Monday, May 31, 2021
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Whenever you make a decision, whenever you act, you are never just doing, you are becoming.
- Tom Morris
- Wilfred M. McClay in City Journal
Friday, May 28, 2021
Quillette: Hannah Gal on "The Growing Resistance to the Stigmatization of Masculinity." An excerpt:
Little patience exists for the kind of male disorganisation and restlessness that just two decades ago would have been understood as a normal part of growing up. Quoting psychologist Michael Thompson, [Christina Hoff] Sommers concludes, “girl behaviour is the gold standard in schools, boys are treated like defective girls.”
RESPECT: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness, and arrogance don’t belong here.INTEGRITY: We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.
COMMUNICATION: We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another… and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.
EXCELLENCE: We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we can really be.
- From Enron’s 1998 Annual Report
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Inc. magazine's profile of former Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin.
Late night, he shifts in the chair, the floorboards creak, his office directly above the Master bedroom. His chair directly on top of me, sleeping. He’ll be editing his photos, the same photos for hours. Days. The penguin from South Africa, that one up top, took weeks. Deliberate. Meticulous. Punctilious. Like a Professional.
Read all of David Kanigan's reflections.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Congress has allocated nearly $200 billion in Covid-19 relief funds for K-12 schools over the past year. While this money was intended to help re-open schools and mitigate learning loss, President Biden’s Department of Education is encouraging school districts to spend some of it for a different purpose: providing “free, antiracist therapy for White educators.”
Read the rest of Max Eden's essay in the City Journal.
My current reading is composed of several books on the Third Reich and a stack of books related to loneliness, social media, and the new workplace. There also are leadership books, a book on ancient Rome, volumes on the danger of the digital world, one on digital crime, one on ergodicity (which I'm struggling to understand), and two novels (Lincoln by Gore Vidal and Involuntary Witness, a crime novel by Gianrico Carofiglio).
These are, oddly enough, a pleasant change from the news since the incompetence of the modern news media is mind-boggling.
As for escapes, some people take to the hills or the beach. My wife and I are re-watching the extraordinary Poirot series as a way of seeing excellent plots, fine acting, and a time when architecture and fashion were far superior to the present.
Books and films are often regarded as open doors. They can also be walls.
Curled up against him, my chest pressing against his back, our breathing synchronized, our feet intertwined. This is how we have slept for over five thousand nights.
- From The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That's Pulling Apart by Noreena Hertz
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Political Calculations looks at the "Pandemic Price Escalation of Campbell's Tomato Soup."
The world isn't run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It's run by ones and zeros - little bits of data. It's all electrons. There's a war out there, a world war. It's not about who has the most bullets. It's about who controls the information - what we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It's all about information.
- From Sneakers (spoken by the Ben Kingsley character, of course)
Monday, May 24, 2021
A dedicated graduate student I know returned to his small apartment the night before a major examination only to discover that his solitary lamp was broken beyond repair. After a whiff of panic, he was able to restore both his equanimity and his chances for a satisfactory grade by turning on the television set, turning off the sound, and with his back to the set, using its light to read important passages on which he was to be tested. This is one use of television - as a source of illuminating the printed page.
- From Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Saturday, May 22, 2021
FutureLawyer (Our Man in Florida) encourages all of us to password protect our Google activity. An excerpt:
I am frustrated that many of my suggestions for computer security are ignored by many of you. For example, asking you to add two factor authentication to your Facebook access is like yelling down a dark hole. Then, when you are hacked, you come looking for solutions. I hate to break it to you; but, coming to me AFTER you have been hacked is like closing the barn door after the animals are out. So, when I tell you that there is another security in your browser, I know that many of you aren't paying attention. If you are, and you have read this far, click the link and add a password to your Google Activity page.
Criminals perpetually update their technologies to incorporate the very latest emerging technologies into their modus operandi. They have evolved well beyond the days when they were the first on the street carrying pagers and using five-pound cell phones to send coded messages to one another. Today, they are building their own nationwide encrypted cellular radio telecommunications systems, like those employed by the narco-cartels of Mexico. Consider for a moment the sophistication required to establish such a fully functioning encrypted nationwide communications network - an amazing feat, especially because many Americans still can't get a decent mobile phone signal most of the time.
- From Future Crimes: Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman (2015)
Friday, May 21, 2021
I watched a presentation the other night. It was a proposal by a municipal department for a major project.
Everything was smooth. The content was slick as were the slides.
Until the audience started asking questions.
They didn't ask tricky questions. Nothing came from out of left field. But the staff had to punt on several of them. Big ones. Lethal ones.
I coach people on presentations. This presentation violated several rules that I stress in my coaching sessions.
Remember, it's nothing fancy. I'm not a genius. But execution of the basics is vital and these people put to sea after drilling holes in the boat.
I suspect that the problem stemmed from two common mistakes: they fell in love with their proposal (it was pretty!) and they only solicited questions from within their circle of experts.
If only one of them had shown the proposal to a spouse or friend in a completely different line of work and said, "I bet you can't find a problem with this."
Texas has 254 counties. Many of them are named after politicians.
Hmm. Just imagine the number of government jobs.
My home state - Arizona - has a mere 15 counties. Most of them are named after Indians or Indian tribes.
Russia: 12 times
North Korea: six times
United States: seven times
Syria: eight times
China: zero times
Pakistan: zero times
Venezuela: zero times
Libya: zero times
Cuba: zero times
Turkey: zero times
Zimbabwe: zero times
And Israel? 112 times.
Read the rest of Jonah Goldberg on structural antisemitism.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
Donald G. McNeil Jr. on how he learned to love the lab leak theory. An excerpt:
But later he learned of studies with Dr. Shi’s name on them showing that work he considers dangerous had been done in level BSL-2 labs, which he considers highly porous to leaks, not just in 2016, but in 2020.
“That’s screwed up,” he said. “It shouldn’t have happened. People should not be looking at bat viruses in BSL-2 labs. My view has changed.”
The American Ornithological Society has announced its commitment to changing “exclusionary or harmful bird names.” Nearly 150 birds in North America are named after people. The AOS is forming a committee to “tackle all of these eponyms at once,” says prominent birder Kenn Kaufman. The committee will “come up with alternatives, spend a lot of time getting buy-in from the larger community, and then establish a long lead time to a date when we flip the switch and adopt all of these new, better names.”
Read the rest of Helen Andrews in The American Conservative.
Apple (those renegades) fires Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of Chaos Monkeys.
Vox published a Kara Swisher interview with him in 2016; an interview in which the interviewer manages to be more irritating than the interviewee.
Summary: Silicon Valley is not a nice place.
[Who knew? They've always seemed like such sweet people.]
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
At a translation agency in Australia, managers can see every window open on their contractors' desktop computers at every minute of the day. Every move of their mouse cursors is scrutinized. Check-in emails flood their inboxes with expectations of immediate replies. Ironically, these draconian measures didn't exist when everyone shared a physical space. The fears companies have that workers will go rogue when unsupervised arise from the need to advance goals without actually observing firsthand the daily grind to get there.
- Tsedal Neeley in Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere
Someone thought that was a good idea.
Was Basecamp's decision to bar political discussions a bad move?
The consultants at the article's link think so.
Setting aside the First Amendment complications that could arise in the public sector, I think the Basecamp decision is entirely defensible, especially in the current climate in which terms like "racist" and "fascist" are so easily tossed around.
Does anyone really think that workplace political discussions are commonly conducted in a respectful manner with benefits of the doubt readily given, common ground explored, careful listening, and no repercussions? Will a strong Biden supporter have the same level of respect if he or she learns that a co-worker voted for Trump? Will similar feelings occur if the choices were reversed?
This issue has a "Both the rich and the poor have the right to sleep under bridges at night" aspect. There is not equal impact. If one were to guess, based on similar scenarios regarding protests and boycotts, whether the Left or the Right would be inclined to favor political discussions at work, my hunch is that most of those in favor of the discussions would be on the Left. [My guess is also that the consultants favoring such discussions may lean in that direction.]
In general, conservatives favor political neutrality at non-political events such as sports games, the Oscars, and the Emmys. Those on the Left, however, are far more inclined to use such platforms to announce their positions. Political parties and movements differ in style. [Read the great Clinton Rossiter's classic study on parties and politics in America for detail. It remains surprisingly applicable.]
If I worked at Basecamp, I'd give a sigh of relief. Nowadays, it's nice to have a workplace that's a sanctuary from the lunacy on the outside.
[Photo by Jaanam Haleem at Unsplash]
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
That weekly or monthly committee meeting which you find to be boring but is a "must attend" because your area needs to be represented?
One of your direct reports may find it to be interesting and may even regard being asked to attend in your place as a compliment.
Commentary magazine: Wilfred Reilly on why crime against Asians isn't due to white supremacy.
But let's consider a practice that is less reprehensible: the use of email. It is difficult to deny that email is convenient. Rather than playing phone tag or having to arrange a meeting, we fire off an email. There now, that's done. Now the ball is in the other court. The person has been notified.
Which brings up another question: How often is email used when the motive is not convenience, but timidity? You don't need to speak with the person. Like the people on Twitter, you just need to send it off. True, you are not anonymous, but with email you don't need to experience the person's frowns or immediate reactions. By choosing email, you have put emotional distance between you and the recipient.
And emotional distance is yet another characteristic of our times. When it comes to communication that is unpleasant, emails and Tweets are cruise missiles: easy to fire and with little danger of direct retaliation. The damage is to the relationship. On Twitter, of course, relationships have no value when trolls are involved. They just move on to other victims. But in the workplace, it can be very harmful if relationships take second place to convenience and safety.
That's a reason why, when it comes to sensitive subjects, it is both decent and wise to go see the person or to call. If email is absolutely necessary, then terseness should be replaced by an appropriate tone. There is always a human being at the receiving end. It should be clear that there is one at the sending.
Monday, May 17, 2021
The revelation appears in the middle of an appendix on page 35 of a 40-page FBI-DHS report released on Friday titled “Security Strategic Intelligence Assessment and Data on Domestic Terrorism.”
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Saturday, May 15, 2021
. . . What had been a tool under my own control was morphing into a medium under the control of others. The computer screen was becoming, as all mass media tend to become, an environment, a surrounding, an enclosure, at worst a cage. It seemed clear that those who controlled the omnipresent screen would, if given their way, control culture as well.
- Nicholas Carr, "Silicon Valley Days," in UTOPIA IS CREEPY and Other Provocations
Doug Fine of D. Fined Performance Solutions and Eclecticity Light, has a solid record of hosting interesting conversations on leadership and management issues.
Here is his conversation with Tom Peters (yes, the Tom Peters) featuring Tom's always candid thoughts.
Friday, May 14, 2021
Anonymous blog comments, vapid video pranks, and lightweight mashups may seem trivial and harmless, but as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned interpersonal interaction.
Communication is now often experienced as a superhuman phenomenon that towers above individuals. A new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become.
- Jaron Lanier in You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
- Thomas Sowell in 1998
Thursday, May 13, 2021
"I can't wait to get back to the office. I miss the people, the interactions - at least most of them - and the whole experience of being on the job."
"I love working from home. No interruptions, no commute, no drama. I am more productive and I am not distracted by co-workers and petty gossip."
"A blend of both would be nice."
"I want my team here. No matter how many Zoom meetings and emails, I sense that I am missing something. Think of how often an off-hand remark becomes intensely revealing. Don't have that anymore or at least not as much of it."
"If you're not here, how competitive are you going to be if a promotion opening occurs?"
"Some people love the break from the office. But many of those in the office love the break from home."
"This is like a laboratory test in self-discipline. And you know what we are."
[Photo by John T at Unsplash]
In the first few weeks of 2020, a microscopic agent turned the world's workforce into remote workers seemingly overnight. With the emergence of COVID-19, employees from China to Qatar, India to Australia, Brazil to Nigeria packed up their offices and set up new workspaces in their homes. Digital tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and Slack went from useful supplements to the primary enablers for daily interactions with coworkers.
- From Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere by Tsedal Neeley
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
My younger colleagues at the firm, the young associates, are pilots in their cockpits. They assemble their multiple technologies - a laptop, two iPhones, an iPad. And then they put their earphones on. Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits. And then they are isolated. You wouldn't want to disturb the pilot in his cockpit. You wouldn't want to disturb this lawyer in his bubble. It's not how it used to be. . . . It used to be that associates were available to be interrupted . . . but in a good way. You could talk to them. They were there to be worked, very hard, to be engaged and mentored. Now, the feeling is that you are only getting the most you can out of them if you leave them alone in their cockpits.
- A senior partner at a Boston law firm, quoted in Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
“I am not, fellow citizens, one who believes that no advice may be given to leaders; nay rather I judge him to be not a sage, but haughty, who conducts everything according to his own opinion alone. What therefore is my conclusion? Generals should receive advice, in the first place from the experts who are both specially skilled in military matters and have learned from experience; secondly, from those who are on the scene of action, who see the terrain, the enemy, the fitness of the occasion, who are sharers in the danger, as it were, aboard the same vessel. Thus, if there is anyone who is confident that he can advise me as to the best advantage of the state in this campaign which I am about to conduct, let him not refuse his services to the state, but come with me into Macedonia. I will furnish him with his sea-passage, with a horse, a tent, and even travel-funds. If anyone is reluctant to do this and prefers the leisure of the city to the hardships of campaigning, let him not steer the ship from on shore. The city provides enough subjects for conversation; let him confine his garrulity to these; and let him be aware that I shall be satisfied with the advice originating in camp.”
Consul Lucius Aemilius
- Does your organization have serious problems that you know won't solve themselves?
- Are these problems likely to get worse over time?
- Could they eventually flash into a damaging crisis that will take most people in your organization by surprise?
[Photo by JJ Ying at Unsplash]
UnHerd magazine: Douglas Murray on "Publishing is Now a Left-wing Bubble." An excerpt:How is it possible to have such an inaccurate understanding of the industry in which you work? What level of delusion is demanded of a person for them to work in what is the most left-leaning business in one of the most liberal societies on earth, and still imagine yourself dwelling among aspiring Nazis? Imagine looking at the politics section of Waterstones, or even the now heavily-political children’s section, and not being at least aware that British publishing might be somewhat more liberal than the public at large?