!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Complementary Investments in IT, Recruiting, and Training

What Andrew McAfee (Harvard Business School) and Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT Sloan School of Management) have to say about the changing relationship between IT and competition in their article in the July-August issue of the Harvard Business Review does not particularly focus on training, but it nonetheless has a couple of nuggets worth noting.

Not that these observations are surprising. Rather, their embedding in a larger context of how to manage in a world of accelerated competitive pressure indicates how training, done right and at an adequate level of investment, makes a significant difference in a company's competitive strength.

First point: Advances in digital technology obviate the need for certain types of training. For example, if a revised process (e.g., for filling a prescription at a pharmacy) can be hardwired into an enterprise software system, employees will follow the process automatically. They won't have to have it explained in pep talk fashion in a training session, in hopes that they'll do as they're told rather than reverting to the old process because that's what they're used to.

Second point: Having made a concerted effort to identify and hire top talent, organizations successfully using IT to bolster their competitive position "invested substantially more time and money on both internal and external training and education." These companies also tend to use Web 2.0 tools (e.g., blogs and wikis) to facilitate sharing of ideas and expertise. The aim is to maximize the return on the investment in talent.

It almost goes without saying that effective efforts by managers to develop employees and cultivate productive networking are crucial to making the most of competitive opportunities opened up by well-planned IT investments.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Acquire-Bond-Comprehend-Defend Model of Motivation

In the July-August issue of the Harvard Business Review, Nitin Nohria, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School; Boris Groysberg, an associate professor of business administration at HBS; and Linda-Eling Lee, a research director at the Center for Research on Corporate Performance, (NGL) offer a tightly argued story of how to achieve high employee motivation.

Based on synthetic research Nohria and his colleague Paul Lawrence, an emeritus professor of organizational behavior at HBS, published in 2001, NGL posit that employees have four drives, each of which has a primary lever management can use to satisfy it. (Actually, for the Defend drive there are two primary levers.) Specifically, in the NGL model, employees have a drive to:

Acquire scarce goods (including intangibles, such as status) that bolster their sense of well-being.
  • Most directly addressed through the organization's reward system.
  • Actions management can take include sharply differentiating good performers from less productive coworkers; tying rewards clearly to performance; and keeping pay competitive.

  • Bond with individuals and groups.
  • Most directly addressed through the organization's culture.
  • Actions management can take include fostering mutual reliance and friendship among coworkers; demonstrating that collaboration and teamwork are valued; and encouraging sharing of best practices.

  • Comprehend their world and how to view and respond to events.
  • Most directly addressed through the organization's job design.
  • Actions management can take include designing jobs that have distinct and important roles in the organization, and that are meaningful, with a clear link to helping the organization succeed.

  • Defend their selves, property, accomplishments, family and friends, and ideas and beliefs against external threats. Part of defending is promoting justice.
  • Most directly addressed through the organization's performance management and resource allocation processes.
  • Actions management can take include increasing the transparency of all processes; emphasizing fairness; and building trust by being just and transparent in granting rewards, assignments, and other forms of recognition.

  • NGL look at indicators of motivation — engagement in one's job, satisfaction at work, commitment to the organization, and intention to quit — and determine that the biggest boost to motivation, relative to other companies, is achieved by addressing all four drives simultaneously, as opposed to doing so piecemeal.

    NGL emphasize that managers must do what they can to satisfy employees' drives regardless of the fact that there are likely to be noticeable organizational limits on what is feasible. Employees give credit for genuine efforts to meet their needs/drives and, conversely, are demotivated by managers who fail to implement organizational processes and policies in a way that as far as possible meets employee needs.



    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Training in the Practice of Design Thinking

    In an earlier post, I noted what Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, had to say in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review about using design thinking to boost innovation. Brown defines design thinking as "a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity."

    The missing element in Brown's article was a description of how to teach design thinking, in particular how to teach it to nondesigners in the business world. You can fill that gap by having a look at an article posted yesterday at businessweek.com by Jeneanne Rae, co-founder and president of Peer Insight, a consulting firm.

    Rae describes the Design Thinking Initiative Proctor & Gamble has been rolling out worldwide during the past year. Design workshops are a central element of the rollout, and it is the nature of these workshops that I find of particular interest.

    Each workshop focuses on a real P&G issue. Rae mentions new product intiiatives, strategy, retail relationship building, and improving operations.

    The workshops went through their own prototyping process. Rae explains:
    The first prototype workshop with the hair-care business in London in November 2005 yielded mixed results. "Somehow it didn't quite deliver — people didn't take action; the lessons didn't have staying power," said [Cindy] Tripp [marketing director at P&G Global Design]. The workshop agenda was redesigned with more emphasis on business. "There was too much academic stuff — philosophy and theory of design. We got rid of all the theory and settled on a completely experiential approach. ... Our business people wanted to get on with it. ... From then on we were very selective to find worthy problems and assemble the right types of stimuli to get to the crux of the matter."

    The resulting design thinking workshop structure became more of a fast-paced immersive experience that ends with a serious reflection point about what's different using this methodology. Says Tripp: "Most of our workshop reflections suggest that the power of doing design thinking rather than just reacting to design thinking shifted many standoffish leaders into real partners for design. Once they get it, they can't get enough of it."
    Tripp believes that the success of the workshops as currently structured comes from stimulating people to apply both creative, empathetic thinking and analytical thinking to whatever issue they're tackling in a particular workshop.


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    Monday, July 28, 2008


    "Execution-as-learning" is Amy Edmondson's prescription for how to pursue long-term business success in a knowledge-based organization.

    Edmondson, a professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, provides a summary of her research on how to maintain high performance in knowledge-based organizations in "The Competitive Imperative of Learning," published in the July-August 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

    The first exhibit in the article summarizes the differences between execution-as-learning and execution-as-efficiency, the latter being the approach to performance that dominated management practice in the heyday of mass production. Edmondson cites seven salient contrasts, listed below (slightly edited), with each execution-as-learning practice in bold, and the corresponding execution-as-efficiency practice in normal type.
    • Leaders set direction and articulate the mission.

      vs. Leaders provide answers.

    • Employees (usually in teams) discover answers.

      vs. Employees follow directions.

    • Tentative work processes are set up as a starting point.

      vs. Optimal work processes are designed and set up in advance.

    • Work processes keep developing; small changes — experiments and improvements — are a way of life.

      vs. New work processes are developed infrequently; implementing change is a huge undertaking.

    • Feedback is always two-way: The boss gives feedback in the form of coaching and advice; team members give feedback about what they're learning from doing the (ever-changing) work.

      vs. Feedback is typically one-way (from boss to employee) and corrective.

    • Problem solving is constantly needed, so valuable information is provided to guide employees' judgment.

      vs. Problem solving is rarely required; judgment is not expected; employees ask managers when they're unsure.

    • The organization avoids creating an atmosphere of fear because such an environment cripples the learning process: It inhibits experimentation, lowers awareness of options, and discourages people from sharing and analyzing insights, questions, and problems.

      vs. Fear (of the boss or of consequences) is often part of the work environment and generally does not appreciably harm the quality of execution; it may even motivate effort and attentiveness in those facing an otherwise dull task.
    As suggested by the final item in the above list, an essential prerequisite for having employees speak up with their ideas, questions, and concerns is psychological safety — "ensuring that no one is penalized if they ask for help or admit a mistake." Managers signal that it is safe to speak up by acknowledging that they don't have all the answers, and by asking questions that clearly aim to elicit employee contributions.

    Edmondson presents a four-step process for carrying out the execution-as-learning approach:
    1. As a starting point, provide process guidelines based on best practices. Then allow employees to deviate from the guidelines, and update them with improvements, whenever the employees' judgment and learning indicate that doing so is appropriate.

    2. Provide tools that enable employees to collaborate in real time. Examples of such tools are IT systems geared to the employees' information needs, forums that enable networks to develop and members to interact, and training in teamwork skills.

    3. Collect process data (not just outcome data). These data enable the organization to keep track of what works and what doesn't.

    4. Institutionalize disciplined reflection. This means periodically analyzing process and outcome data to identify any process updates and improvements that are in order.
    Edmondson's article is a model of practical advice clearly expressed, well worth attention from anyone in a knowledge-based organization.


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    Sunday, July 27, 2008

    Brainstorming in Practice - Advice from Matt Bowen

    As a follow-on to my recent post concerning research by Karan Girotra, Christian Terwiesch, and Karl Ulrich investigating the factors that affect the outcome of brainstorming, I'd mention an article from the July 24 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

    The article is an edited version of an interview Kelly Spors conducted with Matt Bowen, CEO of Aloft Group, Inc., a small marketing firm in Newburyport, MA. What was interesting to me about the interview, which centers on Bowen's advice for making brainstorming effective, is how closely it tracks with the aforementioned research.

    Bowen offers recommendations based on his own experience that fill in details of what effective brainstorming looks like in practice:
    • Rotate the facilitator "so that each employee gets the chance to lead and learn."

    • Encapsulate the aim of the brainstorming session in a single sentence, and circulate this statement of the aim a day or two in advance to get people started thinking about it.

    • Keep the maximum length of the session to an hour, and keep the number of people down to no more than 5-7 (generally speaking).

    • Open the session by reminding people of its aim and of the ground rules (e.g., rules against critiquing and editing the ideas offered).

    • Build on other people's ideas.

    • Bring in people from other departments to serve as "agitators" with perspectives different from those of the rest of the group.

    • Have the facilitator establish criteria for evaluating the ideas the brainstorming generates. (E.g., it may be that the idea "has to be able to be implemented in six weeks or less.") Then have the facilitator assemble "a group of people to rate the ideas on these criteria. It doesn't necessarily have to be the same group of employees who originally came up with the ideas."
    It is the final point that most strikingly echoes the findings of Girotra, Terwiesch, and Ulrich.


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    Saturday, July 26, 2008

    Using "Alice" to Get Started Learning Programming

    A big part of the legacy of Randy Pausch is his work with several colleagues on Alice, a 3D programming environment that teachers can use to introduce students to object-oriented programming concepts.

    Alice makes it easy for students to create animations — both stories and simple interactive games. If the student wishes, an animation can be converted to a video, which can then be shared on the Web.

    The video below provides an introduction to Alice. You can find more detail at www.alice.org.

    Alice is an open source program available for free from Carnegie Mellon.


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    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Randy Pausch, 1960 - 2008

    Sadly, today family, friends, colleagues, and many fans lost Randy Pausch, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer. His talk on time management was featured in an earlier post. His better-known "Last Lecture" can be viewed here, or read in expanded form in a book co-written with Jeff Zaslow.

    Randy Pausch, with his wife Jai, daughter Chloe, and sons Logan and Dylan
    Source: ABC News

    A memorial essay, published by Carnegie Mellon, the university at which Pausch taught computer science, is here.



    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Using Training to Reduce Recidivism

    The United States has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of its population behind bars of any country in the world. (See, for example, this graphic [Flash] from the April 22 edition of the New York Times.)

    Figuring out ways of reducing recidivism is an obvious way of bringing the prison population down (assuming no offsetting wave of new offenders).

    In Arizona, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has adopted an approach to improving the prison culture and cutting recidivism that has earned them a place among the fifteen finalists for the 2008 Innovations in American Government Awards, a program run by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

    The DOC concept is straightforward. As described in an April 29 article in the Tuscon Citizen, the idea is to teach inmates skills that will equip them to take jobs on the outside that pay something significantly above the minimum wage.

    Cooking chicken for fajitas in the culinary arts program at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville
    Source: Arizona Department of Corrections

    The skills taught include culinary arts, auto repair, computer repair, telemarketing, and wildland firefighting. As of July 1, each inmate is provided with a copy of his/her case plan, covering individually assessed needs for education, training, and treatment (e.g., for substance abuse).

    The program began in 2004 and, according to the Tuscon Citizen, the DOC believes it deserves credit for "cutting inmate assaults by 37 percent, staff assaults by 51 percent, sexual assaults by 70 percent and suicides by 33 percent."

    Interviews with inmates participating in the DOC-sponsored education and training suggest that they recognize how the program can help them handle their lives better in the future than they have in the past. For instance, Michelle Millikan is quoted in the Tuscon Citizen article: "Instead of being stifled," she says, "we're being given the opportunity to grow. They want to see you be successful. I don't think I'll be back here."


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    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Getting Incentives Right

    As a follow-on to my recent post on mechanism design, I'd call attention to a paper (pdf) by Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute published in the June 20 issue of Science magazine.

    Bowles reviews research into the circumstances in which incentives that appeal to self-interest may be counterproductive because they "undermine the moral values that lead people to act altruistically or in other public-spirited ways." Bowles identifies four such circumstances, namely when economic incentives:
    • are taken as a signal that behaving selfishly is appropriate.

    • gradually train people to adopt more self-interested motivations.

    • degrade intrinsic motivation (discussed in these previous posts).

    • convey a message of distrust, disrespect, and unfair intent on the part of the person(s) establishing the incentives.
    As Bowles explains,
    Many of these unintended effects of incentives occur because people act not only to acquire economic goods and services but also to constitute themselves as dignified, autonomous, and moral individuals. Good organizational and institutional design can channel the material interests for the achievement of social goals while also enhancing the contribution of the moral sentiments to the same ends.
    Bowles concludes with the thought that researchers "are well on their way to constructing an economic psychology of the interplay of self-regarding and other-regarding motivation that may eventually enlighten mechanism design and public policy."


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    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    The Outcomes of Brainstorming

    According to recently published research, the best ideas that come out of a brainstorming session tend to vary in quality according to:
    • the average quality of the ideas generated.

    • the variance in the quality of the ideas generated.

    • the number of ideas generated.

    • the ability of the team to evaluate accurately the quality of their ideas.
    You can read a summary of the research in the Summer 2008 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review.1 The authors are Karan Girotra, an assistant professor of technology and operations management at INSEAD; Christian Terwiesch, an associate professor of operations and information management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School; and Karl T. Ulrich, a professor of operations and information management at Wharton.

    The researchers looked at the effectiveness of two types of brainstorming groups:
    • Groups in which all the work was done by the group as a whole.

    • Groups in which members first worked individually, and then came together to complete the idea generation process.
    The pure group idea generation process (the first type) typically produced the single best idea, but also produced the worst idea (as judged by independent experts), i.e., the variance of the ideas generated was high relative to the results of the hybrid idea generation process.

    The explanation the researchers offer for this difference in the output of the two types of groups is that the random interactions that occur in a group discussion are likely to produce better-quality ideas than the individual imagineering that is the initial stage of the hybrid process.

    Pure group idea generation was also associated, relative the the hybrid type of group, with a smaller number of ideas, lower average idea quality, and lower ability to discern the best ideas. (The idea evaluation problem can be due to such factors as deferring to the boss's stated preference for a particular idea.)

    The combined impact of the four factors was such that the pure group process, though it tended to produce the best idea, was not able to realize the advantage of this strength if the group was also allowed to select the preferred idea.

    The other key finding of the research — already suggested above — is that it is best to give the responsibility for evaluating ideas to a group of knowledgeable individuals independent of the brainstorming group itself.

    1 The authors' working paper detailing their research, "Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea," is available here (pdf).


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    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Cross-Cultural Relations Between US Marines and Arabs

    The July issue of the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute contains an interesting report of research Thomas Affourtit, a retired US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, carried out to learn about differences between the motivational profiles of the average US Marine selected for duty in the Middle East and the average Arab male.

    The Proceedings article is available online only to members of the Naval Institute, but you can read an earlier version of Affourtit's article here (pdf).

    Affourtit used the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS) as his assessment tool. The EPPS, first published in 1959, measures the strength in an individual person of 15 needs or motives:

    Achievement (ACH) — A need to accomplish tasks well.

    Dominance (DOM) — A need to be a leader and influence others.

    Deference (DEF) — A need to conform to customs and defer to others.

    Endurance (END) — A need to follow through on tasks and complete assignments.

    Orderliness (ORD) — A need to plan well and be organized.

    Autonomy (AUT) — A need to be free of responsibilities and obligations.

    Change (CHG) — A need to change activities to maintain interest. (Note that all online listings I found give a wrong definition for this item.)

    Exhibition (EXH) — A need to be the center of attention in a group.

    Affiliation (AFF) — A need to form strong friendships and attachments.

    Intraception (INT) — A need to analyze behaviors and feelings of others.

    Aggression (AGG) — A need to express one's opinion and be critical of others.

    Succorance (SUC) — A need to receive support and attention from others.

    Abasement (ABA) — A need to accept blame for problems and confess errors to others.

    Nurturance (NUR) — A need to be of assistance to others.

    Heterosexuality (HET) — A need to be associated with and attractive to members of the opposite sex.

    Affourtit's surveys of Marine advisers and Arab college men in Jordan yielded the results summarized in the chart below.

    (click to enlarge)

    Source: Thomas D. Affourtit (pdf)

    Affourtit's key findings are summarized below. It is important to bear in mind that all of the summary statements are expressed in terms of averages, meaning that one should make no automatic assumptions about any individual based on these group findings.
    • Marines are more achievement-oriented than Arabs.

    • Marines are more intent on assuming leadership roles than Arabs. Conversely, Arabs are more deferential and willing to take orders. In terms of need for autonomy, Marines are at the US male norm (represented by the horizontal red line at the 50th percentile level), while Arabs are several percentiles lower.

    • Arabs score well above Marines on endurance.

    • Arabs have a stronger need for orderliness than Marines.

    • Arabs and Marines score similarly on need for change, and in fact are above the US male norm for this characteristic.

    • Marines have a markedly higher need to be the center of attention than Arabs.

    • Arabs are more inclined to be gregarious and generally friendly than are Marines.

    • Arabs and Marines are similar in their levels of intraception, i.e., need for understanding differences between themselves and others (and are at about the norm for US males).

    • Both Arabs and Marines score high in aggression.

    • Arabs score higher than Marines on need for succorance, abasement, and nurturance.

    • There is an extreme difference between Marines and Arabs on the need for expression of heterosexual interest, with Marines well above the US male norm, and Arabs quite low.
    The summary of Affoutit's findings given above leaves out his interpretative commentary, which is highly recommended in order to more fully appreciate what can be learned from his research.


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    Sunday, July 20, 2008

    Mechanism Design

    Last year's Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel went to three men who "laid the foundations of mechanism design theory" — Leonid Hurwicz of the University of Minnesota, Eric S. Maskin of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and Roger B. Myerson of the University of Chicago.

    Since this area of economics is quite fertile, it's helpful to have the accessible explanation of mechanism design — as it applies to provision of public goods — provided in a brief article published on July 16 by Arizona State University's online bi-weekly Knowledge@W.P.Carey.

    In background information (pdf) compiled by the Nobel prize committee, Hurwicz's seminal 1960 formulation is summarized as follows:
    ... a mechanism is a communication system in which participants exchange messages with each other, messages that jointly determine the outcome. These messages may contain private information, such as an individual’s (true or pretended) willingness to pay for a public good [e.g., clean air]. The mechanism is like a machine that compiles and processes the received messages, thereby aggregating (true or false) private information provided by many agents. Each agent strives to maximize his or her expected payoff (utility or profit), and may decide to withhold disadvantageous information or send false information (hoping to pay less for a public good, say). This leads to the notion of “implementing” outcomes as equilibria of message games, where the mechanism defines the “rules” of the message game. The comparison of alternative mechanisms is then cast as a comparison of the equilibria of the associated message games.
    The Knowledge@W.P. Carey article, drawing on a lecture by Maskin, summarizes the power of mechanism design theory:
    ... it doesn't require the participants to behave in idealized ways nor does it require the designer to determine the participants' particular motivations ahead of time. Instead, the theory assumes participants will act according to whatever is in their best interest and focuses instead on designing a mechanism that brings "public goals in line with private goals," says Maskin.
    The article goes on to summarize application of mechanism design to the problem of achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.



    Saturday, July 19, 2008

    Help With Remembering People's Names

    Since remembering names — even hearing them in the first place instead of tuning them out — is one of my biggest problems, I was glad to encounter Jennifer Goddard's six tips for overcoming this distressing shortcoming. The tips are easy to remember (ironically), and I recommend them to anyone for whom recalling names is an issue.


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    Friday, July 18, 2008

    Nelson Mandela Celebrates his 90th Birthday

    Nelson Mandela turns 90 today.

    Nelson Mandela in 1952 in the office he opened that year with Oliver Tambo
    Source: www.africawithin.com

    You can browse through a collection of Mandela's speeches here.


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    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Krefeld and Düsseldorf, Germany

    My Krefeld friend met me behind the central train station shortly after noon last Wednesday and took me back to the apartment she shares with her husband and two-year-old son, both of whom I would later meet for the first time.

    Krefeld's Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station)
    Source: commons.wikimedia.org

    After I dropped off my luggage, we walked around her neighborhood, checking out the single-family houses. We chewed over which houses were the most likely candidates for purchase once my friend's finances make buying affordable. (Prices in good neighborhoods are quite high.)

    On Thursday my friend took me and her son to Düsseldorf, about 17 miles southeast of Krefeld. We started at K21, a museum of contemporary art located in a building that earlier housed the North Rhine-Westphalian State Parliament.

    Top floor of K21, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Düsseldorf
    Source: www.kultur.nrw.de

    Then it was on the the Medienmeile, a redeveloped area of Düsseldorf's harbor.

    The Flossies, Medienmeile, Düsseldorf
    (Michael Marx)

    We walked for a bit along the Rhine embankment promenade, with a timeout for pizza, and then, after a brief session at a nearby Spielplatz (playground) and some Italian gelato, we headed back to Krefeld for dinner.



    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Poppenbüttel, Hamburg, Germany

    During most of my brief visit to Hamburg, I stayed with friends in Poppenbüttel, a section in the northern part of the city. On my last day, we went to the end-of-year Schulfest (School Festival) organized by the teachers and students of the Heinrich Heine Gymnasium, attended by my friends' elder daughter.

    Source: www.bildarchiv-hamburg.de

    The Schulfest lasted from 2:30 to 8:15 p.m. We were there for only a couple of hours, but that meant we were able to attend a performance by the student orchestra, in which the daughter played, and also a performance by a mixed student-teacher rock band. In the latter, the drummer, a physics teacher, was particularly good, but according to the daughter he is not well-liked by the students, so I tried to refrain from exclaiming too much about his musical skill. (He also played the piano decently.)

    The last part of the festival that we checked out before heading home was the "Cocktailbar," where the daughter's class were serving €1.50 non-alcoholic cocktails as a fund-raising activity. My drink, mostly pineapple juice, tasted fine. The whole experience of the Schulfest was a welcome opportunity to get a feel for how German schools round out the school year.



    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Hamina, Finland

    I spent most of the Fourth of July with friends in Hamina, a small city (about 22,000 people) a bit over 90 miles from Helsinki and about 30 miles from Kotka. In addition to visiting several well-stocked craft shops, the main sight we took in was the Orthodox Church of St Peter and St Paul, built in 1832-37 and meticulously renovated in 1985-87.

    Source: City of Hamina Website



    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival XIV

    "The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up."



    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival XIII

    "I planned a siege against my [steamboat] pilot, and at the end of three hard days he surrendered. He agreed to teach me the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis for five hundred dollars, payable out of the first wages I should receive after graduating. I entered upon the small enterprise of 'learning' twelve or thirteen hundred miles of the great Mississippi River with the easy confidence of my time of life. [Twain would turn 22 on November 30.] If I had really known what I was about to require of my faculties, I should not have had the courage to begin. I supposed that all a pilot had to do was to keep his boat in the river, and I did not consider that that could be much of a trick, since it was so wide."

    * * *

    "If I have seemed to love my subject, it is no surprising thing, for I loved the profession far better than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless pride in it. The reason is plain: a pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth."



    Saturday, July 12, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival XII

    "You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."



    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival XI

    Grant's Tomb

    "[Grant] was under sentence of death last spring [due to cancer]; he sat thinking, musing, several days — nobody knows what about; then he pulled himself together and set to work to finish [his memoirs], a colossal task for a dying man. Presently his hand gave out; fate seemed to have got him checkmated. Dictation was suggested. No, he never could do that; had never tried it; too old to learn, now. By and by — if he could only do Appomattox — well. So he sent for a stenographer, and dictated 9,000 words at a single sitting! — never pausing, never hesitating for a word, never repeating — and in the written-out copy he made hardly a correction. He dictated again, every two or three days — the intervals were intervals of exhaustion and slow recuperation — and at last he was able to tell me that he had written more matter than could be got into the book. I then enlarged the book — had to. Then he lost his voice. He was not quite done yet, however; — there was no end of little plums and spices to be stuck in, here and there; and this work he patiently continued, a few lines a day, with pad and pencil, till far into July, at Mt. McGregor. One day he put his pencil aside, and said he was done — there was nothing more to do. If I had been there I could have foretold the shock that struck the world three days later."



    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival X

    "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”



    Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival IX

    "In a little while all interest was taken up in stretching our necks and watching for the 'pony-rider' — the fleet messenger who sped across the continent from St. Joe to Sacramento, carrying letters nineteen hundred miles in eight days! Think of that for perishable horse and human flesh and blood to do! The pony-rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of the day or night his watch came on, and no matter whether it was winter or summer, raining, snowing, hailing, or sleeting, or whether his 'beat' was a level straight road or a crazy trail over mountain crags and precipices, or whether it led through peaceful regions or regions that swarmed with hostile Indians, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind! There was no idling-time for a pony-rider on duty. He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight, or through the blackness of darkness — just as it happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for a racer and fed and lodged like a gentleman; kept him at his utmost speed for ten miles, and then, as he came crashing up to the station where stood two men holding fast a fresh, impatient steed, the transfer of rider and mail-bag was made in the twinkling of an eye, and away flew the eager pair and were out of sight before the spectator could get hardly the ghost of a look."



    Tuesday, July 08, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival VIII

    "Twenty years from now you will be more dissapointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."



    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival VII

    "It was on a bench in Washington Square that I saw the most of [Robert] Louis Stevenson. It was an outing that lasted an hour or more and was very pleasant and sociable. I had come with him from his house, where I had been paying my respects to his family. His business in the square was to absorb the sunshine. He was most scantily furnished with flesh, his clothes seemed to fall into hollows as if there might be nothing inside but the frame for a sculptor's statue. His long face and lank hair and dark complexion and musing and melancholy expression seemed to fit these details justly and harmoniously, and the altogether of it seemed especially planned to gather the rags of your observation and focalize them upon Stevenson's special distinction and commanding feature, his splendid eyes. They burned with a smoldering rich fire under the penthouse of his brows and they made him beautiful." [Stevenson suffered from tuberculosis.]



    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival VI

    "It is wiser to find out than suppose."



    Saturday, July 05, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival V

    "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."



    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival - Independence Day 2008

    "We passed the Fourth of July on board the Quaker City, in mid-ocean. It was in all respects a characteristic Mediterranean day — faultlessly beautiful. A cloudless sky; a refreshing summer wind; a radiant sunshine that glinted cheerily from dancing wavelets instead of crested mountains of water; a sea beneath us that was so wonderfully blue, so richly, brilliantly blue, that it overcame the dullest sensibilities with the spell of its fascination."


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    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival III

    "Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred things, if we could know which ones they are."



    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival II

    "My article was about the burning of the clipper-ship 'Hornet' on the line, May 3, 1866. There were thirty-one men on board at the time, and I was in Honolulu when the fifteen lean and ghostly survivors arrived there after a voyage of forty-three days in an open boat, through the blazing tropics, on ten days' rations of food. A very remarkable trip; but it was conducted by a captain who was a remarkable man, otherwise there would have been no survivors. He was a New Englander of the best sea-going stock of the old capable times — Captain Josiah Mitchell.

    . . .

    "I had been in the islands several months when the survivors arrived. I was laid up in my room at the time, and unable to walk. Here was a great occasion to serve my journal, and I not able to take advantage of it. Necessarily I was in deep trouble. But by good luck his Excellency Anson Burlingame was there at the time, on his way to take up his post [as the American minister] in China, where he did such good work for the United States. He came and put me on a stretcher and had me carried to the hospital where the shipwrecked men were, and I never needed to ask a question. He attended to all of that himself, and I had nothing to do but make the notes. It was like him to take that trouble. He was a great man and a great American, and it was in his fine nature to come down from his high office and do a friendly turn whenever he could.

    "We got through with this work at six in the evening. I took no dinner, for there was no time to spare if I would beat the other correspondents. I spent four hours arranging the notes in their proper order, then wrote all night and beyond it; with this result: that I had a very long and detailed account of the 'Hornet' episode ready at nine in the morning, while the other correspondents of the San Francisco journals had nothing but a brief outline report — for they didn't sit up. The now-and-then schooner was to sail for San Francisco about nine; when I reached the dock she was free forward and was just casting off her stern-line. My fat envelope was thrown by a strong hand, and fell on board all right, and my victory was a safe thing. All in due time the ship reached San Francisco, but it was my complete report which made the stir and was telegraphed to the New York papers, by Mr. Cash; he was in charge of the Pacific bureau of the 'New York Herald' at the time.

    "When I returned to California by-and-by, I went up to Sacramento and presented a bill for general correspondence at twenty dollars a week. It was paid. Then I presented a bill for 'special' service on the 'Hornet' matter of three columns of solid nonpareil at a hundred dollars a column. The cashier didn't faint, but he came rather near it. He sent for the proprietors, and they came and never uttered a protest. They only laughed in their jolly fashion, and said it was robbery, but no matter; it was a grand 'scoop' (the bill or my 'Hornet' report, I didn't know which): 'Pay it. It's all right.' The best men that ever owned a newspaper."


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    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    Mark Twain Festival I

    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

    I'm off to Finland and Germany.