Did you hear the one about the tax lawyer who told a joke?

Funny, that. Most of the tax lawyers I know have a robust and highly developed sense of humour. Some of them have even been known to suddenly burst out laughing with no discernible external provocation. Prima facie, my experience conflicts with the published opinion (vide supra)* of cartoonist-at-law** David Mills that “tax lawyers” are not “funny”. After extensive research, however, I can exclusively reveal that tax lawyers actually have the last laugh. Why? Because the other lawyers don’t understand the joke!


** [and U.S. federal appellate attorney]

Doc shock

A couple of “random” numbers caught my attention this week:

The examiner’s report on Lehman Brothers takes up 2,292 pages from start to finish (add to that another 1,813 pages if you include the 34 appendices).

Meanwhile, as confirmed by a letter in The Economist this week, the documents amassed as evidence in AMD’s antitrust case against Intel (settled in the US last year) accounted for a staggering 200 million pages.


Making peace with negative numbers

The eminent linguistic philosopher J. L. Austin of Oxford once gave a lecture in which he asserted that there are many languages in which a double negative makes a positive, but none in which a double positive makes a negative – to which the Columbia philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, sitting in the audience, sarcastically replied, “Yeah, yeah.”

From a fascinating article entitled “The Enemy of My Enemy” by Steven Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University, in The New York Times.

Hat tip: The Computational Legal Studies Blog

Mind Mapping Software, 1977-style!

Mind mapping software is getting more and more attention these days, and Chuck Frey does a great job of keeping us all up-to-date with the latest ideas and developments on his Mind Mapping Software Blog. But back in the days when I started studying computer science, if I’d heard the words “mind mapping software”, I might have interpreted them a little differently. Just for fun, I thought I’d show you how I was “mind mapping Software” back in 1977 (together with Hardware and Applications). This is a mind map I drew in June 1977 to summarise my first-year Computer Science course at Aston University. 

UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2020: Time marches on – and so does software development! Chuck Frey is still going strong, and he recently took part in a fascinating and informative conversation with Liam Hughes of Biggerplate that will be of interest to anyone who has been involved with mind mapping software over the years. Watch it here: Interview with Chuck Frey.

Meanwhile, my pioneering 1977 mind map recently appeared in a video presentation I made for a new Facebook group, “The Mind Mapping Expert Group”. In this 15-minute video, I discuss my personal history with mind mapping and include several examples of practical applications of mind mapping: Graham's Mind Mapping Story
If you’re interested in developing your mind mapping skills, I would encourage you to explore The Mind Mapping Expert Group.

As a Scot who has recently returned home after many years away, I was interested to learn that the people behind MindGenius, a mind mapping application popular in project management, are also based in Scotland. The MindGenius team have just published a timely article entitled How To Set Productive Goals using Mind Maps? I think you will find it instructive.

To be continued...!

My First iMindMap Mind Map

Not my first-ever mind map, of course (I’ve been using the technique since 1974), but here is the first mind map I produced when I started playing around with iMindMap software in March 2008:

It seemed a natural way to record my spontaneous reactions on using the software for the first time. (“Mr Pattern Man” is a reference to a cartoon character who appeared – together with Mr Linear Man – in the original BBC television series Use Your Head.) I dedicated this mind map to Tony Buzan, who was quick to point out the key role of Chris Griffiths at Buzan Online Ltd in making the product a reality. So it’s “kudos” to Chris and his development team, too! In fact, I like this product so much that I bought two licences and decided to join the affiliate programme...

“Heating” the headlines

An Israeli newspaper recently quoted France’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, as saying that Israel might “eat” Iran! It transpired that the word Mr Kouchner, speaking in English, actually used was “hit”. But the letter “h” is often silent in French, and to the ears of at least one listener the sound corresponded phonetically to the word “eat”.

Fortunately, the error was quickly corrected. But there is another worrying aspect to this incident: According to a BBC report, the newspaper stated, when apologising for the misunderstanding, that the transcription had been cleared by the Foreign Minister’s office before it was published.

If you’ve got something important to communicate in writing, remember you can never be too careful. Don’t overlook the importance of proofreading and verification of even the “simplest” details.

Otherwise, you might find yourself having to eat your words.

The buck stops here

(Or, as one manager insisted on putting it: “The buck ends here”. Oh dear! Let’s move on...)

Still musing on Seth Godin’s superb piece The posture of a communicator, I was reminded of the “parting shot” printed on the old Job Instruction Cards issued in the United States during the Second World War by the Training Within Industry Service (TWI):

Well, as everybody knows, we’ve “come a long way” since then. In some respects, industrial production and personnel management have changed almost beyond recognition – while other more subtle aspects are also ripe for reassessment in an age when the “wired” (but “wireless”?) hybrid consumer is not only your customer but also your valued employee. (Seth Godin also shares a helpful perspective along these lines in a recent post entitled Marketing HR.) But that little Job Instruction Card managed to encapsulate the essence of good instructional practice, and its timeless principles are still – literally – instructive much further afield.

If you’re interested in “learning” more about TWI (past and present), here is quite a good place to start.

And thanks again, Seth, for giving the discussion on this vital topic such a memorable kick-start!

Write on, Seth!

“If you buy my product but don’t read the instructions, that’s not your fault, it’s mine.”

And if you’re serious about wanting to get your message across, Seth Godin has some excellent advice you can’t afford to ignore. Read on and adopt The posture of a communicator. You’ll be glad you did.

Tony Buzan – how it all began

I still vividly remember the first time I saw Tony Buzan on BBC TV talking about an intriguing new way of taking notes using special diagrams called “brain patterns”. I immediately started using his revolutionary techniques at school, with excellent results. (There’s plenty more to add, but for now we’ll fast-forward thirty-something years...) Today, Tony Buzan is still going strong – and there are millions of “mind mappers” around the world. The man’s a genius. And, as anybody who has met him will tell you, he’s on a mission to share his formula far and wide!