Monday, February 27, 2017

Art Break

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edgar Maxence.

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If there were one key to the Southwest's history and culture, it might well be the river systems of the region. Man goes where water flows, up and down the river trails and back and forth along the river arteries. River banks and valleys are ancient places of human habitation. Rivers are history's circulatory system. 

- From Where Water Flows: The Rivers of Arizona by Lawrence Clark Powell

Music Lover

Cultural Offering has the Essential Mixes for John Waite.


Clive James on Brexit and Europe.

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It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague," as well as newer and more "hip" titles such as "World War Z" or "Z War One." I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable "Z War Two." For me, it will always be "The Zombie War," and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word zombie, they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that almost caused our extinction. Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book

- From World War Z: An Oral History of The Zombie War by Max Brooks

Highly Recommended

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Big Government on the Sly

In his 2014 book "Bring Back the Bureaucrats," [John J. Di Iulio]  argued that because the public is, at least philosophically, against "big government," government has prudently become stealthy about how it becomes ever bigger. In a new Brookings paper, he demonstrates that government expands by indirection, using three kinds of "administrative proxies" -- state and local government, for-profit businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

Read the rest of George Will's column here.

A Major and Memorable Termination Blunder

When radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey fired a performer on-air.

Quote of the Day

The young person who has not wept is a savage, and the old one who will not laugh is a fool.

- George Santayana

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, February 25, 2017

An Earful of Patsy Cline

This item at Anderson Layman's Blog will cause many of us to remember this classic Jimmy Buffett song.

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I used to love this season. The wood stacked by the door, the tang of its sap still speaking of forest. The hay made, all golden in the low afternoon light. The rumble of the apples tumbling into the cellar bins. Smells and sights and sounds that said this year it would be all right: there'd be food and warmth for the babies by the time the snows came. I used to love to walk in the apple orchard at this time of the year, to feel the soft give underfoot when I trod on a fallen fruit. Thick, sweet scents of rotting apple and wet wood. This year, the hay stocks are few and the woodpile scant, and neither matters much to me.

- From Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

First Impressions

A client recently called with a question about an organizational problem. The subject was sensitive and there was a desire for decisive action. There were, however, two likely approaches. [Doing nothing was not an option.]

Each approach had possible complications but, as we discussed the matter, it was evident that one carried far more risk than the other.

Here's the interesting part: the risky option initially seemed to be modest and subdued.  

Gilbert and Sullivan ["H.M.S. Pinafore"]: "Things are seldom what they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream." 

Highly Recommended

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Quote of the Day

There is a great difference between knowing a thing and understanding it.

- Charles Kettering

Friday, February 24, 2017

Music Break

2013 BBC Proms: The theme from "Ben-Hur."

Cadillac's Dare Greatly Ad

The Cadillac advertisement that will be aired during the Oscars.

Some additional commentary is at Althouse.

Bock Reviews "Messy"

Wally Bock gives an intriguing review of Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford.

Once again, he has added to my reading list.


Yesterday in Flagstaff

There was snow on the San Francisco Peaks and the city below had cold and strong winds. Even the locals thought it was cold. The desert rat who was teaching ethical decision-making had to scurry from car to training room.

As with most of my classes on ethics, attendance was mandatory. Make it optional and you'll find that few people will tell their boss, "I'd like to take a class on ethics," much less "I think I need a class on ethics."

But they do.  All of us do. And when it is cold outside, a cozy training room can look very nice.


When you are young, sleep is a rival because there is so much to do.

When you are older, sleep is an ally because there is so much to do.

[Update: Last word corrected. Not enough sleep.]

Quote of the Day

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

- Daniel J. Boorstin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Greater Appreciation

As I get older, I have a greater appreciation of:
  • The talent of Frank Sinatra.
  • A quiet Saturday night.
  • The sweetness of dogs.
  • Alfred Hitchcock films.
  • Walks.
  • Bach's genius.
  • A well-written sentence.
  • The insight of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Vincent van Gogh.
  • Comfortable clothes.

Film Break

The trailers for:

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It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Their bread, their work, their private lives began to depend on this or that decision in disputes on principles to which, until then, they had never paid any attention. In their eyes, the philosopher had always been a sort of dreamer whose divagations had no effect on reality. The average human being, even if he had once been exposed to it, wrote philosophy off as utterly impractical and useless. Therefore the great intellectual work of the Marxists could easily pass as just one more variation on a sterile pastime. Only a few individuals understood the causes and probable consequences of this general indifference.

- From The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz

Quote of the Day

When you receive a kindness, remember it; when you do a kindness, forget it.

- Greek proverb

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Poetry Break

Emily Dickinson: "Surgeons Must Be Very Careful."

Short and sharp.

Highly Recommended

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Small Wins

Nicholas Bate has the list

My favorite involves reading four pages of a classic novel every day.

HP's Attack on Equal Employment Opportunity

Center for Equal Opportunity: "Diversity Mandate to Partner Law Firms."

ABA Journal has a related story.

Evidence that truly vile policies can be dressed up in fine language. I wonder how many law firms will meekly comply. 

Plain Language

Whenever I hear a speaker use language that is unduly complicated, it sparks several reactions:

  1. "This person is blowing smoke to hide a lack of expertise."
  2. "This person confuses complexity with depth and is seeking to impress us."
  3. "This person may not be trying to deceive or impress anyone but simply doesn't know the subject well enough to put it in plain language."
  4. "This person may know the subject, but doesn't care enough about the audience to put it in terms that are easier to understand."
I realize that there are other possible interpretations but my usual conclusion is the third. I've met executives and managers who sincerely believe that they know a subject but, when pressed to describe it in plain language, they are stymied.

I've mentioned this idea before but a very wise Human Resources Director of my acquaintance writes a clear description of key HR issues on large note cards. When she finishes a management book, she jots what she learned on those note cards. It is a simple and brilliant habit because translating the complex into the simple is one of the surest ways to learn a subject.

If you can't put it in plain language, perhaps you don't know it.

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Through all the years of my sad youth Huysmans remained a companion, a faithful friend; never once did I doubt him, never once was I tempted to drop him or take up another subject; then, one afternoon in June 2007, after waiting and putting it off as long as I could, even slightly longer than was allowed, I defended my dissertation, "Joris-Karl Huysmans: Out of the Tunnel," before the jury of the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne. The next morning (or maybe that evening, I don't remember: I spent the night of my defense alone and very drunk) I realized that part of my life, probably the best part, was behind me.

- From Submission by Michel Houellebecq

Quote of the Day

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

- Winston Churchill

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Study in Leadership: McMaster

From 2006: George Packer in The New Yorker on the man who was just appointed National Security Adviser.

Update: McMaster speaking on strategy.

Think "System"

In general, an intent will beat a wish, a goal will beat an intent, and a plan will beat a goal, But a clear goal, a solid plan, and a well-matched system will be formidable.

Start with a Good Cup of Coffee

And then read several posts at Cultural Offering.

A great way to ease into the morning.

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The early-morning, late-November sun began to come in low and slow and pale over the railroad bridge at the Dockett Street commuter-train stop on the Dedham-West Roxbury line, cheap-glittering the dirty windows on the southerly side of the yellow cinderblock auto-body shop - the sign on the roof in tall, hollow, red-plastic letters read: BUDDYS' YOUR BRUISED CAR'S BEST BUDDY -and Dell'Appa writhed in the passenger bucket of the blue-and-white Chevy Blazer. He exhaled loudly.

- From Bomber's Law by George V. Higgins

Quote of the Day

To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.

- George Orwell