Thursday, August 31, 2023
If you are creative, you have to be conscious of timing. Surface the idea too early and it may trigger uneasiness. Surface it too late and people may fail to see its potential.
One strategy is to surface the idea in increments so it can be tried and tested. Later, when you announce the approach, they may yawn but that will be because it is already being done and you have stated the obvious.
The basic problem begins with our inability to order firefighters from central casting with a split-personality switch. If such a model was available, we could flip the switch in one position and produce an attack-trained, conditioned, and inclined worker who would be preprogrammed to aggressively and effectively maim and kill fire and actively solve any other physical problem. For routine, nonemergency times, like when the kids are sitting around the station watching educational TV and eating Waldorf salad, we could flip the switch in the other direction and get a sensitive, emoting, considerate individual who naturally and positively relates to his/her coworkers (and everyone else). What happens in the real world is we get a complete, connected, unswitched person, who as a firefighter is typically highly inclined and ready (thankfully) to do the tough business of our business. We quickly fall into the profile of being a firefighter and become a reflection of that work (adrenaline directed, intense, lots of camraderie, always different, exciting); simply, if you work in the street you become the street. Our challenge is to creatively combine the somewhat opposite sets of characteristics represented by the two sides of the switch to get the most out of both sets of very necessary inclinations and capabilities.
- Alan Brunacini, Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
When I ask what happened to culture, I am asking how it has come about that the great subjects of culture—philosophy, art, music, literature, film—today no longer seem, so to say, up for discussion, at least not in their contemporary aspects. Ask a cultivated person who his or her favorite living painters are, or classical composers, or novelists and poets, and you are not likely to get a ready answer, or any answer at all. I have no satisfactory answers to these questions myself.
Read the rest of Joseph Epstein in Commentary magazine.
Monday, August 28, 2023
Sunday, August 27, 2023
Saturday, August 26, 2023
I will find out where the boundaries are and where the assumptions are hidden. I will listen for what is not said as well as what is declared. Plain explanations will be requested because an inability in that area is quite revealing. Special attention will be given to the desire to duplicate and to complicate. We'll have to determine which strengths to rein in.
If we listen a great deal and our team is composed of the few, the savvy, and the nimble, things should go well.
Success will largely depend upon avoiding the classic mistakes. That chore will be on our maps.
Friday, August 25, 2023
Having known people who waited a considerable amount of time to enter the United States legally, I find the news media's reluctance to address the unfairness of illegal immigration to be more than offensive.
It is a silence that declares their slant on the issue. It deprives us of an honest debate.
An important proposal to be accompanied by a video.
Such things cannot be prepared with mere conventional analysis. Am jotting down thoughts.
The ultimate product will show that you can design an organization while thinking of the history of Arabia and Indochina.
[Photo by Subhash Nusetti at Unsplash]
Thursday, August 24, 2023
- An Open Book by John Huston
- The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
- Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge
- Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
- Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
- Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
- The Oak and the Calf by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
- The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth
Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Monday, August 21, 2023
Sunday, August 20, 2023
Saturday, August 19, 2023
When Adam Smith writes that it is not to the benevolence of the butcher or the baker, but to their self-love, that we look for provision of our dinners, it is entirely consistent with the tenor of his thought to recognize that most butchers and bakers endure the blood and the heat of their labors not for themselves alone but for the benefit of their families. The "self-love" Smith writes of is to be taken in a large rather than a narrow sense, so as to include forms of natural benevolence, duty, sympathy, and other-centered ambition. Above all, economic self-interest includes the family. This is an important qualification. Too much economic analysis seems to ignore it.
- From "In Praise of Bourgeois Virtues" in On Cultivating Liberty: Reflections on Moral Ecology by Michael Novak
Friday, August 18, 2023
Has any attorney general ever appointed as special counsel a subordinate who has already agreed to a plea bargain that included immunity for the offenses that are now to be investigated further? Which AG picked as special counsel a prosecutor who had already let the statute of limitations run on one of the most serious charges to be investigated? Which AG appointed a subordinate who had been accused by colleagues of questionable conduct in relation to the investigation he will now run with a free hand?
- Stan Long, in the letters section of The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2023
Yesterday morning, a woman I coached several years ago caught me as I prepared for a meeting.
"You never change," she said.
"I know," I replied. "I am perpetually old."
Which is true. I was old as a child.
Anyway, she wants to resume our management coaching sessions. I am under no illusions that my advice is brilliant. My secret - if there is one - consists of careful listening and a passion for the basics.
I try to simplify things.
And I am not afraid to say, "I will have to think about that" when I have to think about something.
Incidentally, I am not one of those consultants who refrains from giving advice and who keeps probing and probing until the client comes up with "an answer."
I listen and then give my advice.
Once again, very basic.
Thursday, August 17, 2023
From a very early age, we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world. This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden, enormous price. We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole. When we then try to "see the big picture," we try to reassemble the fragments in our minds, to list and organize all the pieces. But, as physicist David Bohm says, the task is futile - similar to trying to reassemble the fragments of a broken mirror to see a true reflection. Thus, after a while we give up trying to see the whole altogether.
- The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
The American Conservative on what happened to Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes.
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
The coffee ration was what kept the army going. The government bought good coffee and issued it in whole bean to prevent unscrupulous dealers from adulterating it, and the men ground it for themselves by pounding the beans on a rock with a stone or musket butt. The veteran learned to carry a little canvas bag in which he mixed his ground coffee and his sugar ration, spooning them out together when he made his coffee. The ration was ample to make three or four pints of strong coffee daily, and on the march any halt of more than five minutes was sure to see men making little fires and boiling coffee. Stragglers would often fall out, build a fire, boil coffee, drink it, and then plod on to overtake their regiments at nightfall. Cavalry and artillery referred to infantry, somewhat contemptuously, as "the coffee boilers."
- From Mr. Lincoln's Army by Bruce Catton
Never has such change been struck so fast. The printing press and firearms were technological watersheds with world-historical implications, but they took decades or centuries to assimilate. Digital technology has, by contrast, so changed human life within a couple of decades that teens are today growing up in an altogether new cultural environment - with different expectations, habits, and standard points of orientation from their parents'. There is now arguably a greater chasm between someone age twelve and someone age fifty (or forty, or thirty) than there ever was between people separated by a millennium of pharaonic rule in ancient Egypt.
- From A Web of Our Own Making by Anton Barba-Kay
[Photo by Mika Baumeister at Unsplash]
Monday, August 14, 2023
Sunday, August 13, 2023
Saturday, August 12, 2023
Aside from the low caliber of key decision makers, sinking standards, overspending, declining resources, diminished trust, ruthless adversaries, and an elite that has no respect for the rest of us, things are going well.
We're told it has always been this way.
We were changed while we were not looking. Digital technology seemed at first like an unmixed boon - an extension of capacities that allowed us to do the same but better, faster, more efficiently. For people used to the post office, typewriters, and libraries, there was no obvious trade-off to moving online. Nicholas Carr's 2008 article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" was a polemical anomaly, during a time when Google was widely hailed as an agent of wide-spreading enlightenment. Perhaps this might have remained the general prejudice, had there appeared no chasm between our dominant cultural institutions and the sitting president. Even so, it was clear by 2016 that piecemeal changes in how we communicated had added up to another way of doing things, such that someone who had no notion of what was going on online could no longer understand what was going on off. Things were not just communicated differently but happening otherwise. It was then that I (like many) first took closer notice. This book is the outcome of my efforts to keep everything in mind.
- From A Web of Our Own Making: The Nature of Digital Formation by Anton Barba-Kay
Friday, August 11, 2023
The point that is so easy to overlook nowadays is that the men of the 1860s were living in the center of a fiery furnace. It was not a tidy, clear-cut war against some foreign nation that was being waged. It was a civil war, a war not between men of two nations but between men of two beliefs, two philosophies, two ways of considering human society and its structure and purpose. The opposing beliefs were not sharply defined and clear so that no man could mistake which camp he belonged in. On the contrary, there were a dozen gradations of belief leading from one to the other, and a man might belong in one camp on one issue and in the other camp on another; and the very word "loyalty" might mean loyalty to a flag, to a cause, or to a belief in some particular social and political theory, and "treason" might mean disloyalty to any of these. Indeed, the war was peculiarly and very bitterly a war of the tragically modern kind, in which loyalties and disloyalties do not follow the old patterns even though those patterns may be the only ones men can use when they try to formulate their loyalty. And so that generation was deprived of the one element that is essential to the operation of a free society - the ability to assume, in the absence of good proof to the contrary, that men in public life are generally decent, honorable, and loyal. Because that element was lacking, the wisest man could be reasonable with only part of his mind; a certain area had to be given over to emotions which were all the more mad and overpowering because he shared them with everyone else.
- Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Wednesday, August 09, 2023
Okay, once again the growing list of voices that are sorely missed today:
- Tom Wolfe
- Eric Hoffer
- Jeane Kirkpatrick
- Charles Krauthammer
- James Baldwin
- Christopher Hitchens
- Walker Percy
- Sidney Poitier
- Michael Crichton
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Raymond Aron
- Saul Bellow
- Walter Berns
- Oscar Levant
- Edward Abbey
- Allan Bloom
- Groucho Marx
- Barbara Jordan
- William F. Buckley Jr.
- Paul Johnson
- Leo Rosten
- Malcolm Muggeridge
- Orson Welles
- Art Buchwald
- Marguerite Higgins
- Midge Decter
- Shelby Foote
- David McCullough
- Hunter S. Thompson
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan
- Albert Camus
- Marshall McLuhan
- Milton Friedman
- Robert Conquest
Tuesday, August 08, 2023
Monday, August 07, 2023
The auto mechanic found no problems. He advised: "Hang onto this car."
The washing machine repair technician fixed a minor item. His advice: "You won't find a better washing machine. Keep this one."
The comments are nice but they make me wonder about what's being produced out there.
[Photo by Gian Cescon at Unsplash]
Sunday, August 06, 2023
Saturday, August 05, 2023
It is a common practice to associate a strong belief in luck with losers. "Bad luck" is an easy excuse for people who have not worked hard enough or effectively enough to succeed.
And yet it seems unrealistic to dismiss luck as a myth. There are people who are in the right place at the right time and there are their opposites. Effort and brilliance have nothing to do with it.
[Check out the definition of "schlimazel." To borrow a common example, if a schlimazel bought a funeral home, people would stop dying.]
Exploiting the opportunity is another story. The person who gets the break usually has to perform . . . unless another injection of luck arrives and genuine performance is not measured.
Friday, August 04, 2023
At all times, there are silent developments in society and organizations that are largely unnoticed. Some perceptive individuals may write about them - Thomas Sowell's 1993 book about American education problems could have been written this year - but too often their observations are duly noted and ignored.
The formula for the creation of an environment in which such relevations are widely acknowledged has not yet, to my knowledge, been developed.
I do know, however, the nature of their widespread acknowledgement.
It is an explosion.
Thursday, August 03, 2023
Abraham Lincoln was born on a mattress of corn husks in a nest of bear rugs on the morning of February 12, a Sabbath, 1809. The United States was then an infant nation with another risky war against Great Britain ahead of it. The birthplace for this new child of the republic was a one-room, windowless, dirt-floored log cabin in Hardin County, near Hodgenville in Kentucky. The cabin stood on land to which his father's title was uncertain.
- From Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally
Wednesday, August 02, 2023
In 1973 the most common complaints about the computer were about billing errors ("the computer did it") and lost airplane reservations ("the computer is down"). The threat from the computer was the threat from the impersonal system that knew you only as a number. Now the threat seems all too personal, captured in the fear that a child or a spouse will get "hooked" and become addicted to a machine.
- From The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit by Sherry Turkle (published in 1984)