Category: Work

Answers to Questions You Should Have Asked

By , January 16, 2016 8:33 pm

From Tyler Cowen’s always interesting website Marginal Revolution:

7. Mormonism, and other relatively strict religions, can have big anti-poverty effects. I wouldn’t say I ever believed the contrary, but for a long time I simply didn’t give the question much attention. I now think that Mormonism has a better anti-poverty agenda than does the Progressive Left.

Next question?

Bearing Children and Building Websites . . . aka The Law of the Harvest

By , October 22, 2013 2:05 pm

Third, we are doing everything we can possibly do to get the websites working better, faster, sooner. We got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and address the problems. Experts from some of America’s top private-sector tech companies, who’ve, by the way, have seen things like this happen before, they want it to work.

They’re reaching out. They’re offering to send help. We’ve had some of the best IT talent in the entire country join the team. And we’re well into a tech surge to fix the problem. And we are confident that we will get all the problems fixed.

President Obama, yesterday in the Rose Garden.

Yeah, but . . .

The second fallacious thought mode is expressed in the very unit of effort used in estimating and scheduling [a programming job]: the man-month. Cost does indeed vary as the product of the number of men and the number of months. Progress does not. Hence the man-month as a unit for measuring the size of a job is a dangerous and deceptive myth. It implies that men and months are interchangeable.

When a [programming] task cannot be partitioned because of sequential constraints, the application of more effort has no effect on the schedule. The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned. Many software tasks have this characteristic because of the sequential nature of debugging.

Frederick P. Brooks, “The Mythical Man-Month.”

And for good measure.

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

By , March 4, 2011 12:24 pm

I’m having malware problems. Who has time to fix these things? I don’t.

Who has time to create them? Twits do. Extraordinarily twitty people.

Here’s to Appreciating a Man Who Gracefully Wears His Religion on His Sleeve

By , March 1, 2011 9:23 pm

This story about Professor Clayton Christensen in Forbes magazine is impressive in no small part because the world-renown professor so effortlessly, so guilelessly shares the story of his battles with diabetes, a heart attack, cancer, and a stroke, aided by a great family and the strong conviction that God has and has had a plan for him.

Oh Wisconsin: Guess Who Lost the Narrative

By , February 19, 2011 11:38 pm

The teachers’ union in Wisconsin–for that matter, the Democratic Party–will lose their battle because they lost the narrative very early on. From the start, the narrative has been that Governor Walker has a budget crisis on his hand, and one way to fix it is to have the teachers pitch in on the cost of their own benefits. And that’s a winning hand for Walker.

That he also wants to make changes to their collective bargaining rights has been lost in all the noise about benefits, at least until recently. To me, at least, that’s a battle the teachers could win. But they won’t because Governor Walker had them at ‘benefits.’

We’re All Neighbors Now

By , February 17, 2011 9:22 am

This almost needs no comment. The New York Times reports on the protests in Wisconsin over Governor Walker’s move to “sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights and slash benefits for most public sector workers in the state”:

The battle in Wisconsin, which some view as a precursor to similar fights in other states, was drawing attention around the country, including from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said he planned to talk to Mr. Walker by telephone on Thursday. “Where we’re fighting each other, where we’re divisive, where we’re demonizing or vilifying any group, including unions, I don’t think that helps us get where we need to go as a country,” Mr. Duncan told CNN on Thursday morning.

President Obama also weighed in during an interview Wednesday with a Wisconsin TV station, “I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.”

But, I guess, bankers and corporate executives are not.

On Teaching Writing

By , February 4, 2011 10:50 am

Among other things, Roger Rosenblatt teaches writing at Stony Brook University. He talks about teaching in a recent interview with The Christian Science Monitor.

Two key paragraphs hit home, the first, because it has already caused me to raise the bar for myself:

Who taught you to write?
I went to the the Friends Seminary in New York, which was a dreadful school largely, except for one fellow named Jon Beck Shank. He was a Mormon who had come out of the army, went to Yale, and was very interested in theater. He gave us Canada Mints to taste and said, “Taste this and write down what it tastes like,” so we would learn to write metaphor and simile. He had us read poetry, a great deal of poetry so as to appreciate original language. When we studied Shakespeare he had us build a model of the Globe Theater. He just did things that no other teacher would have thought of doing to get into our minds so that we would begin to understand that writing was something that was important to our lives. I was very very lucky to have had him. He meant the world to me.

The second, because it reminds me that I matter as a writing teacher:

What have your students taught you?
That they need me. They need me and my ilk. They need teachers who value them and their lives. Because writing is a validation of their lives and they know it. Whether they’re writing poetry, essays, or stories, it doesn’t matter. Every writing teacher gives the subliminal message, every time they teach: “Your life counts for something.” In no other subject that I know of is that message given.

I learned nothing new in either of these paragraphs, but I needed reminding.

By the way, I have never heard of Jon Beck Shank until today. A Mormon myself, I’m interested in knowing more.

It’s 8:48 AM, and I’m Already Tired

By , January 31, 2011 8:50 am

I Grade; Therefore, I Waste A Lot of Time

By , January 1, 2011 9:27 pm

My son gave me The 4-Hours Workweek to read, and it’s got me thinking. The take away so far is that we need to think outside the 9 – 5 box that employers put us in. The author, Tim Ferris, claims that by planning, implementing deadlines, and eliminating the unnecessary, you can cut your work week back to 4 hours.

Well, among other things, I teach writing. And I grade writing. Ferris’s book has me thinking about how I can serve my students, make my employer happy, and still cut back on the time I spend grading my students’ writing. A few ideas come to mind.

Since I’m an obsessive copy editor, my first order of business is to cut back on the amount of copy editing I do. I’ve tried this before by stopping after a page or two of pointing out comma errors and grammar problems and drawing two lines across the paper to indicate where I stopped. The idea is that since students can only work on so much, they should concentrate on the types of errors I’ve checked above the line. Once they’ve mastered those, the next time around the errors above the lines should be different.

Another idea is to give my students a list of say five or six problems that show up in most writing, and have them work only on them. That way, all I have to look for are those problems.

Finally, and probably the best idea of all, I need to stress peer review in class and out of class more. That way, the burden is on the student. Again, I could give them lists of five or six things to look for in the writing of others. Such repetitive learning should result in mastery of those five or six things.

Imagine how much better everybody’s writing would be if they simply eliminated the passive voice and mastered the comma. Add a more precise word choice and fewer words, and their writing should be singing in short order.

Is a 4-hour workweek in my future? Probably not, but I may be able to cut it to less than 40 hours.

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