Friday, November 30, 2012

Update


Completely out of old office and into the new. Champagne bottles popped. Tears of joy. Dancing in the streets. Alert the press.

All that remains is to get organized.

Noticing Motion


Many years ago, while going through some training in what the Army called "escape and evade techniques," I learned the importance of avoiding motion. It was startling how often you could go unnoticed if you remained absolutely still. Make a slight move, however, and you could be quickly spotted.

In contrast, the business and political worlds seem to be myopic when it comes to motion just so the accompanying words are reassuring. We operate on the notion that if someone says that A is the goal, he or she won't do B or Z. Savvy practitioners of office politics, however, quickly learn that back and subterranean channels can operate in complete opposition to grand pronouncements and many people won't notice.

 Augustus Caesar, far less direct than Julius, perfected this technique. By the time his opponents caught on, it was too late. They were entranced by the deferential words and missed the actions
. To paraphrase John Mitchell, don't just watch what they say, watch what they do.

Art Break: Tobey


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Mark Tobey.

Excuse Monger

"He must have a good reason."
"Nope. Didn't state a single one."
"Well, even if that is true, he must have one he can't tell us about."
"Give me a break. This is a public process. He stonewalled it."
"I mean you can't hold a job like that and not have good reasons for a major action."
"Do you really believe that? Do I need to list past misconduct?"
"I believe there must be a good reason in his case."
"Even though he won't state it?"
"Yes."
"So what would be highly suspicious with anyone else won't be here?"
"That's right."

What is It?


Do we regard it as a problem or an opportunity? Is it a barrier or a stepping stone? Are words to be ignored? Should only actions be considered? Is our knowledge of precedent clouding the picture or sharpening our insight? Has a new fact been introduced which entirely changes the game?

The moment we attach a label, we will either facilitate or inhibit effective action. As a result, labels should be regarded with caution and later re-checked to see if their accuracy has eroded.

Seeing what is in front of us is one of the greatest challenges of leadership and management.

Quote of the Day

Problems are to reality what atoms are to tables. We experience tables, not atoms. Problems are abstracted from experience by analysis. We do not experience individual problems but complex systems of those that are strongly interacting. I call them messes.

- Russell L. Ackoff

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Entertainment Break

The trailer for a Chinese version of Dangerous Liaisons.

Billions and Billions

Take a tour of the stars at Anderson Layman's Blog. Mind-boggling.

Still Another Problem I've Never Had To Solve

From The Telegraph: How to dress for an Oxbridge interview.

On-Task and On-Time


Entrepreneur recommends four apps.

Cross Roads

Anderson Layman's Blog has been posting some Chesterton quotations.

I found this one to be chilling. For the first time in my life, I am worried that the United States may be approaching a scenario in which all of the options are terrible. "Kick the can down the road" long enough and you eventually find that the road has become a quagmire. 

Miscellaneous and Fast

Peter, Paul and Mary: "Day is Done."
Dave Wessel on the tax the rich numbers.
A scene from "The Chase."
Hank Williams: "Jambalaya on the Bayou."
The trailer for "The Iceman."
Modern Culture: "Don't Hassel the Hoff."
Jon L. Breen on two posthumous gifts from novelist Donald E. Westlake.

The Crisis Whisperer


I am occasionally called in to assist organizations with what some would call "sensitive matters." It is important to adopt the right frame of mind in such circumstances. That usually involves slowing things down.

My preference is for "effective" over "bold" and I start with that bias. I didn't always use that method and instead joined others in rushing here and there and acting the way people are expected to act when barbarians or lawyers are at the gates or - good God! - inside the walls.

There is, however, enough emotion in the air without an outsider adding to it. I've found that a Alfred Hitchcock on sleeping pills style tends to do the trick. I certainly look the part.

Dwight Eisenhower used to tell his Cabinet, "Let's not be in a hurry to make our mistakes." The bias in favor of action, any action, can generate artificial deadlines which in turn produce brain freeze.

Obviously, there are crises that require swift action but an action that has to be revised or retracted 30 minutes later may not be wise action. Multiply that several times and watch morale plummet. The most precious commodity in a crisis is control. By slowing things down, we may win a war and not just a battle.

The Governor's List

Cultural Offering points to the Christmas book list of Governor Mitch Daniels and a fine list it is. It makes me regret all the more that this very unconventional politician decided not to run for president. His very low-key approach would have raised the question of what we expect to see in a candidate.

Quote of the Day

The best way out is always through.

- Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Many Thanks

A kind and much appreciated post by John E. Smith at The Strategic Learner.

The Ability to Surprise

Ann Althouse has the story of a student with an accent in Speech 101.

Zig Ziglar, R.I.P.


Zig Ziglar, the great motivational speaker, has passed away.

I used to listen to his tapes while traveling a back-breaking training schedule and living in airports. Ziglar's critics scoffed at his simplicity but old Zig knew a major truth of life: The basic rules are rather simple.

He improved the lives of millions of people. Not a bad epitaph. May he rest in peace.

Settling In


Into the new office today. There's still some stuff to wrap up in the old one, but the mega-portion of the move is over. The new neighbors are nice as is the landlord.

We're taking a blood oath not to let the paper accumulate as it did FOR OVER SEVEN YEARS at the old place. That will require some careful monitoring. These things creep up on you.

The jungle is always looking for ways to over-run the base camp.

Case Examples


I love to teach with case examples.

They permit the right mixture of generalization and specific, elicit discussion among class members, and reinforce the key principles. This means, of course, that the instructor must be ready to handle interruptions as well as questions out of left field but those factors add to the energy of the session.

This interaction gives the instructor the ability to determine whether or not the information is being absorbed. You can explain a concept one way and some people won't grasp it. Add another explanation or two and finally all of the lights go on. Teaching management and EEO workshops has made me appreciate the excellent teachers I've had over the years.

It has also made me cringe at the poor ones.

Quote of the Day

Bringing rights and powers over the bridge of tribe and class into the hands of government does not diminish world narcissism; it merely concentrates narcissism in the people who think the rest of us should improve our characters by letting them tell us what to do.

- Mark Helprin

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Paragraph

On the corner of the main square and the Via Garibaldi, the courthouse of Porto Manacore stood facing the palace of Frederick II of Swabia. It was a bleak, five-storied building: on the ground floor the prison, on the second the police station, on the third the courtroom, on the fourth the apartment of the Chief of Police, on the fifth that of the Judge.

- From The Law by Roger Vailland

Computer of the Future?

FutureLawyer looks at the ASUS Transformer Book. An excerpt:

The ASUS Transformer Book is a full Core I7 computer with an SSD drive, running Windows 8. However, if you don't want to carry the weight around, just detach the screen and, presto, you have a light full sized tablet.

When Childhood Has Passed


By the time childhood has passed, you should know:

  • The smartest people can be dumb.
  • The dumbest people can have wisdom.
  • Deciding when to say nothing is a major life skill.
  • You want to hear the other side of an argument.
  • Not everyone who smiles is a friend.
  • It is important to read between the lines.
  • It pays to be alert.
  • Doing your homework makes a big difference.
  • The best way to get punched is to look like a victim.
  • When something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right.
  • Many bad things can happen because of a lack of patience.
  • The big talkers are rarely the big producers.
  • There are some places where it's best not to linger.
  • Experience matters.
  • The world does not accommodate itself to you.

Supervisors and Harassment

The U.S. Supreme Court tackles the definition of a supervisor.

[HT: Althouse]

Quote of the Day

A thick skin is a gift from God.

- Konrad Adenauer

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Fast Car"

Back by popular demand: Tracy Chapman.

Art Break: Holgate


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edwin Holgate.

The Cossacks are Coming!


No, wait.

Make that the movers.

We are moving our offices later this week. The process started in bits and pieces and then escalated. It has included the usual moments of discovery along the lines of "Where did that come from?" and "When was the last time we needed that file?" Much has been thrown that should have been chucked out years ago.

What I find fascinating about the process is the sense of rejuvenation that comes with new surroundings. I can cite tangible reasons for the move but the intangibles may be even more important. I'm fully aware of the flawed reasoning used by those who expect that a move from Cleveland to Chicago will solve problems but when it comes to refreshing a perspective, sometimes a move helps.

First Paragraph

They were playing poker in the back room of the Clearwater Country Club bar, the last survivors of the member-guest tournament that had ended earlier that day. They sat at the poker table, dressed still in their colorful golfing shirts and pants, an assortment of half-filled drinks scattered among their piles of chips, laughing and swirling cards in the otherwise empty clubhouse. Behind them the bartender's tip jar would soon have to be replaced with an empty one. And twice already the waitress had gone to her purse to deposit a stack of the crisp bills that seemed to come from a burgeoning and inexhaustible source. For these were cash men, with long leather wallets designed for the inside of a suit jacket, and they couldn't be bothered with the smaller denominations.

- From The Millionaires by Inman Majors

A Simple Guide for Informal Minutes



  1. When We Met:
  2. Who Was Present: 
  3. Who Was Absent:
  4. What We Wanted to Do:
  5. What We Did:
  6. Specifically Who is Doing Exactly What by Precisely When:
  7. Next Meeting, If Any:

Quote of the Day

If we are concerned with the shortage of talent in our society, we must inevitably give attention to those who have never really explored their talents fully.

- John W. Gardner

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brilliance

Both in the music and the performers: Guitarist John Williams with the adagio of the Concierto de Aranjuez.

Management Question: Bias

"Have you ever noticed how many biases that were unchallenged years ago now trigger the appropriate reaction of 'Are you out of your mind?'"

First Paragraph

Puggy had held down his job at the Jolly Jackal Bar and Grill, which did not have a grill, for almost three weeks. For Puggy, this was a personal employment record. In fact, after a career as a semiprofessional vagrant, he was seriously thinking about settling in Miami, putting down roots, maybe even finding an indoor place to sleep. Although he really liked his tree.

- From Big Trouble by Dave Barry

Find Something Beautiful Today


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bock Review

Wally Bock reviews his recent posts on leadership and talent development.

Life of Pi

Read the book. Saw the film the other day. [Here's the trailer.]

Highly recommend both. Many of the scenes in the film are simply stunning. A classic.

Saturday Night Short Story


John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums."

CCleaner

FutureLawyer takes out the trash and cleans up a computer.

While we're on the subject of trash, here's a link to a classic by The Trashmen.

Music Break


Marc Cohn with "True Companion."

Bias on Campus

An interesting case involving the University of Iowa's law school.

One of my best teachers in college was on the far Left but he tolerated and encouraged dissenting views. Times have changed. Survey after survey shows that many college faculties, with the rare exception of departments such as Engineering, are overwhelmingly on the Left. If the equivalent numbers were shown for a racial group, the bias would have been readily acknowledged.

Pride in Work: A Latte Artist

A short video demonstrating the extra touch that makes a difference.

The Uncompleted Projects


An uncompleted project is like Poe's raven except it perches on that bust of Rodney Dangerfield above your door and gives you no respect until it is done, done, done.

They differ from projects that have never been started. Those creatures may foster regret but produce little stress. They are wimps. The uncompleted projects are savage. They will peck at you and rustle their feathers while you are trying to sleep. They'll haunt your mind and their ability to instill guilt is legendary.

You can do two things: Abandon the project entirely or complete it. The latter may be done incrementally or in one focused effort. Once a decision is made to do the former, however, the commitment should be severed quickly and without remorse. Your attention should be quickly directed elsewhere.

After all, you've got some uncompleted projects.

Quote of the Day

Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 23, 2012

Put Some Poetry in Your Life

Try "The Two Trees" by William Butler Yeats.

Entertainment Break

Five for Fighting: "Superman."
Bob Seger: "You're Still The Same."
Back by popular demand: Julie London with "Cry Me a River."

Odd World News Review

George Will has some post-turkey news to digest. An excerpt:
Hot for égalité, France’s new socialist government proposedbanning homework because it gives advantage to students from homes conducive to study.
Congress found that Amtrak spends $16.15 to make a cheeseburger it sells for $9.50.

A Chorus of Turkeys


View From the Ledge has an unusual story (and recording) of a man singing "Froggy Went A-Courting" with the aid of 300 turkeys. [He knew how to trigger the birds' response.]

Next year, some Sinatra classics.

New Blog: Gruyere and Chocolate

Eclecticity points the way to a new blog about cooking.

[I think I'd better find one about fasting.]

One Bullet Away

I first heard Nathaniel C. Fick in a radio interview and much later purchased his book: One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer. My only regret is that I waited so long to read it.

This is an intelligent and riveting account of how a leader is developed both through training and experience. The amount of training that Fick, a Dartmouth grad, received from the Marine Corps is impressive but the accounts of how he was able to apply the lessons from that training while leading men in combat make this far more than a "war story."  It's going onto the recommended reading list for my leadership workshops.

An extraordinary book. Check it out.

Little Gifts


There are days when the best gifts are:

  • Sleep
  • Forgiveness
  • Attention
  • Silence
  • Time

Quote of the Day

Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.

- Arnold Toynbee

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"The Aftermath"

Anderson Layman's Blog has the picture.

Keaton The Great

Here's a brief example of how the Buster Keaton silent films were way ahead of their time.

The Diet Starts Tomorrow!


Instapundit: Party pooper.

Quiz for Dinner


It has come to my attention that many young people do not know - much less use - some of our most colorful words. It would be sad if these great tools of communication were lost. How many of you not only know the meaning of the following words, but occasionally use them? [Definitions may be found on Google.]

  1. Mollycoddle
  2. Pussyfoot
  3. Hornswoggle
  4. Bamboozle
  5. Poltroon
  6. Canard
  7. Lollygag
  8. Bodacious
  9. Crone
  10. Gigolo
  11. Palaver
  12. Hobnob
  13. Minion
  14. Toady
  15. Mossback

Still More Music


The Sydney Camerata Chamber Orchestra plays Copland's "Appalachian Spring."

Music Break

Mikhail Pletnev plays Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


"America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy." - John Updike

Quote of the Day

In the United States, as the aphorism goes, we are all immigrants. And that, of course, is true even for those who were here first, the American Indians, who had, by the most widely accepted theory, immigrated from Asia across the Bering Strait some thousands of years before the arrival of the first European explorers.

- Lawrence E. Harrison

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

Richard Howland Maxwell on the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans.
Paul Revere and The Raiders: "Him or Me."
The trailer for "My Afternoons with Margueritte."
Peter Wehner on the media's Benghazi scandal.
Eclecticity on a clean, well-lighted place to blog.
The Telegraph: Ten great film roles rejected by stars.
Portlandia: "The Knot Store."
Fast Company: The story of Elf on the Shelf.
CoolTools: Folkwear, a sewing pattern company.
Poetry break: Philip Larkin's "Homage to a Government."
The trailer for "The Pacific."

Art Break: Bosley


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Frederick Andrew Bosley.

News You Can Use

Cultural Offering has some helpful apps.

Business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey has a texting tip for tomorrow's big meal.

Kung Fu Girl?


Real Simple has 12 affordable wines for Thanksgiving.

Something on the Side


The Pioneer Woman reveals her favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. They all look great.

Power of Impressions


How memorable are little mannerisms? Check out this video of an impressionist on Andrew Sullivan's site.

Career Trap


They were trapped in dead-end careers. Since they are bright, capable people, others wondered how it happened.  The truth is they often wondered themselves. Some possible reasons were:

  • Demoralization sapped their energy and with that went their dreams.
  • They told themselves stories of magical career helpers who resembled elves. The elves, a.k.a. mentors, never arrived.
  • They believed their fine work would one day get noticed. [They once saw that in a movie.]
  • They could not make the decision to leave. There was always a reason to sit tight.
  • They began to prefer the predictable.
  • They ascribed human characteristics to an organization.
  • There was always just enough hope to keep them there. Because of that, they suffered one of the worst types of failure: The slow version.
  • They sucked even the slightest bit of status from any management decision. 
  • They fell prey to inertia and its close relative, procrastination.
  • Their associates discouraged them from leaving, not wanting to lose their company.
  • They overestimated the cost of leaving and underestimated the cost of staying.

Quote of the Day

There are men whose enmity is a compliment.

- J. A. Froude

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Definition of Happiness


Getting some great ideas and having a Moleskine notebook at hand.

No Parrots on the Mayflower

A special Thanksgiving photo of the FutureLawyer office staff.

I'm sure there is a Carl Hiassen novel about this.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

"The Girl from Monaco"
"Somewhere"
"Oz The Great and Powerful"
"Coriolanus"

10 Rules for Thanksgiving

I wrote this post several years ago and it is now an Execupundit tradition:

  1. Thou shalt not discuss politics at the dinner. There is next to no chance that you'll convert anyone and any hard feelings that are generated may last long after the pumpkin pie is finished. Why spoil a good meal?

  2. Thou shalt limit discussion of The Big Game. This is mainly directed at the men who choose to argue plays, records, and coaches while their wives stare longingly at the silverware. The sharp silverware.

  3. Thou shalt say nice things about every dish. Including the bizarre one with Jello and marshmallows.

  4. Thou shalt be especially kind to anyone who may feel left out. Some Thanksgiving guests are tag-alongs or, as we say in the business world, "new to the organization." Make a point of drawing them in.

  5. Thou shalt be wary of gossip. After all, do you know what they say when you leave the room? Remember the old saying: All of the brothers are valiant and all of the sisters are virtuous.

  6. Thou shalt not hog the white or dark meat. We know you're on Atkins but that's no excuse.

  7. Thou shalt think mightily before going back for seconds. Especially if that means waddling back for seconds.

  8. Thou shalt not get drunk. Strong drink improves neither your wit nor your discretion. Give everyone else a gift by remaining sober.

  9. Thou shalt be cheerful. This is not a therapy session. This is not the moment to recount all of the mistakes in your life or to get back at Uncle Bo for the wisecrack he made at your high school graduation. This is a time for Rule #10.

  10. Thou shalt be thankful. You're above ground and functioning in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time. Many people paid a very heavy price (and I'm not talking about groceries) to give you this day. Take some time to think of them and to express gratitude to your friends and relatives. Above all, give special thanks to the divine power who blesses you in innumerable ways.

If I See


If I see something that a client has missed, it is not because I'm a genius. More likely, the reason is one or more of the following:

  1. The same scenario has already crossed my path a few dozen times. [That's why I have gray hair.]
  2. It's easier to see the picture when you're outside the frame. [I can't recall who said that but it frequently comes to mind.
  3. The issues are a part of my specialty.
  4. I have no turf to defend and no dog in the fight.
  5. Listening for what is not said can be more revealing than pondering what is said.
  6. My approach is to gather information before conducting an analysis rather than the other way around. [I know that sounds flippant but think of how often all of us slip into analysis and then seek information to support our position.]
  7. Consulting is one of those jobs where you can take time to think and people don't assume that you're goofing off.

Quote of the Day

Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree.

- Russell B. Long

Monday, November 19, 2012

Music Break: Make Someone Happy

From the great Jimmy Durante.

Desk Poster

There are times when 
the best response is no response.

Wake Up!


The incomparable Nicholas Bate doesn't want to hear any excuses.

Alone on Campus for Thanksgiving

“I’m definitely still going to have a nice little Thanksgiving,” he added of the unbearably grim little day he has planned.

Read the rest of the story at The Onion.

Art Break: Leyendecker


Art Contrarian looks at J.C. Leyendecker's technique of lighting from below.

Helprin's "Ellis Island"

If you enjoy reading short stories that are beautifully written and thought provoking, get this volume by Mark Helprin.

Miscellaneous and Fast

The trailer for "Chasing Ice."
Scientific American: David Quammen on Spillover, his book about the next pandemic.
Dumb move: A European call for gender quotas.
The trailer for "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Benghazi: The White House denies deleting info about a terrorist attack.
Spiegel on the prison of debt.
Instapundit has The Washington Post's graph on the recovery
The trailer for "This Must Be the Place."

Mini-Escapes


Let's stipulate that you can't get to the south of France or a mountaintop in Peru this year. Aside from financial concerns, time constraints would be, as the line goes, prohibitive. Nonetheless, you need to recharge in order to keep those fresh perspectives coming and to maintain some basic sanity.

How do you do it?

Here are some techniques I've used or have heard about from friends. Feel free to add to the list.

  1. Slow down your pace. Savor the small actions. Focus on doing minor tasks well.
  2. Meditate. Take 15 minutes and clear your mind.
  3. Take daily naps. Nothing lengthy. Even 10 minutes will help.
  4. Reduce any extraneous negative influences, such as television. Make sure that your reading material is not negative.
  5. Redo your office area. Move your desk. Bring in some new art.
  6. Periodically get out of the office. Find a hide-away where you can collect your thoughts without being disturbed.
  7. Check your diet to see if it is adversely affecting your mood.
  8. Exercise more. A little is better than none.
  9. Do something every day to help someone.
  10. Read some fiction that will stimulate your imagination. Try some science fiction or delve into fantasy works.
  11. Read travel essays. If you can't visit China or Africa, read an account by someone who has.
  12. Touch base with a mentor or an old friend who has been neglected.
  13. Play Sherlock Holmes and observe more. Listen for speech patterns. Watch body language and clothing. Try to notice details, such as tree and car types, that you often ignore.
  14. Pick one of your dreams and jot down an action plan to achieve it.

Quote of the Day

Educate men without religion and you make them but clever devils.

- The Duke of Wellington

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Smith on Volunteering

John E. Smith at The Strategic Learner has written an excellent primer on volunteering.

It deserves wide circulation.

Find Something Beautiful Today


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Just What We Need


Tasty Kitchen shows how to make pumpkin pie bars. Well, I suppose that since Twinkies are no longer readily available....

Saturday Night Short Story


Rudyard Kipling's "The City of Dreadful Night."

"Foodstuff of Choice for the Zombie Apocalypse"

Here's a reassuring analysis from Dan Primack at Fortune. An excerpt:

The truth is that the Twinkies brand still has value, and will be acquired. Same for Ding Dongs. And (probably) Wonder Bread. America may be undergoing major demographic shifts, but empty calories cut across age, gender and ethnicity. If the next generation's Twinkies don't have "Hostess" stamped on them, so be it. I'm not even certain the ironic heart carries much weight in our post-Saturday morning cartoon world.

Good Times in Southern Italy

The trailer for "The Law." Check out the cast.

First Paragraph

In Munich are many men who look like weasels. Whether by genetic accident, meticulous crossbreeding, an early and puzzling migration, coincidence, or a reason that we do not know, they exist in great numbers. Remarkably, they accentuate this unfortunate tendency by wearing mustaches, Alpine hats, and tweed. A man who resembles a weasel should never wear tweed.

- From The Schreuderspitze, a short story by Mark Helprin

Scribble Scribble


Brutally frank: John Steinbeck's advice for beginning writers.

Update: Ray Bradbury's advice.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Anderson Layman's Blog has some Tennyson to ponder.
Wally Bock has weekend imagination igniters.
Michael Pollan: Twinkie versus Carrot.
The trailer for "Beverly Hills Cop."
Back by popular demand: Polly Walker in "Rome."
Victor Davis Hanson on the second term curse.
Michael Caine discussing Cary Grant.
Fast Company on Snail Mail My Email.
Eclecticity has Petraeus and Ike and a question before you click.
Charles Murray on America's growing cultural divide.

Management Question: Ethics

"Why does a damnable lie that is uttered by an opponent become a mere exaggeration when uttered by an ally?"

The Lone Ranger

Crank up your speakers and watch this video at FutureLawyer.

A Thorough Understanding of the Other Side


If there is one thing I got from law school, aside from a few emotional scars, is that there is another side to a case and you'd better find out what it is. A healthy skepticism is developed. You're citing an expert? The other side also has experts. You've got a study? Ditto. You have a small army of witnesses? How credible are they? Tell a lawyer that a matter is an open-and-shut case and you'll see a slight smile. They don't take things at face value. They cannot afford to do so.

This skepticism is also developed in other jobs. Tell a literary agent that you've written another War and Peace and watch as her eyes narrow. Tell a military officer that a complicated operation will run like clockwork and you'll be lucky if he doesn't guffaw. I can't recall who said that the more you know about a topic, the more conservative you are about it but that opinion was right on the mark.

Do your homework. Seriously study and argue the other side. If it seems too weak, you're probably missing something.

Quote of the Day

For every why he had a wherefore.

- Samuel Butler

Friday, November 16, 2012

To Catch an Extraordinary Film


The trailer for "To Catch a Thief."

I recently purchased and watched the Collector's Edition DVD and it is sharper than I recall the original film.

Pure entertainment. Highest recommendation.

25 Blogs

Cultural Offering lists 25 blogs guaranteed to make you smarter.

I'm honored to be in such company.

The Gyro



CoolTools reviews the Black & Decker Gyro Screwdriver and it sounds pretty neat.

And It's Not a Flip

FutureLawyer has found his next phone.

The Lunch Break Disappeareth


Stanley Bing protests:

This simple ritual during the midpoint of our waking hours has been an inalienable pillar of freedom since Nog the cave person struck the first wildebeest at midday and gnawed on its entrails for an hour or so, after which he or she took a nice postprandial nap. With the ubiquity of mikebloombergian cubicles, most of us can kiss the small restorative snooze goodbye. But now it seems that even the noontime break for sustenance -- that core strut in the construction of our daily humanity -- is in danger too.

[For those of us who are used to a peanut butter sandwich at our desks, this may not be that big of a shock.]

Art Break: Reeves


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Joseph Mason Reeves, Jr.

Seduce like Apple


At Kissmetrics: How to write seductive sales copy like Apple.

[HT: Tim Berry]

Remember the slick campaign brochures for Nelson Rockefeller? Rocky!

Getting the Right Wolfe

In late 1962, the New York Typographical Union called a strike, depriving New Yorkers of their seven daily newspapers for more than four months. The strike became famous for at least two of its long-lasting cultural consequences. A group of eggheads, suffering withdrawal pangs from their Sunday dose of the New York Times Book Review, founded the New York Review of Books; and Tom Wolfe temporarily lost his job at the Trib. He took a freelance assignment from Esquire to cover a car show in California. When he returned, he stumbled into a writer’s block, and his editor, with the deadline approaching, told him simply to type up his notes so a rewrite man could use them to make an article. In an all-night session at the typewriter, Wolfe described his California experiences in a freewheeling letter to his editor, who was so pleased with all 49 pages that he simply struck the salutation from the top and ran the notes as Wolfe wrote them.

Read the rest of Andrew Ferguson's Commentary magazine essay here. [If only all magazines were as good as Commentary.]

Coaching Optimism


Some coaching optimism tips from the "mental trainer" of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Quote of the Day

May you live all the days of your life. 

- Jonathan Swift

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "Taking Woodstock."

When Machinery and Art Meet

If you like machinery, this video at Cultural Offering is a must see.

The Mighty Khan


At Forbes: How Khan Academy is reinventing education. [A link to Khan Academy is to the right in the blog roll.]

Learning from Petraeus

Attorney Michael P. Maslanka notes some lessons from the Petraeus scandal. An excerpt:

There were no weasel words, no lawyer-like equivocations, no nuanced meanings, no contingent sentences (“If I hurt anyone I am sorry. . . .”), just a simple, declarative sentiment: I did wrong. It’s a lesson for other execs. And speaking of simple, declarative sentences, I was raised as a Catholic and occasionally re-read The Act of Contrition: “I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”

Style Lives


A civilized touch can always be found at The Hammock Papers.

On the Run

He’s the opposite of the common stereotype of the boring computer nerd. John McAfee, wanted for questioning over a murder and in hiding in Belize, has spent almost two decades living a life of alleged heavy drug abuse, sexual experimentation, deadly extreme sports and media manipulation.

Read the rest of The Telegraph article here.

Finding the Real Reality


I've heard people say, "Perception is reality." That's not true. Perception is important and should be considered, but it's not reality. Reality is reality. Settling for perception is a lazy person's way of decision making; a lowest common denominator mode of thinking. We want real facts, not assumed ones.

An important challenge when encountering disagreement is to determine whose position is closest to reality. This often requires work and always requires honesty.You don't stick to a position because dropping it may hurt your pride or your image or lose some friends. I've found large numbers of people who refuse to adopt a good idea because it wasn't theirs. They stick with positions out of tradition or because of a reluctance to admit that another approach might have merit. They frequently fall prey to the loose use of labels, which is quite dangerous. Once a label is attached, thinking usually ends.

Lest we get too smug, we should recognize our own ability to fall into the same trap.
Periodic and respectful reviews of opposing opinions mixed in with large doses of candid introspection can be powerful antidotes. So too is a commitment to discovering reality.

Turkey - Duck - Chicken


Cultural Offering has details on how to cook a Turducken.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Pulp Serenade reports on NoirCon 2012.
The trailer for "La Dolce Vita."
National Geographic: Flight over the Grand Canyon.
Glenn Reynolds on Katrina on the Hudson.
A Simple Village Undertaker on the superiority of dogs.
Althouse: The Finnish underwater ice fishing was clever but no mystery.
BBC: European austerity protests.
The Onion: Reactions to Petraeus story.
Healthy eating: The best milk shake recipe ever?
The trailer for "Whiteout."
Spiegel: Stalin's Atlantis.
He's still in the biz: The official Shelley Berman web site.

Quote of the Day

Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.

- Robert Heinlein

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Profumo Example

What did the headlines look like when John Profumo, a man brought down by a sex scandal, died at the age of 91?

It is a lesson in how things linger.

At the same time, Profumo is a lesson of how people can redeem themselves. An excerpt from The New York Times story:

But after his fall, he withdrew permanently from public office, refused to discuss the scandal and, instead, turned to charitable work among the poor in the hardscrabble East End of London. He achieved a degree of rehabilitation in 1975 when he was honored as a Commander, Order of the British Empire.

Unlike more modern politicians, he had refrained from publishing memoirs or even rebutting allegations about his association with Christine Keeler, a prostitute he met at an upscale party.

Apple, Rectangles, and Mr. Bumble

FutureLawyer is on the case. An excerpt:

Has the USPTO taken leave of its senses? Who is working there? When did common sense leave the building? A message to She Who Someday Must Be Obeyed. Do not expect me to give Apple a dime to get you one of their products this Christmas. 

Art Break: Leech


Art Contrarian looks at the work of William John Leech.

Between a Rock and ....


Some time ago…..twenty years or so, I answered the funeral home phone and it was a woman calling us to request our services for her mother who had died. I started to say “I am sorry for your loss”, but was cut off abruptly with, “You are not sorry…you didn’t know my mother and you are happy you are getting the business”
OK…Good Point.

Read the rest of A Simple, Village Undertaker here.

WiFi Detective

Josh Briggs on how to tell if someone's stealing your WiFi.

Give Them Some History


Elite military organizations, such as the United States Marine Corps and the French Foreign Legion, have known this secret for years. They tell their new recruits about the history of the organization and why a special status is given to those who are permitted to enter their ranks. They don't talk about benefits or offer special deals. They discuss challenges, duty, and tradition. This high standard, they say, is what is expected of you and if you aren't willing or able to meet it, then you shouldn't be here.

Shift now to other organizations where you can work for years without ever hearing about the outfit's origins and struggles, where the legends and stories are not told in any organized manner. In those places, work becomes "behavior for rent." There is no greater meaning and no sense of the past.

That omission is a huge mistake. Having said that, let me rush to say that pep talks alone are insufficient. If you talk about the group's history and its values, the current conduct and atmosphere have to mesh or all of the words will ring false.

Give them substance, live up to it, and you'll tap into enormous power. This is an ancient urge. People want to be associated with a larger cause.