Monday, October 31, 2011

Scariest Halloween Pictures

 It's Halloween, so here are some favorite spooky pictures.

The Eyes!
Day of the Dead Girl

Probably the scariest of all

A great mask


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Big Flyers

While preparing the previous post on rude passengers, I came across two obese passenger pictures that I could not resist posting.

An obese passenger having trouble fitting in one seat.
(Said to be a stewardess' picture on an American

No words required.

Anti-Social Flyers

Twice now I have sat next to plane fliers who don't care about flight rules and who distain authority. 

The clearest was the guy in first class who kept using his wireless-enabled iPad throughout the flight. Not only did he have it on during landing -- he had the cell phone connection on and was surfing the internet. 

I am skeptical about how much electronic interference can really crash a modern jet, but most people give the benefit of the doubt. ABC News did a report last summer on it, and there were anecdotes about interference with the aircraft's electronics. Sensor gear can detect the interference from electronics -- what is unclear is how seriously radar and aircraft computers are affected. Aircraft manufacturers try to design in protection, and Boeing does not say that there is a problem.  Landing is a critical time, and this person might be endangering people is a problem. 

The second, was a person who put her seat back into recline immediately after the flight attendent sat down for take off  -- thus she would not be caught.  Airlines keep the seat backs up so that people can evacuate the plane quickly, and the landing and tack-off portions are the most dangerous parts of the flight. This was an early morning flight -- I got up at 3:50 AM to get there, but her priority on her own comfortable sleep should not be at the expense of other people's risk of death.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Carpet Mis-Fire

We were waiting for the carpet guys to install a new rug today. We moved furniture to get ready, and have it stacked all over the kitchen, so we can hardly walk. Then five minutes before they are supposed to come, the call from the carpet guys: Oh! the brakes are out on our truck. We aren't coming. Forget the installation. 

Pretty bad. 

It was about the worst case. We did all the moving, and did not get the rug. Now we have to live without furniture until their truck gets fixed, or put the furniture away, and then move it again later. 

Wife Jenny, who helped move the furniture is livid.  She calls Lowe's which turns out to be a good idea. She gets hooked up with the carpet installation person, and she is mad at the contractor. She makes calls.  

When she calls back the excuse is a flat tire, and not bad brakes. Hmmm

Monday, October 10, 2011

Strange Loops in the Brain or Strange Loops are the Brain
Two of my favorite books are I am a Strange Loop, and Godel, Escher, Bach - An Eternal Golden Braid both by Douglas Hofstadtler. These talk about the nature of thought and personality. The first is poetic and the second is more an essay.

Into this mix, are two great stories on Radio Lab on these themes. It talks about loops in life. Two relate to the themes in Hofstadtler's books.

One story is about a woman who has short-term memory loss, and she just repeats the same conversations over-and-over like a computer stuck in a loop. It suggests the brain has aspects of a mechanism. One can speculate about causality and free-will in this circumstance. How much control did the woman have over her actions?

The second story is about Godel himself. I thought Godel was a regular mathematician, but it turns out he was frequently mentally ill. The fact that mentally ill people make huge mathematical break-throughs should tell us something. More specifically, mentally-ill people may be more driven to proven revolutionary conclusions than more socialized mathematicians.

Anyway, listen to the episode.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why was Jobs Successful with Such an Old Fashioned Management Style?

We know that Steve Jobs was a demanding boss, and that he insisted on his ideas. We know that he sometimes fired staffers who disagreed with him. This seems like pig-headedness.

Business guru have been saying these are BAD practices, but they worked for Steve -- Why?

Sara McInerney agrees saying "He was a "high-maintenance co-worker" who demanded excellence from his staff and was known for his blunt delivery of criticism."

Ironically, business gurus also say that Steve Job's is a business leader in the company of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. First, this proves how fickle business gurus are, and how they will use any example to illustrate their points regardless of how well it fits.

Eric Jackson, a blogger at Forbes, wrote  "Top Ten Lessons" from Steve.  I like it because it is fairly factual, and has some actual quotes from Jobs.   The lessons are in red, and are followed by my commentary.

1. The most enduring innovations marry art and science. My comment: really enduring inventions arn't that arty consider the wheel, or the locomotive or pneumatic tires or penicillin -- none of these seem arty to me.  Let's think of an arty invention, how about fat, decorative bows on eyeglasses frames. Do you think fat frames are going to outlast locomotives?

2. To create the future, you can't start with focus groups. I tend to agree with this.  Groups of customers mostly give you nothing useful. First you start with a germ of an idea. Groups are useful in refuting bad ideas.

3. Never fear failure. It was a management fad to say this in the 1990's. This is not original advice. Is it true? For people with good job skills and a little bankroll. Failure is tougher on the poor and unskilled.

4. You can't connect the dots forward -- only backward. This is a cute little proverb. On the other hand, forecasting is best when it extrapolates from the past. The problem is it misses the revolutionary changes. I think this is something one says to consultants who disagree with you.

5. Listen to the voice in the back of your head that tells you if you're on the right track or not. I like this one, but normal humans need to persuade colleagues to go along. Only someone who has spent a whole life being the big boss, would think that listen to your heart is a strategy. Real people need to form arguments to support a behavior.

6. Expect a lot from yourself and others. There is nothing wrong with expecting a lot. The problem is getting belligerent when you don't get get it, so some say Steve did. It is unclear how much of this is actually true. Nonetheless, high expectations help achieve high results.

7. Don't care about being right. Care about succeeding. This is good advice. Too often people get trapped in being right, when it is better to be pragmatic. Always agree to another plan when it is better. This is about maturity. It is also about getting along well with others.

8. Find the most talented people to surround yourself with. When I am hiring people, I always go for the over-qualified person if I can get them. Stronger people are always better. Stop worrying about looking weak in comparison -- that is all in your own head.

9. Stay hungry. Stay foolish. I truly don't get this one. He said this during a speech at Stanford. I don't even know what he means. Perhaps don't take yourself too seriously or too stuffy. Maybe someone could help me.

10. Anything is possible through hard work, determination, and a sense of vision. This is a nice inspirational proverb, and I like the focus one work & determination. I think that talent is an over-valued characteristic. However, in today's world some people are too disadvantaged for Anything to be possible.  This proverb is a good thought exercise, and the optimism and positive-thinking can only help.

As a big boss, Job once said to Steve Levy that about his role that "My best contribution is not settling for anything but really good stuff, in all the details. That's my job, to make sure everything is great.”

A big boss can only have simple messages to a large organization, and does not have time for all the details. It is good for the boss to insist on fundamentals.

The worst Steve Jobs stories seems to be from his early career when he must have been a big asshole. Perhaps all the Buddhism soaked in, and he mellowed later.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Frederick Taylor -- Scientific Manager

Frederick Taylor was an engineer during the Industrial Revolution in the US working 1883-1906.  He was a practical man who wanted to make factory better by making it more efficient --often making it more efficient made the work ergonomically easier.

For example, he did work on the so-called science of shovelling. He determined that a worker should shovel 21 lb per shovelful so that he could go the longest time. He also coached workers to use their body not their arms to lift. Today we know that sore backs are a big chronic problem, and that sore arms are less serious.

Taylor wrote a large book called The Principles of Scientific Management, which happily is free on Kindle and on Google books. Scientific management is not the management of science, but rather the use of experiments to improve productivity.

Taylor's work is hard to summarize, but three principles:

  • Inefficiency hurts America
  • Systematic management helps efficiency, not hiring for extraordinarily good workers
  • Management is a science that has laws, rules and principles.

  • Some of what Taylor advocates might be called worker training today. That is, if we show people how to shovel, then they shovel better. In the 1890's workers were assumed to know how to do their work, and the bosses often did not.

    When I was in business school I admired the idea that studying the work at hand could make accomplishing it easier. I particularly liked taking a detailed approach to relatively simple workplace problems.

    Reading Taylor today,  social issues problems and class distinction are on every page. Taylor regarded himself as progressive in his day, and he tries to give what he says as a reasonable view. The country, and actually the industrializing world of the time, were all grappling with these issues. It may have taken another fifty years before some resolution is achieved.

    More: Taylor writes about "soldiering" which means workers who slow their work-pace deliberately to get paid more or so that the employer needs to hire more workers. Maybe  we'd call that goldbricking or featherbedding today. Taylor understood that paying by piece-work only helped so much. He thought his system led to greater productivity, and the ability to pay higher wages which would motivate the workers to have a better attitude and work harder.

    Even More: This an excellent web page on early management theorists.