Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Great Escape

Inspired by the film, Nicholas Bate, it goes without saying, has a plan

In fact, he has more than one.

Beats Tofu

Cultural Offering has the proof: I had some health food this morning.

Art Break: Christy

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Howard Chandler Christy.


"Okay, here's how the plot unfolds: We begin with a scene in a beautiful park. A old man is brutally murdered but we don't see his assailant. The police are called. They do the usual crime scene stuff but then - get this - someone calls them up and tells them who did it! They go to the guy's apartment, he curses at them for a while, but then he confesses. And in the last scene, he's on his way to prison."

"That's it?"

"Yeah. Do you think we need more? That's the way it often happens in real life."

My Question

Catching up on Eclecticity Light and wondering, as always, "Where does he find this stuff?"

Stairway to Heaven

The ultimate version is at Anderson Layman's Blog, where they are getting down.


Whenever people have questions about co-workers and employees there is a central theme: Can I rely upon these people to:
  • Check their work?
  • Be kind?
  • Look out for me?
  • Take initiative?
  • Tell the truth?
  • Share the credit?
  • Be fair?
  • Work well with one another?
  • Support the team?
  • Be loyal?
  • Hustle?
  • Develop their skills?
  • Be discreet?
  • Not embarrass me?
  • Do what needs to be done?
Think of how often reliability is key. More people have built careers on being reliable than on being brilliant.

Quote of the Day

Habits are the principal magistrate of man's life. 

- Francis Bacon

Monday, March 30, 2015

More Terminator. Less Star Wars,

Rob Long notes that the future is sure taking its time getting here.

Doc Day

This day was largely spent taking my wife - a person who does not believe in seeing doctors unless one's head cannot clear the pillow - to medical appointments.

It appears that there is nothing serious but more tests are needed.

This is the soundtrack for the evening.

More later,

Dr. Zorba

When Types of Discrimination Clash

Apple's Tim Cook doesn't like discrimination "in all its forms" and yet the issue he tackles is one which raises the tough question of the extent to which he is willing to tolerate religious discrimination.

I'm still wrestling with the subject which is more complicated than the news reports tend to note. It is certainly more challenging in a public accommodations setting than in a matter confined to the workplace. 

The Iranian Deal

Writing in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg on what to worry about in an Iran nuclear deal.

From what I've seen so far, there is plenty to worry about.

Social Skills Update

Back by popular demand: The party scene in "The Muse."

Art Break: Lewis

Art Contrarian looks at portraits by Wyndham Lewis.

Found in the Workplace

  • He was the sort of blue collar guy who talks about white collar guys the way blue collar guys think white collar guys talk about blue collar guys.
  • She would acknowledge the problem and would take every action to deal with it, barring any actual solutions, of course.
  • One glance at the inner circle and you would find competence and honesty tempered by a common commitment to defer to the CEO's opinion on anything which mattered.
  • The team members prided themselves on being rough and tough but a maverick made them very nervous.
  • He had not realized until working there that some people believe in various gradations of honesty.
  • They were thinking of firing the employee who had lousy attendance until they discovered that he outproduced all of his co-workers.

Quote of the Day

Oh, I thought about getting beat, especially when I was just starting out scared. After I won the title, I didn't worry about it no more. Oh, I knew that if I kept on fighting some guy would come along and take the title away from me, but not this guy, not tonight. 

- Joe Louis

Saturday, March 28, 2015


The trailer for the new James Bond film.

Less is More

A prominent attic-cleaner in Ohio is attracted to the New Minimalist movement, with the exception of cassettes.

Many of us harbor a desire to reduce the amount of stuff. 

Business idea: A firm that comes in, empties your house, puts everything in storage, and then you periodically get to select a few items that will be returned. 

Groggy and Productive

I awoke at 3 a.m. Read a bit about French politics in the Thirties. Thought that would put me to sleep but it didn't. When you are reading about people who are more worried about legislating a two week vacation requirement than about the Nazis, that can get the heart pumping. I could hear the dog thrashing about, rearranging her bed on the floor, no doubt wondering about the sanity of her owner. I'd had a dream in which there were conversations with Nelson Rockefeller and then Richard Burton. I wanted to fall back to sleep so I could find out what Burton had to say. We were in a bar.

Since I was awake, I began to plan what could get done if I just got out of bed and started working. It was too early to mow the lawn but some writing was possible. Could a novel be finished before breakfast? I started to list other projects and then, zip.

Better than counting sheep.

United States War Mobilizations

Some very interesting statistics from the Bureau of the Census on military manpower:

1860 (Union only): 27,000
1865 (Union only): 1 million

1916: 180,000 
1918: 2.9 million

1939: 334,000
1945: 12 million

A Prevention Mentality

Having studied and taught crisis management workshops over the years, I've noticed a benefit and a drawback to being immersed in that topic. The benefit is obvious: you understand how crises develop and the stages for handling and, you hope, preventing them.

The drawback is you can become a tad too sensitive to potential problems. At least, some of us can. Richard Nixon wrote a very good book, Six Crises, prior to becoming president and that didn't keep him from jumping chin-deep into an alligator-filled swamp a few years later. But the myopia of The Man From Whittier was the exception. Study crises long enough and you can conjure up worst case scenarios faster than a barbarian down the street can say "knife." An event which a normal person regards as an inconvenience can rapidly become, in your keen eyes, a disaster  with plague, fire, locusts, wolves, and Attila the Hun on steroids.

Those of us who fall into that trap are heavily into prevention. The brave or pig-ignorant souls of a remedial bent completely baffle us. I confess to having a raw admiration for the proverbial fools who wander in where angels fear to tread if only because the fools often - dare I say it? - succeed. Nothing bad happens to them. They aren't chain-whipped or banned from decent society. They are splashing about while the rest of us are on the bank looking for gators.

They may not be so foolish after all.

Raymond Chandler Saturday

The first time I ever saw Larry Batzel he was drunk outside Sardi's in a secondhand Rolls-Royce. There was a tall blonde with him who had eyes you wouldn't forget. I helped her argue him out from under the wheel so that she could drive.

Read the rest of "The Curtain" here.

Quote of the Day

In dreams begins responsibility. 

- William Butler Yeats

Friday, March 27, 2015

And Just One Will Do

Wally Bock has ten sure-fire ways to fail as a leader.

Stanford's Most Popular Class

Here's what they learn: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. All reinforced by design thinking-based tools, from a daily gratitude journal to a deck of cards featuring problem-solving techniques. In lieu of a final exam—the class is pass/fail—students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. Alumni say they still refer back their "odyssey plans"—a term that Evans coined—and revise them as their lives and careers progress.

Read the rest at Fast Company.

Art Break: Penfield

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edward Penfield.

State Sponsors of Terrorism

Here is the 2013 State Department Report. The report for 2014 is due on April 30. 

We can look forward to what it will say about Cuba and Iran because, after all, they've changed sooo much.

"Get Ready to Be Surprised."

The Telegraph has an update on the Germanwings air crash investigation. It includes indications that the co-pilot was hiding his medical condition from his employer. An advertising campaign has been yanked.

Television at Its Best

Truly memorable: Check out Jeremy Clarkson, who just got sacked from the Top Gear show in Britain, test-driving a three-wheeled Reliant Robin.

Let's Get a Cup of Coffee

No one had said, "Let's get a cup of coffee. We need to talk." Instead, the problem was pushed underground where it festered. Factions were formed. Gossip and rumors fed the factions and the divisions, once minor, grew serious. Insults were perceived where none were intended. People went home in the evening and complained to family members. A few individuals who disliked being urged to make a choice between the two camps left the organization.

Some coffee and twenty minutes of clear conversation could have prevented it. 

When you are considering key values for your organization, be sure to include openness.

Quote of the Day

The leader must know, must know that he knows, and must be able to make it abundantly clear to those about him that he knows. 

- Clarence B. Randall

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Health Food Update

From 2007: The Pioneer Woman shows how to make cinnamon rolls.

Rule Britannia

Last night of the BBC Proms in 2009. Crank it up.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Never Ever

Here's something a manager or supervisor will never hear from an HR professional or attorney:

"Gee, I wish you wouldn't consult me so early about these potential personnel problems. I prefer that you wait until after all of the important decisions have been made. It's best that I be notified once all is set in concrete."

A House Guest

It was at least twenty years ago when I received an unexpected call from a friend I'd known in college. We had not spoken since college days and his call was a pleasant surprise.

It was also a warning. 

He was living in another city and he'd learned that a mutual friend, who'd been staying at his place, was heading to Phoenix on his way to the coast. I confirmed that fact and he said, "No matter what you do, don't let him stay at your house."

"Why's that?"

"I'll say nothing further. Just don't let him stay at your house."

I hadn't planned on that in any event. My wife and I were ripping apart rooms and I just expected to have a nice lunch with him.

Which is what we had. I never learned what his great transgression had been with my other friend but I suspect it was something along the lines of The Man Who Came to Dinner where the guest arrives and never leaves. True, he dropped some hints about needing some rest but I can be marvelously dim when circumstances require and so they were never seized. We shook hands, wished each other the best, and he went on his way.

I felt no need to issue an alert to anyone from here to the Pacific and continued my friendship with both the "warner" and the warned-about. I never learned the basis for the alert.

That story came back while reading Christopher Caldwell's amusing account of an unforgettable house guest. 

Unfortunately, both of my friends have since passed away. They were far better people.

What is Not Done?

It's not what they say, it's what they do. And often, it is what they don't say and don't do. 

If you want to learn a great deal about an organization, ask the people, "What do you not do around here?"

An executive gave me a one-sentence education when he remarked, "We don't recover our wounded."

Quote of the Day

Leadership begins with self-knowledge. 

- Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"He Hates You"

Rob Long explains the pleasant working relationships in the television biz.

Locked Out?

The Germanwings air crash story has just gotten stranger.

Lee Kuan Yew: Extraordinary Man

The memorial services for Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore, continue.

Quartz has the story of his ever-present red box

And here is the 1994 interview in Foreign Affairs.

Buckley's Time Management

Cultural Offering looks at the work habits of one of the most productive men in the history of the world.

I smile at his practice of writing a book a year in Switzerland. I once took several days to hide out in a motel and finish a book in Yuma, Arizona.

It worked.


The idea came, soared for awhile just out of reach and then returned. Why not? was asked and yet not quickly answered because so many good ideas turn sour when exposed to reality. I wrote the idea on a note card to keep it from disappearing too soon - as the best often do - and the next day it returned with a couple of friends. I wrote them down as well.

We'll see.

A Few Books That Made Me Say "Wow!"

  • "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" by Alexandra Fuller
  • "Fortunes of War" by Olivia Manning
  • "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry
  • "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
  • "Restoration" by Rose Tremain
  • "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • "The Time of the Assassins" by Godfrey Blunden
  • "The Flame Trees of Thika" by Elspeth Huxley
  • "Life with a Star" by Jiri Weil
  • "Barchester Towers" by Anthony Trollope
  • "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub
  • "Doomsday Book" By Connie Willis
  • "The Great Railway Bazaar" by Paul Theroux
  • "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy
  • "Master and Commander" by Patrick O'Brian
  • "Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Knowing Someone

"I didn't even have to apply. Remember Ed from our old organization? I ran into Ed one day and he said, "We need someone to head the widget compliance area. Come on over and work for me." Now I didn't know anything about widget compliance but things were getting strange in my current job and so in a couple of weeks I called Ed and asked him if he could raise the salary. He paused but said yes and so I went over there and I stayed until retirement. Great place to work and I learned a great deal about the subject."


  1. Has anything like this ever happened to you? If so, how frequently?
  2. In general, how often do you think selections like this take place?

Quote of the Day

It doesn't matter how beautiful the guess is, or how smart the guesser is, or how famous the guesser is; if the experiment disagrees with the guess, then the guess is wrong. That's all there is to it. 

- Richard Feynman

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Music Break

BBC Proms: Music from the James Bond films.

Strange and Sad

France 24 on the Germanwings plane crash

Here is a BBC report.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Becoming Steve Jobs

Fortune magazine reports that Apple execs are describing the new biography - Becoming Steve Jobs - as a more accurate depiction of the man they knew.

The book will be released today.

Prep Time

Identify. Focus. Research. Study. Think. Challenge. Review. Research some more. Review. Write. Discuss. Revise. Revise. Revise. Discuss. Revise. Present. And perhaps revise yet again.

In-between can come a lot of "What am I doing?" "What do they need?" "What does this mean?" "Do I agree with that?" "How shall I word this?" and "Is this clear enough?"

Sloppy, but it works.

Quote of the Day

If you go backward, you are going backward. 

- Henry Cloud

Monday, March 23, 2015

Music Break

1978. Bob Seger. "Still the Same."

Well Said

While we call our business "crisis management," more often than not we are really navigating...marketplace assaults, which are different from pure crises. A crisis is a house that caught on fire because lightning struck. The event was organic, an act of nature. In a marketplace assault, someone wanted the house to be on fire, so they torched it (and placed incendiary devices around the house to sabotage the work of firefighters). 

- From Damage Control: The Essential Lessons of Crisis Management by Eric Dezenhall and John Weber

Puff. Puff. Puff.

Sunday AM: I step on the scale. Flash. Flash Flash. Flash. Pow!  I’m up 11.5 lbs from my 2014 low. Can’t be. I get off and get on again. Flash. Flash Flash. Flash. Pow!  This accounts for the thickening, of the neck, the waist, the thighs.  Thankfully, the Man Advantage, the swell, is above the belt buckle and strategically centered where the shirt naturally puckers.  Man can let it all go — 15 to 20 pounds — before it’s obvious that he’s lost it all.

David Kanigan is jogging again. Seven miles after a long absence from the trail. And in 32 degree weather.

Oh Wow!

Eclecticity Light: Magnificent libraries.

First Paragraph

The blind man taps his cane rhythmically. Three taps, three taps, three taps to gain the attention of passing Berliners. He is a cadaverous sentry with a shaved pate under an old soldier's cap, selling pencils from a canister strung around his neck. A pyramid of dots is stamped onto the armband he wears, and his round black goggles are like two holes poked through the day, letting the night bleed through. Sigrid fishes out the coin purse from her bag as she emerges from the U-Bahn stairwell, and drops a few groschen into his cup. "Bless you," he rasps in answer to the jangle. "Please choose a pencil." She thanks him, but when he turns his head in the direction of her voice, something behind the blindness of those goggles seems to mark her. She puts the pencil into her handbag and crosses the street at the signal. 

- From City of Women by David R. Gillham

Recruitment Notice

NOTICE: The recent recruiting announcement for a managerial position invites formal applications from all qualified individuals with the following exceptions:

  1. People who have met the department head in the cocktail lounge during a professional conference may apply by providing their name and number on a napkin.
  2. Relatives of company executives may indirectly apply by remaining at home and watching daytime television while drinking beer or smoking pot and complaining about the lack of opportunities for Art History majors.
  3. Internal candidates who were present during the unfortunate scene at last year's Holiday Party may apply by telling the Chief Executive Officer that they would like the job.
  4. Any of the above cited candidates who are interested should disregard posted job requirements with the exception of "other duties as assigned."

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer

Dog Dictionary

  • Cats = Evil.
  • Couch = Secret sleeping area.
  • Destination = Opposite side of door.
  • Dogs = Fascinating.
  • Food = Insufficient.
  • Job = Eating and sleeping.
  • Mail delivery = Cause for insanity.
  • Nose = Never sleeps.
  • Owner = Companion and/or servant.
  • Pants = Napkin.

Quote of the Day

I cried because I did not have an office with a door, until I met a man who had no cubicle. 

- Dilbert

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Touch of Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh with the famous soliloquy.

The Firm of Jackson, Ingram, and Harden

Kurt Harden, a.k.a.  Cultural Offering, has forgotten more about music than I've ever known and has recently posted essential mixes for Joe Jackson and Jack Ingram.

Check 'em out.

Raymond Chandler Saturday

I got away from the Grand Jury a little after four, and then sneaked up the back stairs to Fenweather's office. Fenweather, the D.A., was a man with severe, chiseled features and the gray temples women love. He played with a pen on his desk and said: "I think they believed you. They might even indict Manny Tinnen for the Shannon kill this afternoon. If they do, then is the time you begin to watch your step."

Read the rest of "Finger Man."

Random Thoughts

The front yard may look great but the back yard tells the real story. When observing negotiations, consider which side wants an agreement the most. That side is the likely loser. In the lives of people and organizations, there is often one small change which can make an enormous difference and yet it is overlooked because of a fixation on larger matters. The trick is to find it. There should be at least one novel in your life which is periodically re-read. Mine used to be The Wind in the Willows, then it moved to A Confederacy of Dunces. I've been thinking about an annual reading of Vanity Fair but The Wind in the Willows is magical and shorter. A friend of mine mentioned that baseball is one of the few games in which the defense has the ball. Although this is often said of any presidential election, the next one will indeed be one of the most important in American history. Biographies should include a section on distractions. I bless the person who invented the file folder. The most popular game in any nation is rarely acknowledged. It is called "Kick the Can Down the Road." Anyone who has spent time with lawyers, business executives, and professors won't automatically assume that those groups are better qualified for high office. At any time of the day, if I listen closely, I can hear a chore calling my name. Flowers, coffee, and a good newspaper can brighten a morning. My dog and I are developing a common language. We live in a world where the least deserving grumble. One of the most worthless exercises is trying to determine why you made a mistake 20 years ago. Some people will buy any nonsense if it is labeled new or creative. Iced coffee is a private joy. The secret to stumbling is to stumble uphill. All of us need to practice saying, "I was wrong."

Another Side of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

What books are currently on your night stand?

“The Baron in the Trees,” by Italo Calvino: a delightful and tremendously enjoyable little novel on boyhood defiance. “The Hobbit,” by J. R. R. Tolkien: as compelling as ever. “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business,” by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen: an incisive analysis of how the age of technology affects everything.

Read all of The New York Times interview.

Quote of the Day

Ted Williams, who knew just about everything there was to know about hitting, was always trying to learn more. 

- Ernie Harwell

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Magnificent 7th

Von Karajan and The Berliner Philharmoniker with some Ludwig Van for the evening.

Back to Basics

Spinato's Pizzeria

Some of us cannot resist a pizza called Get Meaty.

It is as good as it sounds. Marvelous.

Art Break: Cunard

Art Contrarian looks at paintings and photographs of (not by) Nancy Cunard.

No Curtains

Wired: Who is monitoring your email in-box?

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Don't Forget the Moonpie

A 104-year-old woman drinks three Dr. Peppers a day. Her doctors have advised against it but they keep dying off.

[HT: Drudge Report]

The Education of Unorganized Hancock

It's not that strange that our boys are able to perform in front of a live audience, for a full three hours if necessary, and entertain the people in front of them. That's what a vocational approach to education produces. But don't get me wrong; we don't reserve the vocational approach to learning to this one subject. My wife teaches them everything the same way. They are taught to write in order to produce useful text. We haven't mistaken handing our children an Apple anything for "technology." Our children can fix a computer and write computer programs, not just stare blankly at one. It is our desire that they will be useful to others at everything. History class is to know history, not opinions. Spelling class is, well, it's the only spelling class left on planet Earth, so I can assure you it's the finest approach to spelling there is. 

Read the rest at Sippican Cottage.

Failing as Progress

Wally Bock challenges "fail fast and fail often."

I agree with his view that failure should not be a goal. My interpretation of the line is that you should recognize that failure often accompanies large endeavors and that if you are going to fail, it is better to fail quickly than to have a prolonged version of failure. I sometimes think of lawyers who work on litigation for years, only to lose in the end but there are many careers that operate in the zone of "not quite success" and "not quite failure." If that is acceptable, then fine, but if not then perhaps outright and fast failure would be preferable because it would shift efforts toward another goal, one which might be achievable.

The Great Unmentioned

The organization decided it needed to change. Most of its leaders were in agreement although a few were resistant and wanted to continue the old ways. As the debate continued, there was the great unmentioned - in some cases unknown - truth that the bureaucracy was designed not to change and that unless the policies were altered and monitored to avoid slippage, the leaders could turn the helm one direction but the ship would continue in another.

Orders could be shouted, curses could be screamed, but until the underlying mechanism was fixed, nothing would seriously change.

Quote of the Day

By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. 

- Confucius

Thursday, March 19, 2015


The source for many an elementary school book report.

The Mandatory Exhaustion

I taught a workshop today and am now exhausted.

It's my style.

I've seen instructors who sit during their presentations and occasionally pop a PowerPoint slide on the screen. Each time, I've felt some envy. They aren't bad instructors. They present good solid, information, but I couldn't use their sedentary approach.

We each develop our own styles. Part of mine involves an energetic, fast-paced presentation of the material; one that conveys a passion for the subject. I rarely get a chance to sit down and I'm not stuck behind a lectern. Questions may be asked at any time and there is a lot of pacing as well as a mass of case examples.

I know of instructors who can quickly resume a normal lifestyle after training. Not so in my case. I want to collapse. Every step to my car on the way back could be felt.

The class, however, was a success. That's what matters.

Getting to Ground Level

Our fixation on the horizon can make us stumble. Our view of The Big Picture can produce inactivity and intimidate us into thinking that the task is just too large. Our list of the big projects is a formula for depression and a daily or weekly review of our lack of progress can quickly put us in the dumps.

Ground-level is needed. Small is needed. Short and quick actions which are completed are necessary.

We'll eventually get to our goal with this approach. Although impatience will bark at us, we'll get there faster than if we thought Big and did Nothing.

Quote of the Day

You cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships. 

- Steven R. Covey

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Golden Age

Illustration magazine has information on the book.

Evil in Tunisia

We should never, ever, get used to these attacks.


Part I of my online class on supervision: Proofed 
Part II: To be done this afternoon.
Materials for the upcoming EEO workshop: Ready.
Briefcase: Packed but for the obligatory cans of espresso.
Background music: Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations.
In the wings: Leon Redbone.
Sky: Cloudy:
Dog: Restless.

In the Air

I ask for a Diet Coke. It will dissolve a nail and here you are fueling your tank. She offers me the entire can. Just drink half Do it.  I slug it back, all of it, like a thirsty sailor. There are no napkins, those cost extra, so I wipe the spillage with my shirt sleeve. Class.
And, it’s choppy.
Read the rest of a memorable post by David Kanigan, seasoned traveler.

Does It Work with Ukrainians?

At Althouse: Alec Baldwin, talking to another noted humorist, on his favorite way of making people laugh.