The Tao of the Self — Seven

August 14th, 2011

We think of Heaven as eternal
And Earth as lasting a very long time.
Why do Heaven and Earth endure?
They don’t exist for themselves,
So they are able to last a long time.
So if we are wise, we will not think of ourselves alone,
But what we want to live beyond us.
We can move beyond self-gratification
And consider what is best for the long term.
By acting beyond our own self-interest,
We can fulfill greater goals
And live on through our actions.

The Tao of the Self — Seven

The Tao of the Self — Two

August 5th, 2011

Anyone can see you are beautiful
If they see others as ugly.
Anyone can see you as good
If they see others as evil.

Therefore having friends and not having friends arise together.
Difficult and easy relationships complement each other.
Long and short friendships contrast each other:
High and low emotions rest upon each other;
Your voice and the sound of others harmonize each other;
Being in front of and behind others follow one another.

Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing to force relationships,
teaching not gossiping about others.
Thousands of conversations rise and fall without cease,
Creating relationships, yet not forcing them.
Working with others, yet not taking credit for their work.
Great work with others is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Tao of the Self. Two

Today’s Lessons

July 18th, 2011

Get up and do something first thing in the day.

Be active.

Be motivated by love.

Don’t be silent anymore.

Simplify life — remove whatever and whoever does not inspire, inform, add personal value and friendship, or provide a needed service

Clean it up, and make it easy to keep clean.

There will always be more things to learn and do as the day progresses, but you have to start somewhere.

Customer Service (and its lack)

May 24th, 2011

We just got home today from one of the worst travel experiences in my life. We flew through Denver on United, connecting to Colorado Springs in order to visit my brother’s family in Pueblo and attend my niece’s wedding. It was less expensive than flying directly into the Springs or into Pueblo, and we’ve done it many times before with no problems or at worst delays. Going to the Springs on Thursday, we were delayed an extra two hours in Denver, but made it to Springs tired but happy to get in and see family, and enjoyed a wonderful weekend staying at the Pueblo Marriott, with a really good experience there, and visiting with family I hadn’t seen in twenty years in some cases. It was a great trip.

Until we tried to come home. There were several hours between our Springs flight and our Denver connection, so we didn’t anticipate problems. We got out of Springs late with about a half hour to connect. Then the troubles began. We ended up having to run sixty gates to try and make our flight. The airline knew we had just come in, and the gate attendant when we arrived assured us they would hold the flight. United’s policy is to close the doors ten minutes before a flight, but we were told the zone manager has the option to hold the flight for connections.

We got to the gate just as the doors had closed, running as hard as we could. Twelve people were standing there waiting, and United would not let us on the flight. I suppose they had already given our seats to other stranded passengers. And now we were the stranded, for not being able to run sixty gates in ten minutes. Our luggage was on the plane and going to San Diego. But we couldn’t get on the plane, since they had closed the doors.

I understand people miss connections, and airlines have to do what they can. But knowing customers have just come in a flight, and then leaving them stranded at the gate, is pretty inexcusable. Refusing to do anything for them when this happens is the totally unacceptable part. They wouldn’t book us a room, give us a voucher for a meal or anything. And were telling hundreds of other people in the airport the same thing, using the excuses that their United-Continental merger wasn’t complete, so they weren’t responsible for a Continental connection, or that it was our fault for not running sixty gates fast enough. We were all stuck, in dirty underwear in many cases and with no toiletries. But they didn’t care.

So we called Marriott, who booked us a room at the Residence Inn (using the United corporate rate code, which we found amusing.) We had a nice dinner at Applebees, who fed us efficiently and treated us well. We got breakfast the next day at Residence Inn, included with our room, deodorant, at a minimal cost, and free shuttle service to the airport. We got outstanding service — from everyone except the company that created the problem.

We traveled home today with many of the stranded — the mother with a young baby, who they had done nothing for. We had dinner at the Applebee’s the night before next to the man they had stranded from Grand Junction, who had now canceled his San Diego trip for business and now only wanted to go home. They couldn’t get him home that night either. The waitress told us that they heard these stories about United every. single. day.

And now, for want of a nail, the shoe has come off. We will never fly United again. We will never connect through Denver on a trip again. We are looking for a charity to donate our United miles to — all 70,000 of them. We will not use this company again.

I don’t blame the employees. The rules are set by the company, and the employees have little leeway. No wonder they stop caring after a while, and just do the job as best they can. I blame the management, the millionaires and maybe billionaires who run this company, set its policies, and every day, strand hundreds or even thousands of people. And don’t care. Not at all. Not even enough to hand out a package with some underwear, deodorant and a toothbrush, and eat the cost of a hotel room. Would that really be so difficult? Really?

I don’t give this airline long to survive. Others can do better — and do. Or at least care if they don’t.

Why General Electric sucks ass

September 23rd, 2010

Waited all afternoon for the repair guy to come repair the microwave, since the Mag is supposed to be under warranty for nine years and we’ve only had it for seven years. G.E. robocalled at 4 and extended the repair window to 5. So the repair guy calls at 5:30 and says he’ll still try to make it tonight! He is filling in last minute for someone who got sick and says he’s not allowed to cancel appts and is still willing to come even though it’s so late. I guess he needs the work…

G.E. is doing all their scheduling through robocalls, and I guess it’s as much a pain for their employees as their customers. Too bad C.E.O. pay has become more important that how employees and customers are treated or providing good customer service! What a shame our once leading companies are now just pathetic money making shells that don’t give a damn.

This is AFTER the G.E. refrigerator we bought at the same time died just last week. It only had a five year warranty.

Did I mention I’m never going to buy another G.E. product, and can no longer recommend them? What a shame American businesses put C.E.O. pay above treating employees well, building great products, and good customer service. Enjoy your yachts, assholes. Let’s hope nothing breaks on them…


Getting along and going along

May 14th, 2010

There is every possibility your life is destined for something you don’t know anything about at all.

There is every possibility that you aren’t always right.

There is every possibility your ego is completely misleading you as to what you really want in your life, what your heart knows you need.

If you stop fighting the tides of your life, and enjoy whatever happens, life gets a lot easier. This doesn’t mean just giving in to what happens, it means moving with it, maintaining your plans and dreams for the future while recognizing the reality that it may not always go just as you pictured it, or happen right when you want things to happen.

When you decide to move with life, though, rather than fight it, things suddenly become much simpler and you’ll find a flow to your life that is amazing. Stop fighting yourself and your own pace, stop trying to speed up other people or slow them down, stop hurrying your kids to grow up or wanting other people to change. You can no more stop the snow in the winter than you can the blazing heat of summer, you can only change your location or your attitude about snow or heat, or adjust your surroundings and circumstances to deal with them.

If you can accept what is, completely, then you are in the position to change it if you need to, sometimes just simply by changing your attitude towards it. Once you stop seeing someone else or something else as difficult, and realize the difficulty is within you, then you can begin to deal with it and come to terms with it.

When you decide to work with others to accomplish their goals and plans, your own become less important. And suddenly, your ideas become more important to others; since you are cooperating with them, they will cooperate with you, and everyone’s life flows more easily. It is when we fight against other’s desires and plans that we run into trouble. When someone else sees you as a normally cooperative person, then when you do object to something, it is even more powerful. If you always object no matter what, then you’re just seen as difficult, and people won’t listen to you.

But mostly you have to be yourself, you have to be genuine. When others see you as coming from your heart, they will pay attention. If you can give advice out of love, rather than in an attempt to control, it will have a greater impact. If you can lead with your strengths, with your deepest wisdom and your heart rather than from your fears or your ego, people around you will grow and change.

And so will you.

Insurmountable opportunities

February 21st, 2010

“We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” — Walt Kelly, “Pogo”

“There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.” — Kin Hubbard

“Imaginary obstacles are insurmountable. Real ones aren’t. But you can’t tell the difference when you have no real information. Fear can create even more imaginary obstacles than ignorance can. That’s why the smallest step away from speculation and into reality can be an amazing relief. ” — Barbara Sher

I’ve been confronted with many insurmountable opportunities lately to find new information and do new things, visit new facilities for pet therapy work, explore new people, etc. It’s been a distracting year so far but a fun one. I’m really hoping to get back to a more regular blogging schedule though.

Sharing Our Visions

February 6th, 2010

“Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” We can imagine that among those early hunters and warriors single individuals — one in a century? one in a thousand years? — saw what others did not; saw that the deer was beautiful as well as edible, that hunting was fun as well as necessary, dreamed that his gods might be not only powerful but holy. But as long as each of these percipient persons dies without finding a kindred soul, nothing (I suspect) will come of it; art or sport or spiritual religion will not be born. It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision — it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude… In this kind of love, as Emerson said, “Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?” — Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.” — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

One of the formative lessons every writer (and editor) learns is that the adjective is the uranium-235 of language. Adjectives are to be treated as highly radioactive material: when used correctly, they can light up a city; used with laze, stupidity, and excess, they can turn you and your work into the artistic equivalent of Chernobyl. — Brian Donohue

It is well established that listening to action words such as lick, pick and kick activates the brain areas that control the tongue, hand and foot. Pulvermuller’s research goes a step farther, suggesting that the brain’s action system does more than respond to meaning — he believes that it contributes to it.

To test this theory, Pulvermuller ran a study in which he stimulated different parts of the action system using TMS while volunteers listened to tongue, hand and foot-related words. The level of TMS was enough to increase the neuronal activity, but not enough to knock out the region. He found that stimulating the hand region made people quicker to comprehend hand-related words, such as stitch and pick. The same was true for foot-related words, such as kick and run, when he stimulated the foot area of the brain. “We found it wasn’t just a one-way flow from the language system to the motor system. People actually use these brain areas to understand the word,” he said.

Showing that we use our “foot area” to know what “kicking” means may sound like a trivial advance. But it demonstrates scientifically what great writers have instinctively known all along: that we don’t just understand words, we feel them.

Words have effects, sometimes very physical effects. In sharing our visions of what we want our world to be like, in developing our friendships and other relationships, we have to consider the words we use with others and make sure they are the ones we intend. We also have to understand how others may be using their words to manipulate us. Remember that action words can strongly affect other people and that they affect you, too. If you want a peaceful, calm, Taoful world, then use peaceful, calm, Taoful words. And be aware when others are using words that create strong reactions in you. Realize you can control those reactions and think about your response before automatically becoming angry or annoyed. And that responding in a calm, peaceful way will change their responses to you in return.


January 28th, 2010

Invocation becomes declaration.
Worship becomes recognition.
When blessings mature,
One glimpses the source.

When one is young in Tao, all practices begin as external procedures. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand their significance — we don’t know what to expect. This is proper: Not daring to interfere with growth and discovery, those who follow Tao hesitate to go beyond technical instruction.

Take worship, for example. At first, an invocation is something external. You repeat it, but really, it means very little. You kneel down at the altar because you need something on which to focus. Once you realize that the true Tao is to be found within yourself, you shift your attention. Then worship becomes recognition. Your own spirit arises, and you learn to tap into it on your own. If someone had told you what to look for, you might never be sure of your experiences. What comes from outer suggestion is not the true Tao.

Glimpsing the source leaves no doubts.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I guess what bothers me most about religion is that it fails in its main purpose so much of the time. Religion to me was always about invoking a higher spirit, and retaining that spirit within yourself so that you could get beyond your own petty needs and wants, and really tune in to the world and to other people. It calls out, invokes, the best in us so that we can share it with others.

But this gets distorted and perverted into worshipping some other, giving that other power and then excusing yourself from having to make decisions about life, saying what happens to other people is just “God’s will” or assuming bad things happen to people because they aren’t holy enough. I look at the man just elected Pope, and see someone who is so caught up in the doctrine of the Church that he has forgotten why the Church is even there. He lives to force doctrine on others instead of making their lives better.

So in Tao, what is it we want to invoke, to call upon?

Something I learned in business school and process management was the concept of alignment. What creates friction and frustration in business processes is when the purpose of the business is not aligned with its processes. People become confused over whether to follow the principles they know are correct, or the processes they know are wrong, but are told to follow. I think that is what we want to invoke when we call upon the Tao – to bring ourselves into alignment with the Tao, with the natural forces of the world and the way things work, and in doing so, eliminate friction and frustration from our lives.

Stop working at cross purposes to what your inner spirit tells you is right. Invoke the Tao, recognize it within yourself, tap into the source within yourself. Have a cup of tea and a cookie, go out to the garden and smell the roses and the clean, clear air. Ah. Isn’t that better?

Now, go share that feeling with someone else, and spread it along…


January 19th, 2010

“Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.” — Lou Holtz

“One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.” — Edward de Bono

“Walking your talk is a great way to motivate yourself. No one likes to live a lie. Be honest with yourself, and you will find the motivation to do what you advise others to do.” — Vince Poscente

“The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” — John C. Maxwell

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” — Martha Graham

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life” — Greg Anderson


August 25th, 2009

“People are good and trustworthy and generally just concerned with getting through the day,” Newmark says. If most people are good and their needs are simple, all you have to do to serve them well is build a minimal infrastructure allowing them to get together and work things out for themselves. Any additional features are almost certainly superfluous and could even be damaging.” — Craig Newmark

True leadership is a combination of initiative and humility. The best leader remains obscure, leading but drawing no personal attention. As long as the collective has direction, the leader is satisfied. Credit is not to be taken, it will be awarded when the people realize that it was the subtle influence of the leader that brought them success. –Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” — George MacDonald

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough”
– Frank Crane

“Trust that little voice in your head that says “Wouldn’t it be interesting if..”; And then do it.” — Duane Michals

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” — Anton Chekhov

“One must be fond of people and trust them if one is not to make a mess of life.” — E.M. Forster

‘Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” — Alfred Adler

‘Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” — William Shakespeare

“Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree, because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch, or you might simply get covered in sap, and for this reason many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors, where it is harder to get a splinter.” –Lemony Snicket

“You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink” — Terry Pratchett

My usual approach to trusting people follows the old Stephen Covey line “assume that what someone is telling you is true, and then ask yourself what it could be true of”. I think most people are trustworthy. To be who they are, and not what you expect of them. If you understand who they are, then you can trust them. If you don’t understand where they are coming from, you don’t know if you can trust them or not. But trusting someone does not necessarily mean that you will trust them with everything — only with the things you know they can handle. I think this made raising my kids easy for me — I knew who they were and what I could trust them with. I never approached them from an attitude of distrust. But I did teach them very early on not to lie to me, and to always let me know where they were. I trusted them, but not always their friends. And taught them not to hang around friends who weren’t worthy of their trust. I hope they have always been able to trust me, too.

I find it sad that we live in a society where misleading others or lying to them is often rewarded. And my own deepest regrets are the times I may have misled others or misused their trust in me. If I give someone my word today, it matters a great deal to me, and I feel the worst when I have to break an agreement I’ve made with someone, even if for very good reasons.

How (Bad) Process Creates Crisis

August 15th, 2009

As someone whose focus in life has continuously moved towards understand process work and process change, this is a very important statement about our political process in California, and in our nation as a whole. I think this is in many ways what happens towards the end of an empire, as the strategies that used to work — namely force and the dominance of the upper class — no longer will continue to work. The progressive movement does not arise out of a vacuum — it arises out of the need for change, away from a very conservative stagnant society that no longer can economically move forward. Our economy is tied up in meaningless bank accounts, too large to be spent appropriately to create growth. As Dolly Levi said, “Money is like manure — it’s no good unless it is spread around encouraging young things to grow.” Our political process has become the same — no good at encouraging growth, it simply stinks.

We need to change it, and soon. Now.

Over the last several months, we have started to see a lot of attention at the national level devoted to this topic of the California budget crisis. And this would be pleasing to me, if it wasn’t for the minor point that all of it has been wrong. One hundred percent, no exceptions, wrong. You can start by the insistence on referring to it as a budget crisis. I’ll give you a related example. Right now we’re seeing this debate over health care, and the intensity of the town hall meetings and misinformation provided by Republicans and their allies in the health care industry. But really, none of that has to happen. With a Democratic President, and large majorities in the House and Senate, there should be no problem finding a majority that supports some form of decent legislation which includes insurance reforms and a public option to provide competition. But you have the hurdle of the filibuster in the Senate. In fact, the very undemocratic nature of the Senate itself, where the state of California and the state of Wyoming have the same representation despite one having over 70 times as many residents as the other, distorts the debate and creates abstractions from the expressed will of the people and the political will in Washington. Now, that ought to be understood as a political crisis, not a crisis over what to do about health care but a crisis about how to leap the institutional hurdles. Well, take that situation, multiply it by 10 orders of magnitude, and you start to understand the nature of the problem in California.

We have a center-left electorate and a center-right political system in which they must operate. And sure, Democrats in the state could do a much better job at negotiation and advocacy. But my contention is that this is not a problem of personality but process, and that process has created the crisis which we now face. We could elect Noam Chomsky Governor next year and still be saddled with the structural hurdles that must be jettisoned before we can even return to a baseline of sane and responsible governance in California.

And while the worst economic hole since the Great Depression certainly accelerated the problem, this is not the result of a perfect storm of factors contributing to the demise. It was a 70-year bout of rain, and at every step of the way, nobody properly challenged this slip into an ungovernable system. So it’s going to take a lot of time to restore democracy to California, just as it took so much time to take it away. But I believe that we can solve this problem in a way that can truly be a harbinger for the country at large, which is the state’s reputation. If we can really work to figure out the proper model for government that allows for the will of the people to be reflected in policy and provides the accountability for the public so they know whether or not they like the policy results, we will not only have saved California, but the whole nation. So that’s what we’ll be talking about today.

via Calitics:: California – How Process Creates Crisis @Netroots Nation Open Thread.

Why “cheap” isn’t necessarily a good thing

July 17th, 2009

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

But Shell wonders if our expectations are too low. We no longer expect craftsmanship in everyday objects; maybe we don’t feel we even deserve it. “Objects can be designed to low price,” she writes, “but they cannot be crafted to low price.” But if we stop valuing — and buying — craftsmanship, the very idea of making something with care and expertise is destined to die, and something of us as human beings will die along with it: “A bricklayer or carpenter or teacher, a musician or salesperson, a writer of computer code — any and all can be craftsmen. Craftsmanship cements a relationship between buyer and seller, worker and employer, and expects something of both. It is about caring about the work and its application. It is what distinguishes the work of humans from the work of machines, and it is everything that IKEA and other discounters are not.”

via IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart | Salon Books.

I try to support local artists and craftsmen as much as possible. Much of my jewelry is hand crafted by a local silversmith friend, and I have hand crafted pottery and mugs and artwork and many other things. The closest store to my house is a WalMart, where I never shop. I haven’t bought anything from Ikea in years, since everything we got there simply fell apart after a very short time. Yes, I get tired of my things, but I try to get myself to look at their wabi sabi nature, and appreciate that the things I own are made well enough to last for a long time.

Casey’s points today are well taken:

The shape of life defines a space (what we call the empty space in Taoism) that defines each person. We feel a need to place within our empty space connection and meaning. If you consume meaning, after the consumption: you are left with nothing and left chasing more consumption.

The answer people seek can be stated simply:

To have a full life is to live it.

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid emptiness, filling our lives with activities and other people and lots of stuff and things. I spent a lot of time in my life being afraid of the void, fearing what would happen if I lost things, if I lost friends, if I lost myself. Well, all those things happened, and the best part was all the other things I found — that the void isn’t really so scary, that “crazy” people are often the sanest people around, with a different perspective on life that can be very enlightening, that real friends don’t walk away from you and those who do aren’t real friends, and that “for everything you have lost, you have found something else.”

We cheapen our own lives, and those of others, when all we look for is the least expensive thing that suits our need or desire of the moment. We add value to our lives by valuing the work of others, valuing their time, and their abilities to craft a fine product that we can enjoy using for many years. When I wear my friend’s jewelry, I smile, and when others admire it, I have a story to share. When I take the time and make the effort to find the best quality for what I want, instead of just the cheapest price, I feel like I am valuing myself, the thing I am buying, and the people who made it. I can’t always afford the very best (and often price is no guarantee of quality, really), but even in making the effort, I have taken that step towards being aware of what went into what I’m buying, who benefits from it, and valuing myself and the other people involved as fully as possible.


July 6th, 2009

A person does not have to join a group or be a wise leader to work things out. Life’s process unfolds naturally. Conflicts resolve themselves sooner or later, whether or not a person knows how things happen.
It is true that being aware of how things happen makes one’s words more potent and one’s behavior more effective. But even without the light of consciousness, people grow and improve. Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability.

Knowing how things work gives the leader more real power and ability than all the degrees or titles the world can offer. That is why people in every era and in every culture have honored those who know how things happen.

– John Heider, The Tao of Leadership

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” — Carl Gustav Jung

The brighter love’s radiance, the darker the shadows we encounter; the more we feel life stirring within us, the more we also feel our dead spots; the more conscious we become, the more clearly we see where we remain unconscious. None of this need dishearten us. For in facing our darkness, we bring to light forgotten parts of our being. In recognizing exactly where we have been unconscious, we become more conscious. And in seeing and feeling the ways we’ve gone dead, we start to revive and kindle our desire to live more expansively.”

– John Welwood Love and Awakening : Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship

Dealing with the shadows again, here — the darkness is indeed conscious. The question now is what to do with it…

Bridges can be burned

January 14th, 2009

journal entry today

Bridges can be burned — but the bridge is still there – Even if some are afraid to cross it.
Water has all flowed under it. I wait for you to cross, to see me again, instead of your illusion.

But do we need to burn them at all? Did we ever actually burn it?

The bridge was never burned. The fire was imaginary.

Lessons learned are like
Bridges burned
You only need to cross them but once
Is the knowledge gained
Worth the price of the pain?
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

– Dan Fogelberg

Burning bridges


When you have made a change, ensure that there is no way back to previous ways of working.


A company that is moving to a new low-cost operational model fires its high-cost sales force, sells its fancy headquarters and moves to a plain and simple out-of-town low-cost factory.

An organization that is instituting new software deletes the old software from the system, thus forcing people to use the new software.


When changes are instituted, it is not uncommon for people to seek ways to go back the old way of working, particularly after the eagle eye of change agents have moved onto change projects anew.

‘Burning bridges’ is a deliberate way of preventing any backsliding by removing any method by which people can go back. This can be a bold move when you are not sure whether what you are doing will succeed. It does, however concentrate minds, and managers who may be not fully committed to the change are now strongly motivated to continue.

In warfare, burning a bridge behind you stops any thought of retreat and forces you to advance. (Note that ‘burning bridges’ is not the same as ‘scorched earth’, which is a tactic used by defenders who burn and destroy crops and other items as they retreat, giving the attacker no way of feeding their advancing army).

Complicated vs. Complex

January 7th, 2009

babel, via “Cabinet of Wonders” delightfully complex post on Borges

I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into an organization to work on a quality management system, and there are either no written procedures or the ones they do have are totally inadequate. And yet they believe they understand their business processes and how they work…

Clarity is worth more than you may think

Organizations may need to use complex systems to reflect the nature of the work they do, but there is nothing to prevent such systems being rational and logical, with clear, written procedures which have internal coherence and can be learned by everyone involved. The best organizations are also the most rational. Written procedures that everyone can understand are not only fairer than knowing who has the ear of the boss, they are also more effective. When the whiz-kid head of marketing leaves unexpectedly, it’s no comfort to learn that he or she had some complicated system in their head and never wrote it down.

Complication in organizations is almost always a sign that something is going wrong. Complicated organizations tend to fall apart sooner or later. Indeed, whether complications are designed deliberately to deceive, or are the products of incompetence and stupidity, they are are still no basis on which to run a successful organization.

via The Difference Between Complicated and Complex | Slow Leadership.

And from Casey at A Personal Tao

People like to make life complicated for many reasons.

Strangely for many it’s about challenge. People strive to make life interesting. Of course then all the layers seem to get added and then it seemingly becomes “too complicated” to have any simple answer. Also it appears that much of this complication is out of our control.

It isn’t.

This is why the Taoist path is so effective, as you release, you discover what matters and in that the answers become simple again. I teach people how to remove layers of fear, delusion and false obligations…

“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”
– Gamal Abdel Nasser

I’m complicated, I get frustrated
Right or wrong, love or hate it
I’m complicated, you can’t sedate it
I heard that song but I won’t play it
It’s alright, it’s OK, you wouldn’t want me any other way
Momma, keep on praying cause I ain’t changin’
I’m complicated, yeah
I’m complicated, yeah

I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know
I’m fool enough to stay when I should go
You work, you work, you cry, you cry
You watch your whole life pass you by
Sometimes you’ve got to close your eyes to see

– Complicated, Bon Jovi

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. — Poul Anderson

Le vrai est trop simple, il faut y arriver toujours par le complique¤ . Truth is too simple; it must always be arrived at in a complicated manner. — Sir Sydney Samuelson


September 16th, 2008


Please read Barack Obama’s excellent speech on the economy today…. click on the link for full text.

Over the last few days, we have seen clearly what’s at stake in this election. The news from Wall Street has shaken the American people’s faith in our economy. The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that have generated tremendous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.

Since this turmoil began over a year ago, the housing market has collapsed. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be effectively taken over by the government. Three of America’s five largest investment banks failed or have been sold off in distress. Yesterday, Wall Street suffered its worst losses since just after 9/11. We are in the most serious financial crisis in generations. Yet Senator McCain stood up yesterday and said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

…So let’s be clear: what we’ve seen the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed. And I am running for President of the United States because the dreams of the American people must not be endangered any more. It’s time to put an end to a broken system in Washington that is breaking the American economy. It’s time for change that makes a real difference in your lives.

…Make no mistake: my opponent is running for four more years of policies that will throw the economy further out of balance. His outrage at Wall Street would be more convincing if he wasn’t offering them more tax cuts. His call for fiscal responsibility would be believable if he wasn’t for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and more of a trillion dollar war in Iraq paid for with deficit spending and borrowing from foreign creditors like China. His newfound support for regulation bears no resemblance to his scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement. John McCain cannot be trusted to reestablish proper oversight of our financial markets for one simple reason: he has shown time and again that he does not believe in it.

What has happened these last eight years is not some historical anomaly, so we know what to expect if we try these policies for another four. When lobbyists run your campaign, the special interests end up gaming the system. When the White House is hostile to any kind of oversight, corporations cut corners and consumers pay the price. When regulators are chosen for their disdain for regulation and we gut their ability to enforce the law, then the interests of the American people are not protected. It’s an ideology that intentionally breeds incompetence in Washington and irresponsibility on Wall Street, and it’s time to turn the page….

Rattling Apart: Captain Carnage and the Bear

March 17th, 2008

Neo-conservative thought has been shown to be a failure at everything else it has attempted – now it is destroying our financial system. Long, hard ride down is ahead, people. The market is now into a dangerous game of Liar’s Poker.

Rattling Apart: Captain Carnage and the Bear | The Agonist

In 2001, as soon as he was made the economic advisor to Bush, I stated repeatedly that Ben Bernanke would be made the Federal Reserve Chairman after Greenspan, and that he would be a disaster. This was based on a reading of his academic work, which was, essentially, a series of attempts to prove that such a neo-conservative system could avoid the collapse that lead to the Great Depression. No Great Depression, no FDR. No FDR, no situation where the rich would have to accept regulation and restriction in return for bailing out. In essence the first problem is the “Great Contraction.” The United States and other nations, to attempt to re-impose the Gold Standard after allowing it to lapse for the First World War, had to at a certain point accept prices at the new levels, or had to dramatically reduce the money supply. They chose the later, creating a massive contraction of the money supply. This was done in the face of a downturn, because it was feared that a downturn would lead to easy money, and this to hyper-inflation of the kind witnessed in Germany, or very high inflation, as seen after the First World War. For them, coming after a two generation period where deflation was the norm during the classical gold standard and the consolidation of the first Conservative Era, globally, inflation was a horror.

Bernanke and others, argued that the Great Depression was not in any way a structural event, but strictly a macroeconomic monetary event. That strictly macroëconomic policy measures could have been used to effect the bailout. There were two major intellectual problems. One of them is the point where monetary policy is “pushing on a string.” Or what Bernanke called “the zero point”. The “bold” steps turn out to be the same sort of maneuvers used in the first decade of this century: finding deep pockets and hiding the losses.

Bernanke’s failures begin as economic advisor to the President and continue in his time on the Federal Reserve. The culminate with his failure to either deal with the liquidity crisis, or to face inflation head on. By allowing the housing bubble, and the financial bubble built on it, to explode he set up the very circumstances. By dragging his feet on raising interest rates, and then by ignoring the expanding monetary crisis, Bernanke has set the stage where neither he, nor anyone else, is in a position to act. With a President who is content to give imaginary orders to imaginary armies, there is no center of power that can move. It also indicates that the opposition party has made a series of gross miscalculations about the situation, believing the rhetoric that things were going well, and that they were getting the best deal they could. They were facing people who were bluffing all the way, and are now realizing that there is no rush to give way on anything.

The “slow” rate raising campaign was a double disaster, it neither headed off inflation nor did it keep credit easy enough. This is because the problem was not the level of interest rates, per se, but what we were spending the money on. As many, many, many commentators, many, many times have pointed out, the US was consuming too much, and exporting too little. The Neo-Conservative happy monsters said that this could go on for ever, giving other people our paper for their oil and goods.

While it is possible that we will emerge from this functional, the likelihood is that we are going to see a continued fall for the next 9 months, as the crisis deepens, a die hard illegitimate executive burns his last brands on our skin, and a feckless opposition folds its cards over and over and over again, allowing ordinary people to bear the brunt of the continued contraction.

We are riding this bucket down a ways farther, because there is nothing to right the equilibrium, and without the stimulus from war spending, on which we are so dependent, there will be no pick up in business activity soon. There will be some increased exports, but not sufficient to take the place of the cratering of housing.

What needs to be done? Re-regulation is obvious. Making the Fed serve elected policy makers is a no brainer. Restating numbers to prevent the white washing of bubbles is essential, a public sense of ownership of the financial system as part of the “high ground of the economy” seems essential. Firing Ben Bernanke is a pink do this to day post it note.

But most essentially there needs to be a change in the basis of money, simply because the obvious stability of real estate assets in the United States will no longer be enough.

NRCC Treasurer Accused of Campaign Fraud

March 13th, 2008

So, Republicans can’t even handle their own money, and taxpayers are supposed to trust them with their money?

I don’t think so.

Not even a second sign-off. I’ve NEVER worked for an organization that didn’t require at least two signatures to transfer money. Ever. This is not just fraud – it’s organizational stupidity.

NRCC Treasurer Accused of Campaign Fraud

The former treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee transferred as much as $1 million in committee funds into his personal and business accounts, officials announced today, describing a scheme that could prove to be one of the largest campaign frauds in recent history.

For at least four years, Christopher J. Ward, who is under investigation by the FBI, used wire transfers to funnel money out of the NRCC and into other political committees he controlled, then shifted the funds into his own personal accounts, the committee said.

“The evidence we have today indicated we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), NRCC chairman.

The committee also announced that it had submitted to banks five years of audits and financial documents allegedly forged by Ward, some of which were used to secure multimillion-dollar loans. It is a violation of federal bank fraud laws to obtain loans through false statements; such crimes are punishable by up to $1 million in fines and 30 years in prison.

Prior to today, the committee had not acknowledged that any money was missing. It announced Feb. 1 that it had discovered “irregularities” and had called in federal investigators to pursue a fraud case.

Robert K. Kelner, a lawyer with Covington & Burling, which has been hired by the committee to oversee a forensic audit, told reporters that at this point he could say for certain only that Ward had diverted “several hundred thousand dollars” in unauthorized payments dating to 2004. However, he said that the year-end report filed with the Federal Election Commission in 2006 overstated the NRCC’s actual cash on hand by $990,000.

That might be the upper level of how much money Ward allegedly skimmed from NRCC coffers, but Kelner said forensic auditors need to keep “drilling down” to determine how much was inappropriately taken and how much might have been the result of sloppy bookkeeping.

Kelner said that Ward had the sole power at the NRCC to use wire transfers to shift money into any accounts he wanted. “He was able to get a wire transfer without getting a second sign-off,” Kelner said.


February 9th, 2008

Retailers Taking Their Medicine and Turning Cautious Over Growth – CoStar Group

When asked if this phase possibly creates an opportunity for those smaller local or regional retailers who had a tougher time getting great real estate when the big chains were expanding, Kampler said, “I think this is an opportunity for the ones that would typically have had trouble getting a landlord’s attention. The consumer is bored and does not want to see the same collection of stores in every shopping center from coast to coast. Malls should have more flavor, and stores should reflect the specifics of the geography and natural setting. There’s a small handful of malls around the country that have gone out of their way to have interesting tenant mixes and maybe we’re going to get back to some of that.”