Monday, February 27, 2012

A Nasty Little Story

Skillfully wrought...

Roman Polanski's new movie Carnage is based upon the Tony Award-winning comedy God of Carnage written by French playwright Yasmina Reza.

It takes a bitterly cynical thrill in piercing, lifting, then shredding the characters' hypocritical veneers to expose the racism, sexism, classism, and marital discord that suppurates beneath.

Powerful performances by Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet, and John C. Reilly only make the ever more vicious excoriations all the more painful.

Carnage reminds me of the similarly self-indulgent Six Degrees of Separation in that it passes as deep only to people too wrapped up in their hip urban sensibility to realize they are the characters being viciously lampooned.

Not everyone shares my dim regard for Carnage.  I passed on a chance to attend the play at the Guthrie last year because I feared it would be exactly as unpleasant as the movie turned out to be.  For some reason I entertained some hope the movie would be as engaging as it is well done.  Oh well.  When my friend asked if we could leave before it ended I was happy to go.

An Existential Threat?

To the Republic and its Citizens?

While engaging in a LinkedIn discussion at the Workplace Violence group John Byrnes invited us to visit his Aggression Management blog to review a recent post highlighting the difference between probability and predictability in workplace violence cases.

His post used the recently interrupted alleged plot by Amine El Khilifi to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol as an example for his concerns.  My initial response reads as follows:

I respectfully submit that the current Washington DC case is a poor example for your method (or any other) of aggression management. It sounds very much like most other domestic terrorism cases since 9/11 in which the alleged conspiracy was encouraged and supported by a confidential informant working under the direct control of the FBI or other agency to make certain the case contains all the elements necessary for a federal prosecution. What does your system of threat management (or anyone else's) have to say about persons who encourage others to commit unlawful violent activity for the purpose of criminal prosecution?

In his reply John issued a challenge to my perspective.  After further reflection, I wrote:

Rather than missing your point, I regret I did not make my point strongly enough.

What does your program do to detect (if not mitigate) the contribution of “Complicit Tacticians” (whether genuine or embedded by the FBI) as a potential terrorist moves through his stages of aggression?

As for your challenge “Are you prepared to absolutely guarantee that all future Islamic Radical Converts (Lone Wolves) will only approach FBI informants?” I submit that a potential terrorist who is promised cash, collaborators, guns, bombs, and missiles by FBI confidential informants is, by definition, anything but a “lone wolf.” What’s more, while the DOJ and the FBI are careful to craft cases which are resistant to the defense of entrapment, I question the wisdom and ethics of having a CI contribute to the alleged perpetrator’s ideation, encouragement to deadly action, and refinement of the plan, deliberately serving as a “Complicit Tactician,” if I understand your parlance correctly. Law enforcement plays a dangerous and potentially deadly game when it participates in terrorist conspiracies in order to prosecute them.

To that end I’ll issue a counter-challenge. Are federal law enforcement officials prepared to absolutely guarantee that a conspirator encouraged and equipped by a confidential informant will never shake his handler and engage in a murderous act which might never have seen the light of day but for the contributions made by investigators?

In closing, I added:

Finally, on closer inspection, I take issue with your opening statement:

“The greatest threat to our Nation and its Citizens is the perpetrator of murder/suicide, whether a ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorist or simply the individual who shoots his estranged wife at a local supermarket then walks out to the parking lot and kills himself; a phenomenon that we are seeing on the rise in every community.”

By what measure is lone wolf terrorism or intimate partner workplace violence an existential threat to the republic or its citizens? And by what measure do you claim that acts of either type are on the rise in every community?

UPDATE: John responded at the LinkedIn group in part:

"You ask the question, 'By what measure is lone wolf terrorism or intimate partner workplace violence an existential threat to the republic or its citizens?' I have not stated, nor suggested, that lone wolves are an existential threat to our republic. I have stated that among human aggressors, the perpetrator of murder/suicide is the most lethal."

I suppose I could have read his statement that way...maybe I'm getting too twitchy on this topic.  John responded to my other points directly at his blog.  I'm going to reflect further on this.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Work in Progress

You are welcome to tag along as my Secure360 talk takes shape...

Title (nine words maximum)

Mindsets and Toolkits: Thinking Positively About Security

Summary (150 words maximum)

Security managers have personal, professional, and institutional biases that affect the way we see the world, evaluate hazards, and communicate risk.  We’re frequently conservative and hierarchical and more risk averse that the executives who rely on us to guide their business decisions.  Often we’re so focused on making sure bad things don’t happen we forget we are also responsible for making sure the right things do.  This sets us apart from peers in other business disciplines.  We’ll examine the means by which we to approach the security process with a sense of corporate responsibility, critical thinking, and resist using fear as a lever.  We’ll look behind the headlines for important clues for how our mindset is reflected in the way we approach the services we offer and look at skills we can add to our personal, professional, and institutional tool kit that make us more effective business partners.

Bio (100 words maximum)

Michael Brady is a life-long security leadership professional.  He has provided security, safety, and emergency management services at semiconductor and computer manufacturing firms, as an independent security consultant, and as an executive for security service providers.  Currently an account manager, consultant, and trainer for Hannon Security Services Inc, Michael is also an adjunct instructor in the Security Management program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota School of Graduate and Professional Programs.  Michael recently completed his Master of Arts in Human Development degree where he focused on issues of leadership, team building, and problem solving.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bill Whitmore's Book Has Hit the Bookstores

I note with concern that Mr. Whitmore is still using the raw numbers to make his case...

"Every day, on average, two people are killed and 87 injured as a result of a workplace violence incident, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics."

In the mean time BLS 2010 preliminary workplace injury and fatality statistics read as follows...

There were 808 deaths due to "assaults and violent acts" (homicides, suicides, and animal attacks) at work in 2010.

506 work-related homicides in 2010 (1.38 per day, on average).

258 workplace suicides in 2010.

Workplace homicides 2010 were at their lowest since 1992.

Workplace suicides in 2010 were at their third highest since 1992 (2009 and 2008 were first and second highest, respectively).

The very thorough NCCI 2012 report Violence in the Workplace provides more details...

69% of workplace homicides are committed during robberies.

<2% of all workplace injuries are the result of assault.

Perhaps Mr. Whitmore is using the raw numbers to shock consumers into buying his book so they have a chance to absorb his more positive and proactive leadership message.  Perhaps he is concerned that readers would not be so strongly motivated if they knew that killings perpetrated by customers, coworkers, or intimate partners represented 157 deaths in 2010 (3% of all workplace fatalities).

"Every 2.3 days one person is killed in what most people think of as a workplace violence incident." is not nearly so catchy a tagline as one taken from the aggregated statistics (which include robbery-homicides and workplace suicides).

Once Mr. Whitmore hooks his reader does he break down the numbers into the multifaceted problems they represent? Does he address workplace suicide, which accounts for about a third of all workplace deaths due to assaults and violent acts? Does Mr. Whitmore address the 61% of workplace injuries caused by healthcare patients and residents of healthcare facilities?  I'll have to buy Potential: Workplace Violence Prevention and Your Organizational Success and let you know.

Consider it added to my 2012 reading list...

UPDATE: On order 23 February 2012.

REUPDATE: In the mail 25 February 2012. 

UPDATE: Arrived 27 February 2012.  Snappy service; can't tell it was printed on demand.

REUPDATE: Submitted my review of the book to Security Management magazine for their consideration 4 March 2012.

LATEST UPDATE: Security Management had already assigned Whitmore's book to a reader - who has several months to complete it (which means you all won't see it there until later this summer sometime).  Barry Nixon asked if he could publish it in the April issue of The Workplace Violence Prevention eReport, and so he shall.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Silene Stenophylla

Time Traveler...

Ed Yong tells us in his Discover Magazine Not Exactly Rocket Science blog post that the seeds of this flowering plant have "been buried to a depth of 38 metres, and frozen for around 31,800 years" in Russian permafrost.  Reports on the methods by which which this plant was revived from its thirty millennia of slumber are recounted in many media outlets.

What amazes me is how something so hardy could also be so delicate and beautiful. 

Photo credit: Russian Academy of Sciences

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The 2012 Oscar Nominated Short Films

Are a special treat...

My daughter Cassandra suggested we see this year's Oscar nominated short films at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema.  

Last week we saw the animated shorts:

Of them, I probably liked the quirky and sad Wild Life the best.

This weekend we saw the live action:

I'm not sure I could pick a favorite from the live action short films, they were all so good.  

Viewing these movies all in one sitting is a special treat I hope to repeat in the years to come.  These anthologies can be found in a variety of theaters across the country and on iTunes and video on demand service.  Make time to see these gems.


Friday, February 17, 2012

I'll Be Speaking at Secure360 in May

"Mindsets and Toolkits: Thinking Positively About Security" is the working title...

I volunteered to serve as a backup speaker for the Secure360 conference being held at the River Centre in Saint Paul, MN, May 8-9, 2012.  As the contracts were confirmed the coordinator came up short so they asked if I'd fill a programming slot.  I'll be speaking May 9, at 1:30 pm.  As currently and extemporaneously imagined my talk will present several examples which will demonstrate the importance of approaching the business security process with a sense of civic responsibility, critical thinking, and without using fear as a lever to advance the program.  You know, the sort of stuff I'm always going on and on about.  A detailed precis and my bio is due next Tuesday.  Register today!  Stay tuned for more details.  The game is afoot...

Photo credit:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Farthest North

In Nansen's own words...

This is not my copy.  This is an 1898 2nd UK edition, listed for a cool $700.00 at 

So, I needed some comfort today after an afternoon doctor's appointment, for which I had to fast - and not drink any coffee all day! - so I stopped at my favorite used book store.  There it was, Nansen's account - "the first unabridged edition since 1904" - of his attempt to be first to the North Pole!  It was just sitting there, waiting for me, like a leopard on a tree branch.  Fridtjof Nansen was the grand daddy of polar exploration in the heroic age.  He loaned Fram to fellow Norwegian Roald Amundsen to use for his successful bid to be the first to the South Pole in 1911. Unlike the serious collector's only copy, mine cost $5.99. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Midwest Science of Origins Conference

At the University of Minnesota - Morris...

UofM-Morris is a fine little public liberal arts school located in Morris, MN, way out in the middle of the Minnesota prairie.

Students there are hosting a very interesting looking science conference the evening of Friday, March 30, 2012, to Sunday, April 1, 2012.

In the words of its organizers:

"The MSOC strives to inspire the rural communities of the Midwest – its students, its parents and community leaders – to contemplate the scientific origins of the universe, of life, of humans and what it means to be human."

Noble ambitions and a star-studded speakers list will make this the must attend science event of the year in Stevens County.

The MSOC is free* (okay, it'll take at least a tank of gas to get there and back again).  Why not register today?

*Working adults with a little spare cash are encouraged to help defray the costs of this program by donating at the MSOC Chip In.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mistakes Were Made

But Not By Me...

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson has been on my "Must Read" list for some time now.  It came highly recommended and for good reason.  This is a fine book that leads the reader to understand the effect cognitive dissonance - and the means humans employ to minimize it - affects our daily lives in ways great and small.  Well written and very accessible, it's sometimes counter-intuitive message has application to politics, science, the legal system, criminal investigations, critical thinking, and personal relationships.  If you care about the fallout that accompanies self-deception, a sense of entitlement, self-justification, rationalization, and evasion of responsibility, Mistakes Were Made belongs on your bookshelf.  Remember, while we pride ourselves for our rationality, we must also be careful of our tendency toward rationalizing.  The "righter" I am the more careful I must be...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ninety Degrees South

Haunting images from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration...

Chris Willcox
The Lost Men (100 Years Ago), 2011
Acrylic and ink on paper

Cassie and I took a stroll through the Minneapolis Institute of Art today.   There are two new exhibits in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition ProgramStandards is by Mark Ostapchuk, but I'm not schooled enough to fully appreciate abstract art.  The one I wanted to see is 90 Degrees South, by Christine Willcox, Associate Professor of Art at Macalaster College.  She has taken as inspiration the classic photographs from the ill-fated Scott and Shackleton expeditions in the Antarctic.  I have what some have described as a morbid fondness for these stories and I'd say Professor Wilcoxx nailed the ethereal beauty and the numbed emotions of life and death on the ice at the far end of the world.

This fine exhibit runs through April 1, 2012.  

Photo credit:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Private Security Reduces Public Crime?

Whoulda' thunkit?

John Sodaro, at The Crime Report pointed us toward an interesting paper.

The RAND study The Effect of Business Improvement Districts on the Incidence of Violent Crimes suggests that private sector spending on security improvements be considered as part of the reason crime rates continue to fall year over year.

Very interesting news, especially for private sector security professionals.  It only makes sense that effective corporate security programs contribute to the reduction of crime rates in the the communities where companies operate.  It's time private security takes some credit.  Public policing is not the only way to affect crime rates.

Yes, indeed.

Image credit:

There Are Advantages to Working While Others Slumber.

February and March 2012 offers some prime planet spotting opportunities...

Those of you inclined to contemplate the heavens should know that this month and next offer some of the best views of the visible planets this year. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter - known in antiquity as the wandering stars - can all be spotted with only a little help.  Good binoculars are an aid, but you'll want a telescope to resolve the planet's disks and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. Enjoy.

UPDATE: More skywatching details courtesy of Universe Today.

I'm Curious What You Think

Said the late night text, "If you have time give The Parking Lot Movie a watch..."

The Parking Movie, a 2010 documentary by Meghan Eckman, is a surprising engaging treat.  Owned by a relaxed proprietor and staffed by a motley assortment of slackers, grad students, and philosophers the Corner Parking Lot across the street from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, is a microcosm of urban reality, industrial capitalism, and human sociology.  Without overtly trying The Parking Lot Movie contains lessons about leadership, security, self respect, and the abuse of privilege.  You can watch it instantly on NetFlix, unless you quite them in digust.

Thanks for the tip, David.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Reading List For 2012

I'm reading again after a brief post-Master's hiatus...

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang

[If you'd like to become better acquainted with our Hmong neighbors here in the Upper Midwest, or want to see the New American experience through the eyes of a six year old, or simply wish to read an elegantly written, heartfelt memoir, The Latehomecomer is for you. April 2012]


The Qur'an: Arabic Text and English Translation by M.H. Shakir (translator)  I'm also using the M.M. Pickthall translation from iTunes on my iPhone.  Slow going, this.

Forged: Writing in the Name of God--Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Bart D. Ehrman

[Ehrman is always a good read. Forged is no exception.  In fact it's better than some of his earlier work.  So, why do Christians still grant apostolic authority to letters and books of the Bible they know were not written by the apostles?  February 2012]

[In Supersense Canadian research psychologist Bruce Hood does a very thorough job explaining the way the human mind is inclined to attribute essence to inanimate objects or intentionality to mindless physical processes. To that end Supersense is about why we believe in one particular sort of unbelievable - our very natural intuition that unseen forces energize the natural world around us. This tendency explains both the earliest of religious notions - animism - and the slightly more modern concept of the mind-body duality held by both the conventionally religious and the proponent of new age spiritualism. It is not so broad a book as I had expected, but is, on balance, the better for having remained focused.  His newest book, The Self Illusion is on my to read list as well. April 2012]

[If you care about the fallout that accompanies self-deception, entitlement, self-justification, rationalization, and evasion of responsibility, Mistakes Were Made belongs on your bookshelf. February 2012]

[An interesting and perhaps dated perspective on the emergence of human consciousness. Fascinating idea, but not one I find compelling at first read. June 2012]

[This book is not the most focused, but following Harris all over the place can be more enjoyable than reading lesser authors stick to their knitting.  Harris writes with sharp wit and wicked turns of phrase. April 2012]

The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade

[While atheism is the rational position, I find agnosticism more interesting; but it's homo religiosus who has all the fun. December 2012]


[Very interesting stuff. Wish I'd read this before working on the 1600 Amphitheater Parkway campus. February 2012] 

Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age by Robert N. Bellah

[An imposing cathedral of a book, drawing brick by brick from the disciplines of cosmology, paleontology, archeology, biology, neurology, anthropology, mythology, philosophy, theology, politics, and literature to address the role of religion in human history.  I found it very challenging to read and remain engaged with - it took me five months to complete its 606 pages - but I think it will sink in and become part of my thinking on the issues examined.  Whew!  April 2012]


[Every bit the thick and chewy read I expected. Like a decadent chocolate dessert, a little goes a long way. February 2012]


[Very interesting assessment of what we think we know and how little we can hope to know about the early years of Christianity. January 2012]

Night by Elie Wiesel 

[Read this book! January 2012] 

Answer to Job by Carl Jung  

[Job is my favorite character in the Old Testament. In this slim, dense volume Jung takes on Job, Revelation, and the Assumption of Mary from a wildly different point of view. Rich, powerful, challenging stuff. January 2012

Buddha by Karen Armstrong 

[Karen Armstrong has an interesting voice and a non-dogmatic perspective. January 2012]


[I've read most of the stories contained in Meyer's book but it's good to have them all in one volume. January 2012]

Now all I have to do is avoid the temptation to let strays follow me home from library book sales, used book stores, and Barnes & Noble.

Here ends the original list.  What follows are the others I actually read...

Update (7 February 2012): Did a reality check and reduced my reading list to those books I already possess.  Let's see, 10,962 pages divided by the 327 days remaining in 2012 calls for reading 33 pages a day, give or take.  Hmmn...

Oooh, a gift card!  13 February 2012...

Found a B&N giftcard so I've put Principles of Neurotheology by Andrew Newberg back on the list.  This book buying thing, it's like a sickness.  I can't help myself...

[Andrew Newberg's latest, Principles of Neurotheology, which he describes as a "principia" for this nascent field which he has done much to advance, left me cold for most of its 266 pages (it felt like many more before I checked).]

Once Mr. Whitmore hooks his reader with lurid taglines does he break down the raw workplace injury and fatality numbers into the multifaceted problems they represent? Does he address robbery-homicide?  Does he address workplace suicide?  Does Mr. Whitmore address the majority of workplace injuries caused by healthcare patients and residents of healthcare facilities?  I am buying Potential: Workplace Violence Prevention and Your Organizational Success and will let you know.  [March 2012]

UPDATE: I placed my order with Barnes & Noble. Potential is a print-on-demand product, so it will take a week or so to get here. As a Reader's Advantage member I get free express shipping and the B&N discount price of $18.76 (25% off the $24.95 MSRP). Interesting technology. Stay tuned.

REUPDATE: Submitted my review of the book to Security Management magazine for their consideration 4 March 2012.

LATEST UPDATE: Security Management had already assigned Whitmore's book to a reader - who has several months to complete it (which means you all won't see it there until later this summer sometime). Barry Nixon asked if he could publish it in the April issue of The Workplace Violence Prevention eReport, and so he shall.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Barry asked for a kinder, gentler version of my review.  I sent him one but have not heard whether it will be included in the eReport...

I was dog and cat sitting when I finished Supersense so I started God Against the Gods instead of waiting to get home to my 2012 bookshelf.  So, that will make 32 books I plan to read this year.  I can't help myself...

[God Against the Gods describes the unhappy and ultimately terminal interaction between monotheism and polytheism, especially as the latter waned under the influence of Constantine and later Roman emperors as Christianity became the state religion starting in the 4th century.  April 2012] 

[A worthy successor to the classic, Risk Analysis and the Security Survey, by James F. Broder. April 2012]

Anthropomorphisms, by

[A Goodreads giveaway.  April 2012]

Introduction to Investigations by John S. Dempsey

[It's written at the tech school/undergrad level which is okay but sometimes the author comes across as a Baby Boomer who is trying a little too hard to be hip for the youngsters. I recommend it for instruction with those minor caveats.  April 2012]

Feast by R. Scott McCoy

[Written by peer security professional R. Scott McCoy.  April 2012] 

The Crucible of Time, by John Brunner

[June 2012] 

Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History? by  

[July, 2012]

[Grant Duwe's 2007 book, Mass Murder in the United States: A History, is a fine piece of scholarship.  If you would have an opinion on this topic you owe it to yourself, your clients, and your community to read this book. July 2012]

[In some ways Conceiving God is David Lewis-Williams' most personal book to date.  There is an edge to his early and closing chapters that theists (and some accommodationists) may find off-putting, but Lewis-Williams is not nearly so abrasive as some of the new atheists and he's a better writer.  On balance I found his work bracing and a welcome return to the cave where our humanity took form. August 2012]

[Surprisingly evenhanded and accessible. August 2012]

Destination Mars: New Explorations of the Red Planet, by Rod Pyle 

[A Goodreads giveaway. August 2012]

[Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is excellent science fiction and a strong piece of storytelling.  It has so much to say about the nature of leadership that anyone with personal or professional responsibility for others who has not read it should. September 2012]


[Were the gospels "performed stories of faith rather than factual histories?"  Makes sense to me, especially after reading Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite, by L. Michael White October 2012]  

The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age by Richard Rudgley 

[A fascinating examination of the period between the Upper Paleolithic Revolution and our earliest historical knowledge. November 2012]

A friend invited me to read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and made a gift to me of a spare copy.    

[Clever is not always compelling.  November 2012]

I signed up for a GoodReads giveaway for Freedom Club.  I didn't win the drawing, but was pleased and surprised to receive an email from the author Saul Garnell who offered me an e-book download with his compliments.  Very cool!   

[Cleverly plotted, Freedom Club features a variety of engaging characters and a story that is a plausible extrapolation of current social and technological trends.  Along the way we are treated to some moral ambiguity and and several very effective action scenes.  Garnell's writing reminds more than a little of early Neal Stephenson, December 2012]

I'm only a couple chapters into Rats, Lice, and History by Hans Zinsser and it's already one of the best popular books on science I've ever read.

[Rats, Lice, and History should be read by anyone who is interested in history, biology, or literature.  December 2012]

Cairns: Messengers in Stone, by David B. Williams  A Goodreads giveaway.

Embassytown, by China MievilleRecommended and loaned to me by a friend with very good taste.

[Wow!  If you love science fiction or fine writing read Embassytown.   It's both.  December 2012] 

Muses, Madmen, and Prophets by Daniel B. Smith

[A brisk and compelling read.  Smith has a gift for making an ancient story current and a complex story accessible.]

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest