Thursday, July 31, 2008

More Projects That Can Make a Difference

As I wrote yesterday, I have many more project ideas than I have time for. So, if you don't want to do any of those I mentioned yesterday, how about one of these?
  • A private elementary school for high-ability kids or a chain of them. No Child Left Behind and other public school programs driven more by politics than pedagogy are denying bright kids their right to an appropriate education, curtailing their ability to live up to their potential.
  • A career counselor who does the job searching for clients. This person would cold-call and answer want ads on behalf of clients, so all the client would have to do was show up at the interview.
  • Create Utopia College, an undergraduate college whose sole mission was to help undergraduates grow in important ways and to land good employment after graduation.
  • Advocate for men. On behalf of the National Organization for Men, continually send op-eds and letters to the editors of the major media. Offer to appear on major TV shows, perhaps having debates on such propositions as: Who has it better: men or women?
  • Intelligent Choice: A high-school or college course helping young women to realize that the choice of their child's father has a profound effect on both their child and themselves.
  • A parenting education course: Taught in high schools, colleges, as part of LaMaze classes, or in maternity ward hospital rooms, this course, based on the critical incidents in parenting ,would help ensure that, from day one, parents had the skills to raise their children well.
  • A financial literacy course: Taught in high schools or colleges, this would teach students how to get good deals, avoid getting ripped off, manage checkbooks and credit, and invest wisely (The word "Vanguard" would appear prominently.)
  • An entrepreneurship course: This, unlike courses commonly taught in universities, would not focus on building scalable large innovations, which are too risky for the average self-employment aspirant. This course would focus on replicating low-investment, proven successful businesses as well as the art of unearthing out new, practical ideas and how to bring them to fruition.
  • Champion three-week-long, publicly funded elections. That would encourage good candidates to run and ensure they weren't in special interests' hip pockets. To help ensure an informed electorate, voter information pamphlets and websites would include the candidates' voting record and position on key issues.

A Great Way to Get Expert Fast

I just finished a session with a client who develops advertising ideas and copy. He works for a second-tier ad agency but would like to move up.

I suggested he create a nugget file. That's simply a word-processing file in which he writes one-line nuggets, each describing a key tool or principle in great advertising. I suggested he find those nuggets by studying the advertising that recently won a national award. (I cautioned against going back to old ads, because the world has changed.) Because it's critical to apply learning right away, I then suggested he apply those nuggets to improving his own website, which will be the "ad" he'll use to sell himself to those big-time ad agencies. He said he loved the idea.

Yesterday, I suggested that another client start a nugget file. He's about to begin landscape architecture school at Cornell. His goal is to specialize in coastline landscape architecture. I suggested he create a nugget file on that specialization and that he gather the nuggets in three ways:

1. Do a Google search for on-target articles and an Amazon search for on-target books.

2. Ask your professor to let you to do assignments and term papers that focus on coastline landscape architecture.

3. During class sessions, listen for nuggets.

Like my ad writer client, he said he is excited about keeping a nugget file.

Should you keep a nugget file on some topic?

Lessons from Chopin

Frederic Chopin, at the age of 38, wrote this in a letter to his friend, Auguste Franchomme:
"I have promised to play at a concert for 60 pounds. ...I am counting on earning that 60 pounds. What to do with myself next, I don't know, but I earnestly wish that somebody would give me--to the end of my life--an annual pension for not composing."
Two lessons I derive:

1. Even a composer as great as Chopin (my personal favorite), may always have to worry about money. Alas, things haven't changed.

2. Even people in so-called dream careers often feel disillusioned with it. Some of Chopin's discontent came from his already starting-to-fail health, but reading his letters suggests that much of his malaise derived from his personality. I believe that contentment lies primarily within one's hard-wiring, which can be ameliorated only somewhat by a persistent effort to remain positive.

And now, I invite you to take 4 1/2 minutes from your busy life to watch this video of a scene from the movie The Pianist. Not only is it great Chopin, but it is moving for another reason. Click HERE.

A Man Who Gives All for Family...Is it Worth It?

I have a male client who's married to a stay-at-home wife. To fund her big-spending ways, he's had to take a job that few people would describe as inordinately rewarding, especially in today's market: He sells real estate. Not surprisingly, he's having a tough time making a living at it, a cause of great stress: His wife is hounding him to make more money lest they lose their suburban mini-mansion. He tries ever harder because "What do you expect? I have to support my family."

His wife had a child from a previous marriage who has "issues:" This 24-year-old sits in an apartment smoking pot all day. waiting for her boyfriend to come home. My client spends large amounts of time trying to help his stepchild. He's a kind, patient man, and his drugged-out stepkid yells at him for "not giving me space, and coming down on me." He continues to try to help. He says, "What do you expect? It's my family."

Now, it appears his sister, who has been a lifelong professional student and hoarder/pack rat has decided to move near my client. He says, "I'll do the best I can for her." I ask him, "Do you really need to do that?" He says, "It's family."

Yesterday, he thought he was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I'm betting he's at-risk.

What is his wife doing to help reduce his stress? Is she getting a job to help share the financial burden? No: After his heart attack scare, her response was, "I think you should take out more life insurance." Is that what a family member should say?

This client is one of the more extreme examples, but I have found many men who give it all to family, including paying the ultimate price, and derived far too little in exchange. Especially for many, although certainly not all men, I believe family is overrated.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two Under-the-Radar Ideas for Improving the World

A book (and then a TV special, column, and radio talk show) called America Talks About Race. Barack Obama is calling for an open dialogue about race. So did Bill Clinton. So does every diversity trainer. Yet, to date, it hasn't really happened. I see the need for a book called America Talks About Race, based both on a survey and perhaps 30 Americans' (white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American and mixed-race) stories about their experiences regarding race and their recommendations for how race-related problems might best be improved.

I might decide to write it but prefer if someone else did: I have more projects I'd like to take on than I could complete in a lifetime.

A lawsuit demanding men's studies programs. Women's studies departments have done much to advance women's causes. It has been said there's no need for men's studies departments because men are hegemonic. I believe that's unfair. With boys doing worse in schools than girls, graduating from college in far fewer numbers, in prison in far greater numbers, with many men of all income levels feeling alienated, and spending their last decade in worse health than women and dying 5.3 years sooner, there is a real need for men's studies programs.

Efforts to start men's studies programs have met with resistance from universities. I believe that advocates of men's studies programs need to take a lesson from women's advocacy groups: When women's groups couldn't get what they wanted using persuasion, they sued. I believe it's time for an equal protection lawsuit: Just as Title IX legislation mandated equalized funding for women's and men's sports in colleges, there should be equal funding for men's and women's studies.

Anyone want to spearhead that suit? Again, I might do that but prefer if someone else did.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Exchange with a Leading U.S. Environmental Policymaker

I sent a leading environmental policymaker the link to a site that:

1. Lists 31,000 scientists including
Berkeley's Nobel Prize winner Edward Teller and MIT's Alfred Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Richard Lindzen, who signed a petition disagreeing with the highly influential IPCC panel's report saying that massive effort should be made to cool the earth; that is, stop global warming.

2. Explains that contrary to media reporting, that IPCC report (funded by the UN) is substantively politically motivated rather than objective-science-driven.

3. Contains a refereed-journal-published review of the peer-reviewed scientific research, which concludes that significant doubt exists as to whether global warming is real, significantly manmade, and practically remediable.

email to him continued:

Can you see why I believe it is premature for the world to embark on measures that will be of unprecedented cost and painful effect on the people who can least afford it in an attempt to cool the earth when global warming may turn out to be a non-problem, and even if it becomes a problem, it won't be for a long time, at which point new technologies will have sufficiently mitigated the problem? As even the environmentalist-run U.S. Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration agrees, average global temperature has increased a total of just 1 degree since 1880(!), absolutely no increase in the last decade despite a major increase in CO2 emission, and the best projections are for global COOLING for the next decade. Even if later, there is a resumed upward trend, by then, non-fossil-fuel technology (solar, wind, nuclear, etc) will likely have advanced enough to preclude the need for such draconian restrictions on humankind. Am I being foolish?

I fully recognize that all the leaders of major governments, even George Bush, say we need to make massive efforts to stop global warming/climate change. So, not withstanding the 31,000 scientists, it's certainly possible that climate change is worth addressing. But what am I not understand that justifies the immediate massive pain that Gore and others of his ilk are calling for?


His response: "Even if it turns out that human induced climate change is modest, the benefits of aggressive reductions in oil use and improved energy efficiency are huge – and the strategies to do so are almost identical to those to reduce CO2. "

My response to him:
There should be an enormous difference in the policy implications if global warming is not a serious concern. The difference: drilling for oil and natural gas to bridge us between now and when non-fossil-fuel energy becomes cost-effective. That enables people to not suffer restrictions on their freedom of mobility that come from higher gas prices and current proposals to restrict driving, freedom to be comfortable in their homes (no restrictions on thermostats), and freedom from the increases in the cost of living that will come from cap and trade, buy-local, and other restrictions that would be particularly painful to the working class and poor.

He responded:
Drilling for more oil is good and would not be precluded by a climate policy. At worst, a small charge would be added to oil prodn costs (say, 30 cents/gallon) (via cap and trade or carbon tax) which would have zero effect on oil drilling. This is a false argument on your part.

I responded:

I don't think so. Earlier, you agreed that the science behind the global warming/climate change hypothesis is equivocal enough that that shouldn't be used to justify imposing your aforementioned painful restrictions on the public to try to cool the earth.

And you haven't countered my argument that by drilling and use of existing and ever evolving current technologies, we'll bridge the 10-15 years until technological advances enable us to become energy independent.

So why impose a cap and trade/carbon tax (which would raise the costs of many other items other than gasoline) not to mention the other sources of public pain you've supported: restricting driving with Big-Brother monitors on car odometers and thermostats?

Remember the human costs of such restrictions: For example, a working-class non-custodial parent who wanted to visit their child regularly who lived 40 miles away would find it financially painful if not infeasible to do so. Many older people who are in good health and thus could not get a physician's exemption, are uncomfortable unless the thermostat is at 74 or 75, even with a sweater on. You'd force them to feel cold in their own homes.

Please recognize that you're hurting the lives of millions of human beings every time you impose one of the proposed restrictions. There needs to be darn good science to justify that.

He responded:

We’ll never be energy independent (at least in this century). Carbon is an extrnaliity, just like pollution and energy security. The rational efficient way to internalize those costs is with a carbon tax or something similar.

I responded: It is not rational. Your scheme will hurt literally billions of people because of your perceived need to control carbon, despite the ambiguity of the science and despite the fact that in 10-15 years, before oil will have come close to running out, new technologies will have advanced enough that we won't be too dependent on foreign oil, and importantly, we will not have made billions of people suffer in the meantime.

He responded:

What about the 100+ million Bangladesh people who are about to be flooded out of their country by rising sea levels? And you are dreaming (or smoking something) if you believe there will be oil substitutes in 10-15 years (or probably even further, especially if we don’t have carbon taxes or something similar).

I responded:

We're going round and round: You granted that the science is ambiguous on whether climate change is occurring and substantially man-made. Current potential flooding in one place on earth is no evidence of man-induced climate change. It's much more likely just one example of the natural disasters that have occurred since the earth began. Indeed, a recent court case debunked the CO2/hurricane connection. Saying that one place on earth may suffer severe flooding is far from justification for making the entire world suffer to try to cool the globe, when it well may be a non-issue.

I'll ignore your latest ad hominem remark ("Are you dreaming or smoking something?") and instead focus on the substantive issue: many experts agree that a combination of oil, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, etc will, as I wrote, make it likely that "we won't be too dependent on foreign oil'" in the next 10 to 15 years, and "importantly, we will not have made billions of people suffer in the meantime."

Dear readers, help me understand what is wrong with my analysis?

Note: I withhold the name of the aforementioned policymaker because he's a friend and I promised that his comments would not be for attribution.

Advice to a Procrastinating Choreographer

A young client said he'd like to be a fight choreographer but that he tends to be lazy and a procrastinator. Here's the essence of what I said to him:

In a field as competitive as choreography, unless you're amazingly talented, you are going to have to cure your procrastination and become absolutely driven to be the best because there are many, many people willing to do whatever it takes to land that rare choreography work that pays enough fto support yourself even modestly.

That means, for example, even before starting choreography school, reading the best books and articles about fight choreography, watching dozens of choreographed fights (writing in a journal what you loved and didn't love about each), asking world-class fight choreographers questions and begging to meet them and/or to have them review the many choreographed fights you will have developed, then going to the choreography school, working harder than any student in the program, building relationships with the best fight choreographers in Hollywood so you can land a job as an assistant to one of them. Then, on the job, you must be hard working, a great guy, and ask counsel of your boss. You must also network relentlessly with the people with the power to hire you to be a choreographer.

I am not exaggerating: that is what it will likely take to give you even a reasonable chance of making a living as a fight choreographer. So, still want to do it?

Dear reader, are you attempting a long-shot career with a half-baked effort?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Perhaps the U.S. Isn't Doing as Badly as the Media Would Have Us Believe

New York Times syndicate columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote this today

In Praise of Copying

Last night, I had dinner with a woman from China who now works as a graphic designer for Cisco. She insists that one of the reasons for Chinese workers' excellence is that in schools in China, before students are encouraged to be creative, they are required to do a tremendous amount of copying. So, for example, she was required to try to copy the paintings of great masters. Aspiring computer engineers are trained to copy great circuits. Aspiring writers are first taught to try to copy the styles of masters.

This comports with the way I became a professional pop pianist. I listened to top pop pianists and tried to mimic them, virtually note by note. (But I did NOT get the sheet music--that would have kept me from learning to play by ear.) Only when I could reproduce, fairly well, the piano playing of my favorite pianist, Peter Nero, did I really try to develop my own style.

In contrast, children in U.S. schools are encouraged to be creative from Day 1. For example, they're encouraged to paint whatever comes to mind. They're encouraged to do "creative writing," even "creative spelling."

I'm wondering if copying might be an underappreciated learning tool.

Developing Your Writing Style

In my early writing, I was so insecure about my abilities, that my main goals were to seem smart and to cover every relevant detail. Not surprisingly, that created turgid, often impenetrable writing.

I was cured of that when I decided to send a draft of my writing to my neighbor: a kindergarten teacher. In her sweet way, she let me know that she couldn't understand much of what I wrote and found it so boring that if she didn't know me, she'd have stopped reading it. Her feedback made me promise that I would try hard to make everything I wrote pleasant to read and understandable even to a kindergarten teacher. I figured that even an educated audience would appreciate a crisp, pleasant read.

But I went too far: My pervasive attempts at humor were distracting and too often, not funny: humor isn't my greatest strength.

Today, I try to write simply and without forced humor. If a humorous idea emerges naturally, fine, but I don't deliberately try to be funny. Also, I'm typically willing to sacrifice thoroughness for conciseness. Especially on the Web, readers operate on Internet time, which means they want their information fast.

So now, my writing aims to provide maximum fresh ideas per minute of reader time, and be pleasant to read. How would you define the writing style to which you aspire?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Where the Jobs Are

My radio show today focused on where the jobs are. You can hear it on my site or download it as a podcast from the NPR site. (Note: it may be until Monday, 7/28 until it's available on my site.)

Here's a summary of what I said on the show. Job availability is best in:
1. Low-cost-of-living states, especially in the local and state government sectors.
2. IT management (systems analyst, project leads, network administrator.)
3. Engineering (especially green, software, medical devices and equipment)
4. Finance and accounting, both as individual contributors and in management.
5. Skilled trades, especially machinists
6. Anything green. See
7 Nursing and other allied health professions such as imaging techs.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Straight Talk about Finding a Career

Career contentment rarely comes from figuring out the right career for you. It generally comes only after you've gotten into some career that's a reasonable fit, done a thorough job search so you can land a decent job, and then gotten really competent at your job.

So, pick something, anything--perhaps a career in which you have connections that can help you get a good first job or at least be a mentor to you. Then throw yourself into your work as though you were totally passionate about it. I've found that to be the surest route to career contentment.

If you're older than 25 and still trying to figure out what career to pursue, be sure you're not just procrastinating because you really don't want a career.

Musings on "The Last Lecture" guy's death

Mark Goulston is one of my most respected colleagues. His columns and other writings are full of uncommon sense. But he emailed me his response to the death of Randy Pausch (the "Last Lecture" guy) and I disagreed with much of it.

Here is his email with my responses embedded in blue.

Touched By An Angel - 12 Heavenly Lessons

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who inspired millions with "The Last Lecture," died today at age 47.

I didn't know him but his death deeply affected me. And having done house calls to dying people for most of my 30 years as a psychiatrist, his passing caused me to pause and reflect on the collective wisdom that he and they have taught me.

1. "No dying man wishes he'd spent more time at the office."

Not true. Some of the most self-actualized people I know have forgone balance in favor of working as much as possible, even on their deathbed, because they believe (rightly in my view) that the meaning of their lives is defined primarily not by family as is conventional wisdom, but by the contribution they've made to society.

2. While you're out trying to win the respect and admiration of the outside world who usually won't give it to you, don't make those who really do care about you feel like their love and respect isn't worth anything.

See #1 above.

3. Don't let your emotional shyness cause you to wait until it's too late to say: "I'm sorry," "Thank you," "I love you" and "I'll miss you."

Often, people don't make deathbed reconciliations because they believe it would be disingenuous to do so and/or would actually make their lives worse. Some people are better kept out of your life, even if they're family members.

4. Wealth is what you take from the world; worth is what you give back a.k.a. In the end, it's not what you have that matters, it's what you leave behind.

I completely agree. See #1.

5. Smart is about knowing what will make you money; Wisdom is about knowing what's important.

I completely agree. See #1.

6. Love means ALWAYS having to say (and show) you're sorry.

Not true. See #3.

Another Egregious Example of Media Anti-Male Bias

The media breathlessly celebrated a finding by a women's studies professor that said that high school girls now score as well as boys in math. Here are just a few examples: The Associated Press/CNN, New York Times, and National Public Radio.

But the media failed to raise the obvious question: Did girls' achievement occur at boys' expense? That's not an unreasonable possibility given the the tremendous attention having been paid to girls' math education over the past 20 years: teachers being trained to to not call on boys too much, to show role models of females who achieved in math, even to redo the math curriculum to focus on what girls do better: explain things verbally.

So, I asked the study's senior author, Janet Shibley Hyde, the Helen Thompson Woolley Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison that question: 'To what extent did the score gap close because girls' scores went up or because boys' scores went down?" Her response: "We can't really know the answer to your question -- whether it's girls' scores going up or boys' scores going down."

My question to you dear reader, why did not the media ask this question or if they did, fail to report that it's unclear whether boys are being hurt by girls' gains?

An article in City Journal pointed out that the major media's reporting of the story also omitted that while the male and female average math scores were equal, there were many more high-performing boys. That may help explain why more men are scientists. But the media would apparently prefer to leave unexamined its PC belief that sexism is the reason.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One More U.S. Advantage is Eroding

America has always prided itself on having the finest universities in the world. Of course, that reputation is built almost completely on their research, not the quality of education provided, especially to undergraduates. Indeed, as I've documented in previous posts and articles, the quality of teaching is, on average, abominable, and the feeble student growth is evidence of that.

I recently bought two audio courses offered by The Teaching Company, which claims to comb America's most prestigious universities to find its very finest instructors. Both courses were horrible. The first was on Beethoven sonatas. The course leeched the life out of every note. Each bar was intellectually analyzed until all pleasure had been excised. In the course on argumentation, the instructor attempted to reduce argumentation to an elaborate model of principles, which I am certain will not improve my argumentation skills, nor could I imagine they'd improve anyone else's, certainly not enough to justify the 12 hours of listening time.

At the same time as American universities continue their atavistic, abstruse ways, Chinese, Indian, and other Asian universities are improving, balancing their traditional emphasis on students mastering copious material and acquiring high-level skills with a new focus on enhancing students' creativity and problem solving ability. Those improved Asian universities will both better educate their already capable, hard-working people, and encourage their best and brightest to not come to the U.S but to stay in their homeland. Meanwhile a new study reported in USA Today finds the number of American students taking classes abroad has tripled in the last decade.

The U.S. desperately needs to convert most of its universities from arcana research factories to undergraduate-centered colleges in which immersive simulations and not lectures are the norm, in which courses' primary goal is to improve students' reasoning, writing, speaking, and mathematical reasoning skills, and in which faculty is hired and promoted based on how well they can educate and inspire, not how many useless, self-indulgent, often outre research articles they can crank out. Named to "Best of the Best" List

I'm pleased that my site (which includes this blog) has just been named one of Alltop's Best of the Best.

You'll find Alltop useful in finding good sites in all sorts of categories, ranging from ADHD to Yoga.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Hidden Key to Success

Standard advice usually omits this key to success: be enjoyable to be around. Whether you're an employee or self-employed, people prefer to work with people who make their life more pleasant. They'll often prefer such a person to a more competent one.

So, yes, be as competent as possible, but recognize that you pay a price every time you're high-maintenance, too intense, demeaning, etc., and you gain brownie points every time you make co-workers, bosses, or customers' lives more pleasant: getting a project done without bugging them, not making too many requests, complimenting them, giving them credit, inserting a bit of humor to break the tension in a meeting, etc.

The Smartest Vice-Presidential Picks?

If someone asked me (no one has,) these would be my recommendations to Obama and McCain for the strongest VP candidate:

Obama should choose Hillary:
  • While she has strong negatives, she has many more passionate supporters, especially among women, including many who otherwise might not vote. The larger Obama's victory, the more he can claim a mandate for what will be a very liberal agenda, so having her on the ticket will greatly empower his presidency.
  • I think the argument against her that America isn't ready for a Black president and a women vice-president is wrong. I think America really wants to show how not racist and sexist it is, so that ticket would yield, in my opinion, a win of unprecedented size.
  • Most important, Hillary is smart, driven, ruthless, and an effective politician--that's an unbeatable combination in a politician.
I do think Obama will need to allow, indeed encourage her to be a new style of vice president: with a far more active role than traditional vice presidents. But both Clinton/Gore and Bush/Cheney have set precedent for that.

McCain should also choose Hillary:
  • Right now, it appears he's dead in the water. He needs a bold VP pick, and for the reasons above, Hillary seems like the best shot.
  • In addition, the country (thanks to the ever more baldly liberal-biased media and colleges,) is moving the country leftward, so McCain needs a leftist running mate if he's to have any chance of winning.
  • Of course, McCain and Clinton would argue like hell in the Oval Office, but that's okay: Often the best ideas derive from a clash between two differing titans. (Alas, McCain is no titan now, if he ever was one.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Are Google and Wikipedia Searches Liberal-Biased?

Over the past months, I've found it ever more difficult to dig up conservative material using Google (both its web and news searches.) For example, today, I tried to find reporting on Senator James Inhofe's testimony before the Senate Committee on Public Works and the Environment on the current state of global warming science. Nothing there, other than a bit of polemical Inhofe bashing. I had to go to the Senate's website to find his testimony. (I've copied it into an earlier blog post today.)

I'm wondering if Google has set its search algorithm to censor or downgrade the score of conservative publications. I'm not the only worrier: former Reagan advisor and CNBC host Larry Kudlow has wondered about the same thing.

If Google is making it harder to find conservative thought, that is very troubling. Already, our other major sources of information: the schools, the colleges and the media have a decidedly liberal bias.

Wikipedia too seems to have a liberal bias. (FYI, it's the world's largest encyclopedia and the 9th most visited site on the Net.) That bias is particularly strong on racial issues. If additionally, Google searches are liberal-biased, we'll all be hearing overwhelmingly liberal thought.

And while I'm far from an across-the-board conservative, I do not believe that all wisdom resides left of center, and do believe that society is best served by facilitating open access to the full range of responsibly held ideas.

Are you perceiving a liberal or conservative bias in Google searches or in Wikipedia entries?

Getting Motivated

Here's a list of ideas that I derived from one of today's career counseling sessions. I've written about most of these ideas before, but feel it might be useful for you if I list them here:
  • Figure out how you can make each task as fun as possible.
  • Break the task down into little bites and feel good when you get a bite done.
  • Don't be perfectionistic. That way, tasks will be less painful to do.
  • Do a crappy first version. It's easier to revise your way into excellence than to come up with it out of thin air.
  • When you reach a hard part, don't struggle long with it. Usually, if you can't make progress within 15-60 seconds, chances are you won't make enough progress to justify taking any more time on it. Go on, maybe come back to it later, or get help with it.
  • Feel grateful for your situation. Instead of resenting having to work, adopt the approach so common among the World War II generation: Accept that you have to work, no questions asked: You have an almost a spiritual obligation to not be a parasite on the world, and more positively, to use your abilities and training to make the world better, even if it's just to dig a drainage ditch.

A Conjugal Visit

This is totally off-topic for my blog but listen to this: The Conjugal Visit (Warning: It is very sexually explicit.) Do NOT read the rest of this blog post until you've listened to it.

* * * * *
When I first heard it, I thought it was a recording of a real conversation between a prison switchboard operator and a caller. (Call me stupid, what can I say?) I found it very entertaining. Then I found out that it is a comedy routine by Wanda Sykes, a four-time Emmy-award winning writer and comedian. Now knowing it is a comedy routine, when I listen to it again, it seems less funny, which is why I wanted you to listen to it without knowing what it is--in case you're as stupid as I am.

A question for you: Do think it's racist of me to post this comedy routine? I decided to post it because, while it does reinforce a racial stereotype, many of our most admired comedians use their their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation as the basis for their comedy routines.

Best Summary of Why It's Premature to Try to Cool the Earth

This is Senator Inhofe's (Minority Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee) statement at today’s hearing on the current status of the science on climate change.

I believe this testimony and its associated links is the best aggregation of data suggesting that that it is very premature of the world to decide that it needs to jump on Al Gore's bandwagon and make massive efforts to attempt to lower the earth's temperature.

Numerous peer-reviewed studies, analyses and prominent scientists continue to speak out to refute many conclusions of the IPCC. I have documented in the past how the consensus on the “science is settled” debate has been challenged, and in many cases, completely refuted, from the hockey stick, to the Stern Review, to the IPCC backtracking on conclusive physical links between global warming and observed hurricane frequency and intensity. Just this past week, a major new study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Dynamics that finds worldwide land warming has occurred largely in response' to oceans, and not carbon dioxide. There have also been recent challenges by Russian scientists to the very idea that carbon dioxide is driving Earth’s temperature and a report from India challenging the so-called “consensus.” The Physics and Society Forum, a unit within the American Physical Society, published a new paper refuting the IPCC conclusions where the editor conceded there is a ‘considerable presence' of global warming skeptics within the scientific community. More and more prominent scientists continue to speak out and dissent from man made global warming. In June, the Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever, declared himself a “skeptic” and said “global warming has become a new religion.” Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanna Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology also dissented in 2008. “As a scientist I remain skeptical” of climate fears, Dr. Simpson said in February of this year. In June, a top UN IPCC Japanese Scientist, Dr. Kiminori Itoh, turned on the IPCC and called man-made global warming fears the “worst scientific scandal in the history.” In addition, more evidence of challenges to global warming occurred when two top hurricane scientists announced they were reconsidering their views on global warming and hurricanes. As the normal scientific process continues to evolve and models continue to improve, there have many more instances documented that are positive developments, which should be embraced, rather than ridiculed or immediately attacked by the media or policymakers. It is my hope that as more and more of these researchers speak out, scientific objectivity and integrity can be restored to the field of global warming research.

Here is an excerpt from Senate testimony today by former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist, Earth System Science Center University of Alabama in Huntsville

"On the subject of the Administration’s involvement in policy-relevant scientific work performed by government employees in the EPA, NASA, and other agencies, I can provide some perspective based upon my previous experiences as a NASA employee. For example, during the Clinton-Gore Administration I was told what I could and could not say during congressional testimony. Since it was well known that I am skeptical of the view that mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions are mostly responsible for global warming, I assumed that this advice was to help protect Vice President Gore’s agenda on the subject. […] Regarding the currently popular theory that mankind is responsible for global warming, I am very pleased to deliver good news from the front lines of climate change research. Our latest research results, which I am about to describe, could have an enormous impact on policy decisions regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Despite decades of persistent uncertainty over how sensitive the climate system is to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, we now have new satellite evidence which strongly suggests that the climate system is much less sensitive than is claimed by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. […] If true, an insensitive climate system would mean that we have little to worry about in the way of manmade global warming and associated climate change. And, as we will see, it would also mean that the warming we have experienced in the last 100 years is mostly natural. Of course, if climate change is mostly natural then it is largely out of our control, and is likely to end -- if it has not ended already, since satellite-measured global temperatures have not warmed for at least seven years now. […] Based upon global oceanic climate variations measured by a variety of NASA and NOAA satellites during the period 2000 through 2005 we have found a signature of climate sensitivity so low that it would reduce future global warming projections to below 1 deg. C by the year 2100. […] Obviously, what I am claiming today is of great importance to the global warming debate and related policy decisions, and it will surely be controversial. These results are not totally unprecedented, though, as other recently published research6 has also led to the conclusion that the real climate system does not exhibit net positive feedback. […] I hope that the Committee realizes that, if true, these new results mean that humanity will be largely spared the negative consequences of human-induced climate change. This would be good news that should be celebrated -- not attacked and maligned. And given that virtually no research into possible natural explanations for global warming has been performed, it is time for scientific objectivity and integrity to be restored to the field of global warming research. This Committee could, at a minimum, make a statement that encourages that goal."

Where the Jobs Are

Fans of squooshy or artsy careers, alas the news isn't good. Here's Vickie Elmer's report in the Washington Post on where the jobs are:

If you're seeing the storm clouds of the economy
darken, you might want to grab a career more likely
to withstand a recession. Go into
sales, software development or design if you want
something safe, suggests Jobfox, a McLean, Va.
career website. Its new list of the most
recession-proof professions also includes nurses
accounting staff, business analysts and network
administrators. Financial executives and
administrative assistants also are prime positions,
according to Jobfox. CareerBuilder, run by a group
of newspaper companies and Microsoft, has a similar
list. Engineering, health-care jobs such as
physical therapists, medical assistants, radiology
technicians as well as nurses and information
technology positions including systems analysis and
web development are among the best. State and local
government jobs also could be safe bets.
CareerBuilder reports are based on its own research
and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

African-American Racism, an Underdiscussed Issue

The career counseling client who just left my office is a social worker who works for a government agency in a major city. She is half white and half Latina.

Tearfully, she claimed that she has, for years, been the persistent victim of racism by her Black clients, co-workers, and boss. She said that her black clients frequently call her racist when she, for example, informs them that she needs to make a home visit or denies their claim for benefits. She told of her Black boss letting the Black workers routinely take two-hour lunches and giving them fewer and easier cases to work on. She has complained to her boss and to human resources to no avail.

That reminds me of a number of white, Asian, or Latino clients who, over the years, claimed persistent, blatant racism from African-Americans, and felt miserable and/or felt forced to quit their jobs as a result. In contrast, while a small percentage of my African-American clients have mentioned that they perceive subtle racism in their workplace, not one has ever claimed such severe racism. Of course, it is possible they didn't mention it to me because they're uncomfortable making such an accusation to me, a white person.

The above provides merely skimpy anecdotal evidence that Black racism toward others is more prevalent and severe than others' racism toward Blacks. To obtain more solid evidence, I submitted to 10 publishers a book proposal on the topic of race in the workplace, in which I proposed to place ads in major newspapers and websites inviting readers of all races to email me their stories about race in the workplace. My book would tell their stories and conclude with summary findings and recommendations. In response, I received just one call of interest: from a Harper Collins acquisitions editor, an African-American woman. Her first question: "What's going to be the conclusion of your book?" I said, "I don't know. It depends on what I learn from doing the research for the book." She said, "You know that's a deal killer." I said, "I can't help it. I'm not going to promise the book's conclusion before I do the research." She said, "Oh well." And that was that.

I believe it would be of great value to society if someone attempted to write an even-handed, fully honest book on race in the workplace, based on fair-minded, quality research.

In any event, perhaps you'd like to post a comment here describing the extent to which you believe racism of whatever type(s) exist in your workplace.

A possibly relevant data point: A 2004 Pew Charitable Trust study found that only 65% of registered Black voters registered Democrat, yet according to the latest CNN/Time poll, among Black voters, Obama leads McCain 95% to 4%. While some of the non-Democrats might favor Obama for non-racial reasons, those statistics suggest that significant numbers of Blacks let their desire to vote for a Black trump their political beliefs.

Why Women Don't Get Ahead in Science Careers

A blog post on, a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS,) recently reported a study that found that "many women participate more actively at the beginning of their scientific career, with their work ambitions reduced after having children."

Why does the media relentlessly report claims of a glass ceiling yet rarely report research findings such as that?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Who Should Win the Nobel Peace Prize?

I received this email from a stranger named Michael Chramko:

Recently a 98 year old lady named Irena died.

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a sewer specialist.

She had an ulterior motive...

As a German Christian, she heard the Nazis' plans for the Jews.

Irena smuggled infants out in the back of her truck.

She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let Irina in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time and course of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

She was caught and the Nazis broke both her legs, and arms, and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out, and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it, and reunited the family. Most of course had been gassed.

The kids she helped got placed into foster family homes, or adopted.

Last year Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize....


Al Gore won, for a slide show on global warming.

I've argued in previous posts, that Gore's movie and speeches assert as certainties, statements that are the subject of significant doubt among climate scientists. Here are links:
Meanwhile, at Gore's impetus, the world is expending enormous sums and is planning equally large restrictions of people's freedoms (to drive, set their thermostats at comfortable temperatures, etc.). Before such massive impositions on humankind, we deserve better evidence.

I invite you to check this woman's bio out, and then ask yourself whether she or Al Gore was more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize: