Saturday, May 31, 2014

Real Coffee? The Debate

Instapundit starts a firestorm by noting the ratings of inexpensive coffee by a "champion barista."

[Although it was not in the competition, I like Folger's Black Silk coffee. Give it a try.]

Studying Change

Saturday night. My wife is reading in the other room. The dog is wandering about. There's some Leon Redbone playing in the background. I'm going over business stuff. A story from my high school days came to me while I was reviewing the marketing scenarios. The father of a good friend had a small business which was caught flatfooted by some changes in his industry. I recall his excuses for not making changes. All of them had substance. His approach had produced success in the past and yet those good reasons quickly became irrelevant.

You have to keep an eye on what's out there even if you don't like it.

Especially if you don't like it.

Health Food Update: Toasted Ravioli


The Pioneer Woman shows how to make it.

Close But Not Quite

FutureLawyer, who lives for high tech, believes he has found the right phone for me somewhere in the wilds of South Korea.

I am planning on switching from a flip phone but when that big day arrives, it will be a full move to a smartphone and not to some flip hybrid which can be used to drive nails.

I appreciate his efforts, however, and will get a distinctive ring tone in his honor.

Art Break: Greiffenhagen

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Maurice Greiffenhagen.

The Boys from Maine: Unorganized Hancock

At Sippican Cottage: Click here for "Sultans of Minor Swing" and then scroll down for more.

Wow. I think we'd better follow their career.

Folding Chopsticks?

CoolTools shows what is in a techie's bag of bags.

Essential Mix: Country

Cultural Offering has assembled a list of the 100 greatest country songs, ever

Let the debates begin.

Josh Earnest

The Washington Post provides some background information on the new White House press secretary. Here's hoping he leaves with his reputation in better shape than that of his predecessor.

His name, of course, is excellent. It reminds me of a law case I read years ago. The attorney's name was Irving Brilliant. I wondered how many clients hired him because of the name. Who wouldn't want to be able to say, "My attorney, Irving Brilliant, will be calling you."

A Day

This is a good day to work slowly and with purpose. No hurry. Slow down tasks which you'd normally rush through. You'll make fewer mistakes. Each task will become more enjoyable. You'll find yourself relaxing and discovering paths which once were not visible.

It feels good, doesn't it?

Now here is a secret: Most days are this day.

Modern Politics

"That is not a cow."
"We are appalled that you would think it is a cow."
"That is not even a third-rate cow."
"Those who say it is a cow are only doing so for selfish and partisan purposes."
"The reported 'moo' was an exaggeration."  
"So were the udders."
"So were the emails."
"We believe it is a deer or an elk."
"Since we've told you it is not a cow then no investigation is needed."
"Has there been a confession from any cow?"
"This is really old news."
"Aren't there more important topics?"
"It would be ridiculous to have a cow investigation."
"We resent the "Cowgate" insinuation."
"We will never agree to an investigation."
"We have agreed to an investigation."
"We will, of course, fully cooperate with the investigation."
"It would be inappropriate for us to comment while the investigation is in progress."  
"All of us should withhold judgment."
"But there is not a smidgen of evidence that it is a cow." 

Quote of the Day

Champagne is Mrs. Dirksen's favorite vegetable. 

- Everett Dirksen

Friday, May 30, 2014

Blues Break

Mississippi Fred McDowell: "You Gotta Move."

Bock: Summer Reading

A word of advice: Carefully consider any summer reading list suggested by Wally Bock

He's that good.

The Best Students

Let's guess. The best students. . .

  1. Doodle and make wisecracks to impress their friends.
  2. Sit in the back of the room and daydream.
  3. Do the minimum and no more.
  4. Don't study the subject as it is but as they wish it were.
  5. Try to memorize everything.
  6. Know facts but can't explain the subject.
  7. Have close relatives who die whenever deadlines loom.
  8. Let four weeks pass before buying the textbook.
  9. Spend each class session wondering whether they are falling in love with a student two desks over.
  10. Are always thinking about what happened last night.
  11. Can't wait to show the teacher how smart they are.
  12. Act bored because bored is cool.
  13. Can text-message, surf the Internet, think about the weekend, and learn at the same time.
  14. Never show up on time or have a pen.
  15. Do the work, ask questions, and listen.

Enjoy The Gift

Imagine the gift: life on Planet Earth. Friends, rock 'n roll, challenges, music, perfect jeans, lonely moments, books, sea-shores, art, museums, concerts, work, a simple gift from a friend/lover, the scribbles of your young kids, bicycles, cooking, electric storms over deserts, NY NY, emotional reunions, hanging out, skate-boarding, cold beer down at the docks, awesome teamwork. Love. Great movies. Tears. Long weekends.
Read the rest here.

"Talk to me in five years"

The movie negotiation scene in "Mistress," a film which deserved a far larger audience. 

[I like the phone.]

First Paragraph

Friday, November 22, 1963

Just after 1:30 P.M., in the near-empty chamber of the United States Senate, a handsome, dark-haired freshman was taking his back-bencher's turn at a thankless task: presiding over a desultory debate on the need for federal library services. Edward M. Kennedy, thirty-one years old, had been the junior senator from Massachusetts for barely a year and had yet to make a speech from the floor. Suddenly, Richard Riedel, a Senate press liaison who had first come to the Capitol a half century earlier as a nine-year-old page, came running onto the Senate floor, in a breach of all decorum. He rushed for the rostrum and told the presiding officer, "The most horrible thing has happened! It's terrible, terrible!" 

- From An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Todd S. Purdum


  • Leaders who can't manage.
  • Managers who can't lead.
  • Supervisors who are afraid to care.
  • Teams that are really factions.
  • Systems that are untrustworthy.
  • Meetings that are alibis.
  • Groups with shabby values.
  • Delegation without authority.
  • Employees who cannot be motivated.
  • Directors who are indifferent.
  • Words without action.
  • Employment without development.
  • Work without achievement.

Quote of the Day

When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split. 

- Raymond Chandler objecting to a proof-reader's corrections

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Anderson Layman's Blog has some wisdom from Steve Jobs which should be posted in many a board room.

How to Drain Your Credibility

  • Say yes and do no.
  • Change positions and don't tell those who were relying on your previous commitments.
  • Continue to make excuses for a weak and incompetent executive.
  • Reward weasels and office politicians.
  • Say one thing at the staff meeting and another after you have left.
  • Let your ego hinder openness to good ideas.
  • Tolerate meanness.
  • Put the welfare of your employees last.
  • Never miss a chance to seize the limelight.
  • Always have your finger to the wind.
  • Let your mood govern your conduct.

On The Rails

David Kanigan gives an account of what it is like to ride with a "gremlin."


Let Me Tell You A Joke

Let me tell you a joke. It is the funniest joke in the world. I almost died laughing when I heard it.

It goes like this . . . .

Can you already feel your resistance? Would you bet your house that it is the funniest joke in the world or have you already predicted that it will be a disappointment?

That dangerous build-up teaches us a great deal about humor and public speaking: There is nothing wrong with enlivening most topics with a little humor. The key is to keep your humor short and fast so if a line dies you'll be so quickly on to another point that people won't notice.

And never announce a joke. Let them discover it.

Quote of the Day

It is sobering to consider that when Mozart was my age he had already been dead for a year. 

- Tom Lehrer

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Blues Break

Mississippi Fred McDowell: "Goin Down to the River."

When The Latest Thing Is Not Your Thing

My wife and I only recently finished viewing The Wire, which ended in 2008. One of these years we’ll finally find out why there was so much fuss about that show Breaking Bad. (I am suddenly reminded of the Onion headline “Aliens Mourn As Final Cheers Episode Reaches Alpha Centauri.”)

Read the rest of Victorino Matus's essay in The Weekly Standard.

Rest In Peace: Maya Angelou

Reports from CNN and The New York Times.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Nicholas Bate has a "Holiday 21."
Wally Bock: Posts by and about leaders.
Leon Redbone: "Shine On, Harvest Moon."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "The Children's Hour"
Cultural Offering: Bungee-thumper.
Anderson Layman's Blog has one spooky picture.
Tim Berry doesn't want to be a strategist.
Groucho: "Lydia The Tattooed Lady."
McArthur's Rant has a triple espresso question.
Seth Godin on tribal organizing.
CoolTools: Bialetti Stovetop Percolator.
Bob Dylan: "Blowing In The Wind."

Self-Driving Cars

FutureLawyer has a video on self-driving cars; an experience which lurks in our future. 

I find the idea to be stressful but only if the car is thought of as a car. If it becomes more like a bus, where I can read, work crossword puzzles, and occasionally glance out the window, then it might not be that bad.

Here's another consideration: If a car is self-driven, will its looks matter? Will young people want snazzy sports-car-looking self-driving cars and will the elderly want big ones? 

Or will that be the equivalent of worrying about the style of a bus?

Meeting Tips

And perhaps one lizard.

Cultural Offering has advice on meetings from, ahem, a collection of genuine wizards.

How Often Do You Hear

  • "I love those weekly staff meetings."
  • "My computer is too fast."
  • "That is one hip bow tie."
  • "We paid too little for that car."
  • "It must be true. It was on the Internet."
  • "And the neatest thing about the job is I'll need bodyguards."
  • "Your use of profanity probably sealed the deal."
  • "That speech should have been longer."
  • "I'd like to take a couple of vacation days and just meet with insurance agents."
  • "The Seventies were the height of fashion."
  • "I'm a terrible driver."
  • "I wish more people would talk during the movie."
  • "The party doesn't start until the accountants arrive."
  • "Rap music is so beautiful."
  • "I really need to put on around twenty or thirty pounds."

Quote of the Day

It is easier to stay out than to get out. 

- Mark Twain

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

They Must Have a Wellness Program

Fall on crocodile. Get reprimand.

After Irrigation

There is carnage in the yard.

After the irrigation - we live in a part of the Valley where water from canals is used to soak the lawns - the birds launch a campaign to gobble up any bugs who floated to the surface and hence to their doom. Grackles, robins, blackbirds, mockingbirds, and their ilk try to find a feast.

They work with the focus of a diamond cutter and the ruthlessness of a hit man..

I never fail to be impressed by their energy.


The evidence was there. There had been rumbles for months but the leader dismissed any dissent as the grumbling of a few ill-informed malcontents.

And then one thing - a minor matter - served as a fuse and frustrations which had been building for years exploded.

When the leader said, "Why didn't anyone tell me?" people stared at their shoes. They'd been trying to get the message across but had been ignored each time.

Why didn't anyone tell him? A better question might be "Why didn't he actively seek the truth?"

Pleasant Workplaces of the World

"We were inside the swamp for three weeks, and the only time we had dry feet was when we were asleep in our tents. To place the tent, you have to build a platform because the ground is permanently water-logged."

Read the entire story about the discovery in Congo of a peat bog the size of England.

[HT: Althouse]


Eclecticity Light is the Indiana Jones of bloggers.

He finds bizarre and interesting things from throughout the Internet causing many of us to wonder, "Where does he find that stuff?" He recently celebrated his eighth anniversary as a blogger, an event which merits congratulations and dancing in the street.

May he have many more.

Art Break: Schad

Art Contrarian looks at portraits by Christian Schad.

You Know Things are Bad

  • When you have to keep making excuses for an employee (and yes, this can apply to chief executives).
  • When what once had been regarded as disastrous performance now looks reasonably good. 
  • When you hear that a meeting has been called and you automatically assume that bad news is going to be announced. 
  • When you can outline the format of the explanations and buck-passing because you've heard them so many times before.
  • When even the most inventive loyalists begin to look nervous. 
  • When you look back on the hiring decision and wonder how the obvious danger signals could have been ignored.

Quote of the Day

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time. 

- James Thurber

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

It is impossible to overstate the debt each of us owes to those who died for our freedom. Our days are filled with the benefits of their sacrifice. 

Honoring them at least once a year is an important way, however inadequate, of expressing our gratitude.

Quote of the Day

For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail? 

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Up the Tree

This was today's debate: a Natchez Crepe Myrtle or a Jacaranda?

The Natchez Crepe (or Crape) Myrtle (white flower version) won for now but there's another spot that cries out for a Jacaranda.

The entire process made me envious of botanists and gardeners. I asked the young woman who was showing us around the nursery if she knew every type of tree there. She did and she noted that when she drives down a street with her friends they simply see trees but she sees something very different.

The price of knowledge.

Goodbye to Amby

The Telegraph has the sad story of the last Hindustan Ambassador, a.k.a. Morris Oxford.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Miscellaneous and Fast

The trailer for "Lucy."
Nicholas Bate has some important reminders of reality.
Wally Bock: Stories and strategies from real life.
George Will: What a sensible presidential candidate would say.
Althouse: The dangers of multitasking.
The trailer for "Mom's Night Out."
Eclecticity Light: Where does he find this stuff?
Fast Company: The butter lamb artist.
The trailer for "The Mask of Dimitrios."
Musical tastes of an undertaker: You may be surprised.

The Shadow Reveals

I've discussed this before but it bears repeating. If you want to find out what something is, find out what it isn't. When delegating a project, don't just state what you want. Be sure to add what you don't want. 

Compare and contrast.

We need the careful use of both shadow and light in order to get the picture.

The Old Guard

Following tradition, The Old Guard has placed the flags at Arlington National Cemetery.

Here is a powerful film that should be shown in every high school.

Morning Work

The soundtrack to "True Grit" is in the background. I am surrounded by drafts. The dog strolls in to provide counsel. I have a small can of Starbucks doubleshot espresso at hand. There is a thought floating in the air. It will be seized. 

Bad Luck

Anderson Layman's Blog has some thoughts by Robert A. Heinlein on the subject.

The Hidden

Their formal meetings were flawed and although people complained about them, the meetings remained unfixed. Their goals were conflicting and although people sensed something didn't quite mesh, that too was left alone. They had a person in an important executive position who was well qualified but not for that position. People tried to work around the person's weaknesses and the result was a form of continuing chaos and frustration. There were trust issues as well but no one wanted to accuse anyone of being dishonest and so those were left to fester. The people with the power and the people with the ideas were, for the most part, two different groups.

But on the surface, the organization seemed fine.

Crazy Jobs

Imagine that you were given the authority and money to create a "crazy" job at your organization (or some other organization). It would have to be a job which is not commonly found in that environment and yet you sincerely believe it could produce serious benefits. 

[Remember when Walmart first hired greeters? They're still there.]

What would your nominee(s) be?

[I'll post my nominees later.]

Quote of the Day

It is your Work in life that is the ultimate seduction. 

- Pablo Picasso

Friday, May 23, 2014

Back By Popular Demand

Joe Cocker with "Bye Bye Blackbird."

Crank it up.

Remembering and Honoring

What So Proudly We Hail on the origins and traditions of Memorial Day.

The Widow of the South

I'm reading a bunch of leadership and management books and have needed some fiction. Late last night, I started The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks and this morning realized that it is an appropriate choice for the Memorial Day weekend. 

So far, it is extremely good.

The Beauty of Ink

This post by Matthew Lang on machines and assumptions has revived an old worry of mine about the difference between writing with a computer as opposed to a pen or even a typewriter.

If I had my druthers, I'd write all initial drafts of long manuscripts with a fountain pen. [Author Shelby Foote used the old nib pens which had to be dipped in ink.] 

The slower process brings us closer to the words as we carefully shape our thoughts. 

We become part of the page and are not hovering above it.

Health Food Update

Crazy Brownies

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Crazy Brownies

I confess to being intrigued by any recipe which has: "Then crack open a few packages of peanut butter cups."

Life is Unfair

At David Kanigan's blog: Proof that attractive people can be attractive even when they look weird.

Art Break: Fleetwood-Walker

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Bernard Fleetwood-Walker

The McRaven Recommendations

Cultural Offering has a commencement speech by Admiral William H. McRaven. 

It is well worth your time and its lessons are timeless.

Dabbling in Impatience

Those of us who are prone to impatience - stop tapping your foot - need to consider its dangers. Here are a few:
  1. Sloppy thinking.
  2. Inadequate information.
  3. Poor coordination.
  4. Unanticipated problems.
  5. Hurt feelings.
  6. Premature action.
  7. Incomplete or unacceptable results.
One important factor to remember: People can be selectively impatient. Only extreme cases are impatient all the time. The person who is very patient with regard to subjects A through Y may have a short fuse with subject Z. 

[I'd place myself in that category. As my family and friends will attest, even my patience, which rivals that of some saints, has its limits.]

Quote of the Day

It is very dangerous for a sheep to pretend to be a wolf. 

- Russell L. Ackoff

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Painful Honesty

Well, I bet that party was a success.

Cake Wrecks explores some unusual cakes.


It was a get-acquainted coffee. No favors were asked. They just talked about areas where their responsibilities overlapped and how they might help one another in the future. It would not pay off until approximately a year later when a problem arose and the comment was made: "Let me call someone I know."

Back By Popular Demand

The Seekers: "I'll Never Find Another You."

Creating Sherlock

At The New Republic, a video of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle talking about, among other things, his most famous creation.

No Contest

David Kanigan has the video clip of the day.

Would Not Consider

When studying leaders, we often examine actions taken and not taken but an even more revealing view can be found in the actions which the leader would never for one second consider. 

Modern Day Crisis Management

"We didn't learn of this until we read about it in the newspapers but that, of course, says nothing about our management skills because we've been working very hard and the problem has been around for decades and I can assure you that no one is more upset than I am and I would love to take some action now but it is important to wait until all of the facts are in and I'm confident that one day they will be and when they are and we can precisely determine who was responsible for this I will tear him a new one unless that person happens to be me which is highly unlikely but in that case I will be suitably harsh and issue myself a reprimand. Verbally and in private. We don't want to over-react."

Business Poetry. No, Really.

The Poetry of Business

Henry Ford is said to have observed that if he'd asked his customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse. Steve Jobs was particularly adept at giving us what we wanted before we knew we wanted it.

There are many intangibles in that process and, I suspect, the ultimate product more closely resembles poetry than prose but it need not take us into new realms of imagination. Ray Kroc saw poetry in a hamburger bun but his real verses were written in a process which consistently delivers a high quality, perishable, product via teenagers.

Quote of the Day

When a given act by a given person, John Doe, is referred to by five separate reporters as persevering, firm, determined, obstinate, or pig-headed,you obviously learn as much about the feelings of the reporters toward John Doe as about John Doe himself. The reporters are more successful in spreading abroad their own feelings than in describing John Doe. 

- Crane Brinton

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The New Intolerance

Be sure to read Stephen L.Carter's "shout me down" message to the Class of 2014.

Simply marvelous.

[Many thanks to Anderson Layman's Blog - always required reading - for pointing this out.]