Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's a Jungle Out There

As I write this, I'm holed up in my bedroom while a DAR meeting takes place downstairs. I just know if I venture downstairs to the living room, even if it's just for a moment to snare a rice-krispy treat, they'll tie me up with their sashes, gag me with their white gloves and eat me. Or maybe not, but why take the chance?

Leave the Sword, Take the General Tsao's Chicken

A group at my office selects and then meets periodically during lunch to discuss management-related books. Titles and authors we've read in the past include Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People," Rudolph Giuliani's "Leadership," and RFK's "Thirteen Days." Some of the selections have been very worthwhile, others less so, but all have been the kind of book you'd expect a management reading group to choose. We're currently voting on our next selection, and a book that seems to be getting a lot of support is Sun Tzu's classic, "The Art of War." (That word - classic - has become overused at times, but we're talking here about a book written in the 6th century BC - literally, Biblical times - that, in business circles, is still widely read and discussed today.)
If that book does get selected it will be interesting to see how some of its teaching - "Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve," for example - will be applied to the office setting.

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Want to have some fun? The next time you hear someone railing about how idiot socialists in Washington have broken every law known to man and passed a health care reform bill that will turn the White House into the Kremlin, ask him/her simply to describe to you what's in the bill and see how many of them actually know.

And Another Thing...

Some years back, a movie was made of Thom Wolfe's great book about the Mercury space program, "The Right Stuff." As a movie it had its shortcomings - the Mercury astronauts themselves derided it as "Laurel and Hardy Go To Space" - but there was a great line in it when someone asked the Von Braun-like lead scientist if the German experts now in America were going to be able to out-do the German experts who were working for the Russians. He reassured them by saying, "Our Germans are better than their Germans."

With this in mind, I don't know about you, but I'm having a grand old time watching the right wing on television trying to explain why it's good when Republicans use the parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation to pass a bill and a violation of every law and moral principle known to man when Democrats do the same thing.

These days it seems like the only thing Republicans and Democrats can get together on - aside from the fervent hope that Sarah Palin is the future of the Republican party - is putting partisanship and self-interest before leadership. We do it to ourselves, folks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shifting the Paradigm into Low Gear

Maybe it's just my crankified mood of late, but I've thought of a new personal motto: "Don't know. Wasn't there. Didn't see it. Have other things to think about." Maybe it's more like a Vision Statement. Covers a lot of ground, and puts a whole new perspective on many things, including reading the newspaper, which now more than ever reminds me of the Thurber cartoon caption from ages ago: "Sometimes the news from Washington makes me think your mother and brother Ed are in charge."

Think I'm kidding? Here are some of today's stories from my local what-passes-for-a-newspaper. So help me, I'm not making any of this up.

  • On Wednesday afternoon, a local charter school recently told by the state to shut down by June 30 held a rally in support of staying open. The next morning, police arrested a 16-year-old student there for having a loaded .32 caliber handgun in the cafeteria, and an 18-year-old student for punching out a security guard. (Although I'm second to none in my respect for the charter school's ability to fail miserably at half the cost-per-student of local district schools, this may be a sign it's time for the school in question to become a Starbuck's.)
  • A 70-year-old man was stabbed in his apartment by his 46-year-old girlfriend, whom he a) had a restraining order against and b) was living with. What was the restraining order for, to keep her from putting any of her things in his half of the medicine cabinet? Not to make light of what is obviously a serious matter, but I can just hear Bill Engvall saying, "Here's your sign..." (In stark contrast to his apparent IQ, the man's injuries turned out to be non-life-threatening.)
  • Major League Soccer players in the U.S. - and if that's not a contradiction in terms I don't know what would be - voted to strike if a new labor contract isn't agreed to before the season opens on March 25. Look at the bright side; this could be the opening into America's sports-heart that curling was waiting for.

Unrelated Item: Proof You Can Find Anything On You-Tube

While doing research recently for a youth-group slide presentation about the human spirit of exploration that connected Lewis and Clark with the U.S. Space Program 160 years later - yes, the day-to-day excitement of my life does become overwhelming at times - I came across something so good - and so unique - it demanded to be shared. In the hope rap master MC LaLa doesn't mind me sharing his marvelous creation, and with a dedication to faithful reader Alaina as one of my favorite stewards of young minds, I give you the "Lewis and Clark Educational Rap." Laugh if you want, by the time it's done I bet you'll be tapping your foot and singing, "Saca-sacagawea...Saca-sacagawea..."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Sarah Palin was on Leno Tuesday night doing stand-up. No joke. For those who missed it, and for those who did see it and who enjoy things like placing their hands on a hot stove till the flesh sears, here it is. (Remember, you were warned.)

Although I haven't heard anyone else say it, I can't possibly be the only person who watched this and thought, "Don't quit your day job. Oh wait...YOU DID."