Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween NIght

Door bell ringing. Dog barking. I'm working on marketing stuff. Wife is handing out loot.

The Vikings have landed.

[Final count: Over 300 trick or treaters. A record.]

First Paragraph

Today I shocked the lawyers, and it surprised me, the effect I could have on them. A thunderstorm arose as we were leaving the court for lunch. They dashed for cover under the awning of a nearby shop to save their suits from getting wet while I stood in the street and opened my mouth to it, transported back and seeing again that other rain as it came at us in gray sheets. I had lived through that downpour, but the moment in the street was my first notion that I could live it again, that I could be immersed in it, that it could again be the tenth day in the lifeboat, when it began to rain. 

- From The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

MusIc and Vampire Break

No Halloween is complete without "In the Hall of the Mountain King."

P.S. And a vampire.

Best Factual Podcasts?

CoolTools has a list of the top 50 most popular factual podcasts in 2015. 

It's an interesting list although I get wary whenever a line such as "the whip-smart editors at the New Yorker" pops up.

Twin Strangers

Althouse has an intriguing photo

A man gets on a plane and seated next to him is a stranger who looks just like, well, him.

With the passing of Richard Burton I no longer have that problem.

Discovering Trollope

In City Journal, Melanie Kirkpatrick explores her late discovery of Anthony Trollope. 

My own introduction was similar and took place in my fifties. I recall wondering why Trollope didn't get more attention.

Highly recommended:
  • Barchester Towers
  • The Warden
  • The Way We Live Now

Snow Day

Since I'm nonathletic and live in Phoenix, I don't really relate to this Nike ad.

On the other hand, if they had a scene of a guy in a chair near a fireplace, that would be close enough.

Accurate Newspaper Section Titles

In order to encourage accuracy in journalism, I propose the following newspaper section titles:
  • Food That is Trying to Kill You
  • Famous People You Wouldn't Want to Know
  • Crisis of the Day
  • Millionaires Who Play Sports
  • The Daily Obituary Search
  • Something Bloody Near You
  • Something Bloody Far Away
  • Mindless Entertainment
  • Letters from Loons

Quote of the Day

As a general rule of thumb, the more purple the prose in a tourist brochure, the more wretched the place described. 

- Tony Horwitz

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ted Goff

Scroll down on the right side of this page and check the business cartoon.

Ted Goff should be a household name.

The Official Pre-Halloween Song

Warren Zevon: "Werewolves of London."

"His hair was perfect."

Costume Winner

Anderson Layman's Blog has found the most unusual Halloween costumes I've seen so far. 

I doubt if they would be a hit in Marin County.

We are expecting our usual 200+ kids this year but my wife does the candy-dispensing chores. 

I lurk in another room and attempt to calm down our noble dog who does a Werewolf of London routine every time the doorbell rings.

It's no treat.

Great Moments in Film-Making

Image result for mars needs women

Since Halloween is tomorrow, it is appropriate to view the terrifying trailer to a classic horror film.

Work/Life Balance

Read this wise post by Wally Bock on work/life balance and what's next. An excerpt:

Most of the times in my life when I’ve been the happiest and the most productive, my life hasn’t been very balanced at all. But I was able to make choices based on what I thought was important at the time.

And the unhappy, unproductive times? Those were the ones where I didn’t have a choice. When circumstances or other people or the consequences of earlier choices took away my choice, life was not very good at all.

Art Break: Brangwyn

Art Contrarian looks at the mural-style art of Frank Brangwyn.

Slade House

David Mitchell's new and scary novel has a connection to Samuel Johnson's house?

Count me in.

Here's the review in The Wall Street Journal.


Brilliance and Scrutiny

A friend called to get my opinion about an idea. It could be brilliant if the stars are properly aligned, 

I don't say that sarcastically. The idea has a lot going for it but the potential flaws need to be considered along with its promise. Having had a few brilliant ideas of my own, I'm aware that they often look different in the daylight.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea but the "ifs" have to be explored. A problem with brilliant ideas is that their aura can prevent consideration of the obvious.

I suggested running it by some smart people over the next week, listen carefully to their reactions, and then see if it's still brilliant.

It may look even better or it may not but the "look" itself will be worthwhile.

Quote of the Day

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly. 

- Benjamin Franklin on the virtue of Sincerity

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Music Break

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony at the BBC Proms.

Down the Mountain

I had a great bunch of people in my EEO workshop today. While I taught, the storm clouds moved in and they opened up as I left Flagstaff. 

A pounding rain; the sort that causes even the most reckless drivers to slow down.

By the time I reached Camp Verde and turned up the mountain near the General Crook Trail (the scene of a lot of history in the days when General Crook was chasing Geronimo) the clouds were low and beautiful but the rain was relentless.

It's good to be home. I wonder how the San Francisco Peaks will look tomorrow.

Film Break

The trailers for:

Popular Hobbies of the Unhappy

  • Self-Reproach
  • Underestimating
  • Celebrity Monitoring
  • Over-Promising
  • Scattered Attention
  • Immediate Gratification
  • Impatience
  • Envy

Quote of the Day

Dig deep; the water - goodness - is down there. And as long as you keep digging, it will keep bubbling up. 

- Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Just to Cheer You Up

The trailer for "The Big Short."

Road Music

Reading for the Road

Planning a trip. 

It will be a good time to wrap up some projects in addition to the main purpose: conducting a workshop on Equal Employment Opportunity. What goes into the briefcases is important.

Billing items, an audit checklist, and the draft of a client manual are key but what else should be tucked away? Plato and Marcus Aurelius are coming along. So too is Tony Horwitz's One for the Road about his hitchhiking travels in Australia. I really should finish Give and Take by Adam Grant but that will be left behind.

Now the reality: I'll pack them but will only have time, if lucky, for one.

If you are going to over-pack, let it be books.

An American Treasure

Tom Wolfe, speaking at the National Press Club, on American literature and journalism. [Zip past the introduction to get to Wolfe's speech.]

I intend to re-read A Man in Full when I have enough time to do it justice.


"They have experts."

"And we have experts."

"Their lawyers issued an opinion."

"And our lawyers issued an opposing opinion. Look, this isn't a matter that can be resolved by numbers. We have to look at it and decide which side is correct. We hope it's our side but let's not make assumptions."



Old Dog

Quote of the Day

What injures the hive injures the bee. 

- Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jagged Times and More

The incomparable Nicholas Bate always gives us a lot to think about.

The Good Old Days

The trailer for "The Last Kingdom."

An Evil Day

It was an evil day when the "Reply All" button was invented.


Some ground rules to keep in mind:

  • Take time to consider the human dimension. Your most important decisions affect people, not objects.
  • If you have been working on a project and bad things may occur, take time to tell people about your suspicions. Give them some early warning. No one likes to be dropped on his head and if it is suspected that you knew and didn't sound an alarm, you'll lose a lot of trust.
  • Recognize that very, very, very clever ideas should be approached with caution.
  • Check your assumptions.
  • Ask anyone who is a key player for a description of the worst case scenario. It may not match your own.
  • Be sensitive to sudden quiet periods. That is seldom a good sign.
  • Do a pre-mortem and ask yourself what would be the likely cause if things went wrong.
  • Write down your ground rules and keep them handy. What is vivid today will have faded tomorrow.
  • Practice mindfulness. Look, listen, and absorb.

When the Frost is on the Punkin

This has become an Execupundit tradition:

Kent Risley with 
a marvelous recitation of the poem.

Quote of the Day

We gladly feast upon those who would subdue us.

- Addams Family Motto ("Not just pretty words." - Morticia Addams)

Monday, October 26, 2015

60 Adventure Novels

  1. The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters
  2. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  3. True Grit by Charles Portis
  4. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  5. The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna
  6. Tai-Pan by James Clavell
  7. The Hobbit by J,R.R. Tolkien
  8. Master and Commander (The Aubrey-Maturin series) by Patrick O'Brian
  9. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  10. Ride with Me by Thomas Costain
  11. The Berrybinder Narratives by Larry McMurtry
  12. Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
  13. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  14. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  15. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
  16. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  17. A Darkening Stain by Robert Wilson
  18. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  19. The Comedians by Graham Greene
  20. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  21. High Adventure by Donald Westlake
  22. Midshipman Bolitho (The Bolitho series) by Alexander Kent
  23. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  24. The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
  25. The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
  26. Sahara by Clive Cussler
  27. Beau Geste by P.C. Wren
  28. Shogun by James Clavell
  29. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (The Harry Potter series) by J.K. Rowling
  31. Warlord by Malcolm Bosse
  32. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  33. A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd
  34. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
  35. The Adventures of Jamie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
  36. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  37. Pompeii by Robert Harris
  38. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
  39. The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
  40. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  41. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  42. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  43. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  44. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  45. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Ecco
  46. Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem
  47. Mila 18 by Leon Uris
  48. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  49. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  50. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  51. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
  52. The Monkey-Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
  53. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  54. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  55. Soulless by Gail Carriger
  56. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
  57. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  58. Black Robe by Brian Moore
  59. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
  60. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Quote of the Day

Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness. 

- James Thurber

Sunday, October 25, 2015


I always have hope for the nation after visiting Cultural Offering and Sippican Cottage

Great families. Great kids.

First Paragraph

The place was silent and aware

- From Beau Geste by P.C. Wren

Art Break: Harden

Creek. Pen sketch by Libby Harden

Seems to fit the day perfectly.

Creek. A pen sketch by Libby Harden.


I recall a story from World War II about an American soldier who found a German cigarette butt near a combat zone; a seemingly meaningless find except the American intelligence officers knew that wasn't just any cigarette but instead was one used exclusively by a certain SS unit.

That story came to mind recently while reading an email. One small bit of information, mentioned as an aside, was combined with three other items that had been received from three other people to produce a very interesting and important piece of information.

Projects need information clearinghouses. Usually that is only one person but if diligent that individual can achieve a sense of what is known and not known.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Sherlock Special

Here is the trailer. An interesting twist.

Check One Toad

Thanks to Anderson Layman's Blog, I can now say that I've heard Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Art Break: Henderson

Art Contrarian looks at the New Mexican paintings of William Penhallow Henderson.

Unspoken Thoughts While Learning

  • "Get to the point. Get to the point. Get to the point."
  • "This is rather boring. Wait."
  • "So what this means in plain language is . . . ."
  • "His idea is completely opposed to ____'s concept."
  • "Who's right?"
  • "Why was that word used?"
  • "Is that metaphor on point?"
  • "Something is wrong with the mental picture."
  • "That's not really true."
  • "A huge assumption!"
  • "A slayer of straw men."
  • "Does this detour have anything to do with the central message?"
  • "What is the author's bias?"
  • "This is completely unintelligible."
  • "Only a college professor could believe this."
  • "What is not being said?"
  • "Let me re-word that."
  • "The author included that scene for a reason. What was it?"
  • "What's a better description?"
  • "How can I remember this?"
  • "Why should I remember this?"

The Desk

I'm fighting a holding action with my desk. 

After much ground was seized a few weekends ago, I'm being pushed back by paper and books. I have no choice but to use office management's equivalent of a limited nuclear weapon: massive throw-outs with minimal or no scrutiny of what's being tossed.

It will be brutal but sovereignty is at stake.

Report to follow.

Quote of the Day

You know of the disease in Central Africa called sleeping sickness. . . . There also exists a sleeping sickness of the soul. Its most dangerous aspect is that one is unaware of its coming. That is why you have to be careful. As soon as you notice the slightest sign of indifference, the moment you become aware of the loss of a certain seriousness, of longing, of enthusiasm and zest, take it as a warning. You should realize your soul suffers if you live superficially. 

- Albert Schweitzer

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Last Witch Hunter

Many of you come here to catch up on potential Oscar contenders. 

I wonder how much they paid Michael Caine.

The Noble Dog

Ready for the weekend.

The Neglected Chores List

I've decided to make a formal List of Neglected Chores.

If I fail to accord those tasks the formality they deserve, they are too easily forgotten. When forgotten they turn into snares.

So far the system is working.

First Paragraph

If Winston Churchill had got his way, there would have been no major German war criminals to prosecute in 1945 and no Nuremberg Military Tribunal to try them. It was Churchill's earnest wish, which he expressed repeatedly in the months running up to the end of the European war in May 1945, that captured German leaders, whether party bosses, soldiers, or ministers, should be identified positively on the say of any local army officer with the rank of major-general or above, and then shot within six hours. 

- From Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945 by Richard Overy

Bad Things Happen

Bad things happen when people are:
  • Heavily into immediate gratification.
  • Reluctant to surrender even minor status.
  • Too tired to make rational decisions.
  • Guided by hubris.
  • Impatient when delay is needed.
  • Proud of an ability to finagle their way through life.
  • Loyal to rogues.
  • Kind to the cruel.
  • Too clever by half.
  • Sensitive to all failings but their own.

Quote of the Day

Half the joy of life is in the little things taken on the run. Let us run if we must - even the sands do that - but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open that nothing worth our while shall escape us. 

- Victor Cherbuliez

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Homes of Writers

Architectural Digest: "The homes of ten literary greats."

Stars at Their Best

A clip from "Touch of Evil" featuring Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich.

"You're a mess, honey."

Too Much of a Good Thing

  • Too much thinking and there is an action deficit.
  • Too much caring and there is a weakness surplus.
  • Too much busyness and there is a decline in priorities.
  • Too much involvement and there is a lack of perspective.
  • Too much confidence and reality is hidden.


A brief video of theologian/novelist Frederick Buechner on finding your vocation.

Quote of the Day

Why so some people always see beautiful skies and grass and lovely flowers and incredible human beings, while others are hard-pressed to find anything or any place that is beautiful? 

- Leo Buscaglia

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


From Voices of Music: A touch of Purcell for the evening.


Every year, as Christmas approaches, I find myself saying, "I hope Hollywood puts out another dysfunctional family film. The world needs more of those."

Here's hoping this is more than it appears to be.

The Durability of Books

Neil Gaiman in The Guardian in 2013:

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.


Stephen Fry on his favorite book.

Plus a strange but good video on "18 great books you probably haven't read."

What is one of your favorite books that others probably have not read?

Music Break

The United States Army Field Band: "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

Wisdom and Wit

This and much more at Anderson Layman's Blog.

A Note That Deserves Deliberation

It is better to "dash off" a note of thanks than to delay and ultimately never send it at all.

On the other hand, the best "thank you" notes should be approached with the recognition that they will receive far more attention from the recipient than from the sender and often they are saved.

When it comes to human relations, they are not minor documents.

Art Break: Vienna's Life Ball

Muddy Colors has the Vienna Life Ball's photographic portrayals of paintings by Gustav Klimt.

Inequality, Values, and Freedom

Fourth, family disintegration cripples the primary transmitter of social capital — the habits, mores, customs and dispositions necessary for seizing opportunities. When 72 percent of African American children and 53 percent of Hispanic children are born to unmarried women, and 40 percent of all births are to unmarried women, and a majority of all mothers under 30 are not living with the fathers of their children, the consequences for the life chances, and lifetime earnings, of millions of children are enormous.

Read the rest of George Will's column.

How Organizations Get Weird

  1. Dysfunctional individuals are hired.
  2. They gain influence and power within the organization.
  3. They attract, hire, and promote people similar to themselves.
  4. Those people do the same.
  5. Eventually, normal people leave or are driven off. Anyone remaining adjusts to the new arrangement.
  6. The organization itself is altered and its practices foster and nurture dysfunctional people.
  7. All of the above can happen in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Quote of the Day

To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult. 

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sinatra Select

Maxim: In December you can buy a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey in celebration of one of the beverage's biggest fans.

It's not cheap but after a few drinks you'll think you can sing like Sinatra.

First Paragraph

"Autobiography," wrote Lord Vansittart, "would be easier had we all eccentric parents." Though my own parents lacked that distinction, my paternal grandfather was eccentric enough to make up for the deficiency. 

- From The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs by George W. Ball


The trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Responses to "One Biography"

Here is the question that was posted a few days ago: 

"If you could have only one single-volume biography to read for insight and inspiration over the next five years, which one would it be?"

Here are the responses to date:
  • Kurt Harden: "My Early Life" by Winston Churchill
  • Matt R: "A Guide for the Perplexed" by Werner Herzog
  • Wally Bock: "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin"
  • Daniel Richwine: "The Confessions of Saint Augustine" by Saint Augustine
  • Steve Layman: "Emerson: The Mind on Fire" by Robert D. Richardson, Jr.
Excellent choices all. [The Herzog and Emerson choices were big surprises.]

My own selection would be "John Adams" by David McCullough.

Amazon's Response to The New York Times

The good news for Amazon: They have a very good response to the negative article in The New York Times.

The bad news is it is delivered by Jay Carney.

The Architect

This poster of George Costanza (at Eclecticity Light, of course) sparked a suggestion for Los Angeles: Name streets after fictional characters.

"Go three blocks on Costanza and then turn right on Dirty Harry."