mm199: Blogging — NSFW? The plot thickens…

November 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Recently we tackled the topic of blogging in the corporate environment in a two part post. In the first, the singular tale of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods (which, MUDGE is not too proud to repeat, stubbed its organic tofu), and his wayward blogging ways that ran afoul of the Federal Trade Commission, and later, his board of directors.

The next post explored the subject from the point of view of IBM, an organization of 375,000 global employees that enthusiastically embraces blogging among an entire portfolio of Web 2.0 tools. Indeed, their Lotus division has released the set of applications called Lotus Connections to spread the collaboration gospel to a bemused corporate world.

Now, Computerworld (source of the Whole Foods story) has reopened the issue with a pair of related articles.

computerworld

Mark Boxer wanted to talk to his employees about the top issues at work.

So the president and CEO of operations, technology and government services at WellPoint Inc. sent out weekly e-mails under the header “Thoughts for a Friday” and encouraged his workers to e-mail back.

But while Boxer sought open communication with his employees, there was a problem with his system: He was reaching thousands of workers at the Indianapolis-based health benefits company. The e-mail approach to keeping up the conversation was cumbersome.
Boxer figured there had to be a better way for communicating on such a large scale, so in June 2007 he tried blogging.

The results have been positive. “It’s been a very effective way for building a community,” Boxer says. “It’s a unifying force.”

Of course, as corporations, the concept of blogging needs adjustment…

But companies aren’t replicating the free-flowing exchange that has been a hallmark of the broader blogosphere. Rather, companies are trying to harness that freedom and conform it to business needs, with forward-thinking companies using strategic planning and formal policies to shape the use of blogs and other Web 2.0 tools to drive more communication and collaboration among workers.

Corporate blogging is a minefield that needs to be negotiated with care. So it’s no wonder that the research quoted in the CW story shows that nearly half of the executives surveyed (companies with more than 500 employees) have not embraced this technology, and most of those see no reason to do so.

Those promoting the technology see them as up to date tools of collaboration. The balky executives see blogs as sloppy, undisciplined amateur communication.

The story provides some anecdotal evidence that blogs might provide a substitute for the water-cooler conversation that a typical ginormous corporation’s global footprint makes impossible.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Corporate blogging: Does it really work?

As Computerworld is a trade publication, a related story tackles the topic from the viewpoint of IT executives.

There’s no question that blogs are multiplying in cyberspace. Now they’re infiltrating businesses, too, even if the IT departments haven’t sanctioned their implementations.

“I’ve definitely seen the problem with unsanctioned blogs finding their way into enterprises. It’s happening more than IT would like to believe,” says Oliver Young, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. “Executives realize it’s a losing battle to lock it down, so they’re bringing in official solutions. It’s not everybody, but there are plenty of IT shops that realize this is coming whether they like it or not.”

The movement of blogs from a primarily social technology to a business tool is happening fast. As a result, IT workers are developing best practices for implementing, managing and maintaining this technology. At the same time, corporate IT departments, executive sponsors and the business units that want blogs are trying to build business cases, craft user policies and estimate costs — and even returns on investments — even though there’s not yet a lot of data to define success.

One needs to be suspicious of this element of the story, since it relates blogging infrastructure to that of email, in a way that minimizes the time and attention that email systems cost IT departments.

Blogging technology, like e-mail systems, doesn’t require heavy maintenance. “IT will obviously operate the machinery behind blogs just [as it does] the machinery behind e-mail, but it’s a relatively minimal effort,” Valdes says.

I can think of several managers, and more than 40 grunts in the trenches working near me who might take exception to the characterization of email as requiring minimal maintenance!

And even the company whose anecdote seemed so positive in the first story, has some reservations about whether and how to roll out blogs to everyone.

And that shouldn’t surprise one. Research scientists are highly educated and understand more than most the value of “thinking out loud.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

IT wrestles with workplace blogging

Anyone remember the Keebler cookie commercials? That’s where people believe in elves, not cookie-baking factories.

Corporate email doesn’t get done by elves, people, nor will corporate blogging.

So that may be a clue: like email, blogs seem simple. But, ask John Mackey — the potential for blogs to make life complicated is what is surprisingly simple.

But the vendors are out there, not least of them IBM, with Lotus Connections, as referenced in the second of our previous stories.

The cost of entry for blogging seems incredibly low. Indeed, I have been blogging (not for business, but to share this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© as an avocation) for several months now, and have paid not a sou to WordPress (who certainly deserves our constant appreciation! I bought a wonderfully red tee shirt!), or Microsoft for Windows Live Writer, or Picnik for their free on-line image processing, etc.

Of course, there is quite a significant, if always undervalued cost: my personal time.

Create a blog for business use, keep it relevant and timely — where exactly would the time for that effort come from?

MUDGE is all for corporate collaboration. Too many of us work in our silos, with little idea of what the guy three rows over is up to, much less the woman an ocean away. But maybe they’re doing things that I can find interesting, and perhaps useful. But how will I ever know?

But whatever the answer is, it probably isn’t a corporate blog in my employer’s part of the world. There, a corporate blog seems as likely as Western culture taking the plunge: trading a groom’s tuxedo for cut-offs and a Hawaiian shirt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm198: GM foods — Wrongheaded opposition is starving the developing world

November 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Prospect magazine of the UK has a compelling piece, from the European viewpoint on genetically modified food and its wrongheaded opposition.

prospectuk

The real GM food scandal

by Dick Taverne

GM foods are safe, healthy and essential if we ever want to achieve decent living standards for the world’s growing population. Misplaced moralising about them in the west is costing millions of lives in poor countries

Dick Taverne is the author of The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism (OUP)

Seven years ago, Time magazine featured the Swiss biologist Ingo Potrykus on its cover. As the principal creator of genetically modified rice—or “golden rice”—he was hailed as potentially one of mankind’s great benefactors. Golden rice was to be the start of a new green revolution to improve the lives of millions of the poorest people in the world. It would help remedy vitamin A deficiency, the cause of 1-2m deaths a year, and could save up to 500,000 children a year from going blind. It was the flagship of plant biotechnology. No other scientific development in agriculture in recent times held out greater promise.

Seven years later, the most optimistic forecast is that it will take another five or six years before golden rice is grown commercially. The realisation of Potrykus’s dream keeps receding. The promised benefits from other GM crops that should reduce hunger and disease have been equally elusive. GM crops should now be growing in areas where no crops can grow: drought-resistant crops in arid soil and salt-resistant crops in soil of high salinity. Plant-based oral vaccines should now be saving millions of deaths from diarrhoea and hepatitis B; they can be ingested in orange juice, bananas or tomatoes, avoiding the need for injection and for trained staff to administer them and refrigeration to store them.

Your correspondent has long been more aware of this complex issue than the average blogger on the street. Some years ago, MUDGE logged a five-year stint at a science-based organization whose parent was one of the foremost corporate proponents of this world-changing technology. Indeed, I probably would be there still, had not the forces of creative destruction, i.e., capitalism, broken up that good old gang of mine through “merger” and acquisition.

Proximity to the technology, and a modicum of intellectual curiosity resulted in slightly more than superficial awareness of the issue and its controversies. And the controversy has been noisy enough to make one believe that distribution of such technology has been suppressed. But,

Seldom has public perception been more out of line with the facts. The public in Britain and Europe seems unaware of the astonishing success of GM crops in the rest of the world. No new agricultural technology in recent times has spread faster and more widely. Only a decade after their commercial introduction, GM crops are now cultivated in 22 countries on over 100m hectares (an area more than four times the size of Britain) by over 10m farmers, of whom 9m are resource-poor farmers in developing countries, mainly India and China. Most of these small-scale farmers grow pest-resistant GM cotton. In India alone, production tripled last year to over 3.6m hectares. This cotton benefits farmers because it reduces the need for insecticides, thereby increasing their income and also improving their health. It is true that the promised development of staple GM food crops for the developing world has been delayed, but this is not because of technical flaws. It is principally because GM crops, unlike conventional crops, must overcome costly, time-consuming and unnecessary regulatory obstacles before they can be licensed.

And the demonizing of GM technology has no foundation in science.

The fact is that there is not a shred of any evidence of risk to human health from GM crops. Every academy of science, representing the views of the world’s leading experts—the Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Brazilian, French and American academies as well as the Royal Society, which has published four separate reports on the issue—has confirmed this. Independent inquiries have found that the risk from GM crops is no greater than that from conventionally grown crops that do not have to undergo such testing. In 2001, the research directorate of the EU commission released a summary of 81 scientific studies financed by the EU itself—not by private industry—conducted over a 15-year period, to determine whether GM products were unsafe or insufficiently tested: none found evidence of harm to humans or to the environment.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

‘The real GM food scandal’, Prospect Magazine issue 140 November 2007 – Printer Friendly Article

In the analysis considered here, the thesis is proposed that the large agribusinesses planted the seeds, as it were, of their own difficulties promoting this technology due to their own public-relations (rather than science) based caution.

And MUDGE remembers distinctly the emotional and distracting case of the supposed endangerment of monarch butterflies due to GM corn.

And what has always grabbed this non-scientist observer is that, throughout the history of agriculture (which encompasses the development of modern humankind) farmers have cross-bred and otherwise genetically modified their crops. What modern technology offers the process is predictability and repeatability.

So, as we hope you’ve taken the trouble to read to the end, the author expresses some hope that people are finally coming to their senses regarding the issue of GM crops.

There can be little doubt that GM crops will be accepted worldwide in time, even in Europe. But in delaying cultivation, the anti-GM lobbies have exacted a heavy price. Their opposition has undermined agrobusiness in Europe and has driven abroad much research into plant biotechnology—an area in which Britain formerly excelled. Over-regulation may well cause the costs of the technology to remain higher than they need be. Above all, delay has caused the needless loss of millions of lives in the developing world. These lobbies and their friends in the organic movement have much to answer for.

So, once again, seemingly well-informed people are proven to be misinformed. Hardly shocking anymore, but very, very disturbing.

Africans and others in the developing world are starving, people! GM crops can be engineered to use less pesticide, less fertilizer, less water (the last great resource battleground), to get more, and better, food into the empty stomachs of the world.

Wake up and pay attention, you enemies of science!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm197: Short Attention Span

November 17, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention_thumb2

Short and sweet for a football Saturday:

Daily, the media reveals the results of some important new medical study. Daily, the survey results seem to be spun out of all recognition of what are the true implications of the research.

Sandy Szwarc blog, Junkfood Science, punctures the preconceptions and the distortions by actually reading the studies, cutting through the spin and reporting to her growing audience the truth. We’ve highlighted some of her recent work here and here, and our Drafts folder of our Windows Live Writer has the makings of a future such post, pending suitable long attention.

This week, Sandy Szwarc marked the first anniversary of her extraordinary effort, Junkfood Science.

A cupcake for each of you

It’s Junkfood Science’s first birthday. While I can only share a cyber-cupcake with each of you in celebration, it comes with thanks and a note to let you know how terrific you all are! Readers have grown in numbers, without hit gimmicks or paid media connections, to nearly 1 million. We’re mere days away to the millionth reader.

Regular readers get what this blog is all about, too. It’s not trying to sell you anything; market some politician or agenda; promote some health and wellness program, diet or pill; or scare you. Of course, that’s the fastest, surest way to make one unpopular among all those who are. Despite what some may believe or claim, there is no money in the truth and speaking out for scientific integrity, either, which is probably why we so rarely hear it. But you deserve better than the nonstop “the sky is falling” drumbeat we get everywhere.

Happy blogversary, Sandy Szwarc! You remain a glowing example of the power of the blogosphere to inform and educate.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Junkfood Science: A cupcake for each of you

shortattention_thumb2[6]

Some of our highest highs and lowest lows are the result of our enjoyment of Patrick Smith’s Ask the Pilot column at Salon.com. Highs, because he writes so compellingly as a working commercial airline pilot about his profession and the ailing industry.

Highs, because our posts referring to his stories are among the most read at this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

Lows because my derivative howbeit well-intentioned blogging efforts came to the attention of Salon’s lawyers. Oh, well, the day one stops learning is the day one stops.

Patrick’s column this week takes an interesting swipe at that Apple iPhone television commercial we’ve all seen.

Not buying it when the pilot tells you weather is holding up your flight? iPhone to the rescue!

Nov. 16, 2007 | If you’ve been watching TV at all, you’re by now familiar with Apple’s iPhone blitz. You know the campaign I’m talking about. Each ad stars this or that insufferably regular Joe who proceeds to share some touchy-feely tale of how his iPhone all but saved the nation from calamity. As a rule, I don’t like talking about television, especially commercials, but I’m obliged to address the iPhone spot featuring the pilot.[…]

Alas, not everyone is wisely skeptical, and the first time I saw the ad, I flicked off the set and offered up a silent prayer for pilots and flight attendants the world over. Thanks to this half-minute charade, they must now contend with legions of smart-aleck iSleuths gullible enough to believe what they’re told by a commercial.

So I guess today’s potpourri has some commonality after all. Most weeks Patrick Smith, and all of Sandy Szwarc’s posts, skewer the assumptions we’re fed by what many of my colleagues in the ‘Sphere contemptuously refer to as MSM, the mainstream media.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Ask the pilot, Patrick Smith, iPhone | Salon Technology

For some, for these two certainly, blogging is so much more than a hobby or creative outlet. Patrick Smith and Sandy Szwarc are both listed on the L-HC blogroll2, and MUDGE is grateful for their hard, always illuminating work.

shortattention_thumb2[8]

Since as a typical guy, MUDGE is fascinated by planes, trains and automobiles (and in some lighting [all right, any lighting] might even distressingly resemble a very much shorter John Candy, sorry to admit), our last segment is an editorial from the NYTimes this week.

The Prince and the Plane | Published: November 14, 2007

On Monday, a Saudi billionaire, Prince Walid bin Talal, placed an order with Airbus for his new private plane, the A380. That superjumbo will be the largest private jet on the planet. No hard figures were mentioned, but the asking price for an A380, which weighs 200 tons more than a Boeing 747 and has a floor space of about 6,000 square feet, is around $300 million. That is for the raw plane itself, hull, wings, engines, etc. — nothing to distinguish its interior from the hold of a cargo plane. But even unfurnished, the purchase of this Airbus offers some interesting numbers to think about.

For instance, the average-size house in America — about 2,300 square feet — would cost $106,812,000 at the price per square foot that Prince Walid paid. Even in California, this is a lot.

a380

Notwithstanding the fact that the Times editorial gave us an always welcome excuse to include an aircraft photo, and even lets us remind you that Patrick Smith believes the A380 to be the ugliest aircraft ever placed into commercial service, this is a salutary reminder of the wretched excess that our insatiable appetite for Saudi oil makes possible. A comparatively benign example at that.

Sigh.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm196: Loving the spin I’m in

November 16, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Side project for work today: requirement, a spinning globe. Found the following with a quick search through image.google.com:

G1_08 G1_11 G1_16

Question is, of course, will these GIF files really spin when published?

Removed WLW’s default drop shadow, and voila!

G1_08 G1_11 G1_16

The web is a strange and wonderful place…

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war

November 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

Back to New York:

By Jennifer 8. Lee

Consolidated EdisonCon Edison’s original power plant on Pearl Street. (Illustration: Consolidated Edison)

Today, Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service that began when Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street power station on Sept. 4, 1882. Con Ed will now only provide alternating current, in a final, vestigial triumph by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Mr. Edison’s rivals who were the main proponents of alternating current in the AC/DC debates of the turn of the 20th century.

New York, more than most of our old Atlantic coastline cities, is this mesmerizing blend of the state of the art and trendy, and the downright obsolete. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that direct current is still in use in pockets of the city — not economically viable to install new today (or even 80 years ago!), but installations like the one retired yesterday weren’t broken, so weren’t fixed.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Off Goes the Power Current Started by Thomas Edison – City Room – Metro – New York Times Blog

The really fascinating part of the story, beyond the implications noted above of industrial artifacts usefully lasting 95 years beyond a conservative depreciation schedule, is the mention of Tesla. The story actually links to this Wikipedia article, worthy of one’s attention.

What was it about the 19th Century that spawned so many giants? That by itself is the subject of a Ph.D. dissertation, so you’re not likely to find the answer in this space! But Nikola Tesla was undoubtedly one of those giants, a scientist and inventor who

… contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics. In 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States credited him as being the inventor of the radio.

What an amazing man, setting a very high bar for future men of science, practical inventors and eccentric personalities.

I hope that future school children will learn his name — perhaps the new electric car named, one guesses, to commemorate his amazing contributions to the science and engineering of electricity, will help.

teslaroadster

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

November 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s apparently petroleum week here at L-HC. The previous post tackled the subject of researchers innovating to produce practical biomass (as opposed to the wrong-headed impractical but politically potent corn) ethanol as a petroleum substitute. Now, a look at U.S. oil policy itself.

It’s just downright amazing how much smarter Thomas L. Friedman has become since the NYTimes no longer charges to read him on line. 😉

Today, he tells some truths, and challenges the presidential candidates to do the same, regarding our treasonable dependence on OPEC petroleum.

thomaslfriedman

In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a “patriot tax” on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.

But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. They were all going to let the market work and not let our government shape that market — like OPEC does.

So, we all understand by now why George III and his evil puppeteer took the horrible course they’ve chosen, and taken us along for this devastating six-year and counting ride.

But Friedman has a legitimate point: why have the “loyal opposition” not pushed for a tax at the pump?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – New York Times

One has to love the proposed debate Friedman sketches for us.

His tax finances people who hate us. Mine would offset some of our payroll taxes, pay down our deficit, strengthen our dollar, stimulate energy efficiency and shore up Social Security. It’s called win-win-win-win-win for America. My opponent’s strategy is sit back, let the market work and watch America lose-lose-lose-lose-lose.” If you can’t win that debate, you don’t belong in politics.

And one has to admit that none of the serious candidates (i.e., candidates one can take seriously — sorry Dennis!) possess the steel to conduct such a debate. Not in Iowa, where present policy is just fine by the corn farmers. Not in New Hampshire where taxes are probably synonymous with Satan.

President Bush squandered a historic opportunity to put America on a radically different energy course after 9/11. But considering how few Democrats or Republicans are ready to tell the people the truth on this issue, maybe we have the president we deserve. I refuse to believe that, but I’m starting to doubt myself.

The war, $100/barrel oil — it’s all so wrong. January 20, 2009 can’t come soon enough, but if our petroleum policy stays hostage to the oil guys, the domestic automobile manufacturers and the corn farmers, all of whom are perfectly satisfied with the status quo, we’ll remain in desperate straits.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn

November 13, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s been an ongoing theme (here, here and here) at Left-Handed Complement: the pandering, wrong-headed concentration on corn derived ethanol as the U.S. main alternative to Saudi (and Nigerian, Gulf of Mexico and North Slope) petroleum to fuel our transportation system.

This past weekend, the NYTimes featured a fascinating look at non-corn alternatives to powering our SUVs.

biomassethanol

For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.

Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs, including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.

The conceptual problem with ethanol from corn has always rested in the strong suspicion that the energy required to process corn to burn in one’s automobile exceeds the yield of energy so created.

Ethanol from corn is a political hot button, especially for all of the presidential campaigners prostrating themselves before Iowa’s farmers — isn’t it high time to divest this country from its inappropriate emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process?

You don’t see Georgia influencing election trends, and yet:

In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fuel Without the Fossil – New York Times

Obviously, there are some very bright people working hard at solutions, made increasingly economically attractive as the baseline of comparison to petroleum-based fuels persists in climbing inexorably toward $4/gallon.

And, corn-based or not, it looks like ethanol is going to be the end result of all of this chemical creativity, since it’s ethanol that has the Congressionally mandated tax credit.

MUDGE used to believe that the fuel cell guys had the answer, but what with the way the real world works, I can’t see corner hydrogen pumps popping up in many neighborhoods in my lifetime. So chemically derived ethanol will have to do.

Good to see U.S. innovation persists. Like the current IBM advertisements proclaim, it’s easy to say, and so very much more difficult to actually do.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm192: Women at work: A level playing field at last?

November 12, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

We’re still playing catch up with a bulging ideas folder here at L-HC. A recent NYTimes column updates us on the ever-intriguing topic: women in corporate America.

One might ask: why are we still confounded by this? After all, U.S. women began to flood the workplace after the economic shocks of the 1970’s put single income families on the endangered species list. Why would a fact of work life for more than 30 years be cause for comment?

nytimes

By LISA BELKIN  | November 1, 2007 | Life’s Work

DON’T get angry. But do take charge. Be nice. But not too nice. Speak up. But don’t seem like you talk too much. Never, ever dress sexy. Make sure to inspire your colleagues — unless you work in Norway, in which case, focus on delegating instead.

Writing about life and work means receiving a steady stream of research on how women in the workplace are viewed differently from men. These are academic and professional studies, not whimsical online polls, and each time I read one I feel deflated. What are women supposed to do with this information? Transform overnight? And if so, into what? How are we supposed to be assertive, but not, at the same time?

“It’s enough to make you dizzy,” said Ilene H. Lang, the president of Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace. “Women are dizzy, men are dizzy, and we still don’t have a simple straightforward answer as to why there just aren’t enough women in positions of leadership.”

Catalyst’s research is often an exploration of why, 30 years after women entered the work force in large numbers, the default mental image of a leader is still male. Most recent is the report titled “Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don’t,” which surveyed 1,231 senior executives from the United States and Europe. It found that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes — defined as focusing “on work relationships” and expressing “concern for other people’s perspectives” — are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more “male” — like “act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition” — they are seen as “too tough” and “unfeminine.”

Women can’t win.

So, take a look at the balance of this well written story, and then come back for MUDGE‘s take.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Feminine Critique – New York Times

Of course, MUDGE has a story. It’s what blogging is all about, isn’t it? Storytelling?

Some years ago, at an agonizing time in my work life (too much agony because of not much work), to get some cash flow, meager as it was, I took a job as a temporary secretary, a temp.

My first position in this role was one that lasted several cash-flow beneficial months, as an assistant to the VP of training for a mid-size public company.

Interesting role reversal, this, as she and I both had some adjusting to do. Here I was, perhaps five to eight years older, a guy in a position usually filled by a woman. Here she was, a high flying corporate vice president, probably the first women to fill that role at her very traditional organization.

So, to thicken the broth a bit, imagine one of my regular duties, when not keying revisions to PowerPoint training courses on diversity. I was keying revisions to my employer’s Ph.D. dissertation.

The topic: why women in the corporate life find it so challenging.

Did a lot of typing, so I ended up doing a lot of reading. Her thesis: the language of corporate life is male, and so, just to learn the job, just to advance beyond entry level, women need to learn an entirely new language. To act in a way totally foreign to how girls grow up in this country.

So, let’s assume that some times have changed since 1995. That today’s young women entering the workplace have played team sports in greater numbers than their predecessors ever did. Girls in school are not only playing sports, but are excelling in technical courses and the sciences.

It’s a different world than 12 years ago, and maybe it was different then also. My boss’s career melted down very suddenly for reasons that the drones (and this particular drone was back in the temp agency’s pool in mere hours) weren’t made privy to.

Who knows, it could have been political. Who knows, perhaps her boss decided that having her secretary work on her school work during office hours on the office clock was inappropriate. Who knows, maybe she never was able to successfully defend her dissertation; obsolete before she finished.

What MUDGE does know is that for a great many of the intervening years from then to now, he has very cheerfully worked for several different women. Different from men he’s reported to over the years, but not in substantive ways. The foreign language has apparently been learned, at least in the parts of the world MUDGE occupies during his work day.

Maybe sometime in the next few years even MUDGE‘s stolid employer will welcome its first female CEO. Ability won’t be the issue; toughness, quick thinking, the ability to effortlessly work 20 hour days, and a respectable golf game might be.

I’ve worked for good men, and the very scum of the earth. I’ve worked for highly competent leaders, some of whom were women, and some highly competent women in their field who were still learning how to be leaders. They’ll learn.

It’s all good. Beats the temp pool by a mile. By the way, I’ve long been convinced that temp is the natural contraction for contempt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm191: Veterans’ Day Observed

November 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

image

Will not let the weekend go by without pausing to remember the veterans of our military.

We can start by remembering that this federal holiday, now spottily observed and placed on a Monday for retail purposes, was established shortly after World War I, honoring the official end of that war, the Armistice, symbolically timed for the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

Armistice Day eventually became Veterans Day, after the War to End All Wars failed to do so, accumulating many millions more veterans in the process.

Both MUDGE‘s father and father-in-law, now deceased, were proud veterans of the Army during World War II, who never wore their war service on their sleeves. Indeed, it was tantamount to pulling wisdom teeth to extricate even the smallest reminiscence of their experiences. After all, they each were just one of many millions of patriots who did what needed doing.

And we mention Norman Mailer, whose recent death was announced this week. His magnificent depiction of the war, The Naked and the Dead, written so soon afterward while his own experiences were so fresh, served eloquently stood in for so many stories in a way that continues to inspire us.

Our older son, and his new wife, are themselves both distinguished veterans of the U.S. Navy, having served with courage and intelligence protecting their country in more recent times. Indeed, our new daughter-in-law comes from an Air Force family (her Dad, sister and brother-in-law), and we’re grateful for their service.

To them, to the memory of our fathers, and to all of our veterans, living and dead, we extend our heartfelt, inadequate gratitude.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

The photograph above harvested from PictureSandbox by way of Flickr. The apparent owner is “bcmom” and the use of the photo is covered by a Creative Commons license.


mm190: U.S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts

November 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Access to affordable health care. Five words. Easy to write. Rolls off the keyboard fluidly even. Simple phrase; political cesspool. Can universal access to affordable health care ever happen in the U.S.?

Paul Krugman, the economist whose columns appear in the Opinion section of the NYTimes, this week reminds us that the failings of our health care system are manifest: we spend more, but get less – fewer covered and lower life expectancy than in any other western economy.

Moreover, the usual suspects (our lifestyle) and the usual bugbears (socialized medicine!) are distortions and outright lies.

krugman

By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: November 9, 2007

The United States spends far more on health care per person than any other nation. Yet we have lower life expectancy than most other rich countries. Furthermore, every other advanced country provides all its citizens with health insurance; only in America is a large fraction of the population uninsured or underinsured.

For those fortunate enough to have health insurance, premiums keep rising, and employers are beginning to push employees to pay more of the freight, or even to start to pay additional for their lifestyle choices.

For example, several cases have hit the news recently where employers have fired, or failed to hire, otherwise qualified people who are smokers.

Aside from the disturbing privacy concerns, the entire concept of group insurance (where the large numbers of average members in good health balances those few with greater needs) is at risk here.

But, as Krugman tells us, what apologists and politicians like Rudy Giuliani have done is blanket us with excuses, not solutions, and inaccurate and downright wrong excuses at that.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Health Care Excuses – New York Times

As a reluctantly, increasingly active consumer of the U.S. healthcare system, one of the luckiest ones covered through a plan 80% subsidized by my employer, I take for granted that I see medical professionals regularly, for the cost of a nominal co-pay up to that 20%. For what is spent, my experience should be the rule and not exceptional.

Armed with Paul Krugman’s excuse-busters, let’s all work to shed light to undo all of the misinformation out there on this subject.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE