Monday, July 31, 2023

Barbie: The Inside Joke

 City Journal: Kay S. Hymowitz looks at Barbie, both doll and film.

If You Are Tired of Distractions

 Check out The Light Phone.

The Week Will Begin

This week will begin with a serious review of my coaching schedule. A recent client request will greatly expand the sessions - which is welcome - but I also have to blend in the ongoing projects.

My initial question is to myself: what would I advise a client facing a similar situation?

My advice would be to establish balance and boundaries. Learn the internal priorities. Expect surprises. Schedule time for rest and reflection. Don't shortchange the older clients in order to wow the new ones. Do not work to full capacity. Other projects will be in the wings.

As always, earn their trust.

Someone in the Justice Department Approved This

New York Post: These actions by the U.S. Department of Justice illustrate a deep problem within that department. There is more than a whiff of cover-up.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Just Arrived




FOMO or Fear of Missing Out

A reason why so many people incessantly check their smartphones.

Hard truth: 99% of the time they aren't missing anything that needs their attention.

[Photo by Camilo Jimenez at Unsplash.]

Bach By Popular Demand


Coyotes in the Neighborhood

Last night, our dog took one good whiff upon leaving our front door, then turned around and headed back inside.

Smart move. The word is there is a pack of coyotes out there.

[Photo by Joshua Wilking at Unsplash.]

Friday, July 28, 2023

Losing Our Collective Minds


Running It By

 A consulting-friendly post from 2016.


One of my clients refers to me as "The (name of organization) Batman." 

I visit them to resolve various issues and have been doing so for many years.

Go in with a specific assignment, resolve the matter, and then leave.

There are advantages to being an outsider. Often, our lenses are clearer.

Switching Computers

Ah, the joy of switching computers and getting info from one onto the other.

It is a reminder of how much junk is acquired over the years.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Author of "Dopamine Nation"


Questionable Demands

 A troubling protest at Cultural Offering.

An Old Neighborhood

 It was an old neighborhood, one where the houses had front porches on which people would sit in the evening, chat with neighbors, and read the newspaper or listen to a ball game on the radio. 

Those poor souls could hear the water from the garden hose trickle into the flower bed. They could speculate on the weather or critique the violin lessons being given two doors down. They studied trees, dogs, and reactions. They had a certain modesty and dignity. Standards were expected and honored. You were an individual but you were one within the larger community.

This odd sort didn't hide in the back room, staring at a screen. They studied the uniqueness of people and could tell from a quick glance or a slight intonation if something wasn't right, if someone needed help. 

They were there for one another. They were there to celebrate and boost one another. You had to coax them to brag.

In many parts of the country, we've drifted away from that.

New License Plate


First Paragraph

"If I were your boss and you told me I had the brain of a sea slug, would I fire you for insulting me, or would I promote you to head of marketing for demonstrating that you really understood how humans think and behave?"

- From The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love - Why We Get Hooked & How We Can Break Bad Habits by Judson Brewer

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

On My List


And Then the Judge Asked Questions

 Althouse and The New York Times on how the Hunter Biden agreement fell apart.

Good Guideline

In a meeting with the Disney people, Steve Jobs suggested the following guideline for their stores:

"This is going to be the best twenty or thirty minutes of your kid's day."

Paved With Good Intentions, No Doubt

From 2017: The iPads in Los Angeles Public Schools Fiasco.

I'm in favor of bringing back chalkboards.

Modern Nitwittery


How America Lost the Plot

Matt Ellison at Palladium magazine talks with author Walter Kirn.

No Measure of Health

 It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

- Krishnamurti

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Light Phone II

Have recently chatted with two bright people who are considering a switch from their smartphone to a Light Phone II.

[Update: One had already made the switch to a Nokia flip phone. His Light Phone arrives today. He'll be comparing the two.]

I may be joining them.



With or Without the Media

 Jonathan Turley on media reluctance to cover the unfolding scandal.

Although many of the younger reporters may not recall these names, this is not as if large amounts of money were paid to Clark Clifford or Joseph Califano in the days when everyone knew they were serious power operators/persuaders with great influence due to their own achievements. 

Hunter Biden is a very different person. The only reason he would get a dime is his link to his father.

The credibility of the news media, already low, will take a major hit in the coming weeks.

We Were Warned



 There is a broken heart in every pew.

- Joseph Parker, 19th century British preacher

Looking Beyond "Excellent Sheep"


Monday, July 24, 2023

Easing Back

I have a lot of reading this summer but have vowed to catch up on the novels of Nicholas Bate. [If he writes them, I read them.]

Also in the stack: books by Roger Scruton, a growing number of books on wellness and technology, The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver, and several related to the trial of Jesus.

Off the Grid


Scribble. Scribble.

Back soon.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Movie Line of the Day

“Maybe you could tell me what is going on. And please, speak as you might to a young child. Or a golden retriever. It wasn't brains that brought me here; I assure you that.” 

- From Margin Call

Not Brutal, But Frank

 One of many reasons why it pays to read Wally Bock: he gives honest book reviews.

Read the Book First


A Simple Approach

Yesterday, I was in a coffee shop for an afternoon meeting. The other person had not arrived and I was checking on a specific strategy discussed in a meeting that morning. It was the obvious strategy and had various complications.

As I scribbled notes, another approach surfaced: direct, simple, inexpensive, and well within our control. And it had far greater punch.

Why didn't I notice it before?

I'm still thinking about that.

County Highway


A magazine about America in the form of a 19th century newspaper.

Sounds promising.

[Photo by Avi Werde at Unsplash]

Friday, July 21, 2023

"Video Killed the Radio Star"

 Cultural Offering has more than Bach.

Movie Line of the Day

"Now, sir. We'll talk, if you like. I'll tell you right out, I am a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk." 

- The Maltese Falcon

Another Feel-Good Series


If We Had a Press Corps

 Jonathan Turley on "so-called" journalism and the IRS whistle-blowers.

Another Dystopian Novel for Our Times

In 2029, the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the "almighty dollar" plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency, the bancor. In retaliation, the president declares that America will default on its loans. The government prints money to cover its bills. What little real currency remains for savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation. 

Check out The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a novel by Lionel Shriver.

I'm currently reading it. Despite a great deal of humor, the book is a little too close to scary.



The New Yorker (2013): Peter Andrey Smith on "The Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise."

Scary Thought of the Day

Programmers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

- Nicholas Carr

Take a Walk


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Jane Birkin, RIP

Black Swan Europa remembers Jane Birkin.

Knowing the Bad Good Things

Much of the advice in life involves shunning the bad things: Don't do this. Avoid that.

The message is to stay on the straight and narrow. Don't slip into the ditch or the abyss.

What is missed, however, is advice on what to do when good things become dangerous:

  • Too much patience.
  • Too much kindness.
  • Too much study.
  • Too much diligence.
  • Too much toil.
  • Too much tolerance.
  • Too much analysis.
  • Too much guidance.
The list can be lengthy and the problems are well-disguised as virtues. They can lurk near the very center of that straight and narrow path.

They deserve greater study.

Very Interesting


Audition Storytime - Part 2


Audition Storytime - Part 1


Brie Larson went on to win many acting awards, including the Academy Award.

Lab Animals of the World, Arise! You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Leashes!

Something entirely new is happening in the world. Just in the last five or ten years, nearly everyone started to carry a little device called a smartphone on their person all the time that's suitable for algorithmic behavior modification. A lot of us are also using related devices called smart speakers on our kitchen counters or in our car dashboards. We're being tracked and measured constantly, and receiving engineered feedback all the time. We're being hypnotized little by little by technicians we can't see, for purposes we don't know. We're all lab animals now.

- Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018)

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

When Sharks Are Your Neighbors


To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


John Anderson Interviews Jacob Rees-Mogg


Want to Avoid Smartphone Addiction?

Check out Dumbwireless.

Prediction: These will catch on.


Smart? Check.

Capable? Check.

Pleasant? Check.

Strong academic background? Check.

Presents a professional image? Check.

Trustworthy? Well, it depends.

[Photo by Akemy Mory at Unsplash]

We'll Always Have the Riviera

Gone but not quite gone:  Alfred Hitchcock has a website.

And for a reminder of true style, "To Catch a Thief" is timeless.

A Few Questions of a Soon-to-Be-Founded Group


  • What is our goal?
  • How can we reach it?
  • What resources are needed?
  • How do we get them?
  • Who is on our team?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the main obstacles?
  • How do we surmount them?
  • Who are our potential allies?
  • Who are our potential competitors?
  • If this project doesn't work, what would be the likely culprit?
  • What is the strongest appeal?
  • How will it change things?
  • What are the stages?
  • What are the interim deadlines?
  • What is the most sophisticated model of operation?
  • What is the simplest model?
  • What would we do with very limited resources?
  • Which actions will produce the greatest results?
  • Once we achieve our goal, what will be our new challenges?

First Paragraph

 A while back my teenage son drifted into the room where I was reading, tilting his head to catch the title of the book in my hands. It was that venerable classic How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren. "Oh man," he said, "I had to read that in school last year. Maybe I learned something about how to read a book, but after that I never wanted to read a book again."

- From The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

Monday, July 17, 2023



Wanted: A PSD Degree

 An explanation from 1981.

In the Background


The Old Man of the Desert

Presented by the kindness of Cultural Offering.

I would post a more recent photo but several days ago I had a knife fight with a dermatologist and he won.

As soon as I am reasonably presentable, a photo will be taken.

The New Censorship

City Journal: Martin Gurri on how the establishment Left embraced government control of digital speech. An excerpt:

At the same time, the speech police protected from criticism members in good standing of the establishment, with a special fondness for Anthony Fauci. It did that for Joe Biden, too, before and after his election to the presidency. There’s no need to repeat here the sordid details of the Hunter Biden laptop fiasco, but given that the predicate for censorship has been the defense of truth, the bare facts of the story should be noted: the FBI lied to Twitter, and Twitter passed the lie on to the public. If it was a disinformation operation, it succeeded completely.

Remember the Book of the Month Club?

I have fond memories of the Book of the Month Club.

It's still around, but as this Forbes interview with its chairman shows, an old guy like me is far from its target audience. 

The Club's new focus is Millennial women. You can tell that from its book choices.

One Powerful Novelist


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Go Eclectic

Check Them Out

 Wally Bock's tip about previewing the books you might want to read has become one of my habits.

It's not fool-proof - on occasion a lemon will slip through - but you usually can spot any gaps between the hype and the substance. Where possible, I scan the book's index to get a sense of substance.

The promotional blurbs on the back should never be taken seriously when considering leadership and management books. There are several big names who frequently gush over the equivalent of swamp land.

Media Commentary

 Commentary magazine: Christine Rosen on "The End of Cable News."

Waiting Rooms

Whenever I go to waiting rooms at doctor's offices, I am always struck by the large number of people reading great literature instead of staring dully into a smartphone. 

Tolstoy, Proust, and Dickens are the usual distractions but it's also possible to spot the works of Shakespeare, Twain, and Steinbeck. More than a few, of course, are immersed in the novels of Agatha Christie or Elmore Leonard but they are in the minority.

Later on, when I report this to the doctor, there is always intense interest in how long I've been noticing such things.

Back By Popular Demand


Friday, July 14, 2023

Great Question Then and Now

"I believe that what fascinates me is the unstated question that lies behind much of our preoccupation with the computer's capabilities. That question is not what will the computer be like in the future, but instead, what will we be like? What kind of people are we becoming?" 

- Sherry Turkle, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984)


 "Move Fast and Break Things."

- Mark Zuckerberg motto

To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


News: The Summer is Hot in Phoenix

Althouse explores a Washngton Post article on the perils of a Phoenix heat wave. [Put "heat wave" in quotes.]

Commenters express shock at things that are standard in Phoenix every summer.

Preserving Values, Thought, and Freedom

 From the National Association of Scholars in 2012, Carol Iannone interviews Robert George about Western Heritage. An excerpt:

A political regime of self-government can only be sustained among people who are capable of governing themselves. People incapable of self-mastery will quickly prove to be unfit for self-government. 

Social Media and Mental Health

 The Surgeon General issues an advisory about effects social media use has on youth mental health.

This potential danger deserves much greater study and attention. Nicholas Carr was ahead of his time when he wrote "The Shallows."

The Observation for Our Times


You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

- Ray Bradbury

Bastille Day

Go storm something.

[Photo by Julio Wolf at Unsplash]

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Memorizing Poetry


Pick a poem for the month. Memorize it. 

If Churchill could memorize "Barbara Frietchie" . . . . 

Selecting Defeat

 City Journal: Jeffrey H. Anderson on "The Allure of Last Time's Loser."

I believe the national mood would improve enormously if Biden and Trump took themselves out of the running.

Gimme Shelter


Are You a Spud?

 To give an honest accounting of the effects of the net on media consumption, you need to add the amount of time people spend consuming web media to the amount of time they already spend consuming TV and other traditional media. Once you do that, it becomes clear that the net has not reduced the time devoted to imbibing media but increased it, a lot. The web, in other words, marks a continuation of a long-term cultural trend, not a reversal of it. The difference is, you no longer need a couch to be a couch potato. With smartphone in hand, you can be a spud wherever you go.

- From "Charlie Bit My Cognitive Surplus" (August 3, 2010) in Utopia Is Creepy and Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr

In My Stack


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

This Matches My Retirement Plan


Hummingbird Nest


To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


The Obvious Problems

The obvious problems are only obvious after they take a single step and seize you by the throat.

In many cases, you've been staring at them for years.


Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who happen to be walking about.

- G. K. Chesterton

Summer of Scruton

 Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.

- Sir Roger Scruton

They Could Call It "The Breakfast Trance"

Molly Ringwald, the beloved teen movie queen of the '80s, recently told Manhattan's York Prep graduating seniors during their commencement that any remake of her iconic high school film The Breakfast Club would "just be teens on their phones for two and a half hours."

- From Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids - And How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras

Bonus Points for the Briefcase

Rick Georges, The FutureLawyer, talking about legal tech.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Intangible

An executive was sent to turn around a problem in a department.

The problem was turned around.

What was missed was that the executive's blunt manner created a new set of problems that won't show up on the monthly progress reports.

Always look for the intangible. It may be more important than the tangible.

"Zombie" Directors?

 Jonathan Turley on a big question of retroactive appointments.

An Excellent Biography

 When Edmund Burke, who sympathized with the American colonists, delivered his argument against the Stamp Act, he countered the position of Lord North, the Tory prime minister:

"Lord North asserts, that retrospect is not wise; and the proper, the only proper subject of inquiry, is 'not how we got into this difficulty, but how we are to get out of it.' In other words, we are, according to him, to consult our invention, and reject our experience. The mode of deliberation he recommends is diametrically opposite to every rule of reason and every principle of good sense established amongst mankind."

- From Edmund Burke: The First Conservative by Jesse Norman

To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


Monday, July 10, 2023



First Paragraph

The cellular signal died halfway through my one hundred fifty-mile journey crossing the state of Florida from west to east. Even though it was a cool February day, I started to sweat. There were no houses or businesses along this rural stretch of road, only horse and cattle farms, lush palm trees, sweet orange groves. Under other circumstances, I would have basked in my idyllic surroundings, but alone and cut off from the online world, I couldn't focus on anything but lurking danger.

- From Offline Rebel: The Bold Magic of Living Without a Smartphone by Flora Hope London


Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

- Richard Feynman 

A Pale Shadow of the Novel


Sunday, July 09, 2023

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Designed for Addiction


The Need for Male Teachers

 Check out the percentage of male teachers in elementary schools.

Consider how much attention this would get if the figures were reversed.

Adding to My Reading List

 Wally Bock's book recommendations for business leaders.

"The Novel, Who Needs It?"

Commentary magazine: Gary Saul Morson reviews Joseph Epstein's new book on the novel.

Reality Reminder

 I was flipping through the new issue of The Atlantic today when I came across this nugget from Ray Kurzweil: "The means of creativity have now been democratized. For example, anyone with an inexpensive high-definition video camera and a personal computer can create a high-quality, full-length motion picture." Yep. Just as the invention of the pencil made it possible for anyone to write a high-quality, full-length novel. And just as that saw in my garage makes it possible for me to build a high-quality, full-length chest of drawers.

- From "The Means of Creativity" (October 14, 2007) in Utopia Is Creepy and Other Provocations by Nicholas Carr

Friday, July 07, 2023

When You Are the Product

 But did you ever stop and wonder why Google never sends you a bill?

- Marc Goodman, Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vunerable, and What We Can Do About It

The Approach

My approach has rarely been to go directly from A to B, but to learn as much as possible about B, to view it from all angles and at various distances, while eventually getting closer and closer.

This may be frustrating for some people but it works for me.

[Photo by Glen Carrie at Unsplash]


He had that rare capacity for surprise that has made possible so many advances in human knowledge, the habit of not taking things for granted, the ability to look at some everyday occurrence and wonder why.

- From Benjamin Franklin by Edmund S. Morgan

When You Are the Product

 It is okay to own a technology, what is not okay is to be owned by technology.

- Abhijit Naskar

On My Dinner Party List


Thursday, July 06, 2023

We'll Always Have Chandler

 Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny black shoe buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same color. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Napoleon's tomb and she was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella. She said: "I need a man."

- From Trouble Is My Business by Raymond Chandler

This Looks Charming


Pick Your Dystopia

Which of the following is closest to today's climate in the United States?

  1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  3. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  4. Not one of the above but a blend of two or three
[Photo by Claudio Schwarz at Unsplash]

First Paragraph

Not once had it occurred to her to think of him as the kind of man who would bring down a government and close off an era. But at that time - in those days - to whom had it occurred? If she had thought about it, then, of course, he was no revolutionary - he was a sybarite. She knew revolutionaries. Short men, serious men, men who marked their seriousness physically by being bald or mustachioed, or both. She knew. She'd been introduced to Lenin before she was ten years old - in much the same way the devout took their children to be blessed by the Pope. She'd been blessed by Lenin. Fat lot of good it did her.

- From A Little White Death by John Lawton

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Fighting Loneliness

 The Washington Post: "Loneliness is taking friend-making apps mainstream."

The Administration and Big Tech

 Jonathan Turley on "The most massive attack on free speech in United States history."

First Paragraph

The rowboat slid out on the Potomac in the hazy light of a hot August morning, dropped down past the line of black ships near the Alexandria wharves, and bumped to a stop with its nose against the wooden side of a transport. Colonel Herman Haupt, superintendent of military railroads, a sheaf of telegrams crumpled in one hand, went up the Jacob's ladder to the deck - clumsily, as was to be expected of a landsman, but rapidly, for he was an active man - and disappeared into a cabin. A moment later he returned, and as he came down the ladder he was followed by a short, broad-shouldered, sandy-haired man, deeply tanned by the sun of the Virginia peninsula, with thin faint lines of worry between his eyes: Major General George Brinton McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, which had been coming up from the south by water for a week and more and which at the moment was scattered all the way from Alexandria to the upper Rappahannock, most of it well out of the general's reach and all of it, as he suspected, soon to be out of his authority.

- From Mr. Lincoln's Army by Bruce Catton

To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


The Pedestrian

 Our screen-possessed times remind me of this classic Ray Bradbury story.

When Book Covers Caught Your Eye

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Independence Day: Would You Have Signed?

 I wrote this several years ago and post it each 4th of July:

The document is on the table. 

Although some of your colleagues are making jokes, each one knows that the signature places the signer's head in a hangman's noose. To sign means you will be regarded as a traitor by the nation that has held your loyalty since birth. Your livelihood may be destroyed and your family doomed to a life of isolation and poverty. Many of your friends and associates will be under suspicion. Others will shun you. Your side, which has feeble and poorly-trained forces, will be fighting the greatest military power in the world. Despite all of the grand talk, the odds of success are small. Even if your side is successful, your new nation will be vulnerable to internal disputes and attacks from predatory powers. This theory of self-government, however attractive, might not work.

It's your turn. Will you sign? 

Paul Revere's Ride: Painting and Poem

 "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere": Painting by Grant Wood.

"Paul Revere's Ride": Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Great works.

From "John Adams"


Mother Country


Monday, July 03, 2023

First Paragraph

On the move again, stealing through the forest, he leaves his shelter and advances through the trees. No one will hear him, no one will see him. There is a heaviness in the air, deep in the thicket he feels the warmth; summer has arrived with a vengeance. Tokala pauses and takes a deep breath. The scent of the lime-tree blossom and winter barley fills the air in the fields over by Markowsken, and already he can smell the lake.

- From The Fatherland Files by Volker Kutscher

The Default Strategy

 City Journal: Heather Mac Donald on the battle for cultural survival. An excerpt:

Coverage of this alleged culture war demonstrates the Left’s most important power: the ability to set the default. The Left engineers disruption after disruption to longstanding social practices, each more sweeping than the last. And as soon as those changes are in place, they become the norm, treated as having existed from time immemorial. Questioning that new default is painted as churlish and radical. The Left never has to meet a burden of proof to implement its changes; the burden falls exclusively on conservatives seeking to restore a once-uncontroversial tradition. Though conservatives are portrayed as the aggressors, in reality they are always on the defensive, fighting a rearguard action.

Destruction of Reason


To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


Good Intentions

 Commentary magazine: James B. Meigs on bus shelters, light rail, and Brad Pitt houses.

Let's Create a Monster

If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don't understand the problems and you don't understand the technology.

- Bruce Schneier

We need to be super careful with AI. It is potentially more dangerous than nukes.

- Elon Musk

I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And that is something I cannot allow to happen.

- HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President


Through the Hoops


Sunday, July 02, 2023

Saturday, July 01, 2023

The Strife of Ideas

We know, however dimly, that once in the past the strife of ideas brought us civil war, and it is not comfortable to reflect on what it might bring us in the future in the form of "culture wars."

But then, the strife of ideas also brought us Abraham Lincoln.

- Allen C. Guelzo


 Nicholas Bate gives a writing tip.

Generational Fleece


It's More Important to Do Right Than Be Right

 Wally Bock: Hey bosses, don't make it a contest!

Brain Science: From Bench to Battlefield


Social Media and Collective Destruction

Social media is good for collective sharing, but not always so great for collective building; good for collective destruction, but maybe not so good for collective construction; fantastic for generating a flash mob, but not so good at generating a flash consensus on a party platform or constitution.

- Thomas L. Friedman, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations

To Be Read Every Five Years: A Series


Time For Another Viewing