Archive | Misc.

Productivity Tip: ‘Iterate Toward Perfection,’ But Forget Perfection Exists

Matt Might, whose account of having a disabled child I mentioned previously, also has an interesting post on productivity tips for academics.

The advice can be applied to people working in many professions, though, not just academia.

I really like this bit:

Iterate toward perfection

Treat perfection like a process, not an achievable state. Perfectionism is crippling to productivity. I’ve known academics that can’t even start projects because of perfectionism. I know some academics that defend their lack of productivity by proudly proclaiming themselves to be perfectionists. I’m not so sure one should be proud of perfectionism. I don’t think it’s bad to want perfection; I just think it’s unrealistic to expect it.

The metric academics need to hit is “good enough,” and after that, “better than good enough,” if time permits. Forget that the word perfect exists. Otherwise, one can sink endless amounts of time into a project long after the scientific mission was accomplished. One good-enough paper that got submitted is worth an infinite number of perfect papers that don’t exist.

Yes.

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Moving Account of Having a Disabled Child — and What’s Important in Life

This post from University of Utah Computer Science professor Matt Might is very much worth reading.

Might saw a question on Quora from a 16-year-old who said he wanted to have a successful career in computer science or medicine, but feared getting married and having a disabled child.

Might wrote:

First, your question is trivial to answer: to minimize the risk – to zero – that you’ll have a disabled child, don’t have a child.

Any attempt to have a child will incur risk, although you can take measures described in other answers to lower it.

But, let me tell you a story – my story.

I am the father of a “disabled child,” yet I’m a professor in computer science at the University of Utah, and also currently a professor at the Harvard Medical School.

Hopefully I’ve just dispelled your fear that having a disabled child is not compatible with “a strong career in computer science or medicine.”

In fact, what if I told you that much of what I’ve done was the result of my having a disabled child? Because I too (naively) believe in love, and love my wife and son dearly?

Read the whole thing.

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Ann Friedman’s Visual Guide to Dealing with Criticism

2015 07 22 matrix

Journalist Ann Friedman created this excellent graphic, which she calls the “Disapproval Matrix.” It helps determine how you should deal with criticism based on who’s giving it.

As she writes:

The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you.

Sounds like good advice to me.

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Businesses Pressured SC Gov. to Push for Confederate Flag Removal

Following up on my post from Tuesday

Here’s an interesting, behind-the-scenes bit from a WSJ story on how businesses pressured South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to ditch the Confederate flag:

Ms. Haley came under significant pressure to call for the flag’s removal from leaders of multinational and South Carolina businesses after the shootings, according to people involved in the discussions. Michelin North America, based in Greenville, S.C., was among companies calling for immediate removal of the flag.

“We are ready to support our elected officials as they take the necessary steps to do so,” Michelin CEO Pete Selleck said.

Top elected officials, including the governor, business and nonprofit leaders, made frantic calls and emails over the weekend, according to people involved. One of them was Chad Walldorf, co-founder of a barbecue chain called Sticky Fingers and the chairman of the state Board of Economic Advisors. He said he made dozens of calls from vacation in Colorado. “There was a very widespread consensus in the business community to get the flag down,” he said.

Mikee Johnson, chairman of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, also began lobbying to bring the flag down. “I felt like it was going to be a turning moment in the state’s history,” said Mr. Johnson. “I told [Ms. Haley] she’d get overwhelming support from the business community if she took that action.”

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On the Charleston Shootings and the Confederate Flag — and Some Links for Following the Debate

2015 06 24 flag

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said Monday that the Confederate flag should be taken down.

That comes, of course, after a white man, in a racist attack last week, killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Photos uncovered later showed him embracing the Confederate flag.

That banner — which South Carolina hoisted in 1961, in the middle of the civil rights movement — represents to so many of the state’s citizens racism, hate, violence and subjugation.

What about those who say the flag symbolizes pride in the South’s history, that it represents “heritage, not hate,” as the saying goes?

At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that South Carolina’s secession from the union — which kicked off the Civl War, of course — was centered on the very institution of slavery. In the state’s own language at the time:

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

Many are saying now that it’s time to move on, at long last.

In Columbia, a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate are required for the flag to be taken down. The (Charleston) Post and Courrier quotes Haley as saying that if the two bodies don’t debate the issue summer, she’ll call them back into session to do so.

Now, following the shootings, an issue that for years has seemed settled — that the flag will continue to fly — is up for debate. And things seem to be moving quickly.

Just yesterday, The Post and Courrier reported:

Proponents of removing the flag could have an uphill climb. A Post and Courier survey of state lawmakers — predominately Republicans who control the House and Senate — found there is no consensus that the flag has to go, with many saying it’s too soon after the tragedy to act.

And today:

A Post and Courier poll shows the state Senate is within striking distance of having a majority in favor of removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. Support appears strong in the House, as well.

Here are a few sites to keep an eye on as things develop.

In a feature I love for its simplicity, the Post and Courrier is asking every member of the legislature where they stand on the flag, and posting the results in real time.

Meanwhile, in the Lowcountry, the Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet is collecting statements from Beaufort legislators:

While five local legislators have come out in support of removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, three others have remained quiet on the issue.

In Columbia, The State newspaper has also been covering the issue.

Stay tuned.

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On the Importance of Kindness at Work

Longtime Facebook employee Andrew Bosworth tells the story of how he learned he needed to be more respectful of others:

So why was I being sidelined? I demanded answers. Dustin did not disappoint.

He gave me a single sheet of paper. On it, in a dull monospace font, were anonymous quotes about me from my coworkers.

“Boz is one of the better engineers at Facebook” one read, and then the next “I would have a hard time working with him.”

These two statements struck me as incongruous. If I was a good engineer, why would it be hard to work with me? Of course that question was the very foundation of my problem.

“He is most interested in the truth…but more inhibited members of the team avoid any discussions with him.”

The realization hit me hard. In short, I thought my job was to be right. I thought that was how I proved my worth to the company. But that was all wrong. My job was to get things done and doing anything meaningful past a certain point requires more than one person. If you are right but nobody wants to work with you, then how valuable are you really? How much can you realistically expect to accomplish on your own? I was “winning” my way out of a job one argument at a time.

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Newley’s Notes #13 Just Went out to Subscribers

In this week’s edition: The New Yorker profiles Marc Andreessen, Benedict Evans on the power of the mobile Internet, beautiful notes for commentating on soccer matches, noisy CrossFit gyms and more.

You can read it here.

Be sure to sign up to receive future dispatches.

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