Chuck Norris, Sly Stallone - the bandana boys. He handed down his papers to the customs officer who took them into the gatehouse and checked them off. Excitement rippled through the rollicking crowd of whippet-thin men and boys who'd gathered outside the gates in the afternoon's trampling heat, which stank of the sea and diesel and rank sweat.

- From A Darkening Stain by Robert Wilson

Tweaking

On the computer today, tweaking some workshop materials. Took breaks by cursing Word for its obtuse instructions. Have some neat examples that are being tucked in - items about managing rock groups and hostage rescues - which are a tad unconventional while being memorable and illustrating important points.

Might have one PowerPoint slide. [You know how I feel about PowerPoint.]

Less is more.

Coming Apart

Instapundit gives a peek at the new book by Charles Murray.

Another volume for my reading stack.

Tales To Be Read With Both Eyes Wide Open


Once upon a time, there was a struggling young actress working at a drug store soda fountain in Hollywood when a movie director walked in and....

Once upon a time, an impoverished inventor was about to give up on his dream after 112 unsuccessful experiments when he decided to try just one more time, and ....

Once upon a time, a man's oldest friend told him that instead of preparing for an important job interview he should just "wing it" and so ....

Once upon a time, a political candidate came out of nowhere with a keen mind, high morals, and a small budget but after the public heard what he had to say, his popularity began to ....

Once upon a time, a marketing director announced that their product was so good they could rely entirely upon word-of-mouth and time proved ....

Once upon a time, a student heard that a particular course of study was a fast ride to a six-figure salary so she buckled down and ....

Once upon a time, an employee suffered an injustice so severe that he knew the halls would soon echo with the cries of his supporters and so he ....

Quote of the Day

Congress shall also create a tax code weighing more than the combined poundage of the largest member of the House and the largest member of the Senate, plus a standard musk ox.

- Dave Barry

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mr. Nice Guy

Writing in City Journal, Fred Siegel reviews a new book on Nietzsche:

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s American Nietzsche is a 464-page footnote to Alan Bloom’s comment in The Closing of the American Mind that American readings of the German philosopher have produced “nihilism with a happy ending.” Her sense of Nietzsche is based heavily on the writings of the German-born Princeton scholar Walter Kaufmann, famed for softening the philospher of theübermensch’s writings. Like the apologists for jihad who portray it as an internal quest for purification, advocates for Nietzsche acrobatically rope off his praise for war and cruelty as matters of spiritual struggle.

Napoleonland

This article from The Telegraph has got to be a joke. An excerpt:

Other curious potential attractions include a ski run through a battlefield "surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses" and a recreation of Louis XVI being guillotined during the revolution – the precursor to Napoleon’s rise to power.

"It's going to be fun for the family,” he Mr Jégo told the Times.

[HT: Drudge Report]

Friday Morning


Quick glance at the newspapers. A switch from coffee to some Earl Grey tea. Simone Dinnerstein's Bach: A Strange Beauty CD playing. Airing out the house. Notes for an upcoming workshop scattered about. Reviewing last night's work along with jottings from notebooks. Connections made to some consulting projects. A few brief emails answered; one from a lawyer who is on the road and checking in about a community board committee. I'm purposely slowing down the pace while preparing a presentation so the little points will be noticed. When you sense that something is missing it usually is. I'll arrange my notes so its arrival will be a smooth one. This is an everything in its place day.

Plastic Jewel

At Unhappy Hipsters:

The lone gleaming, plastic jewel amongst organic decay, the rocker needed no friends.

The Workers

There are days when our language seems trapped in the Thirties.

The term"worker" is sometimes used exclusively for employees, but not for managers or executives. It feeds the image that people in the higher ranks resemble the little rich man in the Monopoly game and implies that they go to meetings, read The Wall Street Journal, and do little beyond chat up business prospects on the golf course. I'm sure there are exceptions, but the executives and managers I've encountered work extremely hard, usually far beyond 40 hours a week, and they devoted years of labor to get into their positions.

There is another implication that is equally inaccurate; the idea that one group works while the other plans and thinks deep thoughts. To be sure, there are jobs that require little brain work, but successful organizations want people who can take initiative, juggle priorities, and spot ways to improve regardless of their job title. Even many of the old stereotypes about educational credentials no longer apply as you can find grad school alumni at a large variety of organizational levels in large companies.

A similar problem arises with the leaders versus managers distinction. Those are responsibilities, not a caste system. You want a workplace in which everyone, under the appropriate circumstances, can act as a leader and where all manage. They may perform those responsibilities well or less so, but they perform them nonetheless. It is not hard to find executive assistants who exercise as much leadership as division heads.

In short, language can be a label that restricts inquiry. We need to be wary of the implications. They can blur our view of many people.

Quote of the Day

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.

- Lao-tzu

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fashion Update: High School Yearbook Photos

The Atlantic has tracked down high school photos of the GOP presidential candidates.

"You Bring Your Own Weather To The Picnic"


Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project gets novelist Harlan Coben's thoughts about happiness:

Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t—or vice versa?
Not really. In the end, we know what makes us happy. We also know what makes us unhappy. That’s the irony. We know and yet we still mess it up. That’s part of the human condition, no, and why we need to work on it.

Making Law a B.A.

An idea that we'll probably hear much more about: An undergraduate major in law.

I think it deserves serious consideration.

Books Every Manager Should Read - Part Two

I should note that the entire list is not in any particular order. Some of the best books will be listed in the last stages. Here's the next 10-book increment:
  1. That's Not What I Meant! by Deborah Tannen
  2. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  3. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
  4. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  5. The 80/20 Rule by Richard Koch
  6. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
  7. The E-Myth by Michael Gerber
  8. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  9. The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
  10. The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille

Civilization is Fragile



News accounts abound now of impoverished Athens residents scrounging pharmacies for scarce aspirin — as Greece is squeezed to make interest payments to the supposedly euro-pinching German banks.

Such accounts may be exaggerations, but they should warn us that yearly progress is never assured. Instead, history offers plenty of examples of life becoming far worse than it had been centuries earlier. The biographer Plutarch, writing 500 years after the glories of classical Greece, lamented that in his time weeds grew amid the empty colonnades of the once-impressive Greek city-states. In America, most would prefer to live in the Detroit of 1941 than the Detroit of 2011. The quality of today’s air travel has regressed to the climate of yesterday’s bus service.

First Paragraph

The original manuscript of this book was left outside the door of my hotel room in Montefalcone, in Italy, in May 1962. It arrived in the manner of the classic foundling. Wrapped in coarse brown paper and held together by cheap twine, the bundle literally fell into my life when I opened the door one morning. A note pinned to it read: "In the name of God, do something with this."

- From The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton

Quote of the Day

The only thing that matters in art can't be explained.

- Georges Braque

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Health Food

The Pioneer Woman gives her recipes for perfect iced coffee and citrus butter cookies.

Now if only she would make home deliveries.

Cruise Ship Disaster


gCaptain has a Costa Concordia news page. Note the photo from space.

Art Break: Kees van Dongen


Art Contrarian gives examples of the fashion art of Kees van Dongen.

Finding Wisdom in the Unrelated


Wally Bock has sound advice: Read outside your field.

Consider how often you have discovered great insight on Topic A while reading about Topic Z.

First Paragraph

I felt like a spy. It was the first time I had ever ridden a cab in my own hometown. When I had left it I was definitely not a cab rider. Now taking cabs was as natural as breathing or putting on shoes. I could see the cab driver giving me the eye in his rear-view mirror. He was wearing the standard Midwestern work uniform of lumberjacket, corduroy cap, and a red face.

- From In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd


Books Every Manager Should Read - Part One

I've been asked to provide a list of books that I'd recommend for managers. As this rolls out in 10-book increments, you'll find an eclectic assortment that blends management books with histories, biographies, a play and some novels.
  1. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  2. Leaders by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus
  3. Thinking About Management by Theodore Levitt
  4. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  5. Wooden On Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jameson
  6. Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson
  7. Parkinson's Law by C. Northcote Parkinson
  8. Instant MBA by Nicholas Bate
  9. Commander in Chief by Eric Larrabee
  10. In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman

Quote of the Day

Cowardice does not make you safe. It makes you a safe target.

- Dale Amon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sherlock Flat

For all of the "Sherlock" fans out there, a rental property in London.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:







Circling the Project


Productivity expert David Allen says that we don't work on projects; projects are instead the result of what we work on. He urges us to focus on the actions that will eventually lead to completion of the project.

The mental picture which we hold is important. Is a project a series of linear actions? Can it be circled and viewed from a variety of perspectives? Is it a cloud or a box? A river or a rocket launch? Does it resemble a machine with distinct parts or a farmer's field with different stages of growth that must be addressed in a particular order? Is it a voyage into a stormy sea? Or are we conducting an orchestra or a jazz quartet?

And will the same mental picture apply to all projects?

I often feel as if I circle projects in an attempt to determine boundaries and dimensions. That may be due to a fondness for analysis and detachment. Others may plunge into a project and determine its characteristics from the inside. There are days when projects defy orderly approaches. A project, like some science fiction creature, may change before our eyes due to mission creep or events.

You can develop techniques for handling projects - checklists that will reduce the danger of overlooking a key item - and yet there are subtle aspects that require a feeling more than an analysis.

That is part of the circling process.

Why Reading Matters

But you object that at least our current economy of expression cuts out wasted words and clauses, a sort of slimmed-down, electronic communication? Perhaps, but it also turns almost everything into instant bland hot cereal, as if we should gulp down oatmeal at every meal and survive well enough without the bother of salad, main course, and dessert. Each day our vocabulary shrinks, our thought patterns stagnate — if they are not renewed through fresh literature or intelligent conversation. Unfortunately these days, those who read are few and silent; those who don’t, numerous and heard. In this drought, Dante’s Inferno and William Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico provide needed storms of new words, complex syntax, and fresh ideas.


Style Tips from a Master


Cultural Offering, always rich in its topics and content, gives an interesting take on style by the great Fred Astaire.

First Paragraph

I was awake long before the dawn this morning and by the time there was a greyness in the sky I had finally made up my mind to go. By eight o'clock I was in the Metro heading for the Old Fort at Vincennes - the recruitment centre of the Foreign Legion. There were few people about and those who were had grim Monday-morning faces, probably reflecting my own.

- From Legionnaire by Simon Murray

Quote of the Day

I surveyed the top 400 leaders of a 120,000-person company and found that close to 95 percent of them - that's 380 out of 400 - pointed to three things that wasted their time the most: unnecessary meetings, unimportant emails, and protracted PowerPoints.

- Peter Bregman

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wagner Spinning

Back by popular demand: Where many of us were first exposed to classical music.

Old Hickory


Art Contrarian examines a collection of portraits of Andrew Jackson.

The Personal Touch

I received a memorable email today. It was addressed to Dear *FNAME*.

Instant Typewriter Nostalgia


I love writing on a computer but there is a moment that always evokes a strong desire for a typewriter: When addressing an envelope.

How to Be Interesting


Jessica Hagy wrote an article for Forbes on how to be interesting in ten simple steps.

Claire Berlinski responds at Ricochet:

The popularity of the article suggests, however, a great public hunger for advice about how to be more interesting. Fortunately, Ricochet is here to advise you properly. You can become more interesting in one step. All you have to do is read Boswell's Life of Johnson, and commit the best lines to memory.

Kemske, Vampires, and Virtual Bosses

In a just world, the HR-related novels of Floyd Kemske would receive far more attention in Human Resources circles.

The Learned Warrior

Impressive and interesting: The reading list for the United States Commander in South Korea.

First Paragraph

Nearly seven hundred Negro communicants, some wearing white robes, marched together in the exodus of 1867. They followed the white preacher out of the First Baptist Church and north through town to Columbus Street, then east up the muddy hill to Ripley Street. There on that empty site, the congregation declared itself the First Baptist Church (Colored) with appropriate prayers and ceremonies, and a former slave named Nathan Ashby became the first minister of an independent Negro Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama.

- From Parting The Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch

Quote of the Day

The time is always right to do what is right.

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bate: 50 Ways


This is just damned good: Nicholas Bate lists FiftyEasyWaysToMakeLifeEasier.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

"Mon Oncle": The trailer.
Freelance Folder: Sales tips for shy people.
"RocknRolla": The trailer.
"Nowhere in Africa": The trailer.
Mercedes-Benz has apologized for the Che Guevara ad.
"Character": The trailer.

Technology's End

Check out this post at Political Calculations.

Be sure to watch the video at the end showing the woman who, after using a wheelchair for years, was able to use a new technology to walk.

First Paragraph

On June 22, 1977, the sixty-seventh attorney general of the United States, John Newton Mitchell, strode onto the grounds of the Federal Prison Camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and began serving his sentence for convictions on conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury charges in the Watergate cover-up. "It's nice to be back in Alabama," Mitchell told reporters with defiant jocularity.

- From The Strong Man by James Rosen

The Horror! The Horror!

At Unhappy Hipsters: Alone in the hallway, she cursed the inhumanity of a God who would have her endure another tofu scramble breakfast.

The A Body



Art Contrarian features the one body, multiple brands, feature that GM adopted in 1949.

Samsung's Transparent Smart Window

FutureLawyer, who is always far ahead on all things techie, has a video on the Samsung transparent Smart Window recently featured at a trade show in Las Vegas.

Good news: It is close to mass production.

You know you want one.

Quote of the Day

I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks.

- Winston Churchill

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Promise of Life



Somewhat haunting yet reassuring.

Thought Leaders on Trust

Trust Across America lists the Top 100 Thought Leaders on Trustworthy Business Behavior.

An interesting collection.

Style: Caine on Grant

Michael Caine's tribute to Cary Grant.

Smoking Deal: Today Only


Bargain Tip: Today only at Amazon you can purchase Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels for only 99 cents on Kindle.

Stock up. These are some of the best crime novels ever written.

Fearless

Anderson Layman's Blog has a brief and amazing video. Well worth your time.

I had no idea that so many of my weekend activities were being filmed.

Learning from Examples

If you work in a fairly large organization, you are surrounded by individuals who, while serving as good or bad examples, can teach a great deal. I can recall a few from my career:

The executive who did immaculate but tardy work which arrived so late that it was worthless. The manager who hid from his staff. The director who practically lived in the field and knew almost everything that took place in his geographically scattered department. The executive who believed that loyalty went only in one direction: his. The manager who looked the part but was in way over his head. The turn-around artist who routinely told higher-ups that they were idiots and was loved for it. The director who kissed up and kicked down. The executive who combined strength with extraordinary kindness. The amiable frauds. The cut-throats. The ones who retired on the job. The people who once were insightful and creative and then, at some point, only went through the motions. The professional who spoke rarely but always very wisely. The staff officer who lived for his hobbies. The curmudgeon. And a great many who existed somewhere in-between.

Each was a lesson learned.

Quote of the Day

There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.

- Steven Wright

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter


Civilization and Vivaldi at Cultural Offering.

Best Book or Film Title?

Book and film titles can make or break a work.

The Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy film "Bowfinger" probably suffered greatly because of its ill-chosen name.

What do you think is the best book or film title you've ever seen?

Some nominees for the book category:

The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson
Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John LeCarre

Roberts on WWII

Peter Robinson talks with historian Andrew Roberts about "The Storm of War."

Great Moments in the Law

At Overlawyered: French fans sue Michael Jackson's doctor over emotional damage.

Bill Poser in the comments: Can I sue his estate in France for the emotional damage done to me by his being so creepy?

[As I recall, Ambrose Bierce said that death is not the end. There remains the litigation.]

Redemption

I went to a PowerPoint presentation one day and a speaker showed up. Don't know how it happened. There were plenty of slides. The people in the back row were comatose after the first three clicks. Within 10 minutes a mind reader would have found that 90 percent of the audience was traveling to Tahiti or making grocery lists.

But then the slides stopped and the presenter started speaking. Nothing fancy, mind you, but in a conversational tone. Serious stuff that went right to the core. The back row perked up. People began to realize that some good information was in the room. Clear stuff that could be put to immediate use. You could see smiles. Eyes were sparkling. All was well.

The PowerPoint was forgiven.

Quote of the Day

I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education.

- Tallulah Bankhead

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "After The Thin Man."

First Paragraph

In Poland's deepest autumn, a tall young man in an expensive overcoat, double-breasted dinner jacket beneath it and - in the lapel of the dinner jacket - a large ornamental gold-on-black Hakenkreutz (swastika) emerged from a fashionable apartment building in Straszewskiego Street, on the edge of the ancient center of Cracow, and saw his chauffeur waiting with fuming breath by the open door of an enormous and, even in this blackened world, lustrous Adler limousine.

- From Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

Haiku about Writing and Editing

At Impertinent Remarks.

The Joy of Books

At Unbridled Books, a short and unusual video on the joy of books.

You may have wondered what happens in bookstores when no one is around.

Downsides and Upsides



If you are very busy, swamped with work, the downside may be that you don't have time to think in depth and see the big picture. If you have time to think, the downside may be that you lose the income, insights, and status that come with being busy. If you have significant power and are in the arena, you will be beset by responsibilities and yet may not have the time or perspective to generate innovative ideas. If you have the type of ideas created by distance from the arena, you probably don't have the power to enact those ideas. Even the best of events will have downsides and yet not every downside will have an upside. Some events are just terrible.

When to engage, when to suspend, and when to step back not only determine what we do; they also determine how we think.

Quote of the Day

Illegitimati non carborundum - Don't let the bastards grind you down.

- General Joseph W. Stilwell

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What, Never? No, Never.

I just finished a bunch of paperwork so it's back to Gilbert & Sullivan and the Captain of the Pinafore.

[You can't go wrong with Gilbert & Sullivan.]

Classical Economics

In 1991, the Nestlé Corporation became the Salzburg Festival’s first-ever commercial sponsor. The Austrian press exploded in rage. This moneygrubbing interloper would defile the sacred space of Salzburg and dumb down the august classical-music and theater showcase, predicted high-minded media wise men.

Go HR for Startups

Joyce Akiko has started a new HR blog. Check it out.

So We Can Say

You've seen the dance.

The training session was not held to train anyone but instead so someone could say that people had been trained. The study was ordered simply to have a shield. Put it on the shelf. It may come in handy some day when a pesky critic asks if anything has been done.

The primary appeal of some actions is not a direct one. It is ancillary and meant to achieve another end. It is the workplace equivalent of diploma fraud.

There must be a huge market in the "So We Can Say" business. That may be because so many of the participants refuse to admit that they are in it.

Music Break

Crank it up: Don Williams is "Living on Tulsa Time."

Return of the Dart

This post at Cultural Offering about the return of the Dodge Dart caused a smile until I saw the new version.

It may be a fine car and I may be missing something in the photo but based on looks alone, which one has more personality?

Early Morning Advantage




I've heard people describe their use of the first hours of the morning as a crucial part of whether or not they have a productive day. Among the activities cited are:
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Praying
  • Charting the day's activities
  • Writing personal notes
What I have not heard:
  • Checking e-mail
  • Making phone calls
  • Reviewing the previous day

Screwing Up By The Numbers



  1. Don't listen.
  2. Only consider your perspective.
  3. Be discourteous.
  4. Avoid setting goals or, if you set some, make them wildly unrealistic.
  5. Go for immediate gratification.
  6. Act as if the rules don't apply to you.
  7. Stop learning and squelch your curiosity.
  8. Never be grateful.
  9. Whine.
  10. Regard yourself as very clever.
  11. Be neither trustworthy nor reliable.
  12. Care for no one and nothing other than yourself.
  13. Squander time.
  14. Rely on miracles.
  15. Expect the world to accommodate you.