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Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" RSS Feed (Phoenix, AZ.)

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Building the Medieval Cathedrals (Cambridge Introduction to World History)
Building the Medieval Cathedrals (Cambridge Introduction to World History)
by Percy Watson
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A Start -, December 28, 2014
A nice introduction to medieval cathedrals, though the book is hampered by a lot of left-out details.

Real National Treasure
Real National Treasure
DVD ~ n/a
Offered by Sparks DVD Sales
Price: $7.82
29 used & new from $3.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A True National Treasure, December 24, 2014
This review is from: Real National Treasure (DVD)
An interesting looking inside the Library of Congress - including its majestic central reading room and the behind the scenes work of its many curators.

DVD ~ Orson Welles
Price: $9.21
39 used & new from $5.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An All-Star Cast in a Terrible Tale, December 24, 2014
This review is from: Compulsion (DVD)
An interesting story about two terribly twisted and wasted young lives (Leopold and Loeb), along with a great defense by Clarence Darrow that saved them from hanging. The two accused University of Chicago students had kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old in 1924 - just to commit a perfect trail. Leopold was a child prodigy who spoke his first words at four months, and was about to begin studies at Harvard Law; reportedly he had studied 15 languages and spoke at least five fluently recognition as an ornithologist. Leopold believed he was one whose superior intellect allowed him to rise above the laws and rules for the average, and convinced Loeb that he was also. Loeb had skipped several grades in school and had become the University of Michigan's youngest graduate at age 17.

Police found a pair of eyeglasses near the body - common in prescription and frame, they were also equipped with an unusual hinge that had been purchased by only three customers in Chicago - one being Leopold. Their alibi was exposed when Leopold's chauffeur told police that he was repairing Leopold's car the night of the murder - not available for joyriding.

Loeb was killed by a fellow prisoner in 1936, Leopold was paroled in 1958.

National Security and Double Government
National Security and Double Government
by Michael J. Glennon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.79
27 used & new from $24.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy Wasn't Supposed to Work This Way -, December 23, 2014
U.S. national security policy has remained largely constant from the Bush through the Obama administration. This can be explained by English scholar Walter Bagehot's 'double government' theory. Thus, our national security policy is defined by the executive officials managing the departments and agencies responsible, while operating largely removed from public view and constitutional constraints. Absent a more informed and engaged electorate, little possibility exists for restoring accountability in this area.

Beyond ending torture, the Obama Administration has changed little other than increasing the number of covert drone strikes in Pakistan to 6X the number launched during the Bush Administration. Further, the Obama Administration has declined to prosecute those who committed torture, approved targeted killing of American citizens without judicial warrant, and opposed legislative proposals to expand intelligence oversight. The Obama Administration has also continued the Bush Administration's cyberwar against Iran, continued to intercept the communications of foreign leaders, collected the phone records of millions of Americans within the US. Given Senator Obama's criticism of such actions prior to becoming president, why has this occurred?

Bagehot contended that similar facades of public control occurred in Britain because of electoral incapacity - a life of labor, an incomplete education, and incomplete access to information. In the U.S., a 2009 federal study estimated that 32 million American adults are unable to read anything more challenging than a children's picture book and are unable to understand the side effects of medication listed on a pill bottle, and a plethora of other studies repeatedly report embarrassing levels of basic ignorance about government. Truman's secretary of State Dean Acheson stated 'If you truly had a democracy and did what the people wanted, you'd go wrong every time.'

The Washington Post's 2011 study of 'Top Secret America,' identified 46 federal departments and agencies engaged in classified national security work, supported by almost 2,000 private companies at over 10,000 locations.

Presidents can appoint only between 3,000 and 4,000 individuals, including domestic policy officials. Of the 668,000 civilian DOD and related agency employees in 2004, only 247 were political appointments. Among this group are careerists as well as political appointees, academics, think tank analysts, and military officers more likely to have been to Kabul than Tulsa, seldom appearing on television, and seeking neither celebrity nor wealth.

The incentive structure encourages exaggeration of existing threats and creation of imaginary ones - in the event of a catastrophic attack, the buck stops with them. Over the last decade the defense budget has grown 67% in real terms and is now 50% higher than for an average year in the Cold War, as well as greater than the spending of the next 20 largest military powers combined. The U.S. spent at least $3.3 trillion responding to 9/11 in the decade following - $6.6 million for every dollar al Qaeda spent to stage the attacks.

Speedy decisions are required, and democratic institutions are ill-equipped to make such. Efforts to pinpoint who is responsible for a given policy are easily deflected by the shield of secrecy provided - everyone is accountable, and therefore no-one is accountable. Their ultimate objective is preservation of the status quo, responsible already for their own careers and swamping them with cascading crises, memos, and meetings. There is no time to re-examine the cosmological premises on which policy is based. The status quo is preserved by minimizing risks - meaning no bold departure from settled long-term policy trajectory. Men who have participated in a decision develop a stake in that decision.

The tendency is to get along with others and go along with the system. The safe course is to propose continuation of an existing policy. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Elected officials are looked upon by the careerists as just temporary occupants that can be waited out.

Bottom-Line: Vote all you want, the secret government won't change. The people we elect aren't the ones calling the shots. This barely accountable government machinery arose from Truman's attempts to reducing the military's power - the result was the growth of an unaccountable civilian power. We now has less accountability and an emergent autocracy.

The Journey of Natty Gann
The Journey of Natty Gann
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, If You're A Young Girl or Totally Bored to Death, December 23, 2014
A good movie, primarily aimed at young girls - with a bit of unrealistic romanticism and a so-called wolf thrown in. The plot, however, was worn out decades ago, if not sooner, and gets far-fetched too often.

Harvard Business Review Onpoint ( Winter 2014 )
Harvard Business Review Onpoint ( Winter 2014 )
by performance BMW special collectors edition
Edition: Single Issue Magazine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.' Albert Einstein, December 23, 2014
A number of articles within this edition provide invaluable guidance on the difficult process of leading change.

'Ten Ways to Get People to Change' by Morton Hansen tells readers to focus on changing one behavior at a time, not eg. '8 values and 12 competencies.' Make it sticky - concrete and measurable. Eg. 'Listen actively' is vague and not measurable, while 'Paraphrase what others said and check for accuracy' is. Link to carrots and sticks - this, however, may be problematic for creative behaviors. Finally, hire and fire on the basis of behaviors.

'Leading Change - Why Transformation Efforts Fail' by John Kotter is especially valuable. Kotter asserts that organizational transformation is not an event, but a process, and there are a number of errors that, more often than not, derail that process.

The first, Not Establishing A Great Enough Sense of Urgency. Over 50% of organizational change efforts fail in this first phase. Most leaders underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones, overestimate how successful they've been in increasing a sense of urgency, lack patience, or worry that morale will drop, short-term business results, and the stock will sink if they're not more positive - thus, they try to shortcut the process and skip steps.

Eight steps, taking years, are required. Phase I typically goes nowhere until enough real leaders are promoted or hired into top-level jobs. Transformations often begin, and begin well, when the organization has a new head who is a good leader and sees the need for major change. Successful changes begin with frank discussion of potentially unpleasant facts about new competition, shrinking margins and/or market share, or other facts aimed at making the status quo seem more dangerous than launching into the unknown. Because there seems to be an almost universal tendency to shoot the bearer of bad news, these companies often rely on outsiders - Wall Street analysts, customers, and consultants to serve this initial role. Customer satisfaction surveys have also been used. Anything less than about 75% of a company's management being convinced of the need for change is not enough urgency, per Kotter.

Phase II/Error II: Not Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition. Major change is impossible unless the organization's head is an active supporter. In successful transformations, the chairman/CEO/general manager, plus another 5 - 15/50 come together and develop a shared commitment to excellent performance through renewal. This group never includes all the senior executives because some won't buy in - at least at first. But in the most successful cases, the coalition is always pretty powerful in terms of titles, reputations, relationships, and expertise. In both small and large organizations, a successful guiding team may consist of only 3-5 during the first year; in big companies this needs to grow to the 20-50 range before much progress can be made in Phase Three and beyond. Senior managers always form the core, sometimes board members, a representative from a key customer, or a union leader also join. Strong leadership is required to bring together and motivate the group - H.R., planning, or quality staff leaders won't work.

Phase III/Error III: Lacking a Vision. Every successful transformation develops a picture of the future that is easy to communicate and appeals to customers, stakeholders, and employees. Sometimes the first draft comes mainly from a single individual. After 3-5/12 months something much better then emerges via tough analytical thinking and a little dreaming. It may include strategic redirection - eg. getting out of low value-added activities. Absent a sensible vision, transformation efforts can become a list of incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all. Failed transformations have plenty of plans, directions, and programs, but no vision --> most employees become confused or alienated. Sometimes the vision is too complicated to be useful - if you can't communicate the vision in 5 minutes or less and get a reaction signifying both understanding and interest, the vision needs more work.

Phase IV/Error IV: Under-communicating the vision by a factor of ten. Problems occur from eg a single presentation, CEO presentations to employee groups, or even lots of ongoing communication - without some visible top executives following with their actions. The fourth phase is particularly challenging if job losses are impending - thus, successful visions usually include new growth possibilities and a commitment to treat fairly anyone laid off. Executives who communicate well incorporate supportive messages in their daily activities - eg. how proposed solutions to a problem fit/don't fit into the bigger picture, how an employee's behavior fits into (or doesn't) the vision, etc. All existing communication channels are used - newsletters, quarterly management meetings, management education.

Phase V/Error V: Not removing obstacles - compensation and evaluation systems, bosses who refuse to change.

Phase VI/Error VI: Not planning for a long march without securing compelling evidence of expected results. Creating short-term wins is different than hoping for short-term wins. Goals, follow-up, achievement occur on important selected projects. Commitment to short-term wins helps keep the urgency level up.

Phase VII/Error VII: Declaring victory too soon. This may occur after a successful engineering project; it kills momentum and tradition takes over. Successful transformations are characterized by rededication and taking on bigger projects/goals.

Phase VII/Error VIII: No anchoring changes in the culture. One bad succession at the top can undermine decades of hard work.

'The Innovator's DNA' (Christenson et al) studied the habits of 25 innovative entrepreneurs and surveyed over 3,000 executives and 500 individuals who had started innovative companies or invented new products. Most top executives do not feel personally responsible for coming up with strategic innovations; rather, they feel responsible for facilitating the innovative process. Senior executives in the most innovative companies (15%) do it themselves.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2014 11:36 PM PST

Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Positive Thinking - Not What It's Made Out to Be!, December 23, 2014
Dreamers are not often doers. Merely dreaming about the future makes people less likely to realize their dreams; so does simply dwelling on obstacles. Instead, both dream and visualize the barriers/impediments, thereby gaining the energy to take action. Simply indulging in fantasies about the future doesn't work.

Author Oettingen's point is no idle hypothesis - she's built it upon a number of experiments that demonstrated time after time, in situation after situation and for a wide range of ages, becoming energized is key to taking actions - actions that make the dream into reality. Dreaming just isn't doing.

Wolf Of Wall Street
Wolf Of Wall Street
Price: $8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Long, but Amazing, December 20, 2014
This 2013 film is based on Jordan Belfort's memoir of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Jordan Belfort. The film was loaded with drug use, vulgarity, and exhortations for salespeople to never give up. The film is entirely too long, but does a good job of following the book. After awhile I simply watched to learn how he ended up in jail - that part was covered too briefly. Regardless, a twenty-two month sentence seems entirely too light for the investor losses involved..

Transforming Health Care: The Financial Impact of Technology, Electronic Tools and Data Mining
Transforming Health Care: The Financial Impact of Technology, Electronic Tools and Data Mining
Price: $47.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but also Overly Self-Promotional, December 20, 2014
The average paper medical record weighs 1.5 pounds, yet is likely missing key data and, in some places, illegible. An analysis of 1,628 medical records published in the British Medical Journal found that 40% omitted an important diagnosis, 30% didn't list the names of drugs prescribed, and most left out patients' occupations, marital status, and even their ages. Illegible handwriting was found in 16% of the charts in another study, and in doctors' offices and hospitals, up to 30% of files can't be found at all when they're needed - leading to repeated tests, treatment delays, and decisions made without all the facts. Worse yet, Hurricane Katrina destroyed an estimated 1 million charts in New Orleans, while more survived but were inaccessible to the city's million-plus displaced residents.

Though the U.S. leads the world in healthcare expenditures, we ranked last in one study of medical outcomes among the world's most highly developed countries. Digitizing healthcare can change that - improving not only current practice but serving as an invaluable source of research for future improvements. Fortunately, thanks to the federal government's carrot and stick approach, the number of users is growing rapidly, with large practices and younger physicians in the lead. Unfortunately, only a handful can share information outside their own systems - integrating with laboratory or pharmacy systems. Geographic integration is another problem, though improvements are in motion (Health Information Exchanges - HIEs).

The 'bad news' - author Fasano does not provide cost/benefit data for this new technology.

there was no Jesus, there is no God
there was no Jesus, there is no God
Price: $2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should We Watch Football All Day Long on Sunday, or Take Time out to Go to Church?, December 18, 2014
In less than 200 -ages this everyday language book, and priced almost as if to give it away, asks a basic question about religion - without being offensive or disrespectful.

'Did Jesus really exist?', asks author Lataster. Not surprisingly, documentation is difficult - earliest sources reference only the Christ of Faith, and stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity. Further, the authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their backgrounds, or show any criticisms of their foundational sources. Heavily edited over time, the Gospels should not convince critics to trust the claims made therein. The criterion of multiple independent attestation cannot be used, given that the sources are not independent.

There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus - just later descriptions by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom were obviously biased. We do have Roman scholar Josephus and historian Tacitus, but even those sparse accounts are limited by the fact that both were born after Jesus died and would probably have received any information from Christians.

Author Lataster contends that the most logical explanation of that Jesus was a historical figure who became mythicized over time. Regardless, the matter will likely never be resolved.

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