Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Get Out Your Sombrero

I can't let the year slip away without a replay of Leon Redbone and friends. Crank it up.

A Quiet New Year's

Well, relatively quiet. My wife has Jimmy Buffett's Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes CD playing in another room. (She has good taste.)  I'm organizing my home office and taking breaks to read parts of You, Only Better by Nicholas Bate and The Devil's In The Cows by Sippican Cottage, two extraordinary bloggers and writers. 

As bedtime nears, I'll take the dog outside for a while and then switch to Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War. My wife and I will have an early toast to 2014. My modest goal is to be asleep by the time midnight rolls around. 

Call me Party Animal.

I have a list of several important goals for the next year. Updates on some of them will be inflicted upon readers of this blog.

Although New Year's Eve will be quiet, the coming year will have a lot of action.

Special Thanks

My thanks go to all who have visited this site in the past year. 

Special thanks go to those who have recommended it to others and to all who have become regular readers. You are a major reason why this blog exists.

Looking Ahead: The English Question

Could a vote in September 2014 bring an end to the United Kingdom as we know it?

"You left me in the lurch"

The James Brown of his day, Carmen Lombardo (brother of Guy) does a mean version of "Boo Hoo."

[HT: Lou Rodarte]

Where in the World . . . ?

There's a new winner of The View From Your Window Contest at Andrew Sullivan's site.

The nominees are interesting, in part because of the certainty of some people who have it wrong. I wouldn't have come close to guessing the right spot. Most of the nominees sounded plausible.

First Paragraph

I told that boy, I told him. You don't want no part of this farm, nor another. A farm is a jackplane for human boards. Wears you out like a sermon.

- From The Devil's In The Cows by Sippican Cottage

Because They're All Wizards, You Know

News you can use: The most common grade at Harvard.

Behind the Scenes

  • Mashed potatoes work well for ice cream or anything requiring that kind of consistency. Just tint them the color you need.
  • Angel food cake is easy to eat, can be colored and cut into shapes, and goes down easily, not causing anyone to choke.
  • Slices of bread with a half of an apricot in the middle create fake fried eggs.

- From The Drama Teacher's Survival Guide.

ELO Essential Mix

Kurt Harden at Cultural Offering routinely reminds me of how little I've followed various music groups. 


By posting essential mix lists. Most of the time I'm familiar with the composer, musician or group, but sometimes only the name is familiar. The latest is for Electric Light Orchestra. I vaguely recall that they were good and will always defer to Mr. Harden. 

Upon his judgment, I rely.*

[*That line comes from which novel? And don't google it!]

Auld Lang Syne: The Ultimate Version

A tradition on this blog: Dougie MacLean shows how to sing "Auld Lang Syne." Start singing it now and you'll be ready for tonight.

Career Threats

I've seen people whose careers were harmed because:

  • They made their work seem easy. It wasn't until their successors arrived that people began to appreciate how good they were.
  • They were upbeat and positive. Some executives believe that only the somber and pessimistic can be serious people. Humor is especially suspect.
  • They spoke and wrote clearly. That obviously meant they were shallow.
  • They didn't tout their achievements. People who spend large portions of their work weeks embellishing their achievements cannot understand modesty. They equate it with inferiority.
  • They cultivated ties within their specialty but not with many beyond their professional circles. Unfortunately, the oral boards may have only token representation of people who know the subject area. Often there is no oral board at all.
  • They did not fit in with the preferred personality type. This can be a real challenge because it requires that the individual know how to make others comfortable. That ability may not lessen the advantage of a less-qualified competitor whose very being signals that he or she is "one of them."

Language to Remember and Use

"We'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne."

Quote of the Day

Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug. 

- John Lithgow

Monday, December 30, 2013

Munro's List

Many thanks to Andrew Munro of Andrew Munro's Blog for listing Execupundit along with some really interesting blogs. I'm in great company.

Art Break: Giarrano

Underpaintings looks at the work of Vincent Giarrano.

Better Yet, Go to the Beach

This cracked me up. FutureLawyer (a.k.a. Our Man in Florida) gives a special consumer warning just for today. An excerpt:

My body may be at work today; but, if you have a legal emergency, it is a rule that you call someone else today. Of course, they are all zombies today too. My suggestion is that you go home, take two Advil (get over it, we have moved on from aspirin), and lie in bed until the emergency doesn't matter anymore. That is the best thing about law practice. There seldom are any real emergencies. If there are, the client has been sitting on the problem so long that it is probably unsolvable anyway.

Looking Ahead

The Economist: The world in 2014.
The Fix's fearless 2014 predictions.
Obamacare: Could 2013 have been a stroll in the park?
Fortune: The most anticipated video games.
Fast Company: Telling better stories in 2014.
Paul B. Brown on getting more done.
Business Week: Six extremely unlikely predictions.
Mark Rogowsky: Some pointed predictions.

Execupundit's rarely wrong predictions: You'll worry too much about things over which you have little or no control; gain and lose weight; and sense the need to go back to basics.

Bock on Leadership

Wally Bock has leadership reading to start your week.

Sage Cal

Anderson Layman's Blog has some wisdom from one of my favorite presidents.

Dissect Your Assumptions

Some tasks for the first part of the new year:

  • Dissect your assumptions
  • Conduct autopsies on failures
  • Review the lessons learned
  • Keep the lessons handy
  • Move on


The thunderstorm in Montana where, as the winds became heavier and the small plane rocked, all joking ceased and the silence became so great it could be heard. The warrant officer making periodic reports on the Army CID agents trying to get out of the Saigon airport as South Vietnam fell. The chipped china of a dissident who'd been expelled from the Soviet Union. The undercover officers who wore leather and used chains as belts and who spoke of immediately leaving a bar if a certain motorcycle gang arrived. The cobblestones on a street in Heidelberg and the one-person, door-less, elevators at a Frankfurt headquarters. The old investigator who spoke of his time in France and the extraordinary security arrangements for President de Gaulle. The British historian who casually mentioned that he'd been detained by the Nazis while hiking in Germany before the war. My wife in the emergency ward after a serious car accident. A farmer who said he'd rather be shot than hand over his wallet to a robber. The employee who was fired for casting spells on people. More than one lawyer who has whispered, "I've lost control of my client." The retired executive who, after recounting some lessons learned in his career, laughed and said, "I'm just an old saloon singer." The department head who opened a desk drawer and showed me his collection of toy frogs. The lean and hungry aides who knew all the answers or thought they did. Reading and initialing a Pentagon cable and thinking, "That's a bit of history." Being told I was overqualified for jobs at a time when being overqualified did not pay the rent. The many "sure" things that never came through. Eating some barbecued pork while people sold heroin a few feet away on a street in Miami. Watching my son have a long conversation about writing with Richard Russo. The FBI agent who showed me a lounge at the FBI Academy and then said, "J. Edgar would roll over in his grave if he ever saw this." Looking over antiques in the basement of a Memphis drugstore and listening to the owner recall the sales slogan of "an RC cola and a moon pie." Walking through the remains of an adobe house that belonged to a pioneer named Jack Swilling. The imam's speech about the devil at a dinner with a Muslim group.  Prepping a mayor for a meeting with an interest group. Watching my daughter in a school play. A call that came when I least expected it: "You've got the job." The surgeon who said, "We've got to go in." A jammed rifle. A crazy dog. A late night call about a shooting in Georgia. The Bohemia beer at The Caverns in Nogales. The prisoners at the Dade County Jail. A chat with a Hell's Angel about Christmas shopping. An interview with a former senator and governor who said less in more words than anyone I've met. Seeing the mass of stars above a boat on Lake Powell. Irrigating a farm in the middle of the night. Watching a coyote walk through a strip of desert in downtown Phoenix. Buying a used book and finding my signature inside. And lots of quickly fading stories that I should write down.

Language to Remember and Use

"A boon of the trip was found in the high quality and good humor of the passengers."

Quote of the Day

The greatest mistake a man can make is to be afraid of making one.

- Elbert Hubbard

Sunday, December 29, 2013

At Some Point

At some point, you call it a night, hit the sack, close the book, wrap it up, snuff the candle, or any other colorful act which produces a cessation of effort. The work will be there tomorrow and having fatigue as an assistant will not improve your performance.

Get Smarter

Take a break and read a novel.

"Year of the Zombies"

Writing in the Miami Herald, Dave Barry looks back on 2013. An excerpt:

Speaking of pathologically narcissistic sex weasels: Also coming back from the dead in 2013 to seek elective office in New York (What IS it with New York?) was Eliot “Client 9” Spitzer, who ran for city comptroller under the slogan: “If you can’t trust a proven sleazebag with your municipal finances, who CAN you trust?”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/27/3830019/dave-barrys-year-in-review-2013.html#storylink=cpy

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stack the Deck

Pick a project. Any project. You'll need knowledge, time, resources, ability, focus, and the right environment. You may automatically think about all factors but the last and yet if the last is inadequate or not present, your efforts will be hindered, perhaps fatally so.

Stack the deck in your favor by finding or creating a work environment that will bring out the best of the other factors. You'll notice the difference.


Not for a horror film and yet one of the scariest trailers I've ever seen. 

High tech squared and you sense it is not far away.

Essential Reading

Cultural Offering recommends a book as essential reading for high school students. I entirely agree. We need to talk more about freedom in our society. One undercurrent of that novel is that the protagonist was trapped in a system crafted by utopian idealists.

For the Interviewer and the Interviewee

Above: Oral board escorts interviewee into conference room

Employment attorney Michael P. Maslanka has two questions to ask in a job interview.

Ducking Basic Decision Making

In addition to Benghazi, the handling of the Duck Dynasty affair will definitely be going into the revision of my crisis management class. 

The Bierce Mystery

One golden autumn morning 100 years ago, a few blocks from where I’m writing these words in northwest Washington, D.C., Ambrose Bierce said goodbye to his secretary, turned the key in the door to his apartment on Logan Circle, and went off to God knows where.

Read the rest of Andrew Ferguson on the "brave life and mysterious death of Ambrose Bierce."

[You may recall that Carlos Fuentes wrote a novel on Bierce's experience in Mexico. It was later made into a film.]

Bierce's noted wit is at its best in The Devil's Dictionary. Great stuff.

Blog Anniversary

A reminder and some kind thoughts from a great blogger at Anderson Layman's Blog.

Thanks, Steve!

Getting Old

A clever comparison photo at Eclecticity Light. Notice how the women look better than the men.


  • Headlines
  • Entertainment
  • The Internet
  • Competitors
  • Scenery
  • Status
  • Clocks
  • Lawyers
  • Doctors
  • Accountants
  • Sports
  • Regret
  • Lunch
  • Family
  • Envy
  • Pets
  • Gossip
  • Meetings
  • Phones
  • Email
  • Twitter
  • What you think is not the main thing but which may be the main thing

Language to Remember and Use

"The camping trip taught the children two things: how to handle boredom and play mumblety-peg."

Quote of the Day

In my youth I stressed freedom, and in my old age I stress order. I have made the great discovery that liberty is a product of order.

- Will Durant

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making the List

Back in 2012, The Guardian began a weird competition to determine the great American novelist. They started with a controversial selection of 32 writers, which did not include Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Jim Harrison, Mark Helprin, Edwin O'Connor, Larry McMurtry, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Harper Lee, Ralph Ellison, Norman Mailer, John O'Hara, Truman Capote or Charles Portis, just to name a few.


Art Break: Kisling

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Moise Kisling.

California: Always Cutting Edge

Political Calculations does some number crunching on California's unemployment insurance system and it is not a pretty picture.

Paradise and the Hidden Door

An enchanting photograph at Cultural Offering has me thinking about expanding book shelf space at home. It has also revived the idea of a hidden door.

Hmm. Perhaps more than one.

Both Humorous and Bright

At Anderson Layman's Blog, solid evidence of why Calvin and Hobbes stands as the best comic strip ever.

Trouble Brewing

  • "I'm the best qualified person. What is there to worry about?"
  • "They told me that they love it and the only remaining step is approval by some committee."
  • "Our contact there retired but I'm sure the new person will love us."
  • "The plan is a tad complicated but their people are pumped."
  • "That board is so hip."
  • "Their advisor is just some country lawyer."
  • "There wasn't a dissenting voice at the meeting."
  • "She listened but I'm not sure if she understood."
  • "No problem is anticipated. He's sending out a memo."
  • "If we give them a bargain now they'll keep us in mind for future business."
  • "Let's do what we've always done in these cases."
  • "Not a single member of the team has ever experienced a setback. They're winners."

Language to Remember and Use

"They found arrowheads and other signs of a village at the top of the butte."

Quote of the Day

Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.

- Warren Buffett

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Desk Designs

recyclart desk leather 42 Gorgeous Desk Designs for any Office

Freshome has a creative collection of unusual desks. Interesting and yet I had difficulty imagining myself working at one of them.

Conclusion: I may have to design my own desk.

Looking Back on Christmas

Cherished family, insightful church service, beautiful tree, and a whole lot of gratitude. Luminarias up and down our street. Neighbors dropping off baked goods. Books and more books. Marvelous music. Traditional dishes. Some old baseball gloves and a great game of catch. Phone calls to relatives. A dog wandering about looking for morsels (or easy touches to provide them). Conversations to remember. Memories of some dysfunctional Christmases. Fleeting thoughts about the past year and the coming one but with a sharp focus on soaking in The Right Now. Lots of candles. A cozy fire. And at least one strange gift.

The Lives of Heroes

The lives of heroes can inspire us to great actions and keep us from petty ones. They can stifle our whining and expand our discretion. These may not be the heroes known to all of us. Just as powerful a lesson can be drawn from the individual battling a severe disability, parents facing unimaginable challenges, and co-workers who climb mountains every day.

In the past year, I've seen so-called "everyday heroes" who have left me stunned by their courage. 

They make me ashamed of my complaints.

Language to Remember and Use

"Did she say it or did she indicate it?"

Quote of the Day

Our self-image and our habits tend to go together.

- Maxwell Maltz 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Music Break and Christmas Card Combo

Click here and smile.

[HT: Rick Miller]

Song Trivia

From 2012: Time magazine on 10 things you didn't know about beloved holiday songs.

Christmas Thoughts

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee, saying, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God . . . so the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe that salvation lay with the leaders.

- Vermont Royster

I can call up moment after moment of precise memory from the Christmases of my childhood, like frozen frames of recollection: A sparrow, its feathers so fluffed for warmth it looked like a fat monk in a robe and tonsure, peering out from the ice-wrapped lilac hedge while I sat at the living room window, waiting for my parents to wake. The sideways tilt of my father's head as he looked down in concentration, cutting out the sections of a grapefruit for Christmas breakfast. The heft of the new Swiss Army knife from my uncle, smuggled in the pocket of my dress pants to church. The steam rising while we washed the endless piles of dishes after Christmas dinner, until the fog condensed in rivulets that raced each other down the kitchen windowpanes to pool on the painted sill.

- Joseph Bottum

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to one and all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Silent Night

Judy Collins with the Charlotte Children's Choir.

Great Teachers

Cultural Offering recalls the lasting effect of two great teachers. It brought to mind the great teachers in my own life (and a few of the terrible ones as well). It's a close race as to which memories are more powerful. 

A Good Man in Florida

FutureLawyer assembles his version of a nice room and silently prays that there won't be a power outage or a computer crash.

Thinking About Christianity

A video on the conversion, insight, and influence of C. S. Lewis.

Give Me a Nice Room

With lots of writing space and a cabinet of paper. I'll need plenty of ink, of course, and a good desk lamp. The chair is important and the view need merely provide variety.

So then I can scrawl and think, think and scrawl, and each time chip away at the unneeded marble until something is formed and polished.

There is no other way for me - drafts are essential - and the room's role is to facilitate.

First Paragraph

The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lampposts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line - write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.

- From NW by Zadie Smith

Language to Remember and Use

"The journalist's ignorance of history left the readers gobsmacked."

Quote of the Day

How fatuous the writer, painter, designer, or inventor whose overriding aim is that of being original, nothing more.

- Robert Nisbet

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Don't Get Too Clever Dept

Verne Harnish on the question of having co-CEOs.

As a Public Service

Last minute gifts you can quickly find:
  • A bottle of aftershave or perfume. Although I prefer industrial strength bay rum, there are some who opt for more la-de-da upscale scents. Drugstores now carry those, although for some reason they lock them in a glass case within sight of the front counter.
  • Etch-a-Sketch. The recipient may have flashbacks but it will be enjoyed.
  • A copy of Architectural Digest. [You wrap the copy as a preview of the subscription you'll order.]
  • Risk board game. They won't mock your choice after they've taken over the world.
  • Automatic screwdriver. Male or female, they want one.

When Did You Learn to Howl?

At Eclecticity Light, Belka learns to howl. You will smile.

Stress Producer

"Hey, it wouldn't bother me. I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep. I don't see why it should bother anyone else. Their perspective? Are you kidding me? They worry too much. They must have too much time on their hands. Why can't they be like me?"

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Language to Remember and Use

"After landing, she planned on renting a car so she could gallivant around."

Quote of the Day

If anyone thinks the words government and efficiency belong in the same sentence, we have counseling available.

- Paul Tsongas

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your Top Five Christmas Films

Okay, let's delve into controversy. If you could watch only five Christmas films, what would they be?

My choices:
  1. The Bishop's Wife (with Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young, and the great Monty Woolley)
  2. A Christmas Story (the Jean Shepherd tale with the best depiction of a father in film)
  3. Home Alone (with home defense and The Kenosha Kickers)
  4. A Christmas Carol (I like almost all of the versions but the George C. Scott one is my favorite)
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (for its creativity and music)

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Miscellaneous and Fast

Spiegel interviews Randy Olson on climate change's boredom problem.
Fortune has the 36 coolest gadgets of 2013.
George Will on executive discretion.
Cultural Offering: A Glock for Christmas?
The Nation is going after The New Republic.
Netflix has an upcoming documentary on Mitt Romney.
Eclecticity Light: Where does he find this stuff?
Charles Krauthammer on the story of the year.
The Village Voice has unusual holiday gifts.
Brian D. Johnson on the 10 best films of 2013.
The Observer: 20 photographs of the week.

Top Movie Posters


I had several nominees in the back of my mind for the first choice of the 75 most iconic movies posters of all time, but their choice is hard to beat. [And it's not the one above.]

From Jazzy to Ho-Hum

Car Style Critic looks at Renault's experience with the Vel Satis. The concept car is pictured above and is wildly different from the ultimate product.

The Incomparable Bate

A kind note from international thinker and author Nicholas Bate. He deserves a bundle of thanks for his many books [check out his most recent, You, Only Better] and his witty and insightful commentary. A visit to his site is one of my morning routines.

Your Birth Year's Word

Oxford Dictionaries has a birth year word generator which will tell you which words were generated in the year you were born.

My birth year has a less-than-distinguished product: "TV."

I'll have to check on my siblings. I suspect their birth years produced "wheel" and "fire."

[HT: Althouse]

One Remark

The other day I was driving home in the evening and feeling low and then one kind remark by an old friend came to mind. It was a single line, a small sliver amid a lengthy report on the problems within his organization, and yet it completely changed my mood.

I doubt if he would recall his comment.

Novel Gift Ideas

Last minute gift suggestions. All are novels.
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  • The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
  • The Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor
  • Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  • The Time of The Assassins by Godfrey Blunden
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning
  • Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler
  • The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips
  • Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin [corrected title]
  • Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen
  • Post-Captain by Patrick O'Brian
  • Flashman by George Macdonald Fraser
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
  • City Primeval by Elmore Leonard
  • The Wonderful Country by Tom Lea
  • Restoration by Rose Tremain
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Old Rules, Good Rules

  • Officers eat last.
  • Be kinder than necessary.
  • Measure twice, cut once.
  • Always have more than three options.
  • Estimate the amount of needed time, then multiply by three.
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
  • Negotiate from strength.
  • Keep it simple.
  • First things first.
  • If something can go wrong, it will go wrong.
  • Time lost is never recovered.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Language to Remember and Use

"Although there was considerable risk for the lender and the borrower could get the money nowhere else, the law regarded the loan's interest rate as a form of usury."

Quote of the Day

Faultless to a fault.

- Robert Browning

Friday, December 20, 2013

Film: Passing Lives

TCM remembers movie people who passed away in 2013.

[The song is "In the Embers" by Sleeping At Last.]