Friday, January 31, 2014

First Paragraph

Dusk was falling by the time Maurice Sobel reached Neuilly, and he walked the short distance from the Metro to his house in the cold, not quite earthly light of the blue-painted street lamps which were the city's sole concession to the war that was about to engulf it. His pace was brisk, and twice he glanced over his shoulder to assure himself that the street behind him was empty. The creak of the garden gate when he opened it was a welcome sound. 

- From The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth

Long Suspected. Now Confirmed.

Steve Layman of Anderson Layman's Blog is the groundhog.

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "The Intouchables."

Employment Law, Football, and The Super Bowl

For an interesting and different take on the football and the Super Bowl, check out employment attorney Mark I. Schickman's essay at HR Hero. [It was adapted from the California Employment Law Letter.] An excerpt:

Nowhere outside of league sports can a group of employers lawfully meet, conspire, and decide who will bid exclusively on which employee, but football owners draft players, who then must work for that team or work for nobody.

Apple, Google, Oracle, and Intel allegedly attempted that backroom arrangement recently, and they have been hit with—and partially settled—an antitrust action attacking that practice. Only professional sports leagues can control and trade employees as if they were livestock.

Be sure to read the entire essay.

Maxims of the Highest Wisdom

Read what the master wrote at The Hammock Papers.

Shelf It

Dwell looks at eight home libraries. Those people don't have enough books.

It May Be Unethical But

It may be unethical but:

  • Everybody does it.
  • They did it first.
  • If we didn't do it someone else would.
  • Nobody will care.
  • Our side has better intentions than they do.
  • You've got to fight fire with fire.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • It's for the children.
  • It was only a fib.
  • We've got to back our team.
  • We didn't lie. We just didn't tell the truth.
  • His heart was in the right place.
  • It's the greatest good for the greatest number.
  • They would do it to us.
  • We need to look out for ourselves.
  • We're not as bad as a lot of others.
  • They'll never miss it.
  • They expect us to behave this way.
  • They owe me. I deserve it.
  • That's the system.
  • We don't want to be judgmental.

The Briefcase Search

I have a bunch of briefcases for various projects. One Swiss Army monster with rollers is used when I have to move a small living room. There are several black expandable ones that have no personality and one silver metal case that could be from a spy movie. All are quite functional.

But not one is loved.

I've been searching for a nice briefcase - probably more of a Gladstone bag - with a style that inspires true affection. It will have to be sturdy and manly and made of the sort of rugged leather that I will enjoy marring over the years. The inside must be cavernous and capable of carrying several large books and an iguana. No wheels, gadgets or gizmos. This one should shout "Tradition!"

My search continues. If you know of a briefcase for which you can personally vouch, please let me know.

Language to Remember and Use

"In a mood for adventure, they took a jitney from the airport through the crowded streets."

Quote of the Day

I am past thirty, and three parts iced over.

- Matthew Arnold

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Well Written

If a New York doorman is not contemplative by nature, he becomes so as he stands all day dressed like an Albanian general and doing mostly nothing. What little contact he has with the residents and visitors who pass by is so fleeting it emphasizes the silence and inactivity that is his portion and that he must learn to love. There is an echo to people's passing, a wake in the air that says more about them than can be said in a speech, a fragile signal that doormen learn to read as if everyone who disappears into the turbulence of the city is on a journey to the land of the dead.

- From Mark Helprin's In Sunlight and in Shadow

When Does Education Stop?

His whimpering irritated me, and on the spur of the moment I shoved at him a card which had become famous in World War II. It was once used on me while I was 'bitching' to a chaplain on Guadalcanal. It read:

Michener's Card

Read the rest of the James Michener essay here.

Selection Games

Wally Bock asks, "Would you hire someone based on this game?

[I prefer the use of mood rings.]

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Art Break: Orazi

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Manuel Orazi.

That's It!

It may arrive during a walk or in your shower. Perhaps it will come late at night, early morning or even, surprisingly, in mid-day. It may occur while you are on a bus or looking over the top of the newspaper and staring at nothing but the vague sense that some thought is about to arrive.

It's the moment when you finally see what has been right in front of you all along.

"That's it!"

Be Bold 101 on Video

Take a few minutes and watch this brief video of Be Bold 101

Nicholas Bate is moving into a new realm and should be reaching more people than ever before. That is very good news for all of us. He deserves even more.

Bravo, Nicholas!


We can order a study and then a study of the study and turn those over to a subcommittee which will report to the main committee which can coordinate with other committees and since each committee has lawyers, well, they will have to talk, assuming they don't agree and even if they do because what are the odds of 100 percent agreement and once their opinions are in we can pair them up with the consultants who did the studies and maybe some former employees for their learned opinions and open the subject to the community interest groups and then, once the dust has settled, consider if the initial mission was correct. 

No problem. If there is any question, we can order a study.

Language to Remember and Use

"The Union soldiers made johnnycake."

Quote of the Day

If suffer we must, let's suffer on the heights.

- Victor Hugo

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There Comes a Time

There comes a time in your life when you realize:
  1. The smart people are not as smart as you thought they were.
  2. Most "must read" and "must see" items are optional.
  3. It doesn't matter which line you pick.
  4. You don't need to finish bad books.
  5. Not every problem can be solved.
  6. A lot of things in life are done just so someone can later say that something was done.
  7. Imaginary dangers frighten people far more than real ones.

Roxy What?

Cultural Offering has essential mixes for Roxy Music. I don't even know what that is.


It helps to keep in mind that people are rarely:

  • Hearing the same speech;
  • Reading the same book;
  • Playing the same game;
  • Seeing the same problem;
  • Seeking the same goals.

A Consultant's Best Work

The disaster that didn't happen, the leader who went from good to great, the problem employee who made a turn-around, and the nervous speaker who ultimately persuaded a skeptical board. And don't forget the potentially explosive story that was defused, the divided team that got back together, and a once-mediocre program which became very good.

Some secrets: Observe, nudge, and stay in the background. 

You are not there for you. You are there for them.

Language to Remember and Use

"One look and a casting director would have filed his name under "Film Noir."

Quote of the Day

A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service. 

- Georges Pompidou

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Detached Thinking

Medium to large projects can immerse us in details. We talk with people and receive a mountain of documents and, of course, the stories don't always jibe because even honest people can have different perspectives. We are listening, reading, and analyzing with a bunch of administrative tasks tossed in and throughout it all we are thinking.

But that isn't detached thinking.

We need to find time to soak in all of the information and then step back so we can spot the bits that matter. It is not unusual to be on a project about A where everyone discusses A, there is great concern about what to do about A, and yet, yet, yet, the important item is B. A has some importance but it is a distraction. B is only mentioned in passing but it is an ocean liner and A is a speedboat.

Sufficient rest is needed. Fatigue causes us to overlook things. We need to be rested when we look for our glance must be both close and far.

Language to Remember and Use

"His truculence was surpassed by his arrogance but both fell far behind his incompetence."

7 Reasons Why "Plodders" Succeed

  1. Having seldom been told they are brilliant, they seek the advice of others.
  2. Their creativity is limited and so their focus is not eroded by day dreams and detours.
  3. They are not ashamed of doing one thing at a time and rarely feel the temptation to multitask.
  4. They have modest goals and don't "bite off more than they can chew."
  5. Their focus on achievement keeps them out of debilitating worry fests.
  6. Their lack of status makes them less susceptible to fear of failure.
  7. They have enough patience for the long haul and are not inclined to be stopped by early failures.

Quote of the Day

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

- L. P. Hartley

Monday, January 27, 2014

Work on World Domination, Of Course

A report from snowbound Ohio on what the kids do when the wolves are howling and school is a distant memory.

Life on a Small Island

Here's a blog for those with dreams of getting away.

Art Break: Moll

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Carl Moll.

Tiresome Exercise

The Constitution’s mild requirement has become a tiresome exercise in political exhibitionism, the most execrable ceremony in the nation’s civic liturgy, regardless of which party’s president is abusing it. You worship bipartisanship? There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the ways the parties try to milk partisan advantage from this made-for-television political pep rally.

Read the rest of George Will's essay here. I think we should return to the more dignified days when presidents sent a written State of the Union message to Congress and did not deliver an address. 

Random Thoughts

In many cases, we should not worry so much about what to do beyond our current efforts; rather we should consider what to stop doing. In a similar vein, searching for new facts can be less productive than reviewing our current knowledge and learning what doesn't withstand scrutiny. Smugness is a ravenous beast that must be kept out of our camp. The gaps between established truths are where a lot of the action is. Watch out for whenever the eloquent become vague. Seek distance from coercive people, especially those who long to command you for your own good. Frequently tally up your assumptions. Don't look for magic bullets. The difficult path may be the fastest. If you could travel to the next decade, which of our present practices would cause you to wonder, "How could they have ever thought that would work?" If you were a stock, would you be a Buy, Hold or Sell? An easy self-development plan: Read the biography of an extraordinary person every month. The most important news is rarely on the front page. Whenever you are invited to a meeting, consider whether it is an opportunity or a trap. Many an enterprise wastes money on frills which would be better spent on education. An executive's passion for inaction can be as revealing as an x-ray. No one boasts of hard work more than a non-producer. Beethoven, Shakespeare, Bach, Mozart, and Dickens are even better than their reputations.

Language to Remember and Use

"She learned of his cupidity after their engagement."

Quote of the Day

Nothing puzzles me more than time and space; and yet nothing troubles me less, as I never think about them.

- Charles Lamb

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gloom, Doom, and The Bet

Irritated that Paul Ehrlich was making a fortune with his apocalyptic prophecies while he, Julian Simon, labored in obscurity, Simon issued a challenge in 1980: Let Ehrlich choose any five commodities and then watch their prices either rise or fall over the next decade. If the prices rose, Ehrlich would seem to be right about shortages; if the prices declined, Simon would seem to be right that things were becoming more plentiful. Ehrlich accepted the challenge and the two men agreed on $1,000 worth of five metals: copper, chromium, tungsten, nickel, and tin. They agreed that, 10 years later, the loser would mail a check to the winner for the difference above or below $1,000.

Read the rest of Patrick Allitt's essay here.


John McWhorter on the problem with a gender-neutral pronoun in English.

"Life is not an emergency."

Grab some perspective. Read Good News 101: The First Fifty by Nicholas Bate.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Postcard from Shanghai

Dated but still interesting and part of the Clive James "postcard" series.


At Althouse, President Obama's view of LBJ's legislative prowess. Unique.

First Paragraph

To say the truth, it was not how I expected - stepping off toward America past a drowned horse. 

- From Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig

Music Break

Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band: "In Your Time."

Field Trip to the Vista

Ben hur 1959 poster.jpg

It is 1959. I'm still in elementary school. Our class takes a field trip to the Vista Theater in downtown Phoenix to see Ben-Hur. The Vista, now long-gone, was an upscale movie theater where the screen had a large curtain and you were escorted to reserved seats by uniformed ushers.

Aside from nostalgia for the days when movie theaters had reserved seats and ushers, this memory sparks two thoughts: (1) A field trip to see a movie? (2) Nowadays, that trip would be blocked by outcries alleging a violation of the separation of church and state.

But as kids, of course, we did not think of that. It was a chance to get out of school work and see a movie.

And it was a great movie.

Art Break: Ward

Art Contrarian looks at the work of John Stanton Ward.

One Thing

A prominent historian once told me he believes that if Hitler had not been able to forge an alliance with Italy he wouldn't have started World War II. He thinks that Hitler needed an ally in order to put to rest war fears within the German government; fears that would have been heightened if it appeared that Germany was going to tackle Britain and France on its own.

If his theory is true, that is an example of how one relatively small thing - especially given Italy's dismal performance in the war - can lead to major events.

History is filled with instances where decisions had far more import than one would suspect. Consider how the world would have been changed if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had not decided to replace Vice President Henry Wallace with Harry Truman. 

Language to Remember and Use

"The painter captured the prince's dour expression."

Quote of the Day

I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.

- Dwight Eisenhower

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hitchens on Orwell

The deeply missed Christopher Hitchens on why Orwell matters.

Take Two Tablets and Call Him in the Morning

FutureLawyer [a.k.a. Attorney at Beach] uses a tablet as his office computer. The bold adventure is here.

Very interesting.

"Ham Sandwich Nation"

Columbia Law Review: Instapundit and law professor Glenn Reynolds on due process when everything is a crime.

Make One Plan and Then Another

We need a plan and then another plan to control the first plan so it does not begin to slip into a realm where its virtues diminish and its vices grow. Many a high-flying organization has ridden a once-sound plan down, down, down into a mountain.

In a competitive world, smart can have a very short shelf life.

Language to Remember and Use

"A city dweller, she did not know the difference between a donkey and a mule."

Quote of the Day

Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has.

- Rene Descartes

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Work Music

Have been chained to the computer on projects. Have already listened to some Gershwin. Soundtracks on deck for his evening:

  • "Seven Years in Tibet
  • "Lawrence of Arabia"
  • "True Grit"
  • "The Thin Red Line"


We learn to be courageous by doing courageous things. 

We combat fear with control, reason, and perspective. 

For most other problems, I suspect that work, rest or indifference may be the cure. It also helps to remember to be kind to yourself.

Our lives are one long discovery of the power of the basics.

Language to Remember and Use

"Since he was the only person wearing a tam-o'-shanter, he was fairly easy to spot."

Quote of the Day

What concerns me is not the way things are, but rather the way people think things are.

- Epictetus

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Art Break

"Coyote" by Libby Harden.

Chili and the Essentials of Life

A chili recipe that includes beer, coffee, and cocoa

If you prepare this, please send a report.

It's a Small World After All

Along with the terrorism threats, restroom design may hurt attendance at the Sochi Olympics.

Communal toilets? Shades of ancient Rome and an old army barracks.

[HT: Althouse]


Writing in The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson remembers John Cowperthwaite. An excerpt:

Cowperthwaite rose through the ranks and became financial secretary of the colony in 1961. For the next 10 years he had near-total control over the economic laws and regulations governing Hong Kong. By the time he left office, in 1971, the number of Hong Kongers in poverty had dropped by two-thirds, average wages had risen 50 percent, and Hong Kong had gone from one of the poorest places on earth to one of the richest.

Songs for the Open Road

Cultural Offering knows music and when he compiles a list of "songs to sing loudly in the car" we should pay attention. . . and plan a trip.

Language to Remember and Use

"It was sad to see that her old mentor had become a tatterdemalion."

Quote of the Day

The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage. 

- Thucydides

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Volokh Conspiracy is at The Washington Post

Check it out. The byline, of course, is pithy: "Mostly law professors, blogging about whatever we want since 2002."

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "The Hedgehog."


In a brief clip, Jeremy Clarkson discusses punching Piers Morgan, frustration with computers, and travel.

Because Everybody Needs Cookies

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

Back by popular demand: The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Tom Peters on some really important stuff.
Tanmay Vora on elevating your game.
Ray Charles: "In the Heat of the Night."
The trailer for "I Bury the Living."
Jim Glennon: Articles for police officers on surviving the streets.
Spiegel Online: The (Mafia) toxic waste scandal in Italy.
The trailer for "The Hospital."

The Known Poor Practice

The known poor practice (and known poor performer) may be tolerated when the cost of improvement is deemed more expensive than the cost of poor performance. In my experience, the executives and managers making that calculation frequently fail to consider all of the results of their inaction and are especially blind to the problems of those who have to grapple with the marginal practice or performer.

"If only the czar knew" is a grand lament from history. It could more accurately be said, "If only the czar cared enough or were competent enough to make a serious effort to correct the problem or replace the person."

But that's not as catchy and it misses the indifference which can be knowingly embraced when one is unaffected by the negative. A famous management maxim is "That which is rewarded gets done." When the reward of inactivity is less hassle, bet on inaction winning the day.

Language to Remember and Use

"He used a metate as an in-box because in a world of finders, minders and grinders, he was a grinder."

Quote of the Day

Most people imagine that the present style of management has always existed, and is a fixture. Actually, it is a modern invention - a prison created by the way in which people interact.

- W. Edwards Deming

Monday, January 20, 2014

Uber Car Service

CoolTools looks at the advantages of Uber car service. I've never tried it but the everything is prepaid part is neat as is being able to see the progress of the pick-up journey. 

[It may even nudge me away from a flip-phone.]

Music Break

Back by popular demand: Alison Krauss with "Down to the River to Pray."


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is interviewed on "Meet the Press."

When You Back Up, You Back Up

Eclecticity Light has the video. Put me down in "The drummer went way over the line" category. It's an example of poor teamwork.

No Guarantees

There were no guarantees that Martin Luther King Jr. was going to emerge as the leader of the American civil rights movement. Ulysses S. Grant might have remained in relative obscurity within the Union Army. Charles de Gaulle risked being shunned by other officers when he tried to rally the cause of Free France. Lord Halifax could have been selected over Winston Churchill in 1940.

It is heartening to spot the fortunate close calls in history. Consider the times, however, when the wrong person was selected and a much better result was lost. There are no magical guarantees that the best will be inevitably recognized, much less given the chance to fulfill their promise. At any given time, there are plenty of Grants and Churchills stranded in the wilderness.

Language to Remember and Use

"He was a carpetbagger but they liked an amiable rogue."

Quote of the Day

We have defined freedom as a kind of heaven in which the inhabitants are forgiven responsibility.

- Shelby Steele

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Art Break

Underpaintings looks at some of the work featured by Arcadia Contemporary at the L.A. Art Show. The painting above is Streetwise by Malcolm Liepke.

Sunday Afternoon and Evening

Billing. Billing. Coffee. Email. Congrats to a friend. Meeting prep. Soundtrack from Ben Hur cranked up. More paperwork. [I've heard that there is a football game today.] Dog. Reading. Wife vowing an embargo on new books until stacks are reduced. Correspondence. Dog. Reading. 

Later tonight: The "Sherlock" episode we've been waiting for.

La Pastorella Mia

Some music for Sunday by Shirley Rumsey.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Grad School Blues

Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds, who has written a book on the higher education bubble, points to an article on the questionable pay-off of many graduate degree programs. This is not the environment which many of us encountered years ago and the expense has become unbelievable and the job market has shrunk. 

I believe that the future will bring (1) a rise in certification programs in certain subjects so people don't have to get a full diploma in order to be marketable in the workplace and (2) a decrease in the amount of time it takes to get some graduate degrees. The universities are about to get clobbered by the market. [Look at the decline in law school enrollments.]

Employers who have had unnecessarily rigid degree requirements have contributed to this problem and should push for certification programs.

Alan Rickman Break

The trailers for: 
And a memorable scene from "Robin Hood."

Swept Away: A Cargo Ship in a Storm

That car you wanted shipped? When it absolutely positively has to be in the ocean overnight, you might try these guys.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Spiegel Online reports on Russia's efforts to prevent terrorism at the Sochi OIympics.
The trailer for "Lone Survivor."
Instapundit: The bad economics of getting a Ph.D.
TaxProf Blog on a new site that could help to change an image.
Famous rocker mocks his most famous fan.
Crank it up: The theme from "Dragonheart."
Krauthammer on the Gates book.
John Williams: The suite from "The Book Thief."
BBC: A solar phase.

The One Item for Your "To Do" List

  1. Be noble.