What does music do to our brains, or did Einstein really know what he was doing?

August 16, 2016

Einstein playing his violin in 1931, aboard the S.S. Belgenland, travelling from New York to San Diego. Vintage Everyday image.

Einstein playing his violin in 1931, aboard the S.S. Belgenland, travelling from New York to San Diego. Vintage Everyday image. Einstein claimed to get great joy from his violin. Did it also help his physics work?

Albert Einstein played a mean violin. I don’t think any recordings exist, but some say he was good enough to have earned a slot in a decent symphony.

Albert Schweitzer made money to support his work for health in Africa by offering organ recitals.

Thomas Edison liked to hire men in his lab who played instruments. In the midst of high pressure experimentation, they would often take a break as a group, and do a performance just for themselves.

People who make music often claim they do it to relax, but there may be more than mere relaxation going on when we play an instrument or sing. It’s possible making music makes us better at doing other things, too.

Should we be surprised this showed up from the World Economic Forum?

It’s an article by Assal Habibi who is a researcher at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, at the website of WEF, explaining where his group is going to find out how music training affects the way we think and work.

Over the past two decades, several investigators have reported differences in the brain and behavior of musicians compared to nonmusicians.

Music training has been found to be related to better language and mathematical skills, higher IQ and overall greater academic achievement. Also, differences between musicians and nonmusicians have been found in areas of the brain related to hearing and movement, among others.

However, the interpretation of the findings remains unclear. For example, the differences reported between adult musicians and nonmusicians might be due to long-term intensive training or might result primarily from inherent biological factors, such as genetic makeup.

Or, as with many aspects of the nature-versus-nurture debate, the differences may well result from contributions of both environmental and biological factors.

One way to better understand the effects of music training on child development would be to study children before they start any music training and follow them systematically after, to see how their brain and behavior change in relation to their training.

It would involve including a comparison group, as all children change with age. The ideal comparison group would be children who participate in equally socially interactive but nonmusical training, such as sports. Follow-up assessments after their training would reveal how each group changes over time.

Go take a look.

If you’re a teacher, ask whether you should be incorporating more music into your social studies, language or science classes. If you’re a manager or employer, ask whether you should be encouraging your team members to find musical outlets.

If you’re just curious, ask whether you wouldn’t be better off to volunteer in a local choir or band.

Maybe we should all dance to beats of different drummers, and violinsts, and guitarists, and clarinetists and . . .

Three years of this study remain. But these interim results are promising. They support previous findings on the positive impact of music training on brain development.

Our findings suggest that music training during childhood, even for a period as brief as two years, can accelerate brain development and sound processing. We believe that this may benefit language acquisition in children given that developing language and reading skills engage similar brain areas. This can particularly benefit at-risk children in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods who experience more difficulties with language development.

Should we be using this tool to better educate our kids?

July 15, 1848, economist Vilfredo Pareto born

July 15, 2016

Happy 80/20 Day!

Italian economist, engineer and political activist Vilfredo Pareto was born on July 15, 1848, in Paris, where his father had fled due to political difficulties.

Pareto should be more famous, for his explanation of the 80/20 rule, and for his contribution to making better things, the Pareto chart.  Many economic texts ignore his work almost completely.  Quality management texts ignore his life, too — generally mentioning the principles they borrow, but offering no explanation.

Vilifred Pareto, Wikipedia image

Vilfredo Pareto, Wikipedia image; why are there so few photographs of the man, who died in 1923?

His contributions, as accounted at Wikipedia:

A few economic rules are based on his work:

And now you, dear reader, having just skimmed the surface of the pool of information on Vilfredo Pareto, know more about the man than 99.99% of the rest of the people on the planet.  Welcome to the tip-top 0.01%.

A mystery I attribute to low readership: I’ve posted much of this information before. In several years, not once has anyone criticized these posts as supporting fascism, the most common mis-directed criticism of Pareto.


Portrait drawing of Vilfredo Pareto, from one of the few photographs of the man available. Image at Alchetron. Artist?

Portrait drawing of Vilfredo Pareto, from one of the few photographs of the man available. Image at Alchetron, by Artigas at Deviant Art.

You’ll be shocked to learn what Hillary Clinton REALLY told Goldman Sachs leaders

May 4, 2016

Hillary Clinton secretly filmed at a Goldman Sachs event, speaking to Goldman Sachs executives.   Okay, not secretly filmed. But you didn't see this on the news, did you.

Hillary Clinton secretly filmed at a Goldman Sachs event, speaking to Goldman Sachs executives. Okay, not secretly filmed. But you didn’t see this on the news, did you.

You want a transcript?

We can do better than that: How about a secret video of Hillary Clinton talking to the executives at Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s leading investment firms?

After all the hoo-haw, you’ll be shocked at the content.

Here’s how Goldman Sachs described it:

Published on Oct 22, 2014

Learn more: http://www.goldmansachs.com/citizensh…

On September 23, 2014, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women hosted its annual dinner at the Clinton Global Initiative.

The event featured a keynote address from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the business case for empowering women to ensure future economic growth.

Here’s the video:

True to Clinton’s history, she tells people with power and money they have to do a much better job of empowering and hiring from groups known to lack power and money, for the sake of capitalism, for the sake of our nation, for the sake of the world.

Okay, so it’s not secret. People who complain about these speeches pretend she said something different, and they certainly don’t want you to know what Clinton actually said. Clinton’s opponents hope this video remains close to secret.

Shocking that these speeches continue as an issue.  Maybe they should be campaign ads, for Clinton.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Leslie Salzillo and DailyKos.

Merchant mariners bring us the world; fly your flag for National Maritime Day, May 22

May 22, 2015

SS Savannah, first U.S. merchant steam ship to complete an Atlantic crossing, having set sail on May 22, 1819.  gCaptain image

SS Savannah, first U.S. merchant steam ship to complete an Atlantic crossing, having set sail on May 22, 1819. gCaptain image

You’ve got your flag up already? Good.

Most people don’t even know about National Maritime Day, May 22 — let alone President Obama issued a proclamation to fly the U.S. flag in honor of merchant marines.

USS Slater Color Guard member Art Dott of Colonie carries the American flag Sunday during the presentation of the colors at the start of a National Maritime Day ceremony on the boat in Albany. Dott, a culinary specialist chief, is a 350year member of the Navy Reserve. ( Philip Kamrass / Times Union)

From the Albany, New York, Times-Union, 2011: USS Slater Color Guard member Art Dott of Colonie carries the American flag Sunday during the presentation of the colors at the start of a National Maritime Day ceremony on the boat in Albany. Dott, a culinary specialist chief, is a 35-year member of the Navy Reserve. ( Philip Kamrass / Times Union)


National Maritime Day is a United States holiday created to recognize the maritime industry. It is observed on May 22, the date in 1819 that the American steamship Savannah set sail from Savannah, Georgia on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power. The holiday was created by the United States Congress on May 20, 1933.

President Obama’s proclamation:

Presidential Proclamation – National Maritime Day, 2015


– – – – – – –



For over two centuries, proud mariners have set sail in defense of our people and in pursuit of opportunity.  Through periods of conflict and times of peace, our Nation has relied on the United States Merchant Marine to transport goods to and from our shores and deliver troops and supplies around the world.  On National Maritime Day, we honor the women and men who take to the seas to boost our economy and uphold the values we cherish.

Our Nation is forever indebted to the brave privateers who helped secure our independence, fearlessly supplying our Revolutionary forces with muskets and ammunition.  Throughout history, their legacy has been carried forward by courageous seafarers who have faithfully served our Nation as part of the United States Merchant Marine — bold individuals who emerged triumphant in the face of attacks from the British fleet in the War of 1812, and who empowered the Allied forces as they navigated perilous waters during World War II.  Today, patriots who share their spirit continue to stand ready to protect our seas and the livelihoods they support.

Ninety percent of the world’s commerce moves by sea, and businesses across our country rely on domestic and international trade every day.  Helping to protect our vital shipping routes, Merchant Mariners are critical to our effort to combat piracy and uphold the maritime security on which the global supply chain relies.  And in times of war or national emergency, they bolster our national security as a “fourth arm of defense.”  Whether transporting commercial goods or military equipment, battling tough weather or enemy fire, they strive and sacrifice to secure a brighter future for all Americans.  On this day, we reaffirm the importance of their contributions and salute all those who serve this noble cause.

The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as “National Maritime Day,” and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2015, as National Maritime Day.  I call upon the people of the United States to mark this observance and to display the flag of the United States at their homes and in their communities.  I also request that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



Quote of the moment: Gen. Patton’s oddly non-profane explanation of profanity

February 18, 2015

Lt. Gen. George Patton with the signal corps, July 11th 1943, Sicily. (General George Patton Museum) - See more at: http://ww2today.com/10th-august-1943-general-george-s-patton-slaps-another-soldier#sthash.dVuHaPeg.dpuf

Lt. Gen. George Patton with the signal corps, July 11th 1943, Sicily. (General George Patton Museum) – See more at: http://ww2today.com/10th-august-1943-general-george-s-patton-slaps-another-soldier#sthash.dVuHaPeg.dpuf

  • When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag. … As for the types of comments I make, sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence.
    • Remark to his nephew about his copious profanity, quoted in “The Unknown Patton” (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 184 (here, via Wikiquote)


One glorious summer, after a couple of months of Scouting, I signed on to do air pollution research for several weeks in the field, in and around Farmington, New Mexico.  Hours were long, and the driving between sampling sites was more than 120 miles a day, between Farmington and Teec Nos Pos, Arizona.  Driving through the desert, passing the Shiprock every day, is rough duty, but somebody had to do it.

My mother’s brother, Harry Stewart, lived in Farmington.  Weekends I was royally dined and liquored, and got the opportunity to meet Uncle Harry’s friends, who included C. M. Woodbury, then city manager of Farmington.  Woodbury’s exploits on the golf course provided constant entertainment.  His opinions about having to measure air pollution from the Four Corners Power Plant and the then-under-construction San Juan Generating Station gave me great insight into local views on regional and national issues, as the Clean Air Act wended its way through Congress.

Woodbury had been an aide of some sort to General George Patton in Europe, as I understood it.  Sadly, I never did get back to Farmington to debrief him in detail about World War II, a loss of information that still stings from time to time.  I think he was with the 752nd Tank BattalionWoodbury retired in 1976.

The movie, Patton, still played in theaters, and one Sunday, over dinner, conversation turned to great leadership and whether I thought Patton was such a leader.  I hadn’t seen the movie.  I didn’t know much about Patton.  I asked what a definition of a good leader might be.  Uncle Harry and Woodbury settled on this criterion:  A good leader is someone whose followers will go to hell and back for her, or him.  Why did Patton inspire that sort of followership, I asked.

Woodbury rambled on about Patton getting gasoline for his tanks and trucks on a run through German lines that became legendary, and was portrayed in the movie.  He talked about how Patton’s troops always could count on a good, warm meal when they got a break from battle.  He talked about how proud every soldier was to be a part of that unit under Patton’s command.  He stopped, his eyes welled up and a tear, or maybe more, rolled down his cheek.

“We would have gone to hell for Patton because we knew he would have gone to hell for us. And he did.”

William Manchester once noted that, in battle, soldiers don’t die for great causes.  They fight to defend and save the friend to the right and the friend to the left.

It would have been interesting to know Patton.


We moved to Texas in 1987. Texas is a culture shock, I think, regardless where one comes from, even sometimes if one comes from Texas.  We moved directly from Cheverly, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C.

Describing the conservative, goody-two-shoes aspects of Texas culture of that time can’t be done in shorthand.  A couple of examples:  Duncanville at the time had about 35,000 residents, and 44 churches.  Bordering Duncanville were three or five megachurches, among the largest in the nation, which drew heavily from Duncanville residents.  It was rare to meet someone who wouldn’t ask early in any conversation, “And where do you go to church?” A great, personal and close relationship to Jesus is expected to be a feature of any “normal” person’s life in Texas.  The day I drove out of Utah, I remember thinking as I rose above the fog heading up Parley’s Canyon that I would probably never again live in a place where it was so difficult to get a drink with dinner.  Then we moved to Texas.  On the surface, and often below the surface, Texans worked hard (and still do) to demonstrate that they are straighter than Mormons, and blessed because of their lack of sinning.  We don’t need to get into the ironies and incongruities of country music, Dallas culture and other now-well-identified sins of the Bible Belt.

Let’s just say, profanity was not something one publicly assented to.

I came down here to work with American Airlines, which was headed at the time by Robert Crandall.  Crandall’s use of profanity was legendary among AA executives and workers — executives, especially.  Crandall ran a tight operation with high expectations of worker achievement, especially in competition with other airlines.  “Competitive anger,” Crandall called it — and he expected all employees to demonstrate that, in appropriate, customer-serving, money-making ways.  Failures were noted, and often enough one might expect to be in a meeting with Crandall where an explanation of how and why things went wrong would be cut off with an expletive-filled dressing down that both made the victim subject understand the nature and severity of the error and pledge never to make that nor any other error ever again.

Talking about these events later, witnesses almost never said anything about the profanity.  Living in Texas where profanity was thought to make even strong men faint and swoon, Crandall’s expletives were considered instead indications of the importance of his thought, and speech, and markers that he was to be listened to.  I remember one young MBA rattled by the profanity; he left the company within a few weeks, and he wasn’t even the subject of the discussion.  But among others, especially successful managers and executives, discussion of content of meetings focused on the subject of the meetings, what was said about that subject, with unconscious excising of the profanity.

One famous meeting involved cutting costs, and the subject was security for a warehouse in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Complaints about the cost for security the previous year led the local manager to beef up fences, get rid of the security company, and get dogs to roam the area at night.  Crandall pushed harder, and discussion turned to whether it would be even cheaper than dog food to get a sound system that would randomly play the sounds of big, vicious dogs’ barking instead.  I wasn’t in that meeting, but I heard several different accounts, all of them noting the boss’s exploration of options others might not think of, and how hard it was to please him — but not one story that included any comment about profanity, which I learned had laced the entire episode and probably made it memorable to everyone within earshot. And so they’d retell it. A remarkable piece of effective corporate communication.

How does one gauge when and whether profanity is necessary, or effective, in communication?

In one project, we videotaped Crandall talking on company issues and what he expected in the leaders the company hired as managers.  In several hours of video, I don’t recall a single time we had to retape, or edit, any profanity out.  Crandall turned off the profanity when it might pose a problem.  People who know him outside the company often express surprise that he’d ever use such language.

I sometimes wondered if Crandall was a reincarnation of Patton in at least some small way.  But Crandall was born in 1935, and Patton died in 1945.  Reincarnation is not the answer.


W. Edwards Deming, the Life Diagram

August 23, 2014

In working to make quality common, and valuable, W. Edwards Deming seems to have learned a little about life along the way.

In 1989, he sketched out this diagram.

I think it speaks for itself, but what do you think?

W. Edwards Deming's Life Diagram

W. Edwards Deming’s Life Diagram

Tip of the old scrub brush to Richard Sheridan, from whose Tweet I took the diagram. 

The Deming Cycle for continual improvement

The Deming Cycle for continual improvement


Remembering Warren Bennis isn’t enough. Read his books! DO what he says!

August 11, 2014

I come back from vacation, and no one tells me Warren Bennis passed on?

Why wasn’t that front page news, in every city with a corporation, a government, or a school?

Warren Bennis, in a publicity photo from the University of Southern California, the last of several academic institutions where he taught, or lead the entire school.

Warren Bennis, in a publicity photo from the University of Southern California, the last of several academic institutions where he taught, or lead the entire school.

We know why. Bennis, who some claim invented the study of leadership in the modern world, is too little read in corporations — and almost never read in government, and probably never read in education leadership.

Try this experiment, you teachers:  As you go back to school this month for the “in service” sessions that challenge your ability to stay awake, ask your principals and administrators what their favorite Warren Bennis book, or idea, is.  If you find one who knows who Warren Bennis was, will you send us that person’s name for a Wall of Honor here?

Bennis wrote too abstractly for many.  He was not one who would have ever thought about writing The One Minute Manager, not because there aren’t some good ideas in that book, but because he wrote to the higher levels of organizational thinking.  (Our good friend Perry W. Buffington used to point out in his lectures that you’d run from the waiting room if you heard your neurosurgeon was reading the One Minute Brain Surgeon.  Bennis would have put it more gracefully, and taken three pages to do it — but a serious reader would understand.)

With all the trouble we have in organizations these days, you’d think Bennis’s work would be on everybody’s bookshelf, and assigned to all incoming interns.

Hey, you MBAs:  What class did you read Bennis in?  Did you read Bennis at all?

Jena McGregor, who spoke with and corresponded with Bennis several times in the last decade, wrote a remembrance in the Washington Post:

Warren Bennis, who died Thursday in Los Angeles at age 89, was once called the “dean of leadership gurus,” a description that unfortunately stuck.

I say “unfortunately” because, for Bennis, there was never any kind of shtick. There was no silver bullet or four-box matrix or slide deck offering an oversimplified how-to guide to leadership. This giant among leadership experts — I take no exception to the “dean” part — was a thinker and an adviser, but not a guru. He wrote and talked about leadership as if the answers were still being shaped, even in his experienced mind.

He was a thoughtful, genuine, and always engaged man whom I came to know in these past eight years as a reporter covering management and leadership.

“I am as leery as anyone of the idea of leaping to conclusions, or making more of evidence than is demonstrably true,” Bennis wrote in his influential 1989 classic, On Becoming a Leader. “To an extent, leadership is like beauty: It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”

For Bennis, leadership was a personal journey, something individual and introspective that must be learned through life’s experiences. He was a staunch believer that leaders are made not born, formed out of “crucible” moments and struggles that prepare them to lead. As he wrote in On Becoming a Leader — essential reading for anyone — leadership is about self-discovery and self-expression. “Before people can learn to lead, they must learn something about this strange new world.”

It may take me a few days to organize thoughts: Does it matter that he’s gone, if those who most need his work would never read it anyway?

Any guy who can look at a convention of high-paid CEOs and tell them that followers make them what they are, deserves much more than just a second thought.

What do others say?

(Note that the comments above came before news of Dr. Bennis’s death.)

We would expect David Gergen to know Bennis, and his work.

Larry Ferlazzo knows Bennis’s work?  But do Ferlazzo’s bosses know it?  There’s the question.

I once took a survey among teachers, and not one said they thought their principal would fight to defend them; it was a small survey, but it discouraged me from pursuing the question more.


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