Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Messy Desks

Anderson Layman's Blog has a few photos of rank amateurs in the messy desk competition.

I'd post pictures of my desks at various stages in my career but would risk a divorce. Recently, however, mine have been relatively pristine, aside from a few stacks here and there. Of course, the ones on the floor don't count.

Music Break

Frank Sinatra: "Love's Been Good to Me."

Rum and the Royal Navy

For over three centuries, until 1970, all Royal Navy vessels would ring out their ship's bells just before noon every day. The famous call, 'Up Spirits' would go out, calling sailors to report to deck and receive their daily 70ml ‘tot’, or shot, of rum.
But as the bells chimed on July 31 1970, 43 years ago today, British sailors were issued with their final rum ration and the popular ‘tot’ tradition was no more.

Read the rest of The Telegraph article here.

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "The Raven." [The sound you hear is Poe spinning in his grave.]

If It's Not

If it's not the project, it's the customers or the follow-up or the cash flow or the marketing or the research or the reading or the meetings or the interruptions or the office politics or the inner circle or the grumps or the whiners or the clutter or the priorities or the goals or the calls or the emails or the regulations or the deadlines or the complaints or the proposals or the mistakes or the files or the equipment or the travel or the teams or the competition or the morale or the vacations or the training or the accountants or the oral board or the policies or the feds or the unions or the executives or the front desk or the phone system or the memos or the lawyers or the IT people or the gossip or the dress code or the confusion or the emergencies or the board or the assumptions or the fatigue or the conflicts or the mission or the HR folks or the recruitment or the parking spaces or the temperature or the color of your office.

This is life. There will always be something. That's why choosing how to react is crucial.

But The Views Are Spectacular

The Dish: The deadliest non-military service job in the world.

Art Break: Zorn and Others

Art Contrarian looks at portraits of the French politician, Antonin Proust. The one above was painted by Anders Zorn in 1888.

Heard in the Workplaces

  • They will agree but they won't want you to assume that they'll agree. 
  • Don't take them for granted. 
  • The goal is to get them off of your front porch as soon as possible.
  • All of that razzmatazz at the beginning: ignore it. The people who wrote it don't know what it means.
  • You know the part where they said it's acceptable. I think they left out "not."
  • The regulations may say that but I doubt if the courts will agree. 
  • He didn't give it to us until ten days after the timer started running. 
  • The auditors are hell-bent to find mistakes so they made mistakes for them to find. Small ones, of course.
  • It is so complicated you suspect they don't want it to work. That causes me to question their ethics.
  • They shall feel the wrath that the patient man hath.
  • It's a Full Employment Bill for lawyers.
  • No, if it were written in Japanese it would make more sense.
  • I made the document as boring as possible. There are times when no drama is wise.
  • They're all speculating on what she wants. Has anyone asked her?
  • That was too clever by half.
  • Eloquence does not fill an empty suit.
  • When she wasn't busy denouncing micromanagement, she was micromanaging.
  • Don't ask the staff members for a candid opinion when their boss is in the room.
  • I know that was confusing. It's a quaint way of saying no.
  • The reason why I could predict events is that I've seen this a few hundred times before.
  • I wonder where those great ideas were when we needed them.
  • An executive with a great reputation for everything but results.
  • They don't want to be bothered with customers.
  • The word "urgent" does not seem to be in their vocabulary.
  • Once you have pulled the rabbit out of the hat they will want you to disappear.
  • He was so nice they thought he was weak. Bad move.
  • Don't guess. Go see.

Quote of the Day

Never go out to meet trouble. If you will just sit still, nine cases out of ten someone will intercept it before it reaches you.

- Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Get the info at CoolTools.

Advertising: The Right Book Will Always ....

View From the Ledge discusses the ad campaign .

News You Can Use

Amazon has a Zombie Apocalypse Supplies page.

[HT: Instapundit]

Isolation and Achievement

In the 20th century, Western intellectuals’ two most dominant explanations of disparities in economic, educational, and other achievements were innate racial differences in ability (in the early decades) and racial discrimination (in the later decades).

Read the rest of Thomas Sowell's article here.

No Sherlock

I once met a man who thought he was Sherlock Holmes. In a genial manner, he proceeded to tell me about my background based on what he had deduced from sitting through one of my workshops.

He was almost entirely wrong.

His analysis was not slipshod; it was just off-target. The experience emphasized the danger of making assumptions about people. Here are some common danger zones:

  • Health
  • Wealth
  • Childhood
  • Ancestry
  • Employment experience
  • Religious beliefs
  • Political beliefs


Break apart the family. Have boys raised without fathers. Give fame and wealth to people whose values are such that you wouldn't want them in your living room, much less talking to your kids on a daily basis. Remove prompt and meaningful discipline from the schools. Tell children that the game of life is rigged against them and that they are victims. Accord status to charlatans. Spread conspiracy theories. Deride business as crooked and evil. Foster dependency. Destroy initiative. Lower standards. Increase a sense of entitlement. Push a hollow form of self-esteem as a substitute for achievement. Shun delayed gratification. Tolerate bad language and poor grammar. Neglect moral education. Attack the motives of any critics of this process.

Be cool.

Assisting Our View

As you go through the workday, consider which items deserve a magnifying glass, a microscope, or binoculars. Certainly, a simple glance may work for many tasks, but a day in which none of those are used will find us disengaged, out of focus, and without perspective.

We may miss things we need to see.

Quote of the Day

I am an old journalist. And I've never done an interview in my life. Interviews are not important. You must observe. You must crawl into a corner and watch and imagine. And when you leave, you must make sure that you know something that seems very trivial.

Like the color of my socks.

- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Monday, July 29, 2013

Life is Unfair

I'm sweating in the desert and FutureLawyer is in the Cayman Islands taping business cards to the backs of stingrays.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Put Down the Vodka Bottle. Pick Up a Book.

You'll find some of Chekhov's sound tips for living at Cultural Offering.

Peter and the Wolf

Some highly enjoyable music education via Disney in 1946. Narration by Sterling Holloway.

Understanding Evil

The man sitting in front of me is a mass murderer. He is a serial rapist and a torturer. We are chatting about the weather, his family, his childhood. We are sharing drinks and exchanging gifts. The man is in his 80s now, frail and harmless, even charming. Instinctively I like him. It is hard for me to connect him to the monster he was so many decades ago. I think it must be hard for him, too.

Read the rest of James Dawes here.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

Art Break: Phyfe

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Hal Phyfe.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Sensory Dispensary points to Ro Bot Dylan.
Ann Marlowe on swimming in Paris.
Krauthammer on the fall of Detroit.
Nicholas Bate: What are hands for?
The trailer for "Enemy of the State."
White House legal opinion on extension of the employer mandate? Apparently not.
The Motley Fool: The highest grossing movies of 2013.
CoolTools: Liberty Bottleworks metal water bottle.
Melanie Phillips on Islam in Britain.
A sermon from Pa Kettle.
We had one: The Ironrite Ironer.
French military in Mali: A video.
Eclecticity Light: Where does he find this stuff?
Spiegel: A gallery on Italy's decline.

Quote of the Day

Parents are not interested in justice, they are interested in quiet.

- Bill Cosby

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Keep This in Mind

War and Peace. A Tale of Two Cities. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Marty. Jaws. To Kill a Mockingbird. Winter Tale. Ben-Hur. Vanity Fair. Pride and Prejudice. Alice in Wonderland. Tom Sawyer. Citizen Kane. The Way We Live Now. Moby Dick. Lonesome Dove. The Sun Also Rises. East of Eden. Shane. The Third Man. Hamlet. Suddenly Last Summer. The Nightmare Before Christmas. South Pacific. Horton Hears a Who. Wolf Hall. Treasure Island. Great Expectations. Master and Commander. Tai-Pan. Love in the Time of Cholera. Macbeth. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Barchester Towers. I, Claudius. The Maltese Falcon. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Animal Farm. The First Circle. Hud. Gone with the Wind. Adam's Rib. Witness for the Prosecution. West Side Story. A Man for All Seasons. The Flame Trees of Thika. 

All of them could have been written differently and perhaps just as well if not better but decisions had to be made.

Don't be paralyzed by perfection.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nexus 7 Tablet

FutureLawyer, who lives and breathes all things technical, really likes the new Nexus 7 Razor tablet.

Since my current tablet is a tad behind the times, I may get one of those.

Someone Learned This Way Comes

Some of Ray Bradbury's thoughts (as well as a great photo) are at Cultural Offering.

The Storm of War

If you have not read Andrew Roberts's history of the Second World War, you are in for a treat. An excerpt:

"The last man off the beaches at Dunkirk was Major-General Harold Alexander, commander of the 1st Division, who showed superb sangfroid throughout the evacuation. 'Our position is catastrophic,' a Staff officer told him there. 'I'm sorry,' he replied. 'I don't understand long words.'"

Working from Drafts

We rarely go directly from thought to finished copy. Most of our work, be it professional or personal, requires drafts and the section that initially seemed brilliant may later be scratched out. We close in on our thoughts by expressing them again and again.

So it is with portions of our life. They are not set in stone, but on paper, and are waiting for revisions. I've been drafting some portions for decades. 

Trust Erosion Recipe

Take a few paragraphs of a fine old language. Sprinkle some parsed words. Extract important information. Dice any questions. Stir in vagueness. Add a pinch of distracting anecdotes. Pour in a cup of evasion. Season with statistics. Serve in a rush.

[Note: If sufficient parsed words are not available, one lie will do.]

Quote of the Day

A memorandum is not written to inform the reader but to protect the writer.

- Dean Acheson

Friday, July 26, 2013

Disciplinary Conversation: It's Not About You

"Are you kidding me? It was a screw-up, but it wasn't the sort of thing that justifies termination."

"I would normally agree, but the lawyers are nervous."

"The lawyers are always nervous."

"They think someone could make something of it."

"Someone can make something of anything. So tell me never to do it again. You know I won't."

"I'd like to do that, but the lawyers say it would look weak."

"But termination is completely out of proportion. It was a minor incident."

"Yeah, but the lawyers are saying that we can't treat it that way. They say we have to use a sledge hammer to swat a fly."

"I'll overlook the 'fly' part but what I hear you saying is that what I did is not really the issue. The issue is how you all will be perceived later."

"It's not about you. It's about us."

"This sounds like a break-up."

First Paragraph

Along the whole length of the Iron Coast, from Alprech Point to Cape Gris-Nez, five out of seven corps of the Grand Army breathed the salt air of the English Channel.

- From Captain Cut-Throat by John Dickson Carr

The Hawthorne Effect

At Scientific American, Hilda Bastian looks behind the story.

Miscellaneous and Fast

White House Tapes: LBJ talks with Ike.
Wally Bock on the leadership of Pope Francis.
David Kanigan has some William James to ponder.
Harry Truman goes after JFK.
And try the Himmler cheesecake: A sandwich named after Fidel Castro.
Spiegel: Germans vow to save Spanish party beach.
Tanmay Vora: Building a great team and culture.
The Onion: American Voices on calling people "fat."
Peter Berger on angry atheists.

Age Discrimination: Three Men. Three Ages.

I'm not sure about this age discrimination study reported in The New York Times. It seems that there could be a lot of explanations other than age since personal appearance, expressions, and tone of voice can be so influential.

Even using the same name can be a factor. Even before you hear anything, do you regard a young man named Max the same way that you regard an older one?

[HT: Instapundit]

Helping Anthony Weiner

Let's set aside all of the jokes about New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and consider some simple facts: He is a seriously disturbed human being. Rather than standing behind his political campaign, his family, friends, and associates should be telling him to seek help. 

Elihu Root said, "About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists of telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop." 

A similar attitude should apply in situations where a politician turns himself into a standing joke. Anyone who is telling him to stay in the race is doing him no favor.

His campaign office should be empty.

Quote of the Day

No one ever suddenly became depraved.

- Juvenal

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Music Break

ZZ Top: "Sharp Dressed Man." Crank it up.

We're All on "Double Secret Probation"

Seth Godin says we now live in a world of permanent records.

A Telephone Call from JFK

When the boss is upset: Listen to this call from President Kennedy.

A Teaching Exodus?

Teachers with enormous experience and much to offer are being forced to shelve valuable lessons because they interfere with a testing schedule designed by someone who could not teach a class of students on his best day. Drop into a break room and you’ll hear good teachers muttering bitterly, “Those who can, teach, and those who can’t, make rules for teachers.”

Read the rest of Rafe Esquith on why great teachers are fleeing the profession.

Art Break

Underpaintings looks at an eclectic collection of paintings that will be at an upcoming auction. [Some are NSFW.]

Smoking Deal

After getting some marketing advice from the rich widow of a Nigerian executive who was poisoned by his business partners, a pricing experiment is being conducted with the ebook version of "How to Make Presentations to Councils and Boards." 

It will probably be, as the phrase goes, for a limited time.

Spanish Crash: More Than Twice The Speed Limit

The driver of the train made a panicked phone call moments before the crash saying that the train was going too fast.
"I'm at 190 (kmph) and I'm going to derail!" the engine driver told the controllers of RENFE, the rail network.
The Telegraph has details and jarring video of the crash. 

Extra Large Rubber Bands

CoolTools has the information. You know you want a bag. An excerpt:

I love them for binding together papers and books (I teach so I always have a few in my desk.) I have used them to hold wood in place for gluing. I use them along with barge glue and duct tape to splice materials together in the garden. And I use them for sling shots., too. In fact they are always in mind and on hand for any kind of kludge. I usually buy a couple of pounds of them at a time for less than ten bucks.

The Silent Excuses

The excuses that we use after something has blown up are more like apologies than excuses. At that point, it's too late to do much about a problem but we want others to know why we acted in a certain manner.

Much more dangerous are the silent excuses; the ones we tell ourselves so we can justify not doing what we know would be best. They are barely noticeable and may take split-seconds so we can rush past any reservations and pretend a sound alternative wasn't present. If we don't explore the downsides, afterwards we can water down any remorse.

Catching the silent excuse is a valuable but difficult skill. One key technique: When there is a feeling that something might not be right, interrupt yourself and take time to think.

After all, you and your mind are supposed to be on the same side.

Quote of the Day

In some forty years of government work I have learned one thing for certain. As I have put it, the central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself. Thanks to this interaction, we're a better society in nearly all respects than we were.

- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Memoir From Antproof Case

I read fiction in the evening. 

Tonight, after several weeks, I finished Mark Helprin's "Memoir From Antproof Case." 

One word review: Wow.

The man writes like an angel. 

Storm Clouds in Distance

Will have to make sure my wife doesn't leave me the Giant Frog umbrella tomorrow. Not good for the image.

Life Imitates Art: A Novelist Could Not Do Better

Consider the great names of fictional characters such as Uriah Heep, Obediah Slope, Wilkins Micawber, Adrian Mole, Becky Sharp, Huckleberry Finn, and Ignatius J. Reilly.

If you were writing a novel, you could not do a better job of matching these names with their respective personalities:
  • The Reverend Al Sharpton
  • Anthony Weiner
  • Strom Thurmond
  • Chris Christie
  • Dick Durbin
  • George H. W. Bush
  • Bella Abzug
  • Lester Maddox
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger

Before the World Changed in September

Buzzfeed has color photographs of Paris in July 1939.

Art Break: Tito

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Ettore Tito.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Patrick Allitt reviews a new book on Benjamin Franklin.
Dennis Farina in "Get Shorty": "I'm Ray Barboni from Miami."
Matt Walsh: Gifted basement dweller is too good for some jobs.
The trailer: "Gunfight at O.K. Corral"
The trailer for a 1987 film about a cost-savings effort by the City of Detroit.
Rich Lowry on a national conversation about race.
The trailer for "Trial and Error."
Althouse: A family is afraid to talk about their rescuer.
Judith Shulevitz: Failing fat people.

Random Thoughts

Less can be more but often it is just less. Brilliant ideas should be carefully handled because they can shatter or burn. Every day we set out to conquer ourselves. Procrastination can be used to fuel our focus. Before you raise or lower something it helps to know how far is too far. Watch out for problems that continue to be fixed after they have been solved. When in unknown territory, a periodic review of the map is wise. Don't expect solutions from people who have invested in failure. Some professionals think they are high priests. Candor is one of the most valuable team virtues because it is so rare. Doing the basics can be regarded as profound and in many places it is. The best information is off the record. It is a shame that the lean and hungry are so articulate. It doesn't take long to spot a hater. A sign of character is what a person can walk away from. Over the long term, the people seated around the kitchen tables of a nation are more influential than those in any cabinet room. It usually pays to honor the "square" instead of the "cool." Millions worship political beliefs and disdain religious ones. Each city has a collection of success centers known as libraries; failures boycott them. It is hard to produce achievements without courage, patience, and energy. Many policies are the equivalent of buying expensive track shoes for fat men. Our memories have vaults filled with off-hand remarks and small gestures. Projects frequently look easier from the outside. Always listen to the quietest person in the room. If we know what is needed, why aren't we doing it?

Quote of the Day

There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning, and yearning.

- Christopher Morley

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Unmaking of a Mayoral Candidate

The New York Times has had enough of Anthony Weiner, as have we all. 

Serious points should be deducted from any candidate who hauls his wife out to assist in responding to a scandal of his own making but such deductions are unnecessary when the candidacy itself is a joke.

The fact that he was the front-runner speaks volumes about the state of New York City politics.

Music Break

The Michigan State University Orchestra with the suite from "Billy The Kid."

Was Hemingway's Skill Booze-Driven?

The Hammock Papers asks whether it helps writers if they drink. Rob cites some famous examples.

I lean toward the skeptical side and sometimes even wonder if famous writers peddle those booze/drugs/spontaneous genius-driven stories to throw off potential competitors. 

Bate: 7 Decisions

To not be fearful of cynics, amateurs who claim to be professionals nor long dark nights.

Read the rest here.

Man Booker Prize 2013

The long list has been released.


I'm in a hurry today so I'm moving very slowly.

News You Can Use: Star Trek

Law Latte has a nifty guide to Star Trek personnel.

[Don't ask "Where's Han Solo?" or you'll elicit screams.]

The Fisherman

The Vatican's garbage collectors were the first employees the new pope invited to these morning masses, followed by the security personnel, gardeners, nuns and even Vatican Bank advisors. Many of the Vatican's roughly 4,000 employees come to the mass -- not because they are required to, but because they adore Francis.

Read the rest of Der Spiegel's profile of Pope Francis.

The Most Important Thing

The most important thing we can do today is to treat people appropriately. In most, if not all, cases, that means treating them with courtesy and respect. It means giving them a little extra time, listening a bit more closely, and not looking over their shoulder or diverting our attention to a computer screen. 

This approach does not permit the spreading of bad moods or the sharing of poor attitudes. It should also cause each of us to bite our tongue whenever we're about to say something with the primary purpose of showing we are clever. We should give worth to others and make them feel worthy.

If all of us do this, the day should go quite well.

Team Participants versus Team Members

When she was in elementary school, my daughter summarized the "team projects" in her class: "A few of us do the work and the rest of them stand around."

Fortunately, we don't see behavior like that in the workplace.

Quote of the Day

Publish and be damned.

- The Duke of Wellington, responding to a blackmail threat

Monday, July 22, 2013

Orange-Vanilla Monkey Bread

Here is the recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Look at the photographs and try not to want any.


The Prince of Cambridge has arrived. Mother and child are fine.

His name has not been announced. 

Update: Speculation on the name. "Michael" has not been mentioned.


Let's see: 

  • John Adams? Yes. 
  • Ben Franklin? No. 
  • George Washington? No way. 
  • Thomas Jefferson? Perhaps. 
  • James Madison? Yes. 
  • Alexander Hamilton? No.

Just wondering how many of the Founding Fathers would have run for office in today's media climate.

Were newspapers often vicious and distorting back in their day? Sure. But many of those news sources didn't even pretend to be fair. They were the equivalent of tabloids and they had very limited circulation.

Two questions:

Has the political/media climate improved, remained about the same, or gotten worse?

Do you think it discourages good people from running for office?

Still Time to...

Cultural Offering gives us a list of things that we have time to do.

Sleep and Weight Gain

Scientific American: Less sleep, more weight.

Bird Envy

FutureLawyer shot this photograph of a pelican at the St. Petersburg waterfront.

His thoughts are here and they are a great way to start the week.

Creativity This Morning

Coffee. Journal. Fountain pen. Plus thoughts that have been brewing for the past six months.

Three Things to Determine

  1. Is the "problem" a solution to another problem?
  2. Have you been trying to address a solution and not the real problem?
  3. If the conduct appears to be senseless or strange, under what version of reality would it make sense?

They Want Company

I suspect that just as some people want to be ordered, thwarted, seduced, imprisoned, enslaved, and abused, there are those who want to be destroyed but don't want to do it on their own. They are driven by a twisted egalitarianism and strive to condemn and bring down their entire society so they will not have to bear a personal stigma for their destruction. They seek the macro in order to obtain the micro. 

In their view, this is justified because all are unworthy, although, to paraphrase Orwell, some are less unworthy than others. They, of course, are in this elite group which blends egotism with insecurity.

These individuals are, in short, driven by a death wish but they don't want to go alone. They want company.

Quote of the Day

Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.

- Norman Schwarzkopf

Sunday, July 21, 2013

First Paragraph

Alan Clay woke up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was May 30, 2010. He had spent two days on planes to get there.

- From A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

The Most Contemptible Character

Of the more than 4,000 troops mobilized in Arizona, only a handful were actually needed to track Geronimo’s band south of the Mexican border, while the majority of troops, like Company A, wiled away their time occupying strategic points and providing a reassuring presence for area civilians. As Doane came to realize, the greatest danger faced by his own command that summer came not from hostile Indians, but rather from the visits of mobile whiskey and flesh peddlers who promptly arrived every payday, setting up open air brothels just beyond his camp’s perimeter.

Read the rest of Kim Allen Scott's article in True West magazine.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, July 20, 2013

World's Best Hikes

National Geographic shows 20 dream trails.


Cultural Offering has been posting the work of a young artist named Libby Harden

It's very good.

Music Break

Ray Charles: "America The Beautiful."
Gordon Lightfoot: "Sundown."
John Gary: "Unchained Melody."
Erroll Garner: "I Get a Kick Out of You."
Peter, Paul & Mary: "Early Morning Rain."

First Paragraph

This Tuesday morning, 3 October 1990, at half after ten, I typed the last sentence of the novel that will complete what the critics have taken to calling 'The Grenzler Octet,' as if I had planned from the beginning to write eight interrelated books on the same theme. No, that came about by accident.

- From The Novel by James A. Michener

"Perception": An Artist at Work

Underpaintings has a short time-lapse video showing the artist Michael Klein as he creates a painting.

A demonstration of creativity. Check it out.

Beauty Treatment

From Japan: The attack of the face-munching snails.

Reaching The Busy

At Entrepreneur, Kathleen Davis describes how to market to busy people who don't have time to read.

Buzz Words

This Adobe ad was written by someone who knows the workplace. Instant classic.

Desert Rain

It arrived late at night but it arrived: Lightning, thunder, and blessed rain.

You could hear the plants sigh.