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“All business sagacity reduces itself in the last analysis to judicious use of sabotage”*…

 

sabotage

 

Since World War II, US intelligence agencies have devised innovative ways to defeat their adversaries. In 1944, CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), created the Simple Sabotage Field Manual.

This classified booklet described ways to sabotage the US’ World War II enemies. The OSS Director William J. Donovan recommended that the sabotage guidance be declassified and distributed to citizens of enemy states via pamphlets and targeted broadcasts.

Many of the sabotage instructions guide ordinary citizens, who may not have agree with their country’s wartime policies towards the US, to destabilize their governments by taking disruptive actions. Some of the instructions seem outdated; others remain surprisingly relevant. Together they are a reminder of how easily productivity and order can be undermined.

Here’s a list of five particularly timeless tips from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual:

  1. Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

  2. Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.

  3. Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

  4. Telephone: At office, hotel and local telephone switchboards, delay putting calls through, give out wrong numbers, cut people off “accidentally,” or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again.

  5. Transportation: Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an “interesting” argument…

From the CIA, a “classic” that can be read (as Veblen suggests) as a guide to what an executive should avoid in his/her own organization and what s/he might encourage in others: “Timeless Tips for ‘Simple Sabotage’.” Download the full Simple Sabotage Field Manual here.

(TotH to David Perell)

* Thorstein Veblen

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As we muse on the fragility of it all, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that Thomas Edison was gratnted his first patent (U.S. Patent 90,646) for an “electric vote recorder.”  He was in Louisville, KY at the time, where he had as a night shift employee of Western Union, assigned to the Associated Press; Edison preferred graveyard duty, as it left him lots of unsupervised time to read and experiment.  He had been fired a few moths earlier, when one of his projects leaked sulfuric acid onto the floor… where ran between the floorboards and onto his boss’s desk below.   When his vote recorder failed to find a market, Edison moved to the New York City area, where his career as we all know it began in earnest.

vote recorder source

 

Putting magic in the Magic Lantern…

In 1896, a young reporter for the New York Evening World was sent to interview Thomas Edison.  Ever on the make, Edison was concerned to impress the young man, Stuart Blackton, who before turning to journalism, had performed as “The Komical Kartoonist” in vaudeville shows, drawing “lightning sketches.”  Blackton accompanied Edison to his cabin studio, “Black Maria,” for a demonstration of Edison’s new motion picture technology.  Edison used the occasion to make a quick film of Blackton sketching.

The inventor did such a good job selling the new technology that he talked Blackton and a partner into buying a print of the new film, along with nine others, plus a Vitascope to show them to paying audiences.  The new act was a smash, so Blackton started making films of his own own– and the American Vitagraph Company (see also here) was born.

As Vitagraph did well, Blackton began to feel adventurous. And thank goodness he did: in the next few years, Blackton developed and instantiated the basic concepts of animation.

“The Enchanted Drawing” (copyrighted in 1900, but probably made at least a year earlier) depicts Blackton doing his lightning artist act, sketching a face, cigars, and a bottle of wine. He appears to remove the drawings as real objects, and the face appears to react.  The animation here is stop-action (the camera is stopped, a single change is made, and the camera is then started again),  first used by Méliès (who had a different kind of run-in with Edison) and others.

“Humorous Phases of Funny Faces,” completed in 1906, was the first “true” animated film– in that an appreciable part of the action was accomplished with single exposures of drawings, simulating motion (though the film also employed live action, stop motion, and stick puppetry).

Having paved the way for Looney Toons, Merrie Melodies, and the rest of the cartoon cavalcade, Blackton and his partner sold Vitagraph to Warner Bros. in 1925.  (See here for a reminder of Vitagraph’s historical importance to live action films as well.)

(Thanks, Brain Pickings, for the prod.)

As we revel in fond memories of Saturday mornings past, we might recall, in anticipation of this weekend’s Final Four action, that it was on this date in 1906, as Blackton released “Faces,” that the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (subsequently known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA) was established.  When then-president Theodore Roosevelt’s own son, Ted, broke his nose playing football at Harvard, Roosevelt became aware of the growing number of serious injuries and deaths occurring in collegiate football (18 deaths in 05 alone).  He brought the presidents of five major institutions, Army (West Point), Navy (Annapolis), Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to several meetings at the White House in October, 1905 to discuss steps to make college athletics safer; the IAA was the result.

source

For now we see through a glass, darkly…

A computer simulation shows how invisible dark matter coalesces in halos (shown in yellow). Photograph: Science Photo Library, via The Guardian

For all the bright clutter of the night sky, the stars and planets that we see are only about 4% of what’s there.  The balance, scientists believe, is dark matter– an invisible substance that plays a critical role in existence via the gravitational force that it exerts.  The Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky postulated dark matter in 1933, when he noticed that a distant cluster of galaxies would fall apart were it not for the extra gravitational pull of some mysterious unseen mass in space.  Since then, astronomers and cosmologists have wrestled with the idea– and with the challenge of verifying dark matter’s existence.

Now, The Guardian reports, that challenge may have been met:

In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.

Tantalising glimpses of dark matter particles were picked up by highly sensitive detectors at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota, the scientists said.

Dan Bauer, head of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), said the group had spotted two particles with all the expected characteristics of dark matter…

“If they have a real signal, it’s a seriously big deal. The scale on which people are looking for dark matter is vast,” said Gerry Gilmore at Cambridge University’s institute of astronomy. “Dark matter is what created the structure of the universe and is essentially what holds it together. When ordinary matter falls into lumps of dark matter it turns into galaxies, stars, planets and people. Without it, we wouldn’t be here,” Gilmore said…

Read the whole extraordinary story here.

As we slip off our shades, we might it was on this date in 1879 that Thomas Edison first privately demonstrated incandescent lighting at his laboratory in Menlo Park (or “the other Menlo Park,” as it’s known out here in your correspondent’s neck of the woods…)

Illustration from Edison’s patent application

Tempting one’s inner-civil-engineer…

Recently returned from a quick visit to the incandescent oasis that is Las Vegas, your correspondent wishes that he had discovered “The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide” before the trip.

A service of Eating the Road (“On a journey to find out what the American road tastes like”), the Guide is quite comprehensive:  from preparation…

…Meals leading up to the buffet have been debated for ages. My recommendations are a large dinner the night before consisting mostly of light breads and vegetables to expand the stomach. It is also advantageous to drink plenty of liquids, preferably water. This also varies greatly on what time of day your buffet meal is going to be. For a breakfast buffet your larger meal should be the lunch prior with a small dinner. The morning of I would suggest a very small meal containing some sugar in order to get your metabolism up and running. Eat nothing more throughout the day. Liquids are advised, preferably water, as almost a mandatory health concern due to the high sodium content you are about to consume…

through strategy:

Initial scouting: This takes discipline and some patience but will pay off in the end. Be sure to walk the entire length of the buffet including the dessert area. Sometimes you’ll find hidden and unexpected items. Take note of all dishes that you would like to try. With knowledge of the layout and items at handle you can now plan your attack. Some things to consider on your first go around is what items have been freshly placed out and which will be available during your subsequent trips. Make note of the costliest items as well as the most popular.

Grab a dinner plate, this is a must, always use the largest plate they offer…

To “exit strategy”:

You’ll want to be sure that you have no further commitments for at least 3 hours…

With sections on Types of Buffets, Objective, Preparation, Location, Pre-meal Setup, Strategy, Etiquette, Exit Strategy and Post Game, it’s the Baedeker of buffets!

As we consider how to pay for our repasts, we might we might  pause to honor the debut of the stock ticker, that auger of bulls and bears, which clacked for the first time on this date in New York City in 1867…  In a scenario not unknown in these times, the ticker was created by Edward Callahan, who rigged a telegraph to print stock (and gold) prices on streaming paper tape.  But only two years later, Thomas Edison (who had been, we might recall, a telegraph operator) patented a slightly modified version, closed Callahan out of the market, and made his first fortune– the one that financed his laboratory in Menlo Park… from whence the stream of inventions for which Edison is remembered, along with the accompanying stream of patent litigations that generated dominance of one market after another.

Callahan’s Stock Ticker (source: Early Office Museum)

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