Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl

Cloudy and rainy in Phoenix. Not the sort of weather we'd want when legions of visitors are here for the Super Bowl but it's probably an improvement over the frozen areas many escaped. There are hopes that the skies will clear tomorrow. 

My wife and I were in a coffee shop this morning when a Sea Hawks fan asked for directions to downtown Phoenix. He was immediately given three different ways by people around him, complete with corrections, translations, and footnotes. The proprietor eventually provided a nifty sheet she'd prepared as well as a bunch of football-related goodies. [This is a friendly city.]

There has been a lot of press attention given to the security precautions. I did some management consulting with a fire department on the last Super Bowl; a job which included the chance to sit in on some very interesting meetings. Coordinating the Who does What and When if something dangerous happens is no small challenge for the multitude of police and fire departments and hospitals. Each time you can build on the previous plans and yet there is always something new.

In this bizarre world, an event of this nature becomes a huge training exercise for the people who work behind-the-scenes. 

Let's hope that is all it becomes.

Clear Stoic

I've become a major fan of the translation by Gregory Hays of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The book - part of The Modern Library series - provides the sterling combination of a deep thinker and a clear translator. 

It will be one to read and re-read. 

You will seldom have a better companion than old Marcus.

Quote of the Day

Differences can be made to contribute to the common cause if they are resolved by integration rather than domination or compromise. 

- Mary Parker Follett

Friday, January 30, 2015

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Flake Update

BloombergBusiness on how snowfall is measured.

Hayek Book Prize Contenders

The Manhattan Institute has issued the shortlist for the Hayek Book Prize.

Flies and Red Tape in the Bush

A classic scene from "The In-Laws."

First Paragraph

Modern European and American history is centered around the effort to gain freedom from the political, economic, and spiritual shackles that have bound men. The battles for freedom were fought by the oppressed, those who wanted new liberties, against those who had privileges to defend. While a class was fighting for its own liberation from domination, it believed itself to be fighting for human freedom as such and thus was able to appeal to an ideal, to the longing for freedom rooted in all who are oppressed. In the long and virtually continuous battle for freedom, however, classes that were fighting against oppression at one stage sided with the enemies of freedom when victory was won and new privileges were to be defended. 

- From Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm

What's This?

Althouse has an intriguing video of how babies react when they're in a car being driven through a tunnel.

[I've seen similar expressions during PowerPoint presentations.]

They Have Their Plan

They have their plan and you have yours. Develop one which has the least amount of dependence upon their acting in a favorable manner. If you wander about with your chin stuck out it will get punched and although at some point it is likely to get punched anyway don't invite pain, just know that when it comes you will get through it and you may even welcome it because setbacks mean you are doing something. Make it worthwhile.

Quote of the Day

People are getting a little desperate. People might not show their best elements to you. You must never lower yourself to being a person you don't like. There is no better time than now to have a moral and civic backbone. To have a moral and civic true worth. This is a tremendous opportunity for you, a young person, to be heroic. 

- Henry Rollins

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Art Break: Cucuel

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edward Cucuel.

Lasting Wisdom

From former Secretary of State George Shultz

[One of his adages: "Don't just do something, stand there."]

Bad Deal

Note to RAF Museum: Never, ever, trade a Spitfire.


Popular Mechanics: The development of a jet which could fly anywhere in the world within four hours. An excerpt:

Reaction calls the aircraft the Skylon, and it imagines the plane carrying 300 passengers at mach 5. It's powered by SABRE, which sounds like a villainous spy organization but actually stands for Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine. Those engines could be cooled to -160 degrees Celsius using compressed helium. The $1.1 billion plane would be 276 feet long—40 feet longer than a Boeing 747.

Give Him Some Cake. Put Him In The Corner.

Steve Layman at Anderson Layman's Blog is having a birthday today so ease up on the old guy as he shuffles around telling stories about walking to school through the snow, fighting polar bears, and meeting President McKinley.

Enlisting the Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife, Red

I've been greatly enjoying Nicholas Bate's series on The Essential Tools of Excellence and gave a big smile today when he discussed the Swiss Army Knife.

It is a rare day when I don't use my Swiss Army Knife. I don't even have one of those big honkers with 1001 tools including a scalpel for "in-the-field" brain surgery. Mine is the more modest variety [pictured above] but it is stunningly handy; far more than ever suspected.

Wally Bock: The Po Bronson Remedy

In the bookstore I found a copy of Po Bronson’s Bombardiers. It wasn’t available in the US at the time. I had read his The Nudist on the Night Shift and thought it captured a world I knew pretty well, so I thought I’d give his earlier work a try.

It was incredible. Think of it as a kind of Joseph Heller meets Michael Lewis. I chortled constantly. Every few pages I’d laugh out loud, my stomach maladies forgotten.  

Read the rest of the story at Wally Bock's Writing Edge.

First Paragraph

Peace had at last returned to Europe. Her familiar face - once evilly contorted and frightening - was again at rest, noble and fresh. What she had been through would take years to understand. It was as though she had undergone a terribly protracted exorcism, one that had extracted from her the last farthing. But in the very end, protesting with shrieks as they went, the legions of demons were driven out. 

- From Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Quote of the Day

Behind mountains are more mountains.

- Haitian proverb

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Touch of Beethoven

Close eyes. Listen.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Running Disney

To illustrate the company’s hard line about performance, Cockerell recalls once asking his grandson, who worked at Disney last summer, what he learned on a particular day. The answer: If you’re one minute late for work, you have to go home.  

Read the rest of the Fast Company article here.

Random Thoughts

Individuals and organizations are often reluctant to do the things which will achieve their greatest desire. When problems make you want to withdraw from the world, usually the best strategy is to engage. Take any week and someone you know will really need your help. The streets and sidewalks would be filled if everyone knew the benefits of walking. You can waste a lot of time waiting for Superman to arrive. Belief in another does not require a blank check. "Mission creep" is closely related to "budget creep." Don't just imagine new products; imagine new competitors. To gain a better sense of the present, get a dog. There is a certain pleasure in the sharing of a crisis. Your passport should always be current. Misery is not the only thing which loves company. [So does guilt.] Increasing the speed of our handwriting has not improved its beauty. You can always use three more hours. The French and the Americans are more alike than they are willing to admit. A key part of any week involves controlling one's reactions. Life is composed of 10 to 20 minute periods of extraordinary importance although the significance of those segments might not be realized for years. A nap a day keeps the craziness away. Many of our biggest blunders come from assuming what others will want. The perils of dating have produced many a marriage. Some of my happiest commuting days were when I took a bus. Every passenger was a novel. There are few things more powerful within a group than that which is understood but never spoken. I believe I'll take a few minutes and watch a bird today if only to remind myself of miracles. 

First Paragraph

In the beginning, there was no word. There was no word adequate to label and mentally assimilate the murder of two of three European Jews in states occupied by and/or allied to Nazi Germany in World War II. Although the West had been informed about the extermination plot and the camps since the summer of 1942, belief in their accomplishments and actuality had not spread among the public until after Allied soldiers, liberating the camps in 1945, themselves saw the survivors - skeletons of skin and bone with burning eyes - behind the barbed wire of the camps and filmed them. 

- From Accounting for Genocide: National Responses and Jewish Victimization during the Holocaust by Helen Fein

Quote of the Day

Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.

- John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Remembering Auschwitz

It is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Health Food Update


The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Chicken Nachos.

Miscellaneous and Fast

"Red Army": The trailer.
Tanmay Vora: "Hector and the Search for Happiness."
Seth Godin: Companies and the "please go away" strategy.
Business Pundit: 10 inspirational tree house offices.
Peter Wehner on "smart diplomacy."
"Against the Sun": The trailer.
University of Arizona: Preserving Old Main.
The New York Times Magazine: "The Megyn Kelly Moment."
HR Capitalist: Can employees opt out of professional development?
May Jo Asmus: Is kindness as important as toughness in leadership?
"The Duke of Burgundy": The trailer.

Hidden Impatience

We don't scream or pound on counters but there is an inner groan and sometimes a rage and many unspoken statements such as "An appointment at 11:00 does not mean 11:02 or 11:25" or "A three-week completion time for something which could be done in three days?" We are outwardly mellow and reasonable - more than reasonable - and yet the furnace within illuminates an engraved commandment: Thou Shalt Honor Time.

Working Around

He was working around meetings, phone calls, emails, interruptions, crises, and conferences until he realized those just might be part of his work.

First Paragraph

One of history's most gripping and at the same time most dimly understood adventure stories deals with the peopling of the Americas by immigrants from Asia, their adaptation to the new land, and their ultimate defeat by latecomers from Europe. Physically the American Southwest occupies only a small part of the stage on which the drama took place. It is a significant part, however, because the region's semiarid climate, which delays decomposition, has made it a rich source of aboriginal records. In addition, it is here that troops from the United States and Mexico at last combined to bring about the final defeat of the long-resistant native people. Defeat - but not destruction. The point needs emphasis. The Indians of the Southwest are still a force to be reckoned with. 

- From The Southwest by David Lavender

Quote of the Day

A person teaching and a person learning should have the same end in view: the improvement of the latter. 

- Attalus

Monday, January 26, 2015

FedEx Commercial Greats

Federal Express has had some of the greatest commercials ever made. Back by popular demand:

Valley of the Sun

The Tuesday forecast is 73 degrees with a low of 54.

Brutal. I'm wearing a sweater.

Geek Wear Update


FutureLawyer has the details. Wearable tools from Leatherman. I will withhold comment.

Art Break: McGinnis

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Robert McGinnis.

Greece Goes Full Zorba

The elections in Greece. I doubt if they're going to be dancing in a few years.

Online Class Prep and the Fen Country

Most of my Sunday was spent in front of a computer screen, merging thoughts, and tracking down past classes while preparing a new online workshop on management and supervision. 

As evening approached, I popped on some Vaughan Williams so I could muse about the fen country while going over material on discipline, motivation, and change management.

A text came in from a client requesting a Monday morning meeting. It's on. He is a savvy executive with a lot of projects on his desk. We first met over 30 years ago.

The week was moving before it started.

Big Money on YouTube

This is nothing. I'm planning a Broadway show in which I stand on stage and rake leaves.

Quote of the Day

Stop looking for angels, and start looking for angles. 

- Ryan Holiday

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Remember Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill died on the morning of January 24, 1965. [Here is a brief film of the funeral ceremonies in London.]

Although he is not buried there, inside Westminster Abbey is a memorial stone.

Well Said

In that morning's Intermail had finally arrived the reports from the New York training program on Igino, which said that he was a rebellious crank who disobeyed orders and had created a market among the trainees for lecture notes. The report recommended that he be sent to some distant, insignificant office far away from New York where he could do the least damage. Coyote Jack had never read such a promising report. In a world of unmerciful uniformity, rebels were hard to come by. Those willing to be the first to break the rules were rare. Those willing to disregard orders were even scarcer. Rebels had built this business and rebels had continued to redefine it. Wasserstein had been a rebel. Milken had been a rebel. Coyote Jack went to his fishbowl window and looked out over the pits where thirty-seven salespeople slaved under his command. The evidence of Igino's blatant disregard for authority was already in evidence on only his fourth day of work. He had gotten rid of his chair entirely and was standing up while he worked the phones. And his hair was wet! Two days ago Coyote Jack had told him to get it cut, which he hadn't done, and now he showed up with it wet and entirely unstyled. Coyote Jack couldn't have been happier. A market for lecture notes! 

- From Bombardiers by Po Bronson

NASA's Opportunity Rover

Celebrating 11 years on Mars with some extraordinary photographs.


[HT: Instapundit]

Stories and Strategies from Real Life

As always, Wally Bock finds great ones.

Art Break: Cook

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Brian Cook.

As Edward R. Murrow Spins in His Grave

YouTubers interview the President of the United States.

Ludwig, Johann, and Friends

Cultural Offering has started an Essential Great Music list.

Upon his judgment I rely. Check it out.

Music Break

Elvis Presley, at his charismatic best, sings an casual "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"


Take the call. Check the emails. Answer the emails, Review the draft. Give an opinion. Revise an opinion. Hit a barrier. Shift to another project. Do some research. Make a chart. Track down a contact. Hit another barrier. Stare out the window. Shift back to the first project. Remember a needed change on a third. Get upset about something. Prepare for a meeting. Listen for what was not said. Write up your recollections. Think a while. Change a word. Encourage a friend. Make another call. Answer another email. Get distracted by a news item. Sense that something's been overlooked. Start the pattern over again

Amid the busyness, it can be difficult to spot what needs more attention.

When Do You Find Time to Read?

I am sometimes asked, "When you you find time to read?"

It's a good question. Most of us are scrambling and we have to catch reading on the fly.

Or do we? Novels can be read late at night or while waiting for the multitude of personal appointments which are set for one time but don't really start until 20 minutes later. [I always have a book or two within reach.]

Business reading, on the other hand, should not be regarded as leisure but instead as an important part of work. I't's easy to fall behind on business reading but the volume would be impossible without setting aside time to read. My clients pay me for judgment and insight. Both of those frequently require reviewing the ideas and recommendations of others, if only to confirm that the original analysis was correct. 

Some standard recommendations:

  1. Set aside time to read.
  2. Set aside time to think.
  3. Set aside time for uninterrupted work.
  4. Set aside time to go and see.
  5. Don't assume that your job only consists of going to meetings.

Quote of the Day

In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take note of fortune's habit of behaving just as she pleases. 

- Seneca

Friday, January 23, 2015


It was unspoken and yet so greatly needed that in the distant future the one thing which would be recalled was that no one said anything.

Essential Tools

I hope that you've been following Nicholas Bate's essential tools of excellence.

Art Break: Edward Hopper

Smart Nuts

"I don't think he's that smart."

"He must be smart. He graduated from elite schools."

"So that means he's smart?"

"Well, no. That means he's probably smart."

"'Probably smart' doesn't mean smart but I'll grant you that in some respects he is smart.  I also think he's a nut."

"So you think he is a smart nut?"

"Be honest. Haven't you ever met a smart nut?

Avoid the Weeds

A wise man once noted that a good gardener doesn't reserve a plot for weeds.

Some books, movies, music, and people are weeds.

They should be avoided.


Another blog to discover.

What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?

Back by popular demand: The classic Monty Python routine.

How to Evade Accountability

  1. Blame your predecessors.
  2. Rally credulous supporters.
  3. Exaggerate your problems.
  4. Whine about lack of resources.
  5. Make repeated claims that your critics are biased.
  6. Cook the books.
  7. Engage in shameless deceptions.
  8. Deny that the subject is your responsibility.
  9. Order an open-ended study.
  10. Allege that you are the victim of a conspiracy.

Quote of the Day

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. 

- Publius Syrus

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Art Break: John Singer Sargent

About Right

At Live & Learn; Tom Gauld's guide to a home library.

Unorganized Hancock: Band of The Great White North

Sippican Cottage: Clear evidence that there is serious musical talent in the wilds of Maine.

You May Already Be a Werner

View From the Ledge has 24 pieces of life advice from film maker Werner Herzog.

They are worth pondering.


Painting of Steve Layman contemplating the start of his blog.

Anderson Layman's Blog is celebrating its fifth anniversary. It is a marvelous blog which deserves to be read daily by gazillions for its taste, humor, and insight.

7 Things That Can Help You Stop Worrying

Fast Company has the answers and not surprisingly one involves chocolate.

When Running for Office is a Question

Over the years, some people have approached me about running for political office. [A few persistent souls still do.] One time I came close to running but eventually decided that another candidate would do a better job. I stayed out of the race and watched him lose in the primary. It was a reminder that nothing is certain in politics.

Anyway, if you've thought of running, here are some standard questions:
  1. What will be the effect on your family and job?
  2. Are you well-versed on the issues?
  3. Can you afford to run?
  4. Are you willing and able to put in the time to campaign?
  5. Can you win?
  6. Do you have skills and insight which can contribute to the public good?
  7. Do you have the background, temperament, and character to be both a decent candidate and a decent public servant? [And yes, those are two very different things.]
  8. Are you and your family willing to put up with the craziness and abuse which can accompany a political campaign?
  9. Are you indeed the best candidate or would this just be an ego exercise?
  10. Are your talents better used out of political office?
Oh yes. There's one more. Do you want to run?

First Paragraph

In the year 170, at night in his tent on the front lines of the war in Germania, Marcus Aurelius, the emperor of the Roman Empire, sat down to write. Or perhaps it was before dawn at the palace in Rome. Or he stole a few seconds to himself during the games, ignoring the carnage on the floor of the Colosseum below. The exact location is not important. What matters is that this man, known today as the last of the Five Good Emperors, sat down to write. 

- From The Obstacle is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday