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  • Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on May 22nd, 2013 (All posts by )

    Former FDCI head Sheila Bair says that low interest rates are hurting, not helping, the economy

    Boring, narrow, think-alike apparatchiks.

    Educational credentialism and the landed aristocracy.

    The irreversible decline of Sears

    Rita King is not impressed with Marissa Mayer’s ban on remote work at Yahoo

    How volatility boosts career resilience

    Seven characteristics of creative people

    Stephen Hawking’s warped moral calculus

    19 emotions for which English has no words

    AT&T predicted the future in these 1993 ads…but how many of these possibilities-turned-actualities was it really able to convert into sources of revenue and profit?

    The CEO of Siemens USA thinks young people should seriously consider careers in manufacturing. (When he talks about high-level executives at Siemens who started as apprentices on the shop floor, I have to wonder how many of these success stories are in Siemens USA versus Siemens in Germany)

    Some vintage air travel photos

    The 22 most beautifully secluded places in the world

     

    17 Responses to “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

    1. ErisGuy Says:

      “19 emotions for which English has no words”

      I see articles like this a lot. What I rarely see are “100 English Words that Express Concepts for which Other Languages Have No Words.” So: anyone who reads Dutch, German, French, are these sorts of articles in those languages common? Can you suggest a few?

    2. Bill Brandt Says:

      The fellow who his te tech advisor for my car club – his son learned about robotics in automotive manufacturing – works for Siemens – has never been out of work

      Don’t know whether he programs them or designs them

    3. ErisGuy Says:

      “22 Secluded Places”

      Too much green. And fog.

    4. Cris Says:

      The Sears article rings true. It seems like they have lost interest in retail and are just going through the motions. I have a friend who was a regional manager in their automotive division. He was quite unhappy with direction and support. There was even a cap on his sales bonuses (?!). When he left, he said they seemed to be not much more than some sort of real estate holding company.

    5. Bill Brandt Says:

      You go into the Sears in my town and it is like an empty bowling alley. And they ticked me off because for years I have bought Craftsmen tools there – they are a nice compromise between the best quality – say Snap-On (at 5x the price) and cheap Chinese crap.

      Well, for years they sold them based on they are made in the USA – they are moving it off shore.

      And the selection is way down – you used to come in and know you would get a tool you needed to do the job.

      All run my MBAs now with out a clue as to tools.

      Just numbers.

    6. Mike K Says:

      The crazy thing about Sears is that they closed the wrong part of the business. I worked for them for a while in the 60s. The catalog store is what made them Sears. They could have been Amazon.com. There was a time when you could buy a house in the catalog and have it shipped to your land in Iowa or wherever.

      Imagine if they had figured out that the internet would be the great retail engine of the 21st century. They had all the infrastructure except the knowledge to use it.

      When I worked for them, the president of the company came through the store one day. It was in east LA. He was walking through the men’s department and saw a hideous tie with multiple colors and feathers on it. He said to the manager, “Get rid of that tie !” Nobody had the heart, or courage, to tell him it was our best seller.

    7. Sgt. Mom Says:

      This is is so sad – yes, they could have been the Amazon.com. Catalog sales was how they made their name, back in the day. The 19th century day. With a bit of vision, a bit of management genius … So sad. My dad loved Sears, for the tools and appliances and stuff. Yes, they could have been a contendah…in internet catalog sales.

    8. T.K. Tortch Says:

      You go into the Sears in my town and it is like an empty bowling alley.

      Wow. Now that is an image of desolation. I’ve only ever been in at least 1/4 full bowling alleys but I know exactly what you mean.

      My Grandfather was a big fan of Craftsman tools. I inherited quite a few. One I didn’t inherit from him is my most-used Craftsman tool of all, though it’s highly specialized. First time I saw it, well obviously it was some kind of wrench but for some kind of oddball nut or fastener, like those screws you run across that only have a slot on either side but not through the middle. I puzzled over it for a while until somebody pointed out it was a bottle opener, or as Craftsman calls it, a “cap wrench”!!

    9. Bill Brandt Says:

      T.K. – Craftsman had an excellent reputation – built through generations. All in 5 years or so being destroyed.

      we have 2-3 big Sears stores in our metro area – one has to be 500,000 sf – multi story – and I’ll bet not more than 40 customers inside.

      Michael – good point – of course, hindsight is 20-20. I am well familiar with the history of Tower Records – I showed my nephew where they started – in the 50s

      Russ Solomon built it into a world-wide powerhouse with a store even in Moscow.

      Then the Internet killed them. Much easier to buy from Amazon.

    10. david foster Says:

      38 foreign words we could use in English:

      http://mentalfloss.com/article/50698/38-wonderful-foreign-words-we-could-use-english

      …it would be interesting to see some answers to ErisGuy’s question about *English* words that would be useful in foreign languages…I can’t remember details, but I’ve heard several people speaking various foreign languages with occasional English words making their appearance.

    11. Grurray Says:

      The Germans have the best words for obscure terms and feelings it seems.

      Regarding the Siemens CEO, I don’t doubt they have some executives that have gone through apprenticeships, but from what I understand there are different programs that include education. It used to be a somewhat rigid and confining system where about half of all high schoolers were funneled to the vocational trades. Now it’s possible to work as an apprentice either prior to or concurrently with university studies. This is the likely track for the upper managers.

      Their system looks pretty good nowadays compared to our education bubble. However, my own gut feeling is that if/when we get our act together (I’m sure America 3.0 will be the blueprint) they won’t be able to compete with US.

      Aside from the obvious economic advantages of the new manufacturing or industrial renaissance or whatever you want to call it, the added benefits could be a return of the values of the “doers”. Not everyone is going to go buy up a bunch of 3D printers and start cranking out products, but we all might learn a lesson from these makers.

      There’s been a lot of good books on the subject, but one of my favorites is “The Craftsman” (speak of the devil, right?) by Richard Sennet. In it he gives his guidelines for craftsmen. Good rules for anyone really:

      A good craftsman anticipates ambiguity

      The good craftsman knows that progress is not linear

      The good craftsman understands the importance of the sketch—that is, not quite knowing what you are about when you begin

      The good craftsman places positive value on contingency and constraint
      (problems can also be opportunities)

      The good craftsman needs to avoid pursuing a problem relentlessly to the point that it becomes perfectly self-contained

      The good craftsman brings an impersonal attitude to work
      (work for the sake of doing a good job)

      The good craftsman avoids perfectionism that can degrade into a self-conscious demonstration

      The good craftsman learns when it is time to stop

    12. Smock Puppet, "Faecies Evenio", Mr. Holder? Says:

      }}} AT&T predicted the future in these 1993 ads…but how many of these possibilities-turned-actualities was it really able to convert into sources of revenue and profit?

      LOL, maybe one?

      TWO problems:

      a — “Sent a fax… from the beach”
      FAXes? FAXes? Weee don’ need no steeenkin’ FAXES!!

      b — “And the company that will bring it to you… AT&T”
      Ummmm, nope. I suppose they get to claim the movie thing since they have at least partial ownership of Dish or one of those systems like it… but they didn’t “start” that, Netflix did.

      And they didn’t bring most of the rest of it by any means.

      In fact, most of their ideas for how to do it were rejected by the market, and AT&T now does packet switching instead of asynchronous transfer mode (“ATM”) using circuit based switching.
      From 1996:
      http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.10/atm_pr.html

      I’d argue that all of this seemed… “obvious” even in the early 90s as “coming”. AT&T looked where the parade was going and jumped out in front with a twirling baton and a “RAH! RAH! RAH!!” and claimed they were leading it.

      Sort of like the Dems did with civil rights in the 60s. With far less effectiveness.

      ======

      You want prediction?

      THIS is prediction:

      Vannevar Bush (no direct relation to the presidential family) predicted the internet
      As We May Think
      http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/
      His tech was all wrong but that’s the internet he’s talking about at its heart

      The date?
      JUL 1 1945

      P.S. –
      How many of you recognized Tom Selleck as the voiceover man?
      :-D

    13. David Foster Says:

      Vannevar Bush provides an interesting case in prediction…he did prefigure the web with a hyperlinking approach approach to documents, and he accomplished a great deal in driving technology for victory in WWII. On the other hand, he completely rejected the feasibility of “a 3,000-mile, high-angle rocket, shot from one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb, and so directed as to be a precise weapon, which would land exactly on a certain target, such as a city” and suggested that Americans could safely leave the idea of such a weapon out of their defense planning.

    14. Mike K Says:

      One of the most brilliant (and odd) people of World War II was Frederick Lindemann, Churchill’s adviser on science.

      He was far more than a theorist. In World War I, the RAF was losing pilots in training to spins which no one could get out of.

      n World War I Lindemann tackled the problem of spin recovery in aircraft, then thought to be impossible (this in an era when pilots were not issued parachutes!). To collect data and test his theories, he learned to fly and deliberately induced spins in some of the most notoriously dangerous aircraft types and confirmed his recovery procedure by putting his own life on the line. The procedure he developed is still taught to pilots today.

      He told Churchill of the importance of such developments as radar and the electronic beams the Germans were using for navigation to bomb London.

      He was a vegetarian and teetotaler. He was an excellent tennis player, never married and his very few friends included the only one that mattered, Churchill.

      In many ways, he was the British equivalent of Bush.

    15. Bill Brandt Says:

      The good craftsman avoids perfectionism that can degrade into a self-conscious demonstration

      That is an interesting statement – and in truth being such a perfectionist that nothing is ever good enough can lead to all kinds of problems.

      And yet a craftsman adheres to a certain minimal standard.

    16. Bill Brandt Says:

      Mike – interesting about Lindemann – in flight training I went into an “inadvertent” spin and it sacred the !$% out of me. A spin, of course is caused by uncontrolled flight (rudder and aileron out of sync) and one wing stops flying before the other.

      They used to require spin training in getting your private license – spins being a big killer – but generally the spin that kills you is during the landing phase with uncoordinated flight (usually turning from downwind (flying parallel but opposite the runway) to base (a 90 degree turn from downwind towards the runway) – or final (a 90 degree turn from base to the final approach).

      And, if you get into that type of spin, you are usually too close to the ground to recover.

      So these days they usually teach how to avoid spins.

      But, I guess, thanks to Lindemann mail pilots such as Lindbergh used spins intentionally to get out of fog and iceing conditions.

    17. David Foster Says:

      Lindemann was also engaged in two bureaucratic and very secret conflicts with another scientist, Sir Henry Tizard…the first having to do with air defense technologies, the second was about the efficacy of area bombing of cities.

      C P Snow, who in addition to being a novelist was a recruiter of scientists for the war effort, tells the story in his book Science and Government, which is on my list of books to review.

      Snow was very much a Tizard partisan, and argued that Lindemann’s support for technologies other than radar (infrared detection, aerial mines, etc) placed in serious jeopardy the massive radar investments that allowed Britain to survive the early phases of WWII. He also paints Lindemann as an extremely unpleasant individual on a personal level.

      In the second conflict, Lindemann argued that the destruction of German housing by area bombing would destroy German industrial productivity and morale: Tizard questioned Lindemann’s numbers and the vast resources that were being allocated to the bomber fleets. Snow argues that excessive focus on strategic bombing reduced the availability of anti-submarine aircraft to very dangerously low levels.