Monthly Archives: February 2007


Since a wise man can be mistaken, and a hundred men, and many nations, yes, and human nature is mistaken for many centuries about this or that, what assurance have we that sometimes it stops being mistaken, and in this century it is not making a mistake? –Montaigne

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If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won’t be able to make much interesting sense of what’s going on or of its place in it. That’s not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2nd ed.,
McGraw-Hill 1979

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An underling of Georgia state legislator Ben Bridges writes a memo tagging a Jewish Pharisee conspiracy as the cause of “secular evolution science”. Then, after lying about it in the aftermath of the memo’s stirring the pot, State rep. Bridges admits, courtesy of talkingpointsmemo:

Asked if he agreed with the Kaballah evolution conspiracy theory and the earth’s lack of motion, he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory. I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie why teach anything?”

If this kind of thing interests you, by all means follow links back to the memo, and media hullabaloo in Georgia.

Rep. Bridges had help and it all leads back to


WHAT IF – the Bible teaches a stationary earth (just like everyone agreed it did until Copernican and finally Newtonian “mathematics” scared the churches into thinking that “science” had proof of heliocentricity)?

WHAT IF   – Today’s Copernican-dependent, evolution-based “creation scenario” for the Universe, the Earth and all life forms including mankind is directly derived from ancient and current writings of Bible-bashing, Christ-hating Rabbinical Kabbalists??

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My Honda Civic is good in the snow once it gets moving but it needs to be moving. Today a foot of snow has captured my car, Coltrane, in the driveway. The local news channels have switched to “Winter Storm 2007” coverage and proven that there are few subjects made more fatuous in the mouths of local talking heads than lousy weather.

Today’s storm is small beans compared to what upstate New York has been subjected to. I don;t know how you exit your house after twelve feet has fallen as it did in Oswego County, New York through the week of January 5.

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Courtesy of Talking Points Memo via Vanity Fair; excerpt: Gail Sheehy, from her book, The Accidental candidate.

When Barbara Bush took her 13-year-old son and his best friend, Doug Hannah, to play golf at her Houston club, George would start cursing if he didn’t tee off well. His mother would tell him to quit it. By the third or fourth hole he would be yelling “Fuck this” until he had ensured that his mother would send him to the car.

“It fit his needs,” says Hannah. “He couldn’t lose.”

Once, after his mother banished him from the golf course, she turned to Hannah and declared, “That boy is going to have optical rectosis.” What did that mean? “She said, ‘A shitty outlook on life.'”

Even if he loses, his friends say, he doesn’t lose. He’ll just change the score, or change the rules, or make his opponent play until he can beat him. “If you were playing basketball and you were playing to 11 and he was down, you went to 15,” says Hannah, now a Dallas insurance executive. “If he wasn’t winning, he would quit. He would just walk off…. It’s what we called Bush Effort: If I don’t like the game, I take my ball and go home. Very few people can get away with that.” …

Another fast friend, Roland Betts, acknowledges that it is the same in tennis. In November 1992, Bush and Betts were in Santa Fe to host a dinner party, but they had just enough time for one set of doubles. The former Yale classmates were on opposite sides of the net. “There was only one problem—my side won the first set,” recalls Betts. “O.K., then we’re going two out of three,” Bush decreed. Bush’s side takes the next set. But Betts’s side is winning the third set when it starts to snow. Hard, fat flakes.

The catering truck pulls up. But Bush won’t let anybody quit. “He’s pissed. George runs his mouth constantly,” says Betts indulgently. “He’s making fun of your last shot, mocking you, needling you, goading you—he never shuts up!” They continued to play tennis through a driving snowstorm.

It is something of an in-joke with Bush’s friends and family. “In reality we all know who won, but George wants to go further to see what happens,” says an old family friend, venture capitalist and former MGM chairman Louis “Bo” Polk Jr. “George would say, ‘Play that one over,’ or ‘I wasn’t quite ready.’ The overtimes are what’s fun, so you make your own. When you go that extra mile or that extra point … you go to a whole new level.”

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Interesting article about a scientist and creationist. New York Times: Believing Scripture But Playing By Science’s Rules

But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”

He likened his situation to that of a socialist studying economics in a department with a supply-side bent. “People hold all sorts of opinions different from the department in which they graduate,” he said. “What’s that to anybody else?”

If I were a colleague of Dr. Ross, I wouldn’t have a problem with his disconnect. I might drill down with him to learn how he reconciles his perspectivism with his sense that two opposing truth claims can be both opposed and both true at the same time. It is potentially worrisome that he might move completely over to the darkside and deploy his scientific knowledge deceptively.

What’s really interesting here is how this report contextualizes arguments made from the creationist side about how “methodological naturalism” lurks underneath all science to the extent that it is required to be the reflexive, meaningful schematic behind all scientific work. This is obviously poppycock as Dr. Ross proves once and for all. He’s obviously not a methodological naturalist when he’s got his young earth boots on.

From the other side, also concurrently disproved is the idea that all scientific work at a deeper level secures reflexive, concrete ‘philosophical’ claims about the nature of science. A scientist does not have to believe in, or understand, the philosophy of science before he or she can do solid scientific research. In fact, one could have the foundational concepts completely wrong and still practice a sound methodology. Both are connected of course but they aren’t required to be reflexively connected, i.e. connected in the sensibility of the scientist.

I reckon Dr. Ross would unashamedly try to rationalize the reconciliation of his belief paradigm and his research paradigm, or, he might simply say that there is no possibly commensurate reconciliation possible. Depending, his answer might find him a very bad philosopher but this doesn’t make his research bad. Research as a paradigm isn’t contingent on any conditioned belief other than in the efficacy of a strict scientific regime.

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Several captures from the old web site. Subject: organizational oceanography! Weick and Mintzberg are two of my main guys.

Specifically, I would suggest that the effective organization is garrulous, clumsy, superstitious, hypocritical, monstrous, octopoid, wandering, and grouchy.

Karl Weick
On Re-Punctuating the Problem
in New Perspectives on Organizational Effectiveness; Jossey-Bass 1977

In fact, the real cause of this so-called turbulence may be planning itself, which by imposing formalized procedures on organizations has desensitized them and made them vulnerable to unexpected changes. — Put it more boldly, if your organization has formal plans but no vision, and if you then try to control your future so rigidly that you cannot adapt en route, then every unpredicted change you will encounter will make you feel as if the sky is falling.

Henry Mintzberg
That’s Not Turbulence, Chicken Little, It’s Really Opportunity
Planning Review; Nov-Dec.1994

Planning concerns man’s efforts to make the future in his own image. If he loses control of his own destiny, he fears being cast into the abyss. Alone and afraid, man is at the mercy of strange and unpredictable forces, so he takes whatever comfort he can by challenging the fates. He shouts his plans into the storms of life. Even if all he hears is his own voice, he is no longer alone. To abandon his faith in planning would unleash the terror locked in him.

A. Wildavsky
If Planning Is Everything, Maybe It¹s Nothing
Policy Science No. 4, 1973

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Filed under Libraries & Librarianship

Cynthia McSwain

One of my favorites unearthed from the old web site.

The baseline goal that that the organization or any human system must pursue is the development of the person within it; other matters, other goals, must come after. — …the primary axiological commitment of transformational theory is not dominantly rational or utilitarian in motivation or behavior.— … indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that the technology of the field of organization development is at bottom a set of techniques for managing the resolution of individual and group projections, thereby releasing the energy that is bound up by them.

Cynthia McSwain
A Transformational Theory of Organizations
American Review of Public Administration 23:2.1993

I come back to this idea some ten years later. Almost no organization psychologizes itself to the extent McSwain finds worthy. This sense is very worthy too, but my gloss is: one hopes an organization’s idealization of itself does make room for a critical inquiry into its complex arrays of prejudices. In old fashioned terms, this unearths various critical tensions. There is a human scale implicit in this, yet it is also true that almost all organizations don’t report (to themselves) anything we might class as a refined sense of organizational “soul”.

The report is usually reductive, pragmatic and convergent.

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Filed under social psychology, organizational development

Teaching Cartoon: What Did You Just Say?

This month’s teaching cartoon is a version of a story from the canon of Nasruddin. Ha! I mean cannon.

Idries Shah - Remember

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