Category Archives: Things to Know

Links (about books, lobsters, death and cheating death, among other things)

Some various and sundry links I ran into (looked into? clicked on?)  Tuesday, August 20:


Suddenly all hell broke loose!!! (You’ll “get it” once you see rules 5 + 6. From The New York Times) (This article showed up all over the place after Elmore Leonard died. While there are endless “10 Rules of Writing” articles out there in the world, I like the way his is written.)


Why lobsters are so expensive even when there are so many of them. (The New Yorker)


Social media makes death more accessible? (The

While some people are getting more comfortable with death, these guys want to do away with it altogether. (Thanks to Dave Pell and his NextDraft newsletter for that link.)(The Daily Beast)

I call this a video about cheating death, but really it’s all about persistence. (Thanks to Kris Krug’s Facebook page for this link.)


Five Reasons Social Media Will Always Sell More Books… (authored by Peter McCarthy, from the Digital Book World site)

Top Ten Book Recommendation Platforms (Isabel Farhi, from Digital Book World)

I include this link because I’ve used a couple of these places (Goodreads and Book Bub) recently to find books.

My pleasure

There's a man from Budapest who bags groceries at my local Whole Foods. His name is Jan (Sounds like Yaan.) Always friendly. Always smiles. He comments on the weather by using words you use to describe food: "what a delicious day" he might say if it has been sunny all day. (I'm usually shopping in the evening, after sundown.) Is this intentional? Food store. "Delicious day." I'm not sure. He also always uses the expression "my pleasure" after people thank him for bagging their groceries. And he says it with such relish! (Sorry! Couldn't help myself.) But the way he says "my pleasure" convinces you that it has been his pleasure to figure out the best way to place your groceries in that bag so that no harm comes to the tomatoes.

I have found myself saying "my pleasure" instead of "you're welcome" when someone thanks me for something I have done. 'My pleasure' has so much more power than 'you're welcome.' Just the act of saying 'my pleasure' is pleasurable. And just saying those two words reinforces the fact that you did have pleasure in helping this other person. And it makes you want to help people more so you can say "my pleasure!" more often. "You're welcome" has none of that power. I'm amazed at the difference in the two phrases that at least outwardly seem to convey the same meaning.

Recently got an email back from a friend who I had thanked for something. She responded with: "My pleasure." I loved that. Maybe this is catching on? Or have I just been missing something for a long time?


Picture_1Okay, who knew? Probably everyone except me. The F9 key on the Mac is so cool. All those open windows on your desktop and you don’t know what is where? Just hit F9 and everything gets miniaturized and they all show up there. So I’m excited to know this, but then depressed at the thought of all the little tricks like this that I don’t know. Oh well.

Laugh with me

Recently ran across this quote:

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
–Victor Borge

Guess what? It IS your fault!

I had mentioned in a post a while back that I was thinking about that phrase, “It’s not my fault.” The worst thing anyone in the world can say, as far as I’m concerned. And I wasn’t sure where I was going with this until William Swanson, CEO of Raytheon came along. He is the guy who’s not getting as much press coverage for his plagiarism as is Kaavya Viswanathan, the young Harvard student accused of plagiarizing in her chick-lit book. (Note: I just read in today’s NYTimes that her publisher, LIttle, Brown, will not now re-issue her book with revisions to those plagiarized parts. It won’t be published at all.)

According to an article by David Leonhardt in today’s NYTimes, the writer notes that Mr. Swanson–unlike Ms Viswanathan–had never apologized for his transgression. Mr. Leonhardt writes:

I pointed this out to Raytheon’s top spokeswoman this week, and last night she called me to read a new statement from Mr. Swanson. This time, he did apologize — twice — and he blamed a staff member for the problem. [Note: this new statement does not appear at the Raytheon website.]

In 2001, Mr. Swanson gave the staff member a file of material to help prepare a presentation, and the file included Mr. King’s book, according to the statement. Mr. Swanson didn’t realize that so much of the finished product came from the book, rather than his own notes.

This may well be true, but it certainly isn’t consistent with Mr. Swanson’s previous boasts about how he came up with the rules. In the book, he wrote that they had come from advice from others and his own thoughts. In any event, he has failed his own integrity test. ” ‘Integrity,’ to me,” he writes, “is having the fortitude to do what is right when no one is watching.”

So, yeah, when things start to go bad and people start pointing out inconsistencies in your story, blame the assistant! It works every time. How can you take this guy Swanson seriously anymore? He gives this un-named assistant a pile of notes (including the copied-from book by W.J. King) and then is surprised–surprised!–to learn that so many of his own–his own!–lessons came from this book. Baaaad assistant. It’s not Mr. Swanson’s fault. His name may be on this collection of “Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management,” but apparently that doesn’t require him to actually concern himself with where they came from. Oh well.

But why? Why blame the assistant? Why doesn’t Mr. Swanson just own up to the fact that he made a mistake? He asked someone to do a job he should have done himself. If he didn’t have the time to put together his own rules, he shouldn’t have been handing out this collection with his name on it.

Well, you say, so many books are not written by the person whose name is on the cover, anyway. I know that. I used to work in the ghostwriting business and I’m aware of how many books are not written by the listed author. (That’s one reason I’m a close reader of acknowledgments, since that is where the author or authors are revealed, at least if the “author” has any shame whatsoever. )

But if Swanson had actually written his own notes and had any familiarity with the W.J. King book and if he had bothered to read his own finished product, wouldn’t he have wondered where all of his own material had gone?

It’s not his fault, I guess. His name is on it, but it’s not his fault that it’s comprised mostly of someone else’s words. I’ve got to wonder about all those Raytheon employees today who are held to those corporate values and how they feel about the fact that their CEO, their leader, doesn’t have to comply with them. How many other people are going to be saying today, when something goes wrong, “It’s not my fault.”

Seems Harry Truman was a decider, too, sort of

Okay, so there I was doing a search on the phrase, The Buck Stops Here because I was thinking about that other phrase, “It’s not my fault.” But more on that later… Once you search on the buck stops here you end up at a Harry S. Truman page, naturally. On this page from the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, you’ll find this quote from Harry: “The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

So, he didn’t use the word with the “er” ending, but clearly he was a decider.

Don’t prepare, just show up

The title of this post is the subtitle of a book called Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, written by Patricia Ryan Madson. I really like this book. It’s a series of maxims about how to live your life using the lessons of improvisational theater. I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia for the Cool Friend section at In the book, she writes about substituting attention for preparation. Applying this concept to speech giving, for instance, she writes, “Real speech (improvised speech) will always be more interesting, attention-getting, and persuasive than its scripted sister.” She goes on to offer some guidance in how to give a compelling talk:

You can improve how you give a lecture by using he principle of improvised speech. Instead of writing out your notes in precise language, try writing questions to yourself. Then, answer the question using natural speech patterns.

I was reminded of this the other day when reading an interview in the latest Worthwhile magazine with Garrison Keillor. (Interview not yet online.) Though he’s talking about people in pulpits on Sunday mornings, I think what he says applies to all of us:

I think that people who speak in public make a terrible mistake in putting paper in front of themselves. So many good people stand in a pulpit on Sunday morning and they pull out this little sheet of paper and they read from it. What they wrote down was just a start and if they were to trust themselves a little more they could have done so much better.