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Ymm mbsalb

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.02.10

On the rental car agreement:

Important Notice: You are responsible for replacing any fuel used during your rental. Fill up is required within a 10-mile radius of our return location and you will be asked for receipt upon return.

Seems extra bitchy.


 

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...and five, six, seven, eight!

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.01.10

Dance Your PhD.

I haven't watched them all yet, but "Cationic antimicrobial peptides derived from human seminal plasma inhibit HIV-1 infection" is out to an early lead on my scorecard.


 

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The more you know.

Posted by Stanley
on 09.30.10

Taking this quiz after hearing all the news about the recent Pew study is a bit unfair. But I managed 14 of 15.

Guesses about what I missed and self-reported scores encouraged.


 

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When the bedbugs bite

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.30.10

So, my friend cancelled on me tonight because she thinks she might have bedbugs. My knowledge of bedbugs is:
1. They've taken over New York.
2. You can move across country and bleach your life and rid yourself of all your furniture, and when the NPR people interview you, you will dully show them bedbug nests in your couch, and your vacant eyes will reveal that you've been reduced to a mere shell of your former self.

Anyone here have their soul sucked out by the little scratchies?


 

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Looks still and quiet

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.30.10

Aerial photographs of various housing developments in South Florida.


 

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I love you baby, but I just can't smile.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.30.10

Sparked by the prom stories, the following is possibly one of the most intense adrenaline moments I've ever experienced. Of course I was twelve. I'm pretty sure you can't top tweenage years for emotional intensity.

There was this group game called If You Love Me Baby, Let Me See You Smile. An extremely chaste game. Girls on one side, boys on the other. If it is your turn, you must select a member of the opposite sex (terrifying but admittedly heteronormative but let's just roll with that for the moment.) You go over to them and carry out the following scripted dialogue:

You: If you love me baby, let me see you smile.
Them: I love you baby, but I just can't smile.

You have to go through this three times. Your goal is to get them to laugh (out of embarrassment), without laughing yourself. Their goal is to keep a straight face. The loser has to approach the next person. You're allowed to touch them and ham it up, but the entire group is watching you, so I never saw anyone try to cop a feel or anything.

It wouldn't have had such an impact at age 10 or 14; we were certainly the perfect age to wilt over our self-consciousness. But it's just staggering to think back to the sheer embarrassment I felt in selecting someone among my romantic prospects, in front of my peer group, to carry out this dialog with. It felt so loaded with meaning. You had to call them baby.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Managing Minions Edition

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.30.10

Dear Mineshaft:

Basically, what does one do in a professional situation when faced
with domineering juniors? My working style prioritises autonomy and
self-reliance. Difficult jobs - and I count my job as difficult - make
demands on skill and stick-to-it-ness that just need to be faced. I
think one has to learn to come to terms with that in one's own way, or
else find another line of work. A corollary of this is believing that
there's no need to add to the difficulty by making unnecessary or
incomprehending demands on others around you; there are standards to
be met, sure, and there's a role for peer respect and reciprocity, but
there's no particular call for bossiness per se.

So, I tend to think that a junior who starts to try to be bossy around
the place is making two errors. First, he or she is putting off the
task of learning to get good at something by attempting to delegate
the work instead. Second, by mistaking a willingness to grant latitude
for subordination, or something like that, he or she is pissing off
other people, including - as happens in this case - me.

I can see that one good strategy would be to hand the problem person
additional things to do. However, as hinted at, there are more than a
few skills missing, and I don't like busywork. Any tips?

[I found this unclear, and asked for more clarification from the asker.]

The junior is fresh out of college and there isn't anyone more junior for her to delegate to, in terms of the architectural work we are doing. So it goes sideways or up. Example: I gave a clear instruction on some CAD modelling we need - work is within her capability and could be enjoyable, approached in the right way - and she successfully persuaded me to get someone else to do it (probably a mistake on my part there). Second example: we have a presentation report to write: she agreed to contribute some text (this is good experience for her) but is now trying to delegate that to one of our senior associates (who wrote the last report). And there are plenty of things I'll do which she perhaps could; to be honest, with this type of work (early, conceptual) it's almost always quicker to do it yourself.

Normally I wouldn't worry too much, but this intern has been assigned to me for the next few months and is thought of as a good quality recruit. So I want to get this right. It's also a shame to see someone turn their back on what is vital experience in the longer run.

As to motive, I think it's partly lack of confidence (there was a bad episode when I was on holiday, apparently) and partly laziness (she never ever stays late). Of course the two go together. I'm making careful efforts to involve her in all project decision making and make sure that her good ideas get adopted. But without doing the grunt work you get nowhere in architecture.

Also, there has been flirting.

Annoyed Architect

Dear Architect:

I, personally, have a lot more experience being managed than managing, so forgive me if I have an easier time seeing the situation from her side than yours, and focus on what you could do better. Everything I say is going to assume that she's got some potential for learning how to work in an office with expectations like yours, and so that it's worth investing some effort in training her: there's a point at which you're justified at deciding she's not worth it, and giving up on her, but that's a judgment only you can make.

It sounds to me like she's just out of college, and really not clear on what your expectations are: one of the incidents you're annoyed at her over is one where she "successfully persuaded" you to reassign the work. Now, she shouldn't have asked, but if you were going to disapprove of her for it, you should have said no. In your shoes, I'd tighten way up on managing her -- if you assign her work, make it clear that everyone else is busy, and you gave it to her because you wanted her, specifically, to do it. If she's not getting stuff done in a timely fashion because she's leaving early, point that out to her. Managers who are willing to say negative things are actually very reassuring (at least to me), because it means that you know when you're doing something wrong, and if you're not hearing about it, you can be fairly confident that you're meeting expectations. I don't think this should make much more work for you: you just need to remember in communications with her that you're not cutting her any slack, and you're willing to say no if she tries to wriggle out of work.

I am reminded of a paralegal I worked with on a really high pressure trial, back when I was working with Idealist. She struck me as kind of lazy, whiny, and inefficient, which was a problem because we were all working eighteen-hour days, and had to to get everything done. She was given some kind of laborious project early in a day, that had to be completed for the next day, and at about eight or nine in the evening, Idealist checked what she'd done and it was all wrong, to the point of uselessness, so he chewed her out and told her to get cracking on redoing it, whether or not it took her all night. She came to me for sympathy because he'd been mean to her: I pointed out that the work needed to be done for the next day, and she was the person available to do it, and she'd be done by now if she'd listened in the first place. She got all tightlipped and irate looking, and stalked off. Finished the work, properly this time, and from that point on was an excellent worker: she started devoting all of the brains and personality she'd been using to charmingly avoid work to getting it done well and and efficiently. So, I have at least once seen a management crackdown turn a subordinate around; who knows, it might work for your junior.

So, clear expectation-setting, no slack, and see how she does under the new regime. If she's still dodging work then, I don't know what to tell you. Oh, one last thought: this may be an idiosyncrasy of mine, but I find it profoundly unmotivating to be given work as if I should be grateful for the opportunity. On the other hand, I'll work like a dog if I'm told that the work needs to be done, not for my personal development, but because it's what the client/firm/my boss needs, if you see the difference. If you haven't been focusing, with her, on how the work she's doing is genuinely useful in terms of your firm's output and the clients' needs, that might be a help as well.

Good luck turning her around!

LB


 

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Why do all these homosexuals keep forcing me to obsess over them?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.29.10

It's fun to watch Anderson Cooper slaughter this insane Michigan right-winger - assistant to the attorney general, no less - who is utterly obsessed and being driven mad by the mere existence of University of Michigan's gay student president.

Via Oudemia


 

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Except there's no "us".

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.29.10

This article is totally stupid, but the basic premise is how I see the world: it's much more important to understand corporate dominance over our government than to understand the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Us vs. The Corporations indeed.


 

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No lesson to be learned here. Carry on.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.28.10

The author of More Guns, Less Crime was scheduled to speak on campus at UT Austin today. He was brought in by several groups including the Libertarian Longhorns, the UT Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, the UT Objectivism Society and the UT Federalist Society.

Unfortunately, it was cancelled.


 

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That is, if you want to fit in.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.28.10

What music should you listen to? Find out here. (No music or moving parts. Just a nice static graph.)


 

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Ask the Mineshaft: Timely Questions

Posted by Ben
on 09.28.10

I swear to god, I'm posting this on behalf of someone else—it isn't about me with a few details changed:

I've got something of a problem: I'm finally leaving my PhD program after 7 years, and I really haven't the faintest idea of what to do now. I didn't finish the dissertation—indeed, barely started it—since most of my time was spent avoiding work, or consciousness altogether. I spent the last year in Germany, hoping a change of scenery might help, and it was good in some respects—I'm now semi-functional, if not fluent, in the language, which is something—but I stayed trapped in the same rut w.r.t. work, getting up and leaving the apartment, etc.

I'm now back in the US, but only for a few weeks—I'm going to meet my advisor and DGS in order to formally quit (or possibly ask for a leave of absence, if that's possible, since it might be worth returning to in a couple years just to have the degree), and then I've got a plane ticket back to Frankfurt. As I said, I don't have a plan; all I have is a ticket and a good, cheap apartment, and a vague feeling that I should be able to find some way of making enough to survive for the next year or so doing English tutoring, editing, test prep stuff. Assuming I avoid deportation, and sort out the threatening letters AOK (German insurance co.) has been sending me.

So, Mineshaft: any suggestions for how to reboot one's life at 30, never having had a real job, and completely lacking in remunerative skills? Thanks!

I, of course, have no advice; whence would I have got it? I am a bit surprised that one can go for seven years in a Ph.D. program barely having started one's dissertation (though I imagine expectations differ severely in different fields and programs), but that is obviously neither here nor there. I would hope that semi-functionality in German and whatever skills one acquires or uses in (at a minimum) finishing with coursework in a doctoral program are at least potentially remunerative. But perhaps our correspondent means, lacking in skills whose remunerative potential are plain on their face.

Fall to, helpful hordes.


 

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Muted Accomplishments

Posted by Stanley
on 09.27.10

Several people have sent along links that I or others could write about. I approve of this behavior! Keep doing it.

But I'm going to be lazy, because it's late and I had to watch the Bears win a football game. So I'll tell you something stupid about running.

I really hated running until July or so, and I've always been seriously slow. But with the near-daily runs, I was sure I'd added a step or two to my relative quickness.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday. I decided it was time to do just a single mile as fast as I could, this with the full knowledge that I'd never in middle school or high school ever gotten under ten minutes. I picked this song for its tempo, which I found to be amenable to pushing me right to the edge of my running-speed comfort zone without much stopping.

I came in at eight minutes, twenty seconds. So! Better than high school. But so sloooow. I must not have snapped my hips or something.


 

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The importance of good citizenship, civic pride, and keeping our desks tidy.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.27.10

I'm starting to think that tidiness should be taught to children, in school or wherever, but deliberately and with planning. I'm picturing explicit instructions on leaving white space around your answers on a page, how big to write to make life easier on your reader, concrete assignments to help you keep your desk neat, etc. (I believe these were taught strictly in the classrooms of yore, but not necessarily with much well-planned pedagogy.)

First of all, none of that stuff was obvious to me as a child. It was all mysterious how some kids routinely turned in beautiful assignments and kept tidy backpacks. Second, I didn't really get that it requires taking a few seconds longer at many junctures. Third, I think it translates into organizational skills as an adult.

I've found it very useful to study organized people and imitate the things they do. (Although not at all helpful to read articles and top ten tricks lists. I don't think naturally organized people have much insight into how baffled poorly organized people are.) I'm much better than I used to be. At work, I'm downright competent, even. And a lot of my organization at work amounts to keeping my workspace tidy.

(At home, I'm nowhere near the disaster case I was a decade ago. Moving accounts and papers online and living with Jammies have helped immensely. But it doesn't come naturally.)


 

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Pretty!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.27.10

Here, have some charming choreography:


 

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To face crotches or butts?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.27.10

I'm back! Did you miss me? By the way, we'll be out of town this past weekend.

We went to a football game. Jammies pointed out that the one friend in the group who is a little out to lunch was the only guy to squeeze through the stands oriented with his crotch facing the row of faces, as opposed to crotch facing away from the row of faces. This made me think this is gendered, since I've always passed by facing the faces. On the other hand, with my height, it's belly and not crotch that they're faced with. On a third hand, with my belly everyone stood up to let me pass anyway, and if I were creating space while facing down the stadium stairs, I think I might have lost my balance. Also I'm sure this will spark a wildly fascinating discussion.


 

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