Monthly Archives: August 2013


This Foodie Friday, let’s talk about cookbooks. I have…well, a lot. Probably 50 linear feel of cookbooks – maybe more.

cookbook shelf 1

(Photo credit: chotda)

There are hundreds and they’re separated by cuisine (if you call BBQ a cuisine) – Italian here, Cajun there, vegan, baking books – dozens of classifications. On the one hand, I’m never at a loss for inspiration when I come home with a bunch of great ingredients and no clue what I’m going to do with them. On the other hand, it’s really overwhelming.  Why make one meatball recipe when there are 45 variations at your fingertips?

The odd thing is that I don’t generally cook out of these books much any more.  Oh sure, on the rare occasions when I bake something, a good cookbook is a necessity.  After all, that kind of chemistry is not something one does off the top of one’s head.  Even so, I use them to master techniques. While it’s fun to  produce a perfect copy of something tired and true out of a favorite book,most of the time I’m  turning to a familiar volume for inspiration or reassurance.  Which is really the business point as well.

There are business cookbooks.  There are volumes that outline everything from sound fiscal policy to managing employees to developing new products and services.  In  a way, I hope that this screed serves as a daily mini-volume of inspiration.  For some things  – accounting rules, for example – it’s almost like baking.  Follow the rules or you’ll end up in trouble.  In other areas, follow the business recipe any of the great sources lay out and you’ll probably do pretty well especially if you’ve got great people and products with which to work.  Greatness, however, is something that you won’t find in a cookbook.

Many of the cookbooks on the market today are dumbed down (thanks, Food Network).  Follow the recipes they contain and you’ll present relatively good, if uninspired, food.  Using the flavor profiles as the inspiration isn’t a bad idea but just as writers use a dictionary and thesaurus, a cookbook should serve as a reference volume, not as a script.  It’s the same in business.  Books can inspire and serve as an adjunct to creative thinking based on sound fundamentals..  They’re tools, not crutches, and brilliant business pole don’t get their answers in books, because the great recipes are truly one’s own.

I can’t imagine not having not having the resources my cookbooks provide.  You should read as many business books are you have time to absorb.  Then distill them into your own recipes and make something great.

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

Getting Pinned

Credit card

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend had her pocket picked last night. Yes, I’m being literal – they got her wallet and immediately ran to a couple of stores to buy electronics which are easily turned into cash on the street. Fortunately she noticed her wallet missing not long afterwards and so was able to block the credit cards relatively soon.  Still, thousands of dollars of goods were charged – they were few in number but big in price.

As someone who used to supervise a fairly large online sports store, I’m well aware that it’s usually the merchant who bears the brunt of these fraudulent purchases.  Most of the time, the onus is on the retail outlet to verify that the card is being used by the rightful owner or the outlet will eat the cost of the goods refunded to the consumer.  Because of that, there are a lot of electronic countermeasures taken during online checkout to be sure that the card is real by both merchants and card issuers. You may even have experienced some of them while traveling, especially if you’ve gone out of the country (banks don’t like it when the card is suddenly being used overseas!).

What strikes me as odd, however, is that it’s far easier to commit fraud in the real world than it is online.  Think about your last experience charging something with a credit card.  The cashier may not have even looked at the card to see if the sex of the user matches the name on the card.  They might not have verified the signature.  Neither of those, by the way, is much of a deterrent.  Maybe you swiped the card at a gas pump which then asked for your zip code.  As in my friend’s case, if they have the entire wallet, there is probably something in there identifying the correct zip so that doesn’t work either.

Contrast that with a bank debit card.  You must have a PIN to use the card.  Forget the pin and there is no way to get cash or make a purchase.  Does anyone think it’s odd that when the bank is on the line (as with a debit card) for the money there is a fairly secure (ok, very secure except for the idiots who write the PIN on the card) check but it’s not there when someone else is liable?

It seems like a pretty simple fix and it can save billions.  Like many things in business, you shake your head and wonder why no one is taking the time to do it.  You agree?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?, Thinking Aloud

Having A Dream

Today is the 50th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream speech Dr. King gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  I began to write about him and my memories and then I realized I had already done so in 2009.  In reading it again, the thoughts seem appropriate to today as well so here is it once more, albeit slightly edited.

I’m old enough to remember Dr. Martin Luther King and while he didn’t light the fire of the civil rights movement in the US (I’d say Rosa Parks is that hero), he certainly brought the fire to life and tended it well until his assassination (and I remember that as well – how horrible a day it was!).

Martin Luther King, Jr.

What inspired me, a young (then) white kid was his notion of bringing a dream to reality. OK, the words and delivery were pretty inspirational too, even when you read them off a page. Yesterday the Inauguration Committee had a concert on the very place where Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech to celebrate, nearly 46 years later, a big piece of that speech coming to reality. One can’t help but wonder what Dr.King would have felt and said – he certainly should still be alive – he’d just be turning 80.

Robert Kennedy said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  I think that’s great business advice as well, even if George Bernard Shaw had the notion before Bobby.  Mark Twain wrote that Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

So today, I celebrate Dr. King’s dreaming of a better world and making it happen.  Tomorrow, we can watch it become real.  What are you dreaming of?  Can it be real?  Why not?  Or better – why not!!

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Filed under Growing up, Reality checks