And Your Point Is?

What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?
    —  John Green
[I am a Federal employee.  Today is the first day of the fiscal year.  Happy New Year, everybody!  --  KMAB]
On This Day In:
2013 Our Never-Ending Task
2012 More Mature Than I Thought
2011 Outlaw’s Music
Can Do!

Adaptablility Won

“We are at a period where our enemies respect us, but they don’t fear us,” McChrystal told his audience at the 2014 Maneuver Conference Wednesday.  McChrystal is the former commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
“The specter of American power is no longer enough to get somebody just not to do something.”
“When I joined this organization – an elite collection of forces — I thought I was joining an unbeatable team,” he said.
“In 2004, JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) was extremely well resourced and highly efficient, McChrystal said. “What we did, we could do better than anyone had ever done it before,” he said. “When we went on operations, we had good results, but we were losing the war.”
Al Qaeda, on the other hand, focused on being adaptable, McChrystal said.
“Al Qaeda in Iraq became a very resilient, flexible organization, and they were adaptable … and when you pitted adaptable against efficient, surprisingly to us, adaptability won.”
  —   retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal speaking of his five years in Joint Special Operations Command.
[Found on one of the blogs / websites I follow:  http://www.military.com/
The specific posting was at: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/11/armys-combat-leaders-prepare-for-new-war.html?ESRC=dod.nl
If the above quote is true, not only has the military learned little in the last ten years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Army (in specific) hasn't been talking much to the U.S. Marines - one of their mottos being: "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome."  --  KMAB]
On This Day In:
2013 Disappeared
2012 Fuller
Life On The Range
More Classics
2011 Stoned Again?
2010 Insubordination… And That’s Why I Love Her!
Losing – Week One

Make It Your Strength

Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not.  Make it your strength.  Then it can never be your weakness.
   —  George R. R. Martin
On This Day In:
2013 Four Score
2012 The Ruler
2011 Forever
2010 Just Cuz
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
It’s Alive!! (3rd Pair Shoe Review)

Remember ISIS / ISIL?

After turning the question around by asking whether supporters of the Second Gulf War had it right about weapons of mass destruction or the ease with which democracy would take root in Iraq, Paul said something pretty remarkable.
And what’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama.  Has he really got the solution?  Maybe there is no solution.  But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East.  I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran.  These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.
  —  Rand Paul Throws Obama a Lifeline on Iraq, Spars With Dick Cheney (22 June 2014)
[Available from multiple sources / sites on the web.  I believe I got this from The Huffington Post, but I don't really remember and I failed to make a note of the location.  Apologies.  I promise to be more diligent in the future.  --  KMAB]
On This Day In:
2013 What Have You Done Lately?
2012 B8
2011 I’m Definitely Not In Control

I Would Be Sillier

If I had my life to live over, I would try to make more mistakes. I would relax. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things that I would take seriously. I would be less hygienic. I would go more places. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less bran.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary troubles.
You see, I have been one of those fellows who live prudently and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I have had my moments. But if I had it to do over again, I would have more of them – a lot more. I never go anywhere without a thermometer, a gargle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do over, I would travel lighter.
It may be too late to unteach an old dog old tricks, but perhaps a word from the unwise may be of benefit to a coming generation. I may help them to fall into some of the pitfalls I have avoided.
If I had my life to live over, I would pay less attention to people who teach tension. In a world of specialization we naturally have a superabundance of individuals who cry at us to be serious about their individual specialty. They tell us we must learn Latin or History; otherwise we will be disgraced and ruined and flunked and failed.
After a dozen or so of these protagonists have worked on a young mind, they are apt to leave it in hard knots for life. I wish they had sold me Latin and History as a lark.
I would seek out more teachers who inspire relaxation and fun. I had a few of them, fortunately, and I figure it was they who kept me from going entirely to the dogs. From them I learned how to gather what few scraggly daisies I have gathered along life’s cindery pathway.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted a little earlier in the spring and stay that way a little later in the fall. I would play hooky more. I would shoot more paper wads at my teachers. I would have more dogs. I would keep later hours. I’d have more sweethearts.
I would fish more. I would go to more circuses. I would go to more dances. I would ride on more merry-go-rounds. I would be carefree as long as I could, or at least until I got some care – instead of having my cares in advance.
I doubt, however, that I’ll do much damage with my creed. The opposition is too strong. There are too many serious people trying to get everybody else to be too darned serious.
— Don Herold
From “I’d Pick More Daisies”
On This Day In:
2013 It Keeps Happening Anyway
2012 Take Time
2011 A Mother’s Lesson
2010 3rd Pair – Shoe Review (DOA and Final)

Curious Talent

I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.
    —  Albert Einstein
On This Day In:
2013 Eureka
2012 Slow Me
2011 He Said What?!?
2010 Gritty
3 and 3
Just A Hunch
Wall Street – Movie Review
2nd Pair – Shoe Review (Aborted and Final)

The Not-So-Modern Samurai

Today I am home ill with what seems to be an ear infection.  Every few years, I get this swollen sensation on the right side of my head.  It feels like my head has a weighted balloon attached to the right side.  When I turn my head, stand or look quickly in any direction, I get a light-headedness and it feels like my vision/brain is continuing to move after my head (or eyeballs) have stopped.  Several years ago I had to go to the ER to get seen by a doctor about this condition.  Then, I also had an associated fever, which I fortunately don’t have this time.  In any case, I take some decongestants and my vertigo pill and I kind of spend the day in a half-stupor of fatigue and dizziness.
This morning I completed a book I’ve been reading off and on for several years now.  Our local library system has an annual shelf clearing book give-away each August and they have about 800 to 1,000 boxes of books which are set out for anyone to take what they want – as much as you can carry, and come back tomorrow.  Today’s book was one of these and I picked it up about three years ago.  It has mostly sat in my car waiting to be read.  I would grab it whenever I had a doctor / dentist visit to have something to read in the waiting room.  Unfortunately, if you don’t wait much, you don’t read much, so this has taken quite a while to get through.
The book is titled: “The Modern Samurai Society: Duty and Dependence in Contemporary Japan“, (1982©) and was written by Mitsuyuki Masatsugu.  The book attempts to explain contemporary (circa 1982) corporate Japan in terms of the historical legacy of the Samurai (“samurai” means “one who serves”) society which held sway in Japan for several centuries.  The samurai tradition fell out of favor with the coming of the industrial revolution in the last half of the 19th century.  (As an aside, part of this transition was portrayed in the Tom Cruise movie: “The Last Samurai“.)  In essence, it attempts to explain Japanese business management techniques to non-Japanese.
To Masatsugu, successful Japanese management stems from eight factors which incorporate two features from Japanese culture.  The eight factors (guiding principles) to success are:
1) Paternalism;
2) Guaranteed lifetime employment;
3) Seniority-based promotion;
4) In-company unions;
5) Periodic transfers;
6) Overtime work as a safety valve;
7) Enriched welfare program; and,
8) A selective retirement system.
The two features which Masatsugu believes to be uniquely emphasized in Japanese society are:
1) Diligence – the duty each individual has towards their country in general and towards their company in particular.  And,
2) Dependence – a recognition that even though the employees are individuals, they must work together to surpass non-Japanese companies.
Like any “valid” theoretical explanation, management theories must meet a minimum of two criteria: does it accurately describe what is currently happening, and two, does it have predictive value either for when external conditions change or when internal structures are abandoned (or both).  In this book’s case, we now have the benefit of thirty-two years history to see that Masatsugu’s proposal was pretty spot on.
Since the book’s release Japan has suffered both a housing boom collapse and an economic drought now approaching the middle of its third decade.  The housing collapse happened in the 1980’s and the start of Japan’s economic drought (I hesitate to call it a collapse as Japan has only recently been surpassed by China as THE economic power in Asia) occurred in the 1990’s.  In fact, the 1990’s is sometimes referred to in Japan as “the lost decade” because there was so little economic growth.
Specifically, Masatsugu suggests the structure of Japan’s economic strength is based on these principles and if any one (or combination) fails, the entire structure will waver and ultimately collapse.  Masatsugu predicts the gradual incorporation of western management will bring about an economic failure.  He leans towards the abandonment of guaranteed lifetime employment and seniority-based promotion when “times get hard”.  Masatsugu says that in past times, management held to principle and the economy eventually turned around.  He cautions that future management might not have the fortitude to withstand to pressure to abandon principle in an effort to meet “western style” quarterly objectives.  We now know Japanese management has moved away from guaranteed lifetime employment, seniority-based promotion and selective retirement.  All of these actions have had a detrimental effect on business (and societal) productivity in the U.S. over the last 40 years.  It will be interesting to see if the same happens in Japan and how long it will take to happen (if it does).
I doubt very much that this book could be written in today’s “politically correct” world as it has several racist and sexist comments which, in context, seem common sense, but are actually inculcated cultural biases.  For example, women are generally considered unequal to men in the business world, because…  Wait for it…  Because they are!  (Well, except when they aren’t.)  In the author’s view, a woman can be one of the main reasons a man succeeds in business.  But, a female can never succeed in Japanese business on her own.  In all, though, these are trivial reasons to be critical of a book which I believe is overwhelmingly a valuable (if dated) insight into Japanese business culture.  Highly recommended!
On This Day In:
2013 Doin’
2012 A Lover
2011 What Have We Found Here

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