Lying to oneself is called optimism bias. It means we imagine best-case scenarios and hope issues can be controlled, even as things go off the rails.

Lying to others is what leading scholar Bent Flyvbjerg calls strategic misrepresentation. Large projects sometimes incentivize fudging both the costs and the benefits, like giving overly sunny ridership projections for a transit project, in order to win public and political support.

Sarah-Joyce Battersby, “Why big infrastructure projects always go over budget — and what to do about it“, Ottawa Metro, March 21, 2017.

So “strategic” to know that what one says to others, or believes about self, is contrary to the facts. Less able to appreciate, when referenced to self? Though how much are “facts” a function of perception or context; at what point is one objectively lying?

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Yielding, like ice about to melt.

Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows:

I was a lousy chess player (went from C class to Candidate Master over 15-20 years) but very determined. I learned to defend and counterattack. I learned how to exploit small advantages and maneuver in even positions, how to mark time till the opponent made a mistake, how to treasure a draw because it wasn’t a loss. How to spring from inactivity for the throat if the opportunity presented. How to feel bad after but not during. None of this chess technique is of any use in real life, but as attitudes and patience, it’s like Lao Tzu describing crossing the ice, alert to any crackling signalling danger. Careful. Alert. Ready.

The thing to do when you are impatient is turn to your left and ask advice from your death.

I learned as businessman that it’s personal. Defeat and death lurk at every corner, the same as driving down the highway. Every second, the risk of a wrong tug on the steering wheel, and you’re dead. It’s like Castaneda says Don Juan says, death rides at your shoulder. Every action can lead to your death. When you throw yourself into action, it should be wholehearted (like the Spartan phalanx) but in many cases, you manoeuvre and dabble to test the water. I believe with the Chinese that “non action” is often the best action. And you should never do it because someone just says “I dare you.” And you should do it clean. Ambush is fine, but not dishonest. People should be able to count on your word, absolutely.

To live as though he’s already dead, he gains freedom in the Way.

And if you could die, even just figuratively, or if you’re already dead as the Samurai believed, then if they force you, you should really fight to win wholeheartedly-passionately , even if you make it appear you are the reasonable one doing only the necessary against your own will.

But nonviolence is best. You should do everything you can to preserve (and win) the peace with soft power, or just trying to get along. You should do absolutely everything you can (“what would Jesus do?”) to win or coexist the peace and avoid what you absolutely will likely do, if forced to fight. It’s the Chinese meta-strategy to win the peace through soft power.

It’s totally not in Porter, or otherwise in Western business strategy. It’ll be in my new text, 10th edition, though.

I guess I’m a good Strategy prof. Full of this shit. Lots to teach.

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Don Stevenson: So much later

Don Stevenson at 74, having relocated to Toronto. Speaking about how he writes so much more when older.

As he then was, some 50 years ago, on drums:

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So much less tiring

From an article by Andrew Marton, “Finally it’s time to meet the real Raquel”, Fort Worth Star Telegram, via Globe and Mail, August 28, 2001, p. R2, in relation to the transformation of Raquel Welch, as exemplified in her role in the move Tortilla Soup, about which she says:

It’s just great that in the middle of a summer full of Tomb Raiders and Jurassic Parks, here comes this little nice move just about people. …However odd this might sound, it is so much less tiring to play a real character, with more human qualities, as opposed to all the one-dimensional parts I had before.

In Tortilla Soup, Raquel Welch plays a grandmother:

And as she was before:

So much less tiring to play a real character, with more human qualities

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Words in Context

Asked my legal colleague if she was a better family law lawyer, now that she had gone through her own divorce.

She agreed.

Know a fair bit about estates, both in terms of law practice and in terms of the death of both parents. Know a fair bit about estates, and estate-referenced tensions. All the emotions from decades past coming out.

The rawness.

The insults.

The grievances.

Advise my clients that just about everyone in the family will be out of their minds for at least a year, following such death. Anything that anyone says in such context must be discounted. Almost 100% discounted.

Otherwise, one is into madness-based litigation, where lawyers will be feeding off the corpus of the estate.

Same thing happens when marriages collapse. First issue, for many lawyers, is how much equity is left in the matrimonial home. The corpus of the feed.

Similar to a death in a family, a divorce involves its own particular death, with similar madness in the reactions.

Sometimes clients see where I am coming from, and heed the advice. No rampup, no castigation.

Sometimes they don’t, and I hand off the file.

I know where matters will lead, and don’t want to be a witness, if not a party, to the roilings.

All love gone

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When the research matters

Came across article by James Pasternak, a journalist before he became a Toronto city councillor, “Wal-Mart wave: he told you so”, Financial Post, August 28, 2001, p. C2, concerning the research of economics professor Kenneth Stone. In 1988, Stone researched the impact on the retail competition of the opening of a Wal-Mart. His paper, “The Effect of Wal-Mart Stores on Businesses in Host Towns and Surrounding Towns in Iowa“, completed in 1988, but never published in an academic journal, it appears. nonetheless resonated with many, resulting in a 10 year focus that was not primarily as a taxpayer-paid professor. His conclusion was that approximately 75% of Wal-Mart’s sales were sales that were taken away from an existing retailer in the area.

The paper

…launched Mr. Stone on a 10-year odyssey that included 600 speeches in five countries. …By the early 1990s, As Wal-Mart carved up the retail frontier in middle America, Mr. Stone was getting 10 to 15 calls a day from media outlets, corporations and business associations, for comments and advice. By the mid-1990s, the daily volume of calls increased to between 25 and 30, and Mr. Stone was delivering about 100 seminars a year at a top fee of US$7,000, plus expenses. …Since 1998, Mr. Stone’s phone has become quieter. Last year, he delivered only 20 to 25 seminars at about US$1,000 each. …“Frankly [although] I wasn’t consciously doing it, I suspect I was short changing my job a little bit And now I have assignments that are much more demanding here at the university. So it probably [is] just as well [things] have slowed down,” says Mr. Stone.

The academic who cashes in, and turns his full-time academic job into an excellent source of full-time income for part-time work. Where that full-time academic job normally requires at least 40% dedication to taxpayer-funded research. And where universities, for reasons unknown, do not insist that they have a right to share in the lucrative “sideline” consulting income that is referenced to a university position and, in many cases, the use of university resources. How many universities insist that they have a right to share in textbook copyrights, and related profits?

Well, he is now professor emeritus, retired as of 2007, honoured for research relating to a paper that was never published. He has a new co-author, Dr. Georgeanne Artz, with whom there are a few refereed co-authored academic publications, and they are finding that “Walmart has been an overall retail boon for small Iowa towns with Walmart stores and the drain on surrounding towns has stabilized”.


Well, he may have been described in the newspaper article as “Mr.”, but he also has a doctorate, University of Illinois, 1976.

Though his university association was more that of a “Mr.”, where the university becomes the base of highly lucrative activities elsewhere.

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The Method is

In relation to “Why don’t the raw data match what was reported in a chemistry paper?”, published in Retraction Watch, relating to academic fraud, Neil Remington Abramson commented as follows:

There is an avalanche of papers being retracted from scientific journals – even top journals – because the reported findings are inconsistent with the data collected. Authors may be falsifying their evidence to produce the kinds of excellent and significant results needed to get top journal hits. Without these hits, a scholar who has spent 5-7 years getting his/Her PhD and 7-8 years on probation as an untenured faculty member, will not obtain tenure. They will lose their professorship and possibly the value of all those years.

A 2015 study of 100 research articles published in top psychology journals found that the majority’s findings could not be replicated when similar methods were employed. Then the study criticising the studies had its own problem with replication. The initial study conclusions: Either results reported as significant were no longer significant, or not nearly as significant as originally reported. However, maybe the initial study’s findings aren’t that significant.

“Significant” means that a result is so extreme that it could not have happened by chance. P >.001 means it could only happen by chance less than 1 in a thousand times. P > .01 or .05 means less than 1 in a hundred, or 5 in a hundred chances.

Less than a thousand is far more likely to interest a top journal than less than a hundred. The difference is only one “0” and could make the difference between a long successful professorial career, or 12-15 wasted years pursuing a career that was not to be.

You can understand why someone would be tempted do it. You shouldn’t do it however, and we profs are trained not to. It’s unethical and it perverts and undermines science. Anyone caught doing it should be terminated, if it’s proven.

Though proven on the balance or probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt? That’s significant, as well.

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