To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm seeing posts elsewhere about racial preferences, affirmative action, Prop 209, and so forth. A lot of arguments turn on qualifications, as in, the relative importance of hiring the best-qualified person for the job if it means compromising on diversity quotas, or the question of whether two people of equal qualifications have equal chances if they are of different races. Here is an article about an experiment done by University of Chicago and MIT, in which resumes with black-sounding names got far fewer calls for job interviews than the identical resumes with traditionally white names. That is telling.

But speaking as a person who has conducted many job interviews, and dealt with the people we've hired, I'd say that no two people have identical qualifications, and that paper qualifications don't mean that much. Given that you want a person with at least a B.S. in science and "some" lab experience, you don't necessarily end up hiring the person with the highest degree or the most experience. You hire the person who looks you in the eye and convinces you that she can get the job done.

I remember my job interview for the job I have now. My prospective boss was going on about how they wanted someone from outside the company, with technical skills they didn't have in-house, who had a fresh perspective, blah blah, and I thought, I can't sit here like a bump on a log. So when he paused for breath, I asked, "Are you looking for better productivity, or better customer service, or adherence to the methods, or documentation to show adherence to the methods?" "Yes, yes, yes, and yes," he said, smiling and sitting back, and I thought, "I've got the job." And indeed I did. This had nothing to do with my qualifications on paper, which actually didn't match what they had in their newspaper ad.

Monday, June 26, 2006

CU plans to fire Churchill

The interim chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder announced today that CU wants to fire ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill.

"Today I issued to Professor Churchill a notice of intent to dismiss him from his faculty position here at the University of Colorado," said Phil DiStefano at a press conference.

Struggling to hold off the schadenfreude.

A university committee that investigates academic misconduct recommended two weeks ago that Churchill be fired for a "pattern of repeated, intentional misrepresentation."


In a 20-page report, the committee agreed with a May investigative committee report that Churchill intentionally falsified his research, plagiarized other people's work and ghostwrote articles and then cited them to buttress his work.

Thus saith Mr. Churchill:

Churchill and his attorney have threatened to sue CU if he is fired. They accuse the university of retaliating against the tenured professor because of his essay saying some World Trade Center terrorism victims were not innocent and comparing them to a Nazi bureaucrat.

Churchill said at the time that the investigative committee's report read like a warning to other scholars to "lay low."

"Do not challenge orthodoxy," Churchill wrote in his response to the committee. "If you do, expect to be targeted for elimination and understand that the university will not be constrained by its own rules - or the Constitution - in its attempts to silence you."

He's not really that stupid, is he? He's not that stupid. To be that stupid, you would have to think that being truly offensive about X absolves you of any guilt if you happen to engage in Y. Perhaps he would be better off saying "Do not challenge orthodoxy IF YOU HAVE ENGAGED IN PLAGIARISM OR OTHER BEHAVIOR THAT SHOULD GET YOU FIRED."

Because the fact is that CU hired him because he was thought to be an American Indian. And that right there means they deserve the black eye they got when it was discovered that he was playing them for fools. No one ever looked into the allegations of plagiarism and lying about his ethnicity and so forth until he opened his mouth about the WTC and people started wondering who the hell he was. CU would still have countenanced him if they had dared.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poor F has had to submit to Lectures from me all her life. If I had had a blog while she was growing up I would have posted them too, because they are always about things I feel strongly about. The meaning of success, which I posted about earlier, was the subject of one of those lectures.

F said something the other day that reminded me of a screed that I subjected her to when she was in the 9th grade. She had to read several books for English, among them Jane Eyre and The Good Earth. Her English teacher, who I think had no sense at all (ask me sometime about the research paper assignment) asked this question about The Good Earth: Was Wang Lung a moral person? She asked this on a test, and the only acceptable answer was "Yes". I blew my stack when F told me this, and I told her that Wang Lung was not a moral person!

F thought that it was because he kept concubines in his later life. It turned out that she thought morals always have to do with sex, a notion I was glad to find out that she had so I could disabuse her of it. Morals have to do with judging that a particular behavior is right or wrong, independently of how we feel about it, whether we want to engage in it or not, what other people will think of it, or whether or not we will benefit from it. A moral person will not always do the right thing. He may try to find ways to rationalize what he does and convince himself that he's not in the wrong. But mostly he'll feel remorse when he leaves the path, and he'll try to straighten up, make restitution if possible, and resolve never to repeat the error.

Wang Lung, if you recall, had a daughter who was profoundly retarded. This was possibly due to the wretched famine that his family had to endure while she was in the womb and in the months following her birth. Wang Lung loved his daughter and felt compassion for her, so he made sure that she was taken care of. No one else cared whether she lived or died, not even her mother or her brothers, and certainly not the servants whose job it was to look after her physical needs. It's clear throughout the book that Wang Lung is a nice person who cares about others' feelings. He's obviously a warm-hearted, loving man. But if he had not loved his daughter, he would not have thought twice about letting her die from neglect. He regretted his family's lack of concern for her, but he didn't think they were bad people because they would have let this helpless innocent suffer. Right and wrong just didn't enter into it.

In contrast, Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre hated his wife. He felt that he had been tricked into marrying her and that she had ruined his life. He began hating her even before her descent into madness. But he continued to see that she was cared for because it was the right thing to do. He made sure little Adele was taken care of for the same reason - he didn't spend a lot of time with her, so it was clear that he took little pleasure from her company, but he saw to it that she was well-clothed and fed and educated by people who were kind to her because he felt a sense of responsibility toward her. It was wrong of him to try to marry Jane without her knowing that it couldn't have been a legal marriage, and he knew that. But the thing is, no one would have known if he had walked away from his responsibilities. No one knew about his wife (except his brother-in-law) or would have known about Adele, who IIRC wasn't even his child. He didn't come across as a particularly religious person, so he didn't do what he did from fear of hellfire. So there wasn't a single reason for him to do these responsible things, up to and including risking his life in an attempt to save his wife when his house burned up, except that he felt that he should. And that makes Mr. Rochester a moral person.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 80% Conservative, 20% Liberal
Social Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Well, big surprise, ha ha. Actually, I think this thing is a bit shallow, but that's how these quizzes are. I am somewhat liberal on some social issues and that has been a bone of contention between me and some toe-the-line people. Actually, my conservatism arises from the fact that I try to look at issues from all sides and decide what I think about them, and it turns out that more often than not, the conclusion I draw falls on the conservative side of the fence.
File this under "Unclear on the Concept".

CBS News says Dan Rather leaving

Rather apparently hadn't even seen the report questioning Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service before introducing it on the air in September 2004.


Rather always considered himself a reporter first....

I cannot reconcile these two statements. Somehow I am reminded of Peter Arnett.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I talked to a few people at work about the feasibility of offering brown-bag lunches on Fridays with a job-search theme. Everyone was favorable so I'll bring it up at the supervisor meeting tomorrow. The idea is that this is not company-sponsored, so we won't put up notices and hourly people will have to clock out for lunch as usual. And of course it will be strictly voluntary. The reason for doing this is that some people get a frightened look on their faces if you even ask about their resume, and I'll bet they haven't done one in years, if at all. I'm thinking that as the clock ticks closer to the company closing (some time next year) the stress levels are going to get unbearable. If people feel that they are making at least some progress toward replacing their job, maybe it won't be so awful, for them and for the rest of us.

I think putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, and starting to create a resume from scratch is probably a daunting task for some folks. Scary to even start, because what if you end up with something so lame that nobody would ever hire you. So I think on the first Friday we'll just write sentences about what we are doing and have done on the job. The branch manager gave me a list of "action words", verbs like "train" and "implement" that might help a person remember job functions and achievements and also help word them. Then we'll pass our lists to our coworkers so they can remind us and be reminded themselves of things that are left out. This will be a nonthreatening way of dipping our toes in the water, and hopefully somewhat confidence-building. (I, of course, already have a kick-butt resume but I'll still go through the exercise.) Next week maybe we'll talk about resume formats, what personal information to put and where to put it, and so forth. After that people ought to be able to put something together. I thought one Friday we could have a panel discussion with those of us who conduct job interviews talking about specific things that interviewees have said or done that have turned us on or off. We can go through the list of questions that you can expect to be asked at one place or another, like "what are your weaknesses" and so forth. How to research a prospective employer so you can ask intelligent questions, and how to customize a cover letter. The branch manager gave me some material also on how to figure out what you really want in a job. I know at least one person who has decided on a complete career change. For people who have drifted into these jobs, this could be a very positive thing.

So we'll probably kick this off on Friday and see what kind of response we get from the employees.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The "Cats" review was in the paper today: TM version of "Cats" takes on life of its own.

An argument could be made for imitation had we never seen "Cats" before, if this was our initiation into the Tony-winning concept of striped unitards, teased wigs and garish makeup. Meow, baby.

But who hasn't seen this manifestation of "Cats"? Isn't one role of regional theaters to keep theater alive by reinventing it? This is not what our college professors taught us theater should be; art shouldn't imitate art.

Needless to say, seated among those in the opening night audience of "Cats" was a certain Chicken Little, predicting the impending demise of the theater, suspiciously watching the house fill up -- to capacity.

Then the lights went down and the band struck up Webber's stuck-in-yer-head-forever tunes and this homage roared to life with impressive dynamism.

It was a good review. I just got home after singing in the pit for tonight's performance. Had a lot of fun.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Debate over pets' role in spread of avian flu
No cases passed yet by dogs or cats, but experts want study

If the bird flu virus arrives in the United States on the wings of migrating wildfowl...

Again with the wings.

It's an interesting article. The tomcat loves to hunt and we'd already realized that if/when bird flu hits this continent, his outside days are over. He'll be miserable, but there will be no discussion. The little girls don't go out - well, Bonnie does, but only on a leash. And mostly when she sees him outside.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The high today was 95. We had a heat warning. In Kalamazoo, the high was 68.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Well. Roscoe Dixon was convicted of bribery. Now we'll see how the rest of Tennessee Waltz plays out.

If you're a senator or representative, a city councilperson or a county commissioner, you don't accept money from people doing or trying to do business with the government. Period. Not for your private charity, not because it's your birthday, not because they know it's hard making ends meet when you're a public servant (quit running for office and get a day job if that's the case). We had people here who said that they were just glad none of the people running the sting approached them. Being approached wasn't the problem. Taking the money was the problem. How hard is that?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Former Tenn. lawmaker denies extortion

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A former Tennessee legislator charged with extortion took the stand in his own defense Tuesday and denied ever accepting payoffs from two FBI informants.

Former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon testified that he had supported legislation for E-Cycle Management, a bogus company set up by the FBI, as a favor to friends and not for money.


Dixon, a Democratic lawmaker for 22 years[!], said he had tried to help the two establish careers as lobbyists.


On the tape, Dixon tells Myers: "Throw me one of those stacks [of money], man."

What's sad about this? That the FBI had to come in and clean out our state legislature AGAIN. That in an election held right now Dixon would be re-elected in a heartbeat. That he would be even if he is convicted. That the standards we hold our politicians to are lower than a snake's belly. That this: "...Sen. Roscoe Dixon testified that he had supported legislation for E-Cycle Management, a bogus company set up by the FBI, as a favor to friends..." is thought to be some kind of defense. A state senator isn't supposed to get in office and support legislation to help his dadgum friends. Good grief.

Is it like this everywhere?
"Cat Among the Pigeons"

or at least, "Molly Among the Bird Salt and Pepper Shakers". She kept wanting to bite their little heads when I first brought them home, but now she just lounges companionably next to them.

We saw bunnies in the yard this afternoon. We've had them before, and raccoons of course, and at least one possum. Skinks and snakes and turtles and frogs and the inevitable birds and squirrels. Mice too. The lab in Michigan is away from the city, and apparently the employees sometimes see deer from the window. We see wildlife from our lab, too, but it's a different kind, mostly because there are at least two homeless shelters in the neighborhood. I look at the street where I work a bit differently now ... is the razor wire on the parking lot fences really necessary? Sadly, the answer is probably yes. It's really kind of appalling. One gets used to all kinds of things.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

My boss and I got back from Kalamazoo last night, having left Memphis on Thursday morning.

K appears to be a nice place. I could stand living there, probably.

We walked around a bit downtown. It seems the area took an economic hit when Pfizer shut down some facilities. But we didn't get the impression that K was a ghost town, by any means. The parks and shops and things looked pretty cool. They have cultural events all summer. Everyone here tells us that the winters must be horrible, but apparently Lake Michigan has a somewhat moderating effect on temperatures, although there is a fair amount of snow. The cooler summer weather is a definite plus. I could easily get used to not wondering if I was going to get from my car to my front door without melting into a puddle on the driveway.

This was our first meeting with the lab people at that facility. We had a long discussion about procedures, and quality, and logistics, so forth and so on. It's a different culture than what we are accustomed to, and actually, more like it should be for what we do. But my boss and I probably have a good bit more autonomy right now than we will if we move, and that will be another adjustment to make. They appeared to like us, and that is a plus.

If we move, it will be next year, probably. I'll continue to look around here and keep my options open. But it's a relief to know that if we relocate, we'll like living there. The biggest negative is that we would be so far away from our parents and other family members.

In other news, today R and I are driving F up to Sikeston, MO, to Lambert's Cafe, Home of the Throwed Rolls. Yes, it's an enormous restaurant, big as a warehouse, and they actually throw rolls to the customers. "Hot rolls!" they shout, and these delicious rolls come arcing over people's heads to be caught by laughing patrons. OK, it's kind of fun. I guess you have to be there. Her friend in St. Louis has invited her to visit, and she and her parents will meet us there to take F the rest of the way. We'll reverse the process next Saturday. And now that the kitchen is papered, and looks really nice, and we're still all speaking, we have some more work to do on the trim and so forth, which will keep R and me busy. Sigh.