Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Which of these book titles do you like best?

I'd appreciate your posting a comment in answer to this question:

Which of these titles would make you most likely to want to read the book?

This list will keep getting updated until a title has been selected.

Update: I've now settled on a title. It's the first one listed below. Now to get a good publisher. If not, I will self-publish using Amazon's CreateSpace.

Indeed, after settling on it, I proposed it to the Washington Post as the title of my forthcoming series. They gave me the thumbs-up.


"What's the Big Idea?"
30 reinventions for a better America

Reinventions
of 30 of society's pillars

Reinventions
30 ideas for a better America

"You're Not Realistic, Dr. Nemko!"

30 ambitious ideas for a better America

Or if you'd like to suggest something else, I'd welcome knowing that too.

If you'd like to see a draft of this 70-page book, click HERE.

If you prefer to see a fully formatted version of the book with its illustrations and graphics, email me at mnemko@comcast.net and I'll email it to you.

In any event, thank you for considering giving me your opinion.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Investing Reinvented

Especially in these tight times that will likely be with us for the foreseeable future, whatever savings we have should be invested wisely.

Fortunately, it's far easier than financial advisers--who make their money by making us feel we need them--would have us believe.

Even many sophisticated investment advisers agree that the following no-brains-required strategy is likely to, over the long run, yield better results than most investors obtain using strategies that are far more time-consuming, anxiety-provoking, and requiring great expertise or paying a hefty fee to a financial adviser.

1. Keep most of your money in a low-cost, no-load mutual fund. They offer greater potential rewards than a bank CD but with greater risk. One of the best is a Vanguard All-in-One Fund. Those come in different flavors depending on your risk tolerance and how long you plan to keep your money invested.

1a. If you're in the top federal tax bracket (the 35% rate), you might be better off in a tax-managed fund such as the Vanguard Tax-Managed Capital Appreciation Fund or the less aggressive Vanguard Tax-Managed Balanced Fund.

Do not try to time the market. Every time you have an extra $500-$2,500 to invest, do so that day. That way, your money goes to work for you immediately. Also, that automatically buys you more shares when prices are low, fewer when prices are high.

2. Keep an amount equal to six months living expenses in one of the nation's highest yielding bank CDs. How do you find them? Easy: bankrate.com lists them daily. It feels great to see your savings grow. It's like magic--you earn interest on your interest. That's making money without having to do a thing--and with bank CDs, there's essentially no risk, especially if you choose one of the banks with a high safety rating.

2a. If you're in the top federal tax bracket (the 35% rate), you might be better off in a Vanguard tax-exempt bond fund. than in a bank CD.

I believe that all citizens should be taught that model of investing. It would likely result in more net assets for the public, more confidence that it's worth saving for a rainy day, and a greater sense of security, something we could all use in these insecure times.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional investment adviser and thus am NOT giving investment advice here. This merely is a model I've used in my investing. Also, except for the bank CDs, please note that these are uninsured investments and subject to losses. Finally, I am not affiliated with the companies mentioned in this article and have nothing to gain from your investing in them.

Simplism: A New Alternative to Capitalism and Socialism

Both the capitalist and socialist systems are deeply flawed:

Capitalism results in too great a gap between a small wealthy class and a large and ever growing poor. Also, capitalism thrives on ever growing materialism, which promotes shallow values and environmental degradation.

Socialism doesn't work because it rewards the lazy and incompetent while punishing the hard-working and capable.

Of course, many countries use a capitalism/socialism hybrid but I believe there's a better approach. I call it Simplism. It requires educating the public about three things:

1. The wisdom of our buying personal services rather than non-essential products. Our lives benefit more from such services as a tutor for our kids, assistant for ourselves, or a companion for our elders than from buying jewelry, new cars every few years, expensive vacations, big houses, etc.

Of course, if the public were to be less materialistic, many jobs creating and distributing those material goods would be lost. Disproportionately affected would be low-skill/low motivation workers. So for Simplism to work, I believe the government would need to create taxpayer-funded jobs for those unable to hold a private-sector job. Those jobs might include, under supervision, building housing, assisting in classrooms, cleaning up blighted neighborhoods, etc.

2. By reducing our spending to the truly important, we'd gain greater benefits than what our purchases would generate: we'd gain the freedom to do the sorts of work we want, the time to pursue our desired non-remunerative pursuits, and the peace of mind that comes from the absence of big unpaid bills.

3. The importance of considering learning to be an entrepreneur, to run your own business. That
avoids your needing to be a wage slave, paid as little as the employer can get away with. It also
provides greater job security than if employed by others, and brings to the public better, faster, or less expensive products and services, thereby improving all of our lives. And of course, creating new businesses creates new jobs. The skill of entrepreneurship may be as important as the 3 Rs. Therefore, I believe it should be taught k-16 as well as through entrepreneurship boot camps available to all.

Toward a More Ethical America

Most people know the right thing to do. The challenge is getting them to do it.

In just one week in my private practice, clients, in the confidentiality of my office, said the following:
  • "I'm going to stay on unemployment until the extensions run out. Then I'll look for a job. Meanwhile, I'm working under-the-table."
  • "Lawyers often double-bill."
  • "I want to milk the education thing as long as I can so I don't have to grow up." (Professional students waste class slots that could have gone to people who would use that slot to be productive, to better society.)
  • "I flirt to get what I want and then claim I feel violated when they flirt back." (Beware.)
  • A physician admitted to me that some doctors do procedures, including surgeries, that could have more wisely been treated medically. Why? Simply to make more money.
All that on top of the corporate excesses, priests screwing parishioners (including children,) people lying on the resumes and income taxes, using synthetic urine to pass drug tests, hiring people to write their theses, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, getting people to more often do the right thing would bring enormous benefits to society: from more honestly on tax returns to more circumspect decision making to more honorable relationships, business and personal. If we were all more ethical, we'd have to spend less time, money, and resources policing: for example, the mountain of regulations that business must comply with, which nonetheless often don't foil those who wish to be unethical.

The question is, "How do we get more people to choose integrity over expediency?" Nearly every school, including business schools, teach ethics yet too often when it's expedient, people cut corners, sometimes big corners--Enron comes to mind. But lack of integrity is pervasive: from test cheating to resume cheating, from tax cheating to customer cheating--so often do salespeople withhold negative information about a product. And of course, the financial crisis started with people who couldn't afford to buy a home being told they could get a "stated-income" mortgage. So they signed up figuring that if their home declined in value they could simply walk away, leaving the bank to pay for their loss. Then sleazy bankers and insurance companies packaged the mortgages in a way that would hide the bad loans and otherwise unfairly reduce their risk. And the lack of integrity spiraled from there.

There will never be a perfectly integrity-first society but I believe the following will take us closer: We must all come to believe that integrity must trump expediency. Not for fear of punishment because there are too many times that lack of integrity won't get punished. We must believe that integrity trumps expediency because it is cosmically right: that our worth as a human being is centrally dependent on being a person of integrity.

How do we get people to believe that, indeed believe it so strongly that they'll much more often choose integrity over expediency?

To effect such a fundamental change in people's values, I believe requires efforts than begin pre-school and continue well into adulthood:
  • Parenting education (as part of Lamaze and other pre-birth parenting education--e.g.,. in the post-birth hospital room), should stress the primacy of teaching your child that ethics must trump expediency. Parents need, through their actions more than their words, to make clear the primacy of integrity. For example, every time a parent takes their 12-year-old to a restaurant where kids under 12 eat free and the parent says, "My child is 12" and pays, the child gets the message that integrity indeed does trump expediency.
  • Pre-K-through-graduate school, every year or two, students should create (for example, as a term paper) a model ethics training program for slightly younger students. Such an approach immerses the students in the process, unlike in a lecture should generate minimum defensiveness, and provides an ongoing source of improved ethics courses. There need be only three rules for that course development:
  • Its goal must be to change the fabric of a student's thinking process so s/he will almost reflexively choose ethics over expediency.
  • It must be critical-incident based, e.g., for elementary school students: bullying, for high school students: cheating, for business-school students: withholding negative information to sell a product.
  • It must put students in the shoes of the victim of ethical malfeasance. For example, when, to make more money, a surgeon recommends surgery when drug treatment would do, imagine how the patient feels on hearing he "needs" surgery, how his family feels, how he feels when he's checking into the hospital, wheeled into surgery, and when he suffers post-operatively.
To extend the ethics curriculum beyond the school years, producers of public-service announcements, TV dramas and sitcoms, movies and video games should be encouraged to create story lines that present thorny ethical dilemmas: for example, where expediency would yield great benefit and the ethical violation to derive that benefit is not great.
    I would be dishonest to say that I have always chosen integrity over expediency but my batting average is pretty good. And if, from childhood, that concept had been drummed into me as powerfully as the message that that working hard is important, perhaps I would even more often make the cosmically ethical choice.

    Reinventing the Media

    The media may be our most powerful societal entity: It affects who we elect, the laws that get passed, what we buy.

    And today's media has tools to do an ever better job. For example, using just a Twitter question, journalists can crowd-source interviews. With their cell phones, citizens can instantly transmit video of news events to major media outlets worldwide.

    But today's media has become less helpful to the public because it has largely abandoned what I believe is its near-sacred responsibility to provide the full-range of benevolently derived perspectives on the issues of the day. Instead, their reporting tends to reflect their a priori biases.

    The core cause: journalism schools' change in philosophy. In previous generations, J schools taught aspiring journalists to make all efforts to be fair and balanced. Now, the message more often is , "You have the opportunity to change the world."

    Alas, most journalists and their bosses have spent little time in the real world. Their world view reflects what they learned in college, from their fellow journalists, and from their friends. Those influences tend to be overwhelmingly liberal: Academia is left-leaning, most people who enter journalism do so in part to change their world in that leftward direction, and they choose friends with similar views. Indeed surveys invariably find that most journalists are Democrats, Socialists, or Greens.

    Combine journalists' leftist bias with the aforementioned okay from journalism schools to let your values rip, and the media we're exposed to has a decidedly left-of-center bias. Fox News, the only major conservative outlet, is so ridiculed by the other media that it now gets only a small mindshare of the public, especially among the intelligentsia, those most likely to vote and to influence policy.

    Yes, much wisdom comes from left of center, but not all. But you wouldn't know that from the media. Not only do article topics and approaches to those topics tend to be left-biased, freelance articles and op-eds with right-of-center perspectives are generally rejected, censored, as are right-of-center books and movies submitted for review. When such items get reviewed, they generally get judged more on their ideology than the quality of the work.

    It's time for a new core principle of journalism: That journalists indeed have a near-sacred responsibility to present the full range of benevolently derived ideas, to be the grist for full-dimensioned citizen conversations about the issues of our time.

    For example, there are solid arguments for and against wealth redistribution, for and against Keynesianism, for and against undertaking massive efforts to cool the planet, for and against America's continuing as the world's policeman. Consumers of the media should not have to make far greater efforts to find right-of-center thought than to find left-of-center thought.

    In my view, few things could improve America more than a media that opens rather than closes minds.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    My Plan for Closing the Achievement Gap (revised)

    No domestic issue has drawn more attention or money than attempting to close the socioeconomic and racial achievement gap.

    Now, despite a half century and countless innovations from Head Start to Stop Drop, from integration to self-segregated Afrocentric schools, from affirmative action college admission to disparate impact lawsuits on CEO selection, the achievement gap remains as wide as ever.

    Even Head Start, which politicians for decades, trumpeted as our best hope, has recently been determined, in the definitive evaluation of 40 years of Head Start conducted by the U.S. Office of Education, to have no enduring positive effects.

    So it would be hubristic of me to assert that I know how to close the achievement gap but, of course, we should keep trying. So if I were to bet my money, these are the interventions I'd bet on:

    1. Reduce teen pregnancy. It's well established that children of teenage parents are at greater risk of school and life failure. So junior and senior high schools, especially those with high teen pregnancy rates, should implement data-driven teen-pregnancy prevention programs. The research does not support abstinence-only programs and so political pressures to restrict such programs to abstinence-only should be resisted.

    Sex education should include what I call a Choose Your Parent Well component. You can't choose your parents but you certainly can be wise or less wise in choosing the parent of your children. The decision of whom to be the father/mother of your children may be your life's most important. Especially among at-risk teens, there's a tendency to fall in love with a person more on how "cool" he is than how intelligent and motivated he is. But is that the person whose genes you'd like your child to have? Is that the person you want to parent your child?

    To ensure that girls have the child with the father they want, when they're ready, birth control, including long-term reversible implantable Jadelle, should be made available free, on demand, at all high schools.

    Creators of programming aimed at teens (sitcoms, news, movies, video games, music videos, record labels) should be encouraged to create more content that would compellingly display the Choose Your Parent Well message as well as the non-romantic outcomes of teen pregnancy.

    2. Provide parenting education early. To increase the chances that from Day One, parents have the tools to be good parents, full effort should be expended to ensure that high-quality parenting education is highly accessible, especially to pregnant teens in low-income locales. The best parenting education involves interactive video of critical incidents in parenting--for example, what to do if your baby won't stop crying? What to do to ensure your child develops good language skills? Ethics? What if your child won't do her homework? What if you think your child is taking drugs? Is sexually active?

    True innovation in delivery systems is required. For example, high school websites and others heavily visited by at-risk teens, for example, mtv.com, should be encouraged to post the aforementioned parenting training course.

    To ensure its availability to people without computers, the community center in low-income housing projects should have a computer installed that includes the parenting education program as well as other interactive-video programs, for example, on teen pregnancy prevention and on preventing and curing substance abuse. In hospitals, especially those serving at-risk communities, the TV in each new-mom's patient's room should have a TV offering the aforementioned parenting training.

    To receive welfare benefits such as TANF funds, teen or perhaps all parents should be required to successfully complete the online or an in-person parenting education course, much as we require aspiring drivers to complete a driver's education course.

    3. Improve teacher training. Absurdly, pre-K to grade 12 teachers are trained primarily by theory-oriented academics who have never taught in a pre-K to grade-12 classroom, let alone been master teachers there. That must change. The primary instructors of teachers in-training should be master K-12 teachers, including those who have produced excellent results in teaching low-achieving students.

    Teachers of classes in low-achieving schools may well need to be masters at motivation, using a skill set beyond that which is taught in most teacher education programs. So, for example, the increasingly required multicultural education course should include master-teacher-taught lessons on the art of classroom management, including strategies particularly likely to be effective in working with low-achieving, minimally motivated kids.

    Training should not end upon the teacher's obtaining a license to teach. Teachers experiencing the frustrations common in working in low-achieving schools should be able to phone or email a hotline staffed by teachers who have successfully taught in those schools.

    4. Flexibly group classes.
    If I were slow at learning and choosing between a class filled with other slow learners and a class with many hotshots, I'd certainly choose the former. Yet largely because minorities were overrepresented in the slow-learner classes, students, below high school, are usually assigned to classes at random. That causes all students to suffer: It's nearly impossible for a teacher to meet the needs of a class with so wide-ranging needs. We must stop all policies that are created merely to look good racially. Pedagogy must trump politics.

    Classes shouldn't be rigidly tracked but what's needed are what I call flex classes. In them, at least for academic subjects, students are grouped by ability and achievement but in which students, especially those of color, are monitored closely to ensure they're not in a too low- (or too high-) level class.

    5. Dispel the belief that working hard is "acting white." Berkeley researcher John Ogbu is one of many to report that many black students believe that being studious is "acting white," and therefore unacceptable. "Cool" blacks, both peers and adults, who are studious, must convince students and their parents that studying hard is equally important for students of all races.

    6. Encourage an internal locus of control. Of course, what happens to us is not totally under our control. We are greatly affected by the family and community into which we are born. We are affected by the nature of the political and economic system we live under. There is racism. There is reverse racism. There is luck.

    Yet successful people believe they can control enough of their life to greatly increase their chances of success. Academics call that internal locus of control. Alas, students from low-income families are more likely to believe that external factors such as luck, God, and their race are key to determining their success.

    Moving poor people's locus of control inward is no easy task. Many political leaders, educators, and TV pundits gain popularity by telling their audiences that their failings are largely beyond their control: the capitalist system, the legacy of slavery, institutional racism, etc.

    While those may be partially responsible, our mind molders--parents, schools, colleges, church, and media--would be wise to encourage all of us to base our self-esteem, our sense of self-efficacy, on what we ourselves do. The accomplishments of famous people should not be a particular source of pride. Our own efforts, accomplishments, ethics, and kindness should be the primary bases for assessing our self-worth.

    7. Chronically disruptive students must be placed in special classes.
    If a student, despite the teacher's best efforts with help from the principal, continues to disrupt classmates' opportunity to learn, that child must be moved to a special class taught by someone with special skills in working with such kids. Even if that child does no better in that special class, s/he won't be depriving the other 29 students of their right to an education.

    8. Begin career exploration in grade 6.
    Finding an exciting yet realistic career can be motivating to many students. And it reduces the problem of many high school and college graduates having no idea what career they want to pursue.

    9. Give students a choice: college-prep or career-prep curriculum.
    Increasingly, in the name of high standards, high schoolers, even those who read on a sixth grade level and who have far more ability in working with their hands, are being forced to take a college-prep curriculum.

    Imagine that you, like millions of parents, have a child who is entering high school but is reading on just a sixth-grade level. Would you want him forced to take a curriculum that required him to derive geometric theorems, balance chemical equations, and write essays on the intricacies of Shakespeare? He'll almost certainly do terribly. Not surprisingly, mandating a one-size-fits-all curriculum causes many to drop out of high school.

    Worse, the child won't have had an opportunity to build the basic survival skills reading, writing, critical thinking and math he'll desperate need and doesn't yet have. He could better learn those in a direct-to-career path, for example a health-care or entrepreneurship academy within the high school. But as with ability-grouped classes, for fear of appearing racist, direct-to-career high school paths have largely been eliminated. Indeed one of President Obama's top domestic priorities is "Some college for all."

    Today, many colleges are open-admission even to the grossly underprepared. Alas, if a student is one of the 200,000 per year entering so-called 4-year colleges from the bottom 40% of their high school class, their chances of graduating are only 24%, even if given 8 1/2 years! And if they do defy the odds and graduate, it will likely be with a low grade-point average in an easy major such as sociology from a minimally selective college. That will impress few employers at a time when the U.S. has the highest percentage of college graduates in its history at the same time as employers are eliminating as many professional-level positions as possible, through automation, offshoring, or converting jobs to part-time and temp positions. Such graduates are likely to join the ranks of the countless people with a bachelor's degree unable to find better employment than they could have found with just a high school diploma. Meanwhile they have incurred large student debt, boredom, and ongoing assault to self-esteem from being forced to study academic material for which they were unprepared.

    I'd rather see the aforementioned child improve his reading, writing, thinking, and mathematical reasoning in high school courses that would prepare him to be an entrepreneur, robotics tech, helicopter pilot, or chef.

    A high-quality, not dumping-ground, direct-to-career option should be instituted in high schools, especially those schools serving many students whose academic achievement is below grade-level.

    It's ironic that the leaders who most claim to celebrate diversity are the most likely to insist on no diversity in the high school curriculum: they want everyone to take a college-preparatory curriculum to "keep students' options open." Ironically, one-size-fits-all education eliminates excellent options.


    10. Require a course in life skills. Before requiring at-risk kids, indeed all kids, to learn quadratic equations, the halide series of chemical elements, and the use of the doppelganger, students should be required to pass a course in life skills: for example, budgeting, interpersonal communication, and the aforementioned sex education and parenting education. To not do so is to be guilty of the very elitism that many educators and politicians decry.

    11. Institute a debate (forensics) program in all high schools, including those with low achievement scores. Some evidence and a lot of common sense suggests that a debate program could yield significant benefit.

    12. Require colleges to provide full disclosure to prospective students. In their attempt to woo students, especially students of color, colleges and high school counselors, as in the Tuskegee Experiments, often hide the information students need to use to decide whether to enroll:

    • The projected four- and five-year full cost of attendance, including cash financial aid, broken down by family income and assets.
    • Freshman-to-senior average growth in critical thinking, writing, and quantitative reasoning, broken down by high school record.
    • The results of the college's most recent student satisfaction survey
    • Four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates, broken down by high school record.
    • The accreditation team's most recent report on the college.
    • The percentage of graduates professionally employed, including average salary, disaggregated by high school record and by major.

    13. Head Start Genes. Our intelligence and impulse control are, like most characteristics, likely affected by both our genes and our environment. Yet the government and biotech companies have--for fear of political repercussions--been reluctant to fund research that would identify which gene clusters are responsible for those characteristics. Government should encourage such research so prospective parents could have the option of having their eggs and sperm tested to ensure their baby will be born with genes for good intelligence and impulse control so s/he doesn't start out life with a strike or two against them. We already do this on a crude basis: In in-vitro fertilization, the physician chooses only eggs and sperm that appear normal and robust. If all of a prospective mother's and father's genes are for low intelligence or impulse control, the parents should have the option of having the defective genes in their egg and sperm replaced with normal ones, what I call Head Start genes.

    To ensure that the poor has access to this procedure, it would, like other medical procedures, be covered under MediCal and other health programs for the poor. In addition, as with, for example, AIDS education, special outreach would be made in low-income communities to ensure that its residents are aware of the Head Start genes option.

    Because low-income people areat the short end of the achievement gap, they would likely benefit far more from Head Start genes than would high achievers.

    14. Try bold pilot studies. In addition to implementing the previous ideas, there's need to pilot test new ideas. Examples:

    • For those unable to hold a private-sector job, government should create jobs. A job may be, in addition to a source of income, the most potent teacher, healer, and crime and drug abuse preventer.
    • Pair high school kids with retired small business owners. Have them start a simple business
    • Pair at-risk kids with nursing home residents or hard-to-adopt animal-shelter dogs and cats who otherwise would be euthanized. I've seen hard-bitten teens grow loving when involved with a non-threatening person or animal.
    • Have kids plant vegetable and fruit gardens, cook and eat what they've grown and sell the rest. They'd learn science, cooking, nutrition, and how to run a business. In addition, they might join me in awe of the miracle of growth.
    • Create peer mentor pairs: for example, at-risk sixth graders with at-risk first graders. There's no better way to learn than to teach.
    • Provide free genetic counseling to at-risk prospective parents. That may help them make more fully informed and thus wiser choices.

    My hope is that this more thorough (may I say brave) exploration of how to address the achievement gap might encourage a more full-dimensioned discussion than the nation has heretofore had. I believe that without such a discussion, we'll still be wringing our hands about the achievement gap a century from now.

    I'm looking for someone to promote this blog

    I'm looking for someone who'd do a great job of getting more people, especially influential people, to read this blog, my website, and tweets. Feel free to email me: mnemko@comcast.net

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Psychotherapy Reinvented

    Psychotherapy is expensive, time-consuming, and too often doesn't work well enough. It needs to be reinvented or at least made more time- and cost-effective.

    Traditionally, the first therapy session or two is spent on intake, asking lots of questions to gather information about the client. I'd replace that with a probing questionnaire to be sent to the therapist in advance of the first session. Not only would that save the client time and money, it would give both client and therapist a chance to reflect on the questions rather than have to try to be maximally insightful on the spot.

    I believe it's worth creating a video version of the questionnaire. Of course, each therapist could create his or her own, but I'm wondering if the following is worth a try: A preeminent psychotherapist who is eclectically oriented (using cognitive-behavioral as well as traditional techniques) would create a probing new-client questionnaire and then, instead of giving it to the client in text form, ask the questions in a YouTube video, charging a small fee for each use. I believe that many clients would prefer seeing that world-class therapist ask the questions and might give them greater thought. There's certainly little downside to that approach.

    More therapists should offer sessions by phone or SkypeVideo. I've found that, if the client is open to it, those are nearly as effective as in-person sessions. Not only does phone/Skype therapy avoid the client having to shlep to and from the therapist's office, it gives clients more therapists from whom to choose. That's especially important for clients in regions with few top therapists, for example, rural areas.

    Of course, every situation is different, and severe cases may need more long-term therapy, but I believe that, in most cases, psychotherapy need consist only of one two-hour solution-generation session followed by one one-hour session to assess how helpful the solution(s) have been and, if needed, to tweak solution(s) or generate new ones.

    How could it all be done in two sessions? Not only is there the efficiency that comes from a probing new-client questionnaire completed and reviewed by the therapist in advance, the therapist and client knowing there's only one session to develop solutions motivates them to make the most of the session time. (Remember Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time allotted?) Too often, much time in therapy sessions is wasted on unimportant tangents. Another benefit of developing the solution(s) in one session is that both therapist and client have all the input currently in-mind rather than having to recall it from notes and memory of the previous session(s.)

    Generally, therapists should try to elicit solutions from the client--they're more likely to be helpful and certainly to be acted upon. But, unlike in traditional models of therapy, sometimes the client really does need and is open to the therapist's input. So if a therapist would like to suggest a possible solution, s/he should do so. The key, however, is to offer it in a client-empowering way, for example, "Would you mind if I suggest something?" With assent, then say something like, "I'm not sure I'm right but I'm wondering if it might help if you did (

    Other time-effective techniques used in psychotherapy and coaching should be part of the therapist's repertoire. One example: Ask the client, "If I waved a magic wand and your problem were solved, how would your behavior be different?" After they explain, ask, "Could you change any of that now?"

    Unlike in many traditional therapy sessions, the first session should end with a specific behavior(s) the client is enthusiastic about trying. Examples:

    The moment an irrational fear enters consciousness, say "Stop" and ask yourself, "What's the next positive step I can take?"

    Write down everything you eat.

    Write a letter of reconciliation to your mother. Set it aside for a day. If it still feels good, send it.

    Every time you drink something, say aloud, with expression, "I deserve to be good to myself." That will build the brain memory neurons associated with that constructive thought.

    In the follow-up session, the client would report the extent to which the solution(s) have been helpful. If changes are needed, the therapist should, as recommended above, usually first try to get solutions to come from the client. If the client didn't do the homework, the therapist should try to ascertain if that was because of a fear, ran into a conundrum, the assignment ended up feeling inappropriate, etc, and try to help ensure that, subsequently, the client be more likely to complete that assignment or a more appropriate one.

    At the end of the second session, unless it's clear that more sessions are needed, it's often best to end with something like, "I think you've come up with all the tools you need. So do you agree we don't need to see each other for a while?" If the client agrees, the therapist should say something like, "But I care about you and so I'd welcome your emailing me about your progress, and if you do feel you need another session, just let me know." That makes the client feel supported, assures the client that s/he can have more sessions, and increases the chances that therapists get feedback that can improve their effectiveness.

    Reinventing the Public Library

    Most library space has long been devoted to books. But, of course, ever more of our reading more conveniently comes from the internet: downloaded books, audios, and videos, Googled articles, online dictionary lookups, etc.. So there are better uses of library space than labyrinths of bookshelves. Most of a library's book holdings should be purchased as e-books, freeing up most of a library's space. Ebook readers could be lent or even given to patrons.

    How to best use the resulting increase in available library space? Libraries should become ever more of a community centers. Already, of course, libraries have speakers, children's puppeteers, serves as a quiet hangout for kids and seniors, etc., but much more can occur, for example,

    • hourly, citizen-run town hall meetings on a topic du jour, perhaps with coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and salads sold.
    • a meeting place. Most people feel relaxed and positive in a library. That makes it a good place for negotiations and other meetings, for example, contract negotiations between union and management.
    • Starting when libraries normally close, say 9 pm, the library could become a cafe/non-alcoholic nightclub with library-consistent entertainment that has wide appeal: folk guitarist, poetry reading, etc.

    Probably most important, librarians should expand their role from just telling patrons where to find information to gathering that information, at least for non-students.

    For example, librarians could work from home, with access to the library's expanded resources including proprietary databases too expensive for individuals to own. The librarian could respond to emailed and phoned requests, for example, a patron who has just been diagnosed with psoriasis and isn't a good researcher. The librarian could cut and paste best articles, pictures, videos, etc into an email sent to the patron. It's a wiser use of taxpayer dollars to fund librarians as information retrievers than to fund the acquisition and storage of a library-size book collection.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Reinventing the way we choose students, employees, elected officials, and romantic partners

    We're always selecting people, for example:
    • whom to admit to a selective school or college
    • whom to hire or promote
    • whom to vote for
    • whom to date

    Wise selection matters more than one might think, for example, in choosing the students to be admitted to prestigious education institutions, from top preschools to top post-doc programs. Those are superior training grounds and door-openers to leadership and to top professional positions. Choose someone who is lazy, unethical, high-maintenance, or simply unintelligent, and society suffers.

    It's important to choose people wisely even in seemingly mundane situations. For example, hiring the right middle manager at a widget company improves his/her supervisees' quality of life and helps ensure that a quality widget is produced and can be sold affordably. That benefits all the customers. Multiply that across a nation and you can see how important it is that we select people wisely.

    Alas, we too often select poorly. We rely heavily on invalid criteria:

    • Resumes often are inflated and/or represent the thinking and writing ability of a hired-gun resume writer rather than the candidate's. And even if accurate, what a resume highlights-- academic qualifications and length of job experience--are poor predictors of workplace success.
    • References are often puffery: Candidates only offer references who will say positive things, even if they have to ask their sweetie to pretend s/he was his boss.
    • Often, selection is based most heavily on an interview, and its analogue, the politician speech. Why? Because we tend to trust what we personally experience more than, for example, a test score. Unfortunately, the research is clear that interviews so often lead to bad decisions.

    What are better approaches to selection?

    Of course, tests have their limitations. We all know people who scored high on the SAT, GRE, intelligence tests, etc., whom you wouldn't hire as a dog catcher. But predictive validity studies unambiguously indicate that those tests ( which are highly correlated with each other,) should be a criterion in selecting students or professional-level employees. Those tests are proxies for the ability to learn quickly, solve problems, and think abstractly, all of which are critical in all but low-level work. And racism and sexism are far less likely on a test than in subjective judgment. Criticisms of current tests as "culturally biased" have been dismissed by nearly all fair-minded experts.

    Those tests of cognitive ability must be distinguished from tests of personality, which are notoriously invalid, for example, the Myers Briggs, the Enneagram, etc.

    Beyond cognitive ability, how does one wisely assess other critical attributes of candidates: skill at the tasks s/he'll be doing, drive, emotional intelligence, flexibility, reliability, being emotionally low-maintenance?

    Professional licensure exams cry out for reinvention. Those tests are the gatekeeper for our professionals from our haircutters and Realtors to our psychologists, lawyers and doctors. Alas, those exams, developed heavily by out-of-touch ivory-tower professors, too often test arcana that have little to do with competence on the job. Licensure exams should consist largely of simulations of common situations the professional would face on the job. That would not only yield better-selected professionals, it would pressure the training institutions to replace their often professor-developed, trivia-centric curriculum with material more likely to develop good practitioners.

    Better selection criteria:

    simulation. The interview process should minimize coachable questions such as, "Tell me about yourself?" "What are your greatest weaknesses," and "Tell me about a problem you faced?" Instead, the bulk of interviews should focus on putting the candidate in simulations of situations s/he'll commonly face. For example, graduate school applicants might be asked to participate in a classroom discussion, manager applicants to run a brief simulated meeting with their supervisees, scientists to design an experiment. Political candidates, in addition to the standard televised debate, should be asked to run a meeting with mock legislators.

    engender honest responses from people who have worked with the candidate. For example, before hiring, leave voice mail for ten past bosses and coworkers including those not listed as a reference, saying, "I'm hiring for a very important position. Jane Jones has applied. If you think she's wonderful, call me. If not, no need to." Unless you get at least six callbacks, you probably shouldn't hire Jane.

    select for a trial period. Select the person for a trial day or week so you can both assess if you're right for each other.

    A word about using race or gender as a selection criterion. It's widely believed that it's important to have a student body and workforce at all levels that "looks like America." That's an indisputable good and in the case of two truly equal candidates, it can make sense to let diversity be the tie breaker. But too often the price paid for a "diversity pick" is in excess of the benefit derived--the selected candidate is known, upfront to be less likely than another candidate to make the most valuable contribution. Putting merit in the back seat is, of course, unfair to and engenders resentment from other candidates and from the public, but perhaps more important, it additionally devastates society because it brings about worse goods and services for all of us: worse doctors, more poorly constructed bridges, inferior financial advisors, less safe airline pilots, less reliable products, worse customer service, etc.

    Picking a romantic partner

    Of course, more of the ineffable is involved in choosing a romantic partner, but couples would be happier if they at least considered how a potential long-term partner scores on this Partner Report Card:

    • Compatibility in bed. Mismatched sex drive is among the most difficult-to-fix relationship problems.
    • Compatibility out of bed. How much do you enjoy spending time with this person in non-sexual situations.
    • Mutual respect. Do you view your partner as ethical, kind, intelligent enough, etc?
    • Absence of a fatal flaw: alcoholism/drug addiction, violent temper, etc.
    • Feeling: Even after the initial glow of infatuation has faded, you simply feel good being around this person.

    Not only would using the Partner Report Card help create happier couples, I'd predict that it would create a better nation. I'd imagine that people who are content in their romantic relationship tend to be better on their jobs, with their friends, and as citizens.

    Govt's Track Record Makes ObamaCare Scary

    The following is circulating around the Net. Its analysis is simplistic but somehow does make me scared of ObamaCare, not to mention the even more government-centric proposals. What do you think?

    To President Obama and all 535 voting members of the Legislature.

    A. The U.S. Postal Service was established in 1775. You have had 236 years to get it right and it is broke.

    B. Social Security was established in 1935. You have had 76 years to get it right and it is broke.

    C. Fannie Mae was established in 1938. You have had 73 years to get it right and it is broke.

    D. War on Poverty started in 1964. You have had 47 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our money is confiscated each year and transferred to "the poor" and they only want more.
    E. Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965. You have had 46 years to get it right and they are broke.

    F. Freddie Mac was established in 1970. You have had 41 years to get it right and it is broke.

    G. The Department of Energy was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 16,000 employees with a budget of $24 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. You had 34 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure.

    You have FAILED in every "government service" you have shoved down our throats while overspending our tax dollars. AND YOU WANT AMERICANS TO BELIEVE YOU CAN BE TRUSTED WITH A GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM ??

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Reinventing Our Criminal Justice System

    Reforming our trial system.
    Our trial system is adversarial: two lawyers seeking not the truth but to win. As a result, the winning side is often not the more meritorious but the one with the better lawyer. Our system of justice, alas, is far from blind.

    I believe that justice would more often be served if the lawyers, along with the judge, were neutrals. They'd divide the work of investigating the case into thirds. Then they'd discuss the results and vote on a decision. Or in the case of a jury trial, each investigator would present his or her one-third of the investigation's results to the jury for a decision.

    Sentencing Reform

    Prison costs a fortune yet the recidivism rate is very high: Two-thirds of felons are rearrested within a year of release.


    I'd like to see studies assessing which alternative sentencing would work well for what kinds of offenders. For example, the recidivism rate for murder, robbery, sex crimes, drug crimes should be compared among offenders who receive a sentence of GPS and video monitoring versus prison, taxpayer-paid jobs versus prison, each combined with interventions ranging from garden planting and pet adoption to job training to, in the case of repeat sex offenders, reversible chemical castration, and for repeat violent criminals, reversible long-term slow-release tranquilizer or other violence-inhibiting drug.


    Reforming the capital crimes appeal process

    When someone is convicted of first-degree murder and receives a death sentence, the average lawyer drags out the appeals process for 13 years. And only one in 10 who receive the death penalty ever actually gets executed. In California, it's 1 in 100.


    It would seem that two appeals to occur within two years of sentencing would more appropriately balance protecting defendant rights and taxpayer dollars, while sending the public the message that our laws will be enforced in a reasonably timely manner.

    Housing Reinvented

    If, as many predict, the economy continues to struggle, fewer people will be able to afford to rent let alone buy a decent-sized place to live.

    We should consider expanded use of factory-built homes. For the most part, we still build homes as we did 100 years ago, stick by stick., pipe by pipe, tile by tile. Not only is that cost-ineffective, it too often results in poorly constructed homes. We should make greater use of factory-built homes, often called modular homes. Today, you can pick from hundreds of models, from basic to magnificent (see above,) designed by architects you couldn't afford if the cost weren't amortized across a design's many customers. Because the home is built in a factory, mainly by machine, it's not only less expensive but more flawless. And with a factory-built home, it's just weeks before you can move into your new home with all the finishes you've selected.

    One reason many people feel the need to spend the additional money on a free-standing home rather than a condo or apartment is the noise from the neighbors and the street: multi-unit buildings are more likely to be located on a busy street. And of course, the millions of people who can't afford to buy a home even if they wanted to, would appreciate the quiet and being able to be as noisy as they like. A solution is greater use of the new generation of sound-dampening drywall, for example, QuietRock), flooring, for example QuietBarrier, and windows (e.g., Citiquiet).

    Another way to reduce living costs, of course, is to live with others. Alas, finding a compatible roommate isn't easy nor is returning home to live with your family. So, why not have affinity housing, as we do with housing developments for people 55+. There could be homes for people interested in, for example, the arts, pacifism, the medical profession, or with a physical condition from triathlete to cancer patient. And why not have welfare recipients live as college students do: two or three to a small room, cafeteria-style food, etc., with social services provided, for example, parenting education, GED classes, computer training, drug/alcohol counseling, etc.? That would save taxpayer money, make services convenient, and provide a privacy incentive to get off welfare. If dorm-style living is good enough for Harvard students it should be good enough for welfare recipients.

    Simple yet potent real estate innovations are also possible with commercial space. For example, most people's apartments and homes sit vacant from morning until night. Why not lease that space, for example, to a school or college wanting classrooms? To a corporation wanting more office space? To a therapist whose own residence isn't as impressive? That would create unexpected income for the owner/primary resident and a zero carbon footprint.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Transportation Reinvented

    Yes, Americans love their cars, and with good reason: Plunking yourself down into the private sanctuary of your car, with a comfy seat and temperature adjusted precisely where you like it, listening to just what you want or to nothing, you leave precisely when you want to go wherever you want, point-to-point.


    Contrast that with mass transit. For the vast majority of the country, even in most cities, mass transit is a bad alternative. One typically needs to walk or drive to get to the train or bus station, try to find a parking spot, wait for the bus or train, deal with the uncomfortability of being crowded into a mass conveyance, too often exacerbated by loud or physically threatening youths. You must wait for each stop, and on arrival at your stop, take another bus or train and/or walk, rain, shine, or blizzard, to your destination. Door-to-door time can be two to three times as long as driving. Especially in our ever busier, more stressful lives, enduring mass transit is just not a satisfactory solution.


    My favorite alternative to building more roads is the flying car. Because it could fly anywhere, not just on a road, the existence of a practical flying car is the equivalent of creating hundreds of times the current number of freeways and other roads for free. The skycar would take off vertically, so no airport is required. Lest you think this is a Jetsons-cartoon-like fantasy, the SkyCar exists in prototype and goes 350 miles per hour and gets 20 miles a gallon using clean-burning ethanol. Another brand of flying car, the Terrafugia, requiring an airport, has already been approved by the Federal Transportation Safety Board and will be available in 2012. Those experimental vehicles provide evidence that within a decade--the time these days it takes to get a freeway approved and built--a mass-affordable, safe flying car could be available.


    In the interim, I believe we must not focus on mass transit but build more roads and add lanes. We simply cannot ask people to sit in ever greater gridlock, while their idling cars spew ever more pollutants.


    However, more effort needs to be made to innovate in freeway construction, for example, factory-prebuilt road sections (like sections of model train tracks), constructed of a nanotech-designed (honeycomb?) amalgam of recycled materials. The modules would be shipped by truck from factory to the road site and laid, one next to another. Compared with conventional road building, it would be cheaper and faster, avoiding the years of traffic delays that occur every time even a new lane is added.


    Toll plazas, even with transponder toll-paying, greatly increases traffic congestion. An answer: in counties containing toll roads, bridges, or tunnels, add a fee added to each driver's annual car registration. Some would argue that would be unfair to drivers who don't use those roads, but all our taxes pay for services we may not use, welfare, for example.


    I support sharp increases in CAFE standards: the average gas mileage of a vehicle manufacturer's cars and trucks. Such increases restrict people's freedom minimally while improving our energy independence and reducing pollution. And higher CAFE standards lower our cost not only of fuel but of our vehicles--lighter vehicles cost less.


    Every year, 13,000 people die in vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers. Countless more are injured. I advocate that all steering wheels be required to contain an alcohol sensor that, if the person is intoxicated, locks the car's engine. Those are already available, indeed used in a Nissan concept car.


    Bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles are cost-effective, energy-saving alternatives to the car but their use is limited because of safety. Among the biggest safety problems is that drivers fail to see two-wheel vehicles, especially at night. So I advocate that all two-wheeled vehicles be required to have strips of highly reflective tape affixed to their frames. HERE is an example.


    As always, I welcome your thoughts.

    National Defense Reinvented

    We spend more on defense than anything: The projected budget is over $1 trillion dollars for 2012 alone!

    It's time to take a closer look at whether we'd get more cost-benefit by reallocating most of the defense spending to other initiatives such as medical and education research, reducing our debt, relieving gridlock, giving to the poor, and returning money to the millions of struggling taxpayers to pump back into the economy as each person sees fit.


    For me, any purchase is justified mainly by its cost-benefit versus its opportunity cost. For example, the U.S. maintains hundreds of military bases around the world from Antigua to Turkey, staffed by 360,000 service members, costing many billions of dollars every year. I believe we must more rigorously assess, for each base, "How much would our safety be reduced if we eliminated that base or reduced it to just a handful of software-assisted human monitors. Would the benefit of reallocating that money elsewhere be worth that increase in risk?"


    I predict that subjecting each defense spending item to that test would result in dramatically reduced military spending.


    My vote for the most cost-effective defense expenditure? Expanded conversation with our enemies, including radical groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Of course, not everything is remediable with discussion. I believe that no conversations with Hitler would have deterred him wanting to dominate the world. But the risk/reward and cost/benefit ratios of conversation are excellent.


    Large defense cuts wouldn't have been as (ahem) defensible in decades past. But today, much of the threat to our security is miniaturized: solo actor terrorists, compact weapons such as suitcase nukes, bioweapons, and old-fashioned remote-control triggered fertilizer bombs. Massive military bases, battleships, and aircraft bombers have minimal impact. Indeed, they often cause much collateral damage, not only to people and property but to our worldwide reputation. When one of our aerial bombs destroys even one innocent person or building (which is almost impossible to avoid,) our error, thanks to the Internet, becomes instant worldwide-disseminable propaganda that is used against us.


    My proposed cost-benefit analysis would likely result in the military budget being reduced by more than half. That would leave hundreds of billions of dollars every year for the aforementioned more cost-beneficial initiatives, including reducing our debt. The latter, in itself, could improve our national security more than all the B-2 bombers.


    As always, I welcome your thoughts.

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Media Censorship on Race Hurts Us All

    Although I read widely, I had no idea that "mobs of young blacks rampaged through Philadelphia committing violence – as similar mobs have rampaged through Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee and other places" (including the London lootings and Paris firebombings.) The media has, in recent years, been withholding perpetrators' race, even when an attack is racial. (unless the perpetrator is white.)

    How did I learn of the Black rampages? These days, only a Black is allowed to write about, let alone criticize such behavior without censorship or ruining his career. THIS is most recent syndicated column by eminent Stanford/Hoover Senior Fellow, Thomas Sowell. (It's worth reading all three parts, which are linked to from that page.)

    I do think the gap between rich and poor has grown too large. However, the media's relentlessly deifying the assaults and lootings as "protests," and the media's and schools' refusal to stress that poverty is caused not just by "the system," but by individuals' behavior, disempowers the poor and endangers us all.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Einstein, the Magical Doggie: Why a busy person should adopt a pet

    A friend said, "Marty, work is so important to you, I didn't figure you'd want to take the time to care for a dog."

    Yes, there are occasional times I feel it's not worth it, but mostly I feel that getting my doggie, Einstein, has been among my wisest decisions.

    Einstein is a great source of nurturance and a stressbuster. When I'm at my desk, Einstein is often lying at my feet, which feels great, and when I need an extra dose of love, I pet him or roll around the floor with him. After that one-minute break, I'm refreshed and ready to go back to work.

    Einstein ensures that I exercise every day--he has to go out. So we take two short walks and one vigorous three-mile hike every day.

    My clients--well, most of my clients--love Einstein. He welcomes them with more warmth than the warmest receptionist. And I only need pay Einstein in love and kibble. (By the way, Orijen is probably the best dog food.) When the session starts, unless the client prefers he doesn't, Einstein settles down next to the client on the sofa or floor. He's a great co-counselor.

    Yes, having a dog is a responsibility. It's like having a baby who never grows up. But for me, at least, it has been well worth it. Indeed, I consider Einstein my Magical Doggie.

    If you're considering adopting a pet, let me make a pitch for getting him or her from a pound, humane society, ASPCA, or rescue organization:
    • The mixed-breed you'll probably get is more likely to be healthier than the often too-inbred purebreds. The term "hybrid vigor" is valid.
    • You won't be supporting a puppy mill, which too often treat dogs inhumanely.
    • The cost is dramatically lower. The average dog bought from a breeder costs $1,000. A pet from one of the aforementioned sources averages 90% less.
    • You're possibly saving a life. Someone had thrown Einstein into the overnight bin at a pound. In the morning, the attendant found him shaking and clutching a barbecued rib. Many doggies and kitties must be put to sleep within weeks of entering the shelter. I will take care of my Einstein, hopefully, for many years to come.
    HERE is an online PetFinder that lists 300,000 adoptable pets from 13,000 adoption groups across the country.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    A Moving Short Video

    This is such a moving 3-minute-video. It's also a perfect example of screenwriting's #1 rule: show, don't tell. Words get in the way. The three minutes contains a total of six short lines of script.

    Your Last Year for Dummies

    The publisher of those yellow and black books, the for Dummies series, has asked me to submit a proposal to write my second for Dummies book for them. (My previous was Cool Careers for Dummies.) This one would be Your Last Year for Dummies. (alternate titles: Dying for Dummies, Dying Well for Dummies.)

    Here it is. I welcome your reactions and suggestions for its improvement.

    In life's December, people and their families need a book that, while authoritative, has a light touch--perfect for a for Dummies book, in my opinion. It will be written so it would be of value for the person with a year or less to live, their family members, or professional caregivers.

    Table of Contents

    PART 1: So You're Terminal. Now What?

    Chapter 1: "I have WHAT?!" The art of getting a great second opinion.

    Chapter 2: Dealing with the (damn) health care system. Deciding what you want, and getting it from your health care providers and insurers.

    Chapter 3: Hope against hope. This chapter will explain how to find pockets of hope even if you've accepted that your time is running out.

    Chapter 4: Getting to feel okay about dying: a buffet of ideas from diverse religious and secular perspectives.

    PART 2: Developing Your Dying Well Plan

    You can die well: accomplishing what you want, nurturing the relationships you want, leaving the legacy you want. This Part will show you how to do it.

    Chapter 5: Go gentle into the good night? What do you want to accomplish, and how will you make it happen, even if you're aren't your ol' self? They say that no one ever died wishing they spent more time at the office, but one size does not fit all. Isaac Asimov, who wrote or edited over 500(!) books, when asked, "What would you do if you had six months to live?" replied, "Type faster."

    Chapter 6: Your relationships: dealing with your spouse, children, friends, perhaps parents. For example, how do you tell them you're pending? I'll include sample scripts. With whom do you want to spend more (and less) time? Doing what? Which estranged relationships do you want to try to fix? Deathbed rapprochements are unquestionably dramatic but only sometimes wise.

    Chapter 7: Your legacy. How can you give your life's work "legs?" For example, if you've been a ...for Dummies editor, might you want to write an article on the art of being a for Dummies editor? Being a parent? This chapter will also help readers figure out to whom and what to leave their money so they feel good about their legacy. The chapter will also help the reader decide which kind of will or trust will be most helpful.

    Chapter 8: Getting all those stupid records in order. You don't want to saddle your family with a confusing mountain of paper. This chapter will show how to shrink it as quickly as possible. You have better things to do with your life than fuss with papers.

    PART 3: Nuts and Bolts

    Chapter 9: Planning your memorial: Should the event be sober and reflective? The (ahem) ultimate party? How about your gravestone? For once, no one will edit your writing. What do you want to say, really?

    Chapter 10: Finding a wizard. The right executor can vanish your now-simplified mound of paper and fulfill your every desire. This chapter will include a basic guide to executor wizardry.

    Chapter 11: Dealing with the funeral industry (or avoiding it)

    Chapter 12: Hospice. If you need it, a lovely option.

    PART 4: The Part of Tens

    Chapter 13: Ten secrets to finding a doctor's doctor, lawyer's lawyer, etc.

    Chapter 14: Ten wondrous things to consider putting on your bucket list.

    Chapter 15: Ten ways to avoid procrastinating on the yucky tasks.

    Chapter 16: Ten ways to be get more done in less time. Time is the one thing you don't have lots of. Let's make the most of it.

    Chapter 17: Ten ways to make pain less of a pain.

    Chapter 18: Ten ways to depress your depression

    Chapter 19: Ten bang-for-the-buck charities to leave money to

    Chapter 20: Ten tricks for living better with memory loss

    Chapter 21: Ten great last parties

    Chapter 22: Ten smart (or funny) quotes about death and dying.

    Chapter 23: The Last Lecture. I'll write the last lecture I'd give if I were about to die. Then, I'll ask questions to help the reader create their Last Lecture.

    About the (alive and kicking) Author

    I've been thinking about death and dying my whole life. When I was just seven, I'd lie in bed calculating the percentage of my lifetime I likely had left. As a young adult, I became a hypochondriac, which further increased my focus on death. Fortunately I'm now cured but still quite aware of my mortality. That helps me make the most of every minute, an example of which would be to write this book. My lifetime interest in mortality makes me enthusiastic and writing and promoting Your Last Year for Dummies.

    More objective qualifications to write this book: My Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley specialized in evaluation and in educational psychology. My expertise in evaluation will inform the book's sections on choosing a doctor, lawyer, executor, developing a treatment plan, indeed, all the book's fact-centric sections. My background in psychology will help me more wisely guide the reader through the challenging psychological issues that older people and their families face.

    I have a decent platform (23rd year hosting a show on NPR-San Francisco, popular blog and website, frequent guest on major shows, award-winning keynote speaker, and am an enthusiastic book promoter. For example, my previous for Dummies book sold over 100,000 copies and spent a month at #2 on the Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller list, behind only a book that's rather tough to beat: What Color is Your Parachute has sold 10,000,000 copies.

    A final qualification: I've written books for four publishers and find the for Dummies people and its publishing process the best. I'd welcome working with you guys again.

    If a co-author or writer of a foreword is desired, here are some possibilities: Dr. Mehmet Oz, Bill Cosby, Jack La Lanne (oops, he just died,) or Dr. Phil (McGraw) who is a client of my agent, Dupree-Miller.