Sunday, June 30, 2013

19 Firefighters Killed

Terrible news from Arizona. 19 members of an elite firefighting crew have died while fighting a wildfire.

McCullough on History


At Cultural Offering, David McCullough talks about historical illiteracy.

And once you're done pondering deep thoughts, check out the link to his shed.

Find Something Beautiful Today


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Miscellaneous and Fast

A device that is guaranteed to make you cringe.
IRS: Conservatives targeted.
The Telegraph: Budget cuts looming in France.
Cultural glue: Victor Davis Hanson looks at America and ancient Rome.
The trailer for "Red 2."
And, as a Saturday night treat, the classic ad with Vincent Price.

Gettysburg's 75th

Some video from the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Mayor Nutter

In City Journal, Ethan Epstein profiles Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia. An excerpt:

Nutter’s administration has also implemented a program, coined PhillyRising, based on the Broken Windows theory of policing, which holds that maintaining basic order stems serious crime. The idea is to use data gathered by police officers in dangerous neighborhoods to improve the quality of life—say, by repairing broken streetlights or cleaning filthy alleys after residents complain to cops on the beat. In 2012, Nutter summed up his overall law enforcement strategy: “We combined a zero tolerance attitude toward those who terrorize our neighborhoods with a community policing approach that built trust and a sense of partnership between citizens and the men and women whose job it is to protect us.”

Music Break


The Open Team


The open team is not without conflict, but when its members disagree with one another, they politely surface the disagreement, listen  to the other person's reasoning, and see if the matter can be resolved. That is important, but even more important is what they don't do. They don't:
  • Become sarcastic or abusive
  • Quietly seethe 
  • Ascribe bad motives 
  • Form factions
  • Spread rumors
  • Withhold information 
  • Fail to cooperate
  • Make counter-proposals without alerting the person
  • Emphasize turf over mission
  • Tuck away their complaint for use in the future
  • Try to subvert the other person's standing in the organization
  • Refuse to consider that the opposing argument may have merit.

Gettysburg 150


When Organizations Resemble Science Fiction



The values erode first and they are soon followed by the language. Words are watered down to where they have almost no meaning or even imply the opposite of their true definition. Qualifiers proliferate. So do escape clauses. Responsibility is denied or shared widely for if everyone has responsibility then no one does. Matters worsen. Crises arise. Competitors sense and exploit weakness. Deadlines evaporate and urgency departs. Incompetents are promoted. Committees and special task forces are formed but nothing seems to get done amid the constant turf wars. Trivial issues consume large chunks of time. Gossip spreads. Good people leave and their replacements lack substance. Extravagant rewards are given for mediocre performance. Titles are inflated. On the surface, the place looks the same but tension can be felt by outsiders.

Ultimately, the only survivors are the dependent, who cannot find work elsewhere, and the manipulative who, seeing opportunity in chaos and decline, fight over the remains of what once was a fine organization.

Quote of the Day

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

- Ogden Nash

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bock on Leadership

Leadership consultant and author Wally Bock gives stories and strategies from real life.

Good Meeting


As much as I hate meetings, today I attended an excellent one. What made the difference?

  • Bright people who were well-prepared.
  • Important topic.
  • Open discussion but nothing beaten to death.
  • Development of a clear and practical plan of action.
  • And a final crucial element: When we were done, we left.

Smoking Deals

Kindness, thy name is Cultural Offering.

Life in the Desert


National news: Phoenix is hot in the summer.

[Just re-read that and caught the tone. I'm beginning to turn into a curmudgeon. It may be the heat.]

Some Early Reactions


The word is out: David Kanigan is starting his diet today.

Once in Love with Lyndon

Allan Sherman at an LBJ fundraiser in 1964.

A charming reminder of how times and attitudes change.

When is Lying a Problem?


Since lying seems to draw a simple shrug nowadays in many quarters, I've started to wonder at which point it might begin to stir a stronger reaction. Let's consider the extent to which lying by individuals (so we can establish accountability) on a serious matter (rule out whether or not they truly liked your pot roast) with real or potential impact and in various positions bothers us. And this is about a lie, not an honest mistake. Intent to deceive matters. Use the following rating system and review the list of jobs.

1 = Don't be such a Puritan. It's an acceptable part of life. Everybody does it, even on serious matters.
2 = They can do it once, but it had better not be repeated
3 = Once is unacceptable. Given the job, the subject, and the real or potential impact, credibility and trust have been destroyed.


  1. Judge
  2. Car salesman/woman
  3. Priest/minister/rabbi
  4. Scientist/Researcher
  5. Realtor
  6. Surgeon
  7. Chef/Restaurant owner
  8. Firefighter
  9. Labor leader
  10. Spouse
  11. Journalist
  12. President
  13. Lawyer
  14. Teacher
  15. General or Admiral
  16. Business executive 
  17. Witness in court case
  18. Senator or Member of Congress
  19. Police officer
  20. Architect
  21. Management consultant
  22. One of your employees

Light Books for the Beach


No heavy lifting or searching for meaning. Strictly fun.
  1. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend.
  2. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa
  3. The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W. E. Bowman
  4. Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen
  5. Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
  6. Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen
  7. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
  8. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  9. What's So Funny? by Donald E. Westlake
  10. Popcorn by Ben Elton
  11. Dead Famous by Ben Elton
  12. Company by Max Barry
  13. Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe
  14. Big Trouble by Dave Barry
  15. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
  16. The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
  17. In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd

Quote of the Day


Summer has set in with its usual severity.

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Pianist's Style


It can be formal as with Daniil Trifonov, but then there's also Chico Marx in "A Day at the Races"

Accepting the Differences


Tanmay Vora explores it in 100 words

Photo Break: The Army

From 2012: At Business Insider: 65 extraordinary photographs of the U.S. Army.

A Prison Visit


I asked them to tell me what they thought an adult needs to know and they started shouting things out to me.  (They were very participatory and enthused to be asked questions.)  What I found interesting was the answers they offered me to this very important question.  The first thing yelled out in response to my question about what an adult needs to know was “how to pay your bills.”  WHAT?  I was surprised by that response but had to agree completely.  So we talked about the importance of having knowledge of how to earn money, save, invest and be responsible.  The next response to the question was “work ethic.”  Again . .  . WHAT?  Great answer.  The next, “TRUST.”  Then “how to take responsibility.” BINGO: these were great answers.  I did thirty minutes with them shouting out things they believed an adult needed to know to be successful, though many of them obviously didn’t know these things themselves, but desperately wanted to teach their kids these things.  By the way, I have asked that question of many crowds and the responses are usually more along the lines of “what it means to be happy” “how to find my purpose” or other airy-fairy intangibles.

Read the rest of Larry Winget's account of his speech at Perryville Prison.

How Many Would Get Past HR?


Lincoln, Thatcher, Gandhi, Wellington, De Gaulle, Churchill, Juarez, Adams, Henry II, MacArthur, Pasteur, Patton, Keller, Coolidge, Napoleon, Elizabeth I, Truman, Schweitzer, Mandela, Champlain, Einstein, Jagger, Sadat, Grant, Columbus, etc.

The Morass

Low standards portrayed as cutting edge values. Tailored but empty suits pretending to be bold leaders. False indignation as morality. Waves of selective nonjudgmentalism. Vulgarity and ignorance hiding beneath a blanket of what was once called "cool." The self-described tolerant seeking to label any dissent from their orthodoxy as poorly educated or evil. Exaltation of anti-heroes and then bafflement at the lack of heroism. Weakness called strength. Deep used as a synonym for incomprehensible. Basic rules whittled to suggestions and suggestions regarded as vague yearnings. Celebrity placed above character. Mindless entertainment. Victim status coveted and exploited. The security of a prison cell trumping the risks of freedom. Advocacy as a blood sport. The rule of tribes. Trash praised as art. Non-believing fanatics. Totalitarian nannies and rampant narcissism.

If the natural world doesn't present enough problems, we'll create plenty of our own. 

A Detective Story


Any lover of mysteries knows the joy of tracking down the murderer. So it is with writing history. Historians are detectives. Years ago, I wrote a book on the history of the Arizona Right to Work law. It began as a paper in a legal history class and by the time that class was finished, the subject had its hooks in me and I kept following lead after lead. 

The process was as intriguing as the subject. [Don't tell me that book isn't on your coffee table!] I'd interview one witness and he - all of them were men - would point to another. Some witnesses, of course, were treasure chests of information. One old newspaper reporter and publisher would have been a book all by himself but he managed to be both fascinating and cautious. "Many of my stories would hurt people," he said, begging off an offer to assemble his recollections. He was right, of course, but when you are young and eager to find tantalizing bits of information, such inhibitions seem quaint.

Later, I found a similar thrill in tracking down stories both as an investigator and a management consultant. In the latter role, I am called in to detect what is behind various management problems. Notice I said what and not who. With experience, I've found that although personalities can make a huge difference, you always want to determine the design that shapes the people. Often, the process is the culprit.

But the process of detecting the story - or the story behind the story - can truly be addictive.

Hmm, let's follow this and see where it leads.

Quote of the Day

People who refuse to accept unpleasant truths have no right to complain about politicians who lie to them. What other kind of candidates would such people elect?

- Thomas Sowell

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Protecting Your Computer


FutureLawyer, who grooves on all matters technical when he's not reading emails on his SmartWatch, endorses an anti-malware and anti-virus tool.

Art Break: William Orpen


Underpaintings tells the amazing story of the court martial of "Billy Orps."

The DOMA Same Sex Marriage Case

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog on:

Matheson, R.I.P.

Author Richard Matheson died a few days ago. An excerpt from The Telegraph obituary:

His most celebrated work is the 1954 horror novel I Am Legend, which is considered a landmark work in the genre, ushering in flesh-eating zombie-like creatures and apocalyptic themes to post-World War Two America. The novel was adapted three times as a film, most recently in 2007 as a big-budget thriller starring Will Smith and directed by Francis Lawrence. The first version was called The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price, and was followed by The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston.

First Paragraph

The idea of a classless, fully egalitarian society first emerged in classical Greece. Ancient Greece happened to have been the first country in the world to recognize private property in land and to treat land as a commodity, and hence it was the first to confront the social inequalities that result from ownership. Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer (seventh century B.C.), in the poem "Works and Days" extolled a mythical "Golden Age" when people were not driven by the "shameful lust for gain," when there was an abundance of goods for all to share and mankind lived in perpetual peace. The theme of the Golden Age resounded in the writings of the Roman poets Virgil and Ovid; Ovid spoke of the time when the world knew nothing of "boundary posts and fences."

- From Communism: A History by Richard Pipes

Why You Must Be Perfect


You must be perfect because, as we all know, none of the famous singers ever recorded a poor song; none of the famous writers ever wrote a bad book; none of the famous dancers ever missed a step, nor have the famous painters ever painted anything that caused people to think, "This is a scam."

The political leaders are certainly mistake-free. So too are the journalists. As for Hollywood, those people do exemplary work and, now that I think of it, never make lousy movies.

The musicians hit every note, the bricklayers are never even slightly off, and the chefs bake everything to, well, perfection. The scientists don't need to experiment; they just know. Doctors cure every patient, lawyers win every case, explorers always know the trail, and the thing we like most about home run hitters is they never strike out.


So why shouldn't you be perfect too?

Quote of the Day

He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.

- George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Back By Popular Demand

You asked for it: David Hasselhoff with "Hooked on a Feeling."

Modern entertainment at its best.

Music Break

Peter, Paul and Mary: "Day is Done."

Still Writing

From 2012: An interview with Herman Wouk, writer extraordinaire. An excerpt:

“The Lawgiver” may be most notable for its heartbreaking depiction of Mr. Wouk’s relationship with his wife, who died last year at 9o. The couple were married for 66 years, and she was also Mr. Wouk’s agent. Mrs. Wouk is a steely, savvy presence in the book, protecting her husband from outsiders but also nourishing his creativity.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Spiegel: German police foil a model plane terror plot.
Business Insider: Logos with subliminal messages.
Gallup Poll on the healthcare law and employer hiring.
Just the thing for negotiation sessions: The Smith & Wesson tactical pen.
L. Brent Bozell poses a question about press bias.
Mental Floss: A brief history of the Wiffle Ball.
On the money in Britain: Winston Churchill and Jane Austen.

Another Day at The Court


Althouse has more on the U. S. Supreme Court decisions.

First Paragraph

"We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. "The wildlings are dead."

- From A Game of Thrones: Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Making Things Difficult


Have you ever been working on a project and then suddenly realize that you are making the job unnecessarily difficult?

In my case, that's not just a "once upon a time" event but a tendency that requires periodic checks. Many of us have a natural slant toward complicating matters. We get "too clever by half" and lose focus on the essentials. This can be exacerbated by external pressures, the heavy flow of information, and a desire for perfection.

That's why a key question at the beginning of any project is "What are the essentials?" Once that is answered, we need to be on the alert both for mission creep and undue complexity.

Simplify should work closely with Clarify.

Quote of the Day

Don't fix it unless you're absolutely positive it's broken.

- Jay Conrad Levinson

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back in Force

I hope you are checking out Sensory Dispensary. Scott's back in force.

Over-the-Top Messy Office

This photograph of Mike Allen's office when he was at Time magazine goes beyond merely messy. Indeed, it may be a hoax.

[On the other hand, remember the Collyer brothers?]

Global What?


At The Economist, a cooling consensus on global warming.

[Remember when anyone who expressed the slightest doubt was savaged?]

"Back to Blood"


Tom Wolfe's novel "Back to Blood" is a bargain on Kindle and will be out soon in paperback.

I was given a copy for Father's Day and thoroughly enjoyed it. There will be some dissenters, but for the majority of Wolfe fans, the old master is back.

Car Style Critic


Good news! Art Contrarian has started another blog.

Big Day at the U.S. Supreme Court

Althouse is giving updates.

First Paragraph

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was beginning with God and the duty of every faithful monk would be to repeat every day with chanting humility the one never-changing event whose incontrovertable truth can be asserted. But we see now through a glass darkly, and the truth, before it is revealed to all, face to face, we see in fragments (alas, how illegible) in the error of the world, so we must spell out its faithful signals even when they seem obscure to us and as if amalgamated with a will wholly bent on evil.

- From The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Business Slogans


A while back I mentioned a bit of powerful business wisdom that a firm in Phoenix had under its sign many years ago: "A Fast Nickel is Better Than a Slow Dime."

A couple of business slogans that I recently noticed:

Garvin's Towing (Payson, Arizona):

"We don't charge an arm and a leg for a tow."

Caramba Fresh Mexican Food (Glendale, Arizona): 

"Where you don't peso much."

Any others?

Lines Used While Taking Time Off


"Just making some notes on a project."
"Thinking, thinking, thinking."
"I want to add a minor item to a draft."
"Yes, it is a business book, but it is a book."
"Have you checked the headlines?"
"If I do this one item now, things will be easier when I return."
"Only a quick check for messages."
"You know, this get-away place is really a very interesting business case study."

Eclecticity Ends


This is very sad news.

Eclecticity
, one of the most interesting blogs anywhere, has called it a wrap. This is understandable. Blogging often resembles shouting into the dark night and not knowing if anyone has heard you.  


I just hope Doug (a.k.a. The Big E) knows that he has done excellent work and has been heard. His efforts have always been deeply appreciated. He deserves our best wishes.

Aargh.

Quote of the Day

Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.

- John Ruskin

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Find Something Beautiful Today


Friday, June 21, 2013

In the Mountains


I am going to a mountain area that has terrible or no Internet connections. Posting will resume on Sunday. 

There are, of course, many excellent links in the blog roll as well as a ton of items in the archives.

Be good and take care of one another. [Update: Or read the stock market news and drink heavily.]

The Computer Spam Fan


Yes, there is one in the universe.

Quote of the Day

Optimists buy gold. Pessimists buy lead.

- Unknown

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Big Ludwig

Other composers impress. Beethoven stuns.

Cultural Offering
provides evidence.

The Photographer's Eye

Photographs from the National Geographic archives. Exceptional, of course.

Miscellaneous and Fast

James Taylor: "Carolina In My Mind."
WaiterRant has a Trader Joe's phobia.
Stephen Colbert's tribute to his mother.
The Onion: Doctors classify obesity as a disease.
"Parks and Recreation": Ron Swanson and puppy.
EEO/AA management is sound management.
Jonah Goldberg on Edward Snowden.
Richard Branson on social entrepreneurship.
The trailer for "Two For The Road."

Random Thoughts


There are some people who don't want to surrender to the barbarians but will gladly give them the castle's gate. One of the deft moves in debate is to define your position as common sense. Rushing to make your mistakes is seldom wise. You can get more insight from some novels than from many textbooks. Life keeps reminding us to read the instruction manual but we may have to write it first. An important chore is sorting the either-or situations from the both-and. A sizable amount of time is devoted to constructing rationalizations. The biggest ethnic group is Passive-Aggressive. Two common workplace roles are Grasshopper and Ant. Music may be psychiatry's greatest competitor. Most of the mean things we encounter are done by otherwise nice people. A simple rule in negotiations is that poor behavior does not spark a better offer. Amid the hassle, you have to set time to think and rest. Some techniques are chosen not because they are more efficient but because they make us better. An urgent deadline is often a sign that someone is going on vacation. If life truly resembled high school there'd be more drop-outs. When an organization screws up, it shouldn't be given more power. You can learn a lot about a man from his choice of neckties. The receptionist knows the real organization chart.

Life


The deadline is moved up. The customer has a crisis. The car needs to be washed. The reservations cannot be canceled. The temporary dental cap fell off. Commitments pursue you like wolves and there's something wrong with your shoulder.

But you got up this morning without any need of assistance. The coffee was nice. A neighbor said hello. You put some cinnamon and sugar on your toast and you can watch the birds exploring your yard.

Retention


Do you ever wonder how many highly talented people have left organizations because: 

  • No one ever sat down with them to discuss how they might fashion a career there?
  • No one ever asked them to stay?
  • There wasn't a clear career path?
  • They have sensed an indifference to people in their department or field?
  • The only thing done when someone hands in a resignation letter is to determine when to throw a farewell party?

Quote of the Day

The computer screen, while great for rendering so many things in riveting HD, has something of the glassy-eyed dead fish when it comes to written communication.

- Henry Alford

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini, R.I.P.

Remember when he played "Bear" in "Get Shorty?" A marvelous actor. Gone way too soon.

[I recall asking my wife to watch a show called "The Sopranos." She thought it was a PBS program about opera singers, but later got hooked on its shots from her old neighborhood.]

Artistic Distance


Steven Pressfield writes about its importance for novelists but you can apply it to any line of work.

Music Break: "On the Road"


Cultural Offering is cranking it up for Wednesday with a Lee Roy Parnell video.

"These are your kids on books"


The Hammock Papers has a great poster.

Lights Off in Germany: Cities Reduce Debt


The fact that Goslar has disappeared into complete blackness has less to do with the fog than with Junk, who turned off every one of the city's street lights, with only a very few exceptions. Every day, when the clock strikes midnight, the lights go out. Goslar needs to cut expenses, Junk explains, and that applies to lights too. "This saves €100,000 ($134,000) a year," he says.

Read the rest of the Spiegel article here.

Art Break: Matte Paintings


Art Contrarian looks, with a critical eye, at some matte paintings. Star Wars and Citizen Kane fans should be prepared.

Don't Put It Off


Not that you ever suffer from it, but here are some thoughts on The Procrastination Infection.

Toddler Skills


Nicholas Bate, whose blog should be a daily read, on "7 Things We Did as a Toddler."

[I think the most important is either 1 or 4.]

The Impatience Mix


We describe some individuals as impatient and yet few of them are impatient in all matters. The person who becomes frustrated at a fast food restaurant line may be the mellowest person on a crowded rush hour freeway. 

That odd combination can cause us to misjudge ourselves since it is more likely that we'll recall our moments of great patience than the times when we were chewing the carpet. I confess to being in this mixed category. On most matters, I can "listen to the rocks grow" and flow through events that drive others to shouting. At other times, however, I don't yell but catch myself rushing when I should slow down. I also slip into wishing others would rush as well. If I had a tattoo it might read "Get to the point."

This practice has advantages but it also has drawbacks. Since recognizing this tendency, I've wondered how many times my conduct would have been improved with added patience. That can be disconcerting because those of us who are results-oriented may have an equal dedication to high quality.

Check yourself out. You too may be a patient/impatient mixture.

Quote of the Day

A gentleman is one who never hurts another's feelings unintentionally.

- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Conference Call


Cultural Offering has a brutally accurate account of a conference call.

Learn it. Know it. Live it.

And Many Happy Returns!


The Economist: The rights to the song "Happy Birthday" are in dispute. [Is that a lawyer in the corner?]

Beach


Take a moment today and read FutureLawyer's poem - yes, he's a poet and an attorney - about vacations.

Travel in Egypt


Egypt is on many a must-see list of travel locations. For those of us who've wondered what has happened to Egypt's tourism industry, the news is not promising.

IRS Update


TaxProf Blog updates his links on the Internal Revenue Service scandal.

Denouncing The Classics

Because “The Great Gatsby” has yet again caught Hollywood’s wandering eye, this last piece has received the most attention and sparked the most debate. Apart from the fisticuffs among the groundlings in the comments box, Joyce Carol Oates remarked on Twitter that “Hating ‘The Great Gatsby’ (the novel) is like spitting into the Grand Canyon. It will not be going away anytime soon, but you will.”

Read the rest of The New Yorker essay by Sam Sacks.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily]

Art Break: Going British


Underpaintings has an auction preview of Christie's Victorian and British Impressionist Art.

When They Think You're Stupid

When they think you're stupid, they'll lie to you and expect not to pay a price. They will parse words and feign indignation. They'll send out minions who, if paid enough, would have insisted that Charles Manson was a fine family man. They will claim special circumstances and hint there is hidden knowledge which, if only they could speak freely, would cause you to jump to their defense. They will do all of this with a sincere smile and, on occasion, a somber expression more fitting for a vicar. Their boldness will cause you to question your own senses because you hold the quaint belief that what you saw and heard was what happened but they'll respond, "No, you're mistaken. It was something else." And they'll keep saying that.

Because they think you're stupid.

Quote of the Day

Standards are always out of date. That is what makes them standards.

- Alan Bennett

Monday, June 17, 2013

Miscellaneous and Fast


Focus


No interruptions. No music. No talking. Just the slow movement from one task to another and the deliberate, careful performance of each task.

More will be done in three hours than is normally done in eight.

How Some People Listen

A and B: "We hope that X's speech covers how to deal with G. That's our prime concern."

B: "X didn't say anything about G, but her ideas about H, K and L were very helpful."

A: "X didn't say anything about G. I stopped listening at that point."

How to Be Unhappy


Want to be unhappy? These strategies are time-tested.