Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Find: The Balkan Trilogy


I like to read fiction shortly before going to sleep. It can't be stuff that will cause weird dreams or keep me up. The simple rule is the novel must be very well-written.

The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning neatly fits that bill. I bought it in a used bookstore several months ago. The BBC's film version called Fortunes of War, which starred Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, eluded my notice.

So the other night, I took it from the shelf, started reading, and after ten pages, paused and thought, "This is really very good."

I'm hooked. Check it out.

The Joy of Maps

A tried and true product that is not going away. Think of the joy of folding them.

A True Detail Man


At Anderson Layman's Blog: Some great Sherlock Holmes quotations. This gives me the excuse to link to a clip of the soundtrack from "They Might Be Giants," the charming film in which George C. Scott plays an attorney who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes.

The Dick Tracy Watch?

FutureLawyer gives an update on the high-tech watches.

[Marketing question: How many of the younger people out there have ever heard of Dick Tracy and know about his 2-way wrist radio?]

Listening, Observing, Reading, and Remembering


Listening - Observing - Reading - Remembering:

Omit just one and your effectiveness will be seriously harmed.

Think of all that is missed by poor listeners. Consider how a skilled observer can spot crucial points that others overlook. Note the extra perspective gained by readers who discover wisdom far beyond their own experience. And never dismiss the power of a good memory. The ability to recall important details has saved and boosted many a decision maker.

All of these, when combined with solid reasoning, produce rocket fuel for the mind.

The Audience


I taught a workshop the other day. The participants were bright, friendly, and asked great questions.

They made it a pleasure for me to be there.

It was a reminder of just how much the audience contributes to the performance of a speaker. People often underestimate their role when they are out in the audience watching, and evaluating, the speaker. Anyone who has done a serious amount of public speaking, however, will affirm that some audiences are sparks, others are wet blankets, and most fall somewhere in-between.

When it comes to presentations, we all have a role to play, even those of us who sit and listen.

Quote of the Day

That's the classical mind at work, runs fine inside but looks dingy on the surface.

- Robert M. Pirsig

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Poetry Break: Tennyson

A novel in a poem: "The Lady of Shalott."

She left the web, she left the loom,              
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,               
She saw the helmet and the plume,               
 She looked down to Camelot.               
Out flew the web and floated wide;               
The mirror cracked from side to side;               
"The curse is come upon me," cried               
 The Lady of Shalott.  

Futurist Alert


At Wired: "7 Massive Ideas That Can Change the World."

Ethical Issues and Nazi Loot

The watch, made in the southwestern German city of Pforzheim by Eszeha, was kept in a plain cardboard box after the war. It isn't difficult to discover whose wrist it once adorned. The following inscription, along with a handwritten signature, appears on the back of the casing: "On February 6, 1939. With all my heart. A. Hitler."

Read the rest of the Spiegel article here.

The Modern Workplace

Is this the most dangerous word to use at work?

I can think of a few others that leave that in the dust.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Peter Gabriel: "Solsbury Hill."
The trailer for "The Singularity is Near."
Fortune: The suits of Combatant Gentlemen.
Cultural Offering: Learning to speak like Michael Caine.
Wally Bock: By and about leaders.
Michael Maslanka: "Claim or No Claim under the ADA."
BBCGreat moments in the animal kingdom.
Nathan Harden: "Man, Sex, God, and Yale."

You Have More Money Than Zimbabwe

"If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." - Herbert Stein

Zimbabwe is down to its last $217.

[HT: Drudge Report]

Art Break: Wellington


Art Contrarian looks at a variety of portraits of the Duke of Wellington. The one above is by Goya.

The People of No Action


 The People of No Action have a "We can't do that" default mode. They are highly adverse to risks that accompany action while blind to those linked to inaction. They overestimate the cost of daring and underestimate the cost of playing it safe. "Better safe than sorry" could be their motto and yet they attract and feed disasters with their fear and timidity.

They cloak their habitual lack of progress with the camouflage of analysis which, in their hands, is a benefit that quickly becomes a vice. Work resembles a long and unfinished doctoral thesis where there is always one more reference to tie down or footnote to add. If you have never encountered members of their tribe - and I assure you they are numerous - you will be stunned when you do. You'll leave meetings with them and shake your head at what just took place. Did they really say that it will require six months to do something that could be easily wrapped up in less than a week? Do they believe that the increasingly competitive world will pass them by and permit them to stay in their cozy cocoon?

They are not in search of excellence. Their Holy Grail is comfort. The sooner that is understood, the better they'll be understood. 

Banking on Certainty



Worth your time: A brief video of management writer/consultant Dan Burrus on predicting the future.

Quote of the Day

An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult.

- Lord Chesterfield

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Diploma in Buffett's Office

Warren Buffett describes how he was affected by the work of Dale Carnegie.

Novels: The "Should Have Read" List


As guilt goes, I have very little when it comes to reading. There are, however a few famous novels that I should have read but, as of today, have not. They are:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Most people read this in high school. I didn't. Huxley's work is sounding more relevant than ever so I plan to read it this year.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce. Some reluctance on this one is driven by the suspicion that it might not match its reputation. It's also a big sucker. The older I get, the more I favor shorter books, at least in fiction.
  • Anything ever written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James. It's hard to get excited about either of these when there are still a few remaining books by Trollope and Dickens that are neglected. James will definitely be ahead of Fitzgerald on my schedule.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot. The word is that this is not one to miss. [A copy is staring at me as I type.] Will read it this year. Promise.
Okay, it's your turn. What are your guilt-inducing famous novels?

A Class



  1. Workbooks
  2. Outline
  3. Pencils
  4. Flip chart
  5. Markers
  6. Enthusiasm
  7. Goal
  8. Generalizations
  9. Case examples
  10. Stories
  11. Drama
  12. Summary

Quote of the Day

We are not amused.

- Queen Victoria

Monday, January 28, 2013

"The Net"


A Sandra Bullock film that was ahead of its time. I wonder how much easier it would be for the bad guys to get her personal information today.

Dizzy in Dubai

The Telegraph has a 360 degree view from the world's tallest building.

Start Your Week Right


... by spending some time at The Hammock Papers. [I was going to link to just one post but couldn't decide. Marvelous stuff.]

Art Break: Treidler


Art Contrarian looks at the work of advertising illustrator Adolph Treidler.

First Paragraph

In 1857, the eighth Earl of Elgin was on his way to punish the Manchu rulers of China for daring to close the city of Canton to British opium traders when he heard about the Indian Mutiny. The anti-British insurrections were confined to North India, especially the Gangetic Plain, from where most of the mutinous sepoys, or Indian soldiers, of the British East India Company had been recruited. But they threatened to undo all that the British had gained in India in the previous hundred years. Elgin immediately diverted his punitive expedition to India and spent a few anxious weeks in Calcutta, waiting for news of British victories, before moving on to deal with the Chinese.

- From The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell

Lawyers, Clients, and Friends

Drawing on the relationship between Hamlet and Horatio, this brief video by employment attorney Michael Maslanka examines whether lawyers should be friends with clients.

The Neglected Big Question


It is not enough to ask, "What should be done?" Nor is it sufficient to ask, "What progress has been made?"

Those two questions usually get a lot of attention. In most jobs, you know the goals and the measurements. What is not asked enough is "How should the job be done?"

Of course, total quality management - remember those days? - gets into that question but for many positions, there is a gap. You're supposed to know how the job is done, right? But the levels above "acceptable" or "meets standards" are not adequately explored.

That can leave a great deal of room for improvement for even if performance seems to be quite good, how much better could it be?

And do we know that?

Quote of the Day

It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.

- David Hume

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Unforgettable Film Scenes: Fourth in a Series

The "Away, bumpkin" scene in "The Three Musketeers."

Rainy Day in Phoenix


It's a rainy day in Phoenix.

The soft sound of sprinkles, when mingled with the distant burble of family members doing chores, is the perfect background for a nap. 

Poetry Break


Epitaph on a Tyrant by W. H. Auden.

Special Deal on Kawasaki's "APE"

You can get Guy Kawasaki's latest book today on Kindle for only $1.99. I believe this offer will be for today only and if you've ever thought of self-publishing, it is worth checking out.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Washington Times: Best and worst bosses on Capitol Hill.
Old footage of Paris.
George Will: A legal time bomb in Obamacare?
Wally Bock on overnight success.
Check out The Walks of Italy blog.
Anderson Layman's Blog: I've had many days like that.
Geekologie: Another TNT "push button to add drama" commercial.
Althouse on the Benghazi testimony.
Jalopnik: Insane Latvians make "Die Hard" poster.
Mitch Daniels: A must-read book on the debt problem.
FutureLawyer: Socrates versus Vonnegut.
Michael Deacon: A joke is cut on "Fawlty Towers."
Gizmodo: Art deco clocks.

Distance and Management


Canadian Cincinnatus offers a tech-related theory as to why the British Empire was so efficient.

[HT: Instapundit]

Quote of the Day

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

- Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, January 25, 2013

Plaisir D'Amour

A memorable scene from the 1939 film, "Love Affair."

Poetry Break

Robert Browning's chilling "My Last Duchess" as read by Richard Howard.

Sun Could Set Suddenly If Debt Bites


This 2010 article by Niall Ferguson in The Australian remains as thought-provoking today as then, if not more so. An excerpt:

We naturally tend to assume that in our own time, too, history will move cyclically, and slowly.
Yet what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arhythmic, at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night?

Ahead of Their Time


Art Contrarian looks at some really small American cars from 1935 - 1955.

Home Prices as Barometer

U.S. stocks have reached new highs, but most Americans probably don't feel any wealthier. That's because the prices of our homes have a bigger influence than stocks on how rich we feel and, therefore, how much we're willing to spend, suggests a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Read the rest of the Fortune article here.

First Paragraph

Wisdom is the ability to see the long-run consequences of current actions, the willingness to sacrifice short-run gains for larger long-run benefits, and the ability to control what is controllable and not to fret over what is not. Therefore the essence of wisdom is concern with the future. It is not the type of concern with the future that the fortune teller has; he only tries to predict it. The wise man tries to control it.

- From A Concept of Corporate Planning by Russell L. Ackoff

Maslanka On The Law


Texas employment attorney Michael Maslanka, who has a great blog, is also making YouTube videos.

Here's one on the difference between right to work and employment at will.

What Are You NOT Doing?


There could be some serious benefit in writing down a daily "to do" list and then, on the other side of the card or sheet, a "not to do" list. The "not to do" list would not include things which we are unlikely to do in the first place ("Hold up bank") but rather those forms of procrastination that are our favorites.

If we are feeling generous, we might even permit three topics for our most common transgressions but rein them in with numerical restrictions. For example, "Check email" may be permitted but only two or three times instead of the usual twelve. "Read the latest news" could be another with similar restrictions.

We may discover that we gain greater control in permitting but specifically restraining. When there are no rigid barriers, it can be far too easy to drift away from our work.

Quote of the Day

Will 23rd-century historians look back on today's fiscal follies with the same mixture of bemusement and disdain with which we now view the financial affairs of 18th-century French kings?

- Kenneth Rogoff

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Orson Welles


Here's part of an interview with Orson Welles.

Tell me you would not have wanted to have dinner with him! 

What Really Matters


Take some time and read this post at Tim Berry's blog.

First Paragraph

Our dream was simple: send IBM back to the typewriter business holding its Selectric typewriter balls. We were members of the Macintosh Division of Apple Computer. This means we were the handpicked soldiers of Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computer.

- From How to Drive Your Competition Crazy: Creating Disruption for Fun and Profit by Guy Kawasaki

Achieving Demotivation One Month at a Time


The 2013 Demotivators at Despair, Inc. are excellent.

January 24


Nicholas Bate (a.k.a. The Man Who Never Sleeps) has a question about our progress.

[I'd give myself a B minus.]

That will improve.

Making Plans


An unusual ad at Anderson Layman's Blog. Check it out.

What is Lurking?


Here's something to spark some thought. Edge asks a variety of thinkers, "What should we be worried about?"

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

Serial Multitaskers

Prof David Sanbonmatsu, who co-wrote the paper published in the Public Library of Science Journal, said: "What is alarming is that people who talk on cell phones while driving tend to be the people least able to multitask well."

Read the rest of The Telegraph article here.

Quote of the Day

The work will teach you how to do it.

- Estonian proverb

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

As Timely As The Headlines


Just joined my reading stack: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

The Power of Photography

A sample from Journal of a Nobody.

Management Question: Thoroughness

"Reach deep inside and ask yourself, 'If this project were to fail, what would be the likely reason?'"

Thoughts on Creativity


I'm not sure if I agree with all the thoughts by Ira Glass that are posted at The Hammock Papers - does everyone who gets into creative work have good taste? - but there is much to ponder in his remarks.

Diet Wars


Rick Knowles is on the "autoimmune protocol of paleo." An excerpt:

Dirty Chai (my go-to daily favorite drink made up of: strongly brewed chai tea, raw honey, coconut milk beverage, ice, full-fat coconut milk layered on top, then 2 shots of espresso on top of that), half glass of organic carrot juice, lots of brewed coffee:

Art Break: Donato


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Donato.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Some cases of lip-synching are a tad obvious
Wally Bock: By and about leaders.
Serious catfish: 10 feet long and over 300 pounds?
The trailer for "The Golden Child."
Yeah, right. We have too many gentlemen out there.
A Cultural Offering offering: Wow.
The trailer for "The Sicilian Girl."
Eclecticity: Where does he find this stuff?
William Booth: Founder of The Salvation Army.
Sox First: Game over for Atari.
James Lileks: The Bleat.
The trailer for "Enemy at the Gates."

Quote of the Day

You can only feel good about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing.

- David Allen

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Genre Renewed


Isaac Asimov speaking about "The Golden Age of Science Fiction."

Another World

Der Spiegel: An extraordinary gallery of photographs of 19th century Germany.

"Stop Chasing the Roadrunner"

Rob Long, talking in 2009 on market share, the TV biz, and the challenge of no TV on your TV.

Is It Wise to Buy Green Bananas?


A cheery post: Political Calculations on how long you have left once you've hit 65.

The Leadership Example at Purdue

Due to his temperament, experience, and accomplishments, it was a sad day when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels decided not to run for president of the United States. He's now a university president.

Read his Open Letter to the People of Purdue for a sense of his substance and approach.

Do Something Noble Today


21 Ways That Bureaucrats Can Say "No."


  1. "Forgetting" about the order.
  2. Initiating a never-ending study.
  3. Running the project by numerous committees.
  4. Citing a legal restriction that lacks substance.
  5. Listening intently and then doing nothing.
  6. Doing the parts they like and omitting the rest.
  7. Claiming that other priorities take precedence.
  8. Delaying until the change advocates have left.
  9. Delegating the project to a sloth or an incompetent.
  10. Doing nothing and then vowing that another department was supposed to handle it.
  11. Asserting a belief that the order was just an idea or suggestion.
  12. Thwarting action with intentional inefficiency.
  13. Leaking stories to critics.
  14. Parsing the meaning of the order.
  15. Executing with "all deliberate speed" with emphasis on "deliberate."
  16. Losing key information.
  17. Squandering resources.
  18. Redefining the scope.
  19. Executing in a manner that will foster opposition.
  20. Blaming delay on outside forces.
  21. Delaying, then asking for clarification, then delaying, then asking for clarification.

Getting Better or Getting Worse


Being able to perform a job is only one consideration. That falls under the category of what you will do to the job.

An equally important question is what the job will do to you. Given your skills and inclinations, will the job make you better or worse? Many of us have seen individuals who experience a decline (or improvement) in abilities or a change in personality due to the influence of a job. The job is perfectly respectable - they haven't dabbled in crime - but the job's daily demands eventually work their way. Take five years and you'll see a change.

What is hoped for, of course, is that the change will be for the better. That's why jobs that pay less but which offer a great opportunity for personal and professional development can be preferable to ones that pay more but are traps.

The five year test period is a good one. Don't just ask yourself where you will be in five years. Ask what you will be like.

The Emperor's New Clothes

Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room."

Read the rest here.

Quote of the Day

We are all viewing ourselves in the fun house mirror.

- John Ortberg

Monday, January 21, 2013

Music Break

Back by popular demand: The Beatles in "Help" with "The Night Before."

"Mentioned in Dispatches"

Some lives are thrillers: The obituary of Sir William Bulmer.

The Gold Standard of Presidential Inaugural Addresses


The Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln.

Garry Wills on the speech that Frederick Douglass called "a sacred effort."

The Photographer's Eye


Tanmay Vora has written 12 lessons on life and leadership from photography. An excerpt:

Someone said, “To photograph a bird, you need to be a part of the silence.” Photography teaches me to remain silent and immerse myself in the current moment. Only then, the magnificent reveals itself.

Art Break: Dohanos


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Stevan Dohanos.

3 for Insight on People


I was recently asked which three novels I'd recommend if someone wanted to learn about people. That was an easy question. Many writers can craft great plots and characters but only a few reveal a profound knowledge of people; the sort that causes you to put the book down and think. My recommendations are:

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  2. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  3. The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor [featured in a recent post]
Any others?

Letter from Birmingham Jail - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Read the rest here.

Quote of the Day

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

- Albert Camus

Quote of the Day

Life is not having been told that the man has just waxed the floor.

- Ogden Nash

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Life



  • Outside at Starbucks, a man with long gray hair and baggy eyes who looks like an aging rock star is sitting with a middle-aged blonde who just manages to keep a very short skirt under control. Their expressions are serious and at one point they kiss. They leave and their table is taken by a stocky attorney who hosts a television show. He checks messages on his phone and begins to chain-smoke.
  • The young repair rep at the dealership looks like one of my nephews. He gives me an estimate to fix the heater in my car. It is several hundred dollars less than the quote I got from a small repair shop. I reply, "Do it."
  • I'm in a waiting room when two greyhounds wander in. They have leashes but their owner is absent. Each comes to me separately for a brief visit and when their owner appears, I tell him that they are beautiful. He thanks me and turns to the dogs. "Car ride?" Their ears perk up.
  • My wife shows me the list of foods to avoid under a new diet. The list includes donuts. I tell her I'm shocked.
  • The sales clerk at Cabela's takes a revolver out of the wrapping and hands it over for inspection. "Been busy?" He mutters, "It hasn't been slow." 
  • At a meeting with an executive we discuss several issues related to his department. After an hour, he asks, "Who called this meeting?" I say, "You did." He replies, "What did I call it for?" Neither one of us knows.
  • The Paul McCreesh CD of the Praetorius Mass for Christmas Morning is playing in the background. Another great music recommendation from Cultural Offering. The man knows his music.
  • Some more hawks are in the neighborhood. They don't seem to have reduced the pigeon population. A neighbor tells me that he recently saw a fox. Coyotes are now so common that they barely merit mention and we are not on the outskirts.
  • The business books pile up. The Compstat program continues to fascinate me. One book worth a re-read: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.
  • Still haven't seen The Hobbit or Lincoln. Liked Argo.

Edwin O'Connor's "The Edge of Sadness"

Terry Teachout writes about Edwin, the other O'Connor. An excerpt:

Such popularity is not easily forgiven in certain cultural circles. Edmund Wilson, who knew O'Connor and admired him greatly, observed apropos of The Edge of Sadness that "a literary intellectual objects to nothing so much as a best-selling book that also possesses real merit." Small wonder that the book in question, like its author, is now all but forgotten...

Miscellaneous and Fast

Wally Bock has some thoughts on Lance Armstrong.
The trailer for "Monsieur Lazhar."
Tim Ferriss: A profile in The Telegraph.
The trailer for "Captive Wild Woman."
Stanley Bing on an employee meeting in China.
Yugo commercial: "We wanted a dependable second car."
CoolTools: The Bug Blaster. [Looks neat.]
Emmylou Harris: "Here There and Everywhere."
Verne Harnish: How to make the competition irrelevant.
Edsel commercial: "The most elegant automobile of your lifetime."
Are you going to finish that? Gut-busters in Dallas.
An egregious display of bad taste: "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
The trailer for "The Earth Dies Screaming."

Quote of the Day

When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

- Dave Barry

Friday, January 18, 2013

Learning Early


Entrepreneur: Richard Branson gives the business and life lessons he received from his mother.

The Weirdness of Careers

A week later, he calls me, about 1 in the morning, and wakes me up, I say, "Sid, are you alright?" "I can't sleep. I had a meeting today with Pat Weaver and Max Liebman, and my manager, and I couldn't refuse the deal. I signed for three years, for $25,000 a show." That was stupendous. I said, "Wow, that's a lot of money. More than I ever heard of in show business." There were 39 shows a year in those days. So he said, "Let me wait the three years for that contract, and I promise we will," and that's what happened. I stayed with him for the three years. And we did magnificent stuff, magnificent comedy — not just me, everybody did — but at the end of five years of television, Hollywood wasn't that interested. They had more or less had him. He was used up. There wasn't an easy segue after doing so many shows to go to the big screen. But I went. When "Your Show of Shows" was over, I shot myself like a missile right out to Hollywood. And I did it. First I made "The Producers" in New York, and then I went all the way to Yugoslavia to make "The Twelve Chairs," I went to Warner Bros. to make "Blazing Saddles." I never stopped. And I was very lucky, because I had refused to be on the show as a performer, or I would have been used up, too. But as it was, my name was fresh. 

Read the rest of Alan Sepinwall's interview of Mel Brooks.

Music Break


Back by tradition: The Cure with what is the official Friday song for this blog.

The Line Between a Joke and a Crime


The Wall Street Journal Law Blog on the legal aspects of the Manti Te'o story.

[I'm proud to say that I knew nothing of that story until this morning. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.]