Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 27th, 2008

Good thoughts for nonprofits

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From The Nonprofiteer:

As a subscriber, the Nonprofiteer received The Nonprofit Quarterly‘s summary of its annual reader survey identifying areas of concern in nonprofit management.  And what did she find at the very top?

the board won’t fundraise (receiving by far the most mentions)

Not too far down the list: “recruitment is a concern” and “the organization needs to involve board members in strategic planning.”

The Nonprofiteer would like the suggest that these three are different faces of a single pervasive problem: unarticulated expectations.  Because the rest of the “My Board won’t fundraise” conversation sounds like this:

“What have you asked them to do?”—“Well, raise money.”

That’s not an answer.  You can ask Board members to look at a list of your current donors and identify the people they know and whom they’d be willing to call on in your company to ask for a bigger gift.  You can ask them to come to the next Board meeting armed with the names of two people to be added to your list of fundraising prospects.  You can invite them to join you in calling on the program officer at your most significant foundation donor, where their very presence will illustrate Board support and involvement.  You can ask them to help plan a benefit event to raise X while spending no more than Y and targeting Z audience.

What you can’t do is say, “Raise some money!” and walk away, though that’s certainly every staff member’s fantasy.  Lest we forget, Board members are volunteers—and volunteers can move mountains, provided there’s a staff member around with a supply of scaffolding, tools, wheelbarrows, safety glasses and maps to the new location.  There’s a tendency among harried development staff to disdain Board members’ need for support.  But you’re not really authorized to critique the fundraising incompetence of your doctor and lawyer Board members until you can remove an appendix or argue a Supreme Court case without their assistance.  It’s their volunteer gig, but it’s your job, so the responsibility rests with you.

Many harried nonprofit executives also are so uncomfortable with “the M-word” that they recruit people to their Boards without telling them, in writing, that recruits are expected to write checks (and for how much?) and secure checks (and in what context?).  So of course “recruitment is a concern”—the concern being that people won’t do what you want unless you tell them what you want, but if you tell them what you want they might say “no” right up-front.  This leads many otherwise sane executives to utter recruitment idiocies like “You won’t have to do anything—we just want your name;” or, “You can’t come to meetings?  That’s okay;” or “Money?  Oh, don’t worry about it.”

If, by contrast, you go to Board-recruitment sessions with a written unambiguous statement of what you’re seeking, perhaps 50% of your interlocutors will say “No.”  But they’ll walk away favorably impressed with your agency and its level of preparation; and the 50% who say “Yes” will join ready to give and get and identify others like themselves.  (The Nonprofiteer has several sample “Statements of Board Member Expectations” which she’ll be glad to share with anyone who’d like to simplify his/her Board recruitment tasks and/or assure him/herself of a fundraising Board.)

Finally: of course you can’t involve the Board in strategic planning if you told prospective Board members they wouldn’t really need to be involved in anything.  But this one’s actually relatively easy to solve, using an efficient, team-based, preferably facilitated planning process (see the Nonprofiteer’s “Three-Meeting Strategic Planning” guide).  Any team-based system can accommodate up to 50 people, and any efficient facilitated process can go from soup to nuts in 6 months; so there shouldn’t be any problem in getting Board members involved.  (Board members who can’t manage to come to three meetings in the course of 6 months aren’t really Board members at all—invite them but start planning now for how you’ll replace them.)  And once they’ve written the plan, you’d better believe they’ll fundraise for it.  Of course, the process isn’t Board-only—staff should be fully integrated as well—so there should be a good balance between what’s dreamed and what can be done.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Let’s be a little more Scottish

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Scotland’s been on my mind lately—the weather here, you know—and I happened across this terrific Web site. The link is to the page about Burns Night, a national holiday that resonates with St. Johnnies of a certain era who were often treated to rolling recitations of Burns’s poetry in full Scottish accent from Archie McCourt, superintendent of buildings and grounds. And be sure to test your Scottish vocabulary, which you will exercise as you watch these recitations of Burns’s poetry.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 11:36 am

Posted in Daily life

The Merkur Futur

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I like to pick out the morning shave arsenal from comments made on the blog, and lately several commenters have mentioned using the Merkur Futur, so I’ve been using that a little more frequently, and I made an interesting discovery.

I’ve been holding the Futur much like I might hold the Fat Boy or some other razor: the blade edge touching the skin, with the safety bar touching just ahead of it.

But recently I (in effect) raised the Futur handle higher, so that the main contact (other than the blade) was the top of the razor: the razor now rides along on the top, more or less, with the blade’s edge just skimming the skin.

The result has been easier and smoother shaves. I haven’t yet experimented to see what this would be like with other razors, such as the Gillettes. Heck, maybe I’ve been holding the razor wrong all along.

Shaving: the continuing experiment.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 11:11 am

Posted in Shaving

Brush technique

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Via a post on the Shave Den, this advice from G.B. Kent (makers of one of my favorite brushes, the BK4):

The definitive way to whip up a thick lather and protect the life of your shaving brush is to flick your brush back and forth across the soap bowl. Do not be tempted to only go around in circles! Bristle is very fine, badger bristle even more so, and if you whip up a lather by going round and round in circles everyday, week after week and month after month the individual strands of bristle will get wound tighter and tighter. Eventually this would cause them to snap and fall out. So if you are to take away one crucial piece of advice on prolonging the life of a shaving brush it would be this – whip up a lather by flicking the brush head up and down or side to side and occasionally in circles but NEVER solely in circles! I guarantee this will aid the life of your brush.

This is one of those things that I’ll do, not necessarily because I believe it, but because it does no harm to try.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 10:45 am

Posted in Shaving

Bad idea

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Maybe why some global-warming research is not being seen:

A new report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) suggests that American universities may be jeopardizing their academic integrity by giving oil, gas, and other polluting industries influence over the research that companies fund on campus. CSPI surveyed nine universities with industry-funded research programs studying global warming, including the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Illinois, Stanford, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Davis. It found that many of them let corporate executives sit on boards overseeing grants, gave companies first rights to intellectual property;, let companies review and possibly delay publication of studies. “It’s a cheap subterfuge for carbon-emitting companies,” said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science project at CSPI and co-author of the report. “They get the prestige of associating themselves with major respected universities, yet can control the direction of research, get first rights to intellectual property, and can delay any finding that doesn’t help the bottom line.”

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 9:59 am

Religions by region

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I seem to be in a highly Catholic state. Take a look (click thumbnail):


Cuius Regio, Eius Religio – this Latin saying applies to Europe, and to the principle that ended religious warfare: “Whose region (it is), whose religion (shall predominate)”. But it sprang to mind when seeing this map of the US, showing the leading church bodies per county. The map demonstrates the important link between region and religion, or to put it more precisely: where you live is a predictive factor as to where you worship.

The map highlights 8 major Christian denominations, showing where they represent a plurality (and in counties marked with a + at least 50%) of the relevant counties’ population. This shows that there are quite a few remarkably contiguous religious blocks in the US.

The most notable of those contiguous areas is that of the Baptists, a term that is quite rightly almost synonymous with Southern Baptist (a bit like how Orthodox in Europe equals Eastern Orthodox; as “western orthodoxy” is referred to as Catholicism). Baptists are the biggest congregations in nigh on all counties of nine states (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee), and are a major presence in West Virginia (where Methodists dominate the northeast), Virginia (where the selfsame Methodists have a foothold in the border area with West Virginia) and Missouri (the area around St Louis being majoritarily Catholic). Florida, Louisiana and Texas are split between a Catholic South and a Baptist North – to a large part due to the large, traditionally Catholic communities of Latinos in southern Texas and Florida and of Cajuns (French-Americans) in Louisiana.

Another block, but not nearly as neatly contiguous, is the Lutheran one, present in the northern Midwest and West, best represented in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin. Lutheran here often is synonymous with German-American or more broadly speaking Northern European – again, Lutheran conjures up certain geographical, not to say climatological images; a form of worship designed to survive the grimmest of winters. It would be very hard to rhyme a Latin culture with the Lutheran religion.

I don’t know is there’s a similar link thinkable in the Methodist case. The Methodist areas are also much smaller and much more disparate: in West Virginia (as mentioned) and adjacently in areas of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. There’s a sprinkling of Methodist-dominated counties in Maryland, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. Strangely, most Methodist-dominated counties lie between two parallels of longitude determined by the northern border of Nebraska and Pennsylvania and the southern border of Kansas and Virginia.

The Mormons dominate every county in their state of Utah, and have proceeded from there to become numerically superior in some counties of adjacent states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Nevada – they are the biggest congregation in the county that holds Las Vegas.

Most of the other counties have Catholics as the most numerous congregation, leading to a somewhat misleading map. Catholicism very often is the biggest denomination by default, owing to the fact that their institutional unity boosts ‘market share’ but at the same time masks differences between different wings of the Roman church that are as great as between denominations of Protestantism that have separated over theological differences.

On the other side of the bums on pews versus quality of purpose spectrum are the Mennonites (among whom the Amish are the strictest of the strict), dominating in very few counties, but where they do, often in two or three adjacent counties (as in northern Indiana, central Ohio and central Kansas).

Quite puzzling finally is the denomination labeling itself as Christian, dominating in central Illinois and Indiana. I thought they all were. Christian, that is…

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 9:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Good tips for good sleep

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Lots of good tips in this article, which begins:

Blessed sleep — the holy grail of health. Lack of sleep can send your blood sugar levels skyrocketing, contribute to weight gain, lead to depression, put you at risk for diabetes, and cause brain damage.

That’s just the warm-up. Sleep deprivation can alter your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, potentially affecting everything from your memory to your immune system, heart, and metabolism. Of course, lack of sleep can kill you instantly — as when you run your car off the road because you’ve dozed at the wheel (an estimated 71,000 people are injured in fall-asleep crashes each year). In fact, studies find that if you’ve been awake through the night, it’s as if you had a performance impairment equal to .10 percent blood alcohol content, more than enough to get you arrested for drunk driving in most states.

Given the evidence, you’d think we’d all be hitting the pillow as soon as the sun dropped below the horizon. Ha! Today Americans get 25 percent less sleep than they did a century ago. Nearly 4 out of 10 don’t get the minimum 7 hours of sleep necessary for optimal health and daytime functioning, while 15 percent get less than 6 hours most nights.

Since we’re all in agreement that a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health and mood, pick three of these tips to follow each night until you get the night’s sleep you so desperately crave.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 9:22 am

Time to hold Democratic leaders in contempt

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Naomi Wolfe:

Enough is enough.

Like many of us, after having watched helplessly as the Bush administration trampled the Constitution and made a mockery of checks and balances over the course of five bitter years, I was hopeful when the American people elected a Democratic Congress in November of 2006. Finally, I imagined, we would have a whiff of legality and the hint of a restoration of the rule of law in the land. Perhaps we would even have congressional committees to oversee the administration’s subversions of the rule of law and investigate the wide range of abuses that it had perpetrated since 2001.

There has been a bit of movement — which is why the thousands of Americans I have met who are appalled at these abuses but feel powerless to raise their voices effectively should take heart, but not stop their fight. To some extent, these raised voices have yielded some action: Congress has in fact held numerous hearings on issues — ranging from torture to warrantless wiretapping — that had been taboo to contend with when the administration was heedlessly, and unopposed, using a hyped narrative of `the global war on terror’ to subdue American liberties. Most prominently, we got some of the bad guys out of town. Citizen-driven congressional investigations into the politicization of the Department of Justice, for example, spurred the resignations of many key Bush administration officials, including the mild-mannered gatekeeper of the first bolgia of Hell, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

And yet, where it counts most, Democratic leaders in Congress have completely abdicated their constitutional oversight role. What they are doing now reprises the worst failures of other self-paralyzed Parliaments in societies that were facing crackdowns on civil liberties and the rule of law, and their voluntary self-emasculation may go down in history as one of those turning points at which leaders cave shamefully to transformative pressure that leaves a country far less than its founded ideal. Through their actions, they are potentially causing irreparable harm to the institution of Congress itself.

At issue is the failure of White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers to comply with congressional subpoenas to testify about the 2006 firings of a handful of U.S. Attorneys. We now have an America in which Congress says, “We subpoena you.” And potential criminals say, “Yeah? F— off.”

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Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 9:20 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Shell CEO puts Peak Oil at 2015

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Time flies:

In a rare moment of candor, Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, acknowledged what many have long considered a forgone conclusion: the end of the oil era is almost upon us, and sooner than you might think. The Oil Drum retrieved an e-mail sent to all Shell employees in which the CEO admitted the obvious (emphasis ours):

“Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

He went on to criticize the sluggish response by policymakers to the coming energy crisis:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2008 at 9:17 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

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