Welcome back.

Have you thought about subscribing? It's free.

Add to the list!

Shame on me for forgetting:

21. Basic understanding of electricity.
22. How to drive a nail, drive a screw, cut a board, build a box.
23. How to drive a car in the winter, how to pull a car out of a skid.
24. How to ask for help.

and, best of all: Probability.

Thanks to: Textiplication: Top 1000 Things You Need to Know.

Can I add a few more?

25. How to read a table and a chart
26. How to read the media for spin and for insight
27. The importance of doing things for other people.
(yes, this one among others is mostly a parenting job, but yes, it can be taught)
28. How to work really really hard, sometimes on things that aren’t fun.
29. What it’s like to be in jail.
30. How to create an internal dialogue that makes you happy.

All politics is…

No, not local.

All politics is marketing.

My posts on politics aren’t designed to sell you on a political point of view. Sorry if you’ve jumped to that conculsion. They are, in fact, derived from work I’m doing on my new book.

It doesn’t matter what you’re in favor of… the point I’m trying to weave into this discussion is that we’re all being manipulated and that the best marketers on either side are more likely than not to win their arguments.

Oh, why didn’t you say so?

From an NPR job posting:

Liaise with content partners, lead search engine optimization, and
execute results-producing marketing campaigns.

The top 1,000 things to know

So what are they? What are the one thousand teachable things that every third grader ought to start learning so she’ll know them all before before she graduates from high school?

Here are twenty to get us started.

1. How to type.
2. How to speak in front of a group.
3. How to write clear prose that other people actually want to read.
4. How to manage a project.
5. The most important lessons from American history.
6. What the world’s religions have in common.
7. Evolution.
8. Formal logic.
9. The 15,000 most common English words.
10. Conversational Spanish.
11. How to handle big changes, with grace.
12. How to run a small business.
13. Basic chemistry.
14. Not arithmetic, but algebra.
15. A little geometry, a little calculus.
16. The most important lessons from ten other world cultures and their history.
17. Speed reading with comprehension.
18. How to sell.
19. Pick one: how to paint, write a poem, compose a song or juggle really well.
20. Understanding the biographies of 500 important historical figures and 200 fictional ones.

Voice recognition and change

I heard on the radio yesterday that “scientists” are predicting the next big computer breakthrough will be voice recognition. Chips are getting fast enough that computers will soon be able to understand what we say. Which will make airports very noisy places, but that’s a different story.

The other day, I took a four hour flight sitting next to a very aggressive hunt and peck typist. He must have written three thousand words on the flight… nailing each key as hard and as fast as he could.

Then I got home to discover that they’re teaching my third grader how to write in cursive.

Something’s wrong here.

Cursive is a fundamentally useless skill in this century, and if we were inventing the curriculum from scratch, it wouldn’t even show up in the top 1,000 things you need to know. Typing, on the other hand, is way up there, at least until the scientists come up with voice recognition.

All organizations are slow to change. Organizations that don’t measure their results are even slower.

Michael Crichton on global warming

Of all the authors and artists I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, Michael Crichton was the most intidimidating. We did a project together in 1985, and he blew me away with his incredible intellect. (He’s also tall).

Here’s his take on global warming, science, superstition and story telling: Caltech Michelin Lecture.

Guy Kawasaki on bozos and hockey

Link: BlogFonk.

The last question is great. As for hockey, I took it up at six and that’s how I broke my nose. Guy, Hawaii is better.

Elephants! Doing the Impossible

Margo Baldwin of Chelsea Green Publishing writes to me about George Lakoff’s book
and how she turned it into a bestseller. Thought I’d share the riff:

“When I teach the study of framing at Berkeley, in Cognitive Science 101,
the first thing I do is I give my students an exercise. The exercise is:
Don’t think of an elephant! Whatever you do, do not think of an elephant.
I’ve never found a student who is able to do this. Every word, like
elephant, evokes a frame, which can be an image or other kinds of knowledge:
Elephants are large, have floppy ears and a trunk, are associated with
circuses, and so on. The word is defined relative to that frame. When we
negate a frame, we evoke the frame.”
—George Lakoff, from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

When told “Don’t think of an elephant,” not thinking of one is impossible.
It’s impossible because once invoked, the elephant image cannot be
unthought. That’s the short, sweet lesson about “framing” that George Lakoff
has taught us, a lesson that turns out to have enormous political
significance, not only for this past election season, but for ongoing
efforts to forge a new and more potent political message for the future. It
turns out that the Republicans have spent the last forty years or so making
sure they control the language of political debate so that their frames have
been adopted by all of us — especially by the mainstream media. Think tax
relief; think partial birth abortion; think war on terror. Among other
things, this control of language means they win elections.

In other words, it’s the framing, stupid!

The opportunity to publish Don’t Think of an Elephant! and get it out before
the election came at the last minute, in mid-July. I had never heard of
George Lakoff, but our roving editor-at-large, Jennifer Nix, through her
work with Don Hazen, the Executive Editor at AlterNet, put me in touch with
George, who sent us a proposal. You might say the rest is history, because
not only did we get the book out in record time, but we managed to do the
impossible: make the book a national bestseller (New York Times, Washington
Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, nearly every regional
independent bookseller list).

I say the impossible because we’re a small, independent book publisher, not
a corporate conglomerate media company; because we published the book in a
mere five weeks, from draft manuscript to finished book; because we did it
with no advertising budget or an outside promotional firm; and finally
because two weeks before the publication date, we had no advance sales!

We did it by partnering with key progressive organizations, including
AlterNet, MoveOn, the Sierra Club, Democracy for America, the Apollo
Alliance, the Institute for America’s Future, Green Festival, Hightower and
Associates, Anita Roddick.com and many others, who all helped launch the
book on the Internet. They sent out e-mail blasts and posted information on
all their Web sites, and we gave them free downloads of the first chapter.
Then, once the word started to spread, especially via the blogosphere and
other word-of-mouth venues, key independent booksellers across the country,
as well as the national chains, got behind it and made it the bestseller it
is. In short, the strategy worked for everyone and got a critically
important book out there at the right time and into the hands of people who
will put the ideas to work. In the end it’s about creating social change,
and the reason it worked so well is that we all worked together; together we
had an impact.

It also helped that we made the book short, readable, and cheap. There are
not many serious books you can buy for ten bucks. But ten bucks seemed like
the right price. It meant that many people bought multiple copies to give
away; it meant that many progressive organizations bought cases to sell or
give away to their members; it meant that we were able to get a copy into
the hands of every Democratic senator in the first days after the Republican
convention; it meant that the book was actually read (Garrison Keillor take

So, where to from here? Well, first, of course, we want to get the book into
more readers’ hands. When the first post-election pronouncements of the
media were that the results had to do with “moral values,” the importance of
this book for understanding what happened and what to do next became
immediately apparent. Demand skyrocketed and we ran out of books within a
few days. The New York Times ran an editorial about the book called “Why
Democrats Need to Stop Thinking about Elephants.” Several publishing stories
included it as one of a few that would continue to sell strongly in the
aftermath of the election. Columnists are continuing to write about its
lessons for Democrats and progressives in the years ahead, and George is
being deluged with media requests. So yes, it will continue to sell.

But second, and much more important, we’re helping to create a movement, a
movement to take our country back from the elephantine forces in political
control right now. Take it back and move us all forward into a saner, more
sustainable future.

So remember, do the impossible: don’t think of an elephant!

Link: ChangeThis :: The George Lakoff Manifesto .

or, find the book at Amazon: Link: Amazon.com: Books: Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives.

Google Suggests

Red Maxwell points me to Googles new beta site. Google. Interesting.

I wonder if the NUMBER of sites referencing something you’re searching on is the important number in selecting something to search for. PageRank doesn’t just rely on volume, yet the beta version does.

The other thing I wonder about is the reliance on alphabetical order. As Steven Wright says, “Is the alphabet in that order because of that song?”

My quick take is that it would work a lot better if the suggestions were in order of page rank, not the alphabet.

PS Update: Robert Knutsson corrected me. It’s not really alphabetical order. It’s some sort of mystical magical selection. Makes it even more interesting, though I don’t get to use the Steven Wright joke.

Why ask why?

The woman next to me on the flight had thin, sharpened spikes, two of them, eight inches long. They’re called knitting needles, and they’re allowed on the plane. The guy on the other side was bemoaning the fact that they took away his nail clippers.

The little kid in row 8 had to walk 35 rows back to the back of the plane to use the bathroom because it’s a grave breach of security for him to use the empty and close bathroom 7 rows in front.

They x-ray sneakers at LaGuardia.

The hotel sent me down the street to a health club because the hotel’s workout room was under construction. The health club wouldn’t let me use the facitilities until I filled a form with my name and full address and contact information. Why? Insurance regulations. Apparently the same reason you can’t watch the mechanic repair your car or visit the kitchen of the restaurant.

My doctor’s office doesn’t have a fax machine.

The stellar Maison de Chocolate cafe in New York doesn’t serve herbal tea.

The government of New York makes it illegal to buy wine on the Internet.

If your front line people are unable to answer a “why” question, what do you tell them to do?

Most bureaucracies don’t want the whys working their way up the chain. Most bureaucracies encourage their people to be the first and only line of defense. “That’s our policy.” “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about that.” “Insurance regulations, sir.” The goal is to get the customer (questioner) to go away.

To go away.

They want you to go away.

Does that make any sense at all? The single most efficient (and lowest cost) technique for improving your operations is answering the why questions! You should embrace these people, not send them away.

“You know, sir, I have no idea why you have to do that. But I can tell you that I’ll find out before the end of the day.”