Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What do you want your children to learn?

Some good advice about not pampering your kids, and why someone makes her kid compete in Judo. Dr. De Mars says:

As an instructor, you cannot promise those experiences for every student. What you can promise is that all of those who make a commitment will gain in strength, courage, tolerance and perseverance. And that will last your child a whole lot longer than an American Girl doll or a Nintendo DS.

She then explains what she wants her daughter to learn:

  1. She learns that hard work is correlated to getting what you want

  2. She learns to deal with failure.

  3. I learn to deal with her failure. That is a lesson a lot of yuppie parents find hard to accept.

  4. She learns to overcome her fears.

Well worth clicking on the link and reading.

What do you want your children to learn, what do you tell them?

(I always told my kids that I wanted them to love others, tell the truth and work hard).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Advice from my wife

I thought I'd quote some more advice from my wife (her name is Winifred and she goes by Win).

Dear [name redacted]: I remember feeling like I could no longer stand to breath any more. I went into my room, and laid down on the bed. I just wanted to give up and die. I couldn't quit breathing. My body just kept taking the next breath. After a while, I looked around and noticed the dust on the dresser. I decided to get up and dust the dresser while I tried to figure out how to quit breathing.

I think grief is like that. You take a breath at a time, focusing on nothing else but how much you resent the fact that your own body keeps breathing. Eventually, you will find purpose again. Dusting a dresser, caring for a demanding child, paying a bill, are all activities that force us to become distracted from our grief. It is so hard to try to see those things as significant. They are significant .. especially the other people.

I used to ask myself: How would I treat my daughters if they were suddenly alive again? How would I show my love and gratitude for such a gift from God? Then I would make myself treat my living children, my husband, and my other relatives THAT way. That was hard to do. At first my actions were empty of feeling, eventually, the feelings returned. It took years.

The reality is that they could be taken from me at any time. We ALL die. Everyone of us. The only question is when and what relationships do we leave behind us. You want to be the kind of mother to your daughters that they will remember in love and kindness. They will give you grandsons and granddaughters, they will raise those children in the fashion in which they were taught. What lessons are you teaching them?

I don't of myself as being a strong person. I think I was so stupid that I didn't know when to quit. I just kept moving ... I didn't know how to stop. Now I look back and I see that I faked life emotionally. Eventually, I was able to integrate my emotions with my actions. Mostly. some I am still working on.

Grief is so hard. By kind to yourself, and then share the kindness.

There is a song line "You're everything I hoped for, You're everything I need" that replays itself to me as "more than I hoped for, better than I dreamed" when I think of my wife.



Friday, September 26, 2008

Advice from Win

My wife recently had the following to say to someone:

There are two stories that I want to share with you.

My daughter Courtney turned a year old just 2 weeks after my oldest daugthter died. I was not emotionally ready to celebrate anything, AND, at a year of age, Courtney would not know the difference. So .. No party. 11 months later, Courtney died. I still feel guilt that I never had a party for her.

When my oldest daughter was in the hospital and we found out that she was not going to live, a friend stopped by. She had lost a son at the age of 4. She made a statement that has stuck with me. She said, " You are going to have to decide how much else you are willing to lose." I gave her a confused look. She continued, " When you lose a child, it is all too easy to make that loss your focus. If you do that, you will lose other things also. You will lose your marriage, your other children, your job, your friends. Everything else will be gone. You have to decide how much more you willing to lose."

"How much more am I willing to lose?" That became the statement that I would repeat to myself in my head. That statement made me get up and do things with my other children. It made me focus on my marriage, it made me try to interact with other people.

Your son's death had nothing to do with goodness and evil, wrong or right. You did nothing to "earn" or "deserve"
this tragedy im your life. Horrible things happen in this life. I don' think we really notice all the tragedy in this world until we are personally involved. Grief opens our eyes and our hearts to different emotions. I think it connects us-- as individuals to the rest of humanity.

It is hard to breath somedays while learning to handle loss. Work on it. Make yourself breath, and walk, and care. Claim your life, make yourself love again. You will lose too much if you don't force yourself to move forward. Take the memories of your son, think of all the things you would do with him if he was still here, and do those things with your other children. You don't know what your future holds .. Love them while you can.

Take your grief, hold it tightly, don't let it go, but keep moving forward. I know that you can do it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Social Proof

In our hotel experiment, we considered the finding that the majority of hotel guests who encounter the towel reuse signs do actually recycle their towels at least some time during their stay. What if we simply informed guests of this fact? Would it have any influence on their participation in the conservation program relative to the participation rates that a basic environmental appeal yields? With the cooperation of a hotel manager, two of us and another colleague created two signs and placed them in hotel rooms. One was designed to reflect the type of basic environmental-protection message adopted throughout much of the hotel industry. It asked the guests to help save the environment and to show their respect for nature by participating in the program. A second sign used the social proof information by informing guests that the majority of guests at the hotel recycled their towels at least once during the course of their stay. These signs were randomly assigned to the rooms in the hotel.

Social proof is very important, as this particular experiment shows. The bottom line at that link? "That’s a 26 percent increase in participation relative to the industry standard, which we achieved simply by changing a few words on the sign to convey what others were doing. Not a bad improvement for a factor that people say has no influence on them at all."

I got a link to that study, and to some great video, from http://mormonmd.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/points-of-interest-31-2/ -- I'd have left a comment there if the blog allowed it, just to say thanks.

Social Proof is very important and so often overlooked as a persuasive tool, a verifier and a validation.

Never forget that lesson when considering what you are doing, why you are doing it or what you want others to do.

Monday, September 22, 2008

On the Wrathful

The verbal root of this word is אלף (A.L.Ph, Strong's #502) and means "learn," but more literally, to learn through association, as can be seen in the following verse.

Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger; And with a wrathful man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn this ways, And get a snare to thy soul. (ASV, Proverbs 22:25)
From http://kolobiv.blogspot.com/2008/09/sampling-school-of-prophets.html

So much anger and wrath is learned from the wrathful and angry. The Bible has a great deal of good to warn us against when it warns us not to learn from them. The entire ADR movement is really a movement towards being peacemakers and away from wrath.

As an aside, I once was in a class where the instructor asked us what was the greatest revenge we could seek. A friend of mine answered that it was to let people remain in their ignorance so that they did not repent or change, but remained essentially damned by their lack of knowledge. Being wrathful does that to people, it blocks self-knowledge and the ability to change.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Class in America

Class in America is a topic that varies between the banned and the denied. I hadn't thought much on the subject until I started reading some of the stories and commentary at In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood a blog that follows the stories that wrap in and out of the life of an English major who goes to Dartmouth and becomes a technical writer and computer programmer.

He is constantly dealing with managers who supervise him not because of their skill, but because they have mastered the right status or class markers. It is a kind of an Innocents Abroad set in modern America and the computer industry.

That led me to start paying more attention to class issues as they intersect reality. For example, A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne explains why micro loans work, micro grants are a terrible failure. In the target class, money you've borrowed is yours. Money that is a windfall belongs to your community and you can't keep it for investment or yourself. Payne's goal is to teach educators what they need to know to understand and interact with various parts of the class system, and the difficulties that are especially faced by those at the bottom. Interestingly enough, in her conclusion she comments that an untouched topic is "the need to grieve and go through the grieving process as one teaches or works with the poor."

Important if you work with communities or conduct facilitation that involves the poor.

Less friendly, (well, a downright snark) is Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. it is a University of Pennsylvania Professor's re-write (in some ways) of Molloy's Dress for Success (which, amazingly, shares the same customers as Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga, Book 4)) and Live for Success -- a book that has actually helped a number of people make breakthroughs in their careers.

I think that it is really too bad that schools function by teaching class issues by osmosis, at best. Too often, a lack of understanding, of knowledge and of perspective creates people as lost as John Bruce's innocents (and not so innocents) that he describes at his blog, In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood.

And too often those who desire to be mediators, facilitators or just to help, are blocked in their efforts by not having the knowledge and perspective that would come from understanding class.

If you are politically involved, if you volunteer at a charity, if you have a career, reading Molloy, and Payne really should have been a part of your preparation, of the essential skills that you should have been provided. In fact, if I were redoing the syllabus for my Essential Skills class I would note only have made the change to The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work (since the book I prefer is out of print -- though Elgin has a new book due out next year that may be better, only she and her editor know for sure right now), but I would have added A Framework for Understanding Poverty to the mix. Perhaps if I start teaching again.

Well, just visited http://www.pointmediation.com/

Includes social cues and recommendations, something that has been fading for a while, and something I think is important -- because consumers find it important.

Wish him well.

Also, http://www.kobreguide.com/topic/Law is well worth visiting. Quality documentaries, for free download.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

So, you are thinking of a Facilitation Initiative?

Generally, a Business's Initiative should:
  • Clearly communicate values (those who attend should be able to state three values);
  • Leave three takeaway tangible things that can be done (those who participate should be able to name three measurable things they should do);
  • Should not espouse goals or values inconsistent with actual management practices;
  • Should not raise expectations that will not be reached/Should not create a basis for dissatisfaction;
  • Should establish a clear metaphor.
E.g. many S. Covey based initiatives want employees to gain the values promoted while management is not transparent and does not espouse the values in action. I like
Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box so much because it focuses on the fact that so many approaches are really just self deception.

E.g. I've a friend who is a recruiter and one of his favorite recruiting grounds is companies that make promises in their initiatives that they do not deliver on.

E.g. Never mock your own processes.

Some thoughts.

Related books:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Dark Side" Management Case Studies

I will get back to content that is closer to what I usually write in a little bit. However, a while back one of the members of the AOM (Academy of Management) put out a call for "dark side" case studies -- studies of failures, misapplications or mistakes that could be learned from. Management classes generally study cases, the idea being that the students can gain experience and skills second hand by studying how something was done right. His thought was that there is also something to be learned from things that go wrong.

I thought of several cases that made for excellent cautionary tales.

The first is historic. General Motors was in financial trouble. They approached their unions for concessions and wage cuts and got them. Then, at the end of the year, a story ran that management bonuses related to the cuts were almost twice as much as the cuts themselves. That story has been a long standing disaster for General Motors. It illustrates metrics problems (how do you measure success in cost cutting -- and should the bonuses related to cost cutting ever exceed the cost saving?!; how do you account for long term toxicity of an action?).

More recently, in response to financial problems, several air lines ended up transferring stock to their unions. The pilots unions tend to be better organized and more management oriented. In at least one air line, the pilots union was able to obtain disproportionate gains from the input into management that the stock gave it. When financial problems arose, they then attempted to push a disproportionate share of the pain onto the other unions and avoid giving back the gains. You can track the result of that process in the lack of health of the air line involved. The only thing that the pilots union managed to avoid was a derivative suit by the other shareholders for disgorgement (you could treat the disproportionate gains as an unfair discriminatory dividend, which is what it was). Concepts of capture, fiduciary duty to all shareholders and other issues all rise, especially as worker interests in corporations only seem to be more likely in the future.

Texas Instruments makes for another great study, especially as they are actively trying to recover from an interesting mistake. They adopted merit only raises for engineers. They then gave bonuses to individuals for cost savings. The cost cutters went through and started firing the highest paid engineers and replacing them with "fungible" lower paid engineers. TI is attempting to recover from the morale effects and the obvious inability to recruit and retain top talent. There were other side effects as well. The best example I can think of was an engineer attached to a research team who kept specialty equipment running that allowed the team 140+ hours a week of uptime on their research. He was fired, after a confrontation between his manager and a cost cutter. Uptime dropped to 36 hours a week, and the engineer had to be replaced with contract service at a cost of over $30k a month. The cost cutter did not have to account for either the R&D losses or the contractor expenses, he only got the bonus.

Finally, and this is what got my attentiont ot the topic, Microsoft did something with a very successful division, Ensemble Studios, which has a major product release scheduled. As you might expect, the success of the division has drawn some "successful" management changes. The new manager is going to get bonuses based on net revenues. So, as soon as the next product is released, he is basically firing everyone except for a small stump. That way he will get credit for all of the revenue without any reduction for R&D for new or continuing products. So, Ensemble is closing its doors, the product release is jeapordized (not from lack of quality, no one is being fired until it is released, but from public perceptions) and two years from now instead of having new products, all of the signigicant employees will be working for competitors. Imagine what will happen if he gets assigned to operating systems for his next assignment? Given the amount of the bonus he can expect, look for Microsoft to gut out R&D in every area of the company if it doesn't adjust and to be out of business in 3-5 years if other managers get away with following his example.

Two political stories that irritate me

The first is the old "Obama is Muslim."

The second is "McCain crashed five air force jets."

The first has finally been completely debunked (I hope).

As for the second, (a) it is "Air Force" (with capital letters); (b) McCain was in the Navy, and (c) it isn't true anyway. The real slur there is the thought that the Air Force would let a Naval Aviator crash five of its planes ...


BTW, my mother wants to vote for Obama and Palin.

Which of the current political stories irritate you?

I'm still trying to make up my mind on which of the Biden stories I like least.

Currently, on Palin, it has to be the Bush Doctrine thing, especially after reading Charles Krauthammer, the person who came up with the term and who is the "authority" on "the Bush doctrine" on the topic.

The Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.
Yes, Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the phenom who presumes to play on their stage.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Two new pictures

Thought I would include a picture of me the way I look at work and me the way I am on vacation when I've grown a beard for my wife.

Found my Rancho High School class of '73 page:

http://www.rancho73.com/Classmate%20Contact%20Info%201.htm and Class of 1973

I'd wondered what had happened to everyone.

Sad to see a lot of people I knew who are missing from the lists. Daniel Hollingsworth and others who were good sorts, very good sorts.

For Mtn Home I'm finding it harder http://mountainhomehighschool.org/class-of-1973.html -- as far as I can tell, I've visited the location and one other person visited looking for someone else (which creates a page for them). Classmates is such a vast wasteland of advertisements and empty shells. Class of 1973

There had been a web page with the class re-union photographs and such, but it seems to have gone down.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Parisian Style Housing/Politics

City planners often promote "high density housing." It is usually a flop because it brings to mind massive failures (you say "high density housing" I hear "instant slum.")

What they should call the idea is "Parisian Style Housing." Paris is nothing but twenty million people's worth of high density living environment, but the one thing it is not remembered as is a slum. I've talked to a number of professionals over the years about how they need to change the term. Finally thought I would blog about it (especially as things like blogs exist now).

Paris may be incredibly dense, but it is charming and livable. Much of that comes from well groomed green spaces, building housing on transit lines (well, almost all of Paris seems to be on transit lines, but that is another story) and wonderful public places.

Switching gears to politics, the national budget is mostly:
  1. Entitlements
  2. Interest on the debt
  3. Military Spending
  4. Miscellaneous Other
In about that order now.

2004 ... $21,671 per household
  • Social Security and Medicare: $7,165
  • Low-income programs: $3,479 (together these make up entitlements)
  • Defense: $4,240
  • Interest on the federal debt: $1,460

The federal government spent a bit less than $2.7 trillion in fiscal year 2006
  • Social Security: 21 percent of the budget
  • Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP: 19 percent of the budget
  • Safety Net program: 9%
  • Interest on the debt: 9%
  • Defense and security: 21 percent of the budget
  • Everything else: 21 %
The bottom line?

Mandatory spending accounts for two-thirds of federal spending and is authorized by permanent laws, not by the 13 annual appropriations bills. These include entitlements, such as Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, and Food Stamps.

The military takes another 21%

67% + 21% = 88%.

Toss in interest on the debt, which has started to grow, and you are to 97% or more.

That leaves 3% for earmarks and other programs.

I should note, from a long background in simulations, if I were looking at national security and going to spend two or three trillion dollars, rather than a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, I would have:
  1. Spent a trillon dollars on geothermal energy. Would there have been a lot of waste? Surely, but after all the money was spent on research and pump priming projects, there would have been a lot of energy.
  2. Spent five hundred billion on bio diesel, especially plankton based bio diesel.
  3. Put the rest towards the national debt. Oh, since it would have all come from debt anyway, I would have gone into less debt to begin with.
The real problem is that tax money is not free, only relatively free. If the government sends me a thousand dollars, and spreads the cost around, it costs everyone else on a fraction of a cent each. But, to give everyone a thousand dollars, the government has to collect a thousand dollars from each person.

Some things, like the gas tax, which goes directly to building and maintaining highways, are pretty much pay as you go (and part of that fixed spending). Given how we are falling behind on roads, we really need to increase the gas tax. I still admire Senator Obama for opposing a gas tax holiday as a dangerous gimmick.

But how often do you look a traffic congestion or a pot hole and think: "they really need to raise gas prices and the gas tax!"? Until people do that, until they are ready to hear that, we are not ready for any real politics or any real solutions.

That is my two bits on politics.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I Have Tourette's, but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me

I Have Tourette's, but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me: Dispelling the Myth One Child at a Time

I Have Tourette's, but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me: Dispelling the Myth One Child at a Time

Format: DVD

Sometimes we may have a problem, but the problem may not have us.

There is no reason to buy this through Amazon.com

I Have Tourette's, But Tourette's Doesn't Have MeI Have Tourette's, But Tourette's Doesn't Have MepadTSA Member's Price - NOT A DOWNLOAD - In every school in America, it's likely that at least one child may have Tourette Syndrome. The children are often stigmatized and almost always misunderstood. HBO Documentary originally aired 11/12/05\r\n dispels the myths of TS through the experiences of young people. Extra DVD features include resources for educators, families, children interested in learning more about Tourette Syndrome, information from experts John Walkup, M.D., Susan Conners, M.Ed., and Evan Trost, M.D.
I Have Tourette's, But Tourette's Doesn't Have MeI Have Tourette's, But Tourette's Doesn't Have MepadSame as above. Non-Member's Price.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Parable of the Tuna Cat

We have a cat, a polydactyl cat. Because of his extra claws, his brain is a bit short (the extra claws tie up brain function that would otherwise go to more normal uses) and he tends to forget things, like whether or not he has breakfast.

He lives to eat tuna fish, though he is (a) always looking for something better and (b) always forgetting when he has tuna.

But you know, when he is motivated, he really keeps after his goals. They may be simple, he may get confused but that cat is always trying for tuna -- and convinced that he is succeeding (though 75% or better of the time, all we do is pick him up and drop him off at his plate that already has tuna on it -- and he celebrates as if he had just been given tuna rather than just reminded of what he has).

Which leads to two life lessons.
  1. Sometimes we are like the tuna cat -- we are out there seeking things we already have.
  2. Sometimes we are like the tuna cat -- you can tell what we really want by what we keep after.
Lots of people think they want something, but until they go after it like the tuna cat does, they don't really want it.