Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Work is what we do BETWEEN meetings

I think that everyone who works at a university should have to remind themselves of this, every day: WORK IS WHAT WE DO BETWEEN MEETINGS.

Meaning that if you spend all day in meetings, you were doing NOTHING. Sure, you were AT work, and you were not having fun, but you didn't WORK.

Now, meetings are necessary so that we can get work done. So is defecation. But we don't brag about it afterwards. Why do we brag about meetings? "Man, I was in meetings for six hours today! I am so tired."

There are some rules for meetings that do make sense. Some of this is mine, some is borrowed verbatim from here.

Rules for Useful Meetings

1. Remind yourself mentally at the beginning of two things. Seriously, I want you all to say these things silently to yourselves, before EVERY meeting:
a. I am so wise. It is impossible for me to share all of my wisdom at this meeting. So I am going to keep some of this wisdom to myself, even though the sound of my voice is a blessing that all the world's peoples beg for.
b. Some errors are going to have to pass uncorrected. Other people are so ill-informed, and dumb that they may have opinions that differ from mine. Nonetheless, I am going to allow them to express those views without demanding equal time (at least) to correct those views. In particular, if I say "A," and someone says, "not A", that means we disagree. It is not necessary for me to repeat, "A." It is not true that whoever speaks last, wins.

2. Stand PAT: A meeting has to have: a Purpose, an Agenda, and a Timeframe.

You should be able to define the PURPOSE of the meeting in 1 or 2 sentences at most. "This meeting is to plan the class schedule for spring semester" or "this meeting is to come up with proposals for revising the undergrad curriculum." That way everyone knows why they are there, what needs to be done, and how to know if they are successful.

Set an AGENDA. List the items you are going to review/discuss/inspect. Better if you can give some idea of time, and the person who will speak or begin the discussion.

Set a TIMEFRAME. At the very least set a start and end time, and try to set a duration for each item in the agenda. These should total to the overall meeting timeframe.

3. Don't Wait (I have whined about time before)
Meetings need to start on time. Don't wait for stragglers to show up. When someone arrives late, don't go back and review what has already been covered. That just wastes the time of the people who showed up on time for the meeting. (This one is tough. What do you do if the latester ASKS what already happened. I suggest the cut direct, though I never actually do that). And, of course, don't be late yourself.

4. Keep and send minutes
Someone, other than the meeting organizer, should keep minutes of the meeting. How detailed these are depends on the nature of what is being discussed and the skill of the available note taker. If you set an agenda in the first place, as you should have, the note taker can use that as an outline. The minutes should record who attended, what was discussed, any agreements that were reached, and any action items that were assigned. And then SOON, within a day or two, the minutes of the meeting should be distributed to all who attended, any invitees who did not attend, and anyone else effected by the discussion. Emailing the minutes tells even those not at the meeting of the progress that was made and reminds everyone of their action items. (I try to do this one, but often fail. And I always regret it. So, do as I say, not as I do.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Threat to My Esteem, Apparently. Not.

From the WaPo, on fashion (or, perhaps FASHION)

NEW YORK -- Apparently a significant number of parents have stopped insisting that their sons eat their vegetables, drink their milk and take their Flintstones vitamins. This group of underfed boys is growing up to become models and threatening the self-esteem of men who always cleaned their plates.

Kick sand in their faces if you want. They will keep on coming. And their hair will be perfectly tousled.

Back in the days before metrosexuals, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and entire books dedicated to grooming products, the models marching down menswear runways tended to look a bit sheepish and embarrassed to be there. They gave the impression that they had been coerced into participating through some form of blackmail involving tequila shots and police officers with no sense of humor. The men were rakish and slim, but they did not have the look of hunger associated with their female counterparts.

Now the fellas mostly look happy to be on the catwalk, pleased with the opportunity to preen and strut. But too many of them have the underdeveloped physiques of 12-year-olds. Some possess a preternatural boyish demeanor and look to be up past their bedtime.

This was especially striking Friday when menswear designer John Varvatos presented his fall collection. Varvatos has built his reputation on an aesthetic that celebrates grown-up men. His clothes have always suggested a version of masculinity that is both familiar and reassuring, neither exaggerated nor understated. The palette, as in the past, is dominated by pine, mushroom, sage and lapis, with silhouettes that leave room for broad shoulders and strong legs, but also a bit of leeway for the paunchy gentleman who spends more time riding around in a golf cart than walking 18 holes.


"The paunchy gentlemen"? As Ronald Reagan said, "My chairman, I paid for this paunch!" (Okay, no he didn't. He said microphone, but....). But I did pay for this paunch. One pizza, and one Guinness, at a time. It is not so much a paunch as an investment. I don't need pine, mushroom, sage, and lapis (sounds like a recipe, not a palette! Just toss with some angel hair and extra virgin olive oil, which the lapis will turn a nice blue color)

Monday, February 06, 2006

So, I'm a Corvette

Or so they say here.

I'm a Chevrolet Corvette!

You're a classic - powerful, athletic, and competitive. You're all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

I actually usually lose. And if by "classic", you mean old, then yes. I'm like the demographer: demographers never die, but they get broken down by sex and age.

Size Matters

La Professora gets La Shafta.

She wonders if being big makes a difference.

I'm afraid it does.

Humans are apes.

Human men are not very bright apes.

I am 6'1", and I weigh 260. I can bench press about 230, and look kind of mad, even when I am happy. My chest is 48", and my waist is 38". I clearly come from slow, dull-witted northern European muck-slingers and beaters-with-clubs. Short legs, large torso, thick neck. Not pretty, but a silverback.

None of this means I am a bad ass. Michelle could easily kick my ass, with just a little martial arts training (which, for all I know, she already has. Note to self: be nice to Michelle).

An interesting overall question: should women be policemen? (you know what I mean).

Female police are MUCH more likely to be involved in fights or at least resistance from suspects. Large men don't have to fight.

And, this is SEPARATE from whether the woman is in fact able to defend herself effectively. She may be much more able to kick butt than some big, slow guy. The problem is that she HAS to, whereas the big guy just commands by size.

So, it seems to me that women are much better suited to being combat infantry or fighter pilots than they are to being regular street cops.

Of course, it is easy to think of counterarguments, and it is ultimately an empirical question. Flip side might be that male suspects have to try to act bad, and challenge a male cop, whereas a female cop is not so threatening and can take guys into custody without fighting. Overall, there is no "gender of the officer" difference in compliance, it appears. And females probably would not engage in testosterone-induced private punishments like this.

Still, I think men (yes, including me) are apes.