Both Insourcing and Outsourcing Can Be Successful Strategies

(p. A13) n “Profit From the Source,” four Europe-based partners at Boston Consulting Group—Christian Schuh, Wolfgang Schnellbächer, Alenka Triplat and Daniel Weise—make the case for drastic change. Procurement, they assert, has been badly neglected: “When the boss offers someone a job in procurement, they know they’re on the fast track to nowhere.” Top executives, they claim, spend far too little time with suppliers, even though purchasing swallows more than half of the average company’s budget. “That’s a mismatch with potentially existential consequences,” they write. Instead, they insist, companies should put procurement at the center of corporate strategy.

. . .

Serving up familiar stories about the likes of Apple and Tesla, the authors write admiringly: “The world’s most successful companies . . . make virtually nothing themselves. They are, in effect, the consumer-facing, brand-owning centripetal force at the core of a business ecosystem.” But many companies have been moving in the opposite direction. In recent years, Facebook (now Meta) began designing chips for the servers in its data centers; Costco built a slaughterhouse to ensure its stores’ supply of chickens; and Cleveland-Cliffs bought steel mills to supply from its iron mines. Much of the business world seems to think that outsourcing has gone too far. Should the chief procurement officer help identify ways to bring parts of the supply chain back in house? The authors don’t say.

For the full review, see:

Marc Levinson. “BOOKSHELF; Consider The Supplier.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 29, 2022): A13.

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs, added; ellipsis within paragraph, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 28, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Profit From the Source’ Review: Consider the Supplier.”)

The book under review is:

Schuh, Christian, Wolfgang Schnellbacher, Alenka Triplat, and Daniel Weise. Profit from the Source: Transforming Your Business by Putting Suppliers at the Core. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2022.

Claremont Censors Professor for Quoting Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

The courageous and decent hero of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is the black slave Jim. To censor this work because of its vocabulary, spectacularly misses Mark Twain’s point. How many of those who censor Huckleberry Finn have actually read Huckleberry Finn?

(p. A15) Claremont, Calif.

I teach at Claremont McKenna College, the No. 1-ranked liberal-arts college for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. FIRE may need to consider its ratings.

On Oct. 4, 2021, my class discussed Plato’s “Republic” and his views about censorship. A student objected that Plato was mistaken about its necessity. Here in the U.S., she said, there is none. Someone brought up “Huckleberry Finn.” She replied, correctly, that removing a book from curriculums doesn’t constitute censorship. I pointed out that the case was more complicated. The book had also been removed from libraries and published in expurgated editions.

An international student asked me why. I told her, quoting Mark Twain’s precise language, which meant speaking the N-word.

. . .

. . ., the dean enlisted the help of both the department chairman and a co-director of the college’s Open Academy program—a resource center that describes its purpose as “to counter the forces that are pulling us apart with educational strategies that bring us together”—to ban me from teaching any required courses in the future, seemingly into perpetuity.

. . .

The administration’s behavior toward me and two similar cases in the literature department seem to show that CMC sets the bounds of faculty speech arbitrarily. This spring, a literature adjunct read aloud and asked students to discuss a passage from “The Color Purple” that contained the N-word. They complained. Ms. Antecol summoned the adjunct, who apologized and agreed to undergo recommended counseling. The professor submitted to re-education and training in critical race theory. Despite all this—and a glowing recommendation by the faculty member who observed her course—the class the adjunct was set to teach at CMC in the fall was abruptly canceled.

When a tenured literature professor, who is also well-connected to the board of trustees and the media, committed a similar offense, he received no penalty. Last fall the professor assigned Robert Lowell’s poem “For the Union Dead,” which contains the N-word. When he played in class a recording of Lowell reading the poem, a student exploded, excoriating both author and teacher as old white men. The associate vice president for diversity and inclusion informed the professor by telephone, not in writing, that he was in the clear because he hadn’t himself read the forbidden word aloud in class.

The effects of the administration’s actions are disastrous and lasting. Students, already fearful to speak their minds, become even more so when they see that certain peers can veto the content of courses and conduct of teachers arbitrarily.

. . .

My job as a teacher is to oppose ignorance wherever it manifests itself. If a dean promotes the work of Daniele da Volterra, Pope Paul IV’s painter of fig leaves, I have no choice but to stand for the original of Michelangelo. And so must I stand for the original works of Mark Twain and Frederick Douglass, exactly as written by their authors. They deserve that, as do my students.

For the full commentary see:

Christopher Nadon. “Censorship at a Top College for Free Speech.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 22, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

A thrifty edition of Mark Twain’s humane masterpiece is:

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994 [1885].

Musk Says World Needs More Oil, Gas, and Nuclear Power

(p. A8) Tesla Inc. TSLA 3.60%▲ boss Elon Musk told European energy leaders that the world needs more oil and natural gas and should continue operating nuclear power plants while investing heavily in renewable energy sources.

“I think we actually need more oil and gas, not less, but simultaneously moving as fast as we can to a sustainable energy economy,” Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive and largest shareholder, told a conference in Stavanger, Norway.

Mr. Musk said work on developing battery-storage technology is key to making the most of investments in wind, solar and geothermal energy. “I’m also pronuclear,” Mr. Musk said.

“We should really keep going with the nuclear plants. I know this may be an unpopular view in some quarters. But I think if you have a well-designed nuclear power plant, you should not shut it down, especially right now,” he said.

For the full story see:

Jenny Strasburg. “Musk Says the World Needs More Oil, Gas.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022): A8.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 29, 2022, and has the title “Elon Musk Says World Needs More Oil and Gas.”)

Kamoya Saw What Others Missed, Not by Magic, but by “An Invaluable Accumulation of Skill and Knowledge”

(p. A24) Kamoya Kimeu, the son of a goat herder whose preternatural gift for spotting and identifying petrified tibias, skull fragments and other ancient human remains among the arid, rocky badlands of East Africa won him acclaim as the world’s greatest fossil hunter, died on July 20 [2022] in Nairobi, Kenya.

. . .

“Digging human bones was associated with witchcraft,” he told The Christian Science Monitor in 2009. “It was a taboo in African custom. But I was just a young adventurous man, eager to travel and discover things.”

The Leakeys, and especially Mary Leakey, Louis’s wife, soon recognized Mr. Kamoya’s aptitude, not just at finding fossils but identifying them; they began to offer him lessons in paleontology, evolutionary theory and excavating techniques.

“At the end of each day looking for fossil bones, I sat down with Louis Leakey, and he taught me to tell which bones belonged to which animal and how to tell if they were hominid, and people that led to us,” Mr. Kamoya told New African Magazine in 2000. “I asked: ‘How do you find them?’ He said, ‘It’s just luck. We can find them.’ Then I tried very hard. I was very keen. Then I started to find them.”

. . .

Mr. Kamoya’s most significant find came in 1984, on an expedition around Kenya’s Lake Turkana with Richard Leakey and Alan Walker, an anthropologist from Penn State.

One day Mr. Kamoya went out for a walk along the waterless Nariokotome River. Among the small stones and clumps of dirt he spotted what looked like a matchbook-size skull fragment — Homo erectus, he surmised, an extinct hominid species.

He radioed Mr. Leakey, who came to look. Soon the whole team was involved in a monthslong excavation that ultimately revealed a near-complete skeleton of a juvenile Homo erectus.

. . .

“To some of our visitors who are inexperienced in fossil-hunting, there is something almost magical in the way Kamoya or one of his team can walk up a slope that is apparently littered with nothing more than pebbles and pick up a small fragment of black, fossilized bone, announcing that it is, say, part of the upper forelimb of an antelope,” Richard Leakey told an interviewer with his family’s foundation in 2019. “It is not magic, but an invaluable accumulation of skill and knowledge.”

. . .

“Many people do not like this work because it is hard to understand,” he told The New York Times in 1995. “It is very hard work. It is very hot, walking and sitting with animals like mosquitoes, snakes, lions. I like looking.”

For the full obituary see:

Clay Risen. “Kamoya Kimeu Dies; Uncovered Treasures That Framed Evolution.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Aug. 24, 2022): A24.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Sept. 1, 2022, and has the title “Kamoya Kimeu, Fossil-Hunting ‘Legend’ in East Africa, Is Dead.”)

Trang Almost Did Not Perform Simple Experiment Because “People Would Have Known This Already”

(p. D3) A team of scientists has found a cheap, effective way to destroy so-called forever chemicals, a group of compounds that pose a global threat to human health.

The chemicals — known as PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are found in a spectrum of products and contaminate water and soil around the world. Left on their own, they are remarkably durable, remaining dangerous for generations.

Scientists have been searching for ways to destroy them for years. In a study, published Thursday [Aug. 18, 2022] in the journal Science, a team of researchers rendered PFAS molecules harmless by mixing them with two inexpensive compounds at a low boil. In a matter of hours, the PFAS molecules fell apart.

. . .

At the end of a PFAS molecule’s carbon-fluorine chain, it is capped by a cluster of other atoms. Many types of PFAS molecules have heads made of a carbon atom connected to a pair of oxygen atoms, for example.

Dr. Dichtel came across a study in which chemists at the University of Alberta found an easy way to pry carbon-oxygen heads off other chains. He suggested to his graduate student, Brittany Trang, that she give it a try on PFAS molecules.

Dr. Trang was skeptical. She had tried to pry off carbon-oxygen heads from PFAS molecules for months without any luck. According to the Alberta recipe, all she’d need to do was mix PFAS with a common solvent called dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, and bring it to a boil.

“I didn’t want to try it initially because I thought it was too simple,” Dr. Trang said. “If this happens, people would have known this already.”

An older grad student advised her to give it a shot. To her surprise, the carbon-oxygen head fell off.

It appears that DMSO makes the head fragile by altering the electric field around the PFAS molecule, and without the head, the bonds between the carbon atoms and the fluorine atoms become weak as well. “This oddly simple method worked,” said Dr. Trang, who finished her Ph.D. last month and is now a journalist.

For the full commentary see:

Carl Zimmer. “MATTER; Fighting Forever Chemicals With Chemicals.” The New York Times (Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022): D3.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 18, 2022, and has the title “MATTER; Forever Chemicals No More? PFAS Are Destroyed With New Technique.”)

The research summarized in the passages quoted above was published in:

Trang, Brittany, Yuli Li, Xiao-Song Xue, Mohamed Ateia, K. N. Houk, and William R. Dichtel. “Low-Temperature Mineralization of Perfluorocarboxylic Acids.” Science 377, no. 6608 (Aug. 18, 2022): 839-45.

Nobody Wanted to Buy Tony Fadell’s Early Inventions

(p. C7) Tony Fadell began his Silicon Valley career in 1991 at General Magic, which he calls “the most influential startup nobody has ever heard of.” He sketches his early persona as the all-too-typical engineering nerd dutifully donning an interview suit only to be told to ditch the jacket and tie before the meeting begins. He started at the bottom, building tools to check the work of others, many of whom just happened to be established legends from the original Apple Macintosh team.

General Magic failed at its ambitious goal: to create demand for its ingenious hand-held computer at a time when most people didn’t know they needed a computer at all. In other words, though the company had a great product, the product didn’t solve a pressing problem for consumers. Mr. Fadell offers candid reasons why such a smart group of people could have overlooked this basic market reality. Relaying the “gut punch of our failure,” he describes what it’s like “when you think you know everything (p. C8) then suddenly realize you have no idea what you’re doing.”

Four years later, Mr. Fadell landed as chief technology officer at Philips, the 300,000-employee Dutch electronics company, where he had a big title, a new team, a budget and a mission: The company was going to make a hand-held computer for now-seasoned desktop users who were beginning to see the need for a mobile device. Using Microsoft Windows CE as the operating system, it launched the Philips Velo in 1997. This was a $599.99 “personal digital assistant”—keyboard, email, docs, calendar, the works—in a friendly 14-ounce package. All the pieces were there, the author writes, except “a real sales and retail partnership.” No one—not Best Buy, not Circuit City, not Philips itself—knew how to sell the product, or whom to sell it to. So here was another “lesson learned via gut punch”: There is a lot more to a successful product than a good gadget, even an excellent one.

. . .

He uses his problem-solution-failure style to share stories about how he built the Nest thermostat and the Nest Labs company—from fundraising, building a retail channel and navigating patent litigation to marketing, packaging and customer support.

The best moments in this section, and perhaps the most difficult for Mr. Fadell to write, are about the acquisition of Nest by Google. He pulls no punches in describing what an outsider might call a botched venture integration. Google paid $3.2 billion for Nest in 2014 but within two years began to consider selling. “In utter frustration,” Mr. Fadell walked away. The lessons in these pages are as much for big companies acquiring startups as they are for the startups being acquired.

For the full review, see:

Steven Sinofsky. “Running The Tortuous ‘Idea Maze’.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 18, 2022): C7-C8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 17, 2022, and has the title “‘Build’ Review: Failure Is the Mother of Invention.”)

The book under review is:

Fadell, Tony. Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making. New York: Harper Business, 2022.

Gun Inventors Were “Inveterate Tinkerers”

(p. A17) Whenever I hear the name Smith & Wesson, I think of the scene in the film “Sudden Impact” when Clint Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callahan confronts a group of would-be robbers. “We’re not just gonna let you walk out of here,” Callahan tells them. When one of the crooks asks, “Who’s we, sucker?” Callahan responds, in classic Dirty Harry fashion: “Smith, and Wesson, and me.”

In “Gun Barons: The Weapons That Transformed America and the Men Who Invented Them,” John Bainbridge Jr. chronicles the rise of America’s greatest gunmakers—among them Colt, Remington, Winchester and, yes, Smith and Wesson. Many of these American armorers began as inveterate tinkerers in small workshops along the Connecticut River during the mid-19th century, in a region that could be called early industrial America’s fertile crescent. While some of these inventors were focused on rifles and others on handguns, they all shared the same goal: to design a repeating firearm and a reliable, waterproof cartridge containing bullet, gunpowder and ignition device, making it possible to fire shot after shot without needing to reload.

. . .

. . . there was the Volition Repeater, invented in 1847 by Walter Hunt, the creator of the household safety pin. Hunt’s rifle, in theory, could be loaded with up to a dozen cartridges underneath its long barrel. But the complex loading mechanism “never worked quite right,” so Hunt sold his patent and left it to others to perfect his idea. “With this would-be firearm, Walter Hunt had made the nation’s future but not his own,” Mr. Bainbridge tells us. “Among those who benefited from Walter Hunt’s genius were Oliver Winchester, Horace Smith, and Daniel Baird Wesson. None of these gun barons possessed the broadly inventive mind of Walter Hunt, yet all would eclipse Hunt while taking advantage of his pioneering work in weaponry.”

For the full review, see:

Mark Yost. “BOOKSHELF; Repeat Inventors.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, May 19, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the essay has the date May 18, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Gun Barons’ Review: Repeat Inventors.”)

The book under review is:

Bainbridge, John, Jr. Gun Barons: The Weapons That Transformed America and the Men Who Invented Them. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2022.

Miami Mayor Welcomes Private Enterprise with Public Safety, Low Taxes, and Few Regulations

(p. A15) On one side, we have the socialist model: high taxes, high regulation, less competition and declining public services with government imposing itself as the solver and arbiter of all social problems. On the other side, we have the Miami model: low taxes, low regulation and a commitment to public safety and private enterprise. The models present a stark choice on issues ranging from personal freedom, economic opportunity, public safety and the role of government.

. . .

In Miami, many residents have personally experienced the socialist model along with its symptoms of hyperinflation, class resentment and stagnant growth. Four years ago Miami residents elected me to pursue a different path. We reduced taxes dramatically, and our revenue base doubled. We invested in our police, and our crime rate dropped. And last week we reduced taxes to their lowest level in history—cutting costs for residents and promoting economic growth.

Miami is a place where you can keep what you earn, invest what you save, and own what you build. We are meeting the high demand of rent costs by encouraging public-private partnerships, activating underutilized land through zoning reforms, and harnessing free-market forces to build more. It works, and our new residents from New York and California can confirm it.

For the full commentary see:

Francis X. Suarez. “Miami Takes On the Socialist Model.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Aug. 22, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 21, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Anxiety Increases “Ability to Focus”

(p. C1) In a pair of studies published in the journal Emotion by Jeffrey Birk, myself and colleagues in 2011, we induced anxiety in young adults by asking them to vividly imagine being a passenger in a car accident and helping injured people in its aftermath. Compared with a second group who experienced a happy mood induction, the anxious group showed a greater ability to focus and control their attention during a computerized assessment.

Over the past decade, research has also shown something that many scientists didn’t expect: higher levels of dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, when we’re anxious. We have long known that dopamine spikes when an experience is pleasurable and also in anticipation of such rewards, activating brain areas that motivate and prepare us. The fact that anxiety also boosts dopamine levels points to its role in making positive possibilities into reality.

. . .

(p. C2) . . ., there are many ways to use anxiety to create a deeper sense of personal fulfillment. Beginning in 1938, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running and most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever conducted, asked a fundamental question: What leads to a healthy and happy life? Following over 1,300 people from all walks of life over decades, the study has found that one of the best predictors—better than social class, IQ and genetic factors—is having a sense of purpose.

For the full essay, see:

Tracy Dennis-Tiwary. “In Praise of Anxiety.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, May 7, 2022): C1-C2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the essay has the date May 6, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from:

Dennis-Tiwary, Tracy. Future Tense: Why Anxiety Is Good for You (Even Though It Feels Bad). New York: Harper Wave, 2022.

Though Visible, Not Everyone Saw the Unexpected Buckyball

(p. A24) Robert F. Curl Jr., who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry as one of the discoverers of remarkably simple but completely unexpected carbon molecules known as buckyballs, died on July 3 at a retirement home in Houston. He was 88.

His death was announced by Rice University, where Dr. Curl was a professor emeritus of chemistry.

Buckyballs, with their round, hollow structure, upended chemists’ notions of what was possible for the shapes of molecules. A flood of scientists started studying them, spurring the nascent field of nanotechnology and dreams of building molecule-size machines.

. . .

The finding was serendipitous, because they had been looking for something else.

“You could argue it wasn’t any of our areas of interest,” James R. Heath, a graduate student of Dr. Smalley’s who performed many of the buckyball experiments, said in an interview.

. . .

For the experiment, Dr. Kroto was interested in molecules containing long chains of carbon that had been observed in interstellar space. He hypothesized that the long-chain molecules were created in the atmospheres of carbon-rich red giant stars.

. . .

At a science conference in 1984, Dr. Kroto ran into Dr. Curl, an old friend. Dr. Curl told him about an apparatus of Dr. Smalley’s that used a laser to create an intensely hot vapor that coalesced into clusters. Dr. Kroto realized that this apparatus could create conditions similar to those in the atmosphere of a red giant.

. . .

. . . Dr. Smalley finally agreed to try it, and the three professors, along with Dr. Heath and two graduate students, started their work.

They indeed discovered the long carbon chains that Dr. Kroto had wanted to find.

They also found something else — the buckyballs.

Dr. Heath said Dr. Curl provided a healthy dose of skepticism during the 11-day whirlwind of discovery.

“All of us were like excitable kids,” Dr. Heath said. “And Bob was like the adult in the room. And he would come up with reasons that we had to go back and test and make sure that this was right or that was correct. We all viewed Bob not like he was a devil’s advocate — more like he was an insurance policy. If Bob agreed with you, you were probably right.”

It turned out that the Exxon experiments had also created small numbers of buckyballs, but those researchers had overlooked them in their data. At Rice, the scientists realized what they had found.

For the full obituary see:

Kenneth Chang. “Robert F. Curl Jr., 88, Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry.” The New York Times (Thursday, July 21, 2022): A24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date July 20, 2022, and has the title “Robert F. Curl Jr., Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, Dies at 88.”

Illegal Entrepreneur “Vagabond” Works Hard to Please Customers

(p. 16) . . . nutcrackers, homemade brews that are not technically classified as to-go cocktails in New York, are still illegal, as is drinking in local parks and beaches.

. . .

Vagabond, who is in his early 30s, has kept his face and name out of articles for fear of getting into legal trouble. He said that he started selling cocktails for $10 to $15 in the park during the summer of 2020 — after his restaurant temporarily shut down — to support his family.

“None of the restaurants were open; the beaches were closed,” he said. “The only places to be were people’s backyards or the park.”

He said that nutcrackers were traditionally “really sweet, really harsh alcohol, and it’s just going to give you a buzz,” but that many sellers found ways to rebrand and shake up the colorful drinks during the pandemic.

Vagabond said that he puts a lot of thought into his cocktails, using specific liqueurs and infusing them with herbs like mint and basil, which requires extra time and effort.

Some people balk at the idea of spending $15 on a nutcracker. But as Mr. Lewis jokes about his drink, “I prefer the gentrified term — ‘craft cocktail.’”

He also said that in the nearly two years since he’s been selling the drinks, he’s never been stopped by the police.

. . .

Vagabond said that an article that featured him in 2020 gave him an uncomfortable amount of exposure.

“Within days of this New York Post article coming out, N.Y.P.D. was looking for my Instagram,” he said. “My worst fear came true. I got caught.”

After being let off with a warning, he decided selling in the park wasn’t worth the heightened risk and effort. Now, he said, he mostly just delivers drinks — occasionally catering events like birthdays and weddings.

“Some people think I just magically appear in the park and I’m just strolling along,” he said. “I think people miss how hard and demanding it is.”

Mr. Lewis also said that he’s hoping Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams will consider legalizing the work that nutcracker vendors do around the city.

“Don’t criminalize this, incorporate this,” he said. “I would rather pay a $200 license fee than a $200 fine.”

He said that he’s on cordial terms with the other people who sell drinks in Prospect Park — “there’s enough pie in New York City for everybody.”

The biggest obstacle he usually faces, he said, is the sheer labor involved in dragging the heavy bags of drinks through the park.

For the full story see:

Julia Carmel. “For Bottle Service With a Smile in a Brooklyn Park, He’s the Man.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 29, 2022): 16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date May 28, 2022, and has the title “Want a Nutcracker or a ‘Craft Cocktail?’ He’s Your Guy.”