Commentary by Michael Wade on Leadership, Ethics, Management, and Life
Monday, November 30, 2015
Art Break: Freud
Art Contrarian looks at the work of Lucian Freud.
The Future of Libraries
Ben Schiller at Fast Company explores the future of libraries.
My quick reaction: A raised eyebrow.
Any time I see the word "collaborative" I want more details. Is there a "wow" item?
Anderson Layman's Blog has the annual Iron Butterfly extravaganza.
Quickly name three songs by Iron Butterfly.
On the other hand, it is better to have one memorable song than no songs at all.
Increasing the Difficulty
There is so much wisdom in Anthony Trollope's Phineas Finn that I regret not having read it as a young man.
Quote of the Day
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
- Bill Gates
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Most of our struggles and conflicts in life involve good people who happen to disagree with our perspective on a particular matter.
They are not evil. The sad news, however, is that good people - and let's throw ourselves in that pool - are capable to doing some pretty shabby things; a fact that needs to be remembered more often.
The evil individuals, of course, are in an entirely different realm but are not on a different planet. There is a road connecting their realm to our own world.
It runs in both directions and the trip to and fro can be made quickly.
Quote of the Day
An inexhaustible good nature is one of the most precious gifts of heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the wind smooth and equable in the roughest weather.
- Washington Irving
Friday, November 27, 2015
Simon and Garfunkel with "The Boxer."
"At Least He Did Something"
"At least he (or she) did something."
That's a very low bar. It may even be a counter-productive one because it assumes that any action is better than none and that a policy of inaction would not have ultimately produced far superior results.
- Neville Chamberlain? "At least he did something."
- The Bay of Pigs? "At least he did something."
When you explore many of the "did something" moments you find that the bold action made matters worse.
Now I'm as action-oriented as most Americans. I like to see things moving along and am not in love with paralysis-by-analysis. At the same time, action for action's sake is seldom a good move. Later, when reality begins to intervene, you'll hear the "At least he or she did something" excuses.
Don't buy them.
Secretary of State George Shultz used to urge, "Don't just do something, stand there."
My own advice would be, "Do something wise but recognize that may mean sitting tight. Don't succumb to the temptation to do something so you can later say you did something. Action for action's sake is the policy of someone looking for an alibi, not the measured action of a real leader who seeks real progress."
Art Break: Schiele
Art Contrarian looks at the "nicer" paintings of Egon Schiele.
There is something about sharing a fine meal with your family even if Old Dad's midsection is bound by a giant device that looks like an ACME rubber band in the Roadrunner cartoons.
Good stories, laughter, and a dog nearby to remind us of higher responsibilities.
Thanksgiving is a truly great holiday.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
A memorable introduction and performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Still Another Music Break
The Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra with the overture to Barber's "The School for Scandal."
1939: Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial.
Talent and grace.
Health Food Update
The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.
It is one o'clock in the morning. I have at least two more hours of studying to do, and I am struggling to stay alert by gulping coffee that was cold at midnight.
My friend Steven warned me before I came here that most of my classmates would be former engineers, consultants, and financial analysts, people who knew who to work with numbers. "Then there'll be a few students with flaky backgrounds like yours," he said. "Poets. You know, people who've never done anything real for a living."
Today this poet sat through all three of his classes feeling utterly lost, then went to the library and studied "utility maximization" models for two hours but still couldn't do the problem. Finally, I gave up and went to the campus bookstore. When I picked up a book I recognized, the Divine Comedy, I flipped to the canto in which Dante finds himself standing at the gates of the inferno, looking up at the inscription:
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE.
That's me all right, I thought. A poet in hell.
- From Snapshots From Hell: The Making of an MBA by Peter Robinson
Althouse: In a stylish form of complaint, a man sends 240 coconut-covered donuts to the police.
I thought his note was well-done but am perplexed at the prejudice against coconut donuts.
BTW: The donuts were donated to the Salvation Army.
This brief video clip should be on a running loop in every student union in America.
Is There a "Release the Hounds" Option?
FutureLawyer looks at the Ring Video Doorbell; a rather nifty product that allows you to be in Rangoon and see who's at your front door in Walla Walla.
Singing Songs of Love
The Hurdy Gurdy Man is at Anderson Layman's Blog.
Just in time to memorize it for your completely unsolicited Thanksgiving dinner solo.
Missing in Action
Quote of the Day
Seek out that particular mental attitude which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, "This is the real me," and when you have found that attitude, follow it.
- William James
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Customer Service and Mrs. Smith
A short video of former Phoenix fire chief Alan Brunacini on customer service.
Brunacini is an old friend and a legend in the fire service. One of his concepts is a fictitious customer named "Mrs. Smith." You'll hear some Mrs. Smith references in the video.
The idea is a river fed by small streams. I could see the connections and its nature but was unclear as to its direction and its boundaries until this morning when I was lying in bed and could jot down the governing premise.
I've been looking at the river for years but could not see it through the fog.
That happens more than we realize.
News You Can Use
Althouse points to a toilets around the world slide show.
Don't pretend you don't want to check it out.
Insert Brilliant Post Here
Make it sharp and pithy. Approach a topic in a new way or remind people of something they may have forgotten. Evoke a strong desire to forward the message to others.
Oh yes, put the text beneath a picture of an attractive person even if the photo is only slightly related to the topic.
Go back to bed.
Quote of the Day
Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.
- Maxwell Maltz
Monday, November 23, 2015
Leo Rosten and Friedrich Hayek discussing democracy, special interests, and dictatorships.
Glued up. Taped up. Cleaned up.
Aside from occasional exhaustion, I'm ready for the week.
Or at least for the day.
This does not come without difficulties. In order to avoid nursing duties, my wife fell and broke her arm on the day I returned from the hospital.
Impeccable timing but since I'm a world-class tripper I can hardly find fault.
We've since adopted a mutual recovery alliance and monitor each other's progress. The children have been particularly helpful via frequent visits to keep the house in order. The dog is eager to see us shift back into full elderly retainer mode.
My condition is far more serious and deserves far greater sympathy and support - the sort normally given to royalty - so I've suggested a formula to apportion assistance fairly.
"I wish only to please" is one of the key phrases.
My wife finds this highly amusing. She's already on the mend.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Streaming video from Barberini Square in Rome.
Art Break: Munch
Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edvard Munch.
Lying in bed. Remembering an investigation I conducted many years ago in a small Texas town. I'd fly in to Lubbock and drive and drive. Not a mountain on the horizon. Scattered farms. The occasional small town with a garage, a hamburger joint, a church, and a few shops and then - bam - you're past it and heading for the next one. Some are so close to one another that you wonder what draws people to live in one versus the other since they are almost indistinguishable, at least to me, but if you're going to live there then such distinctions probably don't matter.
I met with managers who wore white, short-sleeved shirts. All carried a multitude of pens. All were friendly. I was the alien from another world, come to learn about their operations. My every move was studied. If I chose a Dr. Pepper from the vending machine, that would be remembered.
The office workers had been there for years although some would occasionally escape to a better-paying job with more benefits at a nearby prison. The mill workers had equal longevity. They would be covered with lint and during each visit I'd wonder how long it must take every evening to shower away the dirt. Some jobs require an evening or afternoon shower. My guess is it provides a different perspective on each day.
It is easy to visit a remote location and silently ask, "Why are you here?" But if they visited me and saw the traffic and masses of people they may believe I live in a strange and remote spot where you can't possibly know over 95 percent of the people in town.
They may want to ask me the same question.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Forgive me for re-posting but I'm still regaining strength and I find this works wonders.
A Modest Suggestion for University Presidents
Speaking as one who has worked in the area of equal opportunity since 1974, I make this modest suggestion:
The evidence does not indicate that your students, faculty members, and administrators need more training on diversity or sensitivity. For the most part, they have been marinated in those subjects. It is even possible that some of their previous training was so poorly done that it has produced your current problems.
What they really need are workshops on the United States Constitution, due process, and freedom of expression.
One additional need: University administrators who don't cave in to intimidation.
[Update: A reprise of Howard Jacobson's speech against a boycott of Israel.]
Streaming video from Market Square in Bruges.
The Lush Desert
My side of the bed currently has newspapers, a book on the development of Phoenix, a device to test my breathing strength (I'm a champ), and Light in August by William Faulkner.
I started reading the Faulkner book last night and was transported to another time and place. Like Faulkner's other books, it must be read slowly because it well illustrates a technique that made him one of America's greatest authors.
Writers are often admonished: "Show them. Don't tell them." In Faulkner's case, it is more like "Don't show them or tell them but entice them to discover it in the gaps."
"Second City Syndrome"
Urban Dictionary defines "second city syndrome":
When a smaller city talks down on a larger city due to insecurity of its own size and/or having less culture, music, art, employment. Usually this happens between two cities that are relatively close to one another.
Some great West Coast examples are Portland and Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Quote of the Day
It is better to be a mover and a shaker and a stander and a taker-of-stairs and a walker.
Than an infrequent gym user.
- Nicholas Bate
Friday, November 20, 2015
Who wouldn't want to ride on this?
Cultural Offering gets into the sensitive question of when to begin playing Christmas music.
In the Wade household, the traditional rule has been "No Christmas music until returning from the Thanksgiving dinner." That rule was used when Thanksgiving was held out of town and we listened to carols on the long drive home. We may now adjust it to Thanksgiving evening, in part out of eagerness for one of the fine musical recommendations of a blogger named Kurt Harden.
There are days when wisdom consists of pointing out the elephant and the giraffe to people who are standing in a zoo.~ You should never worry about whether something you have done persuades evil people to commit evil acts. Those people are quite creative at inventing reasons on their own.~ I would be impressed by a college that gives credits for blue collar labor. ~ To repeat myself: If you want to learn about people, read Dickens, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy. ~ All of us want to be mysterious but we also hope that our wishes will be anticipated. ~ Some of our proudest moments in life were among our toughest. ~ It is rare to hear a thoroughly honest confession of a bad decision. ~ Don't let the desire for a happy ending prevent you from fulfilling your responsibilities. ~ If the government ran a Witness Protection Program where noncriminals would pay for a new identity, that could be a real money-maker. ~ History is now and you are on the stage. - Begin each day with a desire to help at least one person. Sounds hokey perhaps, but people have done it for you. ~ Soap and sleep are two of our greatest pleasures. ~ Make a point of watching the night sky every day. You will reap benefits.
Quote of the Day
Balance is the perfect state of still water. Let that be our model. It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Old Blue Eyes
New York Post: Burt Reynolds tells a memorable story about Frank Sinatra.
Bloggers on TV
Idea: Blogger Talk Show
Description: Two top bloggers host discussions with a range of guests on current issues.
Hosts: Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse.
Benefits: They are far better informed than the average talk show participants and have different perspectives. This would reach a new audience and there would be continuous ripples throughout the blogosphere..
Civil Liberties and Fighting ISIS
From France 24: French lawmakers debate expanded security measures.
Art Break: When Artists Know How to Model
At Muddy Colors, Donato provides interesting examples of artists using other artists as models.
Health Food Update
The Pioneer Woman shows how to make No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars.
Leadership in a Crisis
The central message required from a leader in a crisis is one of control. Fear is reduced if people sense the leader is in control of the situation. If the leader conveys a failure to grasp reality, then fear will increase because one cannot have control without knowledge of the circumstances.
The gold standard for this leadership can be found in Winston Churchill's speeches and conduct shortly after he became prime minister in 1940.
Churchill, unlike Hitler, didn't make speeches indicating that victory was certain. He spoke of the challenges and conditions and acknowledged what needed to be done. Those admissions ["Wars are not won by evacuations."] increased his credibility. They boosted courage while reducing fear. He was not denying what people could see with their own eyes nor was he operating with a view of history that seemed more attuned to someone who has just fallen, as the expression goes, off the turnip truck.
Conveying a strong grasp of reality signals a strong sense of control and that, in turn, produces credibility. No reality or control = no credibility.
When that happens, people get very nervous.
View from My Desk
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
When I was in high school, my friends and I would argue over which writer was best: Hemingway or Steinbeck?
Sometimes Faulkner was thrown into the fray.
I ran with a strange crew.
Even earlier, there was an odd desire to identify the best ballplayer or the best singer. By high school, however, I knew that there is a level of talent that is unique - think Beethoven or The Beatles - and the competition is not even in the game. Even with ability that is not sui generis, comparisons often don't seem to work because the level of talent is too different to be wisely compared.
This doesn't mean that employers shouldn't seek and hire the best qualified. They should but there are occasions when one candidate is just different than the other and the question becomes, "Which difference do we need at this time?"
When John William Swilling was born in 1830, the future site of Phoenix was two thousand miles away, deep inside Mexico in a forbidding and mysterious wilderness.
- From A Brief History of Phoenix by John Talton
When you are so taped up that you cannot bend over, a crowbar is a convenient device for picking up the newspapers.
10 Rules for Thanksgiving
I wrote this post several years ago and it is now an Execupundit tradition:
- Thou shalt not discuss politics at the dinner. There is next to no chance that you'll convert anyone and any hard feelings that are generated may last long after the pumpkin pie is finished. Why spoil a good meal?
- Thou shalt limit discussion of The Big Game. This is mainly directed at the men who choose to argue plays, records, and coaches while their wives stare longingly at the silverware. The sharp silverware.
- Thou shalt say nice things about every dish. Including the bizarre one with Jello and marshmallows.
- Thou shalt be especially kind to anyone who may feel left out. Some Thanksgiving guests are tag-alongs or, as we say in the business world, "new to the organization." Make a point of drawing them in.
- Thou shalt be wary of gossip. After all, do you know what they say when you leave the room? Remember the old saying: All of the brothers are valiant and all of the sisters are virtuous.
- Thou shalt not hog the white or dark meat. We know you're on Atkins but that's no excuse.
- Thou shalt think mightily before going back for seconds. Especially if that means waddling back for seconds.
- Thou shalt not get drunk. Strong drink improves neither your wit nor your discretion. Give everyone else a gift by remaining sober.
- Thou shalt be cheerful. This is not a therapy session. This is not the moment to recount all of the mistakes in your life or to get back at Uncle Bo for the wisecrack he made at your high school graduation. This is a time for Rule #10.
- Thou shalt be thankful. You're above ground and functioning in an extraordinary place at an extraordinary time. Many people paid a very heavy price (and I'm not talking about groceries) to give you this day. Take some time to think of them and to express gratitude to your friends and relatives. Above all, give special thanks to the divine power who blesses you in innumerable ways.
Many thanks to all of you who sent prayers and good wishes.
I'm home now and hobbling about. Getting up from a chair is carefully thought out. Mindfulness is the key word (as it should always be) but all is on track and I should be back to my usual vigor (think Three-Toed Sloth) in a couple of weeks.
A previous hospital visit produced an interesting reaction to pain medication - dreams of giant woodchucks - but I had such little amounts of medication this time around nothing came close to that experience. There were no Turok: Son of Stone moments.
Thanks again. All went well. It's great to be back.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Saturday, November 14, 2015
E.H. Shepard and The Great War
Cory Godbey at Muddy Colors has an interesting post on a new book and exhibition featuring the illustrator of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.
We will be hearing much in the coming weeks about the necessity to screen Syrian refugees.
As someone who has worked with employers on hiring and screening procedures for years I have a basic and sincere question:
Since refugees rarely arrive with solid documentation and reliable or even accessible references, how are they screened?
I haven't heard an answer that goes into the process. All answers I've heard go to the result, e.g. "They need to be carefully screened."
Exactly how is that going to be done? Who will do it? How long will that take?
I highly recommend this extraordinary novel by Anthony Doerr.
Simply stunning. It is one of the best books I've read in years.
Tour de Coops
Where my wife and daughter were today: the annual tour of urban chicken owners.
The Man in White
Matthew Continetti in The Washington Free Beacon makes a thought-provoking observation about Tom Wolfe:
He’s the most important writer of the twenty-first century, full stop.
Commentary on the Attacks in France
Major Issues Update: Starbucks Red Cup
Finally caught up with the Starbucks red cup story.
It must have been a slow news day when that became a controversy.
The story is almost painful to read after getting the latest news on the attacks in Paris.
Terrorist monsters are murdering people, intolerant loons are cowing university administrators, government debt is horrendous, and people are upset about the design of a cup in a chain of coffee shops?
P.S. I think the cup looks fine.
Family Life: "Alan"
My daughter, who sometimes calls me "Alan" to reflect her belief that I resemble characters played by Alan Arkin, called last night to ask how I'm doing.
She said the call was sparked by the news that Alan Arkin had a stroke and she wanted to make sure I am okay.
She later reported that he is fine.
"Alan" is okay too.
You've Been Sentenced
Writing in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg reveals the "crimes" for which jihadists will sentence you to death. Here's an excerpt but be sure to read the entire list so you can see if you are on theirs:
- Vacationing in Egypt
- Shopping in Nairobi
- Going to work in New York
- Flying in an airplane in the U.S.
- Riding a train in Madrid
- Riding a bus in London
- Attending a wedding in Amman
- Guarding a Canadian memorial
An always timely post by Wally Bock on Icarus in the C-Suite: Why High-Flyers Fall to Earth.
Americans clearly want to cheer the hopeful message of a film like The Martian, and close to $200 million in box office receipts confirms this. Yet there is a striking contrast between the idealism of Scott’s movie and the relentless negativity of the current political polls. According to the RealClear Politics survey, a mere 27 percent of Americans believe the United States is moving in the “right direction.” In contrast over 63 percent believe their country is on the “wrong track.” Faith in the US Congress is now so low that 78 percent of Americans disapprove of the job it is doing. As for the President of the United States, his approval rating stands at 45 percent.
Read all of Nile Gardiner on why American exceptionalism matters
Helmut Schmidt, R.I.P.
Spiegel Online examines the late Chancellor's life: "You need passion. And cigarettes."
"Stuff" and the Shared Region
People sometimes ask about ideas for blog posts. I am not a great source of wisdom on that issue. I type drafts of possible posts and then, not being able to decide on a title, put "Stuff" in the title section. That's sort of a bookmark to hold the material until I can return at a better time and decide just what it's supposed to mean.
The traditional rule is to think something through and then speak or write but life teaches that often the best thoughts come as we speak or write and not before.
Action and thought have a shared region and do not always dwell in separate kingdoms.
We need to keep that in mind and keep our minds in action.
Quote of the Day
The world is full of wonders and miracles but people take their little hands and cover their eyes and see nothing.
- Israel Baal Shem
Friday, November 13, 2015
Art Contrarian takes us back to the 1960s and looks at Douglas DC-8 interiors.
Compare the photo above with today's flying experience.