Saturday, April 30, 2016

Classic

Health Food Break

DSC_3836

A recipe from a genius. 

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make chocolate cake in a mug.

First Paragraph

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it. 

- From The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith

Creative Process


Do you write drunk and revise sober, so to speak, or compose everything carefully in your mind before setting it down?
It’s got to be an explosion. I get an idea and then, bang! I’m at the typewriter, and two hours later it’s done. All of my short stories have taken two or three hours. Throw up, then clean up, is my motto.

- From an interview of Ray Bradbury.

The Doing


There is an old line that I often think of when looking at leadership and management. It is that many people resemble a man who refused to go near the water until he learned how to swim.

Studying in a detached environment is only one part of the process of learning. Lessons found in the doing can have as much intellectual merit as those pondered in a classroom. 

A Constant Question

Eclecticity Light: Where does he find this stuff?

Invisible Achievements



Some of the greatest achievements are invisible because they are the equivalent of an accident/crisis that didn't happen. A few examples:

  • The lawsuit that was not filed.
  • The union that did not freak out.
  • The embarrassing story that didn't make the newspapers.
If a matter is sensitive, these non-events just don't occur magically. They are shaped with a deft hand and a jeweler's eye. In my experience the achievement of a non-event is rarely appreciated.

If the situation had gone to hell and then had been corrected, the corrective actions would have received kudos.

Strange.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Think of only three things - your God, your family, and the Green Bay Packers - in that order. 

- Vince Lombardi

Friday, April 29, 2016

Donald E. Westlake is Always a Safe Bet

Self-Confidence and Humility


Self-confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive. They are allies who keep each other from running off the rails.

Think of leaders whose self-confidence has turned into egotism and whose humility has dwindled. Their decision-making is weakened because their associates won't or can't surface dissenting opinions. The smell of smugness keeps dissenters at a distance.

Later, when disaster has done what disasters do, it is often noticed that other perspectives were available but they were either ignored or they were not heard at all because their advocates could not get past the gatekeepers.

Humility also has its risks. If humility is taken to an extreme, then timidity and cowardice are ready but unworthy replacements. Serious action may never be taken.

Self-confidence and humility are window-cleaners. Without them, our view of the world is blurred.

Profile

The bookkeeper, Chichishev, was in military service and in charge of old supplies. He had received the rank of sergeant, but there was nothing military about him. He was just an ordinary bookkeeper, no longer young, who did his job well. He could hardly talk without his calculating machine. If someone would ask at five o'clock, "What time of day is it?" he would soon hear five clicks on his abacus by way of an answer. Or if someone would say, "When a man (one click of the abacus) lives all alone, life is difficult. He (click! - click) should get married." 

- From "We Never Make Mistakes" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Pick One


A project needs to be done. Today's options are:

  1. Buy more time for completion by making it as complicated as possible.
  2. Avoid anyone who can help.
  3. Procrastinate now in order to build up panic-induced energy for later.
  4. Assume that it will take one-tenth of the time that it will actually require.
  5. Get with others. Complain that there isn't enough time.
  6. Turn the project into the search for a plausible excuse for not completing the project.
  7. Scrutinize the assignment for loopholes.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. 

- C.S. Lewis

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Raymond Chandler was a Management Consultant?

Webcam: Rome

Take a quick trip.

Here's streaming video from the Piazza Navona in Rome.

First Paragraph

Cholula is a small town in the Mexican state of Puebla. It is the site of the archaeological excavation of one of the largest pyramids in Mesoamerica. What was once the great pyramid is today a fair-sized mountain, covered with trees and shrubs, topped by a rather undistinguished church. The excavation has laid free parts of the old structures, and some of the archaeological work now takes place under the open sky. The archaeologists have also dug deep tunnels into the mountainside. Gradually, the artificial mountain is being hollowed out by these tunnels, pushing further and deeper into the buried pyramid. 

- From Pyramids of Silence: Political Ethics and Social Change by Peter L. Berger

Focus


Anderson Layman's Blog cites a "law of the universe" by Andy Andrews

In an distraction-packed, multi-tasking world, it is important to keep in mind.

Lawyer. Technology. Beach.



FutureLawyer always has good stuff but lately he has been on a roll.

It may have something to do with the parrots. The man would make a great novel.

Noticing Things in Maine

Obligatory Maine nature photo. The lobster was unavailable.

You are missing a treat if you do not frequently visit Sippican Cottage

An excerpt from a recent post:

I can't help but notice that the cat is dead. I've noticed that my wife misses that cat. He lived forever, but not forever enough. It's a testament to how accustomed animals become to being around a family, and vice-versa, that he wanders in and out of a trap set and amplifiers and isn't spooked, and doesn't spook anyone, either.

And a picture of Unorganized Hancock, a band out to win your heart. Follow the blog for details.

The Trust Factor


Kirsten Powers on the death of trust in politics.

If trust is going to be regarded as a secondary consideration when selecting public officials, then more curbs on governmental power will be needed.

[The rationalization that "They all do it" is logically feeble and simply untrue.]

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

It is good to be helpful and kindly, but don't give yourself to be melted into candle grease for the benefit of the tallow trade. 

- George Eliot

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Classic

Well Put



Few words.

Sound advice.

Nicholas Bate

Decision Making in Hollywood

I'm not sure if there is a tremendous desire for a re-make of "The Magnificent Seven."

Of course, the original film had several sequels so this film may be regarded in that light.

And, at this very moment, someone in Hollywood may be thinking, "Lawrence of Arabia. That's due for a new version."

What is Your World View?


Check out this excellent post by James Lawther at SquawkPoint.

As If We Didn't Have Enough to Worry About

Civilization

Bach by popular demand: BBC Proms with "Sleepers Wake."

Crank it up.

Winchester's Maxim

From 2004: A reminder from Cultural Offering of a maxim that should be taught in schools and posted in  coffee shops, bars, and boardrooms.

Pretend


Pretend that:

  • A fire has destroyed 95 percent of the papers on your desk. Put away the stacks that are now ashes.
  • The next novel you choose to read will be the only one you'll be able to read for the rest of your life.
  • The friend you are meeting for lunch is facing enormous private burdens and is in desperate need of your attention and encouragement.
  • Your dinner is part of a contest to see who can savor the flavors and who can finish last.
  • The way you dress tomorrow will make a great difference in the future of your career.
  • Your alertness will prevent a serious accident.
  • You are the person you have always hoped to be.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected. 

- Robert Frost

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Assume the Chief Suspect is a Clown

The Felon Vote

Roger Clegg, of the Center for Equal Opportunity, has written two essays on the issue of restoring voting rights to felons.

An excerpt from his New York Times essay:

It’s claimed that, once released, felons should be re-enfranchised because they have “paid their debt to society.” But this phrase is misleading, since in many respects we don’t ignore a criminal past – for example, in allowing someone to buy a gun.

Which Country Drinks the Most Wine?


The Telegraph has the answer.

Ambition and Abuse

Several months ago I read and enjoyed Peter Robinson's Snapshots From Hell: The Making of an MBA, an account of his experience at Stanford Business School.

It was similar to my law school days ("Look to your left and look to your right. One of you won't be here next year.") and caused me to wonder if some energetic psychology student has tackled the obvious question of why ambitious and, in many cases, highly accomplished people put up with abusive treatment in graduate schools.

I know this doesn't apply to all circumstances. A friend of mine who got his doctorate in government remembers a process that was prolonged and demanding but not demeaning. It is rumored that many law schools have become kinder and gentler although that may be only a modest adjustment in light of their Darwinian past. Perhaps business schools have had a similar mellowing.

Perhaps.

But back to the point. People pay chunks of money to have an enormous amount of work piled on them as they navigate an environment that can be reasonably described as uncaring and even cruel. Throughout it all, the cadre of ambitious students meekly accept this treatment. It is a form of "customer service" that would spark a riot if attempted anywhere else. 

Robinson's book does provide an example of a meeting where, after some bad publicity, the opinions of the MBA students were sought. Once asked, they let loose with both barrels.

My guess is that's rarely the case.

Looking back, I can recall a second year law student who, after being berated in front of the class by a professor for neglecting to read a case, replied, "Don't chastise me. I told you I didn't read it." A collective gasp was heard. That brave soul dropped out a few days later.

That's a shame. He probably would have made a fine lawyer. He was certainly far more courageous than the other residents of the system he escaped.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper. 

- Edward de Bono

Monday, April 25, 2016

Classic

First Paragraph

Toward the end of the conversation the acting prime minister raised the question of the Jews. He had come to confer with the aging king Christian X on the state of affairs in occupied Denmark. It was early September 1943, and the German advance into the Soviet Union seemed successful and unstoppable, the news going from bad to worse. The European continent was under totalitarian control, and the United States remained firmly neutral. Denmark insisted on its neutrality, too, but the country had been under German occupation since April 1940, and even if the firm Danish rejection of any Nazi representation in government was still holding up, the Germans were becoming more and more arrogant in their demands. Now Finance Minister Vilhelm Buhl, acting as head of government, sounded out the king on the delicate issue of the Danish Jews. Later the same day the king wrote down the main lines of the conversation in his private diary. According to the king, the finance minister expressed deep concern: "Considering the inhuman treatment of the Jews not only in Germany but also in other countries under German occupation, one could not help but worry that one day this request would also be presented to us. If so, we would have to reject it outright following their protection under the Constitution." 

- From Countrymen: How Denmark's Jews Escaped the Nazis by Bo Lidegaard

Learning to Translate


At Greg Mankiw's Blog: A great assignment for a macro-economics class.

Bock: Leadership Reading to Start Your Week



Wally Bock provides an eclectic array of articles.

The Map of Questionable Wisdom


We glide through life with an undue reliance upon questionable bits of wisdom from a variety of sources. It can be convenient to have such guidelines if the premise is that it is better to have a wrong map than no map at all but under some circumstances that map can be highly misleading.

This gets back to the admonition that we should know what we don't know. 

The road to recovery begins when we begin to question what we've long assumed.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple

- Dr. Seuss

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Paintings That Inspired



At Muddy Colors, Vanessa Lemen looks at paintings she grew up with.

Find Something Beautiful Today


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shakespeare


The anniversary of William Shakespeare's death is getting proper attention. 

Here is a famous illustration of the man's genius from the film based on the play, Julius Caesar:

Antony's funeral oration.

Classic

"We Know Better Than You Bumpkins" Update


There is a smug style in American liberalism. It has been growing these past decades. It is a way of conducting politics, predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what's good for them.

Read the rest of
Emmett Rensin's essay in Vox.

Bee Prepared


Bees are trying to infest my house. After being foiled at one attempt, they found another entry. Fortunately, my house was built back in the days when brick was the norm. The bees have slipped between the decorative brick and the main brick wall.

But the bee man returneth and now they are gone.

My suspicion is they are a branch of a larger hive in a neighbor's shed. He says he has not seen them there but I've spotted a few slipping into his shed via a side entrance. [If he listens carefully, he may hear bee giggles whenever he turns his back.]

My father raised bees as one of his retirement hobbies. It turned any visit to his backyard into an adventure. His beekeeping was a tad on the amateurish side. His jars of honey were a welcome gift provided your spoon carefully avoided the occasional carcass of a dead bee. I thought that added to the authenticity - sort of like the worm in the mezcal bottle - but others were more squeamish.

When I watched the bee man "suit up" it was impossible not to recall the more informal garb that we used when harvesting honey. I have a photo of my younger brother in his beekeeper outfit. If a similar photo of me exists, I want it destroyed.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

Would you live with ease, do what you ought, and not what you please

- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, April 22, 2016

When Technology Goes Too Far


FutureLawyer has the fish story.

Back By Popular Demand

George Jones and Dolly Parton: "Blues Man."

Pulp Break

The Condemnation Game



Ned Beatty in "Network" pretty much nailed what we are seeing more frequently in this country.

Disagree with a point of view? Shout it down.

Don't like a law passed by a state? Boycott them.

Don't assume that they simply have a different opinion on a complicated subject. Proclaim that they are evil. 

Don't use reason, use coercion.

Because your side, of course, is pure.

First Paragraph

Montaigne, who wrote something about everything, had his say, too, about the Americas and Americans. The title of his essay, "Of Cannibals," is highly uncomplimentary. Yet the essay itself contains much that is favorable. It is interesting to observe how the very discovery of the new world plunged the old world into an argument about civilization; how this argument has gone on ever since, and how relatively little its terms have changed; how it always revolves around the same questions; and how, from the start, it has abounded in misconceptions. The fact that the Americans Montaigne wrote about were Indians, living in what was later to become Brazil, makes no difference. As I embark on my book about the United States of North America, those "Americans," and Montaigne, help me clarify my intent. 

- From Image of America by R.L. Bruckberger

Classic

Nothing But Thinking


The project is vaguely on your mind. You sip coffee and read a book. You scan the news but with faint attention because you are still sorting out the project. As much as you might like to do so, the process can't be rushed.

A vision begins to form and a conversation or two will be required before the picture becomes clear. When it does, you'll feel as if you knew the answer all along.

You did.

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

The most pressing human costs are in terms of physical deprivation and suffering. The most pressing moral imperative in policy making is a calculus of pain

- Peter L. Berger

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"The IRS declined to comment."

Image result for louis xiv

Want to increase public confidence in government? 

Rehiring problem employees is probably not a good recipe.

And not commenting on news reports just ices the cake.

First Paragraph

The study of politics is the study of influence and the influential. The science of politics states conditions; the philosophy of politics justifies preferences. This book, restricted to political analysis, declares no preferences. It states conditions. 

- From Politics: Who Gets What, When, How by Harold Lasswell

Music Break: Je t'aime...moi non plus


Flashback time with Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.

Love the smoking.

Building the Interstate



In the summer of 1919, just months after the end of World War I, an expedition of 81 Army vehicles—a truck convoy—set out from Washington, D.C., for a trip across the country to San Francisco.

The convoy's purpose was to road-test various Army vehicles and to see how easy or how difficult it would be to move an entire army across the North American continent. The convoy assumed wartime conditions—damage or destruction to railroad facilities, bridges, tunnels, and the like—and imposed self-sufficiency on itself.

Averaging about 6 miles an hour, or 58 miles a day, the trucks snaked their way from Washington, up to Pennsylvania and into Ohio, then due west across the agricultural Midwest, the Rockies, and into California. Generally, it followed the "Lincoln Highway," later known as U.S. 30, arriving in San Francisco 62 days and 3,251 miles later.


Read all of the Prologue magazine article here.

Art Break



Art Contrarian looks at the later work of Grant Wood.

Just a Reminder


Some very, very, smart people were responsible for:
  • The Maginot Line
  • New Coke
  • The Edsel
  • The Bay of Pigs Fiasco
  • Watergate
  • Casting Glen Campbell in the original film version of "True Grit"

Highly Recommended

Quote of the Day

We all may have come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now. 

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Good News

The Guardian: Hamilton stays on the $10 bill and Tubman goes on the $20.

First Paragraph

The past century will go down in history as one in which mass violence reached levels the world had never before known. The persecution and annihilation of Europe's Jews surely constitute one of the most tragic episodes in human history. Yet these events also offer us an opportunity - a rare one, unfortunately - to see, in the efforts made by some to help the persecuted and save those living under threat of death, how goodness can flourish too. Acts of goodness occur sporadically almost everywhere; but there are two countries that can recall their history with pride, thanks to the collective protection they provided the Jews while themselves living under German control. These two countries are Denmark and Bulgaria. At the time that the Red Army was nearing the Bulgarian frontier, writes Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem, 'not a single Bulgarian Jew had been deported or had died an unnatural death...I know of no attempt,' she adds, 'to explain the conduct of the Bulgarian people, which is unique in the belt of mixed populations.' 

- From The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust by Tzvetan Todorov

How Do Economists Feel about Trade Deals?


Economist Greg Mankiw cites some polls.