Saturday, March 31, 2007

Amazing!

I just wanted to take a moment to praise God for his mercies. This morning has been a flurry of dashing to get out the door to get Macon and Aidan to the airport so that they could catch a flight to Houston and then to Miami. Macon's flight was delayed and he sat in the plane with a 2 and 1/2 year old (poor Macon) for at least an hour before finally being cleared to take off due to weather in Houston. This whole time I am worrying that they will miss their connection to Miami and wondering what I can do about it. I am looking online for later flights, I am talking on the phone with my parents (who are in Colorado) and they are researching options, too. And, i find myself thinking that even if they can make the next flight, their bags won't.

As I sat down to nurse Honor, I prayed and prayed that God would make their connecting gate be the gate next door to their arrival gate. They are scheduled to land around 10:40 and their next flight (upon my last online check of its status) was due to depart at 11am.

And what happens? it turns out that out of all the planes that they could have gotten on to make their connecting flight to Miami, they needed to be on the plane that they were already on. They only needed to change the seats that they were in.

This was amazing. I am thankful and so glad that Macon does not have to gather up Aidan's toys, his food, his books, his donkey, cow and silky--not to mention the carseat he will have to strap to his back and the 2 and 1/2 year old to whom all this gear belongs and then race madly through Houston's Intercontinental airport trying to make the connection. What a mercy. What a gift. I am thankful, so very thankful.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So, How's the Renovation Going?

Two a/c guys show up at our house this morning, unannounced. I just happen still to be there, which is good because Carol is in the shower.

They are there to put the grill on one of the a/c vents that their people forgot to install. They don't know the size, so these two men, each having arrived in separate trucks, are shown to the new bathroom so they can measure the vent. Then they tell us they will be back with the grill.

They come back. I'm already at the office. Carol calls me. They don't have a drill.

By some miraculous feat of recall, I remember where the drill and the bits are in our disaster of a garage.

So, how are the renovations going?

About the same.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pricing to Value and not to Cost

Today's lead article in the WSJ is about a firm's decisions (1) to abandon a cost-plus pricing approach to the sale of the 800,000 parts that it manufactures and sells and (2) to adopt "strategic pricing".

The CEO realized one day, while touring the company's 225 facilities(!) that the company

had to stop thinking like a widget maker and start thinking like a retailer, determining prices by what a customer is willing to pay rather than what a product costs to make.

The WSJ article states that this "epiphany", as the reporter calls it, helped the company's "net income soar to $673 million last year from $130 million in 2002."

Another interesting thing is that the 56 year old CEO had worked for this company for 34 years before he "got it".

I have the same difficulty in pricing. What a cop-out the "billable hour" approach is to the pricing of legal services. But I find it so difficult to shake it.

I also find it interesting to talk to Macon and Walter about the challenge of pricing to value rather than to cost in the work they do. I think they do pretty well with the challenge though. (By "value", I don't mean some sort of objective number floating out there in the ether. I mean what other people are willing to pay - what value the market places on one's product or service. I concede that this can be a moving target.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mission Conference at FPC Miami Springs

This weekend was our annual missions conference. The minister of our church back in the 1980s began those conferences. He was David Bridgman, now a globe trotting septuagenarian with Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, and he came back this weekend to be the featured speaker. He was informative, encouraging, even inspirational.

Over the years, God used the annual missions conferences at FPC Miami Springs to teach our family about his commission and to help each of us discern his or her calling. The one this past weekend was in no way an exception.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

At Springs High They Go to Disney World.

Mary has a funny post about how an RVA student flushed out a false Maasai. ("False Maasai" - get it?).

In her March newsletter, she describes further the "interim trip" that senior and junior boys took to visit the Dorobo people

who live in the forests of the Aberdare mountains in central Kenya. Shel Arensen, the father of one of my students, has a ministry to this secluded group (it is estimated that only 1% of the Dorobo are Christian). Under the leadership of Mr. Arensen, this particular interim was limited to the boys - as it featured minimal to no clothing, hunting with spears, gathering honey, and other manly pursuits, in addition to Bible study and fellowship with the Dorobo men.


What sort of men will these RVA boys turn out to be, with such leadership and experiences, all with the Bible as the primary reference book? What wonderful thing is God doing here, with them and people like the Dorobo? (That second question is merely rhetorical. We know what he's doing, of course.)

I think it's time to change the business model.

Drudge points to this example of faculty arrogance and a sort of left-wing, bureaucratic ideology at the University of Florida. One thinks of the Gang of 88 at Duke and the administration's abandonment of the accused Lacrosse team members. One thinks of the sacking of the Harvard president.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Oh, Dad!

Yesterday I attended a seminar that dealt in part with Long Term Care Insurance. People who are in their forties and younger are beginning to buy this product. What struck me was one slide that asks the question "What Can & Does Happen to Younger People?". The slide gave the following as examples:

Stroke

MS

Car Accidents

Skiing Accidents


Among those examples, three younger generation people in my immediate or extended family have already suffered one of those circumstances, although only Audrey, who was diagnosed with MS, is presently disabled, and now only partially. But Walter had a car accident recently and Macon a ski accident. Fortunately, Walter was not injured (although the car was "totaled") and Macon does not appear to be permanently injured.

This matter should give a younger person pause, especially if he or she is a spouse or parent.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Showing off...


So, here's my very very cute children! I just wanted to show a funny picture of Honor giving the Heisman and two pics of Aidan at his very first fair taking his first pony ride and feeding his very first little goat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Where is God?

So, a few nights ago as Aidan and I were saying prayers at bedtime, the following conversation took place:

Aidan: Where is God?
Kellsey: well, he is everywhere.
Aidan: Where does God live?
Kellsey: God lives in heaven
Aidan: where is God's heaven?
Kellsey: I don't know exactly...

A few nights later....

Aidan: Where does God live in his heaven?
Kellsey: I don't know...but you know how you can't see the wind, but you can feel it on your face and in your hair?
Aidan: Yes
Kellsey: God is like the wind, you can't see him, but he's still there.
Aidan: Ye-es!
Kellsey: So, even though we can't see him, God is always with us
Aidan: yes, and he holds me and helps me to be not sad. (as he said this, he wrapped him arms around himself and sort of hugged himself).

WOW!!! What an amazing thing that God has been teaching Aidan. I was so surprised to hear Aidan articulate this and so touched. I even asked his preschool teacher if they had been talking about this at preschool. She said that they talked about how God loves us all the time but that they never introduced the ideas of God being with us even though we can't see him and that they never introduced the idea that God holds us and comforts us.

Macon and I have been praying since Aidan was but a tiny embryo that God would communicate with him at each stage of his life--that somehow Aidan would know that God's spirit is with him always and that that would bring him comfort and peace. Praise God that Aidan seems to be sensing this, and seems to know that God can bring him comfort when he is sad.

Jihad in Atlanta?

Second question: Ken, are you carrying?

Thermaltake Soprano DX

Makes my gadget/tinker/build genes quiver.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Second Amendment

Is it too extreme to say that the survival of the West may depend on it? (Hat tip to Instapundit.)

"Simplify, simplify, simplify!"

It's easy for you to say, Thoreau; you haven't lived in one place for 29 years, raising three kids in the bargain. We have such an accumulation of stuff, and our "renovation" (better to call it "revolution"), now into its second year, sets the messy matter right before us. We unpacked two rooms to make way for the changes, the kitchen and the den. While we were at it, we unpacked "the boys' room" as well. These places had cabinets, bookcases and chests, all just full of stuff that we had not used in a millenia, but somehow felt we should keep. We have boxed it, garaged it, piled it in the living room, walked around it in the hall way. Now truth time is near.

Because the "renovation" is about over. That part of our lives is going out whimpering, but it is going out. The kitchen is mostly finished. The appliances are back in place. Most of the cabinets are up. And we have moved back in there. We see an end to all of this, despite our contactor, who surely sees the same light at the end of the tunnel, but seems even less interested in moving things along. The whimper you hear is our whimper, employing a new strategy with him. We've tried everything else, maybe whimpering will work.

But I digress. We are now unpacking the boxes. Surely we are not simply going to put everything back! We really must not. If we adopted the rule that anything we haven't used in one year is thrown out, even if we went back a year before the "renovation" began, we would be able to make some remarkable progess. But we are so attached to this stuff. I am sure there is a theological explanation for this or psychological, something about defining ourselves with our stuff, something about insecurity, something about original sin. I keep reminding myself of the times I have had to deal with the things left behind by dead people. (A morbid thought, but that's what I mostly do as a lawyer - deal with the things left behind by dead people.) Why did they keep this stuff, I ask? Why do Carol and I keep this stuff?

Anybody want a piano?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Phosphoric Acid

I've been feeling good lately about drinking diet soft drinks. Then I read this in The New Sugar Busters:

[P]hosphoric acid, which is present in most soft drinks, can interfere with the efficient absorption of calcium. It is easy to see why our children are not developing the proper bone density early in life and so will be much more likely to have osteoporotic problems, including bone fractures, later on. The fact that the sodas are replacing the consumption of calcium-rich milk or fruit juices amplifies the problem.

I looked at the label on a can of no-caff, diet Coke. Sure enough, phosphoric acid. I drank a glass of water instead.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Two Cousins and a Grandfather; Mornings with Addie

This is an email from one of Mary's colleagues at RVA.

Two Cousins and a Grandfather; Mornings with Addie

February 26, 2007

When I walk Ben and Kate to school, we frequently have Addie walk with us. Addie likes to talk to me, and I always look forward to it, because anything goes. The other day she was quite animated:

Addie: This morning when I got up to go potty, I went and went so long I thought I would have to be there ALL DAY.

Me: (With the alarm born of 5 year old twins when they talk of going to the bathroom and imaging having to run for a toilet) Why are you telling me this Addie?

Addie: (Gives me a look that wonders why anyone wouldn't WANT to know her personal habits.)




Friday we were walking and she warmly hugged me and told me:

Addie: I love walking with you and Ben and Katie.

Me: We love walking with you Addie.

Addie: I love it because it reminds me of walking with my cousins and my Grandfather.

And it had started as such a NICE day.

Fortunately, I could take comfort that I was raising the twins RIGHT.


(Katie and Ben and their favorite team)


(My favorite picture in the world)

I've written about it before, but one of my favorite traditions at RVA is the Senior Banquet. The juniors write the play, construct the sets and cook and serve the food to honor the seniors. Last year was exhausting and exciting; this year all JT had to do was pick up his date and enjoy the evening.

The guys pick up the girls at the dorm, and they walk across the campus. JT was pretty relaxed this year, but Nancy told me that when Erin walked out, he just shook his head and said `Wow.' When they got closer to where the dinner was to be held, it looked like this:


There were lanterns that lit the path for the last few hundred yards, and the whole campus stood in line to cheer each couple as their names were announced. It is such a wonderful alternative to limos and all the excesses that seem to go with big events in the states.


(JT and Erin)

The rains have let up, so we have been able to go to the valley more often. There was so much good news this week that it filled a part of me that had been so dry. One of the schools, which had been rated the lowest in its zone, had increased to the named the best school of the year.

(The trophies for being the most highly rated school)

The kids were going after it so hard, and it is amazing the progress they are making. One of the problems with the Kenyan educational system is that it elevates rote memorization above anything else.

So it was so heartening to run over to Kenton and meet Gerald and Grace, the top students at the computer center there. I asked Grace what her favorite part of computer class was, and she had a wonderful answer.

`I like computers because they make me think.'

(Grace and Gerald)

There was a church group from Texas visiting, and I instructed the children to say `We love Texas the most!' I also tried to teach them to feel sorry for people loudly who aren't from Texas, but for some strange reason, they didn't believe me.


You see so much sad stuff in Africa. Sometimes, it just is good to remember that if you plant good seed, sometimes good stuff comes up.

Your pal

Steve and Nancy Peifer

Rift Valley Academy

Website: http://peifer.kijabe.org/index.html?intro.html&1

Foundation: http://www.solutionbeaconfoundation.org/programs.htm

Webcam: http://www.kijabe.org/longocam/


"Just a Cough and a Sore Throat"

In the next preceding post, I mention the Listerine connection to my friend's throat cancer, but there's one more thing. He had a cough and a sore throat for months before he went to an ENT. He had gone to his GP about it, and I do not understand why it took the GP so long to refer him. Persistent cough should be enough to bore into the problem. But that plus a sore throat? Now the tumor is too large to remove by surgery and it must be burned away with radiation. This is not a good story.

No to Listerine

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with throat cancer, and he now faces a grueling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy, with the chances of success not at all certain. I couldn't figure out why he would get that cancer - he neither smokes nor drinks. Then I learned yesterday - 50 years of gargling Listerine twice a day. It is the high alcohol content that did it, according to his oncologist.

The idea that an alcohol based mouthwash can cause cancer is controversial. For example, Wikipedia assures us that there is no evidence that Listerine causes "mouth cancer", citing the American Dental Associations approval of the product. (When I went to the dentist for a cleaning the other day, his office gave me a "goody bag" that included a small bottle of the stuff.)

Googling the issue turns up this from the University of Maryland Medical School site:

Some studies have shown that mouthwash with alcohol content increases the risk for oral cancer. In addition, other studies have shown that smokers and people who drink alcohol tend to use mouthwash more often, linking all three factors together.


Another site states that

Listerine USED TO be made with over 26% industrial alcohol. Recent studies in USA by the National Cancer Institute of America have found that mouthwashes with an alcohol content of 25% or higher may be responsible for some mouth, tongue and throat cancers. Unfortunately the alcohol can act like a solvent making the gums and mouth tissues more vulnerable to carcinogens. Studies have shown that men had a 60% higher risk and women a 90% higher risk of these cancers compared to those not using mouthwash. Nowadays the alcohol content has been reduced to 21.6% but I would still be rather wary of excessive usage of this product.

There doesn't seem to be much doubt in the mind of my friend's physician. Why take the risk when there are plenty of mouthwashes out there that have no alcohol in them?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Captured!


AidanSurprise
Originally uploaded by citostokes.
The moment Aidan discovered that this weird guy was his grandfather.

Honor Outfits


Some like this look.
Originally uploaded by citostokes.




I prefer this.
Originally uploaded by citostokes.

Cooper's Birthday Present




Carol and I went down to Jane's house last night for a bar-be-que to celebrate Cooper's 50th birthday. They live down in the Redlands section of South Dade, once the rural/farm part of Miami-Dade County, but now being engulfed by development. As we drove into the backyard (They have a BIG piece of land), men and boys were standing around gawking at one of the neatest cars I have ever seen up close, a 2006 Chevy SSR Roadster, Cooper's birthday present. (Actually, he bought it several months ago, but was desperately looking around for a pretext, and his 50th birthday was all he could come up with. But, hey, it worked, Jane didn't kill him.)

Anyone See "300" this Weekend?

A lot of people must have seen it, given the estimated box office take so far. I'm a little hesitant, given that the Sin City crowd made it. Sin City is the only movie in recent times I simply could not see to the end. What, then, did they do to the story behind Gates of Fire. (I did read the graphic novel at Macon's house - it wasn't half bad, although Leonitis seemed a bit crazed: definitely the type you want fighting on your side, however.)

Carol is going to a women's Bible study Tuesday night (aka "Circle"). I thought it would be a sort of ironic balancing strategy for a boys' night out at the flick, watching a movie about Western Civilization getting saved. But who has seen it in the community, and what do you think?

Pascal's Wager

I am having a very careful, but beyond tentative discussion with a Jewish client about the existence (or not) of God and, more specifically, about Christianity. He lives in New England and has invited me to his home to discuss the matter further, although we are getting into this discussion over the telephone about once a week as we discuss a case in which we are intensely involved. I may go visit him at some point.

He is not, as they say, "religious". He says he is an agnositic. He is advanced in years and, as Dr. Kuykendall said of Mary once, "bright as a new penny". He tells me that he was quite religious as a young man, but turned away from the observant form of Judaism in which he was involved. I have run across older men before who were once religious but turned away. They are an odd mix. For one thing, they think they know all about the subject, but I have found their knowledge to be rudimentary, that is immature, sort of like my knowledge of amateur radio - I got away from it in my early twneties and came back to it 30 years later. At least I knew that there had been a lot of fresh insight and was aware of how little advanced I was when I left the hobby. On the other hand, whether or not these men think that they "turned away", it is obvious that the hound of heaven continues to nip at their ankles.

This past week we were on the phone and got into a discussion about whether God exists. He brought up again how he was an agnositic. I told him that since he was an agnostic and not an atheist, he should consider making a decision simply based on practical grounds. I suggested that he go ahead and believe in God. If there is no God, it will make absolutely no difference. If there is a God, then it may make a big difference in the scheme of things. I told him that a philosopher had put forth that proposition, but I could not think of his name.

Of course, the philosopher was Pascal, as I rememered this morning. I found an essay on Pascal's wager at a very interesting site. Christians, please pray for this man. We know that an act of will does not as a matter of necessity bring one into relationship with Christ, but we also have a promise that seeking God with one's whole heart will bring us to him. (For example.)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Canon A630 as Video Camera

See this post over at Instapundit about one reporter's use of this still, digital camera to shoot videos. Macon and I each have one of these cameras, and Macon has already posted videos taken with it. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I want to post a video of Carol's amazing cook top air vent.

UPDATE: I fixed the link. (Thanks, Kellsey.)
UPDATE AGAIN: The A630. (Thanks, Sean.)

Amen and Amen

To this. (And despite my immediately preceding post.)

"Why Men are Happier"

This is some spam sent me this morning by Austin Carr. Like me, he is supposedly working at his office on Saturday morning. (Not like me, he usually works all day on Saturdays, indicating, of course, that I am a much more efficient and faster worker; I try to leave by noon.) I am, of course, supposed to be working here at the office too, but he insists on sending me this sort of thing when he knows that I am here at my desk trying to support my family.

Why men are happier

Your last name stays put.

The garage is all yours.

Wedding plans take care of themselves.

Chocolate is just another snack.

You can be President. You can never be pregnant.

You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park.

Car Mechanics tell you the truth.

The world is your urinal.

You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky.

You don’t have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt.

Same work, more pay.

Wrinkles add character.

Wedding dress $5000. Tux rental-$100.

People never stare at your chest when you are talking to them.

The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected.

New shoes don’t cut, blister, or mangle your feet.

One mood all the time.

Phone conservations are over in 30 seconds flat.

You know stuff about tanks.

A 5 day vacation requires only one suitcase.

You can open all of your own jars.

You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.

If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend.

Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.

Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.

You never have strap problems in public.

You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes.

Everything on your face stays its original color.

The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe even decades.

You only have to shave your face and neck.

You can play with toys all your life.

Your belly usually hides your big hips.

One wallet and one pair of shoes one color for all seasons.

You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look.

You can "do" your nails with a pocket knife.

You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.

You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.

No wonder men are happier!

"The Great Warming Swindle"

Review of the recent documentary on British television's Channel Four.

UPDATE: More on this at Channel Four.

Friday, March 09, 2007

WOW!

Important Second Amendment decision out of the DC Court of Appeals. The court overturns the trial court's decision rejecting a citizen challenge of the District of Columbia's anti-gun law. The citizen was the "plaintiff" in the trial court. The Mayor of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia itself were the defendants. A copy of the court's opinion is here.

At the head of the opinion is a list of the amici curiae on each side of the case. Amici curiae ("friends of the court")(singular form is amicus curiae) are persons who present briefs to the appeals court in addition to the ones submitted by the actual parties to the case. There is a list of those who did so on behalf of the citizen who was appealing the decision of the lower court (the person who loses in the trial court is known as the "appellant" in the appeals process) and a list of those who filed briefs on behalf of the defendants who won below and are defending the lower court's decision (known as the "appellees" in the appeals process).

The amicus curiae on behalf of the appellant were various state Attorneys General, including the AGs from Florida and Texas. They also included the NRA and the Congress of Racial Equality ("CORE").

The amicus curiae on behalf of the District of Columbia include AGs of certain other states, the City of New York, and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

(The NC AG did not file a brief on either side. See Revelation 16:3.)

Broadly speaking, the issue presented is whether the Second Amendment is to be read restrictively so that it refers only to the rights of the states to raise militias or whether it is to be read to refer to the rights of an individual to bear arms outside of service in a militia. Specifically, the plaintiff asserted a right to keep an assembled and loaded firearm in his home (in this case a shotgun). He was not challenging in this case the District's denial of the right to carry a concealed weapon outside his home.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sanibel: As I Remember It

There was an email going around my family today linking to an article that lists the top 10 Shell Collecting Beaches. After so many empty promises of Nigerian riches and HGH-fueled feats, here was an email that delivered the goods. #1 on the list was Sanibel. Though the sands of time have rushed through the hourglass these last 28 years of my life, it was as if a shell disrupted the flow one day years ago when my family decided to take a "day trip" to Sanibel from Miami - and time slowed enough that we could savor each other's company and the delights of Florida's west coast at a snail's pace.

I think it started with Aunt Mary Ann and I conspiring to spend a glorious day gathering shells and sand dollars on the prickly beaches of Sanibel Island. Jeff and Jennifer were game, Macon and Jason had the aerobie ready, and Mary was gnawing on a My Little Pony. The idea was quite disagreeable to Mom and Dad had to work. I told Mom, though, "Make the best of it; life is what you make it." She didn't really appreciate my remark, but she decided to go along with the plan.

We spent what must have been 8 hours making the 3.5 hour trek to Sanibel, but so much the better. We had just enough people to claim every seat-belt in the van, so no one was lonely for any stretch of the time. I thought it might be fun to play a game, but Mom shot that idea down.

When we arrived, we realized that we weren't the only ones who'd had a great idea. Our new friends were jamming the bridge onto the island with all of their cars. Once we got onto Sanibel's streets, we had several go-rounds on the island looking for a parking space. It was like we'd arrived at a surprise party for us that was so packed with well-wishers that we could hardly get through the door.

The next part is a little fuzzy. I think we found a handicap space at a 7-11 where we stopped long enough for Macon and Jason to hop out of the car, find the Gulf of Mexico, and release the Aerobie back into the wild green waters of the sea.

By then the sun had started to set, and, unfortunately, all of the restaurants on the island were only taking reservations for breakfast the next morning - dinner was booked. We did find a gas station in Florida City, though, that had some "pizza" deal where you get 3 slices with a fill-up. It was tasty, and a good excuse for everyone to share with each other. I'm pretty sure Mom wasn't pleased with this solution, but she bought a pack of big league chew and listened to her heavy metal in silence.

Something about the "pizza" must not have agreed with Macon, because he threw it up into the everglades at some point on the way home. We all had a good laugh about that, though. You know that comforting feeling you get after you throw up - we were all having that feeling then.

It was a special time - and I treasure my memory of it.

Hypnosis

From The Gutenberg Galaxy - Marshall McLuhan
"'(quoted)....Thus heat, weight, lengths, and many other things that in ordinary life are apprehended through senses other than vision have become for science matters of visual awareness of the positions of mechanical pointers.' Does this not imply that if we can devise a consistent means of translating all aspects of our world into the language of one sense only, we shall then have a distortion that is scientific because consistent and coherent? Blake thought this had actually occurred in the eighteenth century when he sought liberation 'from single vision and Newton's sleep.' For the dominance of one sense is the formula for hypnosis. And a culture can be locked in the sleep of any one sense. The sleeper awakes when challenged in any other sense."

How insightful - I'll disregard my hearing but respond to music based on a review that I've read. Disregard my feeling but respond to an advertisement for drugs that I've seen. Disregard my judgement but respond to propaganda that I've watched.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Local Take on Libby

A former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida practices across the hall from us. I ran into him today and asked him what he thought of the verdict. This gentleman is a staunch Republican. He said, "It's not a good thing to lie to a grand jury."

So we see.

Wilson-Plame Kerfuffle

Quote of the Day, copied from today's WSJ Polictical Diary (third item):

"A bipartisan investigation by the Senate intelligence committee subsequently established that all of these claims [by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV] were false -- and that Mr. Wilson was recommended for the Niger trip by Ms. Plame, his wife... The [Libby] trial has provided convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame's identity -- and no evidence that she was, in fact, covert... The former ambassador will be remembered as a blowhard. Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were overbearing in their zeal to rebut Mr. Wilson and careless in their handling of classified information. Mr. Libby's subsequent false statements were reprehensible. And Mr. Fitzgerald has shown again why handing a Washington political case to a federal special prosecutor is a prescription for excess. Mr. Fitzgerald was, at least, right about one thing: The Wilson-Plame case, and Mr. Libby's conviction, tell us nothing about the war in Iraq" -- Washington Post editorial.

Monday, March 05, 2007

European Security Levels

A friend of mine sent this hilarious post.

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability. It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbour" and "Lose." Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

I certainly hope things are not this bad. The joke is really on us here in America, as most of us can trace our ancestry back not too many generations to one or more of the countries identified. Except, of course, it is not really a very funny joke. The laughter, at the very least, is a bit nervous.

A Magazine Worth Reading

I have had a subscription to World Magazine for many years. Over the last three or four years, I have noticed a very significant improvement in both its coverage and the depth of its analysis. It has become, along with the WSJ, a must-read for me.

I direct your attention to the February 24, 2007, issue as an example. The cover reads, "Into Captivity They Shall Go", Modern-day Slavery on the anniversay of William Wilberforce and abolition. This issue contains a chilling map of the world that shows "Slavery around the World". A magazine subscription will allow you access to the publication's archives, where the articles from this issue now reside, or you may be able to subscribe just to the on-line version. I would recommend the magazine.

By the way, it doesn't take much imagination to link the pornography that is available to anyone with an internet capable computer, man, woman or child, with the slavery in little girls in Cambodia that one of the articles discusses.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Duke LAX Case

Oh, yeah.

What Should I Expect from my Employer and What do I Owe that Employer?

Sean has a great new job, but takes special note of the terms of his new employment:

This hit home with me [Sean writes on his blog] especially when I got the official offer letter from my new employer that, basically, said 'We make no commitment to you about length of employment and you make no commitment to us.'


He invited comments on this, and the comment I posted was to effect that this is the way it is in the real world. Others commented pretty much along the same lines.

But then, I got to wondering about whether we had pitched that truth a little too harshly (i.e. "this is the way that it is in the real world"), so much so that it may not even be generally true. As I am an employer (my huge operation employs 14, including myself), I got to thinking about whether we have a commitment to our employees about the length of his or her employment, even though there is no written contract that specifies a certain term and even though we are in an "at will situation". That commitment, which is more about loyalty than merely length of employment (because what we are really talking about, I think, is loyalty) includes, but is not certainly not limited to, the following:

1. We have sick days. We commit to employ through illness to a reasonable extent and have made provision for it.

2. Along the same lines, we have health insurance to help the employee keep healthy so the employee can keep working.

3. We have vacation days, so that the employee can rest.

4. We have continuing education seminars, some that even the receptionist will attend. Though this helps the employee help us better, it makes the employee more marketable outside our firm.

5. We cut the employee some slack in extraordinary situations. For example, one of our staff several years ago was in such a nasty divorce that she had to be escorted to the courthouse by a policeman and we were advised by our security consultant to fire her because of the risk that her spouse might come to the office and do damage. We didn't do that, but kept her employed. We paid money for extra security for ourselves and tolerated her skydive in performance, the general firm disruption and additional cost of extra management time. She made it through the divorce and the crisis ended. (Whereupon, she promptly moved out of the state!)

6. We accommodate changes in schedule that our employees require from time to time.

So I think I would define the problem to which Sean's post alludes as the problem of loyalty. Sean should expect some loyalty, despite an "at will" arrangement. And I think that he will get it. As he gets into the job and shows his mettle, he should expect that the extent of his employer's loyalty will increase, in one form or the other. It is reasonable for Sean to have that expectation, and if he doesn't seen that develop in his employer, then it may be time to look for another one.

On the other hand, as an employer I expect some loyalty. We have largely been rewarded but sometimes disappointed. Last year, two fine staff people, into whom we had poured a lot of training, left us for a competitor. They said they left because they would be paid more at the other firm. But they never gave us a chance to respond to the offer they received. (Were we naive in thinking that they, out of some sort of sense of loyalty, would have told us about their dissatisfaction?)

We never had a chance to check the market and find out if, indeed, we were falling behind. (We should have been checking the market, and are trying to do a better job on that now. I concede that a more astute employer would have been checking this all along.) (In the case of the job category of one of them, we were a little behind, which we promptly fixed in the case of those left at the firm. In the case of the other, we were not behind, although she thought we were behind - she apparently had not run the numbers correctly.). Losing these two fine staff caused great disruption, and we still have a sense that we were not appropriately treated by them.

So I don't expect to tell an employee that he or she has a one, two, or three year contract, and I don't expect him or her to commit to one, two or three years. But each side should expect some consideration for the other, consideration that finally boils down to the idea of loyalty. No employer in his right mind will consciously design a job situation that will drive away a good employee. And an employee's promise to remain for a given term will not keep a fine employee there for very long if he or she is not happy. We all know that there are many things that make the employment relationship work, among them are mutual respect, hard work, fair pay, the opportunty to grow, and some "slack" when one side or the other side runs into difficulty. So contract arrangements that do not describe fixed terms of service are probably not very important, after all.

UPDATE: Carol read this post and we discussed the matter of the two staff members who left our firm last year. She observed that a departing employee will sometimes say that he or she is leaving for another job because the other job pays more money when, in fact, the employee has other issues with the present job that are too difficult or personal to discuss. She thinks that this may have been the case with the two people who left our firm. It was simply easier for them to discuss the issue in terms of economics rather than other terms, perhaps in an effort to spare feelings at our firm.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Joined the club yesterday


Snow Patrol
Originally uploaded by Dshot.
The ignominious club of those dragged down the mountain on a sled by the ski patrol.

I hyper-extended my left knee in some fresh powder while snowboarding. Ouch! I didn't need to go to the hospital, but there was no way I was going to be able to board down the rest of the way.

While it is a season-ending injury, it's not a career-ending injury. :-)

Happily, it happend at the end of the day yesterday, and I'd gotten in a fun-filled day of boarding. (Have I mentioned that the Stokes Family South Austin is in CO on vacation? Today's our last day.) This little injury in no way dampens my infatuation with snowboarding. Wow. It is so very much fun!

EDIT 03.03.07: To add, for Walter's sake, that at the moment of impact, I felt a *pop* and *grind* in my knee as I flipped head over heels. Sue was skiing behind me and came up to ask if I was ok. I was too busy gasping in pain and trying to throw the releases on my snowboard to drop the weight from my leg to answer her. Then, board off, now face-up, and while I packed my knee with snow, she asked if I needed her to call the ski patrol. A few moments passed while I weighed the shame of the drag-down with the pain in the leg. "Yes, please call them."

Now that three days have passed, I'm happy to report that my femur must have popped out and then right back into the knee socket, since my leg can bear weight and I'm walking, slowly, on it with minimal pain. I'm up to my fourth joint I've had pop in and out in my life: right elbow, both shoulders, now left knee.