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Do We Really Need Guns?

October 7, 2017

Filed under: Health,Journalism,observations,Uncategorized,Wellness — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 7:22 am

Several neighbors on my street own guns. The subject comes up once in a while, when there is some kind of crime in our small town

It doesn’t happen very often, but I’m sure this weekend when we’re all out gardening or chatting over the back fence the topic will be mentioned since it’s the first full weekend since the carnage in Las Vegas.

My niece, who is still in her 20’s, owns 2 rifles which are locked in a gun safe until she takes them out for target shooting at a range near her home. I was surprised, and slightly dismayed, when I learned of her interest, but her parents approve so I keep my mouth shut -mostly.

At one time, my wife even suggested I get a gun. After police combed our neighborhood searching for an armed robber who decided the best spot to hide was in a neighbor’s back yard.

I declined, and will continue to decline as long as I live. I can see no point to them. I have no interest in shooting at a target or a deer. Although, they roam our neighborhood with impunity, eating anything that grows. As an avid gardener I consider them rats with long legs. But that’s a different issue.

I cannot foresee an instance where I would use a gun against someone who was threatening me or my family. I can only see that it would make the situation worse.

My dad was a WWII veteran and shot a gun many times, I’m sure, but we never had them around the house and in all my years I don’t remember the topic ever coming up for discussion. After all, he suffered from what we now call PTSD, and I doubt he had any interest in firing a rifle again.

And yes, I firmly believe the second amendment has been poorly interpreted and our Founding Fathers never meant that we should all have automatic weapons in our homes.

Over 60% of the gun deaths in this country are suicides and I can see no reason to make suicide easier.

I’m not saying suicide would be impossible without guns. Heavens knows when my wife’s best friend decided five years ago, to end her life with pills, there was nothing we could do, no matter how much we pleaded with her.

But I’d like to think that my neighbor two doors away, who I had a standing Wednesday lunch date with for the last two years, would still be alive, if he had not been able to take out a gun and blow his brains out early one Monday morning  three weeks ago.

Perhaps, without the NRA, my neighbor and I could have lunch again this week.

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Our Population Future

July 8, 2017

My good friend Joe Aaron is an economic futurist – someone who gets paid to explain trends and what the future will hold.

I asked him about the recent report that the United States fertility rate had hit a new low, since it features prominently in his  conclusion that the country is headed for real trouble if we, as a nation of immigrants, don’t change our policies.immigrants

I asked if the news changed his opinion. This is his response:

The short answer is no. It does not change my thinking on demographics here in the U.S. If you read between the lines, the article describes a part of our population, the Millennials, who are putting off having children and marriage. 

“The number one reason child birth is dropping in the civilized world today is economic. Young people can’t afford children anymore or are unwilling to make the financial sacrifices. It cost half a million to raise a kid and send them to college. That explains why 20% of our population decides to stay childless.

“The more educated you are, the less likely you are to have an unwanted pregnancy. Women can now get birth control with ease.

Finally, a woman with a good education can have a career and financial independence. If she decides she wants to have a baby she can. She no longer needs a man.

Where demographics are changing in the in the U.S. is at the state level. For example, Maine’s population is actually shrinking each year. Vermont is flat. New Hampshire’s population is flat. But they will both join Maine in the dying category this decade.

These three states have a medium age of 42, the highest in the country. The medium age for the U.S. is 37. This means they are an ageing society. This means their citizens are aging out of the work force. If this trend continues, and I have no doubt it will, in 15 years this will impact the state gov’t’s credit rating.

These three states have an unemployment rates below 3%. This is too low. It puts upward pressure on wages. This in turn puts pressure on a business to consider leaving the state.

If you are a technology company, where are you going to find employees with technology skills? Imagine a recession caused by a lack of workers. It is possible there.

The glass is half empty for small towns and rural area. The kids are all leaving for the bigger cities. It is a brain drain. Manufacturing plants will have jobs that go unfilled. Schools will close.

I find little to be happy about when it comes to our nation’s demographics. We better embrace immigration while people still want to come here.”

 

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The Monetary Value of Your Job

November 4, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,observations,Tech — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 12:46 pm

I had two clients this week who both needed some not so subtle reminders that the value of their jobs might be different from the monetary value of their paychecks.images

Both were young people who had been working at their first real jobs since they graduated from college last June and both had jobs in their chosen career field,  – but neither was happy.

Both were having a very difficult time putting a value on their work.

The first, a young man who was working for an established retailer was frustrated that his pay was not as much as many of his peers in hi-tech, and was concerned about why he wasn’t being promoted.

His work, he said, had become routine, and while he was busy, he felt his job had become routine. At the same time, his commute was about 20 minutes, and he was  living on his own.  He admitted that his supervisor was very open to discussion about additional responsibilities, although she was honest in saying that a promotion was unrealistic for at least another year.

He liked his co-workers, found the environment relaxing, and felt no fear that he was about to be downsized out of his job if the economy soured.

My other client, a young woman, hated her job, and while she was in her chosen field,  counseling, she felt the office was disorganized, there was constant turnover and her ability to help her clients as a case manager, was actually inhibited by her work environment.

She admitted that she was barely able to support herself and was not making much more than she was at a waitress job she had while she sent out resumes a year  ago.

The question to both of them was simple. What is the value of the externalities, apart from the actual work.

For the young man:

Was it worth and extra  $5,000 in salary knowing that he would be exposed to additional experiences, making him more valuable to his current or future employers?

Was is worth an extra $10,000 knowing that his job was secure even if the economy slowed?

And what of the value of a pleasant work enviroment, with an easy commute?

No, he didn’t have free meals, transportation, or  haircuts like his fellow classmates in Silicon Valley, but he wan’t working 80 hours a week in a high-stress environment either.

So maybe his salary was lower, but he was doing better than he thought.

The opposite was clearly true for the young woman. Everything about her job was subtracting value from her paycheck.

Since she was in social work the very least she could expect was that the job would provide ‘supervised hours’ she could apply to an advanced degree or certification, if she went back to school.

But even that benefit was denied her.

The reality was that she was making less than she thought and was getting no benefit from the job. She might as well have taken any other job, since it ws really just a way to support herself until she figured out her next step.

After our sessions my message to each of them was the same: When you assess your job you need to consider more than just a paycheck. Sometimes that adds to the value of your job, and sometimes you might be better off moving on, as quickly as possible.

Do the math, next time you get your paycheck, and see where you stand.

 

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Acing that Interview

July 6, 2015

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,Resumes — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:46 am

The government tells us that 223,000 new jobs were added to the economy last month. That means that at least 500,000 people probably had interviews.

What was the difference between the folks who got the job and the those who are still looking? Obviously, I don’t know all the factors at play, but I can offer some suggestions to help you ace your next interview.

Dealing with Stress:

Job interviews are stressful. But you need to understand that stress is normal. It’s the body’s reaction to fear. Thousands of years ago our stress reaction, shut down unnecessary systems, to allow us to focus on evading that saber-toothed tiger.Echo-Examiner-How-Strong-was

Today we sweat to cool our body temperature, our heart pumps more blood to critical organs, such as the brain, and our nervous system – infused with a chemical surge –  alerts us to the slightest change in the environment.

This is good, it helps you focus your attention on the person in front of you and the questions being asked.

Knowing that your stress reaction is normal can help you relax.

A simple breathing exercise is one way to reduce your stress. Before you enter the building find a quiet spot where you can just sit and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath trying to visualize yourself as relaxed and calm.

And finally: smile –research shows that this one act, will help relax your mind and body.

What to Wear:

You need to dress like you already belong.

The assumption is that you have done some research before you applied, but now you need to explore the company culture.

Does everyone wear business attire every day? Do most men wear ties, are women expected to wear skirts or business suits? The only way to find out might be to visit before your interview.

At many places in Silicon Valley (i.e. Google, Facebook, Apple) what you wear is much different than your ‘uniform’ for a Wall Street Interview.

The old saying, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ is true. When in doubt, a suit that says you are serious about the opportunity, is always the best choice. Looking sharper than your interviewer is always better than the other way around.

At the end of the interview I would rather be told, I’ll never wear my suit to work again, than I need a new wardrobe.

How to Act:

I was once told to mirror my interviewer. If he or she reached out to shake hands, fine, but don’t offer your sweaty palm first.

If the interviewer crossed their legs, I could too.

But this is all part of communication – which is 70% visual. By the time you get to the interview, chances are good that you fit the technical requirements to do the job and they are looking more at your personality and ‘soft skills.’

Many times interviewers form an opinion in the first five minutes and then spend the rest of the interview trying to prove themselves correct. Google claims they have developed a system to prevent this cognitive bias, but the statistics don’t suggest their practices insure better choices.

One other tip, make sure you have your own copy of the resume you submitted. You want to make sure your interviewer is reading things correctly.

I parrot my third grade teacher, Miss Opie, when I advise clients, “sit up straight, pay attention, don’t chew gum and speak clearly.” Always be honest and if you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, and agree to find out.

Many firms are famous for asking brain teaser questions to test problem-solving skills. I think they are less than useful, unless they are directly related to the job. Unfortunately they still exist, despite the fact that there is no evidence they prove anything beyond whether you can solve that particular problem.

I am particularly bad at them, and once when challenged at an interview, simply declined, saying it was not a true test of my ability. Yeah, I did not get the job, but I felt it was probably not a place I wanted to work anyway.

Remember this is a two-way street, so be prepared with questions of your own. Not specifics about pay or benefits, there’s time for that after you get an offer, but about the company and what they do. Maybe even current trends in the industry.

With any luck, the first interviewer will ask you to stay for a while to speak with a few more people – maybe a manager or co worker – so be prepared for a longer stay. Don’t be afraid to stash an energy bar in your pocket or purse to avoid hunger pains. A quick trip to the restroom gives you a break and some time for a snack. (Just make sure you check your teeth before you return)

How do you handle an interview panel? Not easily.

It’s impossible for one person to think as quickly as three, so it’s inherently unfair. Always address your answer to the person who asked the question, and don’t be afraid to pause, and collect your thoughts before you respond. You are not in a time competition.

And, when the panel members start arguing about a question (they always do) stay out of the fight and take advantage of the time, and breathe.

With any luck, the preparation and the talent that got you to the interview in the first place will be your biggest asset. Hopefully, when next month’s employment numbers come out you will be among those with a new job.

 

 

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Who Pays the Price?

March 21, 2015

By now Americans are aware that the products we use can come with unseen consequences. That appears to be the case for the latest smartphone you bought.

Producer Heather White introduces her film "Who Pays the Price?"

Producer Heather White introduces her film “Who Pays the Price?”

A soon to be released documentary movie, “Who Pays the Price?” tells the story of Chinese workers whose lives have been ruined by the jobs they took at factories which flaunt international standards.

Produced by Heather White, Lynn Zhang and Dal Lamagna, the film documents the plight of workers who were forced to use benzene and n-hexane to clean and mark components to smartphones and a myriad of electronic devices we use every day.

The chemicals, are well-known carcinogens and countries all over the world have agreed they should not be used without protection. But in China where they have not signed the international treaty on worker safety, the chemicals continue to be used with impunity.

The film details the life-threatening illnesses that are attributed to the chemicals and the system that has left them with no alternative to a lifetime awaiting an early death. It is a fate that many have chosen to hasten rather than be a burden on their elderly parents.

It is an indictment of both the labor practices in China, and the blind eye that consumers turn as long as they can get the toys they want.

Hospitalized workers in China, injured by unprotected chemical usage.

Hospitalized workers in China, injured by unprotected chemical usage.

“Who Pays the Price” is scheduled to be released this fall and will be the topic of a number of magazine articles later this year, so you will hear more about it I’m sure.

Heather White, a former San Francisco resident, was in the Bay Area last week, hosting a screening of a shortened version, trying to raise funds to complete the project and a planned book.

Ms White, has long been a leader in fighting for the improvement of working conditions. She founded Verite, a well-known verification company which exposed and then worked to improve the plight of workers in textile firms making products for high-end brands around the world. She has now turned her attention to the electronics industry where labor laws and unverified supply chains have made enforcement of even rudimentary standards, almost impssible.

Her goal is not to tell people to discard their smartphones or tablets, but to make them aware of the working conditions that will continue unless some public pressure is brought to bear.

Companies such as Apple and Samsung are certainly aware of what’s going on, but a complex series of factors has made them hesitant to face up to the problems. It’s easier just to deny responsibility and hope to discredit any reports that interfere with their profits.

I urge you to take a look at the trailer on the website and make a contribution or contact Ms White for more information on how we can use our technology without killing the workers that manufacture it.

 

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What I learned at Wisdom 2.0

March 3, 2015

In my last post I outlined my overall view of the recently concluded Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

I have to admit that after three days there were some valuable take aways;

I learned:

Three great tips for Karaoke (from the CEO of LinkedIn Jeff Weiner).

How NOT to connect with  tech company HR types.

Tibetan monks work on a sand sculpture at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Tibetan monks work on a sand sculpture at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco

Even when they are off, cellphones, (or weapons of mass distraction), can disrupt a conversation.

Uni-tasking will be the next big trend. (Sherry Turkle, author)

There are still people (Pico Iyer)  who do not own a cellphone and manage to navigate the world.

Conversations need at least 7 minutes before they really get down to anything substantive.

Empathy, is the real victim among young people who try to talk and text at the same time, because they never learn how to read facial expressions.

Nomophobia is the fear of being without your cellphone.

Alanis Morrisette, in addition to being a great singer, is very smart and has spent a lot of time in a therapist’s office.

Humans of New York – a website dedicated to telling the story of ordinary New Yorkers, is a fine continuation of individual story telling in the tradition of Studs Terkel.

A job may not be a career, but if you can combine them with a calling you may actually have something.

Getting rid of ‘Shoulds’ to create more room for ‘Musts’ may be the key to happiness and satisfaction.

Meditators, monks, and teaching masters have all learned that marketing is the key to spreading the word. It seems everyone now had a catch phrase to make it easier for public acceptance of their theology.

According to Mark Twain the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.

That’s really quite a bit to learn in a three day conference.

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Kensington in the Spotlight

February 22, 2015

Filed under: Health,Kensington,Management,observations,Politics — Tags: , — admin @ 10:00 am

Recently, I’ve had a few calls from friends around the country asking bluntly, “What the heck is going on in Kensington?”

For those of you who missed it, our little town has been the subject of some notoriety since it was revealed that an off-duty police officer ( and three other colleagues) drove to Reno, NV (about 3 hours) for a weekend of fun and promptly lost his gun, badge, handcuffs, and ammunition to a prostitute.kensington-ca-kensington-village-sign-welcome-to-kensington

Journalistically, the best part of the story was how the gun was recovered the next day, when the woman’s pimp apparently shot himself during a dispute when he was attempting to pawn the items.

Our local police chief “investigated” the matter for 8 months but only suspended the officer when the story became public. As you might expect, the community was a bit upset at the chief’s delay. Over 250 folks turned out for a police board meeting on the issue.

He’s now our former chief, although the suspended officer is still on the force.

Kensington is a small upper-middle class community in the East Bay hills. Our major claim to fame, until now, was that Daniel Ellsberg lived here. Over 70% of the population have, not only college degrees, but advanced degrees. The community is off the beaten track, and most of us like it that way. There are no major roads that would lead anyone to come here, unless you were on the way to your home, and most of the time when you tell someone you live in Kensington the reaction is “where’s that?”

chief

Chief Greg Harman in happier times

Plus, we pay a yearly assessment, so that we can have a police department of 10, dedicated to patrolling our streets to protect us from the rest of the world. We also have an excellent elementary school which makes this a great place to raise a family.

The spotlight that has been shining on us over the last few weeks, has been very uncomfortable.

I have no new information to reveal about what will happen next and most of you probably don’t want to know about the politics of a small, wealthy community in the Bay Area, but there are some things to note.

First, the chief and the 5-member police board to which he reports, have screwed up big time. The chief, who also acts as general manager, will no longer be serving us, and for the second time in ten years, we are looking for a new commander.

Second, a large part of the problem is based in the combination role the police chief is asked to fill. Police Chief and General Manager is just an untenable combination, which the board is finally looking into changing.

Third, a small group of dissidents is using the incident to further their own, long-standing goal of ousting the three majority board members. Additionally, they want us to combine our police force with the neighboring town of El Cerrito, which may make sense financially, but not from a public safety perspective.

This story will continue to play out over the next year. Hopefully out of the national or state-wide spotlight. My hunch is we’ll have a recall election, which will fail, and we will separate the two top posts in town, and then there will be a ballot initiative to combine our police force with our neighbor, which will also fail.

The whole battle will be quite acrimonious, and make for lots of local hand wringing, but in the end, everyone will go back to ignoring the our little town and we can all get on with our lives.

 

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Can We All Agree, 2/21/14 edition

February 21, 2015

Can we all agree that the settlement in the West Coast Port strike is little consolation for those with perishable products, or no inventory for their major season?

Can we all agree that even supporters of the ACA are tired of all the1205527976_8347 problems?

Can we all agree, it’s great to hear “Play Ball” once again? We’ll see if new rules speed up the game.

Can we all agree that everyone thinks the SNL stars they watched, were the best of the last 40 years

Can we all agree that over 6 feet of snow and temperatures approaching zero  is just unfair? Not to mention freezing rain.

Can we all agree that it’s likely the Congress will kick the can again, with a temporary funding plan on DHS?

Can we all agree that Jeb Bush is off to a bad start in the foreign policy area? He sounds like his brother, which is not good.

Can we all agree that Egypt bombing Libya is a startling new development?

Can we all agree that once again, Putin has taken the Europeans for a ride? I wonder what other border changes he wants?

Can we all agree that anything can be stopped in America if you shop around for the right judge?

RudyGiuliani-1Can we all agree that Rudy Giuliani, who told us, “The President, does not love the United States,” really needs to learn how to think on his feet? We’re still waiting for Scott Walker and the GOP to repudiate the former mayor.

Can we all agree that a four month reprieve, is not going to solve the Greek debt crises?

Can we all agree that Walmart’s decision to give raises to 500,000 employees, is a great start, but not a final answer.

Can we all agree that after 50 days, the report card on the new Congress is not good?

 

 

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Can We All Agree?

October 23, 2014

The first in a series, I hope, of  semi-regular observations on the week’s news:

Can we all agree that the Senate is just too close to call. Even Politico, which is decidedly right leaning, says so.
Can we admit that the country was just a tad nuts about Ebola, thank you Fox News and one poorly run hospital in Texas.
Can we all agree that there will never be another newspaper editor that anyone will remember after Ben Bradlee.
Can we agree that when three suburban Denver teens, steal money from their parents to join ISIS, we have a problem.
Can we agree that when terrorism strikes a nation, long known as the friendliest country on Earth, we’ve reached a new low.
Can we agree that, like inter-racial marriage, gay marriage is here to stay. I don’t think we need a countdown to 50.
Can we agree that when the airbags of almost 5 million cars may be faulty, someone screwed up, big time.
Can we agree that Gov. Gerry Brown has about a 110% shot of being elected.  But those ballot questions are anyone’s guess.
Plus YCMTU (you can’t make this up)
     Michigan Bans Tesla sales – like they are a threat to GM,
    The Swedes look for a Russian sub-The hunt for Reds inOctober,
    SF’s Golden Gate Bridge Authority  wants to charge you to walk to Marin and back,- great way to attract tourists,
    Pistorius facing 10 months in jail – he only killed one person
and last but not least
    Drunk Russian snowplow driver kills the head of French oil company – only in Russia

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Unconscious Bias

September 24, 2014

Filed under: Coaching,Health,Management,observations,Wellness — Tags: , , , — admin @ 11:56 am

A lot has been written over the last year about steps Silicon Valley companies are taking to combat bias in hiring.

In case you missed it, over 70% of the workforce at many firms, is white and male. A recent NYT article details the problem and some proposed solutions.

But I think the issue is closer to most people’s homes than they realize. A recent example helps prove my point.

My ophthalmologist, is the mother of twins , a boy and a girl. I have been seeing her for almost 15 years so I’ve followed the normal trials and tribulations of parenting.

The children are now, at 15, starting to make choices about college and careers. At my last appointment the doctor said the young man had really applied himself and was looking forward to technology/science as a career and was looking at top tech schools.

When I asked about her daughter, the doctor said she found math and science “too hard,” adding,”all my friends just want to get Liberal Arts degrees.” The doctor’s response,”Well, OK, if that’s what you want.”

I was slightly appalled, and my expression must have revealed my thoughts, because she asked, “Do you think I should have pushed her more?”

We had a lengthy discussion, in between eye chart readings. But it made me wonder how many other subtle signals the little girl had received about avoiding math and science.

It’s no surprise the Silicon Valley workforce is overwhelmingly male, if even a professional women, in a field that certainly required some science (ophthalmology), wouldn’t even urge her daughter to consider science and math because they are “too hard.”

Maybe  a short visit with an unbiased career counselor/coach would help break through the peer pressure and produce a few more female engineers for the next great startup.

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