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Friday, March 29, 2013

A little Friday inspiration

Need to post again, but here's a great quote by Jim Henson, with illustration by The Oatmeal.

Check out a couple more @ The Oatmeal.
(Good one by Neil deGrasse Tyson).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover Rhapsody

For those who observe, I present "Passover Rhapsody - A Jewish Rock Opera"

And the Four Sons of the Haggadah, 'Arrested Development'-style (yes, Tobias counts... son-in-law!):

That is all.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coddling Children and Helicopter Parents

For a generation, parents were told that positive-reinforcement and praising of children was critical for self-esteem and success.
However, many now view Millennials as self-absorbed and spoiled. Some sociologist believe children do need boundaries and should not be indulged. Decades of behavior are hard to change.

In fact, the years of parents being overprotective of their children has resulted in the complete sterilization of public schools.
In reaction to parents over zealously deferring blame from themselves and their children, then placing it on the education system, schools are now cautious about every action they take.

Here are just a few examples of how how extreme this has become:

"Parents raise $35,000 for school climbing frame… which is immediately closed down in case a child is injured on it

I've seen, and played on, structures 10x worse...

"Parents had spent months raising $35,000 to pay for new climbing frame outside Stratford Landing Elementary School, in Fairfax County, Virginia - and claim they worked with authorities to ensure the site met required standards.

But before a child could set foot in the playground, authorities performed a last-minute U-turn and deemed it to be a hazard.

"The school's facilities department insists the new equipment must be dismantled.

However, Fairfax has pledged to spend about $135,000 from the county’s coffers replacing the equipment.

"Although parents worked with the Fairfax County Public Schools facilities department, purchased the equipment, hired a contractor and had the playground ready for recess, the school system suddenly deemed the play equipment too dangerous. Since November, last year, it has been off-limits, parents say.

The same equipment is installed at more than 1,200 parks and schools across the country, including a public park in the county.

According to statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200,000 children visit emergency rooms annually after playground accidents.
" (Daily Mail)
While this is a dumb decision by the school, it's hard to blame them for wanting "approved", "safe "structures.
Instead of brushing it off as a playground accident, if a child is injured during recess, it is now normal to blame and/or sue the school, town, principal, and everyone in between for the injury.

Side note: What is with this wood chip crap? Who decided chunks of wood and splinters are safer than sand?

Then there is the overreaction to guns...

Yes, guns are dangerous and have no place in a school.
PopTarts? Not so much...

School suspends 7-year-old for biting Pop Tart into shape of gun

Pew-pew (Not the actual weapon used in the incident) (via HuffPo)

"A 7-year-old Maryland boy has been suspended from school after biting his breakfast pastry into a shape that his teacher thought looked like a gun.

Josh Welch, a second-grader at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, said he was trying to nibble his strawberry Pop Tart into a mountain.

"It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn't," Josh said. "All I was trying to do was turn it into a mountain but it didn't look like a mountain really and it turned out to be a gun kinda."

But when his teacher saw what he had done, the boy says she got "pretty mad" and he knew he was "in big trouble."
" (News Channel 5, Ohio)
OK, maybe this one we can blame on the school administration...
But it doesn't stop with the suspension. Breakfast pastries are very scary so the school also sent a letter home with every student detail the event and declared that a counselor would be on-hand to talk to any child traumatized by it.

Luckily, I'm not the only one who thinks this is crazy. I can always take solace in the internet:

The sad thing is that incidents like this pop up with increasing frequency.
When can we back up and let a little common sense take over?

I don't think I need to post any more examples to further prove my point, but if you're interested here are a few sources that regularly post on the illogical nature of school-related coddling and overreaction:
Lowering the Bar- Focused on law and legal absurdities
Consumerist- Consumer product and company centric
Barstool Sports- Occasionally posts on sports

As much as these incidents annoy me, I also find them somewhat humorous, so I'll often tweet about them as well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

LinkedIn Today & "Evaluate Your Career Every 18 Months"

In case you didn't know, LinkedIn has their own customizable news aggregator/feed called LinkedIn Today.
At first it was just an aggregator, drawing from the top finance/business news outlets (NYTimes, WSJ, etc), but has since added many other industry sources.
I'm a big fan of it and it is one of the sites I visit every day to get the latest news.

One of the latest developments is that they have been adding their own original content, generated by users on a wide variety of topics.

They also try to make it social and similar to Facebook in that it displays other people who have "liked" or commented on the articles; but I have not noticed any personal contacts who have interacted in this way, nor have I ever felt compelled to do so.

On to the second part of this post title...

I recently read a piece by Charlene Li, Founder Partner at Altimeter Group, entitled: "Best Advice: Evaluate Your Career Every 18 Months".

It is something that I had done to a lesser extent throughout my career, but after reading the article, I've realized that I should take a more serious and organized approach to the process.
In part, my lack of "career planning" may be due to the fact that I've never worked for a company that sets you on a "track" or ever given me a true mentor that guided me through my career growth.
I've always wondered what it would be like to have someone helping to plot your path. I imagine it allows some to simply plod along in their work and routinely advance in the company. This seems both unfulfilling, in that your career is already mapped out for you, but reassuring as well because you know that you know your course and are reassured that if you do your work, you will progress.

*To any readers: Does your company have a formal career planning program in place? Do you appreciate it?
Alternatively, if your company does not have one, do you wish it did?

Regardless of your company's involvement, it is ultimately something you need to take upon yourself and focus on

A bit scary, but it is probably true for many people when she writes:
"So think about how much time you put into planning a trip, or researching how to save a few dollars on an upcoming purchase.

The reality is that you probably spent more time managing your music playlists this month than on you spent managing your career over the last year!"

Follow the link for the full article, I've also posted it after the jump. (It's not that long, read it if you have a couple minutes!)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Productive waste"

OK, I know I already tweeted (twice) about this, but this whole concept is absolutely baffling, and infuriating.

I had never heard of this man before seeing this video, but apparently Bill Janeway is a partner in investment firm, Warburg Pincus.
(Watch it, it's only 2:25 long)

Janeway promotes this ridiculous concept of "productive waste".

He believes the government should be selecting winners and losers, rather than letting the market dictate what products will survive. He cites the Obama administration's throwing millions of dollars at failed companies Solyndra and A123 as examples of this.
Innovation, he says, takes years of "trail and error and error and error". Rather than letting private investors take all this risk, he believes the government should absorb the risk. This might sound alright, that is until you realize the government generates no money. It takes it from you and is risking taxpayer (your) money on these projects.

This could be a separate post, but the reason Solyndra and A123 failed was not because they didn't have enough money or the money and company were mismanaged, although that could contribute. Nor was it because of subsidized, cheaper solar panels from China, despite what the company and many in the government would like you to believe. They failed because the market did not want their products. Solyndra had thousands of parts in inventory, ready to build, but no one was placing orders.
Also another post, but China's subsidies of solar panels does not hurt the local economies.

The whole premise of accepting some loss for a greater gain reminds me of Nancy Pelosi's famous assertion that the devastating quake that hit Haiti in 2010 would be an economic boom for them.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today the Haiti earthquake could give the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere a chance to “leapfrog” its lack of development.

“From my own experience with earthquakes, being from San Francisco, I think that this can be an opportunity for a real boom economy in Haiti,” Pelosi said. “It can leapfrog all over its past challenges — economically, politically, and demographically in terms of the rich and poor and the rest there and have a new — just a new fresh start. And with all of the concern and compassion and enthusiasm to help the people of Haiti, nobody is better suited than President Clinton to channel that energy.” (SFGate)
Not to get too deep into economic theory, and I believe I may have cited this before, but this is exactly what Frederic Bastiat is talking about in his famous writings on "That which is seen, and that which is not seen".

Bastiat gives the example of a shopkeeper's broken glass window.
The window costs $3 to fix. Which may seem great for the window-maker. This result is what is seen.
What is unseen is the fact that instead of paying $3 to repair his window, the shopkeeper could have bought himself a new pair of shoes, further expanded his shop, or (heaven forbid) saved his money for a later purchase/investment.

By Pelosi's reasoning, we should go around trashing Detroit. That will enable them to get a fresh start and all their money will go to infrastructure projects which, in turn, will bolster the construction industry. It'll be a booming city again in no time!

But, I digress from the video...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Miss Mixtapes

Granted, I made more mixCDs than tapes (you still call them "mixtapes"), but does anyone miss the hardware medium for sharing music?

How else to do you profess your love for someone in a shy and passive, but slightly obsessive manner? (A la 'High Fidelity'- also a favorite movie of mine).

For those of you too young to have ever made or received a mixtape, or those that just don't get the point of them, check out the book "Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time" by Rob Sheffield.

Better than trying to come up with my own description:
Sheffield was a "shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston" when he first met Renee. Southern born and bred, "she was warm and loud and impulsive." They had nothing in common except a love of music. Since he made music tapes for all occasions, he and Renee listened together, shared tapes, and though never formally planning to, married. On May 11, 1997, everything changed. He was in the kitchen making lunch. Suddenly, she collapsed, dying instantly of a pulmonary embolism. Devastated, he quickly realized that he couldn't listen to certain songs again, and that life as he knew it would never be the same. Fun and funny, moving and unbearably sad, Sheffield's account at its quirkiest, and because of his penchant for lists, is reminiscent of Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity (1995). Anyone who loves music and appreciates the unspoken ways that music can bring people together will respond warmly to this gentle, bittersweet reflection on love won and love irrevocably lost. (via Amazon)
It really is an incredible story of a man dealing with pain and loss. Even if you don't care about music, but especially if you do, you'll enjoy the book.

Back to my original point.

More than just sharing music (you can share digital files easily these days), mixtapes are tactile representations, snapshots, of a moment in time in your life. Listening to a well-constructed mixtape can walk you through all the pain, anger, joy, and excitement the creator was feeling when they made it.

I haven't made a "true" mixtape in years, but I make a playlist at the end of each year with songs that I've been particularly keen on over the past year. (In case you're interested, here are the past few from 2010, 2011, and 2012).

Again, they don't really represent anything in particular, but I follow a couple of my own rules for mixtape making, including: keeping it to 80 minutes (max length for a CD) and ensuring it has a good "flow". I like starting in the middle, crescendoing over the first third, tapering back, rising a bit again, then coming back down for the finale. Often, if I'm making a tracklist for a CD, I'll leave a song or two unlisted as "Hidden" or "Bonus" tracks.

Interestingly enough, I've recently come across two companies that tap into this nostalgia with two different solutions....

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sequester Breakdown?

Just saw this graphic and wondering if it's accurate:

Of course the post cited The Heritage Foundation as the source, which is a conservative think tank, so I'm not sure it's entirely credible... They supposedly pulled the numbers from the CBO report though, so it may be correct.

Anyway, if it is, I was under the impression the cuts would be equal across the board, non-discriminating.
Not that I don't think defense spending could use the cuts (it's budget had doubled in the past 20 years), but seems like "Entitlement Spending" has the largest projected budget (2013-2021) and is getting cut the least...

Again, I'm no expert in this, so if anyone has more knowledge on the breakdown of the Sequester cuts, please comment below.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Equal Pay for Women

It's been over 70 years since women started joining the workforce en masse in the western world.
There are still clear discrepancies in pay between men and women; however, these differences may not be (solely) the malicious act of sexist corporations.

There are several logical explanations for the variance.

One reason for the difference in wages is simply biological. Many women take time off from work to have children and raise them. This time off adds up and, just as two men of different experience levels are paid differently, this affects the salaries of women as well.

However, I believe the biggest factors for the range of pay between men and women is a fairly simple and straightforward one.

"Nice Girls Don't Ask"
This is the name of an article published in the Harvard Business Review back in 2003.

As the article title implies:
"Women often don’t get what they want and deserve because they don’t ask for it. In three separate studies, we found that men are more likely than women to negotiate for what they want."

"The first study found that the starting salaries of male MBAs who had recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon were 7.6%, or almost $4,000, higher on average than those of female MBAs from the same program. That’s because most of the women had simply accepted the employer’s initial salary offer; in fact, only 7% had attempted to negotiate. But 57% of their male counterparts—or eight times as many men as women—had asked for more.

Another study tested this gender difference in the lab. Subjects were told that they would be observed playing a word game and that they would be paid between $3 and $10 for playing. After each subject completed the task, an experimenter thanked the participant and said, “Here’s $3. Is $3 OK?” For the men, it was not OK, and they said so. Their requests for more money exceeded the women’s by nine to one.

The largest of the three studies surveyed several hundred people over the Internet, asking respondents about the most recent negotiations they’d attempted or initiated and when they expected to negotiate next. The study showed that men place themselves in negotiation situations more often than women do and regard more of their interactions as potential negotiations. (See the exhibit "Can We Talk?")" (HBR)

The New York Times reiterates this argument in the article: "Women, Repeat This: Don’t Ask, Don’t Get" in 2008.

Then again in Forbes in their 2012 article "Nice Girls Still Don't Ask For What They Want! Why Women Fall Short At The Negotiating Table"
"There is much made about the fact that women are often paid less than men. However, there could be a very logical and compelling reason as to why this occurs so often. Studies show that women are far less likely to engage in negotiation than their male counterparts. Negotiation is the art of asking for what you want and being willing to make concessions and adjustments in order to achieve the desired result. Women are adept at being flexible. But are they equally adept at being able to ask for what they want?

Studies show that women are less likely to negotiate deals than men for 2 reasons:

  • Women are socialized to place the needs of others first and their own second 

  • Women believe that they will be recognized and rewarded for their hard work and dedication

They have not be trained or socialized with the knowledge they can ask for more, while men have been groomed to ask for more and are prepared to negotiate for what they want. Their socialization process is completely different. Therefore, their levels of confidence and comfort to negotiate are far greater." (Forbes)

Again, women being timid in the workplace is not the only reason for the discrepancies in wages, but, as one of the articles indicated "don't ask, don't get".

However, this doesn't have to be the case forever!
If my theory is correct, the problem is primarily a cultural behavior that can be changed!

And the gap is closing. In fact, it has disappeared in several industries.

So we're obviously not at wage equality (numerically), and I'm sure there are managers who favor men over women, but we are not as far apart as some may imply and there are logical justifications for the difference.