Politics, culture, business, and technology

I also blog at ChicagoBoyz.


Selected Posts:
Sleeping with the Enemy
Dancing for the Boa Constrictor
Koestler on Nuance
A Look into the Abyss
Hospital Automation
Made in America
Politicians Behaving Badly
Critics and Doers
Foundations of Bigotry?
Bonhoeffer and Iraq
Misvaluing Manufacturing
Journalism's Nuremberg?
No Steak for You!
An Academic Bubble?
Repent Now
Enemies of Civilization
Molly & the Media
Misquantifying Terrorism
Education or Indoctrination?
Dark Satanic Mills
Political Violence Superheated 'steem
PC and Pearl Harbor
Veterans' Day Musings
Arming Airline Pilots
Pups for Peace
Baghdad on the Rhine

Book Reviews:
Forging a Rebel
The Logic of Failure
The Innovator's Solution
They Made America
On the Rails: A Woman's Journey

arts & letters daily
natalie solent
critical mass
john bruce
joanne jacobs
number 2 pencil
roger l simon
common sense and wonder
sheila o'malley
invisible adjunct
red bird rising
academic game
rachel lucas
betsy's page
one hand clapping
a schoolyard blog
joy of knitting
lead and gold
damian penny
annika's journal
little miss attila
no credentials
university diaries
trying to grok
a constrained vision
victory soap
business pundit
right reason
quid nomen illius?
sister toldjah
the anchoress
reflecting light
dr sanity
all things beautiful
dean esmay
brand mantra
economics unbound
dr melissa
dr helen
right on the left coast
digital Rules
college affordability
the energy blog
tinkerty tonk
meryl yourish
kesher talk
assistant village idiot
evolving excellence
neptunus lex
the daily brief
roger scruton
bookworm room
villainous company
lean blog

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008  

Thoughts on Obama's Berlin speech, at Chicago Boyz.

8:24 AM

Monday, July 28, 2008  

Manufacturing, management education, information technology, inventory control...if you're interested in any of these topics...or just interested in human folly...read this 2006 post from Evolving Excellence.

It's linked from EE's post today on the sense of manufacturing, in which he asks:

When your customer service people receive an order, do they simply key it into the almighty MRP? Or are they conscious that an order is far larger than typical? When your shop floor folks decide to run an order, do they simply look at the MRP screen or do they think about upcoming orders and the nuances involved in running them, and use some judgment to optimize the runs? Have they developed the "sense" of manufacturing, or have they suboptimized that sense to automated tools? Would they know that they are making a few million extra candy bars?

Sometimes you just have to touch it, feel it, and see it. Upcoming orders on a white board, excessive scrap on the floor, a product that just doesn't look right. Develop that competency and that awareness. If you must use electronic tools, use them to augment the senses, not replace them.

6:58 AM

Sunday, July 27, 2008  

See my post at Chicago Boyz.

7:17 AM

Saturday, July 26, 2008  

The Portsmouth (UK) city council turned down a request for a £500 grant to help wounded soldiers, based on a bizarre theory that this might be offensive to "ethnic minorities."

Read about a meeting of "progressives" at the United Church in Toronto. Literature made available at the meeting included assertions about "Zionists controlling the media" and a denunciation of "Rothschild owned big pharma killers." The organization that sponsored the meeting says that it is not antisemitic but is concerned about "social justice."

Toronto item via Five Feet of Fury.

5:57 AM

Friday, July 25, 2008  

Please welcome the following blogs to the left sidebar:

Bookworm Room
Villainous Company
Lean Blog

Note also that Melissa Clouthier has a new URL and a new blog design.

1:45 PM

Thursday, July 24, 2008  

…does Obama have one? Can he laugh at himself?

Do these questions really matter?

Elizabeth Scalia explores the Obama-humor relationship.

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

8:01 PM


A great picture, along with some thoughts on oil speculation and the regulation thereof, from MaxedOutMama.

7:30 PM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008  

Light fixtures, pots & pans, malt, cranes, towers for wind turbines, pipes for offshore oil rigs, desks & filing cabinets. Not to mention yachts and plastic parts.

America got tired of manufacturing. But it remains a great way to make money--Tim Martinez, Manitowoc entrepreneur.

See this story from the WSJ (7/18).

via Evolving Excellence, which is a great source on manufacturing-related topics, along with Lean Blog.

7:30 AM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008  

The dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane in the 1880s, according to an item in Investors Business Daily (7/15).

Knowing this, one might reasonably assume that Ms Cochrane's inspiration came from extensive personal dishwashing experience, and weariness with same. Actually, Josephine Cochrane was a wealthy socialite who held many parties, and was unhappy that the maids kept chipping the china, some of which supposedly dated back to the 1600s.

IBD: "So one night she took to washing the dishes herself after her guests left. Right away she realized the burden of the work and how rough it was on her hands. There must be a better way, she thought."

Cochrane developed some initial ideas for a mechanical dishwasher and hired George Butters, a railroad mechanic, to assist in the project. She patented the resulting device, which was hand-powered, in 1886, and established a company to sell it. The price of $75-100 meant that the market was pretty much restricted to hotels and restaurants. Sales went slowly until the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, at which the machines were exhibited and also used to support the food service operations at the event. With this visibility, the order rate soared. A motorized version was introduced in 1900. The present-day descendent of Cochrane's company is the KitchenAid subsidiary of Whirlpool.

It seems pretty clear to me that without widespread electrification, the dishwasher would never have been more than a niche project. Hotels and large restaurants might have found it worthwhile to run dishwashers on small steam engines, and smaller establishments could have continued to use the hand-cranked version--but a huge step in convenience and efficiency was provided by the electric motor.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if today's political/legal/social climate had existed at the time when electricity was being introduced. There would certainly have been extensive pressure to ban it outright--after all, electricity is a little mysterious, like nuclear power, and can definitely be dangerous. Even if the League of Perpetual Indignation(tm) had not succeeded in totally suppressing electricity, it would have probably allied itself with Thomas Edison's scare campaign against the alternating current championed by George Westinghouse--a campaign that, if it had been successful, would have greatly reduced electricity's applicability and scope of availability.

And probably meaning no dishwashers for 80% of the population.

11:17 AM

Sunday, July 20, 2008  

Do not fail to check out Fail Blog.

On the other hand, if you're really busy right now then you'd better not click it, because you might stay for a while.

(via Lean Blog)

5:40 PM


The modern anti-Semite looks entirely different. He does not have a shaved head. He has good manners and often an academic title as well…The modern anti-Semite does not believe in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But instead he fantasizes about an “Israel lobby” that is supposed to control American foreign policy like a tail that wags the dog. For the modern anti-Semite, it goes without saying that every year on January 27 he will commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. But at the same time he militates for the right of Iran to have atomic weapons.

Henryk Broder, in a speech to the German Bundestag.

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

6:04 AM

Saturday, July 19, 2008  

...Sarah was there, and has pictures.

See the discussion of the character and accomplishments of George W Bush, in Sarah's post and in the comments.

An interesting contrast with this small-minded and graceless statement from Nancy Pelosi.

7:12 AM

Friday, July 18, 2008  

...via long division.

6:20 AM

Thursday, July 17, 2008  

On July 4, we had some time between the dinner plan and the fireworks-viewing plan, so I wanted to find out the holiday hours for the local Borders store.

1)Check the web site. The store locator gives regular hours, but says to call the store for the most up-to-date hours. (Borders just spent a bunch of money upgrading the website. Why didn't you include a facility for the store to update its own hours directly?)

2)Call the store. First, there's a message about "if you know your party's extension." (Didn't you people ever hear of direct inward dialing?)

3)Then another message, suggesting that job-seekers should check the website or talk to a store employee. (Again, you are inconveniencing actual customers, this time on the theory that your prospective employees are too dumb to check the website on their own and that avoiding calls from these job-seekers is more important than providing a straightforward telephone path for your customers.)

4)Finally, "press 1 for regular hours, press 2 for holiday hours." Pressed the key.

5)Got a message that gave me the holiday hours for Easter, March 23.

6)Finally got a human. Talked to a friendly guy who gave me the hours. Told him that their phone message was just a little bit out of date. He said he'd tell a manager.

7)As of today, July 17, the phone message still gives the hours for Easter.

One would think that given the disgraceful performance of this company, Borders people at all levels would be focused on making it easier to do business with them. Evidently not.

I'm glad that I am no longer a shareholder in this corporation.

7:31 AM

Wednesday, July 16, 2008  

Saw a car with two bumper stickers–one said “Support Israel” and the other was some kind of pro-Democratic-Party statement. (continued at Chicago Boyz)

6:24 AM


Law schools and medical schools.

6:21 AM

Tuesday, July 15, 2008  

Rachel tries to solve a problem in dog physics and geometry.

Poodles relaxing after a hard day at school. (via Maggie's Farm)

1:05 PM

Monday, July 14, 2008  

Edward Markey, a Democratic U.S. Congressman, told a group of high school students that “climate change” was responsible for the famine in Somalia and hence for the 1993 “Black Hawk down” battle between American troops and Somali rebels. See my post at Chicago Boyz.

5:45 AM

Friday, July 11, 2008  

A video interview with Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase.

Transcript of an interview with Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric. (via Curious Cat)

3:02 PM

Wednesday, July 09, 2008  

A paper from the Darden School suggests that there are two basic kinds of managers, and that one of these kinds is much more likely to generate significant innovation and to effectively meet customer needs:

Success was based more often on thoughtful exploration of customers' needs than on dry market data. The managers in our study personally sought detailed knowledge about individual customers, instead of just seeing them as data in market-research reports.

One manager told us he was not "customer-centric," he was "Cynthia-centric." Cynthia, he explained, was a single mother who had ordered his company's personalized candies to be delivered for her son's birthday party. Sadly, the product arrived a day late, and afterward, Cynthia, who had barely been able to afford the gift, called him in tears to express her disappointment. She became his constant reminder of what it means to be a day late in his business.

Tom Peters sees these two types of managers as reflecting two types of companies:

The first sort, focused on avoiding downsides, treats customers "only as data," "manages risk through analysis," "places big bets, slowly," and frequently fails in new situations...The second sort sees life as a "journey of learning." It treats customers "as people"—and constantly seeks new input through direct contact with those customers. The Type Two group "places small bets, quickly" and manages risk through hustle and an abiding bias for test-try-adjust-action.

David Martin, writing at Bankstocks.com, spends 45 minutes talking with the guys who delivered his new dining room set...and makes some points about customer service, in banking and elsewhere.

7:15 PM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008  

At 10:00 EDT today, the oilman/raider T Boone Pickens is launching his plan for reducing American dependency on imported oil. Summary, links, and discussion thread at Chicago Boyz.

6:53 AM


See my post at Chicago Boyz.

6:28 AM

Sunday, July 06, 2008  

Warren Buffett once remarked that it's hard to teach new dogs old tricks.

Here's some evidence.

12:05 PM

Friday, July 04, 2008  

See my 4th of July post at Chicago Boyz, featuring Stephen Vincent Benet, American troops in Iraq, Abraham Lincoln, and even Calvin Coolidge.

7:24 AM


These people were always finding water all over their pool deck and furniture every time they came home after being away for a few hours. They thought the neighborhood kids were waiting for them to leave, and using the pool. However, they could never catch them doing it. So, they set up their video cam and left. This is what they found out...

Don't miss this one.

6:51 AM

Thursday, July 03, 2008  

Great pictures of an Iraqi boy and an American soldier.

9:17 AM

Wednesday, July 02, 2008  

...if you were Governor of Ohio?

Rich Karlgaard of Forbes invites your thoughts.

9:30 AM

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