Saturday, August 31, 2013

Now for the Details

Here's the transcript of the President's remarks on Syria. This section alone should generate a lot of questions:

Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.

How to Make Techies Buy


Okay, techies, FutureLawyer has a clever video - aren't they all? -  explaining how advertising ploys have persuaded you to buy all of that geek gear.

Think of it as a public service announcement.

Excellence: "Safety Last"

Some famous scenes from the Harold Lloyd film.

Brilliant.

Alibi Agencies


This Spiegel article describes a strange but in-demand service:

The client told his wife his work requires him to be in Cologne during the week. Because she occasionally wants to visit her husband there, Ulmer rented this apartment for him, filling it with the man's belongings to lay a false trail. He even drops by, presenting himself as a colleague from work, when the man's wife is visiting. During his visit, he asks innocently where the bathroom is, as if he didn't already know.

Old Man Winter



Sippican Cottage has a great post that is a reminder of what it is like to live where winter gets rough. [The video of Mount Washington, New Hampshire is also worth checking out.] An excerpt:

They'll find you in the spring in western Maine if you pretend winter doesn't exist. You're not going anywhere, and you're not doing anything without paying attention to it when it shows up. And you're not staying home, either, without paying winter's attention vigorish. If the power went out in Massachusetts, we'd have a jolly fire in the ornamental fireplace, made entirely from cardboard and bits of cut-off wood left over from building the house, and wait for the television to be restored. If the power goes off overnight in Maine in January, you've got about four hours to do something about it before the water in the toilet bowl turns to slush. I have a back-up plan for heat, and a back-up plan for that plan, too, and I'm probably considered woefully unprepared by my wiser neighbors. But I do get the concept, so elegantly put by my dead neighbor, E. B. White: just to  live in winter is a full time job.

First Paragraph

You missed that. Right now, you are missing the vast majority of what is happening around you. You are missing the events unfolding in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you.

- From On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz

University Reading Lists: Dumbing Down?



There is an important post by Jessie Roberts at The Dish on a study of the reading lists at American universities.

Check it out. Few classics and lots of books with political themes. The political leaning is heavily left-wing - Dennis Prager has a point when he says many universities are left-wing seminaries - but I imagine 
that people from all points in the political spectrum will find this report to be disturbing. Click on through to the study. It deserves much discussion and debate. 

An excerpt from the study:

The top two subject categories were Science and Multiculturalism/Immigration/Racism, and the top genres were memoir and biography. Some book types were notably missing from common reading assignments. Classic texts and books published before 1990 were scarce, and fiction was far outpaced by nonfiction. There were no classics of history; no biographies of, nor autobiographies, speeches, or writings by, American political leaders; no works by ancient philosophers; no works of the Enlightenment; no classical works of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Confucian thought; and no scientific classics.

How Lessons Slip Away


For several months, it was the hot decision. Staff scrambled to do the necessary research and there was a lot of give-and-take within conference rooms and away from work. Finally, the decision was made. On that day, the organizational memory sink began to drain.

Six months later, if you brought up the subject, people would say, "Oh yeah" and vaguely recall some aspect of the problem. A few people who'd opposed the course of action would gloat if things had not worked out. Aside from those renegades, there would be indifference. People have immediate projects and going back in time seems...weird.

Bring up the old decision five years later and you may as well be mentioning the ancient Greeks. There might be some hazy recollection but many of the key players will have moved on. If a related problem was on the table no one would propose going back to review the earlier decision to see what lessons had been learned because, hey, that was then and this is now. Besides that, who kept notes?


And that is how organizations squander the lessons of history.

Quote of the Day

If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna.

- Napoleon

Friday, August 30, 2013

Miscellaneous and Fast

The Atlantic: How to make perfect coffee.
Artur Davis on the forgotten Martin Luther King, Jr.
Eclecticity Light: How not to approach the refreshments table.
Hayward et al: "The Butler" and Ronald Reagan.
Althouse notes the latest North Korean act of brutality.
Cultural Offering lists links to Nicholas Bate's books.
Wally Bock: Stories and strategies from real life.

Facial Expressions

...are well captured in this photograph of the baseball park audience when a foul ball is headed their way.

Rest in Peace: Death of a Poet

"The death has taken place of Seamus Heaney," said a short statement issued by his family on Friday.
"The poet and Nobel laureate died in hospital in Dublin this morning after a short illness. The family has requested privacy at this time."
The rest of the BBC report is here.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Reactions on Syria

A variety of perspectives from:

Art Break: Valigursky


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Ed Valigursky.

[The picture above could inspire some great captions.]

First Paragraph

Throughout a long and irregular career I have found that when I have had to give lectures, I almost invariably have to begin with an apology. On this occasion I begin with about six apologies in a sort of stratified form. First of all, I am only just recovering, so far as anybody ever recovers, from a visit to America. I do not wish to plead in forma pauperis on that point, but I appeal to your pity. I think it will be sufficient appeal to say I delivered a great many lectures in that country. Miserable as is my condition, what must be the condition of the audiences! If you find my remarks this evening, as you most certainly will, extraordinarily rambling and inadequate, please remember this is about the ninety-first lecture and you are its victims.

- From Mary Queen of Scots [Revaluations, 1931] by G. K. Chesterton

Don't Be in a Hurry to Make Your Mistakes

President Dwight Eisenhower used to tell his Cabinet, "Let's not be in a hurry to make our mistakes."

This was a man who commanded and knew the intricacies of the Normandy Invasion and who'd juggled the egos of Churchill, de Gaulle, Montgomery, and Patton. He was well aware of how things can look great on paper and then rapidly go south. He knew that maps don't begin to reveal the complexities of life on the ground. He was one of our most experienced and realistic presidents; a tough operator who did not bluster and who understood that power must be carefully maintained and not frittered away on adventures. He also had a restrained view of the presidency and a deep respect for the Constitution. His foreign enemies - our enemies - did not regard him as weak.

Eisenhower's example is one that all presidents - and leaders for that matter - should study. Critics would later regard his style as bland. I suspect that Eisenhower would not have been bothered by those assertions. He knew that being deliberate, thoughtful, and thorough may seem bland to shallow observers who seek quick fixes. What he missed in charisma he gained in results.

The sign on his desk in the Oval Office read, in Latin, "Gently in manner, strong in deed."

Quote of the Day

In the spring of 1955, when I was president of Penn State, Ike was the commencement speaker. As the time for the outdoor ceremony approached, storm clouds formed. I was distressed at the possibility of moving the commencement to an indoor facility that was too small to accommodate all of the guests. When I asked my brother for advice, he said, "Milton, I haven't worried about the weather since June 6, 1944."

- Milton Eisenhower

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Music Break

From 1968, The Seekers with "I'll Never Find Another You."

Tort Law: When Proximate Cause Becomes Less Than Proximate


FutureLawyer gives his take on a fascinating and scary tort case involving the liability of a person who is texting and driving AND the liability of the person who is on the other end of the line. 

News You Can Use: GrabOpener


For those of you who have longed to open a bottle with one hand.

Music Break: The Moldau

Wilhelm Furtwangler conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker.

Close your eyes and and drift down the river.

Melville


Anderson Layman's Blog has some quotations from Herman Melville. If I were able to assemble a dinner party of famous writers, living or dead, he'd be at the table. People often groan at the ramblings in Moby Dick - which may be The Great American Novel - although that somber work's asides also contain a lot of humor.

Check out his haunting tale of a slave ship, Benito Cereno.

An author who deserved far greater fame in his time.

Bate: 100 Word Story


Consultant-author-professor Nicholas Bate, a.k.a. The Man Who Never Sleeps, has written a description of what is daily life for many. It should be put in time capsules so future generations will understand a society chained to a device.

The Power of Ten Minutes


In ten minutes you can do a lot. 

Peter Drucker said that you need usable time for projects, not small pieces here and there, and he recommended a minimum of 30 minutes. That's reasonable because Drucker was talking about the ability to achieve serious focus. 

But for small tasks - the "next actions" that David Allen writes about - 10 minutes can be a nice chunk of time. Each minute is valuable. Those portions eventually accumulate and result in the completion of the project.

You've heard people say, "It'll only take 10 minutes."  A commodity which cannot be recovered should not be spoken of that way.

Try looking at your day in ten minute segments. You may notice an increase in productivity.

Quote of the Day

Grant me, Lord, a little light,
Be it no more than a glowworm giveth
Which goeth about by night,
To guide me through this life,
This dream which lasteth but a day,
Wherein are many things on which to stumble,
And many things at which to laugh,
And others like unto a stony path
Along which one goeth leaping.

- Prayer of an Aztec chieftain, quoted in Many Mexicos by Lesley Byrd Simpson

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ballmer's Early Reviews

Wally Bock provides some assessments of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. An excerpt:

Assessing any CEO is tricky without the benefit of the perspective that time gives us. We can look back at Jack Welch's tenure at GE, from the perspective of more than a decade and say, "Yup, it pretty much was as good as it looked at the time." On the other hand we will have to wait a few years to make a final assessment of Steve Jobs as CEO.

Even so, I don't think Steve Ballmer will come off very well. I'm sure he did many things to turn the Microsoft boat around, but there was always one thing lacking. We never really knew what Microsoft's strategy was. That got even worse last month when Steve Ballmer announced his "Strategy of Everything."

"Making Sense of the World"


Check out these fascinating maps of the world. In all, they illustrate a creative way of communicating that speakers should keep in mind. 

Ann Althouse gives her take here.

Communication Problems



  • You say: "As soon as possible." 
  • They hear: "Whenever you can get around to it." 

  • You say: "It is required by the regulations." 
  • They hear: "There's something in the regulations." 

  • You say: "Tell him he's going to be fired if he does it again." 
  • They hear: "Tell him severe disciplinary action will be taken if he does it again." 

  • You say: "You should talk to the lawyer before taking further action." 
  • They hear: "At some point down the road we'll probably have to mention this to the lawyer."

  • You say: "If the team meets all of its goals, there will be a bonus." 
  • They hear: "We're going to get a bonus."

Art Break: Doc Savage


Art Contrarian looks at the illustrators of the "Doc Savage" magazine. [It looks like the characters are fleeing the performance of a Las Vegas floor show.]

Life in First Gear


"Don't take risks. Play it safe. Always keep your options open. Obey every rule. Follow every precedent. Make no commitments. Avoid passions. Worry about what other people think. Stay on the beaten path."

Keep doing that for 40 or 50 years and see where it gets you.

Quote of the Day

You shouldn't take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.

- G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stomach and Mind


Via Instapundit: The future of psychology may be inside your stomach.

How CEOs Do "Burning Man"


This Fast Company article raises another question:

Would you want a CEO who "did" Burning Man?

[I know of one CEO in Arizona who, according to a very reliable source, has attended for years. He does not broadcast that.]

And no, I've never been to Burning Man.

Looking at Syria

Several perspectives from writers at:

Music Break

Back by popular demand: "Sweet Home Alabama."

Taking Our Best Advice


Our lives would be vastly improved if we took our own best advice.

We sit in seminars and think, "I knew that. Why haven't I been doing it?" When we counsel others, there may be moments when we are also directing the remarks to ourselves. We have the unlimited capacity to write "notes from home" requesting exemptions from the inconvenient and arduous. Since we also answer those requests, they are often granted.

I say "often" because there is a punishment component that operates in the opposite direction. When in that mode, we can shudder at our ancient blunders long after some internal statute of limitations should have applied. There are times when we easily forgive others about conduct for which we condemn ourselves.

The answer rests in neither extreme but in a balance between the easy excuses and the eternal reproaches. Finding that is the challenge.

When the Electricity Went


We had a huge storm last night in two stages: first, the dust portion and then the rain, thunder, and lightning combo. I might add there was a third stage, which is when the electricity went out.

You know the routine. Candles were lit, flashlights found, and a few of the latter surprisingly worked. [Old joke: A flashlight is a place to store dead batteries.] We opened the living room shutters and watched as the storm raged and our street turned into a little river. Our son came by and we sat, talked, and considered the serious necessity - call it a duty - of eating the ice cream before it melted.


After around two hours, the lights came back on. That was nice, but in a way, it was also a shame, and I don't mean because of the ice cream.

First Paragraph

One late November night in 1980 I was flying over the state of Utah on my way back to California. I had an aisle seat, and since I believe that anyone who flies in an airplane and doesn't spend most of the time looking out the window wastes his money, I walked back to the rear door of the airplane and stood for a long time at the door's tiny aperture, squinting out at Utah.

- From Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner

Crow Smarts


From a Scientific American article on the intelligence and social skills of crows:

Clucas speculates that ignoring a human with an averted gaze is a learned adaptation to life in the big city. Indeed, many studies have shown that crows are able to learn safety behaviors from one another. For example, John Marzluff of the University of Washington (who co-authored the aforementioned paper with Clucas) used masked researchers to test the learning abilities of crows. He and his colleagues ventured into Seattle parks wearing one of two kinds of masks. The people wearing one kind of mask trapped birds; the others simply walked by. Five years later the scientists returned to the parks with their masks. The birds present at the original trapping remembered which masks corresponded to capturing—and they passed this information to their young and other crows. All the crows responded to the sight of a researcher wearing a trapping mask by immediately mobbing the individual and shrieking.

Quote of the Day

Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.

- William Tecumseh Sherman

Monday, August 26, 2013

Miscellaneous and Fast

Common Good proposes health courts for malpractice cases.
The Telegraph: "Breaking Bad" as a word of mouth hit.
Narcissism meets no class: MTV Music Video Awards.
Kyle Smith: The effort to turn boys into girls.
CoolTools: Barefoot-like shoes.
The New Republic: Posthumously-discovered novels.

Television's Evil Little Friend

The devastating "I forgot my phone" video is at Althouse

It should be mandatory viewing in high school. If this trend keeps up, we're doomed.

Dark Sky

The Washington Post examines Tucson's efforts to assist star-gazing:

Luckily, when the sun sets and the air cools to a balmy 90 or so, you’ll find that the night was worth waiting for. Thanks to a local ordinance that strictly limits artificial-light pollution, Tucson supposedly has the darkest night skies of any city its size in the country.

Windfall


The Hill has an interesting article on the "Make a complicated law, then earn big bucks as a consultant/lobbyist interpreting the law" strategy. It also notes the power flowing to the bureaucracy:

“Congress is easy to watch,” said Tim LaPira, a politics professor at James Madison University who researches the government affairs industry, “but agencies are harder to watch because their actions are often opaque. This leads to a greater demand on K Street” for people who understand the fine print, he said.

Beach Interactions


Eclecticity Light has a revealing film clip of life at the beach.

Diebenkorn's 10


View From the Ledge has Richard Diebenkorn's 10 rules for creative projects. My favorites are 2, 3, and 4.

Art Break: Maxence


Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edgar Maxence.

When Preferences Produce Tragedy

But the Times story conveys a subtler point as well: Racial preferences are not just ill advised, they are positively sadistic. Only the preening self-regard of University of California administrators and faculty is served by such an admissions travesty. Preference practitioners are willing to set their “beneficiaries” up to fail and to subject them to possible emotional distress, simply so that the preference dispensers can look out upon their “diverse” realm and know that they are morally superior to the rest of society.

Read the rest of the article by Heather Mac Donald here.

Masters of the Triviaverse

This cartoon at Anderson Layman's Blog illustrates what may be a sizable percentage of cell phone calls. How much?

My guess is over 50 percent.

Understanding Gershwin


At Ricochet, a video of Astrith Baltsan explaining Gershwin.

First Paragraph

Socialism was the faith in which I was raised. It was my father's faith and his father's before him.

- From Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism by Joshua Muravchik

The Rule on Delivering Bad News


Executives, managers and supervisors will agree that they want their subordinates to tell them about bad news immediately. It may be a partial report. It may involve "This is what it looks like at this point." All of the facts may not be available but they want a "heads-up" which is workplace-speak for "duck!"

Their worry is reasonable. Why accept a delay that may put them in risk of being surprised by a boss or reporter who knows more about what's going on in their area than they do? Not a good thing.

So the rule is simple: Bad news? Deliver it pronto.

Now here's the kicker: If that rule is so widely known, why do so many seasoned decision makers commit the sin of sitting on bad news? My guess is they get too clever and believe they can spin the situation. That's a mistake. The longer they hesitate and don't disclose the sad story to their boss, the more likely it is to harm them.

By delaying their report, they have created another problem; one that directly goes to their conduct..

Quote of the Day

Citizen participation is a device whereby public officials induce nonpublic individuals to act in a way the officials desire.

- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Elmore's Tip

Author Robert Ferrigno on the valuable advice that he got from Elmore Leonard. An excerpt:

Near the end, I confessed to my predicament as a writer. Said I had a full-time job at the paper and a new baby at home and weekends were the only time I had to write and I was making no progress at all. I knew his history, knew he must have some kind of method, some secret. He had worked at an ad agency in Detroit while supporting five kids and writing a succession of paperbacks for ten years before he made enough to quit his day job.
[HT: Instapundit]

Clair de Lune


At The Hammock Papers, Angela Hewiit playing what should rank among the most beautiful and haunting music ever written.

Writing Tools and Bookplates


View From the Ledge has the writing tools of famous writers and Cultural Offering points to a snazzy collection of bookplates.

Find Something Beautiful Today


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Music Break: "Finlandia" by Sibelius

From 1965: Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic.

Whose Morality?

Over the years I’ve asked acquaintances of mine (including Peter’s late brother, Christopher) the grounds on which a person who doesn’t believe in God makes the case for inherent human dignity. How does one make the case against injustice if you begin with two propositions: the universe was created by chance and it will end in nothing? How do you derive a belief in a moral law that is binding on you and others apart from theism? How do you get from the “is” to the “ought”? And just what is the response to someone who says, “Your belief is fine for you but it’s irrelevant to me. God is dead and I choose to follow my own path. It happens to include gulags and gas chambers. You may not agree, but there is no philosophical or moral ground on which you can base your claim.”

Read the rest of Peter Wehner's article here.

Outsourcing Oops

Farhad Manjoo, writing in Slate, describes why his outsourcing some personal assistant tasks to India didn't quite work.

[HT: Instapundit]

First Paragraph

The old mountain man - tall, gaunt, furious, snow in his hair and beard, and murder in his eyes - burst into the big room of Pierre Boisdeffre's trading post just as the English party was sitting down to table - the table being only a long trestle of rough planks near the big fireplace, where a great haunch of elk dripped on its spit. Cook had just begun to slice off generous cuts when out of the winter night the wild man stormed. Tom Fitzpatrick, called the Broken Hand, had just been filling a pipe. Before he could fully turn, the tall intruder dealt him a blow that sent him spinning into a barrel of traps - man and barrel fell over with a loud clatter.

- From The Wandering Hill by Larry McMurtry

Some Ideas Cannot Be Pursued


You may find that there are times when you are restless and are working on something without realizing you are working on it. At those moments, you may be working on being caught by an idea.

Some ideas cannot be pursued. They want to do the catching. The best you can do is to put yourself in their path.

Style and Grace


A brief clip of Marian Anderson in 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial Concert. The narrative alongside the clip tells the story behind the performance.

The Western


Way back when I was in high school, by cracky, we had certain novels listed as required reading when we weren't in class, churning butter or plowing fields. Aside from books by Hemingway, Dickens, Orwell, Steinbeck, and several others was The Virginian by Owen Wister.

I recently started and am enjoying Sin Killer by Larry McMurtry, whose Lonesome Dove tops many lists of great westerns. [Lonesome Dove is so good that describing it as a western may be like calling Moby Dick a sea story.]

Which western novels - not films - would you recommend?

Quote of the Day

I never saw a pessimistic general win a battle.

- Dwight Eisenhower

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Observation


It was an observation which sparked a thought that combined with some other thoughts and in turn they shaped an idea that eventually became a plan with a whole bunch of actions which produced results, both intended and unintended, and a legion of new observations.

Ignoring Poor Performance


Determining the lowest acceptable level of performance in an organization can be fascinating. I've seen places where what would produce termination in one department won't even be reprimanded in another. In most instances, the failure to apply the higher standard is the mistake and in each, you can bet that people notice.

It is especially interesting how long people can coast on the basis of personality. If the person "looks the part" and is reasonably pleasant, oodles of incompetence will be excused or explained away. This is heightened if there is fear of firing; the apprehension that getting rid of the person could be an embarrassment or require some serious effort. Ratchet that up even more if there is the sense that upper management won't back the termination.

Oddly enough, the longer the period of incompetence, the more difficult it is to stir up corrective action because those who should take action know they were remiss in not taking it sooner and they don't want their inactivity examined. Their strategy is to ignore the poor performance and pretend it doesn't matter.

Unfortunately, poor performance always does matter and failing to address it is highly unethical.

Kapture


The Telegraph reports on Kapture, the "wristband that records everything you hear."

Sorry, no thanks. That's the last thing I need, but I can't wait to read a review of it by FutureLawyer.

If their marketing folks are on the ball, they'll send him one.

When the Workplace is Strange


The big picture caused us to miss the small. He liked to rehash the past so every two weeks the rest of us could feel what major surgery is like. Rushing will slow us down. Our solutions may be worse than the original problem. The only thing that our meetings accomplished was to reveal that all of us are dumber than one of us. You might say that our failure to decide was our best decision. They swore they wanted a class but what they really want is control. She doesn't take a vacation because it will be too stressful. He's very good at handling crises and if none are available he'll create a few. He was given an award for managing around a group of people who should have been fired years ago. She was so polite to him that we concluded they must not get along. You thought it was a clear order but Tom thought it was a suggestion, Fred said it was an idea, and Mary didn't hear the word "not." The motivational speech was demoralizing. It took roughly five months for each of the bold, new, leaders to realize that their predecessors weren't incompetent. We learned that if you want to hide something, put it in the minutes. She didn't have time to complete the project because we sent her to a time management class. He was a weasel before he was hired, he's been a weasel throughout his time in that position, and yes, you can bet that he'll be a weasel after...he gets promoted. 

Cloning


"I really like that applicant."

"Why?"

"Because he's just like me."

"Then why should you hire him? Doesn't your office already have a you?"

Quote of the Day

A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a minor revolution.

- George Orwell

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Crank It Up


Robert Plant is singing "Girl from the North Country" at The Hammock Papers.

Not a "Do Not Disturb" Sign

And, of course, it is at Eclecticity Light.

"Don't Take Me Out to No Disco"

Cultural Offering has the essential mixes of Bob Seger.

The Mayor Departs


It looks like San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is resigning.

Is anyone surprised at this? 


What does surprise me is how long it can take for scandal-embroiled celebrities to do the obvious. I wonder if, when this story first broke, anyone close to Filner said something along these lines: "Pack it in, Bob. It's only going to get worse and you'll look worse if you hang in. You'll eventually have to leave anyway. Give a straightforward and sincere apology and resign now. Then get help."

Books Made By Hand


A unique shop: Emgie Libris.

Noir Break: "Finding"


Check out this short film by the Salto brothers.

Here's to Thee, Rocky and Bullwinkle

FutureLawyer speaks for many of us in his ode to Rocky and Bullwinkle. Their episodes had wit and style plus occasional appearances by two of cartoondom's greatest villains: Boris and Natasha.

IRS Scandal: Not Going Away

TaxProf Blog gives his roundup of links on the scandal. Benghazi is terrible but the IRS scandal has a potential that could be far greater in terms of political repercussions. The "omission" issue - what was not done to stop the targeting once key decision makers knew of it - is political nitroglycerin.

Random Photo Break

Take a moment and scan through this assortment of photographs at Anderson Layman's Blog.

Meetings: When a Storm Moves In


You arrive at the meeting with the expectation that it was going to be a standard, review-some-information session and your thoughts are all in that direction.

Then it happens. One or more of the attendees shifts the tone. The "happy jolly" meeting is now an evening with the Borgias. You're operating from one script but they have a very different one. Their lips may smile but their eyes do not. Some recommendations:


  1. Don't fall into denial. Telling yourself that this is not happening will do you no good. It's happening and the ambush was almost certainly planned.
  2. Check out the body language of the other attendees. Who else seems surprised or upset by the new tone? They are your potential allies.
  3. Buy time. If the attacks are directed at you, it is appropriate to say, "I'll be glad to discuss that fully in a meeting devoted to that topic. I was not told that was the subject of this meeting." At this time, simple fairness is on your side. Play that card to attract support from the neutrals but don't expect your opponents to have a sudden change of heart and play fair. If pressed for an immediate response on a point, determine whether you can responsibly give one or whether delay is essential. You may need to consult with some others who are not present.
  4. Explore their assumptions. Ask questions about their reasoning process and their sources of information. Find out if all of you are using the same benchmark. Don't fall into the trap of using their standard of measurement if it does not match your own.
  5. Back up your words. If you say you aren't prepared to discuss something, don't deviate from that position. Say that you'll be happy to discuss it later and then see if they are willing to return to the set agenda. If they are not, there is no use continuing the meeting. Wish everyone a good day and leave. They surprised you with an ambush. You can surprise them by leaving. This will permit you to get to a quiet spot so you can assess the situation. 
  6. Be thoroughly professional. Don't act flustered or angry. Don't say anything rash or rude. Be polite yet firm. Take control of your own behavior.
There is no reason for you to join in their game. They have their agenda and you have yours. They want you to be upset. Don't give them that reward.

There are moments when it makes sense to embrace the power of indifference.

Quote of the Day

The cruelest lies are often told in silence.

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "Renoir."

A Hellish Planet

National Geographic reports on the discovery

The living conditions don't look so good, but you'd never complain of a long day.

Miscellaneous and Fast

The Telegraph: The 10 highest-paid models of 2013.
See how that works out in a couple of decades: German men and family size.
Stupid Man Commercials: A protest site.
Spiegel: Man in underpants boards Chancellor Merkel's jet. Dances on wing.
Rick Knowles has sound advice about email.
CoolTools: A dogbone wrench.
Ted Cruz: The process begins.
From Vienna: Irene's Book Oasis.
UPS drops spouses from insurance coverage.
Paris Match: A video of the use of force by French police.
Charles C. W. Cooke: Congress cedes power to the executive branch.
Rob Long: Barney Frank doesn't like "House of Cards."

The Fire Pole


I once toured a home where the children's room had a fire pole so the kids could slide down to the first floor.

Who, I thought, wouldn't want one of those?

Hidden rooms, bookcase doors, underground passages, and slides join the fire pole on my list of items that are sadly missing from most homes. Many of us have seen houses that some less-enlightened souls describe as "eccentric" because that sounds nicer than "weird."

But what about "eccentric" as "really neat" or "fun?"

For The Good Life: A Valuable Collection of "Don'ts"



  1. Don't stop learning.
  2. Don't drink heavily.
  3. Don't cheat on your spouse.
  4. Don't use drugs.
  5. Don't "let yourself go."
  6. Don't think you can talk your way out of things.
  7. Don't underestimate people.
  8. Don't rely on on gossip.
  9. Don't ignore your intuition.
  10. Don't mistake activity with action.
  11. Don't over-promise.
  12. Don't ignore problems.
  13. Don't rely on magical thinking.
  14. Don't expect fairness.
  15. Don't plan on an easy road.
  16. Don't depend on the government.
  17. Don't steal the time of others.
  18. Don't think you're infallible.
  19. Don't be mean.
  20. Don't get lazy.
  21. Don't overload yourself.
  22. Don't forget to plan.
  23. Don't drift.
  24. Don't let the bastards get you down.
  25. Don't forget to thank people.
  26. Don't ignore the basics.
  27. Don't succumb to envy.
  28. Don't put people down.
  29. Don't neglect your family.
  30. Don't forget to laugh.
  31. Don't whine.
  32. Don't lose your perspective.
  33. Don't become coarse.
  34. Don't isolate yourself.
  35. Don't overlook small pleasures.
  36. Don't rush to blame.
  37. Don't fail to pull your load.
  38. Don't neglect the needy.
  39. Don't become smug.
  40. Don't love your mirror.
  41. Don't betray confidences.
  42. Don't fail to observe.
  43. Don't brag.
  44. Don't spend too much.
  45. Don't abuse nature.
  46. Don't make excuses.
  47. Don't overlook beauty.
  48. Don't fret.
  49. Don't get too complicated.
  50. Don't be late.
  51. Don't fail to serve others.

A Leadership/Followership Model


John E. Smith reviews "I've Got Your Back" by James C. Galvin.

Very interesting.

Quote of the Day

An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.

- Lao-tzu

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Music Break

Back by popular demand: Ryan Bingham with "The Weary Kind."

A Touch of "Get Shorty"

Some dialogue from "Get Shorty," the best film made from an Elmore Leonard novel [Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett and John Travolta as Chili Palmer]:


Bo Catlett: You broke into my house, and I have a witness to it.
Chili Palmer: What?
Bo Catlett: Only this time it ain't no John Wayne and Dean Martin shooting bad guys in "El Dorado."
Chili Palmer: That was "Rio Bravo." Robert Mitchum played the drunk in "El Dorado." Dean Martin played the drunk in "Rio Bravo." Basically, it was the same part. Now John Wayne, he did the same in both. He played John Wayne.
Bo Catlett: Man, I can't wait for you to be dead.

[HT:IMDb]

Art Break: Klein


Underpaintings has information on a new class by artist Michael Klein.

Big Elmore


No one wrote about scum better than Elmore Leonard.

When I heard the radio report this morning of his death, it sparked a memory of my first Leonard novel: City Primeval. I recall finishing it and thinking, "Why isn't this guy a household name?"

After the success of Glitz, he became much better known although he'd written some major westerns before shifting to crime fiction. The dialogue was always great and you could never rely upon a character surviving all the way to the end. The series "Justified" is based on one of his characters. That reflects his combination of wit and edge.

If you've never read any of his work, I suggest starting here and here. In my opinion, his early work is his best but he was simply an extraordinary writer.

Even now, after the films and best sellers, he still deserves to be better known.

Rest in peace.

Basic Courtesy


In business contacts, it involves:

  • Greeting people . . . and saying goodbye at the end of the meeting.
  • Listening, really listening, to them.
  • The studious avoidance of sarcasm.
  • Not saying yes when you mean no.
  • Talking out differences even if you still don't agree at the end.
  • Sincerely trying to understand the other person's perspective.
  • Not sharing your bad mood.
  • Returning emails and phone calls.
  • Apologizing when you're wrong.
  • Not regarding people as objects.
  • Whenever possible, cutting some slack.
  • Striving to make their contact with you a positive one.

Against Stereotype

Here's something you didn't expect: Skateboarding Franciscan friars.

Six Books for 2013


Victor Davis Hanson has made his recommendations. Now I'll add mine:
  1. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa
  2. Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II by Michael Burleigh
  3. There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters by Claire Berlinski
  4. The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
  5. Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin
  6. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel C. Fick

Good Dads, Beirut's Future, and a WWI Ceremony

Writing in The Atlantic, W. Bradford Wilcox on the importance of fathers.

Michael J. Totten in City Journal asks, "Can Beirut be Paris again?"

In Spiegel: Britain and Germany deny a rift over a ceremony on the centennial of the First World War.

Still and Active


If you want to get a fresh idea, which is more likely to be successful: sitting absolutely still or doing something?

You know the answer. Action breeds thought for most of us.

Now the really tough question is, "Why?"