Thursday, August 31, 2023

This Looks Cheery


If You Are Creative

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.

Reality and Theory


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

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Defending the Justice

 A letter from 112 former clerks of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Good Stuff Out Thar in the Blogosphere

Check out:

[Where's Wally Bock hiding?]

Whatever Happened to Culture?

 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.

Blockchain Explained


Monday, August 28, 2023

The Rules of a Kingsman Gentleman

 A Large Regular has the rules.

The Side That Shoots Its Dissidents


Not a Shocker

 Gallup: Historically low faith in institutions continues.

Good Questions

"To whom would you delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? To relieve you of the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear? Do you know anyone - hands up - do you know anyone to whom you'd give this job?"

- Christopher Hitchens

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Saturday, August 26, 2023

America's Shadow Self


City Journal: Michael Shellenberger looks at California.

[Photo by Jordi Vich Navarro at Unsplash]



Generation Gap

A reminder of my age. Over the past few years, I have spoken with young people who were unfamiliar with:

  • Spencer Tracy
  • Diana Rigg
  • Andy Devine
  • Wallace Beery
  • Rube Goldberg
  • Redd Foxx
You know, the essentials.

Finding and Making Trails

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.

On My List


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.


Never hire an A student unless it is to take exams.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb


An important proposal to be accompanied by a video.

Such things cannot be prepared with mere conventional analysis. Am jotting down thoughts.

Very eclectic. 

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

Read the Book First


And For Good Reason

 A Large Regular suddenly wants a Peugeot 403.

Missing Mo


Some Autobiographies Are Not to Be Missed


  • 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

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Music Break

 Yuja Wang is at Stephen Landry's Blog.

Crank it up.

Problems + Solutions + Problems + Solutions


Many a Consulting Project

  • We have to do this.
  • We have to do this.
  • We have to do this.
  • We have to do this.
  • We have to do this.
  • We have to do this.
  • You don't have to do that.

Adam Smith and the Family

 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

Our Times


I Think We Know the Answer

"It remains to be seen which program will cause greater societal damage: China’s one-child policy or America’s one-parent policy." 

- P.J. O’Rourke

Friday, August 18, 2023

A Cartoon For Our Times

 Found at A Large Regular.

Great Questions

 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

Old School

 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

Back By Popular Demand


Alert "Cultural Offering"


Most or All?

Most organizations resemble a farm in a jungle. Neglect certain tasks and the jungle grows back.

[Photo by Chemo Photo at Unsplash]

First Paragraph

 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

Getting Into This


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

An Existential Question

 The American Conservative on what happened to Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes.



Back to the Blackboard

It would be a major advance if our elementary and high schools achieved the levels routinely attained in the 1930s.

Here's hoping we don't have several more decades of bold new ways to teach math, English, and history.

In the Future

Unless the national obsession with scrolling on social media is reversed, future generations will have the attention span of a gnat.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

"The Coffee Boilers"

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

You Carry Around Massive Change


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

Save the Whales


What Might Not Have Been

I was reading an article in which a person groaned about a foreign policy decision. The supposition was that if that decision had not been made, then things would have been better. 

Given the complexity of the situation, however, we do not know if things would have been better. Events are not frozen. Circumstances change. Personalities can be unpredictable. 

As I reviewed the history and the facts, my own conclusion was the course that was taken, despite its drawbacks, may have saved us from a plausible future that would have been much worse.

The unknowns accumulate and no one has a looking glass.

Hollywood Hates You


Fighting the Addiction of Social Media


Project Liberty Action Network.


 Failure-resistant is achievable; failure-free is not.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Saturday, August 12, 2023

"The Ruin"

There are many translations of this eighth or ninth century Anglo-Saxon poem but the central message remains: this too shall pass. 

[Photo by SJ at Unsplash]

Saturday Reflections

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. 

It hasn't.

First Paragraph

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

Great Music for Late Night Work


A War of the Tragically Modern Kind

 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

No Signed Confession?

Jonathan Turley on the news media and the Biden corruption coverage.

I was around during the Watergate scandal. You can imagine how the news media bent over backwards to help Nixon. (Raised eyebrow.)

Lax Immigration Screening


Those Who Know the Poem Will Get the Joke

Available at The Philip Larkin Society.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Nitwittery Update

Loons captured the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

More here from the museum site.

An Author to Re-Visit

 Joseph Conrad wrote several excellent novels, but his life was also a novel.

Victimization Culture


Seven Valuable Questions


  1. Who does what?
  2. Are there clear boundaries?
  3. How is information shared?
  4. Do people prepare informal procedures because the formal ones are inadequate?
  5. Are poor practices rewarded?
  6. How often do good performers leave?
  7. Is there a fear of being candid?

Steiger and Plummer: Waterloo


Wednesday, August 09, 2023

The Smartphone Problem

 A report on "Wellness in the Age of the Smartphone."

Back By Popular Demand


Seriously Missed

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

Reality 101

I have noticed that a large portion of the informal coaching I provide to young people involves telling them how large and supposedly sophisticated organizations can make highly irrational decisions.

Most of them are shocked.

And We'll Get Your Little Dog Too!"

 College Fix: Someone relatively high up at an American university decided that it made sense to remove a plaque regarding Traveller, the horse of General Robert E. Lee.

Monday, August 07, 2023

The Wood Man


Keeping It

 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.

Incremental Progress


Michael Crichton on the Media



Be grateful for every word you can cut.

- William Zinsser, On Writing


 He found himself at the top of the ladder almost before he started to climb, and the height was dizzying.

- Bruce Catton in Mr. Lincoln's Army with a succinct view of General George McClellan 

"Don't Be a Phoney"


Catalyst: "How the Luddite Teens of New York Changed My Perspective on Social Media."

[Photo by Gian Cescon at Unsplash]

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Saturday, August 05, 2023

On My List


Who Watches the Watchman?

FutureLawyer gives an update on Google's new privacy tools.

My question is "If Google is the guardian, who protects us from Google?"

Interesting Thinkers: A Series




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.

Time to Log Off: The Organization

The British group for digital wellness.

I will be posting information on American groups.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Art Break


We Are Always Awaiting Pearl Harbor

 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.

First Paragraph

 They met in Saint George's in Kollwitzkiez, both reaching for the same book. 'Sorry,' they said together, drawing back their arms.

- From A Lonely Man by Chris Power

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Interesting Thinkers: A Series


Step It Up

Common workplace strategy pictured above.

First Paragraph

 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

Same Here

I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking.

- Steve Jobs

Soul Preservation Strategy

 FutureLawyer on BigLaw lawyers who decided to ditch their jobs.

The Evolving Computer Threat

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)


Nicholas Bate's key performance indicators. 

Political Rembrandts vs. Niceties

"That would be all that was needed to net millions of dollars."

- Jonathan Turley on Devon Archer's new evidence.