Monthly Archives: January 2015

Superb Craftsmanship of the Harem at the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Fine Craftsmanship at the Harem at the Topkapi Palace

Escape is not a idea that has always been associated with the imperial harem—harem means “forbidden” in Arabic. Built in the mid-sixteenth century, the harem at Topkapi Palace was the personal living quarters of the female members of the Ottoman sultan’s rather large family. Its 400-plus rooms presented lavish (and not so lavish) housing for the sultan’s mother, the sultan’s wives, and, most distinctively, the sultan’s abundant concubines (which during the last days of the Ottoman Empire allegedly numbered greater than 800). Concubines were customarily attractive smart young women from prosperous families in neighboring countries brought into the Harem at a tender age where they were groomed to be prospective wives for the sultan.

Topkapi Palace, Istanbul The multiplex was controlled strictly by corps of eunuchs, selected because they would be incapable to misuse their standing. Contact with the outside world was via one carefully guarded exit, the Carriage Gate. Within, the harem was a hotbed of conspiracy, where concubines vied for the sultan’s goodwill, hoping to press forward their, and more outstandingly their sons’ fortunes. Undeniably, many concubines rose to positions of great power, dominating the royal household, and in some instances saw their sons’ rise to the rank of sultan, whereupon they would ascend to the coveted rank of sultan’s mother, or Valide Sultan. The second most powerful person in the Empire next to the Sultan, the Valide Sultan or the Queen Mother, had a enormous influence in the matters of the Harem and the relationships between the Sultan and his wives and concubines.

Added to and embellished over a four-century period, the Harem has numerous examples of superb craftsmanship. These days, you can tour many of the harem rooms that make up one of the most fascinating sections of the massive Topkapi Palace, the Ottoman Empire’s seat of authority until the mid-nineteenth century. Paradoxically, bearing in mind the powerful history of the place, the harem quarters are today rather tranquil and quiet—the tour group crowds notwithstanding—and make a welcome diversion from the hustle and bustle of downtown Istanbul and the surrounding Sultanahmet district.

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Posted in Travels and Journeys

United Club Shower: Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (ORD) Terminal 1, Concourse C

United Club Chicago's O'Hare Airport (ORD) Terminal 1, Concourse C

Chicago is a very large metropolitan area that supports a lot of international and domestic visitors. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (ORD) is one of the few major airports in the world that is a primary hub for two carriers. The only other airport in the US where that is true is John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City.

Toiletries at United Club Shower

United Club Shower at Chicago's O'Hare Airport

United Club at Chicago's O'Hare Airport

Both United Airlines and American Airlines battle for passengers at the airport—both have noteworthy O&D traffic as well as being a primary connecting point for passengers from other parts of their network.

United Club Shower Area at Chicago's O'Hare Airport

United Club Shower Area at Terminal 1, Concourse C

Bath Towels United Club Shower Area

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Posted in Airlines and Airliners Travels and Journeys

China’s Relexed One-Child Policy: Baby Boom in China?

China's Relexed One-Child Policy: Baby Boom in China?

China’s implemented a much-criticized state-mandated family planning policy in 1979 to control the swelling population of a then-poor nation. The stipulated that every couple may have just one child. Ethnic minorities were allowed to have two children. Couples in rural areas were allowed have a second child if their first child was a girl.

Over three decades, the one-child policy worked too well and has produced a gender imbalance and a shrinking work force. Sex ratio in China is now 117 males for every 100 females. The policy has also resulted in an elderly population that rivals Japan’s in percentages and costs for caring for the elderly.

Under the latest change to the policy, urban couples will also be allowed to have two children, if at least one spouse is an only child. This change is estimated to produce ten million additional babies over the next five years.

'China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World' by Ted Fishman (ISBN 0743257359) The trend of more babies, however, doesn’t look enduring. Most forecasts only account for an increase in births over the next five years. After that, as China gets richer, birth rates are likely to continue dwindling.

Wealthier countries simply have fewer kids. This trend has been corroborated with similar demographic developments in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Consider South Korea, where fertility rates continued its four-decade downward trend after the government abolished the family planning program in 1996.

The United Nations estimates China’s population aged 64 and under will fall dramatically over the next 20 years because of lower birth rates.

Some estimate that there’s even an actual upside if China’s birth rate continues falling. Ted Fishman, author of ‘China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World’, estimates that China will, nonetheless, remains competitive: “you get more and more resources pushed into children and education, and productivity will go up enormously as a result”

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Posted in Global Business

The Joys of Getting Old: You Don’t Get Old … You Get

The Joys of Getting Old

We’ve created a stereotype that old age is a very negative transition. Getting older is getting better. There is no convincing evidence about what happens to old skeptics, but their future is doubtful.

  • Old cooks never die, they just get deranged.
  • Old knights in chain mail never die, they just shuffle off their metal coils.
  • Old students never die, they just get degraded.
  • Old printers never die, they’re just not the type.
  • Old skate boarders never die, they just lose their bearings.
  • Old owls never die, they just don’t give a hoot.
  • Old sewage workers never die, they just waste away.
  • Old cashiers never die, they just check out.
  • Old accountants never die, they just lose their balance.
  • Old photographers never die, they just stop developing.
  • Old typists never die, they just lose their justification.
  • Old cleaning people never die, they just kick the bucket.
  • Old electricians never die, they just lose contact.
  • Old teachers never die, they just lose their class.
  • Old hippies never die, they just smell that way.
  • Old deans never die, they just lose their faculties.
  • Old schools never die, they just lose their principals.
  • Old actors never die, they just drop apart.
  • Old investors never die, they just roll over.
  • Old bankers never die, they just lose interest.
  • Old garage men never die, they just retire.
  • Old policemen never die, they just cop out.
  • Old horticulturists never die, they just go to pot.
  • Old limbo dancers never die, they just go under.
  • Old farmers never die, they just go to seed.
  • Old bookkeepers never die, they just lose their figures.
  • Old daredevils never die, they just get discouraged.
  • Old programming wizards never die, they just recurse.
  • Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.
  • Old quarterbacks never die, they just pass away.
  • Old numerical analysts never die, they just get disarrayed.
  • Old milkmaids never die, they just lose their whey.
  • Old basketball players never die, they just go on dribbling.
  • Old sculptors never die, they just lose their marbles.
  • Old steel makers never die, they just lose their temper.
  • Walt Disney didn’t die. He’s in suspended animation.
  • Old sailors never die, they just get a little dingy.
  • Old archers never die, they just bow and quiver.
  • Old number theorists never die, they just get past their prime.
  • Old laser physicists never die, they just become incoherent.
  • Old beekeepers never die, they just buzz off.
  • Old Soldiers never die. Young ones do.
  • Old wrestlers never die, they just lose their grip.
  • Old musicians never die, they just get played out.
  • Old bosses never die, much as you want them to.
  • Old architects never die, they just lose their structures.
  • Old white water rafters never die, they just get disgorged.
  • Old chauffeurs never die, they just lose their drive.
  • Old tanners never die, they just go into hiding.
  • Old pacifists never die, they just go to peaces.
  • Old chemists never die, they just fail to react.
  • Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.
  • Old hardware engineers never die, they just cache in their chips.
  • Old hypochondriacs never die, they just lose their grippe.
  • Old seers never die, they just lose their vision.
  • Old journalists never die, they just get de-pressed.
  • Old pilots never die, they just go to a higher plane.
  • Old doctors never die, they just lose their patience.
  • Old mathematicians never die, they just disintegrate.
  • Old hackers never die, they just go to bits.
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Posted in Health and Fitness Philosophy and Wisdom

Koch Industries’ Market-Based Management

Koch Industries

Koch Industries employs a rigorous approach called the Market-Based Management philosophy to run the business. CEO Charles Koch has perfected his management playbook over the decades, and in 2007, published a book called “The Science of Success”, explaining how the system works at Koch.

MBM, as Koch employees call it, lies at the heart of how Koch operates every day. MBM is significant for the reason that it unites Koch’s employees, giving them a common language and a common goal. There is not a lot of art on the walls in Koch’s headquarters, but everywhere you turn, there is a copy of MBM’s 10 guiding principles hanging from the wall. When employees get a free cup of Starbucks coffee in the break room, the principles are printed on the disposable cup.

Five Dimensions of Koch Industries’ Market-Based Management

Companies owned by Koch Industries strive to bring the productive power of the free market into their operations by systematically applying Koch’s market based management philosophy through these five dimensions:

  1. Vision: Determining where and how the organization can create the greatest long-term value.
  2. Virtue and Talents: Helping ensure that people with the right values, skills and capabilities are hired, retained and developed.
  3. Knowledge Processes: Creating, acquiring, sharing and applying relevant knowledge, and measuring and tracking profitability. (Read, “Knowledge sharing in action,” from Discovery newsletter.)
  4. Decision Rights: Ensuring the right people are in the right roles with the right authority to make decisions and holding them accountable.
  5. Incentives: Rewarding people according to the value they create for the organization.

The Kochs Brothers consists of Charles Koch and David Koch. Two other brothers, William and Frederick, cashed out in 1983 and no longer have a stake in the company. The Koch brothers became heir to their father’s company in Kansas, and Koch Industries into the second-largest privately held company in the nation. The conglomerate makes a gamut of products including Dixie cups, chemicals, jet fuel, fertilizer, electronics, toilet paper and much more.

Kochs Brothers: Charles Koch and David Koch

Guiding Principles of Koch Industries’ Market-Based Management

'The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company' by Charles G. Koch (ISBN 0470139889) Market-Based Management has ten guiding principles that set the standards for evaluating policies, practices and conduct, establishing norms of behavior and building the shared values that guide individual actions. These guiding principles also serve as rules of just conduct along with shared values and beliefs. Koch’s focus and hard nosed thinking combined with his application of economics to management decision making, have enabled his firm to grow into a nimble, large company that keeps performing excellently.

  1. Integrity: Conduct all affairs with integrity, for which courage is the foundation.
  2. Compliance: Strive for 10,000% compliance with all laws and regulations, which requires 100% of employees fully complying 100% of the time. Stop, think and ask.
  3. Value Creation: Create long-term value by the economic means for customers, the company and society. Apply MBM to achieve superior results by making better decisions, pursuing safety and environmental excellence, eliminating waste, optimizing and innovating.
  4. Principled Entrepreneurship: Apply the judgment, responsibility, initiative, economic and critical thinking skills, and sense of urgency necessary to generate the greatest contribution, consistent with the company’s risk philosophy.
  5. Customer Focus: Understand and develop relationships with customers to profitably anticipate and satisfy their needs.
  6. Knowledge: Seek and use the best knowledge and proactively share your knowledge while embracing a challenge process. Develop measures that lead to profitable action.
  7. Change: Anticipate and embrace change. Envision what could be, challenge the status quo and drive creative destruction through experimental discovery.
  8. Humility: Exemplify humility and intellectual honesty. Constantly seek to understand and constructively deal with reality to create value and achieve personal improvement. Hold yourself and others accountable.
  9. Respect: Treat others with honesty, dignity, respect and sensitivity. Appreciate the value of diversity. Encourage and practice teamwork.
  10. Fulfillment: Find fulfillment and meaning in your work by fully developing your capabilities to produce results that create the greatest value.
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Posted in Management and Leadership

What is a Circle of Competence?

Twelve Steps to Get Things Done

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,” said William Shakespeare in “As You Like It.”

Warren Buffett defined the concept of “circle of competence” in his 1996 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders:

“What an investor needs is the ability to correctly evaluate selected businesses. Note that word “selected”: You don’t have to be an expert on every company, or even many. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital.”

Socrates Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing.” I is easy for people to get tricked into thinking that they know something when they really don’t.

Morgan Housel, a blogger on The Motley Fool said, “Realizing the limits of your intelligence one of the most important skills in finance.” The circle of competence is simply the premise that investors should choose a few well-identified areas in which to focus their investment research efforts. Preferably, such areas of competence should be market segments, industries and businesses that the investors’ skills and experiences are those of the average investor. Successful investors need not have a large circle of competence; they know reasonably well when they are operating outside their areas of unique expertises.

Cornell University psychology professors Dr. David Dunning and Dr. Justin Kruger studied a phenomenon in psychology that has come to be known as the “Dunning-Kruger Effect“: the widespread propensity of poor performers to overestimate their abilities compared with others—and, to a lesser extent, the tendency of high performers to underestimate their abilities.

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Posted in Investing and Finance

Never Hire in a Hurry

Interpersonal Skills

Typically, there is some external pressure to fill any open position, and you have to remind yourself that there’s no pressure so great to fill an open position. None.

'Topgrading: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method' by Bradford D. Smart (ISBN 1591845262) I do not care how long it takes. Because too many people make mistakes by hiring too quickly. The new employees are not bad people; they just are not right in your setting.

Take as long as you need to fill a key position. You can live without somebody filling the position than hire somebody unsuitable in a hurry and suffer the consequences. It is indeed very painful to hire incorrectly.

Be fastidiously selective in who you hire. Recommended Book: ‘Topgrading: The Proven Hiring and Promoting Method’ by Bradford D. Smart.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Ayn Rand’s Play: The Night of January 16th

Ayn Rand's Play: The Night of January 16th

There’s a play by Ayn Rand (best known as the author of the novels, “The Fountainhead” (1943) and “Atlas Shrugged” (1957)) called “The Night of January 16th”.

The drama is set in New York City and features Bjorn Faulkner, a Swedish banker who had extorted millions out of shareholders to inflate the gold market. The stock market then crashed in 1929, and the swindler was in the process of going bankrupt even though he’d gotten a big bailout from his banker father-in-law. On the night of January 16th, he falls to his death from a penthouse suite where he’s been with his mistress, Karen Andre. The big question is whether it was murder or suicide. Karen is on trial for murder.

The drama premiered as Woman on Trial in 1934 and as Night of January 16th in 1935. Ayn Rand’s drama is said to have been inspired by the death of the Ivar Kreuger, an incident dramatized in the movie The Match King.

When Ayn Rand’s play is performed on stage, twelve members of the audience are chosen to be the jury, so the play actually has different endings when it’s staged. Rand’s play does not directly portray the events of Faulkner’s death; instead the jury are required to rely on character testimony and decide on whether Karen Andre is guilty. Rand, also remembered as the pioneer of the philosophy of Objectivism, intended to dramatize a conflict between individualism and conformity, with the jury’s verdict revealing which viewpoint they preferred.

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Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Philosophy and Wisdom

Recommended Books for Independent Learning for Smarter Creativity

Inspire Greater Creativity

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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Image is Everything to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal

Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Kingdom Holdings

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia has openly severed ties with Forbes magazine and its annual billionaires’ list after the magazine estimated his worth at $20 billion. The prince claims he’s worth a lot more.

'Alwaleed: Businessman, Billionaire, Prince' by Riz Khan (ISBN 0060850302) Kerry A. Dolan’s story “Prince Alwaleed And The Curious Case Of Kingdom Holding Stock” in Forbes about Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s desperate, borderline absurdist attempts to convince the Forbes Magazine Editorial Team that ranks the richest people in the world that he’s one of the world’s ten richest people (Forbes pegged him 26th) prompted a considerable amount of giggling and mockery on Forbes.com and Twitter.

  • “If image is so vital to him, Alwaleed should give more (like Gates) rather than throw tantrums over a wealth listing,” tweeted @rallaf.
  • @joshuahersh’s sardonic take: “Here is a risky case of a journalist taking on the wealthy where it really hurts: their net worth!’
  • Not to be outdone, Mfonobong Nsehe gleefully twisted the knife: “So it’s safe to assume, perhaps, that the Prince’s self-worth is tied to his listing on the Forbes Billionaires list, no?”
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Posted in Airlines and Airliners