Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year's End

This year ends with gratitude and the new one will begin with that as well. 

Thanks to each of you who has visited this site. Special thanks go to those who make it a habit to drop by. I've gotten to know some of you over the years and am honored to get some of your time.

I'll do my best in 2015 to make this site worthy of your attention.

Take care and have a marvelous 2015.

New Year's Eve Party

A Fast Year

The last day of a fast year. As I get older, a year seems to be five months long. 

How should I handle that? Plan as if it were.

The Biggest Math Story of the Year?

Political Calculations - an essential blog - does the numbers.

Great Lines from the Movies

"Let's have an intelligent conversation here. I'll talk and you listen." 

- Deacon (Dennis Hopper) in Waterworld

Auld Lang Syne: The Ultimate Version

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

The Willingness to Be Introspective

Sometimes it seems as if being a management consultant is like being a doctor who is avoided by the most ill and yet is retained by the reasonably healthy. Just as some people stay away from doctors for fear of getting a diagnosis they might fear, many executives and managers shy away from any independent review, perhaps because they sense they may be part of the problem. To borrow a famous movie line, they can't handle the truth.

Others simply seek glib solutions; those flavors of the month which are justly mocked by employees. They want a jazzy One Minute to Empower the Big Hairy Goals Hidden Behind the Stolen Cheese sort of program. Results are optional. That's not as scary as reality, I suppose, but it doesn't beat knowing what's going on.

7 Ball in the Middle Pocket

Anderson Layman's Blog has a new game for you and your friends and you will not soon forget it.

A Little Item to Keep in Mind

In the second century of the Christian era the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth and the most civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign authority and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of government. During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this and of the two succeeding chapters to describe the prosperous condition of their empire, and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antonius, to deduce the most important circumstance of its decline and fall, a revolution which will ever be remembered and is still felt by the nations of the earth. 

- From The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

Quote of the Day

Doing nothing is harmless, but being busy doing nothing is not. 

- Eric Hoffer

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Remembering Lt. Hubert Rochereau

They lost their son during the First World War and then took steps to ensure that his room would remain untouched. 

Sadness beyond words.

[HT: Althouse]

There's Just No Explaining 2014

But Dave Barry makes a valiant attempt. An excerpt:

... In government news, the troubled Secret Service once again comes under withering criticism when an intruder is able to jump the White House fence, enter the White House through the front door, overpower a Secret Service agent, run through the Central Hall, enter the East Room, deliver a nationwide radio address and appoint four federal judges before being overpowered. In a congressional hearing probing the incident, the Secret Service director promises to improve White House security, but suggests that in the meantime the first family should “consider adopting a larger dog.”

Health Food Update

Chocolate Butterscotch Caramel Bars

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Chocolate Butterscotch Caramel Bars.

More Than a Very Long Hood

Car Style Critic looks at the E-Type Jaguar. It could go how fast?


The best books Fast Company read this year.

Foldable Phones?

FutureLawyer, preparing for his boffo debut in Vegas, has a video on a foldable phone.

[My cutting-edge phone flips.]

The Boxtrolls: Behind the Scenes

At Kottke, a feature showing how stop motion works in the making of motion pictures. 

Very clever.

Popular (But Unspoken) New Year's Resolutions

  1. Gain five pounds.
  2. Eat more chocolate.
  3. Take naps.
  4. Gossip.
  5. Read trash.
  6. Rush to judgment.
  7. Embrace superficial analysis.
  8. Seek immediate gratification.
  9. Nurse grudges.
  10. Stare at smartphone.

The Worst Films of 2014

Scott Mendelson gives his list. No argument here.

The Ruling Class

Cultural Offering on Gruber, Reinhardt, and the political class. An excerpt:

But what I find troubling about Reinhardt’s “rethinking” of the Gruber moments of candor are his misdiagnosis of the real problem exposed by the Gruber incident and his acceptance of the result of what Gruber explained as a legislative deception with many aspects of the Affordable Care Act. When legislators catch wind of this type of deception from the private sector they pass legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley or lemon laws or any of a hundred or more consumer protection laws. People like Reinhardt back them up in their actions, solemnly explaining how the public trust in these private institutions was eroded thereby justifying legislative actions to mend this trust.

[Execupundit note: We should not forget this exchange posted at Eclecticity Light.]

Watch Out for Worcester

AllStateAmerica's Best Drivers' Report.

Althouse doesn't have pleasant memories of driving in Austin, Texas. [And I thought Austin was such a laid-back place.]

Quote of the Day

Health food makes me sick

- Calvin Trillin

Monday, December 29, 2014

Outdated Doonesbury

Gary Trudeau must not read The Washington Post, not to mention a bunch of other papers. [I'm surprised he didn't weave in a Dan Quayle joke.]

Art Break: Vaszary

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Janos Vaszary.

No Boundaries

Greg Mankiw's Blog has trash talking at the Harvard-Yale game.

Demonization Double Standard

Writing in National Review, Jonah Goldberg examines the shootings in New York City and calls for abandoning a shrill double standard.

13 Ways NOT to Fulfill a Dream

  1. Assume that your dream is your destiny and that somehow you will magically achieve it.
  2. Share it with negative people who don't want you to achieve.
  3. Don't adopt your own dream but instead follow one which someone else has for you.
  4. Avoid knowledgeable individuals who can help you with advice, recommendations or resources.
  5. Be as vague as possible regarding your goal.
  6. Have only your final goal in mind and don't consider any interim goals.
  7. Don't set deadlines. 
  8. Take counsel of your fears.
  9. Be too proud to fail or look foolish.
  10. Expect life to be fair.
  11. Abandon your efforts at the first setback.
  12. Don't learn from your mistakes.
  13. Believe that your dream will be achieved overnight.

First Paragraph

Air Force One, the President's plane, is divided, behind the crew's cockpit, into three compartments. In the first of them, women sat weeping and Secret Service agents were trying to hold back tears ("You've heard of strong men crying: well, we had it there that day," recalls a reporter) as the pilot lifted the big jet off the Dallas runway in a climb so steep that to a man standing on the ground it seemed "almost vertical," leveled off for a few minutes, and then, warned that there were tornadoes between him and Washington, put the plane into another climb to get above them. In the rear compartment the widow, her suit stained with blood, was sitting next to the coffin of the dead President. And in the center compartment was the new President. 

- From The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro

One Sentence

You read a sentence which will stay with you. You sense the raw power of an insight which seems to have been out there, waiting for you, and worry about those who don't even search.

Remembering the Battle of the Bulge

Seventy years later, the Battle of the Bulge is not as celebrated as the D-Day invasion or Iwo Jima, but it was far deadlier than either of those battles. Indeed, it was the costliest encounter for the United States in the entire war. More than 19,000 Americans were killed in the thick Ardennes forest between December 16, 1944, and January 25, 1945, 62,000 were wounded, and more than 26,000 were either captured or missing. 

Read all of Warren Kozak's article in The Weekly Standard.

Quote of the Day

If you accept your limitations, you go beyond them. 

- Brendan Behan

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Best-Laid Plans

You might say it was a Robert Burns weekend. Various priorities, including a visit to an emergency room, pushed plans off the table. (Fortunately, all is now well.)

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Management Practices: Find the Reason

An often-overlooked truth: If a manager or supervisor frequently does what he or she is not being forced to do, they are doing it for what they think is a good reason. Don't jump to discourage the practice unless you know that the reason is truly a poor one.

Prepare to Be Wowed

Bored Panda has majestic photographs of great libraries

Click on the site and scroll down. Marvelous combinations of functionality and beauty.

[HT: Kelly Corsette]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Nicholas Bate: Learning from those vacation jobs.
Fortune: Five facts about Amazon's holiday season.
Wally Bock: Stories and strategies from real life.
CoolTools: Socks with a lifetime guarantee.
Terry Eastland: Will there be an end to race-conscious college preferences?
Spiegel: Backlash in Germany.
The trailer for "Milius."
Tom Peters on spontaneous discovery.

Where Campbell Worked

Cultural Offering adds to his fine workplace series by featuring Joseph Campbell's desk as well as his reading list.

First Paragraph

Of all the towering figures of the twentieth century, both good and evil, Winston Churchill was the most valuable to humanity, and also the most likable. It is a joy to write his life, and to read about it. None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood. How to seize eagerly on all opportunities, physical, moral, and intellectual. How to dare greatly, to reinforce success, and to put inevitable failures behind you. And how, while pursuing vaulting ambition with energy and relish, to cultivate also friendship, generosity, compassion, and decency. 

- From Churchill by Paul Johnson

Invisible Boxes

When managing, you usually don't go from Box A to Box B without a return trip. You go from Box A to Box B and back to Box A to complete items which could not be known until you got to Box B and there may even be some Box A work to be done once you get into Box Z. Things arrive, blur, change, kick back, and disappear.

We may pretend that management is a precise process but it isn't and pretending that it is only complicates matters.

Quote of the Day

Find out who you are and do it on purpose. 

- Dolly Parton

Friday, December 26, 2014

Spooky Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Art Break:Wilkinson

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Norman Wilkinson.

Geek Heaven

And from Florida, a cry for help.

Days of Silence and Reading

I long for days of silence and reading but too many of them would either diminish their appeal or foster a dangerous solitude. That's why it is important to get out among 'em.

Besides that, people are novels.

Just a Few Questions

  1. What should we do?
  2. What can we do?
  3. What are other ways of doing this?
  4. What if we don't address it at all?
  5. Specifically how should we do this?
  6. Exactly when should we do it?
  7. How will we or the organization benefit from its completion?
  8. What are the assumptions?
  9. What are the costs?
  10. Could this be better done by someone else?
  11. Is time an ally or an enemy?
  12. Can this be easily reversed?
  13. How will this change us as individuals and as a group?
  14. How will this change our world?
  15. How will this appear to others?
  16. Is this ethical?
  17. Is this wise?

First Paragraph

Name recognition would not be the problem. William Tecumseh Sherman - about as memorable a moniker as exists in American military history. "He and Grant won the Civil War." "Named a tank after him." Broad segments of the American public, albeit mostly male, can probably conjure up this much. 

- From Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O'Connell

Quote of the Day

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. 

- Louis L'Amour

Thursday, December 25, 2014

So We Don't Have To

Cake Wrecks was on the job on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, finding the best of the worst.


Merry Christmas!

May this day and the coming days bring you much happiness.

Quote of the Day

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. 

- Eric Hoffer

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


My wife just finished describing, in detail, a story about Christmas shopping when our children were small. The story was along the lines of "We had to have her open this gift first because we didn't want her to know about the other gift." She also knew the details of the gifts.

I recall none of this. 

On the other hand, she doesn't remember what happened the last time Ted Williams was up to bat.

Last Minute

My wife is at the dentist's office. Who schedules a dental appointment for the day before Christmas? Now we know the answer. This year I was able to persuade her to use my time-honored technique for wrapping presents (aluminum foil) although she's ruined the impromptu effect by making careful folds, using tape, and adding nice ribbons. The result looks like a desirable gift instead of something which should go into the refrigerator. Today's sky is clear and beautiful. Leaves are still falling. Neighbors are dropping off presents. The dog freaks out every time a delivery truck goes down the street but I've learned to ignore it. I'm working on an online class and reading management books. The drugstore is on my agenda. I wonder if I need to pick up any last minute gifts. Reviewing the list to see who might like a bottle of Brut aftershave or a bag of almonds.


George Will (and Richard Norton Smith) remember Nelson Rockefeller. An excerpt:

Like Lyndon Johnson, who also was born in 1908, Rockefeller as a young man experienced wartime Washington mobilizing the nation's productivity. Like Johnson, Rockefeller may have embraced the misconception that a free society could and should perform in peacetime the sort of prodigies that the United States accomplished in 1941-1945 as a garrison state. During the 1964 presidential campaign, Johnson exclaimed: "We're in favor of a lot of things, and we're against mighty few." As one of Rockefeller's top assistants said of him, "He'd have solutions going around looking for problems." Rockefeller was, Smith says, "Too busy doing to entertain doubts." And he was "a serial alarmist," trumpeting crises in order to justify spending.

Not Restoration But Alteration

Take a treasured place of worship - Chartres Cathedral - and turn painters loose on the limestone.

Read the disturbing story at The Dish.

Amid the Holiday Rush

Take time to listen to the rocks grow.

Achieving via Bursts

  1. Set realistic priorities, not dream priorities, for the day. For example, if you know a large part of the day is going to be consumed by one project, it makes no sense to organize your day as if that is not going to take place.
  2. Work in short bursts of intense focus on specific actions. Don't just "sort of" work around and occasionally delve into a task and make sure that the bulk of your time is spent on one of your top two priorities. 
  3. Take breaks. That means intentional breaks in which you know the starting and ending points. If you don't take breaks, your mind will take them by drifting off-course and you won't get the same level of relaxation as you would with a real break.
  4. Stop and measure your progress. If you are falling behind, eliminate distractions and step up the action.
  5. If something needs to be moved to another day, move it. Don't try jamming 10 pounds of work into a seven pound bag.
  6. Have an eye on what will take your time during the rest of the week or month. If some jobs can be done concurrently, merge them so you'll have a leg up on the other project.
  7. When the day is done, review your progress and plan the next day. Block out time for the necessary tasks. Put those down in your schedule book so you can repeat the above.

Quote of the Day

"I'm afraid I'm a practical man," said the doctor with gruff humor, "and I don't bother much about religion and philosophy." 

"You'll never be a practical man till you do," said Father Brown.

- G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Back By Popular Demand: Santa Gets Down

Click here and smile.

[HT: Rick Miller]

Music Break

The chorus at Kings College, Cambridge: "Once in Royal David's City."


Frank Costanza kicks things off with the most important part of the Festivus celebration.

[My family has done that for years but we didn't think to formalize the process.]

News Show or Roman Senate?

A Washingtonian article by Luke Mullins on Meet The Press, Comcast, and the departure of David Gregory. An excerpt:

Though he was a master of the technical aspects of broadcasting—crisp, polished, with the ability to turn the garbled instructions that entered his earpiece into lucid questions or commentary—many of his talents were largely invisible to viewers. When it came to on-screen presence, some thought Gregory lacked the basic DNA to connect with the die-hards who made up his audience. Unlike Russert, he wasn’t a classic political animal. Gregory didn’t spend his days working Capitol Hill sources, he treated research like a chore, and he rarely broke news—a high priority in a saturated media environment.

Higher Education Bubble

Instapundit: How colleges have devalued their product

There is a quiet revolution underway and the universities are Louis XVI.

Envy Update

Eclecticity Light gives us another clean, well-lighted place to blog.

I studied it and was transported.

Observations at an Event

I see two people who are intensely absorbed in not acknowledging the presence of the other person. In the back of the room is a former power broker. Once upon a time, he would have been surrounded. Now he sits alone in a corner. I'd love to read his mind. One man entered with his wife and then abandoned her so he could glad-hand. [She is experienced and hides her seething well but not quite well enough.] This is one of those events which few people want to attend and yet where, given certain connections, one is expected to "put in an appearance." Unfortunately, once the ceremonial portion begins, it is difficult to escape without being noticed. One brave soul did and I admired his chutzpah. You could see the others looking at him not with scorn but with envy. I mentally traced his walk to the parking lot and that alone brought some relief. The chairs! They eventually turn on you. Your thoughts drift and you know that others are also taking imaginary trips to Tahiti, Paris, and Rangoon but some probably just long for a restroom.

Blessed are the speakers who keep their remarks brief. 

Damned are those who promise to be brief and are not.

Quote of the Day

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, December 22, 2014

De Blasio and Friends

Politico on the unfolding saga of Mayor De Blasio and the cops

Remembering my own city hall days of dealing with a police department on discrimination issues, I would have had some advice early on for the New York City Mayor: Don't go anywhere near Al Sharpton, do nothing which gives him status, and say nothing which compromises your objectivity.

[HT: Instapundit]

Computer Security Update: Your Home Router

FutureLawyer has advice on improving your home router security

It sounds so simple even I plan on following it.

Remembering Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker has died. From what I've read, he had a life of peaks and valleys with perhaps more valleys than peaks. [Don't miss the obituary in The Telegraph.]

But he was, simply put, a marvelous singer; one who sounded as if he started each day with a breakfast of gravel. 

It's time to crank up the Mad Dogs and Englishmen album. Rest In Peace.

Cuban Dreams

The reasoning goes as follows: If the United States lifts its trade embargo with Cuba, the Cuban people will eventually benefit from the political liberalization which inevitably comes with free trade. Sounds nice and yet that mysterious inevitability somehow eluded them up to this point. Years of trade with Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, Ireland, Russia, China, Japan, etc. have not produced greater freedom.

The argument that the trade embargo has failed despite its being in effect for many years also doesn't pass scrutiny, if only because there was a big thumb on the scales. For a great part of that time period, Cuba was a client state of the Soviet Union. The Soviets kept them in business. After that, the left-wing Venezuelan governments have been their sponsors. 

I'd love to see this new United States-Cuba relationship work for the good of the Cuban people and not simply shore up the vicious Communist loons who dictate their daily lives. Unfortunately, we may have come to the regime's rescue just as Venezuelan aid is on the decline. Many of my free-market friends are cheering the change but I'm closer to Mary Anastasia O'Grady on this one. 

Barring some back-channel communications to President Obama that the Castro boys want to open the system, it is hard to see the reasoning for this move. Trade is important but it isn't magic and the traditional priority of dictatorships is always, always, always, to stay in power..

Art Break: Serebriakova

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Zinaida Serebriakova.

Reason for Delay

The post which was supposed to be in this spot was delayed because of one of the following:
  • The "sarcasm removal" process took longer than expected.
  • Someone hid my dictionary.
  • A cookie was calling my name.
  • Chiggers infestation.
  • I couldn't decide on a topic which included a puppy, Kim Kardashian, and a cheeseburger. 

Gifts: When Giving or Receiving

  1. Odds are that whenever someone says, "You don't need to get me a gift," you should get them a gift.
  2. Children would rather have many small gifts than one big one. So would adults. Much of the joy is in the opening.
  3. Everyone, regardless of age, likes a "toy." The type just needs to be upgraded as people grow older.
  4. This seems obvious but isn't: You should give a gift which the recipient will like, not one which you would like. I speak from experience as a giver and receiver.
  5. A gift doesn't have to be expensive to be great. One of my favorite possessions is a used copy of Bleak House which was given to me years ago. [That kind person had impeccable taste.] Worry less about price than about quality.
  6. The gift should show that you put some thought into the selection but don't get too clever. If your selection choice requires a three-page explanation, you probably went far afield.
  7. When receiving a gift, always act appreciative even if you are not wild about the present or already have it.
  8. On the other hand, don't be offended if you sense a recipient isn't thrilled. Gift-giving is hard and there should be no insult if they decide to return it to the store. It is indeed the thought that counts.
  9. People frequently drop hints about potential presents. Jot some notes whenever you hear one. [I'm amazed when close family members say they don't know what I'd like. They must have missed the PowerPoint presentations.]
  10. Never give anything of questionable taste. Period.
  11. Keep a list of the presents which you've given to people. If you think you'll always remember them, you're in for a surprise.
  12. Remember that there is the pleasure of giving as well as receiving. Celebrate both.

Notice for Conference Room

Please don't "share" it or "unpack" it or "get to the bottom line" or make an observation "at the end of the day." 

Just tell us.

Quote of the Day

Modesty is my best quality. 

- Jack Benny