Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Blog to Follow

Guys, I found an awesome blog (? I think, I haven't really figured out who writes it, why, etc) or you all to check out.

UPDATE: Ok I figured it out: a fellow called Barker who says "The only work I've done as an adult is creating the things I loved as a child". Sounds pretty awesome to me.

It's called Barking Up the Wrong Tree and, every day, it highlights a study that addresses interesting questions. The author adds his/her two cents, and recommends a book or movie or something about the topic. This is one of those sites that I constantly find myself clicking deeper and deeper into as I keep seeing fascinating topics to explore. Then, I click on the links for the recommendations and lose myself in other recommended titles on Amazon. I now have HUGE wish list on that site (in case anyone ever wants to buy me something!).

Like this doozy: a German study about how the continuous, if not systemic, limitation on the ability of the poor in America to vote is in part responsible for the country's unique competitive advantage, not, as many have suggested, a "product of a unique history or culture."

Very interesting, and I don't doubt to some extent its true. But I'm having a hard time letting go of my belief that the unique features of American culture have also contributed to its success since there really has never been any civilization like it before, but plenty of civilizations that didn't let their poor have any say in the government. Maybe that's because I'm American and biased rather than German and bitter (oh snap!). It's a stimulating thought, nonetheless, and further convinces me that Election Day should indeed be a national holiday. And it should be in the middle of the week - a Wednesday - so its not just another long weekend but a really special break in the middle of your life to take part in the great American Experiment!

Ahem. I digress. Anyway, the blog is super cool and you should check it out. And you should expect to see my "interesting" commentary on some of the topics it features in the future!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ridiculous Item of the Day

In the spirit of CW's blog, here's a ridiculous item of the day for you, this time in higher education. One of my favorite pieces, from Gary Pavela, director of academic integrity at Syracuse University and, according to the USA Today story, author of numerous articles about student conduct:
"'And sometimes a private, candid conversation with an offending student helps.'"
Oh, you mean treat the student like an ADULT? Because, you know, he or she IS ONE?

And this is another doozy about W. Scott Lewis, associate general counsel of Saint Mary's College, in Indiana, and president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration. He
"gives seminars for many colleges through the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, and he said that a consistently popular topic is how to train faculty members to manage their classrooms in ways that enable them to be respected by students. "We don't train faculty members on that," he said. "They are trained to be great physicists and political scientists, not on how to manage a classroom.""
What? College professors don't know anything about teaching? Isn't that their job? Shouldn't people who TEACH know how to manage a classroom? (This trickles down to high school and below, but let's not go there today.) The assumption here, like in so many places (the company you work for, I'd wager) is that if someone is good at their job, be it being an economist or being a salesperson, then that someone is qualified to teach/lead others when the teaching and leading actually require a completely different set of skills.

I'm not even halfway through the article at this point.

I love that these experts start talking about how to get students to respect you, as a university professor: wear business casual clothes, have students address you as professor or Dr. Newsflash: students don't respect people who cling to superficial displays of power or influence or whatever. They respect people who treat them with respect, who know what they are talking about, and who do their job. I'd had lots of professors who wore nice clothes and who didn't have us call them by their first names, but I respected them for showing me a new way to think about literature, or politics, or the psychology of economics.

And of course there's a dig in there at the entitled attitude of Gen Yers: Lewis said students "these days" have this sense because of their parents. Yah, but let me show you a few choice Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who think the world is their oyster. Someone people think the world revolves around them, buddy, that's a fact of life. Sure, Gen Y is pretty entitled. I can be a big baby, and am often. But I'm 23 years old, what's my middle-aged boss' excuse?

The kicker? This assessment is followed by the addition that "many more [students] have mental health issues, and many feel significant stress over the economy."

Are you freaking kidding me. Students are no more prone to mental health issues than any other population group. Instead, students are under pressure to acheive and are asserting independence by swearing colorfully and often, drinking themselves stupid, and doing other scary, unorthodox things like not wearing shoes, wearing unconventional outfits, playing frisbee at all hours of the night, etc. And students are stressed by the economy so they are swearing more? Yah? So? Isn't everyone? How is this something that needs to be pointed out to professors?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Work Sucks and Then You Die

This week has been one of those weeks for me, as in, I have zero motivation for my job. Not just that but mostly that. Maybe you know the feeling: you have a list of things to do, a deadline approaching, expectations to meet from several different sources….and you just don’t care. This morning, I likened it to when May hits and you’re in school. You have a lot of high-pressure work to do, but you just don’t care and spend your time thinking about other, maybe more interesting stuff.

I’m SO there. I’ve been making travel plans for the next three years. Anyone interested in an Ireland/Scotland trip in 2012? (Assuming the world doesn’t end…)

The other day, I was wasting time on Texts From Last Night (which has the interesting effect of both making me feel better about my life and making me somewhat jealous of those people) and found this doozie:
The only way I made it through work was reminding myself how many margaritas per hour I was making.
That quickly extrapolated to how many bottles of Jack Daniels I earn in a day, which should be no surprise to most of you. (It’s about one every three hours for the 750 ml, in case you were interested.)

But look, I said to myself this morning, thinking about bottles of Jack Daniels is no way to get through the day. It’s not healthy, in any sense of the word. How am I going to get out of a slump like this if all I can think about is Jack Daniels, as handsome and delicious as he is? Instead, let’s think positive.

For some reason, today I’ve also been obsessed with the Harvard Business Review. Dudes: they have SO many smart, easily digestible, and actionable posts on there. I highly recommended it: procrastination and self-improvement all in one! (Also, they are looking for a marketing coordinator, I job I could totally do, and I think I’m going to apply! Excitement!)

There are a lot of parentheses in this post.

Anyway, this obsession led me to this post, among many others, which inspired me to make a list of positive features of my current place of employment. So here it goes:

  1. VERY short commute, even with all the lights and crazy people trying to get to the Beverly High School.
  2. Casual working environment: no big deal if I have a bad hair day or need to wear my Crappy Work Pants one day because of laundry issues
  3. I have a huge amount of control over my work flow and am largely left alone, which is a way of working that works for me.

I feel better already.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Motivation 3 (sort of)

Everyone should check out Shootforthehead.com, which provides valuable advice for surviving a zombie apocalypse. I’ve been doubting my own ability to contribute to a survival team in the event of the end of the world (228 days until Dec. 21st, 2010…or is it Dec. 12th? See what I mean about survival?), but I think I may have found a niche skill: zombie protection.

Today’s article on shootforthehead.com is about which fast food establishments are best suited for hiding from zombies; the article decided on McDonalds-type places, I suggested gas stations. Food will never good bad, small, not too many windows or doors, possibly firearms under the counter, and a built in, last-ditch defense in the form of tons of flammable liquid in underground tanks.

Then I took a look around and realized if there was a zombie apocalypse when I was at work, I’d be pretty screwed: cornered in the back of the building with nothing but huge plate glass windows between me and what could be a parking lot full of zombies. Yikes.

It was then I remembered Rule #1 (I think) from Zombieland: run fast. And suddenly I have the perfect motivation to start the Couch-Potato-to-5K program I’ve been thinking about for weeks. So tonight, I’m going to put a picture of a lunging zombie on the wall by my bed above my sneakers. When I wake up every day, there will be my motivation: not getting my brains sucked out my nose in the event of a zombie apocalypse because I’m able to run a 10 min. mile.

Assuming zombies can’t do that, of course. But hey, at least I’ll be able to get enough distance between us to take out a gun, load it, and kill the bastard, right?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Motivation 2

I found two other commentaries on motivation in the last few weeks. One I can't find now, but it reiterate my closing remarks in my last post: breaking things down and making incremental change. The author talked about reducing spending on entertainment by 5% each month until she reached her goal of spending 50% less in 2009 than she did in 2008. And she talked about averages: at the beginning of 2009, she spent 75% of what she'd spent, on average, each month in 2008 because it would be too hard cut her habits in half right away. By December, she was spending much less than she'd spent each month in 2008, but the reduction wasn't painful because she'd made it gradually.

The other is a post today on the Harvard Business Review (which is not stuffy or too over-your-head and has become one of my favorite blogs to read these days) about how to motivate yourself. It basically blows up the saying "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" to a thousand words, but the story the Peter Bregman uses to illustrate it is a good one.
(Image from Erupting Mind)

Plus he talks about the concept of scheduling time for second guessing yourself, which I've never thought of before. I'll have to consider how I could implement that in my daily life. Of course, just thinking about it now, I figure when its 6am and I don't want to go for a run, the thought of reevaluating my goal to exercise more at 2pm that afternoon won't be enough to motivate me; at 6am, all I want is to stay in bed and its very easy to ignore what I know my 2pm self will say when she's not even in the room.

That idea is much more applicable at work. I know that the days when I take 30 minutes to go through my Google Reader are less productive over all because I'm thinking about what I've read, what I could blog about, what I should share with people. Not my work. The days when I exercise the discipline to do one thing, even one small thing, on my to-do list right when I sit down are the days when I'm most productive because I'm in work mode from the first minute.

It's like when you're a kid and your parents say you can have desert after you eat dinner. Today, I like to think life's short, eat desert first! and assert my independence by eating cookies at 5 before we cook dinner. But, it turns out, Parents know what they are talking about - the days when I save desert for 8pm, when dinner is done, the kitchen is clean, and I'm comfy on the couch with my one true love (Netflix), are the evenings I enjoy it the most.