Monday, October 29, 2007

If your children ranked you, how would you do?

The following is a ranking of law schools using the elements that students found important. Not how the students would rank them, but how an outsider would rank them if they used the criteria that students found important.

I got that chart from an interesting blog, that also had the following to say:
Two weeks ago, I blogged the lists of the Top 10 law schools in eleven categories posted on Princeton Review's web site in connection with its publication of the 2008 edition of Best 170 Law Schools. The rankings are the result of Princeton Review's survey of 18,000 students at the 170 law schools, along with school statistics provided by administrators.

Last week, with the help of my assistant, I extracted from the individual profiles of the 170 law schools all of the available data and blogged the Top 25 and Bottom 25 schools in each of six categories:

* Academic Experience
* Admissions Selectivity
* Career Preparation
* Professors: Accessible
* Professors: Interesting
* Study Hours

Visit the link to have the bullet points work to send you to the sources

Interesting, in many ways this is "ratings, as they would be if students controlled them."

But that got me to thinking. Did you ever wonder how you would be rated by your children if their criteria were used to rate you? Would you find something to learn from it?

The question isn't how your children rate you, but how you would fare if rated by the things they find important.

I learned something from thinking about the rankings in those terms, applying the same perspectives to myself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First solutions are almost always wrong.

El Ninos lead to rain in Texas (and drought other places). If they become more common, Texas could well encounter dramatic climate and habitat changes similar to the result of settlers stopping fires (so that instead of the state being mostly a vast plain it has huge forested areas).

One of the possible sources of that is increased carbon dioxide.

As noted:

Underground coal fires in China alone produce as much carbon dioxide annually as all the cars and light trucks in the United States. Fires in other countries, including the United States, are smaller but still add significantly to the total burden.


In simulations you often look for solutions that are not obvious. One country spends 100 billion going after terrorists. A competing country spends no more on security but spends 100 billion reducing drunk driving. Each reduces the addressed threat by 50%. The country being assaulted by terrorists may have ignored them, but comes out ahead of the other in total loss prevented -- that sort of thing.

In fact, a general rule is that in most complex situations, the immediate steps that people think of are usually the wrong ones. Something I got from a review of computer aided facilitation (a neat software package a vendor was offering) was that as one tracked the initiatives, there was not a single successful one that had a resolution that was a first round suggestion or approach.

The informal rule I gathered from going over the data was that first thoughts are always wrong.

Regardless of what history tells us is the truth on climate change, odds are that the first responses that come to mind will turn out to have been the wrong ones.

For those who have asked about my Dad, he has been doing much better recently. I know that things are unpredictable, but it is nice to see him able to walk for short distances, to be oriented and not in pain. I'm grateful for however long it lasts.

"genetically inferior" -- conclusively disproven

"The striking result we find is that there are no racial differences in mental functioning at age one, although a racial gap begins to emerge over the next few years of life."

In other words, the gap in test scores appears to be completely cultural and nurture over nature.

For the paper, visit here.

What strikes me about much of the racist pap I encounter is that it is very, very similar to the way women were portrayed a hundred years ago. People laughed at Brigham Young when he said women were as fit to be lawyers, accountants, politicians and doctors as men. He was derided for emphasizing the need to educate women. Yet now:

A phrase initially coined by the Economist, womenomics refers to the increasing purchasing and physical power of women on the economic and cultural front.

The number of women scientists has soared, there are more female graduates than male, girls outstrip boys at A-Level and even traditionally male markets are succumbing to female touch.

A recent Ofcom report found that women aged 25-35 now spend more time using the internet than men.

If you look at medical schools, they are dominated by women, many law schools are more than 50% female and in the bloggernacle the most famous PhD candidate in philosophy is female.

All of that stems from cultural changes and cultural inputs.

Of which, one of the most important cultural input may be religion: "youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not frequently attend religious services."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

October being Pregnancy & Infant Loss (PAIL) Awareness month

I just learned that. I'm amazed, sometimes, at how much I do not know. So many things.

For more:


An interesting blog post that covers PAIL and more.

Resistance and Compassion

I'm still thinking it over, but when you feel an urge to help someone, or to react to something, you can either react with resistance or compassion. Resistance means to betray your better self, compassion means to feel the love of Christ and to let charity have place in you.

The one is self-betrayal, the other life.


You may wonder why so many reviewers seem to prefer 7 and 8 megapixel cameras over the new 12 megapixel cameras.

The answer is simple. The larger size doesn't make a difference for most picture quality, seems to introduce some noise at some settings, and results in sensors that take 2-3 seconds to turn on and about 3 seconds between normal shots. What is not to like about increased delay, quality problems and greater expense.

Canon PowerShot SD850 IS 8.0 MP Digital Elph Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom
As for cameras like this one, that are at the top of the preferences of many reviewers, the trade off is between the slightly larger (and these are slightly larger), more expensive and the less expensive and smaller cameras that do a job most people find about the same.

Should be interesting to see what next year's technology brings.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Put on the whole armor of God

Usually discussions on this scripture is complete with a picture of a knight in shining armor and some darts from a dart board. That does not really help you to think about what it means.

Paul was writing to Greeks in a Greek City State. They were under the Romans, but not that far from their heritage. The "full armor" was the complete heavy armor that at one time every citizen was required to own. (Citizen applying to fully enfranchised men). There was universal compulsory military service for citizens. Each citizen was required to own, maintain and practice in a complete set of heavy armor, complete with a "professional grade" shield.

To "put on the whole armor of God" means many things, but among them it means to be a full citizen in the kingdom of God and to do your complete duty.

To "stand fast" in such a context is the duty a man in a phalanx has to stand shoulder to shoulder and not break ranks, no matter what comes his way -- for the side that fails to stand fast is the side that loses.

Fiery darts doesn't apply to the things you throw at a dart board and probably doesn't refer to lawn darts either (the military equivalent). It might apply to the large darts thrown by scorpions (a type of field artillery) or to pilum (a thrown javelin that could go through as many as three men in a row), but it probably meant tubes full of greek fire -- tubes that would roast a man alive in his armor or consume a wooden shield and the man behind it -- but that the heavy shield a full citizen (vs. a skirmisher or other auxiliary) used, triple thick bullhide, would shed, if you only stood fast.

Thinking of men, standing shoulder to shoulder, facing the ancient equivalent of napalm (except it burned underwater) and safe only if they held position together and stood fast, is an interesting image. It is a call to accept citizenship in the kingdom of God and to stand fast in spite of whatever terrors one faces.

I hadn't thought of that until today's lesson, when just what a "fiery dart" was came up and I got to thinking of standing fast in the context of a Greek citizen.

Someone said I should write this down, so I am.

George Phillies for President

Well, at least for Libertarian Candidate for President.

I'm not a libertarian, but I thought I'd endorse George, not because of his politics, but because he has written some interesting science fiction and fantasy -- and labeled it science fiction and fantasy. How many candidates do you know who have been honest about admitting what they are writing or saying is fantasy?

Friday, October 12, 2007

My Dad and the Pope

My dad once had a private audience with the Pope. This was a long time ago, when he was still young, just after the Korean War got started. My grandfather was transferred to the embassy in Greece. There you could find the Greek Orthodox Patriarch pretending not to speak English (he had a degree from an Ivy League school) and putting pressure on people to support his return to Asia Minor. He would talk with the young guys on the embassy staff when he was bored.

But the Pope? Especially if you aren't Catholic?

But my dad was very well behaved, so when an Ambassador's daughter needed an escort, he got tapped. They got in line and she had her private audience with the Pope and my dad was attentive and polite. He was ready for anything except when the Pope turned to him and said "and you my son, do you have any questions for me?" and gave him an expectant look. At that point my dad realized that every other group had everyone in it ask the Pope a question. Dad had just expected to be ignored.

He asked his general purpose question: "Does God speak to man" and "How did you know God had called you?" The Pope assured him that God did not speak to man and had not for quite some time. He stated that he knew he had been called when one of the hundreds of doves at the Vatican had landed on his shoulder during the elections. My father nodded politely and returned to being part of the woodwork as an escort.

The Pope's answer had been similar to the Patriarch's who had told him that God did not speak to man, but that since he was the smartest and best prepared person in the world, it was his duty as the Patriarch to lead the people and do his best and work towards miracles (which he achieved, restoring the authority and position of the Patriarchy post World War II).

I must note that my dad was very young, and looked younger, at that time. These are casual conversations by important men, speaking in passing to a young American who was close to being part of the furniture, not in depth discussions held with anyone of significance.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Never Forgetting

My husband’s boss at the time, however, came to him one day and said, “I was sorry to hear that your baby died. Um. Well. You know, these things happen, and we move on.” Then he turned around and walked away.

My husband was stunned. Surgeons are known for their lack of tact, but this seemed pretty insensitive. This conversation became a running joke between us–whenever something bad would happen, we would just say “these things happen, and we move on.” As time has passed, I have come to see this conversation a little differently though.

From a moving post and a well thought out comment. Especially the bottom line:

We felt overwhelmed by the love of our Heavenly Father at the time of Liz’s birth and death. As I listened to the talk given by Elder Tenorio during the Sunday afternoon conference, I understood a little how he felt when his children died. The blessings of the temple are extremely comforting. Even though it was hard to lose our child and to be faced with the possibility that we might never have children, the concept of eternal families enabled us to move forward with our lives.

At the time that Liz died, I didn’t want the pain to go away. I thought that if I stopped hurting, that I would forget. I was wrong. As I have “moved on” the pain has lessened, but I have not forgotten our sweet baby. Today we talked to our daughter for the first time about her sister. We showed her the baby blanket and Liz’s picture and we told her that she has a sister that lives with Heavenly Father. My husband even baked a cake for Liz’s birthday and we had a little party. I was amazed at how much our small daughter understood. She was excited to have another sister and kept talking about how she has two sisters–Lynn and Liz. It was one of the sweetest experiences I have ever had.

Very well said.

Notes on Elder Tenorio:

If I were giving away books ....

I've often thought that I would like to give away books to BYU students. Kind of like a book of the year. Not the way the Honors Program somewhat did it (by assigning a book for everyone to read) but just by giving every student a book every year -- knowing full well that most would end up for sale on as used books.

What books would I give the students (books they might not otherwise read)?

Year One a book by Elgin
Year Two
Year Three
Year Four

I don't have the money to give books away like I would want to, but those are books I've been thinking of that teach lessons that people are just not going to learn from the usual books, the usual classes, the usual experiences.

What books would you like to have everyone have a chance to read?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

"It was only a girl who died, that doesn't matter,"she said

If you had lost a son, then you would know grief. All you've buried is worthless daughters, what do you know of loss!
That is a real statement from a real person, who will remain nameless. They felt the way they felt with some vehemence. Why? Was it because they were narcissistic? Was it because they were misogynistic? Was it because they were so ego driven and competitive they had to win in any venue?

Who knows, who cares? The reality is that they were in grief, and severe grief makes logical paupers of us all. None of the obvious responses to such a statement helps anyone. Not the poor parent driven somewhat beyond reason by the death of a child. They don't need deconstruction or enlightenment or re-education just right now.

People watching do not need to see someone in pain given more pain. They might be vicious enough or callous enough to enjoy it, but they don't need it and no one should have the desire to give them a show. Even more, a person on the other end of such a statement isn't any closer to serenity or charity if they forget to be sad and patient, to mourn with those who mourn.

It is important when dealing with others who grieve not to let it become competitive. It is important not to let attempts to compete or dominate by others, afflict us or affect us. Remembering to treat competitive statements as just one more way people are driven past reason by grief and evidence helps me remember that they need help and love. That people really need love and patience is a useful perspective.

It is also one that it is useful to let carry over into your life outside of grief. Grief, especially the severe grief of losing a child, is just terrible stress, writ large (the phrase "writ large" just means just bigger and worse). If you take just a moment, it is easy to see people as being deformed by stress -- remembering that one meaning of to be deformed is to be pushed out of your natural shape.

Rather than thinking of those who say terrible things as malformed (better than using "deformed" in the sense of formed wrong or inherently defective), if you see them as deformed by stress and life, you can also see them as able to be restored by love and patience.

Having love and patience is what charity is really about. In many ways it is just taking the time to help our brothers and sisters, and to help ourselves, be restored to our proper form, undeformed by stress. As my dearest wife pointed out to me, hearing such statements, and their cousins, should be a reminder that people need love and patience, not a reason to abandon it.

Have I been patient long enough?

That is an interesting question to ask yourself. In some cases, such as physical violence, the answer is clear and direct. You should not be patient at all. If you date someone and they get physically violent, you need to leave at a run and never return. Will they recover or change? Maybe, but never with you if they've been violent with you.

But in other cases, 99% of what we encounter in our lives, the answer is that if you are asking the question then you haven't been.

Too often we have been part of whatever the problem is, and not outside, nourishing and helping, anywhere near long enough. One thing I've gotten from Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box is that a belief I've had, that you can make a difference if you just take the time it takes, is true -- and that many, many times, we have not taken the right steps, in the right way for anywhere near enough time.

On thing grief has done for me is teach me that things take time. It has also taught me that so many things I thought or think I am doing are not the same the way I see them as others see them. I see that so often with others that I am certain that it must apply to me as well, and that just like they do not see it in themselves, I can't see it in myself.

The approach of patient, caring love seems like the only answer.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On telling the truth

This post is about the truth, as people see it. I'm using something that has come back into the news, without any conclusions about the conflict in the news, as an illustration and to begin the discussion. If you deal with people who have experienced a great deal of grief, often they do not have the same memories or the same experiences, they seem to have different truths. Who is right? Who is telling a lie? Well, it is not that simple. For example, consider this current story in the news:
(excerpting from) Justice Thomas in the News: Two Different Reactions

One is from Sherrilyn Ifill (Maryland).

The other is from readers of the right-wing Volokh Conspiracy blog, as reported by Orin Kerr (George Washington).

Everyone has their conclusions. However, I was reading 1191302418.shtml and it drew my attention where it was addressing these stories, in part, and someone said:
That's funny. I'm disposed to favor theories where both parties tell the truth, and that's what I think happened here.
What about a theory where both parties are telling the truth? That thought made me think. I've seen a number of cases where I think that all the witnesses were telling the truth as they knew it -- even if they differed dramatically on facts. This situation of people telling what they think is the truth, but having radically different views of the facts happens not only in situations involving severe grief but in many other events in life.

When dealing with such a situation, it is too easy to conclude that some or all of the people involved are blinded by emotion, lying or self deluding or stupid or lazy or have some other gross defect when it may very well be that they are telling the truth as they understand it. Often times the key to resolving pain and discord is not so much "proving" something but instead helping people to see and understand better or looking at things until you have a perspective that allows for all the stories to be part of the truth.

To take an example almost everyone has lived through: Is a child being put to bed at 9:00 p.m. facing an act of love or oppression? It may matter what the motivation is, it may matter the age of the child, many things may matter. Yet, many times the "truth" as the various parties see it is vastly different and doesn't yield to argument or evidence, it yields only to learning and perspective.

Many times if we feel others are blameworthy for a belief or not telling the truth it may be that they are telling a lie. I see that all the time. But it may also be that they are telling the truth as they understand it and that all of the things one might do to dissuade someone from holding to a lie are only going to offend and alienate those who are trying to find and tell the truth and drives everyone further from finding the complete truth.

That is well worth thinking about.

I've tried to use examples other than from law cases to avoid the temptation to tell "war stories" that probably only another lawyer would appreciate. But many times in law suits until you understand how and why the other side thinks they are telling the truth you haven't begun to understand the case or how to resolve it. That rule is even more important for third part neutrals and mediators or for those of us trying to live life and resolve the conflicts we deal with.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My other blog ... updates

I blog on negotiation and related topics at Recently I've had updates about free MCLE (that is continuing education for lawyers) webcasts, free books from the University of California on dispute resolution and teaching integrity as a skill.

Been busy all the way around.