Saturday, December 31, 2016

In the Background

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As the Year Nears Its End

I want to thank everyone who has visited this blog and especially those who are regular readers. Additional thanks go to those who have recommended this somewhat eccentric site to others.

One of the most pleasant aspects of blogging has been making friendships with a wide range of people scattered around the nation and the world. Blogging is an unusual medium.; an important part of the social media revolution that swirls about us every day. 

People read blogs for various reasons but one of the foremost is the ability to get perspectives that may not be readily obtainable elsewhere.

My hope is that this blog provides helpful perspectives.

Please know that you are deeply appreciated.

Many thanks to each of you.

Let's have a great 2017 together.

LIFE Nostalgia

Permit me a dash of nostalgia on New Year's Eve. My childhood was enriched by LIFE magazine and its great photographs. Even today, one glance at a LIFE cover opens a floodgate of memories.

Some Things Don't Change

Diet of the Future

As we gaze into the future, here's hoping Woody Allen's "Sleeper" got it right.

Old Photographs

I love old photographs. Many, such as the photo above, have a quaint charm. Others have an air of foreboding.

Can anyone look at a photo of young English, French or German university students in 1910 without wondering how many of them were still alive in 1920?  

And in 100 years, what will people be thinking when they look at the photographs of today? 

First Paragraph

It is very likely that never in human history have there been as many treaties, essays, theories and analyses focused on culture as there are today. This fact is even more surprising given that culture, in the meaning traditionally ascribed to the term, is now on the point of disappearing. And perhaps it has already disappeared, discreetly emptied of its content, and replaced by another content that distorts its earlier meaning. 

- From Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa

Quote of the Day

Happiness is wanting what you have

- Bryan Callen

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Resolution Generator

Anderson Layman's Blog has a nifty one.

I have resolved to stop sobbing loudly at Civil War re-enactments.

Your Story for 2017

Thinking of making some New Year's Resolutions? 

Wally Bock provides sound guidance on an alternative.


Congratulations to Stephen Landry for making the list of the 100 Most Influential Information Technology Directors in the World.

Be sure to follow him on Twitter. 

Film Break

The trailers for:

Flying Lesson

I went out in 1928 or '29 and I started taking flying lessons for $10 an hour, and when I had 10 hours, I soloed, and so it cost me a hundred dollars. Had no ground school. About all I knew is one wing had a red light on it and the other had a green light, and nothing at all about weather. They didn't tell us a thing about it. They never taught us spins, and the first goddamn time I went up with a passenger, I said, 'Well, I'll give her a tight circle over her house.' I did, it flipped over and started to spin, and I said, 'Jesus Christ!' So I let go of everything, and by God, it just came right out. I put both hands on that stick, shaking like a dog, flew it back to the airport, and went home and got drunk.'

- Barry Goldwater, quoted in Flying magazine, January 2017

[HT: Bill Wade]

Books That You Re-Read Every Year

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I used to re-read The Wind in the Willows every year but unwisely fell out of the habit. I vowed to revive it this year and just might meet the deadline. Another favorite for frequent reading has been Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

War and Peace deserves multiple reading. It will be one of my re-reading goals for this year. While reading it for the first time a few years back there were times when I caught myself pausing in sheer awe of Tolstoy's acute perception of people.

Which books (or plays) are on your re-read list?

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn't plan your mission properly. 

- Colonel David Hackworth

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Foote on Gettysburg

Book TV's Brian Lamb interviews Shelby Foote about Foote's book: "Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign."

Modern Journalism

What water?

Art Break: Cabanel

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Alexandre Cabanel.

Thomas Sowell

Cultural Offering has an observation by Thomas Sowell, economist and national treasure.

In a better world, Dr. Sowell's career would have included frequent appearances on national television. 

Here is the transcript of a speech he delivered on "Race, Culture, and Equality."

A fascinating and insightful man.

The Log. The Journal. The Whatever.

Call it a log. Call it a journal. The name doesn't matter. But it will help if each day you jot down:

  1. What was accomplished.
  2. What happened today that should not be forgotten.
  3. What's coming up.
The first and third items are of obvious importance. The value of the second item will be evident as time rolls along.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

The rule is : The basics are the basics, and you can't beat the basics. 

- Charles Poliquin

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Debbie Reynolds, RIP

"Life Comes at You Fast"

The Weekly Standard: America's greatest essayist, Joseph Epstein, on hitting eighty. An excerpt:

I was lucky (again) to have come of age when there was still a military draft, which gave me two years between leaving school and having to go out into the world. I began writing in earnest in the Army and published my first bits of journalism while there at the age of 22. In the Army, too, while at dreary Fort Hood in Texas, I put in for the job of clerk typist at a recruiting station either in Little Rock, Arkansas, or Shreveport, Louisiana. I was told by a gruff first sergeant that one of these jobs was mine and that I had a choice, Shreveport or Little Rock. With perhaps a half-second to answer, I blurted out, "Little Rock, Sergeant." In Little Rock, I met and married my first wife, with whom I had my two sons. What, I have often wondered, if I had said "Shreveport, Sergeant"?

And Every Morning, We Dance The Mamushka

First Paragraph

They had rung the iron gong outside and it was still echoing, at first for real in the courtyard, and then, for a longer time, inside our heads. We would not hear it again. We had to get up straight away. Lieutenant Graaf never had to ring the iron twice. A meager light came through the frost-covered window. Emmerich was sleeping on his side. Bauer woke him. It was late afternoon, but Emmerich thought it was morning. He sat up on his bed and looked at his boots, seeming not to understand why he'd slept in them all night.

- From A Meal in Winter: A Novel of World War II by Hubert Mingarelli


People get distracted. They don't always listen carefully. They daydream, fantasize, get angry, hold grudges, become irrational, procrastinate, over-promise, and forget, They whip out prejudices from their childhood and you might tick them off by simply walking into the room. They can be hugely generous and gigantically selfish. They can be indifferent to an oncoming train while neatly spreading a picnic blanket across the railroad tracks. They can be both brave and cowardly within a 10 minute period and can surprise you even if you've known them for 30 years. They can be polished, crude, diplomatic, and thoughtless. They may easily blend maturity with childishness. They can sink a plan within minutes and lose trust within seconds. They can be beautiful and maddening, impatient and tolerant, kind and cruel.

Beware of any strategy that relies upon wizards and angels. Most plans require people.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians. 

- George Orwell

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Richard Adams, RIP

Cultural Offering has a personal note. 

I'm embarrassed to say that I have never read Watership Down.

[Update: Althouse also weighs in.]

Carrie Fisher, RIP

Carrie Fisher has passed away.

Some quotes from Carrie Fisher:

  • "Instant gratification takes too long."
  • "You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood because everyone does the fake closeness so well."
  • "I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive."

Miscellaneous and Fast

Dallas News: Serving on a jury with Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.
Reprise: How to Ruin Your Relationship.
Althouse points to Glenn Loury's views on voter identification
Beauty: The 2013 shooting of the Pirelli Calendar in Rio.
Kagan: Understanding Russia today.

First Paragraph

The Great, or Spanish, Influenza of 1918-19 killed approximately fifty million people worldwide. Although there are no exact numbers, it is estimated that as many as 675,000 Americans died as well. There is no way around the fact that this extraordinary loss of life was tragic. But only through foresight and preparation can we avoid, or at least minimize, the impact of this kind of wave of death and destruction in the future. Understanding and preparing for such a challenge must begin with learning the lessons of the past, and looking at how weak presidential leadership at the time cost lives.

- From Shall We Wake the President?: Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office by Tevi Troy

Dickens Film Fest

One of the many joys (and part of the genius) of Dickens is the multitude of memorable characters.

Trivia question: Which Dickens character said, "I wants to make your flesh creep?" 

Quote of the Day

Tristan Bernard said that he never read the books he was supposed to review; he was afraid he might become biased. 

- Simon Leys

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Quest for Clear Communication

Jeremy Irons in one of the many great scenes from "Margin Call."

And yes, all of us have had plenty of occasions to make such a request.

New York: June 1965

Art Contrarian has posted more photographs of New York City in 1965

Tourism Slogans

Here's a map showing the tourism slogans of various nations.

[Not all, unfortunately. North Korea's would have been interesting.]

I found this via the Althouse blog where it drew a lot of interesting comments. A top contender:

Venezuela: Bring your own food and toilet paper.

An Entry for My Excuse Book

"Say I'm too old at my age to travel that far to eat with strangers."

- William Faulkner's excuse for declining a dinner invitation to the Kennedy White House

Zither Break

Reprise: Anton Karas plays "The Third Man" theme.

Get up and dance.

When Planning the New Year

. . . keep this in mind.

Running It By

It is a rare week when someone does not begin a conversation or an email exchange with me by saying "I want to run something by you" or words to that effect

These individuals may be personal friends or clients. Often they already know the best course of action but simply want confirmation. They also know that if I disagree I will tell them. One recently surfaced an approach and, after listening carefully, I suggested that she change one word.

Only one word.

But it made an enormous change in tone and substance. It also reduced the likelihood of opposition from other parts of the organization.

And it saved a sizable amount of time.

Oddly enough, that's why many people resist getting other opinions; they think doing so will take too much time. They overlook two things: getting another opinion seldom is a lengthy process and not getting extra insight may wind up gobbling massive amounts of time.

I don't say that as a consultant but as someone who often says, "I want to run something by you."

How Leaders Err

Do these sound familiar? Wally Bock notes some common leadership mistakes.

First Paragraph

If leadership is the solution, what is the problem? On this, the Torah could not be more specific. It is a failure of responsibility.

- From Lessons in Leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

I need to keep reminding myself that a truly independent thinker may look like an accountant.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Crank It Up

Cultural Offering has music for the day from a day long ago.

The Kings of Maine

Despite protestations to the contrary, it is apparent that the entire family at Sippican Cottage is very interesting. 

They'll probably spend part of Christmas Day writing songs, fending off wolf packs, and preparing moose stew.

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours have all the joys of the day.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Take a Few Minutes and Read This

First Things: "Dakota Christmas" by Joseph Bottum.

An excerpt:

Her hair was the same thin shade of gray as the weather-beaten pickets of the fence around her frozen garden. She had a way with horses, and she was alone on Christmas Eve.

"Search for a Face"

Through the thick lenses of his glasses his eyes were larger than life, and he peered into my face and into all the faces around me and behind me with a look so keen and so charged that I could not escape the feeling that he must be looking for someone in particular. He was not a potentate nodding and smiling to acknowledge the enthusiasm of the multitudes. He was a man whose face seemed gray with waiting, whose eyes seemed huge and exhausted with searching, for someone, some one, who he thought might be there that night or any night, anywhere, but whom he had never found, and yet he kept looking.

Frederick Buechner recalls an extraordinary night in Rome.

Art Break: Collier

Art Contrarian looks at the work of John Collier.

No Fireplace? No Problem.

Althouse has the video and the story. It's quite the roaring fire and the scene is cozy but I wonder about the voodoo doll pinned on the mantle.

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah begins this evening. May it be a blessed and joyful event.

The Temps

It's 55 degrees in Phoenix. Some rain is expected this afternoon. A sunny Christmas is predicted but the weather reporting can be only slightly better than a trick knee. Consider international styles of weather reporting:

When Was The Last Time You Read

. . . "A Christmas Carol?"

It's even better than you recall.

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

When Language Paints the Wrong Picture

This Spiegel Online article outlines the earlier information that German authorities had on the man who committed the terror attack in Berlin. More than once, he is described as having been "on the radar" of police and immigration officials.

Perhaps the wording in the original German is more accurate but the English expression "on the radar" implies that he was being closely watched. He clearly was not.

It is a good lesson to keep in mind. Whenever you hear some reassuring term or phrase in a meeting, don't hesitate to ask, "Exactly what does that mean?"

"On the radar" may really be "a dark alley."

Quote of the Day

Remember that the world's greatest leader washed the feet of His associates.

 - Sign at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee

Friday, December 23, 2016


Evelyn Waugh on Stephen Spender's autobiography:

"To see him fumbling with our rich and delicate language is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sèvres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee."

For All of the Fighter Plane Enthusiasts Out There

Check out the P-51 Griffon Engine test run.

[HT: Rick Miller]

"To Kill a Mockingbird" Break

Lukasz Urban, RIP

Lukasz Urban, the Polish truck driver who was murdered by the Berlin terrorist, has become another name in the list of victims. He should be honored and remembered.

Congratulations to the Italian police for halting a truly evil person.

Last Minute Shopping

Now is the season of our discontent.

Not aimed at Christmas, of course. I'm a Christmas fan straight out of Dickens: ["Spend like Scrooge. Look like Marley." - Unsolicited observation.]

But this is the day when the yet unpurchased gifts come to mind. That sort of discontent.

My wife, for the first time in a while, requested a particular gift. I nodded, told her that was an excellent idea, and then promptly forgot about it. Fortunately, some primal survival instinct eventually kicked in and said, "Hey, you." 

The present is now in hand along with - among other things - the file folders she requested. [That's true. She asked for file folders. Of course, I spared no expense.]

Anyway, there is one gap on the family list which needs filling.

The clock is ticking. 

Two options: The bookstore or the liquor store.


Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

In a jungle full of totalitarian monsters liberal democracy needs teeth.

- Robert Conquest

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Music Break

Mark Isham: "A Tale of Two Cities" from A Winter's Solstice.

Modern Life

While navigating freeway traffic this morning I began to wonder if turn signals are no longer available in automobiles.

"The Bishop's Wife"

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A great Christmas film that deserves a larger audience. 

Just be sure to see the version with Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven.

Captain Kirk, We Have a New JAG Officer


One of FutureLawyer's most appealing qualities is his full embrace of geekhood.

Lounge Wear and More

Psycho Bunny

Once again, I find myself behind the fashion curve.

Terror in Europe

Sympathy, prayers, and assistance should go out to the German people. 

All should be heart-felt and substantive.

That said, nothing that has recently happened in Europe with regard to terrorism should be a surprise. Writers such as Bruce Bawer, Mark Steyn, Claire Berlinski, and Melanie Phillips warned of it years ago but they were dismissed in some quarters as alarmists. 

The critics had what a foreign policy scholar once called The Pearl Harbor Mentality; an attitude which denies that a matter is a problem until something blows up. 

If one wants to understand why the political elites in Europe have taken some hits lately, a quick review of their decisions on immigration and border control would be a good place to start.

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt.

- Henry J. Kaiser

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

First Paragraph

In the beginning - not the imagined beginning of patriarchs and prophets, and certainly not the beginning of the whole universe, just the documented beginning of ordinary Jews - in that beginning, a father and mother were worrying about their son.

- From The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BC - 1492 AD by Simon Schama

Books for the Trump Era

The New York Times: Ross Douthat provides a list.

I'm glad to see that the Peter Hitchens book is mentioned.

Softening the Blow of Rejection

Check out the fine work of the Rejection Generator Project

Write your own rejection letters so you'll be prepared when you get a real one.

Breakfast Meeting

We will sip coffee and munch toast while reviewing the subtle nature of management. Robert's Rules of Order will be briefly debated. Bylaws consulted. Goals and plans reviewed.

Good stuff.

Highly Recommended

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