Thursday, May 31, 2007

How are you? A1 at Lloyd’s?

Lloyd’s of London is the oldest continuously active insurance provider in the world but strictly it is a ‘market of members’ rather than an insurance company that writes policies.

The business had its origins in a coffee business, then it developed in providing insurance for ships and more recently it has diversified to cover all sorts of risks including Tina Turner’s legs, Keith Richard’s fingers (I wonder if his policy covered KR falling out of the palm tree in Fiji?) and Celine Dion’s vocal cords.

Associated with the company has been the expression, ‘A1 at Lloyd’s’.

When a ship was inspected for insurance purposes they give it two ratings. Firstly, they examine the hull, deck and equipment and give it a rating—A, if its excellent, B, if its very good, C, if its OK and if it is any less you’d rather not be traveling on it!

The second rating is for all the things you can’t see—radios, electronic navigational equipment and so forth that keep the ship on course. These get 1 for excellent, 2 for very good and so on.

So for a ship that is in first class condition, came the expression, “It’s A1 at Lloyd’s!”

It’s not a bad expression when someone asks how you are, to consider not only your physical features and the ‘cargo’ you are carrying but to reflect on your emotions, your motives and the desires that all contribute to your overall quality and risk.

Geoff Pound

Image: Lloyd’s Building, London at night.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stories Told in Food and Drink

It is no coincidence that at the heart of the major religions is not a worship service in a church, temple or synagogue but a meal in a home.

Connected with this thought is the way meals become a tradition that we anticipate, drool over and then digest.

These gastronomical anniversaries are piling up like dishes on the bench according to an article in today’s New York Times.

Did you know that next month in June it is National [USA] Surimi Seafood month as well as Turkey Lover’s month?

An incredible 175 days of the year celebrate some food or drink.

There’s Bologna Day, Vinegar Day, National Butterscotch Day, Peanut Butter and Jello Day, Apple Week and California Wine Month to name a handful of the 175 official food anniversaries.

Before you think, ‘This could only happen in America’, consider the food festivals where you live.

When I visited the supermarket here in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, banners stated that this week is Mango Mania Week! There were over a hundred different varieties of mangoes from scores of countries of the world and a competition along the lines of ‘Guess the number of mangoes in the basket’.

Certainly, many of these food festivals are driven by consumerism, some have ancient histories and are about a culture stopping to be thankful for the harvest but amidst the sharing of food and drink is the celebration of life, the fostering of conversation and the joy of communion.

To read this article here is the link:
Kim Severson, ‘Having a Snack? Make it a Holiday’, New York Times, 30 May 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: Celebrate and salivate Mango Mania Week with me.

Rudy Giuliani on the Dignity of Human Beings

Both in college and law school, my fascination with Western civilization blossomed….What fascinated me about democracy was that it did not come ready-formed: it had to be invented.

That invention was predicated on ideas developed by the great religions. Judaism contributed the notion that God and man enjoy a dialogue, and this leads on naturally to the idea that individuals are worth the Creator's time, that they're worthwhile.

For Christians, God actually became a human being. It's an extraordinary idea: we humans were so valuable that God wanted to walk among us. Christianity spread because other people saw what it did to the lives of Christians. When nonbelievers threw early Christians to the lions, they were stunned by the peace with which the victims accepted their fate. The early martyrs were a tremendous advertisement for the ideas of Christianity. In the same way, Martin Luther King's stand against racism and his use of non-violence were extraordinarily powerful witnesses to the dignity of human beings. It held a mirror up to Americans. It showed them the distinction they were making between their promise of equality and the practice of racism. I began to see law as a way of giving embodiment to the best ideas man has had.

Rudolph W Giuliani with Ken Kurso, Leadership, (London: Time Warner, 2002), 173-174.

Image: “Martin Luther King's stand against racism and his use of non-violence were extraordinarily powerful witnesses to the dignity of human beings.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ed Ricketts: The Ability to Receive

In this story John Steinbeck eulogizes his recently deceased friend, Ed Ricketts:

I have tried to isolate and inspect the great talent that was in Ed Ricketts, that made him so loved and needed and makes him so missed now that he is dead. Certainly he was an interesting and charming man, but there was some other quality that far exceeded these. I have thought that it might be his ability to receive, to receive anything from anyone, to receive gracefully and thankfully, and to make the gift seem very fine. Because of this everyone felt good in giving to Ed--a present, a thought, anything. Perhaps the most overrated virtue in our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver...It is so easy to give, so exquisitely rewarding.

Receiving, on the other hand, if it is well-done, requires a fine balance of self-knowledge and kindness. It requires humility and tact and great understanding of relationships. In receiving, you cannot appear, even to yourself, better or stronger or wiser than the giver, although you must be wiser to do it well.

It requires self-esteem to receive--not self-love but just a pleasant acquaintance and liking for oneself.

John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Appendix, 'About Ed Ricketts', Penguin Books, 1951, pp. 272-3

Source: This story came courtesy of Delancey Place which sends a superb excerpt to your email inbox each day if you subscribe.

Image: Ed Ricketts

Monday, May 28, 2007

New Billy Graham Museum: "Too much Billy Graham” says Billy.

A new Disney-style museum is being opened this week in North Carolina, with Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter and George W Bush likely to be present for the occasion.

LA Times reporter, Stephanie Simon writes that “the other day, Billy Graham toured the showy museum that will soon open here to honor his six decades of bringing God's word to the high and the humble.”

America's best-known evangelist walked through stage-set re-creations of the barn on his parents' dairy farm; the canvas tent where he held his first blockbuster revival; a graffiti-scarred checkpoint at the Berlin Wall, symbolizing his crusades behind the Iron Curtain.

As Graham finished the tour, his son Franklin asked how he had liked the tribute. The gruff reply: "Too much Billy Graham."

For more on this new Billy Graham tourist museum read:

Stephanie Simon, ‘Billy Graham tourist attraction’, LA Times, May 28, 2007.

Mother Teresa: The Power of Moral Authority

In our generation, no one has demonstrated the power of moral authority more than Mother Teresa. She embodied her vision. She never required anyone to do anything she had not already done herself. Skeptics threw rocks at her theology but never her character. And for that reason, the stone throwers always came off looking rather foolish.

Her vision was to establish an order of nuns whose sole purpose was to care for those who live in conditions unworthy of human dignity. In 1948 she cast her vision to the Vatican and two years later the Missionaries of Charity was officially sanctioned by the Church. Their charge was to seek out and care for the poor, abandoned, sick and dying.

Consistent with her vision, Mother Teresa chose the streets of Calcutta as her parish. It was there that she unintentionally carved for herself a reputation that would win the respect of the world.

In 1952 she and her Missionaries of Charity received permission from officials in Calcutta to use a section of an abandoned temple for their first enterprise: a home for the dying. Mother Teresa referred to it as Nirmal Hriday. Here, the poor of Calcutta who often died alone in the streets could find comfort and cleanliness in their final hours.

It didn’t take long for word to spread that a group of Catholic missionaries had taken up residence in their neighborhood. Hindu priest were uncomfortable with a missionary organization so close to their temple. They petitioned city authorities to relocate their hospice.

On one occasion, priests from the Kali Ghat Temple led a large delegation to the Nirmal Hriday and demanded that the missionaries leave immediately. It is reported that Mother Teresa came out and personally addressed the crowds with these words: “If you want to kill me, here I am! You can merely behead me but do not disturb my poor patients.”

Eventually an opportunity arose for the Missionaries of Charity to demonstrate the sincerity of their call and the purity of their motives to those who had eyed them suspiciously. It is an opportunity most would have missed.

It came to Mother Teresa’s attention that one of the Hindu priests was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis. Because his illness was untreatable, he had been denied a bed in the city hospital.

In an unprecedented gesture of kindness and grace, Mother Teresa brought the dying priest to Nirmal Hriday then she personally cared for him until the day he died. The Missionaries of Charity then carried the priest’s body back to the temple for Hindu rites.

This event captured the hearts of the people of Calcutta. Mother Teresa’s willingness to live out her message broke down the theological and cultural walls that separated her from the people she had come to serve.

Source: Andy Stanley, Visioneering (Sister’s Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), 186-187.

Image: Mother Teresa.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More Errors are made Solemnly than in Fun.

More errors are made solemnly than in fun. The rubs of family life come in moments of intense seriousness rather than in moments of light-heartedness. If nations - to magnify my point - declared international carnivals instead of international war, how much better that would be!

G.K. Chesterton once said, "A characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. One 'settles down' into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man falls into a 'brown study'; he reaches up at a blue sky."

In a world in which practically everybody else seems to be consecrated to the gravity of the situation, I would rise to glorify the levity of the situation. For I agree with Will Durant that "gaiety is wiser than wisdom."

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.

"If I Had My Life Over - I'd Pick More Daisies”
First found in the Reader's Digest, October 1953 issue, where it was attributed to Don Herold (1889-1966), author and humorist.


Image: “I'd Pick More Daisies.”

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How to Kick the ‘If Only’ Habit

Arthur Gordon was a southern lad who went to Yale and made good. In fact, he was so outstanding in his achievement that he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship on his graduation and went for two fabled years to study at Oxford. He even got to spend an afternoon once with Rudyard Kipling, right before the great poet died.

He came back and fulfilled a long-term dream by organizing or founding an avant-garde literary journal which he hoped would be a vehicle of his own and several other young writers' careers. However, after two years it turned out that he was a better student than he was an entrepreneur and editor. In fact, through many foolish decisions, after two years the magazine folded, he found himself out of work and heavily in debt. It was his first encounter with failure.

A very significant right of passage for a bright young achiever. It turned out that he knew how to succeed; he did not know how to cope with failure. So he became very depressed, even suicidal. His family down in Savannah, Georgia, became quite disturbed about him. They were successful in getting him to an important counselor, a friend of the family, an old gentleman who practiced on Manhattan Island.

Young Gordon went and poured out to the counselor his tale of lament and woe, all the self-recrimination that he was feeling for his failure. When he finished, the old counselor said, "I think your story is very similar to several others that I've worked with. Would you be willing to spend some time and listen to some recorded stories that I've got permission from these patients to share with others? I think there is similarity between their plight and yours."

So he put on a cassette and there was a man's voice. It was a father who had made several mistakes with a son in an earlier period. He had a great deal of regret for the pain that that was now causing.

The second voice was that of a woman. She made a very poor choice of a marriage partner. She had not handled the difficulties that ensued. She too was regretting all the things that were happening.

The next voice was that of a man, a high-placed business executive, who had made some unfortunate decisions earlier, and now was having to pay for them in terms of financial loss. He too was lamenting what he had done.

When the third voice ended, the counselor said to young Gordon, "Did you pick up a theme that was common through all three of those interviews? In their own way each was looking to the past and saying 'if only, if only I bad done differently, if only I hadn't made certain mistakes.' I don't mean to brag by sharing with you that I was successful in helping all three of those people. They are today much more productive in their living. The secret to turning them around was taking them to substitute two different words for the words 'if only.' I was able to get each one of those persons to learn to say 'next time' instead of 'if only.' Think about, it, 'if only' points to that sector of experience that is largely irrevocable. There is little we can do about the past and the things we have done, and to concentrate energies on the mistakes of the past is certain to lose energy altogether. However, 'next time' points to the future, that sector of experience that is still open, still subject to be changed. Here one can do differently. I was successful in getting each of these persons to take their failures as the occasion of learning rather than the occasion of despair, and if you will work with me, I will attempt to help you do the same thing with the memories that are troubling you so."

It made sense to the bright young editor and so he agreed to do a period of therapy at the end of which he was able to say, with what he had learned from that wise old counselor that one shift from 'if only' to 'next time' was in fact the most important learning that had come to him, more important even than all he learned at Yale or all he learned at Oxford.

I think that was a very significant event in the life of the young man, and it is a truth that can be transferred to the help of every one of us. I think that what he discovered, that is learning to deal with his failures in terms of hope rather than lament.

Source: John Claypool, "If Only to Next Time", First air date April 10, 1983
30 Good Minutes Program #2628

Image: John Claypool.

Friday, May 25, 2007

General Douglas MacArthur: A Leadership Style with Style

In this story--President Harry Truman meets General Douglas MacArthur. The occasion is MacArthur's advance across the 38th Parallel in Korea, a move that is viewed as beyond what the President has authorized, and one that seems destined to turn a defensive intervention on behalf of South Korea into a true war:

"[Truman's] lack of pretense and blunt manner worked against him, standing in stark contrast to Roosevelt's consummate elegance. ...His early life had been filled with failure, and ... as he wrote [his wife] Bess in 1942, 'Thanks to the right life partner for me we've come out pretty well. A failure as a farmer, miner, an oil promoter, and a merchant, but finally hit the groove as a public servant--and that due mostly to you and Lady Luck.' ...

"Far more than most generals, [MacArthur] held to the view that the commander in the field was the decision maker--not merely tactically, but strategically as well. ... He was brilliant, talented, petulant, manipulative, highly political, theatrical, and given to remarkable mood swings. ... He was addicted to publicity and fame; he went nowhere without his chosen coterie of journalists and photographers. It was virtually impossible to take a photograph of him that was not posed; he was aware every moment of where the light was best, of how his jaw should jut, and how the cap could be displayed at the most rakish angle. ...

"In late October, [Truman] arranged a meeting with MacArthur at Wake Island. The two men were not a natural fit. Long before Korea, Truman, the good old- fashioned unvarnished populist, had written a memo on the dilemma of dealing with MacArthur: 'And what to do with Mr. Prima Donna, Brass Hat, Five Star MacArthur. He's worse than the Cabots and the Lodges--they at least talked with one another before they told God what to do. Mac tells God right off. It is a great pity that we have to have stuffed shirts like that in key positions. ... Don't see how a country can produce such men as Robert E. Lee, John J. Pershing, Eisenhower and Bradley, and at the same time produce Custers, Pattons, and MacArthurs.' That, of course, was before they even got to know one each other."

Source: David Halberstam, The Fifties, Ballantine Books, 1993, pp. 20-22, 80-1, 85.
Used with permission from 03/12/07 which sends subscribers and excerpt each day. (

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How to Enjoy Work Over a Few Cigars

A few years ago when visiting Cuba I went on a tour of a cigar factory. It was one of the oldest cigar companies in Havana. Those on the tour were shown around the places where they dried big tobacco leaves. Up on the top floor we saw people sitting at desks rolling their cigars. They’d roll them up so skillfully and seal them with the wrapper leaf, binding each cigar in a spiral fashion. The leaf they use is the most expensive. It must be strong, elastic, have a pleasant taste and possess good burning properties.

Finally they bring down the blade and trim the ends like a clean and bloodless circumcision.

Some people were rolling the small cigarrillos with the little leaves. Others were entrusted with the big long cigars. Some rolled up the corona—the straight shaped cigars and still others made the ideales—the ones that look like a torpedo.

In this Pantegas Factory there were about 200 people rolling cigars at their desks. On the front wall there were big posters of leaders like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and up the front was a reader or lector.

While these people rolled cigars this guy would read stories. They’ve been doing it since 1865. The workers love it. He was reading Spanish poems when I visited. The reading turned work from a drudgery into a delight! Over the course of a year they would get through many stories. They voted on which books they would read and each day there would be readings from newspapers, political tracts and novels.

One of the favorite stories in the early days of the factory was The Count of Monte Cristo. They loved it so much they wrote to its author Alexandre Dumas and he gave his permission to lend the name of his hero to one of their cigars. So today one of the best cigars on the market is the Montecristo.

On this visit I witnessed afresh the shared experience of reading together. To the Cubans in the cigar factories it is honey for the heart!

It made me wonder about things I might do in my relationships and work that might be like honey for the heart or reading together over a few cigars.

Geoff Pound

Image: The Montecristo.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How Big is Your Vision?

In a cartoon there are two Eskimos sitting on chairs who are fishing through holes in the ice.

The Eskimo on the right has draped his line through the hole and the hole is the typical opening, about the size of a small man hole.

The Eskimo on the left has his line in the water. He too is waiting calmly for a nibble. His hole is absolutely immense. It is about the size of a crater, it is in the shape of a whale.

Now that is what you call vision. This guy probably is getting laughed at by his fellow fishermen. They might think he is a nut. They might even be saying, “How greedy can you get! Talk about a show off.” But you have got to hand it to him. You have got to admit he is thinking big. Think of all the time he has spent preparing for his catch. He has probably worn out three chainsaws just hacking through all that ice, and there is nothing that will tug on that line that he won’t be able to handle.

How big is your vision? Are you thinking differently or are you running along some old groove? Are you preparing a great big hole in the ice in anticipation of a great bit catch?

Geoff Pound

Image: Fishing through ice.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Giuliani on Leadership: Seeing For Yourself

While mayor, I made it my policy to see with my own eyes the scene of every crisis so I could evaluate it firsthand. It was a lesson I learned from a detective named Carl Began. Back when I was a young assistant U.S. Attorney, Detective Bogan investigated many of the cases for our office. He always underlined the importance of seeing things with your own eyes, saving that all kinds of things would suggest themselves—the alibi witness could not possibly have slammed the door of the red building because the red building had a revolving door, and so on.

Rudolph W Giuliani with Ken Kurso, Leadership, (London: Time Warner, 2002), 4

Image: Rudy Giuliani.

Gandhi on Power

Someone asked Gandhi, 'If you were given the power to remake the world, what would you do first?' He replied: 'I would pray for power to renounce that power.'

Image: Mahatma Gandhi.

Monday, May 21, 2007

'Nobody Has Ever Washed a Rental Car'

John Wood the high-flying Microsoft executive who left the corporate world to help children to read was working through his plan and thinking through how his library project would not be a handout. He worked on the principle of ‘cooinvestment’ in which each party would contribute whatever they had to work towards a common goal.

He said: “I always thought that the only way these aid programs would work is if the local people were prepared to also donate labor and small amounts of money. Otherwise the project is just a free gift bestowed by outsiders, and nobody will value it because they have nothing at stake.

John Wood recalled a quote by Michael Porter from Harvard Business School. He points out that in the entire history of the travel industry nobody has ever washed a rental car. If they don’t feel ownership, they won’t do any long term maintenance. That’s the way I feel about our projects,” said Wood.

Source: John Wood, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children (New York: Collins, 2006), 84.

My review of this book can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Geoff Pound

Image: Rental Car

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tender Loving Care

As late as 1920, the death rate among infants in some American hospitals was as high as 100%. Then Dr Fritz Talbot of Boston brought from Germany an unscientific concept called “tender loving care.”

In a children’s clinic in Düsseldorf he had noticed an old woman wandering through the hospital usually balancing a sick baby on her hip. His guide said, “That is old Anna. When we have done everything we can medically for a baby and it is still not doing well, we turn it over to old Anna and she cures it.”

The American scoffed at the notion that touching would improve their care but statistics soon convinced them. In Bellevue Hospital in New York, when they established the rule that all babies must be picked up and mothered several times a day, the infant mortality rate dropped from 35 to less than 10%.

Geoff Pound

Image: Old woman with child.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Clive James on Learning from Your Errors

Clive James, author and television personality, says that his latest autobiographical volume is simply a further “instalment in a serial confession of how I learned to do the right thing only by doing all the wrong things first.”

James admits in North of Soho, that he is getting better at learning from his mistakes. But, he says, “Without those big mistakes I would never have learned anything in the first place. The graph of your increasing profit from your own errors is the only authentic measure of progress.”

Geoff Pound

My review of North of Soho by Clive James is found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: “The graph of your increasing profit from your own errors is the only authentic measure of progress.”

Impelled by the Hand of God

In his book, ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ Alan Paton introduces us to an old man living in the hills of South Africa.

One day he and his wife sorrowfully watch their only son leave home for the big city of Johannesburg. For some time the boy keeps contact but as the letters dry up they fear the worst and the old man sets off to find him.

In Johannesburg the old man is helped by a man who knows the city and the bright lights and vainly they try and pick up the trail of the lost son.

One day, when he is simply overcome by the kindness of his city friend, the old man from the hills is strangely moved and he says: “You are so wonderfully kind. I’ve never met anyone as kind as you.”

At that comment, the city friend says, “I am not kind. I am a weak and sinful man but God has placed his hand on me. That is all.”

Source: Alan Paton, Cry the Beloved Country.

Image: Alan Paton.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Approaching With Reverence the Blank Canvas

In a gallery at the Palazzo Grazzi in Venice there was an exhibition of some of the works of the American artist, Raymond Pettibon.

My eye was captured by his statement about reverence towards one’s craft or work. While the imagery is about writing and drawing, it has implications for all our work.

“Each dip in the inkwell, another baptism. Covering oneself first, completely, before approaching, with reverence, the blank canvas.”

Image: “Each dip in the inkwell, another baptism.”

Wang Weilin: Prophetic Courage

Even today his identity and whereabouts remain obscure. His moment in history, however, flashed across the world’s living rooms on June 5, 1989. A young nineteen-year-old student or factory worker, perhaps by the name of Wang Weilin, dressed in slacks and a white shirt dashes across the asphalt and stands defiantly in the pathway of a phalanx of whining, rattling tanks.

Ironically, the young man confronts these symbols of tyranny and oppression on the Avenue of Eternal Peace in Beijing, a stone’s throw from Tiananmen Square. The amazing standoff between flesh and steel continues for what seems like an eternity of six minutes before horrified bystanders abduct the courageous revolutionary from certain death.

This compelling demonstration of political courage and vulnerability stunned observers across the world and provokes the question of whether we might locate a comparable spiritual conviction that will shake the secular and postmodern foundations of our microcosm.

Source: Address given by David Crutchley, Seville, 2002.

Image: Wang Weilin.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Story in a Thorn Bush

A person asked Rabbi Joshua, "Why did God speak to Moses from the thorn bush?" And Rabbi Joshua replied: "God spoke from the thorn bush to teach us that there is no place where the Divine Presence is absent, not even in a thorn bush."

Joan Chittister, ‘Faith: The Dispeller of Darkness’, 30 Good Minutes, Program # 4706, 9 November 2003. Internet Address:

Image: Thorn bush.

Yolanda King: ‘Judged … by the content of their character.”

Yolanda King, the eldest child of the Martin Luther King Jr. died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 51. She was an actor and the CEO of her own production company, Higher Ground Productions. It was through acting and public speaking that she became herself while still carrying on the civil rights activist work of her parents.

Being Dr. King’s daughter was a big burden to bear. It began on Jan. 30, 1956, when Yolanda, nicknamed ‘Yoki’, was 2 months old and the family’s house was bombed in the Montgomery bus boycott.

Her deepest memories were the love of her father, who taught her to swim and but never spanked her. She called him “my first buddy,” saying, “I was tremendously loved.”

Yolanda King was 12 on April 4, 1968, when she heard a news bulletin on television saying her father had been assassinated in Memphis. Four days later, she and her brothers accompanied their mother to appear at Memphis City Hall. Coretta King said the children attended because they wanted to.

In 1963, when she was 7, her father mentioned her and her siblings at the March on Washington, saying: ''I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.''

An article and a video interview in which Yolanda King speaks in 2003 about what it was like being a child of Martin and Coretta is found at this link:

BBC News-Breakfast-Yolanda King

Image: Yolanda King, photo from her web site.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

'...I Learned from a Jig Saw Puzzle'


1. Don't force a fit. If something is meant to be, it will come together naturally.

2. When things aren't going so well, take a break. Everything will look different when you return.

3. Be sure to look at the big picture. Getting hung up on the little pieces only leads to frustration.

4. Perseverance pays off. Every important puzzle went together bit by bit, piece by piece.

5. When one spot stops working, move to another. But be sure to come back later (see #4).

6. The creator of the puzzle gave you the picture as a guidebook.

7. Variety is the spice of life. It's the different colors and patterns that make the puzzle interesting.

8. Working together with friends and family makes any task fun.

9. Establish the border first. Boundaries give a sense of security and order.

10. Don't be afraid to try different combinations. Some matches are surprising.

11. Take time often to celebrate your successes (even little ones).

12. Anything worth doing takes time and effort. A great puzzle can't be rushed.

Source: Sermon Fodder.

Image: Jigsaw Puzzle.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Albert Schweitzer: The Hands of the Master

In the story about the life of Albert Schweitzer his biographer said that each night in the hospital in Africa the great doctor would announce a hymn and walk over to the old piano and play.

The piano was fifty years old. The keyboard was badly stained. Large screws fastened the ivory to every note. One or two strings were missing and the humid conditions made it impossible to keep the piano in tune.

But now one of the world’s great musicians sits down. The greatest living interpreter of Bach’s music begins to play the dilapidated old instrument.

Norman Cousins said, “The amazing thing was that the piano seemed to lose its poverty in Schweitzer’s hands. Its tinniness and clattering echoes seemed subdued. Its capacity to yield fine music was now being fully realized.”

Image: Albert Schweitzer.

The Business of Being Human

I get out of bed every morning to attend to the business of being human, whether that business happens to be dying or doing something else.

Philip Simmons, Learning to Fall (London: Hodder & Staughton, 2002), 24.

Image: Getting Out of Bed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Larry King on the Future

In an interview by Katie Couric marking his fifty years in broadcasting, Larry King was asked, “What are you looking forward to in the future?”

The seventy-three year old replied, “Living!”

Larry King Live, Interview of Larry King by Katie Couric, CNN, May 13, 2007.
Image: Larry King Living!

Larry King on the Art of Conversation

In seeking to be a good conversationalist one can learn much from the interviewing skill and questions employed by veteran broadcaster, Larry King.

In an interview by Katie Couric marking King’s fifty years in broadcasting, Couric asked him whether he felt great pressure in interviewing influential people such as Nelson Mandela, George and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

King said, “There is additional pressure because I feel an interview with such people is important. I know in cases like these that something could be said that could change human affairs or the course of history.”

“However,” he added, “It is still quite simple. It is a matter of asking the basic questions of ‘who’, ‘what’, when’, where’, ‘why’ and ‘how.’ The best things always come out of good conversations.

Larry King Live, Interview of Larry King by Katie Couric, CNN, May 13, 2007.

Larry King on ‘What Makes a Good Guest?’

Larry King has been broadcasting for 50 years, has conducted 10,000 interviews and is just warming up!

In an interview by Katie Couric to mark his 50 years she asked him, “What makes a good guest?”

He said there are four things:
The person needs to have passion,
The ability to explain what they do in a skilful way,
A chip on their shoulder (involving a certain amount of anger) and
A great sense of humor.

He said, Frank Sinatra had all four and he was in Larry’s top ten favorite people to interview.

Larry King Live, Interview of Larry King by Katie Couric, CNN, May 13, 2007.

Larry King on Curiosity

In an interview with Katie Couric marking his fifty years in broadcasting Larry King was asked about the secret to his endurance.

In this conversation he was linked by phone to Nancy Reagan who expressed amazement as to how Larry can move from one interviewee to the next so effortlessly. Larry said, “I have always been curious. From the time I was five, when I met the bus driver I wanted to ask him, ‘What’s it like to be a bus driver?’ I have always wondered,” King said. “I am the most terrible person to sit next to on an airplane because I will ply you with questions. I am an intensely curious person.”

When Katie asked him to describe his style he said, “I am intensely curious. I go into an interview with no agenda. I approach it neither going in to praise the person or to knock them over. I go into the interview seeking to learn.”

Larry King Live, Interview of Larry King by Katie Couric, CNN, May 13, 2007.

Rose Gilbert: ‘You Either Live Living or You Live Dying.’

Martha Groves has written the inspirational story of the oldest fulltime teacher in Los Angeles.

Rose Gilbert has had her tragedies and heartaches but her students say this 88 year old is more passionate and energetic than most of their other teachers.

The story by Martha Groves is entitled, ‘At 88, she is the voice of experience in her classroom,’ New York Times, May 13, 2007.

Image: Rose Gilbert with one of her students.

Blinded by a Thimbleful of Knowledge

An American poet, Theresa Greenwood, has published a volume of poems entitled, ‘Psalms of a Black Mother.’

In one poem a mother prays these sensitive and haunting words:

My son’s a scientist,
A bright, searching young man.
He’s got three degrees
But no salvation.
He’s got honors
But no honor.
He’s got charity
But no love.
He’s got ‘things’
But really nothing.
The test tube is his church
And carbolic acid his revelation.
Open the eyes of my boy who’s
Been blinded by a
Thimbleful of

Theresa Greenwood, Psalms of a Black Mother, Anderson, Indiana, The Warner Press, 1970.

Image: A sixteenth century thimble.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Finishing and Keeping Commitments

I heard of a young man who told of his experience in the annual high school cross country race. He said on the practice day, the day before, the teacher took the boys around the course and had a good look at all the hills and the hazards over the 10 km course. He reckoned the prospects weren’t good for those in bad shape.

But the next day before the teacher fired the starting gun he said this, “What I am asking you to do today is to finish the race. If you don’t plan to finish, then I don’t want you to start. Simply stay where you are when the gun is fired. But if you start, then you will finish. You may slow down, you may even pause for a breather but you will not pull out. Once you start, I want you to cross the line no matter what.” The gun was fired and off they all went.

The first kilometre was an absolute breeze, however, by the second kilometre mark any joy he had was beginning to evaporate. At the four km mark whatever energy he had was totally gone and from then on it was sheer drudgery. Some of the others would stop for a while and then fall back into this panting procession. This fellow said his legs were starting to cramp, all his breath was leaving him and his lungs were bursting at the 7 km mark, but one thing and one thing only, kept him going. Before he started he had agreed to finish. His body was had it, his mind was screaming out but the choice and the commitment had been made when the gun went off. It wasn’t open for renegotiation so he kept on running. He couldn’t remember crossing the line. Someone told him he made 5th or 6th but that wasn’t of great importance. The one thing important to him was that he had finished and kept his commitment.

Geoff Pound

Image: Finishing the race.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bridge Building Leadership

In writing about ‘bridge-building leadership’ Mark Gerzon tells this story:

When Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon met in early 2005 in the Red Sea town of Sharmel-Sheik, Photographs flashed through global media and cyberspace of these two gray-haired adversaries shaking hands across a table. What the photographs did not show, however, were the two other men seated at the table who helped make the handshake possible: Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The cameras were naturally pointed at the leaders from the two opposing sides, not at the "third side" that had helped to build that they could cross. Would the meeting lead, ultimately, to enduring peace? Would the two statesmen, supported by two more, create a new road map for reconciliation? Would this bridge lead to genuine, sustained innovation? In both this conflict and many others, the answers to these questions are not predetermined. They depend, in part, on how strong the bridge is on which the adversaries are standing. Only Abbas’s and Sharon’s peers, two fellow heads of state, were strong enough to bring them to the table.

Mark Gerzon, Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 196-197.

Image: King Abdullah II of Jordan and Hosni Mubarak.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

John Wood: Advice on Changing the World

John Wood, founder of the organization to combat illiteracy among Asian children, writes this advice:

When I started Room to Read, I declared immediately that our goal was to help 10 million children to gain the lifelong gift of education. Some people told me that this was hubris—how could a guy who had established only a few libraries set such a brazen goal?

I did not allow myself to be talked out of this, as I believe that it's important to think big. There was a saying at Microsoft-"Go big or go home"-and this lies at the heart of my advice to anyone who wants to create change. The problems facing the world today are immense. This is not a time for incremental thinking. If a cause is worth devoting your time to, then you owe it to yourself-and those you will serve-to think in a big way.

The side benefit is that thinking big can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because bold goals will attract bold people.

My favorite "poster child" for this advice is actually from the private sector-Amazon. When Jeff Bezos launched the company in 1995, the home page boldly declared Amazon to be "Earth's Biggest Bookstore" even though they had yet to sell a single title. He was referring, of course, to the breadth of selection they would be able to offer via a virtual store, so the claim was at least plausible.

Many naysayers were of course on hand to point out that Amazon's first-year revenues were less than what a single Barnes & Noble outlet in Manhattan might do during a slow week. I can imagine that his lawyers tried to talk him out of it, but Jeff was bold, and his claim to be building earth's biggest bookstore got him a lot of attention from investors, the media, and customers. They talked about the company, and the buzz led to publicity and sales. Amazon is a classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It not only became earth's best-selling bookstore, but also its biggest record store.

John Wood, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children (New York: Collins, 2006), 116, 117.

My review of Wood's book is found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: “Amazon is a classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It not only became earth's best-selling bookstore, but also its biggest record store.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Turning Frustrations into Fortune

The Monty Python team stayed in the Gleneagles Hotel in 1970 while it was filming in the English town of Torquay.

Michael Palin wrote this diary entry about their arrival on 11 May 1970:

“Mr. Sinclair, the proprietor, seemed to view us from the start as a colossal inconvenience, and when we arrived back from … watching the night filming, he just stood and looked at us with a look of self-righteous resentment, of tacit accusation, that I had not seen since my father waited up for me fifteen years ago. Graham [Chapman] tentatively asked for a brandy—the idea was dismissed.”

Mr Sinclair is said to have thrown Eric Idle's suitcase out of the window thinking it was a bomb.

He is also said to have reprimanded Terry Gilliam for not straightening his cutlery on the plate after he had eaten.

Michael Palin said, “That night, our first in Torquay, we decided to move out of the Gleneagles.” When Palin was publishing his diaries, his retrospective footnote says about this event, “Eric [Idle] and John [Cleese] decided to stay. In John’s case a lucrative decision as he later based Fawlty Towers on Gleneagles.”

John Cleese was fascinated with the eccentric behaviour of owner Donald Sinclair. Cleese later described Mr Sinclair - who died in 1981 - as "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met."

Fawlty Towers has proved to be one of the most enduring sitcoms in TV history. Despite only running for 12 episodes in 1975-79, it regularly tops polls of favourite TV shows.

The hotel was saved from the developers because of the success of Fawlty Towers and the Gleneagles still gets a lot of customers who wanted to stay at the hotel because of its connection to the comedy.

Source: Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006.

Image: The Gleneagles Hotel

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Story for the Birds

The Wordsmith web site gives a Word a Day to those who subscribe. Here is their offering for today, although I have made some slight adaptations to make it flow.

Birds get little respect. We tend to look down at non-human animals in general, but we are particularly unfair when it comes to birds

We call a stupid fellow a "bird brain". Australians call him a galah (a type of cockatoo). Something useless is said to be "for the birds".

We name someone vain and self-conscious a peacock. One who is talkative or a hoarder is labeled a magpie. A cowardly or fearful fellow is a chicken...the list is endless.

We even kill two birds with one stone. I'd rather the idiom be to feed two birds with one grain.

This week we feature five terms coined after birds. Catch as many of these bird words as you can. After all, a word in the head is worth two in the book.

stormy petrel (STOR-mee PE-truhl) noun

1. Any of various small sea birds of the family Hydrobatidae having dark feathers and lighter underparts, also known as Mother Carey's Chicken.

2. One who brings trouble or whose appearance is a sign of coming trouble.

The birds got the name storm petrel or stormy petrel because old-time sailors believed their appearance foreshadowed a storm. It's not certain why the bird is named petrel.

One unsubstantiated theory is that it is named after St Peter who walked on water in the Gospel of Matthew. The petrel's habit of flying low over water with legs extended gives the appearance that it's walking on the water.

Subscribe, Remove, change address, gift subs at this web address:

Geoff Pound

Image: Stormy Petrel

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Nick Hornby: ‘Books and Stories Should be Enjoyable’

Author, Nick Hornby calls for people to be urged to read interesting books and hear stories that are enjoyable rather than a grind:

“In Britain, more than 12 million adults have a reading age of thirteen or under, and yet some clever dick journalist still insists on telling us that unless we’re reading something proper, then we might as well not bother at all. But what’s proper? Which books will make us more intelligent? Who has got the right stuff?"

Source: Nick Hornby, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, London: Viking, 2006, 6.

A review of The Complete Polysyllabic Spree can be found at the site, Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: Nick Hornby.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Monty Python: Timing is Crucial in Storytelling

Michael Palin writes in his diary (May 18th 1973) about the importance of timing in the telling of a story. Two of his acting team consumed too much alcohol before they went on stage and it showed. Palin writes:

“The unusual spectacle of Eric [Idle] not quite in control. The difference in his timing showed how crucial timing is.”

Michael Palin Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006, 117.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Paul Coelho: Going For Things That Fulfill

Best selling Brazilian author, Paul Coelho, who is well known for books like The Alchemist, has not always been a writer.

In his twenties he hit the hippie trail and ended up doing time in prison. After his release he had a number of jobs, including that of a song writer. All the time he knew he was not happy. Even, when at the age of 38, he had love, money and a fine house he was still missing out on satisfaction.

Then, he said came the turning point. I said, “Why am I unhappy? I am unhappy because I am not doing what I want to do and that was to write.”

This awakening took place on a road. “The turning point,” he said, “was my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, 21 years ago. It was on that journey that I decided to face my destiny and write. I was 40 years old. I was writing lyrics and articles but my dream was to write books. At the end of this pilgrimage, I decided that I could not live with this schizophrenic behavior anymore. I decided to stop doing those things that made me half happy and go for things that would fulfill me, even at the cost of getting a few scars and being hurt in the process.”

Shalaka Paradkar, ‘I, Me, Myself’, Friday Magazine, Gulf News, April 27-May 3, 2007, 120-126.