Category Archives: Office

Once again, I have a somewhat sqishy view of the whole thing. But one that will put me mostly outside of my class’s mainstream. This doesn’t include all of my thoughts on the whole thing, but includes a lot of them.

Pro: First, I don’t really blame Google for firing him. When he sent that out on company channels, they became responsible for it. They’re also dealing with some liability and failing to take action on this hurts them.

Anti: The above and Walter Olson make a fair case that this was partially the result of public policy rather than a strictly silent decision. Not unlike how the Obama administration basically pushed private universities across the country to some rather questionable due process policies for sexual misconduct charges. The federal government’s hands are clean, but they’re not, both at the same time.

Pro: All of this would be an issue if the memo weren’t as troublesome as it is. If it had been presented with more delicacy. If it had been some unearthed private blog instead of through company channels.

Anti: It was through company channels but was apparently not, as initially reported, a memo sent out of the blue or something emailed to everybody. Rather, it was in an internal forum dedicated to discussion of precisely these sorts of issues. Google said they wanted a free discussion. This wasn’t some memo sent out of the blue, it was part of a discussion.

Pro: Okay, but what are we, five? On what basis should he have had any faith that this was ever a free and open discussion? On what basis should he have felt free to speak his mind knowing that there were some really controversial views in there? Knowing that it would be disruptive to the workplace? Knowing that women would likely respond in a way that would make his continued empoloyment there difficult? If he didn’t know these things, he should have. Even if we ignore the fact that the left almost never wants the free and open discussion that it says it does, how did he think this would end? Did he think they would look at his statistics and say “Woah, he’s totally right. Women aren’t getting these great jobs because they don’t want them and they’re not capable.”

Anti: That’s not an accurate summary.

Pro: No, but it’s an obvious one. It’s an oversimplified response to a more nuanced argument… and if something can be summaried that way, it probably will be by someone. And if nobody wants to put nuance back in there, that’s going to be the official interpretation. Then you run into a situation where people can sit back and say “It doesn’t matter how accurate your words are. It doesn’t matter if your argument was too nuanced. People won’t work with you. You’ve got to go. QED.” And they’ll say this and they won’t be wrong.

Anti: That’s really not fair, though. It sets up a “discussion” wherein the first person says it’s all about discrimination and anybopdy responding to that is walking through a minefield. It is almost impossible to imagine a 10-page memo claiming that it’s 100% discrimination and harassment getting this kind of response.

Pro: Yes. This is a common tactic in these discussions – to win arguments by default by declaring illegitimate counterarguments (sexist, racist, etc) and counterarguers (whatever your marker of privilege is removes you from the discussion). And in this case, it works. And it works in large part because the other side blew it by actually being sexist and saying sexist things. Enough connections can be drawn between this memo and things written by people that have said some truly awful things that you’re stuck.

Anti: That’s not fair.

Pro: Maybe, but life seldom is. But it’s also not fair to tell female employees that they have to work with and under the guy and that they’re comfortable with his attitude. If they’re not, that’s a problem for them and that’s a problem for the company. A lot of people are mad at the women that no-showed, but getting employees to band together is difficult and that probably indicates existing problems.

Anti: How responsible is Memo Guy for these problems Why should be pay for Google’s sins?

Pro: He made himself a target when he introduced himself into the discussion.

Anti: The free discussion Google said it wanted.

Pro: He shouldn’t have believed that the discussion needed to include deeply unpopular points of view. His bad. He put himself in front of the Mack Truck.

Anti: But look, what he had to say hasn’t been discredited and the science is on his side.

Pro: At least some of it is. There seem to be some feedback loops going on that we have some control over above and beyond the things pointed out in the memo. Computer science has become more male over time rather than less. Their genes didn’t change, and it’s unlikely their priorities have. So culture has an effect.

Anti: Okay, even if it does, it’s not clear they’re accepting anything other than sexism as an explanation. We are, as Jesse Singal says, making Blank Slate-ism a litmus test.

Pro: Which is unfortunate. But we’d have a better way to gauge where everybody is coming from if the original piece hadn’t been as sweeping in the other direction.

Anti: What if the solution are those things you condemn, like stripping computer science of its cultural markers (Star Trek posters in the workplace, etc) and taking the freak flag down?

Pro: Well, screw that. But just because some people are too cavalier about what we can do doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.

Anti: That seems kind of weak.

Pro: Yeah, it kind of is, but no less weak than “This is just the way there is and there’s nothing we can do.”

Anti: So we’re okay with him being fired?

Pro: Yeah, I think so. He doesn’t belong on any blacklists and the list of people who should also be fired should have zero or few names on it, but it’s hard to see any other conclusion, even if it reveals some unflatting things about the conversation we’re supposed to be having.


Category: Office

The inflection point occurred a couple months ago.

First, just a bit of background. My wife works at two hospitals, Stone County Hospital and Mills County Medical Center. She was hired primarily to work at Mills, but because there were three people doing a job that could (theoretically) be done by two, that meant that she had some hours to make up working at Stone. Also, when I refer to “hours” that’s not “hours worked” but rather “coverage hours” which means hours that the service is taking in patients. So if she is working 16 hours for patients that come in within a 12 hour span, she gets 12 hours. Also, she is expected to take phone consultation call on the evenings of the days that she works, so if she’s working 12 hours, she also has another 12 of phone consultation (or 14 if the shift is 10).

One of the three doctors at Mills County Medical Center resigned, which left Clancy and one colleague having to do the entire job. This is possible, but it also leaves no room for somebody getting sick or going on vacation. The problem for Clancy was that in addition to her duties at Mills, they were still giving her hours at Stone. This was in addition to the above-mentioned phone consultation and one night a week of full call (where she is expected to go in). So Clancy asked the person responsible for scheduling if she really needed to be working those hours at Stone.

In response, she got a really terse, somewhat condescending letter from a higher up outlining what he thought the hours were. She was expected to work 144 hours per four-week period (that’s 36 hours a week, the remaining four being sick/vacation/holiday), and she had 12 shifts of 8 hours at Mills and so needed to work three shifts of 12 hours at Stone to make 144. He went on to explain about how people who want their job have to work a minimum number of hours yadda yadda.

The problem was that his math was wrong. The shifts at Mills were 10 hours instead of 8 and there were 14 of them instead of 12. And on top of that, they were giving her four days at Stone rather than three. The result was 140 hours at Mills, plus another 48 at Stone, for a total of 188 hours that wasn’t including phone consultation or on-call. The latter of which being a particular sticking point because most doctors don’t have to do it because they can’t deliver babies. They did a whole thing of “Do you really want to be the kind of employee who is sitting there counting hours?” but at the end of the day her argument was pretty bulletproof.

So they stopped scheduling her at Stone. However, to “make up for it” they expanded the coverage hours at Mills from 10 to 12. That meant that she was back at 168 hours, plus phone consultation plus obstetrical call with no vacation, sick time, or holidays. Clancy agreed to it because she mostly just wanted to (a) stop working at Stone and (b) stop having 10 day work stretches.

Unfortunately, it simply proved to be too much for her. She got several consecutive weeks of above-average patient loads. On top of all that, her employer worked out something with another service that Clancy and her colleague would start taking some of their patients, too. Clancy has never been the fastest worker, and she just got overwhelmed with it. Last month we racked up $850 a month in hotel expenses because she would work until she was too tired to drive. Attempts on her part to streamline her efficiency were thwarted by the constant level of reaction that she was in. Being away from her daughter and living in hotels ate away at her, and she was still getting yelled at by her superiors for not having her paperwork done in a timely manner.

So this week, she submitted her resignation. Her contract is up for renewal in June and she will stay on until then. We’re not sure what comes after this. We probably won’t be relocating for a new job immediately. She will likely do some temp work to keep us afloat and work on trying to become more efficient at her next job, to work smarter instead of so long and so hard. And beyond that, to take the time to find the right job, instead of doing what we’ve been doing, which is kind of falling into the jobs she’s taken.

It is unlikely we will be staying in the area for more than a year or two. I’m going to miss some of the conveniences of living so close to the city, and I’m really going to miss this house. But fortunately we won’t have to uproot in the immediate future.


Category: Office

A new study suggests that laws banning drug tests and credit checks may hurt black applicants:

Why were African-Americans put at a disadvantage when states banned employer credit checks? It could be that black job-seekers found it harder to meet the increased education and experience requirements that employers started to impose. Or it could be that employers simply started to become tougher on black applicants because they couldn’t verify their credit histories and assumed the worst.

A powerful study published last year in the Review of Economics and Statistics shows something of the opposite happening: When employers began to require drug tests for job applicants, they started hiring more African-Americans.

“The likely explanation for these findings is that prior to drug testing, employers overestimated African-Americans’ drug use relative to whites,” the study’s author explained in an op-ed. Drug tests allowed black job applicants to disprove the incorrect perception that they were addicts.

This corresponds with a thought that I’ve been having for a while now on a related issue: IQ tests. While IQ tests are not universally banned in hiring, they do leave companies with hoops to be willing to jump through if they’re challenged, and so a lot of companies that might utilize them don’t.

Which, as the article points out, can lead to an increase in requiring credentials that aren’t challenged. I’ve been wondering if we could poach the higher ed bubble (if there is one) by simply applying disparate impact to that as a job requirement, leaving it to employers to demonstrate that the job really requires a degree. But in addition to potentially contributing a bit to credential inflation, the thought had occurred to me that it could actually hurt high IQ black applicants. Potentially by requiring a college degree that they don’t have, or by leaving it to (possibly unconscious) racist hiring manager judgment.

Which is to say, if allowed to take a test, David Alexander can demonstrate his intelligence. So a hiring manager that subconsciously looks at a black man and thinks “probably dumb” can have his concerns in that area satisfied. If the manager is systematically underestimating black IQ’s, this can act as a corrective! At least in individual cases. Now, you don’t even have to believe in the validity of the IQ test, so long as he does. If you don’t, you can try to disabuse him of that notion, but it might be better for David (or any other individually intelligent black person) to simply be able to produce a good score.

Instead of using an IQ test, you could use “successful at Super Mario Bros 2.” If some employer believes that’s a worthwhile metric, then that gives minority applicants, poor applicants, and whatever else something to strive towards. Only if they can get ahold of the game, though, which is a concern. Also a concern is that if this became widespread, you’d start to see training classes and it might become a part of the curriculum in well-heeled suburban schools. Asian-Americans might become unusually good at it. Then you might run into a Disparate Impact problem as black and Hispanic kids are disproportionately be unable to buy the game, unable to afford SMB2 tutors, and won’t have playing that game ingrained in their culture. But even then, at least it would provide an opportunity to answer the important-to-the-employer “Can play Super Mario Bros 2” metric. And it would be vastly less expensive than the alternative, which might be “Has a Bachelor’s Degree.”

Of course, that’s not what we want employers to do. Because as we know, SMB2 performance bears no resemblence to the ability to do all but a few jobs. And we want to be fair. In a perfect free market economy, we might say “Employers that make their hiring decisions based on a lackluster video game will be at a competitive advantage and so they’ll weed themselves out.” But that’s probably not what would happen. What we would be left with is a hiring qualification with the only three advantages being (a) less susceptible to stereotypical impressions than subjectiving interviewing, (b) not as reliant on networking as recommendation hiring, and (c) less expensive than college.

Which, come to think of it, isn’t the worst list of advantages I’ve ever heard. But it’s transparently dumb. Less transparently dumb is the subject of the Washington Post article, credit checks. You can at least see the rationale for using that as a criterion. But by its very nature it’s discriminatory towards those we as a society don’t want discrimination against: Poor people, those down on their luck, people who have gotten sick, and so on. Like companies refusing to hire people that are unemployed, it may make sense for any given company (whether the metric itself has empirical foundation or not) but is not good for society as a whole.

In this sense, the laws against credit discrimination continute to make sense. They are still too unfairly discriminatory. That they are not as discriminatory towards black folks in particular as the next most likely alternative may be unfortunate, but stands in suggestion that maybe bad, discriminatory policies don’t have to disproportionately affect non-Asian minorities in order to be bad policy.


Category: Office

Starbucks is getting some good publicity for helping it’s employees go to college:

Arizona State is one of the nation’s largest universities and has grown rapidly in recent years. Crow said it has about 65,000 students enrolled in programs at the main campus in Tempe and others in the Phoenix area. Another 10,000, he said, are enrolled in online programs that began three years ago. The university has 40 online undergraduate degree programs, in subjects ranging from art history to electrical engineering.

The Starbucks initiative could help double the university’s online footprint. Crow, who is one of the nation’s more ambitious university leaders, said Arizona State’s online operation is of a scale comparable to those of Penn State University and the University of Maryland University College.

Crow said he was pleased to collaborate with Starbucks on a program that aims to deliver “a first-class college education.” Arizona State, he said, “has the vision, programs and scale to deliver it to Starbucks employees in every part of the country.”

Burt approves, as it coincides with his own views that employment should not be considered a contract.

I would have expected to respond to this sort of thing very favorably. And yet I find my actual response to be more mixed. Not that I think Starbucks is doing anything wrong here – not in the least – but that something is sort of amiss.

As far as online colleges go, Arizona State University has one of the most expensive programs. It’s been a general disappointment that brick and mortar universities have not used online education as a means to reduce costs (suggesting, in my view, a profit center). Especially so, though, witht he big name universities like Arizona State and Maryland. Others, owing perhaps in part to their lack of brand and the fact that they serve less wealthy states, have done better. While Arizona State’s online tuitions are $500 an hour, Troy University’s are closer to $300 or so and North Dakota is closer to $200 (with other North and South Dakota schools being between $200-300). The normal in-state tuition discrepancy isn’t nearly this large.

Starbucks, meanwhile, is a relatively premier employer for those in the service industry. Contrary to what some people think, it’s not actually easy to get a job there. Leaguer Michael Drew has reported as much, and that corresponds with my experience. So while you may be dealing with people who have been “reduced” to service industry jobs, you’re still dealing with a cut above the rest. And now they have easy access to a great school that seemingly put up cost barriers to everyone else.

And Starbucks is getting a tax benefit for doing so, as college tuition (similar to health insurance) is a tax-free form of compensation.

Which leads me to the niggling concern that as a stop-gap for us having to deal with escalating college costs, we may have price-insensitive employers striking deals (negotiated rates) with universities. Making yet another thing tied to who you can get a job with. With yet another bypass of dealing with the rising and inflated costs of university.


Category: Office, School

An issue making the rounds involves an applicant who was offered a faculty position at Nazareth College only to have it rescinded when she tried to negotiate. Specifically, after stating she was excited about the opportunity she asked for:

1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.

And Nazareth College thanked for the email and her interest but responded thusly:

The search committee discussed your provisions. They were also reviewed by the Dean and the VPAA. It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered. Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.

Slate’s Rebecca Schulman is outraged:

How dare this “women” think she could attempt to secure a better life for herself and her family? In this market, if a university wants her to wade around in pig crap, her only counteroffer should be: “Should I bring my own snorkel?” Any beginning academic who tries to stand up for herself is lunch for the hordes of traumatized ivory-tower zombies, themselves now irreversibly infected with the obsequious self-devaluation and totalizing cowardice that go by the monikers “collegiality” and “a good fit.”

Heebie-Geebie, a professor at a small liberal arts school in Texas (and an avowed liberal) disagreed:

At Heebie U, if she made these queries, it would truly indicate that she is woefully out of touch with what kind of institution we are. I would be flabbergasted if a candidate followed up a campus visit and offer with this kind of list, because it’s so wildly outside of our financial abilities or what anyone else gets. I would think “This candidate is genuinely not interested in being at this kind of institution – she thinks she has gotten an offer from a far wealthier, more prestigious institution than we are, and she will go back on the job market very quickly if she comes here.” In other words, what the response from Nazareth said.

When we were living in Deseret, we happened to live at the doorstep of Deseret State University. A whole lot of my coworkers went there and more than a few had spouses that worked there. One person who was in touch with faculty recruited described the process as an effort primarily to weed out those who weren’t really interested in the job. They’d offer to take applicants hunting, fishing, or hiking. They’d take them to see community theater. That was as important as anything they had to say about their academic profile. If they demurred or were bored, then they probably weren’t a good fit. Among the hundreds or thousands of applicants for every openings, they felt they could find someone who was and who actually wanted to be in the rural Mountain West.

As such, I sympathize with Nazareth’s concerns here. The daylight between this applicant and the next applicant was not so great. And an offer made can be rescinded before it’s accepted (afterwards, it gets more complicated).

One of the things that crossed my mind, though, was why this email revealed something that the interview process – sufficiently extensive that they felt comfortable extending an offer – didn’t. Whose side I am on depends almost entirely on whether Nazareth is re-evaluating its interview process. Because if an email of requests can throw it off, clearly something went wrong. The nature of the job was not adequately conveyed or they did not probe the applicants enough about what they were looking for. The only other explanation is that the applicant mislead them. But if the applicant gave one impression during the interview, it doesn’t seem to me that it should be rescinded on the basis of an email. At the least, you would want to probe further, I would think.

It’s easy to look at this as a situation specifically regarding humanities academics and why did they major in that and yadda yadda, but this situation isn’t entirely unique to academia these days. Actually, though, my wife ran into a similar situation.

She was flown out twice to interview for a job. She came close to getting it and in retrospect we believe that the sticking point was that she was asking for too much. Not demanding too much, mind you, but asking for things that signaled to them that she wasn’t actually a good fit. It came as a blow when they took a pass. I hesitate to say that they were right in making the decision that they did, but I do understand where they were coming from. And it did work out best for us because the things she hated about the job in Arapaho were actually less favorable at the other job. The only benefit is that it would have been clear about six months in, rather than a couple of years in, that Clancy’s career path needed an adjustment.

So hopefully W (the rejected applicant from the article) will find the sort of job she is looking for at an institution where these sorts of questions aren’t so alien.


Category: Office, School

Though most of my substitute teaching was at the grade school level and comparatively little at the high school level, when I did get high school it was often towards the end of the year for a variety of reasons. As such, I got a glimpse into what many of the Redstone students’ post-secondary plans were. A number of them were planning to go to college. Others, however, were planning to go to eastern Montana and North Dakota. There’s jobs in them there plains. The New York Times recently published an article about it:

Less than a year after proms and homecoming games, teenagers like Mr. Sivertson now wake at 4 a.m. to make the three-hour trek to remote oil rigs. They fish busted machinery out of two-mile-deep hydraulic fracturing wells and repair safety devices that keep the wells from rupturing, often working alongside men old enough to be their fathers. Some live at home; others drive back on weekends to eat their mothers’ food, do loads of laundry and go to high school basketball games, still straddling the blurred border between childhood and adulthood.

Just as gold rushes and silver booms once brought opera houses and armies of prospectors to rugged corners of the West, today’s headlong race for oil and gas is reshaping staid communities in the northern Plains, bringing once untold floods of cash and job prospects, but also deep anxieties about crime, growth and a future newly vulnerable to cycles of boom and bust.

Even gas stations are enticing students away from college. Katorina Pippenger, a high school senior in the tiny town of Bainville, Mont., said she makes $24 an hour as a cashier in nearby Williston, N.D., the epicenter of the boom. Her plan is to work for a few years after she graduates this spring, save up and flee. She likes the look of Denver. “I just want to make money and get out,” she said.

Some people have picked up a sense of concern from the NYT articles, though I think it’s a fairly good write-up without too much coloring one way or the other. (Or, at least, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt if this weren’t an installment of a series of articles poo-pooing the oil boomtowns.)

For those expressing concern, I think this is actually a generally quite positive development. In a time where we are worried about a generation of graduates becoming unemployable, these kids are going to get jobs, work experience, and skills. Might it be better in the long term if they went to college? Well, that depends in good part on who “they” are along with a few other things. To the extent that college degrees are in good part about getting people in front of the employment line, then it might be good for any individual one of them to go to college, but as a group it would be an example of running in place. Those that think that college should be the norm are likely going to disagree.

I honestly don’t know what the appropriate number of kids going to college is. Back when I was living in Deseret, I knew a number of people that I felt should have gone to college but had roadblocks that prevented them from trying. Back when I was in college, I knew a number of people that really shouldn’t have been there. Whether the ideal number is somewhere above or below the number of kids currently attending, I consider it a necessity to have a path for those that really aren’t college material. I think it’s fantastic that they have this sort of opportunity.

And for those that are going to college? More opportunities still (well, in resource exploitation more generally), at least for the right kind of college student. Graduates of the South Dakota School of Mines are outearning graduates of Harvard. Which touches back a little bit on something that doesn’t get enough press: white collar jobs in blue collar fields. One of the reasons that mining engineers are able to demand such a mint is that most people don’t think they are going to college to work in such a field. The same applies to industrial production. Writes The New Republic:

The country’s business schools tended to reflect and reinforce these trends. By the late 1970s, top business schools began admitting much higher-caliber students than they had in previous decades. This might seem like a good thing. The problem is that these students tended to be overachiever types motivated primarily by salary rather than some lifelong ambition to run a steel mill. And there was a lot more money to be made in finance than manufacturing. A recent paper by economists Thomas Philippon and Ariell Reshef shows that compensation in the finance sector began a sharp, upward trajectory around 1980.

The business schools had their own incentives to channel students into high-paying fields like finance, thanks to the rising importance of school rankings, which heavily weighted starting salaries. The career offices at places like Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago institutionalized the process—for example, by making it easier for Wall Street outfits and consulting firms to recruit on campus. A recent Harvard Business School case study about General Electric shows that the company had so much trouble competing for MBAs that it decided to woo top graduates from non-elite schools rather than settle for elite-school graduates in the bottom half or bottom quarter of their classes.

No surprise then that, over time, the faculty and curriculum at the Harvards and Stanfords of the world began to evolve. “If you look at the distribution of faculty at leading business schools,” says Khurana, “they’re mostly in finance. … Business schools are responsive to changes in the external environment.” Which meant that, even if a student aspired to become a top operations man (or woman) at a big industrial company, the infrastructure to teach him didn’t really exist.

I think this mentality extends beyond “top business schools” and some degree down the chain. My own school and the college within it was more vocational in nature. But I did minor in industrial supervision and my first job out of college was being the IT guy at a fabrication plant (in the industry of resource exploitation, actually). How I got into it was entirely an accident. Of course, there are a number of engineers who specifically go into this sort of thing (and that’s responsible for at least some of the South Dakota Mines statistic). But comparatively little on the business side. My college had a major that was, at the time, commanding really good salaries even for the 90’s. But who was going to go into something that included the word “industrial” in it? They’ve since changed the major’s name in part to reduce the stigma. That such a stigma exists, of course, is interesting in itself.


Category: Office, School

Yahoo recently hired a pregnant woman to be their new CEO. This is generating a fair amount of discussion on the subject. The best so far is from Forbes.

[Marissa Mayer]’s a CEO and can give herself work-from-home days if she needs to. She can hire a nanny, a nurse, a courier, a cook. She can set her company policy so that infants are allowed in the workplace (which has benefits like higher morale in the office!). Her hot-ass husband is a venture capitalist with a flexible schedule who can take the kid to doctor appointments and whatnot.

You know who’s not a CEO? Almost everyone else. Marissa Mayer is an outlier, and while her actions may make splashy headlines, her situation doesn’t apply to the rest of us. […]

Things have improved immensely since the early ‘70s for college-educated women like me: In 1971, 27% of working women with B.A.s were able to take paid maternity leave; by 2006, that figure was 66%.

For women whose education topped out at high school, though, 16% had paid maternity leave in 1971. And these days? Why, would you look at that: The number hasn’t improved at all.

The vast majority of women going back to work after two weeks have nothing in common with Marissa Mayer. They’re dragging their weary butts back to work, and wrapping up their boobs because there’s no place to pump at work. They’re getting paid by the hour.

Clancy has quite a bit of vacation and sick leave saved up, so we’re not going to be taking as much of a financial hit as a lot of people do when it comes to maternity leave. Even so, it’d be nice if Clancy had been able to take her vacation days and get some time to take care of the baby after it is born. A lot of other countries apparently manage this, but not ours.

Having said that, there are some real concerns that would come along with it. The Forbes author gives an anecdote about how she declined to take advantage of something she was legally entitled to. Similarly, I know a pregnant woman who is under a degree of pressure not to take advantage of her due maternity leave. She talked of taking eight weeks of leave, and the response was along the lines of “We’ll see.” She was legally entitled to it, but an uncooperative employer can make life difficult for you if you take advantage of it. And if you force, force, force it upon them and go after them for anything that merely sniffs like a punitive response, you have essentially added a asymmetrical cost to hiring women.

Another female acquaintance, in response to Mayer’s hiring at Yahoo, mentioned on Facebook that she got her current job while pregnant. She said during the interview “I don’t know if you realize I’m pregnant or think I’m just a porker, but I’m only somewhat porker and very pregnant.” (You’d have to know her to believe as I do that yes, she would actually say this in a job interview.) She got the job. Would she have gotten the job if it meant that she would be gone for 12 weeks and that they’d have to pay her and a replacement? I don’t see employers as being that far-sighted.

So where does that leave us? The government could take care of paying the parents. A social evolution where men were just as likely to take the time off as women could negate any discriminatory effect. Alternately, if you had generous leave that was so limited that men would almost have to take the time off, you could relieve the discriminatory effect. Of course, then you would be discriminating against one-parent households. Unless you said that a single parent gets twice the leave, which then penalizes women who married their child’s father.

One other possibility, I suppose, would be tax credits to corporations with family-friendly policies. That would encourage more companies to offer paid maternity leave, but would let those that are worried about it off the hook. That would, of course, be yet another line in the tax code. There would also likely be some employers that would take the credits and then apply pressure on employees not to use them. Intuitively, it seems like the abuse would be less than simply by demanding maternity leave for everyone. Of course, you’d have to strike the right balance between “enough of a tax credit to encourage employers to do it” and “not too much of a tax credit to where they have to do it whether they intend to comply or not.”


Category: Office, Statehouse

I haven’t made the complete transition to Windows 7 yet. All of my secondary computers are still on XP (or, in two cases, Vista). When you do a search on XP, there’s a little dog that appears in the lower left-hand corner. You can make it to tricks. The problem with this digital dog is that it makes noise (some scratching sound). I don’t mind the dog, but the noise is irritating. But to get rid of the noise, you have to get rid of the dog. Right-click and tell it to take a hike and it trots away.

I feel the slightest bit bad about telling a digital dog to take a hike.

I feel ridiculously dumb for that sentiment.

Many years ago – maybe it’s till around – there was an application you could buy to raise a digital dog on your computer. My then-girlfriend Julianne had some. If you didn’t play with it often enough, it’d get droopy and sad. Sometimes it’d leave a dump on your screen. Julie bought me the program. I played with it a little bit, but it got old and only served to remind me that I didn’t have a real dog (mine had died not too long before). And I hated the notion that a digital dog required my attention or it would get pouty.

This is, of course, Zynga’s business model. Making you feel bad for letting pointless digital things languish. I guess, despite the stupid little feel-bad for telling the searchdog to leave, I am relatively immune.

My real dog would say that I am too immune to letting her languish.

Once upon a time, it was part of my job description to keep the office’s network up and running. It was an irritating part of my job. Not the least of which because I was having to look after the computing habits of a bunch of post-middle aged women who didn’t know the first thing about computers. One of them would say “Hey, Will. You need to see this!” so that she could show me something cute that the Office Help paperclip did. That was the second most annoying of all.

(The most annoying was conflating “I can’t find the database” (which I accidentally deleted the shortcut to) to “The database has been deleted.”)


Category: Office, Server Room

This cannot stand.

Another stat shows that 80 percent of babies and toddlers know how to use the internet.

OH MY GOD TODDLERS AND BABIES ARE LEARNING TO USE ONE OF THE ESSENTIAL TOOLS OUR TIME! THIS IS POSITIVELY DISASTROUS!

Okay, actually, I find that statistic more puzzling than disastrous. How is “use the internet” defined? Learning to click on a link? Playing an Adobe Flash game? However you define it, being a toddler is a time for children to develop motor skills and language skills. Assuming that they can’t read, figuring out that clicking the button thingie when the pointer thingie will consistently cause such-and-such to happen strikes me as kind of useful. Granted, the spacial skills that come with playing with blocks are moreso, but are we really worried that kids aren’t playing with blocks?

Okay, setting that one sentence and my unreasonable response to it aside, let’s go back to the beginning:

  • Text messages sent per day in the U.S.: nearly 5 billion
  • Number of emails sent per second in the world: 2.8 million
  • Average professional/work related meetings attended per month: 61

Sounds positively ominous… or does it? The first statistical set is the United States, the second set is the world, and the third is… what? Not the world. I doubt it’s even a company. I assume it’s an individual, in which case that’s actually kind of horrifying for a different reason. Does the average person really go to almost three meetings a day? I guess since I’ve only rarely been in management, that sounds awfully high to me. But I guess while I attended only one or two a week, there are others who just go from meeting to meeting and so it balances out to that. And maybe they define meeting liberally (though not so liberally, I would assume, that any time you stop by a boss’s office, that counts).

So is this a rallying call for more meetings? Why settle something with the convenience of an email when you can disrupt everyone’s schedule and have them drop what they’re doing for more “face time”?

My response may be somewhat intemperate, but with the exception of the part about Blackberries during family time (which I agree can be problematic), I am having difficulty what I am supposed to be pulling from this article other than “Be scared” and/or “You may not realize it, but you feel isolated.”

Except… I don’t. At least not in any of the ways that the article mentions. I have historically worked in the IT sector. We are not exactly luddites when it comes to electronic communication. We’re also not known for being the most sociable people. But, if anything, the places I have worked have involved us spending too much time talking to one another face-to-face. Often just chewing the fat. It’s a product of the Cubicle Age. I’m an introvert, but even I start up conversations with the guy sitting next to me. The only time I really avoided facetime was when everyone around me spoke through heavily accented English that I had difficulty understanding. And the only times I was really anti-social to my coworkers involved heavily accented English or an office full of people that were twenty years older than me or the fundamentalist father of triplets. I mean, am I alone in this? Due to geek-cultural solidarity and employers too cheap to spring for separate offices?

And Facebook? For every friendship it has created problems with (I can think of maybe one), it’s reignited friendships with dozens of others. I went to college at the dawn of Instant Messaging. ICQ came around my second year. My best friend Clint and I barely talked that first year. The second year and beyond, he was coordinating to see me every time he came to town and I was taking trips out there to see him. And of course this doesn’t even touch on BBSes, which provided me more friends than high school ever did. I don’t mean cyberfriends. I mean people that I met. People that I am still in touch with. And, of course, it provided me a course-correcting social education that my schools did not. But this is all kind of beside the point. The point is that unless you live in Callie, Arapaho, or some place similarly small, the only way you’re not making friends from cyber-communication is if that’s what you want. And if it isn’t bolstering your friendships, you’re likely not doing it right.

Which is not to say that there aren’t pitfalls to avoid. And in fact, I may be in one of those pitfalls now. Spending too much time online and not enough time around town making local friends which I might be forced to do in an earlier era. But a lot of that is circumstantial. I had a number of ideas on ways to meet people, but they sort of fell apart. And most of the ideas that occur to me are ideas that involve making friends way out in Redstone. And really, I was lousy with meeting people before the Internet (and BBSes), so it’s not like I can blame it on the wire. You can call it a crutch, but my ankle is sort of sprained.

So yeah, on the part about being able to put the Blackberry away at the dinner table, I’m kind of sympathetic. But complaining about the Internet getting in the way of “real communication” is like complaining that bicycles are problematic because they don’t give you the same workout as running.


Category: Office, Server Room

I try to go to bed early every night so that I am ready for a 5:30am call. None came this morning, but one did come around 8. I reminded the call-out clerk that I lived in Callie, but she said it wasn’t a problem. It was a little bit of a longer drive than usual (ice on the roads), plus it involved refilling the gas tank and drive-thru breakfast (there was, fortunately, no line) so that I wasn’t dying of hunger throughout the day.

But when I got there, the principal told me that they had cancelled me because it had gotten too late. I told him that I hadn’t gotten the call until 8 and I had to drive over from Callie, but he told me that the clerk said she called at 7:30, making me look like a liar. It didn’t occur to me to look it up on the phone until I had already left, but the actual call-time was 7:54.

It wouldn’t bother me (what’s one school among 8 or so?) except that this is the school I like most. It’s the one that, if we relocated to Redstone, I would want to move into the jurisdiction of. Now I’m a bit worried that I may have burned that bridge. My hope is that the principal remembers that the last time (my first-ever assignment), I showed up quite early.


Category: Office, School

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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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