Saturday, December 31, 2016
Music for drinking a glass of wine and staring into the fire in the fireplace for a half hour...................
The Allman Brothers..............................................Mountain Jam
Culture is the invisible force on which innovation depends. We like to pin the mantle of invention on individuals, not circumstances. We anoint heroes and tell their stories. Yet innovation is a collective undertaking. It is as much the product of circumstance as of genius. There is a spirit to it. Preserving that culture and spirit at Pixar was very, very important...
Corporations are a lot like living creatures. They have personalities, emotions, and habits. The person at the top might seem to be calling the shots but is often imprisoned in a culture he or she can do little to change. As corporations succeed, they generally become more conservative. The flames of creativity on which a company is built can easily cool as pressures to perform mount. Success brings something to defend, something to lose. Fear can easily trump courage.
In my days as a lawyer representing start-ups doing deals with large corporations, I had observed how the giant East Coast technology companies like IBM and Digital Equipment Corporation that once ruled the high tech world had evolved into hierarchical, formal cultures. Orders came from the top. Lines of communication were rigid. Coloring outside the lines was shunned. Their organizations became politicized. The most progressive, innovative contributors did not necessarily rise to the top. Excessive hierarchy and bureaucracy were like a death blow to innovation. I knew at Pixar we had to avoid this.
-Lawrence Levy, as excerpted from To Pixar And Beyond; My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History
Now, some might say it was easy to cede creative control when you have someone like John Lasseter on your team. But in my experience it is never easy. And it was certainly never easy for Pixar. Every one of Pixar's films went through a series of hair-raising creative crises that repeatedly tested out decision. Creative excellence is a dance on the precipice of failure, a battle against the allure of safety. There are no shortcuts, no formulas, no well-worn paths to victory. It tests you constantly.
But I felt really proud of our decision. We had chosen to truly empower talent, to send a signal to Pixar's creative leaders that we trusted them. I cannot say this approach would be right for every company. But I can say that whether you are making bottled water, mobile games, or computer chips, the decision of who has control over the creative elements is among the most important any team will make. Fear and ego conspire to rein in creativity, and it is easy to allow creative inspiration to take a back seat to safety. It is one thing to cite the adage "Story is king." It is another thing entirely to live by it.
-Lawrence Levy, as extracted from To Pixar And Beyond: My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History
The laws of physics suggest we cannot go in one direction forever. Sooner or later, something will slow us down. Whether it be stocks, housing prices, economics, or entire civilizations, even the biggest booms stall. We build castles, churches, and monuments believing they will last forever, our perception of solidity often belies an underlying movement that is difficult to perceive. Sometimes we can see the wave of change coming. But more often we are swept along in it.
-Lawrence Levy, as excerpted from To Pixar And Beyond: My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History
Entrepreneurial risk taking and trial-and-error learning are all we have. Nothing else come close.
-Peter Gordon, as culled from here
Friday, December 30, 2016
....................I look forward to reading everyday. Althouse is one of those. Exhibit A for why that is a good idea is here.
"Explanations are overrated. The power of the presidency is overblown. Find love and meaning where it really is."
Thursday, December 29, 2016
*Maria Rosa Menocal's Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians`Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain may not be on everybody's reading list, but.........
I just audited a course at my alma mater. The course, History 102 - Late Antiquity, covered the time period 200 CE - 1000 CE. 800 years is a lot to cover in one semester: the end of the Roman Empire, the formalizing of Christianity, the rise of the Byzantine Empire, Beowulf, Mohammad and the birth and spread of Islam, the Goths, the Visigoths, the Carolingians, Charlemagne, Al-Andalus, the Vikings - you get the idea.
Al-Andalus caught my attention, so after class I asked the professor what additional reading he might recommend. With the side note that it wasn't the whole story, he suggested Ornament Of The World.
Just as 800 years is a bit much to cover in one semester, 700 years is a bit much to cover in one book. A long-running happy, healthy, and prosperous civilization is not all that common in the history of mankind, so the glory years of Al-Andalus are worth celebrating and studying. If you saw the subtitle to the book and picked up the book looking for the "how to", you might be disappointed. Having said that, this is a worthy book with lessons to teach. Consider it recommended.
The effects of the long-term presence of two expansive religious ideologies, each originally foreign to the Andalusian ethic, transformed the nature of the conflicts at hand. They made religious-ideological warfare a reality, cultural orthodoxy a real possibility, and monochromatic identity a realizable ideal. And yet it must be said that neither Castilian Christians nor the Nasrid Muslims of Grenada were ever vociferous advocates of these notions, although certainly both societies moved toward far more conspicuous levels of religious segregation and intolerance. They nevertheless continued to deal with each other in a universe characterized by realpolitik and by cultural openness of the sort that led to the building of Seville's Alcazar in the fourteenth century.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians`Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
A very different kind of external force may also have played a decisive negative role. The devastating Black Death, the bubonic plague that swept through Europe and decimated its populations in the middle of the fourteenth century, provides the most solid conventional explanation of the rise of religious intolerance on the Iberian Peninsula - as well as throughout the rest of medieval Europe. The nearly unimaginable upheavals and despair triggered by the sudden death of upwards of twenty percent of the overall population were most vividly described by the contemporary Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio. The Decameron, his masterpiece, which was written shortly after the height of the plague, in 1348, begins with a description of the horrors of the plague. The physical ravages were terrible enough, but far more telling was the utter destruction of the social mores and civic standards that were (and are) the backbones of any civilization, the devastated communal and familial structures that followed the fast-spreading illness. Bodies were thrown into the streets and most people died alone, abandoned by terrified and helpless family and friends. This catastrophic and wholesale undermining of the social and religious order resulted, among other things, in the scapegoating of certain minority communities - the Jews conspicuously so - as well as in the scapegoating of tolerance itself. In answering the question of why God would countenance the near-destruction of His people, it was easy enough for certain voices to claim, echoing Scripture itself, that society was surely being punished for its lack of true belief, as well as for the tolerance of nonbelievers in its midst.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, And Christians`Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
For Moses [of Leon], these seemingly opposing visions of the universe, the philosophical and the normatively religious, were alike in that neither could lead to any real understanding of the true complexities of God and existence.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, Ornament Of The World
Each focused unflinchingly on the paradoxes that must be embraced in order for faith and reason to flourish in their respective domains. Neither faith nor reason was to have precedence (this would necessarily lead to a tyranny of the one over the other), but rather each was to have a generous and uncompromised place at the table where both could share in the banquet of truth.
-Maria Rosa Menocal, as excerpted from her discussion of Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Musa ibn Maymun (Maimonides) in Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created A Culture Of Tolerance In Medieval Spain
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
For neither the first nor the last time in history, heady success sowed some of the seeds of its own demise, and what had been a court that proudly displayed its community's wealth and superiority began to be perceived as a self-indulgent and narcissistic court unwilling or unable to tend directly to the governance of that community.
-Maria Rose Menocal, The Ornament Of The World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created A Culture Of Tolerance In Medieval Spain
Every time I've ever hit a shot, I tried to hit it in the hole. That includes a tee shot on a par-5. Now, that wouldn't have been very realistic, but that's how I hit every shot in my mind's eye.
I think this might be one of the best thoughts you can have when playing golf, because it really focuses your mind on the ultimate goal.
-Arnold Palmer, A Life Well Played: My Stories
During the Six Days, God created man and the other animals.
He made a man and a woman and placed them in a pleasant garden, along with the other creatures. They all lived together there in harmony and contentment and blooming youth for some time; then trouble came. God had warned the man and the woman that they must not eat of the fruit of a certain tree. And he added a most strange remark; he said that if they ate of it they should surely die. Strange, for the reason that inasmuch as they had never seen a sample of death they could not possibly know what he meant. Neither would he nor any other god have been able to make those ignorant children understand what was meant, without furnishing a sample. The mere word could have no meaning for them, any more that it would have for an infant of days.
Presently a serpent sought them out privately, and came to them walking upright, which was the way of serpents in those days. The serpent said the forbidden fruit would store their vacant minds with knowledge. So they ate it, which was quite natural, for man is so made that he eagerly wants to know; whereas the priest, like God, whose imitator and representative he is, has made it his business from the beginning to keep him from knowing any useful thing.
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and at once a great light streamed into their dim heads. They had acquired knowledge. What knowledge - useful knowledge? No - merely knowledge that there was such a thing as good, and such a thing as evil, and how to do evil. They couldn't do it before. Therefore all their acts up to this point had been without stain, without blame, without offense.
But now they could do evil - and suffer for it; now they had acquired what the the Church calls an invaluable possession, the Moral Sense; that sense which differentiates man from beast and sets him above the beast. Instead of below the beast - where one would suppose his proper place would be, since he is always foul-minded and guilty and the beast is always clean-minded and innocent. It is like valuing a watch that must go wrong, above a watch that can't.
The Church still prizes the Moral Sense as man's noblest asset today, although the Church knows God had a distinctly poor opinion of it and did what he could in his clumsy way to keep his happy Children of the Garden from acquiring it.
-Mark Twain, as excerpted from Letters from the Earth
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
.............has noted the retirement (at age 86) of Thomas Sowell. It probably won't surprise them that he is also an accomplished photographer. Additional evidence here.
"In trading, doing nothing is often the most difficult doing. A bias toward activity gives us an illusory sense of control, when in fact we often exercise the greatest control when we are not doing."
Sunday, December 25, 2016
........................left at our house by Santa was Bill Lyon's Deadlines and Overtimes: Collected Writings on Sports and Life. Santa must read this blog. Faithful readers may remember that, in large measure, my love for the printed word was nurtured by my much younger self's perusing the works of the great sports writers of Philadelphia's three daily newspapers. Lyon wrote sports columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than 30 years. A quick scan of his book turned up these quotes:
"Sports is where, for all that is petty and pig-headed here on the third rock from the sun, we are privileged to witness pride and passion, valor and resiliency, perseverance and persistence...great, shining examples of the fierce, unbending indomitability of the human spirit. It gives us that rarest of gifts. Hope."
"Grief is like religion, a thing to be done with the heart and on one's own terms, none of it anybody else's business."
"Nothing lasts forever...well, with the exception of public television pledge drives."
"Hillary Clinton's election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better."
-Julian Assange, as lifted from here
Saturday, December 24, 2016
After several star footballers opted not to participate in their team's bowl games, the talking heads erupted. How dare they? Here is one pundit's letter of support for their decision.
"Folks with interests based solely on principal (financial gain), want players to base actions solely on principle (fundamental values)."
Who knew there were so many types of conservatism?
...the idea of Trump as a conservative is not oxymoronic. Trump is a conservative—of a particular type that is rare in intellectual circles. His conservatism is ignored or dismissed or opposed because, while it often reaches the same conclusions as more prevalent versions of conservatism, its impulses, emphases, and forms are different from those of traditionalism, anti-Communism, classical liberalism, Leo Strauss conservatism in its East and West Coast varieties, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol as well as the neoconservatism of William Kristol, religious conservatism, paleo-conservatism, compassionate conservatism, constitutional conservatism, and all the other shaggy inhabitants of the conservative zoo.
Matthew Continetti offers one man's guess at the president-elect's underlying political philosophy. An interesting read for a quiet Christmas eve day. Here is a second wee excerpt:
Trump’s politics are grounded not in metaphysics but in what he understands to be the linguistic root of the term conservative. “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve,” he has said. “We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth. We want to conserve. We want to be smart. We want to be smart where we go, where we spend, how we spend. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”
The conservatism of Donald Trump is not the conservatism of ideas but of things. His politics do not derive from the works of Burke or Disraeli or Newman, nor is he a follower of Mill or Berlin or Moynihan. There is no theory of natural rights or small government or international relations that claims his loyalty. When he says he wants to “conserve our country,” he does not mean conserve the idea of countries, or a league of countries, or the slogans of democracy or equality or freedom, but this country, right now, as it exists in the real world of space and time
A sense of perspective from Jonathan Clements:
5. Our life may be important to us and to those around us. But let’s keep things in perspective: There are seven billion of us, so any sense of self-importance is a tad ridiculous. We should strive to squelch our inner self-absorbed teenager sooner rather than later—and approach the world with a shrunken sense of entitlement and a greater appreciation of others.
Friday, December 23, 2016
“We live in this complex world of gray areas. Life is so much easier if it could be black and white, good and evil.”
“The truly civilized man is marked by empathy,” Malcolm Kerr wrote in a foreword to a collection of essays called “The Arab-Israeli Confrontation of June 1967: An Arab Perspective.” “By his recognition that the thought and understanding of men of other cultures may differ sharply from his own, that what seems natural to him may appear grotesque to others.”
-John Branch, extracted from this essay, Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See The World Beyond The Court
I never put any stock in that image of the earth
resting on the backs of four elephants
who are standing on a giant sea turtle,
who is in turn supported by an infinite regression
of turtles disappearing into a bottomless forever.
I mean who in their right mind would?
But now that we are on the subject,
my substitute picture would have the earth
with its entire population of people and things
resting on the head of Keith Richards,
who is holding a Marlboro in one hand
and a bottle of Jack Daniel's in the other.
As long as Keith keeps talking about
the influence of the blues on the Rolling Stones,
the earth will continue to spin merrily
and revolve in a timely manner around the sun.
But if he changes the subject or even pauses
too long, its pretty much curtains for us all.
Unless, of course, one person somehow survives
being hurled into the frigidity of outer space,
then we would have a movie on our hands -
but wait, there wouldn't be any hands
to write the script or make the movie.
and no theatres either, no buttered popcorn, no giant Pepsi.
So we may as well see Keith standing
on the shoulders of the other Rolling Stones,
who are in turn standing on the shoulders of Muddy Waters.
who, were it not for that endless stack of turtles,
one on top of the other all the way down,
would find himself standing on nothing at all.
-Billy Collins, Cosmology, as published in The Rain In Portugal
...............................of the economic and technological variety:
Measured in terms of the “time cost” of purchasing household and electronic items working at the average wage, there’s a huge difference between 1964 and today. To purchase the $750 Sears TV in 1964 would have required 293 hours of work for the average American at the average hourly wage of $2.56 in November 1964 — that’s 7.33 weeks, or almost two full months of work to earn the income required to purchase the TV. Today, the average American need only work about 23 hours at the average wage of $21.73 to earn enough to purchase a $500 Samsung Smart HDTV. A $400 laptop would have a “time cost” of only about 18 hours of work today (2.25 days), and a iPod touch would require only 13 hours of work (1.63 days). And isn’t it an amazing sign of the economic progress achieved over the last half century that even a billionaire in 1964 wouldn’t have been able to purchase most of the items above that even a teenager working at the minimum wage can afford today like a laptop computer, iPhone, iPod and Smart TV.
-Mark J. Perry
...............................................Nicholas Bate is a treasure:
4. Every single problem commentators list for 2017 from Brexit to Trump to Asteroid Collision, you will ask: Can I fix this? If yes, do so. If no, execute your plan B. But stay resourceful, walk tall and love planet Earth: consistently voted the greatest planet in the known universe with great coffee, awesome rock 'n roll and mountains, beaches and deserts to make you want to settle here. And books. Oh, man the books.....Oh and fresh coconut juice...
-as extracted from his growing list of 22 Reasons Your 2017 Is Going To Be Awesome
..........................................where nobody REALLY knows:
"Since no one is sure, since no one can guarantee that it's going to work (or not), all we can do is our best work. All we can do is share our ideas with generosity, speak up and shine a light."
-Seth Godin, as culled from here
Thursday, December 22, 2016
On winter days when she was a child, Jane's grandmother told her, they'd skate on the canal, along twenty miles of it frozen solid near their house. Back in the 1850s, before the railroad finally won out against it, the canal was how you got clean-burning anthracite coal from the mines of central Pennsylvania to big-city markets. It would be loaded on shallow draft boats, maybe fifteen tons at a time, then towed down the canal that ran alongside the North Branch of the Susquehanna River, by mules on an adjacent tow path. A dollar a ton, you could figure, from Wilkes-Barre, in the heart of anthracite country, to Philadelphia. Making the boats, and repairing them, was its own little industry. And since the 1830s a key center of it was Espy, a town of a few hundred drawn out along the north bank of the canal, home to lock tenders and canal maintenance workers, as well as a tannery, pottery, and a brickyard. From early spring, when the ice melted, until late fall, according to a 1936 memoir, the locals "set the tempo of their lives to the tireless plodding hoof beats of the mules." Boys in town looked with envy at those their own age driving the mules or else lolling on the decks of the passing boats.
-Robert Kanigel, Eyes On The Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs
One of these days I'm going to finish reading The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Kanigels's book will have to wait its turn to be next in the queue. Jacobs's claim to fame as a community organizer came in the mid-1950s when she was able to thwart Moses's plan to run a highway through Greenwich Village.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
... but I still love to watch the financial markets. They’re great theater—and, if you can resist the urge to trade, free entertainment. Here are five random observations from the cheap seats:
-from this Jonathan Clements post
......................in 200 words or less. Original here. Easier to read posting here. A daunting task. Hard to find fault with his list. Perhaps he left out the Deity and Life Its Ownself, but maybe they are hidden within the other words.
..............a big fan of Ray Dalio ever since stumbling across his Principles. He recently published a LinkedIn essay, Reflections on the Trump Presidency, One Month after the Election. It is not the typical essay on Trump, and you will likely find it well worth the reading.
..............................sure can string words together:
Trump instinctively saw a different demographic. And even among minority groups, he detected a rising distaste for being patronized, especially by white, nasal-droning, elite pajama-boy nerds whose loud progressivism did not disguise their grating condescension.
-full essay is here
................................................Hanson about Trump:
Key is his emperor-has-no-clothes instinct that what is normal and customary in Washington was long ago neither sane nor necessary. And so far, his candidacy has not only redefined American politics but also recalibrated the nature of insight itself — leaving the wise to privately wonder whether they were ever all that wise after all.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
For the better part of seven centuries, to be Irish in Ireland was to live in a land not your own. You called a lake next to your family home by one name, and the occupiers gave it another. You knew a town had been built by the hands of your ancestors, the quarry of origin for the stones pressed into those streets, and you were forbidden from inhabiting it. You could not enter a court of law as anything but a criminal or a snitch. You could not worship your God, in a church open to the public, without risking prison or public flogging. You could not attend school, at any level, even at home. And if your parents sent you out of the country to be educated, you could not return. You could not marry, conduct trade or go into business with a Christian Protestant. You could not have a foster child. If orphaned, you were forced into a home full of people who rejected your faith. You could not play your favorite sports - hurling was specifically prohibited. You could not own land in more than 80 percent of your country, the bogs, barrens and highlands were your haunts. You could not own a horse worth more than £5 sterling. If you married and Englishman, you would lose everything upon his death. You could not speak your language outside your home. You would not think in Irish, so the logic went, if you were not allowed to speak in Irish.
-Timothy Egan, Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became An American Hero
A child on a silver bicycle,
a young mother pushing a stroller,
and a runner who looked like he was running to Patagonia
have all passed my car, jammed
into a traffic jam on a summer weekend.
And now an elderly couple gradually
overtakes me as does a family of snails -
me stalled as if in a pit of tar
far from any beach and its salty air.
Why even Buddha has risen
from his habitual sitting
and is now walking serenely past my car,
holding his robes to his chest with one hand.
I watch him from the patch of shade
I have inched into as he begins to grow smaller
over my steering wheel then sits down again
up ahead, unfurling his palms
as if he were only a tiny figurine affixed to the dash.
-Billy Collins, as published in The Rain In Portugal
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked "who do you think of when you hear the word successful?", he gave a non-traditional answer:
"Cincinnatus. He was an emperor in the Roman Empire. Cincinnati, the city, by the way, is named after him because he was a big idol of George Washington's. He is a great example of success because he was asked to reluctantly step into power and become the emperor and to help, because Rome was about to get annihilated by all the wars and battles. He was a farmer. Powerful guy. He went and took on the challenge, took over Rome, took over the army, and won the war. After they won the war, he felt he'd done his mission and was asked to go and be the emperor, and he gave the ring back and went back to farming. He didn't only do this once. He did it twice. When they tried to overthrow the empire from within, they asked him back and he came back. He cleaned up the mess through great, great leadership. He had tremendous leadership quality in bringing people together. And again, he gave the ring back and went back farming."
-as copied from here
Wiki on Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519-430 BC) may be found here
Monday, December 19, 2016
Love, may God honor you, is a serious illness, one
whose treatment must be in proportion to the
affliction. It's a delicious disease, a welcome malady.
Those who are free of it want not to be immune, and
those who are stricken want not to be cured.
-Ibn Hazm, excerpted from The Ring of the Dove, as offered via
..........of experience in traditional politics" is whole point:
The most striking feature of many of the selections is their relative lack of experience in traditional politics.
Tyler Cowen opines on the President-Elect's first round of cabinet picks. Cowen concludes:
I’m not suggesting you should agree with the Trump agenda (whatever that might turn out to be), and I am especially worried about his selection of Michael Flynn as national security adviser. But I interpret Trump’s nominations as a sign of an intelligent and strategic process, and his choices may prove surprisingly effective in getting things done. Whether you like it or not.
Because I am an activist skeptic I am often asked specific questions about how to be a better skeptic. This is obviously a complex question, and I view skepticism (like all knowledge) as a journey not a destination. I am still trying to work out how to be a better skeptic.
-Steven Novella, as extracted from this post from the always interesting NeuroLogica blog
Sunday, December 18, 2016
There’s some satisfaction to be found in the adulation of others. But it’s fleeting at best. Instead, sustained happiness lies in doing meaningful work day after day, week after week, no matter how loud the applause is.
-Jonathan Clements, as he concludes this post
..............If you are a fan of Napoleon Hill, author of the classic Think And Grow Rich, you may not want to read this essay on the "Untold Story." Paints a fairly sorry picture of Hill's life. Us humans can be quite complicated creatures.
.................Scott returns in a big way with a bucket full of music, most of which is new to me (but then I don't get out much). Got some exploring to do. Check it out for your ownself. He did throw a bone to us old guys with this 1968 classic:
Saturday, December 17, 2016
"When people tell Joe to stop and smell the roses, his first response is 'Who is maintaining the roses?'"
-Tim Ferriss, as extracted from Tools Of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, And Habits Of Billionairs, Icons, And World-Class Performers