Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our Masterpiece, a poem by David Ignatow.

Post 533 - David Ignatow (1914 – 1997) was born in Brooklyn and spent most of his life in the New York City area. He tried for years to be a businessman, a career for which he was not suited. He wrote poems during this time, and much that he observed with a photographer’s eye of everyday life in the business world is incorporated in his writing. He was president of the Poetry Society of America from 1980 to 1984 and poet-in-residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in 1987. Mr. Ignatow's many honors include a Bollingen Prize, two Guggenheim fellowships, the John Steinbeck Award, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters award "for a lifetime of creative effort." He received the Shelley Memorial Award (1966), the Frost Medal (1992), and the William Carlos Williams Award (1997) of the Poetry Society of America.

When asked how he felt about money, he once commented, "Well, I’m not a Buddha in the sense of I can sit under a tree for a thousand years. Who can? The climate doesn’t allow for it, anyway. So we need money. We need money for houses and for comforts. To relax."

Our Masterpiece by David Ignatow.

You can stick a sign For Sale
on the biggest part of America, the people.
Nobody will complain, only there isn't a customer
wealthy enough for us, and so we sell in small
to each other.

America, America on the dotted line,
and if we think we live purely on emotion,
go into any restaurant and see who flashes the
and who counts the change,
and who leaves embarrassed by his small tip.

I don't care what any man feels outside of business.
It plays as small a part as a bass fiddle
in a symphony. Blowhard trombone and French horn
are the money-makers,
and over all is the conductor, the idea of money
pulling the song out of us, our masterpiece.

Amazing marriage facts.

Post 532 - Just in case you have to make idle conversation to the other guests at Chelsea Clinton's wedding reception this weekend, this should help you prepare ...

Californian Glynn "Scotty" Wolfe is the world's most married man. He wed 29 times and had 41 children.

Linda Essex, from Indiana, holds the record for the most monogamous marriages by a woman – 23.

Two couples share the record for the world's longest marriage – 86 years. They are Sir Temulji Bhicaji Nariman and Lady Nariman from India and Lazarus Rowe and Molly Webber from the U.S.

The oldest couple to wed were Francois Frenandez, 96, and Madeleine Francineau, 94, in 2002.

In the largest underwater wedding 105 guests wore scuba gear to see Toni Wilson and John Santino marry in 2003 in the Virgin Islands.

The world's largest wedding cake was made in Connecticut and weighed 15,032lb.

Queen Victoria's wedding cake was more than nine feet in circumference. A second tier rose from this "plateau," supported by two pedestals. On the second tier was a sculpture of the mythical heroine Britannia gazing upon the royal pair frozen at the moment of their exchanging vows. At their feet were two turtle doves (symbolizing purity and innocence) and a dog (representing faithful attachment). Completing the scene were various sculpted Cupids, one of them writing the date of the wedding with a stylus on a tablet.

The tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand dates back to ancient Egypt, where it was believed that the vein of love ran from this finger directly to the heart.

The practice of giving or exchanging engagement rings began in 1477 when Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, gave Mary of Burgandy a diamond ring as an engagement present.

Eighty-five percent of Canadian brides receive a diamond engagement ring today, giving Canada the highest diamond engagement ring acquisition rate in the world.

Seventy-four percent of American brides receive a diamond engagement ring. Of those, sixty percent are involved in picking out their ring, while three percent actually pick it themselves.

Alabama marriage statistics quote the oldest groom in the state as 94 and the oldest bride as 88. The youngest age for bride and groom is recorded as 13.

Thrice a bridesmaid, never a bride, is an old charm that can be broken by being a bridesmaid seven times.

According to English folklore, Saturday, the most popular American choice, is the unluckiest day to marry!

In Pennsylvania, Ministers are forbidden from performing marriages when either the bride or groom is drunk.

The kiss that is given by the bride to the groom at the end of the wedding ceremony originates from the earliest times when the couple would actually make love for the first time under the eyes of half the village!

I'm told the average wedding costs $18,874 with 186 guests. However, weddings in America comprise a $25.3 Billion dollar industry.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to reduce stress.

Post 531 - In the August 2010 issue of Wired, Jonah Lehrer asserts that “stress doesn’t kill us – but it makes everything that does kill us much worse.” In the article that follows, Lehrer explains how to reduce stress with science. To read the complete article once it is accessible online, please click here -

Make Friends:
“Social relationships are a powerful buffer against stress. In fact, several studies in Europe and the U.S. have found that people with fewer friends and family members they’re close to have significantly shorter life expectancies.”

Drink in Moderation:
“While the moderate consumption of alcohol might reduce the stress response, blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent – most states consider 0.08 the legal limit for driving – trigger an automatic spike in stress hormones and convince your body it’s in a state of mortal danger.”

Get Enough Sleep:
“Recent studies have found that even a single night of insufficient sleep ... triggers an automatic spike in stress hormones.” The result is increased stress and more insomnia, which explains why sleep problems are such an important risk factor for depression.

Don’t Fight:
Extensive recent research on baboons by Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky suggests that human beings as well as baboons with a less aggressive personality (i.e. the ability to walk away from a provocation) have much more stable and much less stressful relationships.

Confront Your Fears:
As one research study of Norwegian paratroopers reveals, there was massive stress prior to and then following their first jump but over time, after repeated jumps, “they showed elevated levels of stress hormones only while in midair.”

Extensive research suggests that “even a short training session in meditation can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety.“ At least once or twice a day, it's a good idea to take a brief “time out” from tensions and pressures: calm down, relax, take a few deep breaths, and envision an especially pleasant scene (such as walking along a tropical beach). Most people feel refreshed and energized after these brief moments of decompression.

Don’t Force Yourself to Exercise:
“While exercise is remarkably effective at blunting the stress response, at least for a few hours, this effect exists only if you want to exercise in the first place.” Otherwise, those who force themselves to suffer through exercise won't reduce their stress level; on the contrary, they may exacerbate it.

You can check out several videos on YouTube where Robert Sapolsky shares what he's learned about stress.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Some additional facts and figures.

Post 530 - Here's this week's selection of facts and figures. If I don't know about it, I can't do anything about it. And there seems to be a lot that needs doing these days:

In 1950, roughly one in 20 men of prime working age wasn’t working; today that ratio is about one in five, the highest ever recorded.

In World War Two, the ratio of U.S. dead to wounded was 1 to 4. In Vietnam it was 1 to 15. In Afghanistan, it’s been running about 1 to 40. The next time you read about the number who've been killed, remember it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Remember also that the number of homeless veterans from the Vietnam war today is greater than the number who died in it.

The average worth of Pakistani members of Parliament is $900,000, with its richest member topping $37 million, according to a December study by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency in Islamabad. The rules say that anyone who earns more than $3,488 a year must pay income tax, but few do. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based political economist with the Carnegie Endowment, estimates that as many as 10 million Pakistanis should be paying income tax, far more than the 2.5 million who are registered. Out of more than 170 million Pakistanis, fewer than 2 percent pay income tax, making Pakistan’s revenue from taxes among the lowest in the world. This is a sorry performance for a country that’s among the largest recipients of American aid, payments of billions of dollars that prop up the country’s finances and are intended to help its leaders fight the insurgency. Just thought you'd like to know where your tax money ends up .....

More than 1,200 government agencies and 1,900 private companies in the U.S. work on counter-terrorism, homeland security and intelligence programs at around 10,000 sites across the country. An estimated 854,000 people have top-secret security clearance. These analysts produce more than 50,000 reports a year - a flow of paper so great that many are completely ignored., one of the nation’s largest booksellers, recently announced that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books. In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.

Ireland has the highest percentage of heavy underage drinking in Europe. It’s estimated that one in four 15- to 16-year-olds gets drunk at least three times a month, and 50,000 children get drunk every weekend.

Thousands of offenders across the U.S. are placed on a rehabilitation program called Changing Lives Through Literature as an alternative to prison. Repeat offenders of serious crimes such as armed robbery, assault or drug dealing are made to attend a reading group where they discuss literary classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bell Jar and Of Mice and Men. Of the 597 who have completed the course in Brazoria County, Texas, between 1997 and 2008, only 6% had their probations revoked and were sent to jail. A year-long study of the first cohort that went through the program, which was founded in Massachusetts in 1991, found that only 19% had re-offended compared with 42% in a control group.

The U.S. used to lead the world in educational attainment with 55.8 percent of young adults holding an associates degree or better. We now rank 12th among 36 developed nations. Canada leads the world with 55.8 percent compared to 40.4 percent here in America. The problem is even worse for low-income students and minorities: only 30 percent of African-Americans ages 25-34, and less than 20 percent of Latinos in that age group, have an associate’s degree or higher. And students from the highest income families are almost eight times as likely as those from the lowest income families to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24. However, you can’t do anything college completion if you don’t also do something about K-12 education.

Over a 40-year career, a man earns, on average, $431,000 more than a woman, according to the Center for American Progress.

"While we consider when to begin, it becomes too late." - Japanese Proverb

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Elephant is Slow to Mate, a poem by D. H. Lawrence.

Post 529 - David Herbert Lawrence, novelist, short-story writer, poet and essayist, was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England, in 1885. Though better known as a novelist, Lawrence's first-published works (in 1909) were poems. His poetry, especially his evocations of the natural world, have since had a significant influence on many poets on both sides of the Atlantic. Very prolific, his work was often uneven in quality, and he was a continual source of controversy, often involved in widely-publicized censorship cases, most famously for his novel Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). His collections of poetry include Look! We Have Come Through (1917), a collection of poems about his wife; Birds, Beasts, and Flowers (1923); and Pansies (1929), which was banned on publication in England. A lifelong sufferer from tuberculosis, Lawrence died in 1930 in France, at the age of 44.

He once said, "I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself."

The Elephant is Slow to Mate by D. H. Lawrence

The elephant, the huge old beast,
is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
till they touch in flood.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why work for an early-stage company?

Post 528 - Why should you go to work for a startup or an early-stage company? Here are ten reasons why:

1. More influence.
With a smaller workforce, everyone has more say. You’ll have more opportunity to voice your opinions and to influence key decisions.

2. More ownership.
You may not be the founder, but you might earn some equity or stock options. A sense of ownership will give you a reason to work harder and contribute more than ever before.

3. More meaning.
The best startups have a strong purpose and are built around a vision that really resonates. This provides you and other like-minded people with a common focus and meaning in their work.

4. More camaraderie.
Startup teams have to learn to work together in order to succeed. This doesn’t mean you’ll always get along, but a little disagreement never hurt anyone.

5. More diversity.
You’re going to be expected to do a lot of different things, many of which you've never done before. You’ll be forced to move out of your comfort zone and thus have many opportunities to expand your horizons.

6. More learning.
Startup environments are crash courses in business and in life. You’re likely to learn more in one year at a startup than you will in four years at college.

7. More connectivity.
With fewer levels of bureaucracy, everyone feels closer together. You should be well connected to your executive team as well as the customers, vendors, VCs, friends and family, etc. that surround the company.

8. More emotion.
Working at a startup is usually pretty intense and the emotional charge you’ll get on a regular basis makes it a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

9. More success in the future.
Many startup employees go on to bigger and better things. Whether it’s higher paying / more interesting jobs or starting their own companies, your resume and personal story will likely benefit considerably from living the startup experience.

10. More fun.
People at startup companies seem to have more fun. They work hard, then they play hard. That’s usually the way it is ...

Granted, not all early-stage companies will give you the benefits described above. You can’t always expect to find the perfect fit. But consider taking the leap. In my experience, the learning experience is well worth the risk involved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Understanding how a company grows.

Post 527 - In the beginning, the company is just an idea. A need or opportunity has been identified and initial discussions about the idea are filled with enthusiasm and high expectations. The focus is on the future and the air is full of “convincing talk.”

Here, the initial steps have been taken. The idea has become a reality and now requires time and resources to bring it to life. The emphasis is on making things happen, selling and producing results. Each day brings new challenges. There’s little planning and few formal systems. Energy is high, consistency is low, and firefighting is a way of life.

The company has learned to produce results and is beginning to expand its sense of what it can do. A new product here, a new market there, it sees opportunity around every corner. Bigger is better and nothing seems out of reach. However, rapid expansion brings risk and vulnerability. The company is so optimistic and confident in its ability that it often takes on more than it can handle and constant expansion creates continual crises. People are spread too thin. Standards become lax and excellent performance is sometimes compromised.

Too much is promised. Too many projects are started, and mistakes are made. Confusion and conflict between people, departments and cliques often characterize the company at this stage. Leaders aren’t always in agreement on direction or on the risks that should be taken. Entrepreneurs are often at odds with their more conservative colleagues. Teamwork suffers. Rapid expansion can lead to a loss of focus, confusion about the mission of the company, the markets it serves, and how it should be organized. To get under control, the company moves into a period of rethinking, consolidation and reorganization. Here, the firm is born again as an entity separate from the founder.

Here, there’s a strong, shared sense of strategy, purpose and achievement. Performance is generally predictable and processes are continuously improved. Challenges are faced and resolved efficiently and effectively. The culture is one of open communication, honesty and accountability with a norm of high-performance. Reward and recognition systems are aligned with the company’s strategy and culture. The inherent danger in this phase is complacency. Finding and developing enough capable and competent managers for new growth is often a problem. The biggest challenge for organizations in their Prime is to be able to stay there.

When a company ceases to stretch for excellence, complacency sets in as the leaders slow down and become comfortable. Aspirations for growth and improvement begin to fade. This is the first stage in the aging process and it’s difficult to notice because the changes are very small and are spread over a considerable period of time. The company’s still profitable, and may still be viewed as an industry leader but it’s losing its energy. Honest criticism is less tolerable as politics becomes more prevalent. There’s more focus on how things are done rather than what’s actually being done. The emphasis is on activities rather than on results. The company no longer goes after what it wants; instead, it settles for what it can get.

As the drive to produce results declines, it’s replaced by a more easy-going attitude, including a tolerance for poor performance, and an culture of “don’t make waves.” The aristocratic company may still be profitable and have a good balance sheet. However, the most common behavior is denial about problems, and denial that customers aren’t as satisfied even though fewer come back each year. The drive for profit now focuses on reducing costs, or raising prices. This is the beginning of a decline.

Early Bureaucracy.
If the company doesn’t recognize these symptoms and makes no effort to re-energize itself, it'll continue to decline. When results worsen, complete denial is no longer possible. People begin talking openly about “the problems” and try to identify who’s responsible for them. Eventually, scapegoats are found, the culprits are removed, and the management team rejoices. However, because the problems are systemic, the removal of a couple of people isn’t the answer and soon the witch-hunt begins again. As people turn inward and point fingers, they turn their backs on customers. Service levels fall. Customers complain. After this point, the company generally self-destructs unless there’s an immediate and significant effort to turn the business around.

If the declining company is big and essential to the nation’s economy, the government intervenes, driving it into full-fledged bureaucracy. When this happens, employees focusing on form rather than function, paper work abounds and customers are left crying in the wilderness.

Knowing where a company is in its life cycle helps you to understand and put its problems in perspective. It also helps to set priorities for avoiding and solving problems and for knowing what to change.

Now, answer the following three questions:

1. Where is your company in its life cycle?

2. What does it need to focus on to continue its drive to Prime?

3. What's your role in making this happen?

Monday, July 19, 2010

And that's the way it is.....

Post 526 - Here are some surprising facts and figures that came to my attention this week:

Only six percent of Americans believe the last government stimulus actually created jobs, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey.

Of the top ten countries accepting resettled refugees in 2006, the United States accepted more than twice as much as the next nine countries combined.

Airlines sure charge a lot more to sit in the front of a plane these days. Consider these prices that United Airlines charges for a round-trip flight between Chicago and Hong Kong. An economy-class seat is listed at $810, a business-class seat goes for $8,770 and a first-class ticket $17,524. For what United calls Economy Plus on that flight, the price is $1,068.

IBM recently released a report which summarized interviews with more than 1,500 CEO's around the globe who run companies in the finance, distribution, communications, industrial manufacturing and public sectors which lists four key findings:

1. Three-fourths of the CEO's polled said they anticipate even more complexity in the near future.

2. Most now consider creativity (thinking differently) as the most important leadership quality.

3. The top companies are outperforming others with the help of their customers. Specifically, they're integrating customers into their core processes to aid in the development of new products and services.

4. Other companies are leading their markets by figuring out ways to manage complexity for their organizations, customers and partners.

In a study published in May in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the researchers reported that, to no one’s great surprise, the men who sat the most had the greatest risk of heart problems. Men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching TV and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 percent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less. What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting. (I must hide this article from my sainted wife, or she'll use it to beat me soundly around the head and shoulders).

Last year, two Princeton sociologists published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. They found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class. This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same under-representation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ave Maria, a poem by Frank O'Hara.

Post 525 - Frank (Francis Russell) O'Hara was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1926. He grew up in Massachusetts, and later studied piano at the New England Conservatory from 1941 to 1944. O'Hara then served in the South Pacific and Japan as a sonarman on the destroyer USS Nicholas during World War II.

Following the war, O'Hara studied at Harvard, where he majored in music. He also wrote poetry at that time and began to publish his poems in the Harvard Advocate. He changed his major and left Harvard in 1950 with a degree in English. He then attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and received his M.A. in 1951. O'Hara then moved to New York and got a job at the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art. His association with the painters Larry Rivers, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns became a source of inspiration for his highly original poetry. He attempted to produce with words the effects these artists had created on canvas.

O'Hara continued working at the Museum of Modern Art throughout his life, curating exhibitions and writing catalogs for exhibits and tours. In 1966, he was killed in a sand buggy accident while vacationing on Fire Island. He was forty years old.

Ave Maria by Frank O'Hara

Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
they won't hate you
they won't criticize you they won't know
they'll be in some glamorous country
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

they may even be grateful to you
for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
and didn't upset the peaceful home
they will know where candy bars come from
and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
they won't know the difference
and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy
and they'll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
or up in their room hating you
prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet
except keeping them from the darker joys
it's unforgivable the latter
so don't blame me if you won't take this advice
and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
seeing movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The secrets of good product design.

Post 524 - There’s a certain amount of homework involved in recognizing and turning new technologies into new products. Steve Jobs of Apple says, “Mostly, this involves picking up things you can see on the periphery ... I always pay close attention to the whispers around me.” Jobs goes on to say that spotting new technology isn’t the hard part. “The hard part is, 'Who’s the customer? What’s the product? How are they going to buy it? How do you tell them about it?'”

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment” according to Eliel Saarinen.

People interact with products on two levels: physical and emotional. The physical part is called “ergonomics” - what feels good to people. Some designers call the emotional level "psychonomics"- what makes people feel good. The baseline of good design is a perfect balance between the two. Form and function are developed together and are intertwined. A design that stands the test of time is done as efficiently as possible and has nothing more than it needs to do the job. Charles and Ray Eames's molded-plywood chair of the 1940s is a perfect example. The wood was molded into flexible shapes that perfectly conformed to the body and absorbed shock when the sitter moved. Herman Miller's Aeron chair is descended from that Eames chair but it’s more concerned with performance - action, movement, and mobility.

Like the Eames chair, the Aeron is pared down mechanically to exactly what's necessary and its cushion uses the least amount of material needed to achieve comfort. That’s the real art and skill of a designer: to achieve elegance in design with the highest degree of efficiency. Ultimately, any well-designed product or experience acknowledges the user. It's that respect for the user that makes a design great. That's true for a table, a chair, a book, a film or a Web site.

Designing a product is not so much about the end product as it’s about the process of use. This is especially true for Web design, which isn’t dealing with an immutable, static object. Instead, the focus is on designing sequential, ongoing activities - creating a series of linked interactions and experiences.

However, it's always good to remember Doug Adams' observation: “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something to be completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who makes you happy?

Post 523 - Researchers at Harvard University and MIT wanted to see if a mathematical model developed to track and predict the spread of infectious diseases could also apply to the spread of happiness. They found that it worked.

They used data collected from 1,880 subjects in the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term research effort that’s followed people since 1948, giving them physical and emotional exams every two years. At each visit, subjects were classified as contented, discontented or neutral. The researchers monitored how these emotional states changed over time and how these changes depended on the emotions of the people with whom the participants came into contact.

When the information was put into a slightly-modified traditional infectious-disease simulation, the researchers found a correlation between an individual's emotional state and those of the person's contacts. In other words, it appears that you can catch happiness. Or sadness. Moreover, the "recovery time" doesn't depend on your contacts at all, which is a hallmark of diseases but surprising in an emotional context, since continuing contact with happy or sad people could be expected to affect your emotional state even after the initial "infection."

People were found to "recover" more quickly from being discontented than from being contented. On average, a contented "infection" sticks around for ten years, but it takes only five years to recover from a discontented one. The researchers focused on long-term emotional states because they’re more accurate measures of general life satisfaction than fleeting moods, such as laughter, which are already known to be contagious.

They also found that sadness is more contagious than happiness. A single discontented contact doubles your chances of being unhappy, while a happy contact increases the probability of becoming content by only 11%. It also appears that happiness is more likely to come about spontaneously than sadness.

So maybe Douglas M. Lawson was right on target when he said, "Happiness is a byproduct of what we share with others."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Did you know...?

Post 522 - Another week, another set of data, some national, some international.

The U.S. government is spending 2.6 million of our tax dollars to study the drinking habits of Chinese prostitutes and another $400,000 to study gay sexual behavior in bars in Argentina.

Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina. They found that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores.

U.S. studies indicate that 20 percent of recently married couples originally met online.

Today, manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is about 166,000 - lower than it was before the first personal computer, the MITS Altair 2800, was assembled in 1975. Meanwhile, a very effective computer-manufacturing industry has emerged in Asia, employing about 1.5 million workers - factory employees, engineers and managers.

For every Apple worker in the U.S. there are 10 people in China working on iMacs, iPods and iPhones. The same roughly 10-to-1 relationship holds for Dell, disk-drive maker Seagate Technology, and other U.S. tech companies.

A Silicon Valley company that sells equipment used to manufacture photo-active films ships close to 10 times more machines to China than to manufacturers in the U.S., and this gap is growing.

Figures provided by FICO Inc., show that 25.5 percent of consumers - 43.4 million - now have a credit score of 599 or below, marking them as poor risks for lenders. On the positive side, the number of consumers who have a top score of 800 or above has increased in recent years and now stands at 17.9 percent, above the historical average of 13 percent. People with moderate credit scores, those between 650 and 699, now represent less than 12 percent of consumers, down from a historical average of 15 percent.

Stretched to the limit by budget cuts and a rising caseload (traffic filings alone rose nearly 10 percent to 1.83 million last year) the Los Angeles County justice system has been struggling to contend with what appears to be a growing number of celebrities gone bad, done wrong, or otherwise in need of adjudication. New filings aren’t scanned into the court’s electronic system for days, sometimes leaving judges without access to the latest paperwork in one or another of the roughly three million cases that come in each year. And callers get lost in an automated telephone system that because of the layoffs no longer has a human being at its end. In March, the court laid off 329 of its more than 5,000 employees, while using furloughs and weekday closings to help trim a budget shortfall that was estimated at $79 million.

Last week, Lady Gaga became the first living person to hit 10 million followers on Facebook.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Threat, a poem by Denise Levertov.

Post 521 - Denise Levertov (1923 – 1997) was a British-born American poet. After moving to Massachusetts, Levertov taught at Brandeis University, MIT and Tufts University. On the West Coast, she had a part-time teaching position at the University of Washington and for 11 years (1982-1993) held a full professorship at Stanford University. In 1984 she received a Litt. D. from Bates College. After retiring from teaching, she spent a year giving poetry readings in the U.S. and Britain. Levertov wrote and published 20 books of poetry, criticism, and translations. She also edited several anthologies. Among her many awards and honors, she received the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Frost Medal, the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Lannan Award, a Catherine Luck Memorial Grant, a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

She once said that, “Acknowledgement, and celebration, of mystery probably constitutes the most consistent theme of my poetry.”

Threat by Denise Levertov.

You can live for years next door
to a big pine tree, honored to have
so venerable a neighbor, even
when it sheds needles all over your flowers
or wakes you, dropping big cones
onto your deck at still of night.
Only when, before dawn one year
at the vernal equinox, the wind
rises and rises, raising images
of cockleshell boats tossed among huge
advancing walls of waves,
do you become aware that always,
under respect, under your faith
in the pine tree's beauty, there lies
the fear it will crash someday
down on your house, on you in your bed,
on the fragility of the safe
dailiness you have almost
grown used to.

Tips on looking for a partner.

Post 520 - Why do we fall in love with one person and not with another? I’m told there are three basic ingredients for romantic attraction: intellectual, emotional and sexual, and all of these need to be strong enough if we’re to make a good connection that can evolve into a lasting relationship.

The main difference between a good and an ideal relationship is that the latter prepares us for life, and helps us to become a better person in the world. Sometimes we choose partners who make us feel good but only when we’re together. If this kind of wonderful intensity is the only thing present in the relationship, it usually doesn’t continue to make us feel more and more alive in the longer term. Eventually, the relationship turns in on itself rather than developing into a partnership which illuminates the world anew each day. What makes a relationship good isn’t necessarily what we feel towards each other, but what we create of each other.

Some couples feel really good together, but the relationship doesn't generate any individual personal development. If your partner doesn't help you or cause you to develop, chances are you won't grow very much on an emotional level. The choice of a partner should take this into account. While the desire for growth is intrinsic, the actual process of growing gets a boost by the interaction with another compatible being. The positive energy that flows from a close relationship with another allows people to grow more on their own, even when their partner isn’t present.

if you’re looking for a lifelong partner, you have to decide in advance what personal characteristics will be most important to you. Couples from the same social class, with similar education and religious and political orientations often have more in common in relationships and family life than those from a different value background. However, whenever I’ve dated someone who I felt was exactly like me, it hasn't worked out. Instead, I think it’s better to emphasize the value of friendship because, over time, friendship is more enduring than love.

"The best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you ... the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass." - The Dad in the movie Juno.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Promising areas for innovation in the future.

Post 519 - In 2009, a research team at McKinsey revisited and retested assumptions about key global trends that they believe will define the years ahead. They identified five areas where the stresses and tensions will be greatest and that therefore offer the richest opportunities for companies to innovate and change. These are:

• The productivity imperative.
Economies in the developed world will need to generate significant gains in productivity to support continued economic growth. The most dramatic innovations are likely to be those that accelerate economic productivity.

• The global grid.
The global economy is growing more and more connected. Complex flows of capital, goods, information, and people are creating an interlinked network that spans geographies, social groups, and economies, which in turn allows large-scale interactions at any given moment. This expanding grid is generating new business models and accelerating the pace of innovation. It also increases the chances of destabilizing cycles of volatility.

• Pricing the planet.
A collision is shaping up among the rising demand for resources, constrained supplies, and changing social attitudes toward environmental protection. The next decade will see an increased focus on the productivity of resources, the emergence of large clean-tech industries, and more regulatory initiatives.

• The market state.
The often contradictory demands of driving economic growth while also providing the necessary safety nets to maintain social stability have put governments under extraordinary pressure. Globalization applies even additional pressure. How will distinctly national entities govern in an increasingly globalized world?

This research is exploratory rather than definitive. Just how these forces will unfold and how they will interact is still a work in progress. However, McKinsey’s research, extensive one-on-one contacts, and broader survey data provide confidence that these topics should be framing every organization’s strategic conversations about how best to chart its future course. The opportunities for smart strategy will likely be most promising where the stresses and tensions will be greatest.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Strange facts, figures and findings.

Post 518 - Another week, another set of facts and figures to think about - or not!

In California today, 7.5 percent of the state budget goes to higher education, while 11 percent goes to prisons. 30 years ago, 10 percent of the budget went to higher education and only 3 percent was allocated to corrections.

Only 46 percent of Americans think they’ll have enough money to retire compared to 92 percent ten years ago according to the latest Gallup poll on the subject. Among retirees, just 22 percent think their 401(k) will be a major source of income while 54 percent expect that Social Security will provide for them.

Iran executed 388 people last year – more than any other country in the world apart from China, according to Amnesty International. By comparison, there were 52 executions in the United States in 2009. Texas executed 24; followed by Alabama with 6; Ohio 5; Virginia, Oklahoma, and Georgia 3; Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee 2; and Missouri and Indiana 1 each. Russia hasn’t executed anyone since 1996, and the regulations of the Council of Europe prohibit it from doing so at any time in future.

It’s estimated that between 50 and 70 percent of jobs in larger companies are filled from the inside by internal transfers and promotions. This must make it difficult for these companies to bring in new ideas … it certainly doesn’t help.

Many people complain they never have enough time. Yet a lifetime, if calculated from week to week, is just 168 hours, repeated again and again. Subtract 56 weekly sleeping hours (eight a night) and 50 for work, and you still have 62 unscheduled hours each week. Husbands and wives talk to each other for a mere 12 minutes a day. So, whatever do you do with the rest of your time?

Lady Gaga has more Facebook fans that President Obama. Maybe it’s because she says she’ll ‘never forget you.’

Did you know that the World Health Organization has a Women's Orgasm Committee? Cindy Meston, who ‘s the head of the committee, interviewed over a thousand women to find out why they had sex. Their answers ranged from “it’s the closest thing to God” to “it gets rid of my migraines.” 60% of college students said they had friends-with-sexual-benefits relationships. 84% of women reported having sex even though they didn’t want to because, well, anything for a quiet life or because they wanted their partner to put out the garbage. I think Joan Crawford had possibly the best line ever on this topic: “I need sex for a clear complexion.” I guess men are more fun than Clearasil.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do You Love Me? a poem by Rumi.

Post 517 - Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, also known as Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th century Persian poet, philosopher and mysic. He was born in 1207 in greater Balkh, which is in present day Afghanistan. He died in 1273 in Konya in present day Turkey. He was laid to rest beside his father, and a splendid shrine was erected over his remains. This Mevlana Mausoleum continues to draw pilgrims from all parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim world to this day. Rumi’s epitaph reads: "When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men."

His original works are widely read across the Persian-speaking world. His poetry has influenced Persian literature as well as Urdu, Punjabi and other Pakistani languages written in Perso/Arabic script, such as Pashto and Sindhi. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world's languages and transposed into various formats. In 2007, he was described by the BBC as the "most popular poet in America."

He believed that in life, “You wander from room to room, hunting for the diamond necklace that’s already around your neck.” He also said, “Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

Do You Love Me? by Rumi

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more
than you love me?

The beloved replied,
I have died to myself
and I live for you.

I’ve disappeared from myself
and my attributes.
I am present only for you.

I have forgotten all my learning,
but from knowing you
I have become a scholar.

I have lost all my strength,
but from your power
I am able.

If I love myself
I love you.
If I love you
I love myself.

How men and women differ.

Post 516 - Some of the fundamental differences between men and women are biological. For example, their brains are not only different, but the way they use them differs as well. Women have more connections and more frequent interaction between their brain's left and right hemispheres. As a result, they have better verbal skills and stronger intuition. Men, on the other hand, have greater brain hemisphere separation, which explains their skills for abstract reasoning and visual-spatial intelligence.

Men and women also have different habits which were shaped over the centuries by the process of evolution. Although life conditions have changed, both men and women tend to follow their biological programming.

For example, as they evolved, men’s brains were programmed for hunting, which explains their narrow range of vision, while women’s brains were built to decipher a wider range of information. Men developed a keen sense of direction which they used when they tracked game, killed it, and then found their way home. Women developed better peripheral vision which helped them see what was happening around the home, spot approaching danger, and notice changes in their children’s behavior and appearance. Did you know that women blink nearly twice as much as men?

When entering a room, men look first for threats and then exits, checking out the possible ways to escape. Women pay more attention to the guests’ faces to find out who they are and how they feel. Men are good at processing information, archiving it for future use. Women typically ‘rewind’ information over and over again. They find the best way to stop thinking about a problem is to talk it out. When a woman shares her problems with a man, she’s usually not looking for solutions; rather, she just needs someone to listen to her. Men are better at solving technical problems. However, women have a sharper ear. They use more words while talking, and are better at completing tasks independently.

Based on these biological differences, here are some psychological distinctions between men and women:

- Men tend think globally and grasp situations as a whole, while women think locally, and rely more on details and nuances.

- Men tend to be independent in their thoughts and actions, while women are more willing to follow ideas suggested by others.

- Women criticize themselves, while men are happier with their own performance.

- Men find satisfaction in career progression and prosperity, while women place a higher value on family and children.

- Men have a strong need to fulfill their goals, whereas women rank relationships with others first.

- Women tend to be more concerned about their health. Men get sick twice as often as women.

- Women endure pain and monotonous work better than men.

And finally, here's an old saying I remember about these differences: "Women always worry about the things that men forget; men always worry about the things women remember.”