Monday, December 31, 2007

0

Thinking Innovation

In my last job, I found one of my strengths that worked against me was innovation.   People simply didn't want to try new things, and so what I saw as a way to make a system or project better was perceived as some sort of sabotage.  


Today, I ran across a piece in the Times about how innovation and knowledge can affect the workings of a company.  I was struck particularly by Cynthia Barton Rabe's idea of the "zero-gravity thinker."

In her 2006 book, “Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine — and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It,” Cynthia Barton Rabe proposes bringing in outsiders whom she calls zero-gravity thinkers to keep creativity and innovation on track.

When experts have to slow down and go back to basics to bring an outsider up to speed, she says, “it forces them to look at their world differently and, as a result, they come up with new solutions to old problems.”

She cites as an example the work of a colleague at Ralston Purina who moved to Eveready in the mid-1980s when Ralston bought that company. At the time, Eveready had become a household name because of its sales since the 1950s of inexpensive red plastic and metal flashlights. But by the mid-1980s, the flashlight business, which had been aimed solely at men shopping at hardware stores, was foundering.

While Ms. Rabe’s colleague had no experience with flashlights, she did have plenty of experience in consumer packaging and marketing from her years at Ralston Purina. She proceeded to revamp the flashlight product line to include colors like pink, baby blue and light green — colors that would appeal to women — and began distributing them through grocery store chains.

“It was not incredibly popular as a decision amongst the old guard at Eveready,” Ms. Rabe says. But after the changes, she says, “the flashlight business took off and was wildly successful for many years after that.”


By being the "new kid on the block," Ms. Rabe was able to find a completely new way of looking at the systems in place at Eveready.  When I read this, it struck me that I now have a term to describe the way I think: zero-gravity thinking.

I love to explore problems and systems and find ways to fix or improve them.  For example, this weekend, I was at Home Depot with Nate and while he was looking for a new stove gasket (word to the wise: it's a special order only item), I poked around at the displays of kitchen cabinets.  I found some displays marked with a symbol that meant there were new innovative storage designs, like built in spice racks, or track hung baskets that maximized space use.  I found this completely fascinating, and even though I'm not an architect or interior designer, I kept looking at the "non-innovative" designs to try and imagine ways to make the space more accessible or useful.  And I thought about how I could use these designs to make my own kitchen more functional.  (I can't--my kitchen is completely dysfunctional.)

When I think about my favorite job, the first one I had right out of college, I realize that what I liked best was my boss' love of innovation and creativity, and the way he encouraged me to think creatively too.  What I didn't like about my last job was that my ability to think outside the box was stifled and unwanted.  

What all of this analysis tells me is that I need a job where I will be able to use my innovative talents and be a zero-gravity thinker.    


Sunday, December 30, 2007

0

Hope for the Future

Last year, when considering the massive amounts of toys, games, movies and computer games he already had, a relative of mine and her son decided to ask guests not to bring gifts to his birthday party.  Instead, her son picked out a charity, The Smile Train, and asked guests to make a donation to children in need instead.  I thought this was a wonderful idea, and thanks to my relatives, some child received an operation to repair a cleft palate.



In lieu of presents at her 12th birthday party this year, Maddie Freed of Potomac asked her friends to bring money, and she raised $800 for Children's Hospital.

Eight-year-old Jenny Hoekman saves a third of what she makes walking dogs, and this month the Takoma Park girl donated it to help her Brownie troop sponsor an immigrant family.

And in Club Penguin, a popular online game club for the elementary school set, more than 2.5 million kids gave their virtual earnings to charities in a contest this month. In response, the site's founders are giving $1 million to charities based on the children's preferences.


I really admire those who are able to give to charity.  Sometimes, it's easy to see the greed and materialism that rule our society, but I will always delight in finding those who want to help others, in whatever way they are able.  

For the holidays, my good friend Matt sent me a gift of funds to put towards a charity of my choice.  I'd have to say that gift ranks at the top of what I received this year.  Thanks, Matt. 

Friday, December 28, 2007

1

Unfair or Practical?

If you go to your doctor and ask for an IUD, she or he will require you to undergo a test for chlamydia and gonorrhea, along with a pregnancy test.  This is to ensure that 1) you're not already pregnant and 2) that you don't have a pre-existing condition that would be worsened by the insertion of an IUD.

I'm in a hugely low risk group for any STD, and yet, I understand that some medical procedures require me to undergo testing for various STDs to ensure that the procedure won't harm me.  I'm not at risk for HPV, but I got the HPV vaccine anyway, since it can't hurt to be protected.
In New Jersey, a new law just passed making an HIV test mandatory for pregnant women.  As a result, some people are calling this an invasion of privacy and decrying the law as unfair.  And the first thing that occurred to me was the various STD tests I've had to go through, even though I'm not at risk.  

The point of the New Jersey law is to be able to provide pregnant HIV positive women with antiretroviral medicine to help prevent transmission of HIV to the fetus.  If a HIV positive mother is provided with antiretrovirals, the chance of the fetus receiving HIV from its mother is 2%.  According to the article (linked above), the test is recommended anyway and 98% of mothers are already given the test anyway.

The point of the law is to help identify the virus in women, a rising risk group, particularly among Black women, and to prevent the spread of HIV in the womb.  I see this as a very practical law, because once people with HIV and AIDS are identified, they can be provided with medical treatment.  

The mandatory screening has raised privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the state's chapter of the National Organization for Women both questioned whether the mandated tests violate a woman's right to privacy and the right to make her own medical decisions.

Riki E. Jacobs, executive director of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, a New Jersey nonprofit helping people living with AIDS, said the law is unnecessary and comes when the state should be focused on expanding care for pregnant women. "I am adamantly opposed to this bill. New Jersey already reduced the perinatal rate of transmission with mandatory counseling of pregnant women," she said. "The issue is getting those women who are not in prenatal care in for services and testing. I definitely think it is an invasion of privacy," Jacobs said. She said women choose to test their babies in 98 percent of cases, so the new law's mandatory provisions for testing children are not needed: "The fact that we assume women won't choose to test is ludicrous and wrong."

I really don't agree with Ms. Jacobs.  I feel that if the state were trying to enforce mandatory treatment of a disease on people, that would be one thing, but this is simply a test to catch a very deadly disease.  And it's not an invasion of privacy in my opinion--HIV status in a pregnant women in important to know should complications arise.  I feel that everyone should be tested for HIV, since it can lurk in the system for a long time before showing symptoms, and be passed on without the infected being aware of it. 

I think the real reason people see this as an invasion of privacy because there is still a terrible stigma attached to HIV and AIDS.  When someone has cancer, you offer sympathy; when some has AIDS, you wonder how he or she got it.  It's a disease that is associated with everything America prudishly disdains: gays, sex, and drugs.  The problem with this tunnel vision view is that it's no longer a disease that hangs out dark back alleys among needle drug users, it's a disease that is everywhere, lurking undetected.

I don't see it as an invasion of privacy to have a test.  The results are between you and your doctor.  I don't see it as an invasion of privacy if the end result is less children born with HIV.   If the law were to require that all HIV positive women would have their children taken away from them, I wouldn't agree with that.  AIDS and HIV are an epidemic, and I think we need to focus of stopping them through prevention.

3

Fresh Start

I got a MacBook for Christmas.  This is my first post from my new Mac.


This is a fantastic thing!  I am consumed with love for my as-yet-unnamed new laptop.  I am learning all kinds of new things, like the double finger scroll technique on the mousepad.  Or using the "command" key instead of the "ctrl" key.  For some reason, I don't seem to have "home" or "end" keys, but well maybe I'll discover them later.  

I'm thrilled that I can use this laptop on its battery; Athena (the soon-to-be donated IBM ThinkBook) has a battery life of roughly 20 minutes.  It's light, compact, and shiny white, and the screen is beautiful!  (Athena's original screen broke and was replaced by a used one from eBay.)  I can't stop poking at this wondrous thing.  I'll be able to take it with me to places!  No more plug in wireless antenna and external mouse and necessary AC adapter!  Freedom!  

So, my very first laptop was named Moxie, and my second one was Athena Nike.  I'm not sure what I'm going to name this one.  Suggestions?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2

The Future of Bullying

Last year, Megan Meier, a 13 year old girl from Missouri hanged herself.

The story of why she hanged herself is twisted; it's almost bizarre beyond belief. When Megan left her public school, where she was bullied unmercifully, she decided to cut ties with a girl she had been friends with, a neighbor's daughter. Lori Drew, the girl's mother, was upset by Megan's behavior, created a fake MySpace page under the name Josh Evans, winning Megan's trust and then turning around and cyber-bullying Megan. A grown woman did this. An adult. Hiding behind the anonymity, Ms. Drew, who knew that Megan had suffered at school and had a history of depression, launched this attack on Megan, and after one violent online argument, Megan hanged herself in her closet.

Cyber-bullying is on the rise. Unlike regular bullying, which involves personal contact either through physical violence or a nasty glare across the playground, and allows the victim to know her or his attacker(s), cyberbullies can hide behind the mask of the Internet. They lurk behind false MySpace or Facebook pages, send nasty emails from anonymous free email accounts, and pass on vicious text messages from any cellphone.

The story of Megan Meier has stuck with me since I first heard of it. In school, I was bullied like Megan. Middle school was seriously traumatic; I had one friend who stole from me, and another who would switch alliances randomly and mock me with others when it was convenient. Everything about me made me vulnerable; my clothes, my hair, my walk, my lack of athleticism, my love of reading, my lack of interest in popular culture. I withdrew from everything and failed 3rd quarter science and racked up Ds in Algebra and Social Studies in eighth grade. This nearly jeopardized my admission to the school where I went for high school--even though I aced the entrance exam.

When I left for my high school in another town, I, like Megan, stopped talking to the kids I'd gone to school with before. I didn't want to be reminded of the awful way they had treated me, even my so-called friends. I wasn't the most popular person in high school, but I did have a few very good friends, and I excelled at my academics and had a wonderful relationship with my teachers.

From all reports, when Megan changed schools, she became much happier. She was making friends, joined the volleyball team and lost some weight. And yet, she wasn't outside the reach of her tormentor.

One of the only ways I made it through the day in middle school, was the comfort of knowing that at 3:00 I could go home. I could watch tv or read a book, play with my toys, anything I wanted--out of range of the people that were so awful to me. But that was before everyone had a computer and the Internet was a social tool. The idea of cyberbullies is horrifying to me, because it means that there's no safe haven from the bullying. You can go home and be writing an email to a friend and suddenly your inbox is full of vituperative slander. You can be walking home and text messages flash on your cellphone. And you can't just shut the computer off; it's where you do your homework, it's an indispensable tool today.

There's no good solution to the problem, except vigilance. Psychological bullying is just as damaging as a fist to the face. Physical wounds can heal, but words echo in the memory forever.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

0

Happy Holidays

It's almost here...

I'm here listening to the Cambridge Singers wishing me a merry Christmas, and when this CD is over, we'll move on to Hungarian medieval Christmas music. The tree is up, and the cats are lounging, basking in the light, and Nate is writing emails to friends.

I'd end the suspense of this month's poll by telling you what I did get for my birthday, except I know there will be a few more gifts tacked on to my Christmas gifts when I see my folks tomorrow. (I still hold out hope for a guest role on "Bones"!)

I hope wherever you are, and whatever you're celebrating (or not celebrating) that you are happy, healthy, and warm. I hope you have someone to hug or a cat to nuzzle, and that you have a wonderful week, with many excuses for missing boring work and going sledding or some other whimsical pursuit.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas--for example, in our house, it's a strictly secular holiday--but I hope everyone can find a bit of good cheer.

Cheers!

Friday, December 21, 2007

1

Santa Baby... Been An Awful Good Girl

On the train back from Wellesley the other day, I met Santa, and I smiled when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I said (of course!) a job.

Today I got an email from the recruiter to set up a follow up interview for the post I interviewed for on Wednesday. She said:

The feedback was wonderful- they think you’re very well rounded “somewhat of a renaissance woman”. You will be meeting with two or three people. I’ll get you more detail when I get it!!

That made my day. But wait! It gets better.

The next email that came through was from my mentor and former boss. The email subject:

I just said very nice things about you!!

They're calling my references! So I called up one of my other references, my very first boss, the one who sent me to grad school, and he said he'd just gotten off the phone with the recruited and his impression was that they were "really thrilled with you."

I meet with the hiring manager and a few other people again on January 2nd. Cross your fingers for me!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

0

8 Minute Dating

Tuesday I saw my career coach again. I ruled out law school, and my new plan is to rack up some more working experience, and then go for an MBA. My top choice au moment is Simmons College.

Tuesday evening, I went to Nate's office holiday party, where I did some cool networking, ate some tasty food, and had a general all-around good time.

Wednesday, I went to a job interview. This job would really hit a lot of my strengths and interests; it's grant management in a teaching hospital with ties to academe focusing on science research. I'd get to do writing, management, research, and learn about heart disease. I really liked the hiring manager, and the thing that really stood out is that the previous person left the job because he was promoted--a suggestion from the hiring manager. There would be lots of opportunity for professional development, and the professors I met were really dedicated to their work.

Today I went to jury duty. I was dismissed before lunch, so I didn't get to participate in the judicial process. But I did start a new book, and got halfway through it. Also, the court officer assigned to the jury pool was very polite, friendly, and helpful. It was a pretty painless experience, although I would have liked more comfy chairs.

Monday, December 17, 2007

0

Self-Analysis

While at the library last week, I picked up Mean Girls Grown Up. I was hoping for some sort of insight into the female group dynamic. Sadly, this is just a pile of pop-psychology tripe. While the author, Cheryl Dellasega, PhD, is a professor of psychology, she bases this whole book on anecdotes from women around her and has little input at all, and certainly no actual research to back up her assertions about what she terms "Relational Aggression" (aka bullying).

In Dellasega's dichotomy, there are three types of women: Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid to Bees. (The names themselves are so uninspired I feel foolish even relating them.) Queen Bees are directly aggressive, Middle Bees are manipulators, and Afraid to Bees are victims.

Because this book is structured as written anecdotes by women who have observed or acted in the dictated behaviors, there is no discussion from Dellasega about motivations for these behaviors or objective descriptors. Unless you swallow everything wholesale, the whole book has no meaning. For example, Dellasega asserts that patterns of behavior set in middle school are essentially the same patterns a woman will follow as an adult. How horrible! In this scheme, there is no way to alter behaviors, react to behaviors, and eventually be in control of one's own destiny.

What I was really hoping for when I saw this title was--well, perhaps a little selfish. When I think of a "mean girl grown up," I think of "Corrine" at my last job, the reason that I'm not at that job anymore. In that situation, I was essentially powerless to stop what happened. I was hoping for some insight, some dissection of behavior patterns that would allow me to anticipate the actions of any future Corrines I might encounter. Something that would help me build on my own understanding of interpersonal relationships.

Today, "Mean Girls Grown Up" is going back to the library. I'm sure there are better resources about the dynamics of women's relationships.

Friday, December 14, 2007

0

What Do You Mean, Reading Deprivation?

Milena at Shouting to Quiet the Thunder is in a stage of "Reading Deprivation." I have to say that I immensely enjoyed her list of non-reading activities that she has come up with as a diversion:

1. Mailed my mother a pamphlet on saving energy. Mailing pamphlets??? I'm totally 80 years old.

2. Eat lunch without a magazine in front of me.
Actually make eye contact with co-workers who enter, they look uncomfortable. "Where is her magazine? What is she doing?"


3. Cry in the bathroom stall at work. Seriously. I did this. I was alone with my thoughts and realized how I'd been distracting myself from thinking about my dad.



4. Wait for a Tropicana OJ juice box to bloat without refrigeration. This happens surprisingly fast. Hours.


5. Become grateful for filling out forms at work. Cheat by reading the fine print.


6. Talk to people. Have conversations instead of email one-liners. Email is great - but a real conversation is better!


7. Watch TV. Can't help think that this also counts as distraction, but how could I miss Method Man's cameo on L&O?
8. Get hair done without searching the internet for a "hair idol". I don't really look like Mandy Moore anyways…

I don't think I could go without reading. Not one little bit. I read everything, from novels to nonfiction to the New Yorker to the back of my shampoo bottle. Could I imagine my life without Wikipedia to scan through for further details while I watch documentaries on the History Channel? (This is what ads are for... to give you five minutes to look up a picture of what you wanted to look at for longer than the program showed.) What would a subway ride be like without Archaeology magazine, or the latest Kathy Reichs mystery (please, please, please, Ms. Reichs, I know your last book came out in August, but I need another one, stat)? Heck, I love books so much, I have cloth book covers that I have made to protect my books from travel wear! I can't go to bed without reading. (Note to the world: a great cure for insomnia is Process Theology.)

So I admire Milena and wish her lots of luck. But don't think for a minute I'm going to go without reading!

3

Yes and No

If I have learned one thing from my prioritizing my ideas about where my career could go, it's that I don't really want to go to law school.

I laid out my ideas and filled in some details, and moved them around. Here's the category listings as they stand:

  • Teaching
  • Writing
  • Educational Administration
  • Business School
  • Non-Profit
  • Development
  • Law School
  • Sales

Sales was a suggestion from the career coach, because she thinks it would match my competitive and outgoing nature. But the more I've looked at it, I can't really get my heart into it. That puts it at the bottom of the list.

What I noticed about this list, as it emerged, was that the top two items, Teaching and Writing, are about me creating something on my own, customized, and autonomously. This fits with a lot of things, like the results I got on my Strong's Inclination Index test in grad school.

Business school is a very intriguing option; it's something unlike things I've studied before, but it would show me some valuable skills. It would cost money, and mean more loans, scholarship applications and so forth, but it still holds a lot of appeal for me. I'd love if any b-school students or grads would leave me some comments about why they went to b-school and what the best part about it was.

Law school has fallen to the very bottom (except for Sales) and I think I know now, it's a pipe dream. I like the idea of learning law because I loved the law class I took in grad school. But I don't have aspirations to become a lawyer, or practice law really. I might as well take it off the list.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

0

Headhunting

As part of my career exploration and keeping my options open, I have posted my resume on several job sites in the hopes that someone might come looking for me. So far, I've bet contacted by three companies looking for commission-only sales reps, and two headhunters.

The first headhunter brought me in for an interview, decided my experience wouldn't fit the job she had in mind, and dumped me. As in, didn't return phone calls to say I wasn't in the running for the job, and finally sent me a curt "don't call me, I'll call you" email.

Yesterday I met headhunter #2, who was much friendlier and had a sense of humor. She thinks I'd be great for a particular grant writing job, and we spent the afternoon reworking my resume for the post. It would be a real challenge opportunity, and I can't say a huge raise in pay doesn't tempt me. But I'm not putting all of my eggs in one basket; I haven't met her client yet, so I don't know if they will be as enthusiastic as she is.

I've been working on my list of "things I'd like to do," and trying to prioritize them. Part of this means taking what I've been doing and putting into categories. For example, Teaching is something I'm seriously considering, so I put in my contact with Carney, Sandoe and Associates who place teachers in charter and private schools. They called me today to schedule a phone conference for tomorrow.

Everything seems to be moving very quickly and very slowly at the same time. After all this consideration, I'm not sure what I want. I have three people to talk to tomorrow for jobs in teaching, fundraising, and grants administration. I'm going to have to think of a list of questions to ask, thoughtful, meaningful questions. I want my next job to be a good one, where I am doing something purposeful, where I am earning a good salary, in a good work environment, and I feel that I am growing and learning. Sometimes I feel like it doesn't matter what exactly I'm doing as long as it fits those intangibles.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

1

Turnover

As I scan the job boards, I can't help but noticing how many jobs are available at my previous institution. At first, seeing all those jobs made me feel taunted, as though I weren't wanted for the club, but everyone else was.

Now I'm beginning to realize that it probably means that it's not a good place to work. Turnover is a fairly good indicator of an employer's work environment.

Last week I had dinner with a former co-worker who is fairly certain from her gut feeling combined with my experience that she is next on the "chopping block." And she also mentioned that more than one person misses me and my work--just not the people at the top. Apparently one woman there, who I thought was brilliant, asked "what the hell happened to Kate?" So I can begin to rebuild my confidence in my work.

0

The Other War

Six years after 9/11, it's hard to remember that it was Al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban in Afghanistan, that actually attacked us. Osama bin Laden has escaped, and no one seems to remember that we still have troops in Afghanistan.

And no one seems to be terribly concerned that the Taliban is making a comeback.

For those who have forgotten, I suggest reading this article about troops in Afghanistan who have discovered entire villages caught between foreign troops and Taliban terrorism, and the biggest losers in this conflict are the children.

KARAWADDIN, Afghanistan — The Afghan boy crouched near a wall in this remote village, where the Taliban’s strength has prevented the government from providing services. His eyes were coated by an opaque yellow sheath.

Sgt. Nick Graham, an American Army medic, approached. The villagers crowded around. They said the boy’s name was Hayatullah. He was 10 years old and developed the eye disease six years ago. “Can you help him?” a man asked.

Sergeant Graham examined the boy. He was blind. There was nothing the medic could do.

A second man appeared, pushing a wheelbarrow that held a hunched child with purplish lips and twisted feet, problems associated with severe congenital heart disease. Sergeant Graham listened to his heart. Without surgery, he said, this stunted boy would probably die.

A third man turned the corner from an alley, leading a girl, Baratbibi, by the arm. She was 7 years old. She turned her ruined eyes toward the afternoon sun without blinking. They were more heavily coated than Hayatullah’s. Sergeant Graham sighed.

“We could use an entire hospital here,” he said.

...

The Taliban exist openly here. To limit the influence of the government and prevent it from achieving even its modest development goals, the villagers and the Afghan and American authorities said, the insurgents have sacked schools, threatened teachers and students, scared off private contractors and sharply restricted medical care.

“The Taliban has made it abundantly clear that no outside doctors, no outside medical help, can work in this district,” Captain DeMure said.


With the mess in Iraq, and Bush's new posturing on Iran, Washington has turned its back on Afghanistan, a country ravaged by war time and time again. Who knows if it will ever recover.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

1

At What Cost?

Massachusetts, my beloved home state, now requires residents to have health insurance. The penalty for going without is a nasty tax assessment. My health insurance expired on November 30, and I've been looking into the situation.

COBRA, the health insurance extension program, wants to charge me $450 per month to continue my coverage. That's over twice my student loan payment. That's over half of my rent. That's ridiculous, in my current state of unemployment.

I signed up today for a Direct Pay Plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield, and it's a much cheaper rate. It kicks in on Friday, which is nice. I have to say, it's been a little strange being without the invisible safety net of health insurance, even for a few weeks. It kept popping into my head that it would be so much more dangerous to fall on the ice and break an ankle, or be hit by a car, or have another sinus infection. I've never been without health insurance before; all my life, if I was sick, I just went to the doctor.

John Edwards has proposed a plan for the nation similar to the policy now in effect here in Massachusetts. I would like to see that implemented. I don't think people should have to rely on their employers to provide health insurance. Because of the new plan here, there are now Direct Pay Plans, like the one I just enrolled in. These plans are more affordable, and give you plenty of options, depending on what specific coverage you want. It would be nice to see everyone having a chance at affordable health insurance.

Monday, December 10, 2007

0

In Which I Face The Silence

More than one person has remarked to me that this is a terrible time to look for a job, because it's the holiday season and everyone is busy with end of year hustle and bustle, or taking time off, or planning holiday parties and Secret Santas, etc. I don't begrudge anyone holiday cheer, but the silence is starting to grate on me.

My headhunter turned out to be a bust, I'm not corporate enough for her client. I've had a few rejections, and more silence. I've applied for three jobs today, and I am working on arranging an informational interview with a contact of a friend.

One thing I keep coming back to is the idea of teaching. I'm thinking of it as a way to return to my love of learning and take on something more challenging than I've done with my life so far. On the other hand, I don't know if I want to take a pink-collar job. I don't necessarily want to be typecast in a typical female role. Although, to look at the development world right now, that's becoming a pink-collar job too.

Update:

Just got a request for an interview! And at one of my top choice institutions! Huzzah!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

0

Finding Enlightenment

Today is Bodhi Day, and I am celebrating quietly with a few friends, a small ceremony, and dinner. Bodhi Day is traditionally the day on which Shakyamuni Buddha achieved enlightenment. It's not a very well known holiday, but in the midst of Christmas and Hanukkah, I wanted to be able to celebrate my own faith.




May all beings live in safety. May all beings live in love and compassion.
--Buddhist blessing

Friday, December 07, 2007

2

Exhaustion

I wish I had something more edifying to write today, but I'm wiped out. I spent Wednesday night in a really uncomfortable chair, staying with my father-in-law David in the hospital. I got up with him every half hour or so to limp to the bathroom, and clean up when he missed the toilet, and wash him off and get him clean socks and a robe.

Thursday I spent sleeping, until around 5, when happily, I went with Liz to pick David up. They discharged him and now he's at home. I'm spending the day with him, so I can be there if he needs help.

So, maybe the unemployment is a good thing this week, because it means I've been available for David. I haven't done serious caretaking work since my grandfather (he passed away twelve years ago) had emphysema, but I'm getting into the swing of things.

My one real progress step made this week was to visit a Career Coach. It was a wonderful meeting, where we talking about my ideas about what I wanted to do with myself, and where I wanted to go with my career. I'm seriously considering teaching. My assignment for our next meeting is to take all the options I listed on Wednesday morning, research them on some sites she recommended and talk to any people that would know something about those jobs, and make a list of them in order of the priority I've placed on them. I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

1

Care

I write today from a hospital room. My father-in-law had knee surgery on Monday, and today, from the pain and medication and whatever else, he's disoriented. I've been here since noon, and he continually tells me he wants to get out of bed to go upstairs, or go outside. It's awful to have to tell him no, he can't get out of bed, and there is no upstairs, he's on the top floor of the hospital. I feel cruel, and it's heartbreaking to hear him tell me to shut up and get out of his way.

I love my father-in-law like a second father, and I hate to see him in pain. Currently, he's assailing my following the Buddhist lay precepts. He drifts in and out of sleep, and keeps trying to take his oxygen supply off, and pulls his fingers out of the vitals monitor. I continually coax him into putting his finger back into the clamp. I can't imagine doing this 24/7.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

0

Perfectionism?

From my post on Encouragement, semifreddo left me a comment with a link to an article on perfectionism. I have to say, that was somewhat insightful. I know I have a tendency to have much higher standards for myself than others, and I know I can be a perfectionist. What startled me was that someone reading my writing could tell that so easily.

I'm a smart person. I was the top score for the entrance exams for my private high school. I had great SAT and SAT II scores. I have a slew of comments on my report cards that say I'm clever, creative, and original. I won prizes and citations for my work. In college, I made the faculty honors list. My thesis won a named prize in History. Professors told me I was smart and a good writer. In graduate school, I finished with a 4.0 average. I have a paper from my student development class that I saved because the last page says "A--best in the class".

Sometimes my perfectionism has gotten me in trouble. I think part of why my last job didn't work out was that I outperformed some people, and that made them uncomfortable. (My greatest takeaway from the job is that I can't be an assistant anymore.)

One thing I'm working on as I read books about improving work performance and try to focus on finding a job is to not let perfectionism get in my way. The cover letter I wrote last week, it wasn't perfect, but somehow I liked it. It was original, and not "perfect." I am human, after all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

1

Gilligan's Island

Continuing through Susan Faludi's Backlash, I've just finished a section on prominent anti-feminist personalities of the 1980s and some of the "turncoat" feminists of the same era. As I met Robert Bly (the Iron John, Wild Man guru), Betty Friedan (whose Second Stage proposed that women were being too aggressive and they needed to switch to a "Beta style"--read passive--approach to change), and Michael "Men Are Better At Math" Levin, I was surprised to see Carol Gilligan lumped in with the Backlashers.

I first encountered Carol Gilligan's work in graduate school; in a course on student development, I was assigned a project to read Gilligan's landmark book In a Different Voice and the literature on how this impacted student development theory, and create a presentation and paper on my analysis. When I read In a Different Voice, I had two thoughts in the forefront of my mind:

1) I appreciated that Gilligan was disputing the idea of an ethics model based solely on a study of men.
2) I didn't feel that I spoke in the "different voice" that Gilligan was describing.

My paper specifically tackled how Gilligan's theories could apply to student development, and how college advisors, instructors, residence life staff and so forth could be sensitive to the needs of female students. And yet, the second half of my paper dealt with Gilligan's detractors:

Carol Gilligan made a significant contribution to many different fields when she began her work, citing differences between men and women in how they perceive morality. However, while her work is very important, it is also important to consider her critics. In recent years, many have attacked Gilligan’s studies, claiming she has created a “voice of victimhood” for women, by reviving the Victorian ideal of the “good woman” (Heyes, 1997). Another common accusation is that she has over-generalized in her work, casting men as isolated, patriarchal figures who have no knowledge of caring, while women are only caring and relational, and have little autonomy (Barnett & Rivers, 2004). It has also been noted that while Gilligan criticized her predecessors for studying a narrow sample of white upper-class males, in her landmark book, she herself examined a very small sample of white, middle-class females. When applying her theories to student development, it is important to keep these limitations in mind. Particularly, one should not that while differences exist between men’s and women’s views of morality, the difference is not gender-specific, but rather gender-related. Not all women rely solely on the ethics of caring and relationships, and not all men are isolated upholders of the patriarchy.

From my vantage point in the present, I think it was important that Gilligan chose to explore the idea of a "female voice." This goes hand in hand with my own theory that we should stop viewing men as the overarching norm for societal behaviors and give credence to women as half of the existing norm, instead of a deviation from the male existence. However, by characterizing women as "different," she sets women up as almost a separate species, and a quiet one at that.

Which is where my observation of my own voice comes in. I don't fit the mold of the "ethics of care" model. My personality is often defined through my aggressiveness, my competitive nature, and my willingness to be the first to speak up, or stand in front of the room. I sometimes have difficulty navigating complex webs of relationships, and I don't harbor much in the way of maternal instincts. If I were being measured on an ethics scale, I'd rather be held up to Kohlberg's and not Gilligan's.

After thinking it over, I would say that I can agree with Susan Faludi's decision to put Carol Gilligan into the anti-feminist canon; not necessarily because of what Gilligan wrote, but because of the way its presentation allowed a host of people from the author's of the bestseller Smart Women/Foolish Choices to James Dobson of conservative bastion Focus on the Family to co-opt her work as a justification for women to abandon careers and return to the home, that stronghold of feminine "power."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

0

November Poll Results

In my next job, I should become:

a writer 23 (25%)

a superhero 24 (26%)
a researcher 7 (7%)
a consultant 14 (15%)
a lost member of European Royalty restored to the throne 23 (25%)


Votes: 91


So the majority has spoken, and my next job, I'll be a superhero. This will be a big career change, and I think the first thing I'll have to think about is what kind of superhero I will be. Nate is very focused on the idea of what my superhero costume will look like.

I'm considering SuperFeminist, Captain Dharma, and the Vermilion Crusader. But I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

4

Encouragement

Wow! First off, thank you to everyone who took the time to click over from Penelope Trunk's article on Yahoo Finance. Especially thanks to people who took the time to click over to my monthly poll. I can't tell you what a shot in the arm it's been to see so many readers and participants.

Secondly, to the many commentators on the original column, in my own defense, I do a lot of job searching, I just don't chronicle it here. I'm willing to bet you wouldn't detail all the jobs you'd applied to or been interviewed for either.

Thirdly, thank you for the kind suggestions and comments you've left for me. This is indeed a period of personal growth for me. I took a risk this week and wrote a completely different kind of cover letter for a job I know I would be great at. It sounded so much more like my own voice speaking, rather than the "cover letter voice," we all fall back on. I'm glad I did it, even if I don't get an interview.

I did get a proper rejection today (via email), which wasn't a surprise since they had blown me off for three weeks.

I read in Lola, Boston's new best friend, a tidbit that caught my eye. According to writer Roni F. Noland, there's apparently a trend of job posting reading "only employed individuals need apply." This was shocking to me, and smacks amazingly of discrimination. It was a little depressing to read that.

Then I encountered a post by Polly Pearson on the Women's DISH about her morning spent at a networking/mentoring session with MBA candidates and their mentors. She shared this advice from the day:

  • “If a job doesn’t feel right in your gut, leave.”
  • “A bad work climate/job can be likened to an abusive domestic relationship. People on the outside often ask, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’”
  • “You will need help at some point, ask for it."
That advice really resonated with me. The first one describes part of what went on at my last job, and why I'm where I am. The last one is something I'm really coming to terms with. I've finally put aside enough to hire a little career coaching. I've been consulting plenty of online and print career development sources for outside voices. I filed for unemployment, so I can at least bring something home in this transition period, and my severance has run out.

This time in my life is both terrifying and empowering. For the first time in ages, I don't know how I'm going to afford this apartment and put food and the table. It's scary to be in free fall. And at the same time, I'm writing more than I have in years. It's cathartic, putting it all down in words. Cathartic comes from the Greek word "katharos"--pure. It's the same root for my name, Kate. I think it's about finding what's pure, what's the truth in me. And I've got to face down the terror of the unknown, and forge ahead to something better.

3

Gender Equality at Work

It's a recurring theme. I'm sure you've heard someone say, "She got that job because she's a woman." Or maybe you've been talking to a man who says, "It's so hard for me to get a job today, because I'm not a woman. Everyone wants to meet their 'diversity quota'."

This theme is very persistent. I've even heard that second argument from my own husband. (Don't worry, I'm working on that.) But the point is, the idea that women are "pushing" men out of work isn't true. In Backlash, Susan Faludi points out that the majority of job growth for women is in the lowest-paying jobs--essentially jobs they aren't competing against men for, because men won't take them. (Side note: this argument also applies to illegal immigrants, when people say they are "stealing" American jobs; in actuality, they're doing sweatshop labor or other work that no one else wants to do.)

Over and over again, if you consult the numbers, women are not pushing men out of work. For example, women outnumber men as law school graduates. How many of them make partner?
Women represent only 15% of law partners in the nation, and only 13% of general counsel for Fortune 500 companies.

The other problem with the idea that women are pushing men out of work is that the very way this argument is phrased is faulty. Women are not competing against men for jobs. Job applicants are competing against other job applicants. Gender shouldn't have anything to do with it. It should have to do with qualifications, not whether the candidate can pee standing up or not.

But still, the hiring on gender persists. There are the "token" women (and this can go for minorities, too). Companies put one woman on the board so they can say they're not discriminating. In Her Place at the Table, Kolb, et al write in their Introduction about career women they've coached who honestly wonder if the reason they got the job was so that they could be the "woman quota." How effectively could you do your job if you thought (or knew) that you were there to contrast against the men in the company picture?

Recently, on Employee Evolution, Ryan Healy wrote about his high school reunion where he was shocked to find that traditional pink collar jobs were the new "It" career for women. I'm not sure why he was surprised, unless he'd never considered the way women approach work: as women, not men. While we are moving farther from the fantasy of the '50s (which never really existed anyway), women are still raised to be nurturers, mothers, helpers, and not leaders. So it's not surprising that they still often go into social work, teaching, and nursing. There is very little competition with men on this front, with the possible exception of nursing. Nurses are currently in high demand, and unlike teachers, who remain underpaid because of budgeting issues, nurses salaries are on the rise. This means that the pay has finally risen to the point where men will choose nursing as a career field. Men, who are generally taught to be strong, assertive leaders, follow the money.

There isn't an easy answer to this problem, other than to continue to push for training for girls and women on how to be leaders. Often assertive women (think Carly Fiorina, think Hillary Clinton) are smeared as ice queens, mannish, or, most often, bitches. Why? It's because we still harbor the notion of the sweet, pandering woman. The secretary, the wife, the cheerleader. Assertive women in leadership roles are accomplishing things, and men are afraid of them. Men are afraid of losing the support system they have always had in the secretary, wife, and cheerleader. Without them, men would have to rely on themselves for the menial work. They would have to start taking the low-paying jobs. They would have to experience a woman's perspective.

It is often said that the best way to conquer your fear is to face it. I'd like to see men face that fear head on.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

3

Making Mistakes

Alina Tugend writes today about mistakes and what we learn (or don't learn) from them. It's an interesting piece, because it addresses multiple studies done on perceptions of mistakes. If you are taught that being smart and an achiever means not making mistakes, it can make you less likely to challenge yourself out of fear of failure. On the other hand, if you are encouraged for your efforts, you are more likely to take mistakes as learning tools, and use them to improve your own performance.

Like most people in life, I've made plenty of mistakes. I wrote a very inflammatory letter to the editor of my high school paper that got me blackballed from the drama club. I used my first credit card irresponsibly, and I'm still paying it off. I left a good job for a bad job, and I set back my career.

I don't like to think about mistakes that I've made. A lot of times I feel really guilty about them, because in addition to hurting me, they hurt other people. My letter to the editor said some made some nasty accusations, and I still wish I could go back and apologize. I'm angry that I have debt, and I feel bad that I can't contribute more to the household expenses because of it. By leaving my last job, I've made the money situation in my home more perilous, which isn't fair to my husband.

But I can't afford to hold onto the bad part of these mistakes. It doesn't do anything. What I can do, is look at what went wrong, and not replicate it. This particularly applies in the job arena. What I need to do is learn more about office politics, that's very clear. I was perusing through Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office yesterday at the bookstore, and I picked up one piece of really useful advice towards this: when arriving in a new workplace, write down all the rules that apply there, the unwritten ones. This will help sort out how to interact with your office mates, and hopefully keep you from stepping on anyone's toes.

It's difficult to sort through wanting to learn from mistakes while there is so much pressure not to make any. I hope that as my career progresses, I can keep an open mind to my mistakes, and not let the pressure keep me down.

Monday, November 26, 2007

0

Coffee For All

I was intrigued by a recent article in Slate that recounts a study of coffee shop service and how it discriminates against women. According to the study:


[American economist Caitlin Knowles Myers] with her students as research assistants, staked out eight coffee shops (PDF) in the Boston area and watched how long it took men and women to be served. Her conclusion: Men get their coffee 20 seconds earlier than do women.

Interesting. I'd never even thought about that, but I will now be on the alert next time I walk into a Starbucks. (This may take some time, since I am cutting back on spending on Grande Mochas with Whip.)

However, in addition to now thinking about how long it takes me to get my coffee, I wanted to relate a cheery moment of goodwill from Friday. I joined Nate on a trip downtown (he had a meeting), resolving to read books at Borders (and not buy any). And then I decided that I would treat myself to my first Mocha in ages. (Quick note: I've found it quite convenient to bring a tea bag and travel mug from home, and Starbucks will give you the hot water for free.) So I got to the counter and handed over my mug, and the nice cashier asked me what I ordered and he said, "How are you doing today?" with a smile.

"I'm awesome," I said, since I was in the middle of a lovely four day weekend with my husband.

"You must be out shopping then," he grinned.

"No, I lost my job recently, so I'm not shopping. I'm just enjoying the holidays." I put my five dollar bill on the counter. He looked at it for a minute, and pushed it back toward me.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "I hope you get a new job soon."

I don't think he knew how much that meant to me. I'd like to write a note to his manager to say how much I appreciated it, but I think him giving away a drink like that might get him in trouble. I thanked him twice, once at the counter, and once on my way out. And I thank him again. I love knowing that human kindness is still alive and well.

1

Green For The Holidays

Even as we still snack on leftover Thanksgiving turkey, the "other" holiday has quickly dodged in to bombard us with advertisements, guilt trips, and admonishments to consume. For the sake of brevity, I'll call this holiday "Xmas."

At Xmas time, familiar carols are tolled from the television, with lyrics replaced with repeating "Duh" because we'd be stupid not to buy a Honda. Teenagers place flyers for X-boxes on their car windows to beg for gifts. And Wal-Mart reminds us that it's low, low prices will allow you to buy the luxury of a Sony flat-screen TV, because nothing brings family together like staring at the idiot box instead of having a conversation or a snowball fight.

Do you sense my frustration with these representations of "buy, buy, buy!"? I like presents as much as the next person, but I also like just spending time with my husband, sitting at home, listening to the classical radio broadcast of carols, having hot cider or cocoa while we pet the cats. I love going to my in-laws' house for dinner, sitting with my father-in-law on the couch and talking. I love taking drives through Orient Heights to look at the light displays.

This year, due to our decrease in available income, I'm going to drastically cut back on gift expenditures, and I'm really planning on doing things in a more environmentally friendly way. I had already decided not to use wrapping paper (it's non-recyclable), opting for newspaper, or gift bags made out of cloth (I have a pile of fabric saved for making these). Now I'm thinking about things I can offer that I've made myself, or things I can do to help others.

For example, my friend Margaret often gives me a ride to our association meetings, or drops me home. The other week she brought us some farm share vegetables, and when we noticed we were running late, she took us into Cambridge, since she was going that way. In return for her kindness, this weekend, Nate and I cleaned her car for her. It didn't cost that much (just quarters for the vacuum and hose at the car wash), and it will be a huge help to her to actually have a backseat again. It's a gift that didn't require a trip to the mall, or wrapping paper.

Another gift I'm going to work with is baked goods. I love to make bread and cookies, and that's another thing I don't have to shop for.

I have read about people who are using the holidays to "push the environmental agenda," and I would point out, I'm not trying to be the "Grinch." I just want to be able to give something to people to show that I care for them without hurting my savings, and if I can do it by being green, so much the better.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

4

Reading

In my time of unemployment, in between networking, applying for jobs, and interviewing, I have been returning to my love of reading. I now have hours of uninterrupted time to sit with a book and lose myself in it without having to watch the clock, or make sure I haven't missed my subway stop.

Currently, I'm working on Great Expectations, since I never read it in high school. And surprisingly, to me, I'm enjoying it. I suppose I have the held-over from high school notion that Dickens must be boring. But really, it isn't. The characters are very vivid, and I'm genuinely interested in knowing where the story goes. It will still be a surprise to me, since I've never seen a movie adaptation, and it was never in my school curriculum.

I'm also re-reading Buddhist Women on the Edge, a collection of wide and varying essays on Buddhism and feminism edited by Marianne Dresser. It's a really eye-opening book on all the different ways that women perceive Buddhism. And I think it's a better read this time around because I've immersed myself so much more deeply in my practice and scholarship. I know a lot more about the difference between Buddhist sects and the traditions of the Theravadin, Mahayana, and Vajrayana schools.

If anyone has any recommendations for good books (and I read just about everything) please send them on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

0

Goodwill

This Thanksgiving, Nate and I will be visiting my family for a change. I'm looking forward to it, and the fact that the food will be edible and there will be much more good humor. Not to mention mashed potatoes with onion flakes.

On Sunday, Nate and I redeemed our "turkey points." Our local grocery store prints out "points" for money spent at the store within a certain time frame. Save up 20 points and they'll give you a free turkey, up to $20 in value. If you buy a turkey that comes under $20, you can use the rest of the value towards the rest of your turkey dinner.

This year, we saved up enough points (some pooled from Nate's dad and neighbors) and managed to redeem for two turkey dinners. Between sales and coupons, we bought two complete dinners (turkey, instant mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and frozen pie) for $5. And then we brought them down to the local food pantry. I really love to do this every year. It's my favorite part of the holiday season.

(An added bonus this year, since we've outfitted the bikes with a trailer, we were able to do the whole trip without any carbon output.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

3

Working On It

After much consideration, I'm on the verge of hiring a career coach. Someone who can help me push myself in the right direction. I'm also working with the Strengths Finder program to try and define my skills better so I'll make a better pitch in an interview.

It's difficult being at home, because even though I'm actively writing cover letters (and an essay that I hope to have up here at some point), I'm a little down in the mouth. I love being able to sleep in and have my cats around me all the time, but really, I need to be at work accomplishing something. For example, yesterday I did a 1,000 piece puzzle all by myself in two hours. It was great to be able to exercise my brain like that, but, well, it's not really an accomplishment. In a few minutes I'm going to put it back in the box, and it will be the same as if I hadn't done it at all.

I'd really like to hear from people who are looking at re-energizing their careers. I can't be the only one considering the future. What's the one piece of advice you'd give to someone?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

1

In Memorium

Veteran's Day was yesterday, and an article on the last WWI veteran made me think about the way Veterans are treated these days. I am always sad to pass the shelter at Government Center for homeless veterans. In my opinion, if someone signs up to give their life for their country, they should be respected and given more reward than to end up homeless. This goes for veterans of any war: WWI & II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I & II, etc. I don't agree with the current war, but I honor any veteran of it, because they have pledged themselves to protect our country.

Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII.







On the top is my father's father, who flew planes for the Air Force. On the bottom, way on the right, leaning over the desk is my mother's father, who worked in cartography for the Air Force. The picture was taken in a castle in Holland where he was working on strategic mapping.

I am lucky in that I knew both of these great men, and I spent a fair amount of time with my father's father, Grampa, who told me plenty of stories about his time in the service. I have only the fondest memories of him.

And so, even though it's not Veteran's Day today, I'm honoring my grandfathers, both service men. I hope you will take some time this week to honor a veteran.

Monday, November 12, 2007

0

Bicycle Built for Two

Since I am currently not bringing in a paycheck, belts have been tightened around the household. I've given up my Starbucks mochas and my penchant for used books from Amazon. Takeout has also gone by the wayside.

However, in the midst of this, Nate and I have been exploring ways to be more green while saving money. And our biggest coup has been taking up biking to do our errands. It saves us money in terms of gas for the car, which is a huge expenditure. But it has more pros than that: it's great exercise, and it's just plain fun.

Our setup involved refitting Nate's bike with a basket on the front and we bought a used cart off Craigslist for $50. It's a "Chariot," designed to carry one or two small children, but it also proves to be excellent for carrying groceries and library books.

We usually ride out to Target, but we've also taken the bikes to Deer Island for an afternoon stroll. (The grocery store is close enough that we just take a wagon and walk.)

The one problem we do encounter is the relative unfriendliness of the city roads to bicycles. In East Boston (and Revere and beyond), there are no bike lanes. Cars park on the sides of the main roads in the breakdown lane, so often, we're riding directly in traffic. When it starts to snow, we'll have to give up biking for the winter, because I can't imagine trying to navigate parked cars and snow banks.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

1

Thursday's Child

Do you know the old rhyme?

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child must work for a living,
But the child that's born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.

I was born on a Thursday, and sometimes I feel like the line in the poem is more accurate than I'd like.

But today was a really good Thursday, with the minor exception of the non-cooperation of the MBTA on my outbound trip. I went to the Women in Development Brown Bag lunch, and it was one of the best presentations I've ever attended. The two presenters were talking about best practices for creating a prospect pool for the Annual Fund, as well as ways to really work on making the most of a career in the Annual Fund in general. I took at least 4 pages of notes, and in addition, I met three possible job connections. I'm working at improving my "elevator speech," although I really dislike that term.

I feel pretty positive about the coming week, and hopefully I will have a chance to return to the regularly scheduled barrage of posts on current events, feminism, and philosophy.

Monday, November 05, 2007

5

Definite Progress

Today is my first official day of being "between jobs." And I must say, it's been a very good day so far.

I slept very late, and I didn't feel the slightest bit guilty. (Actually, I'd scheduled today as a day to do nothing but sleep.)

I've also been prepping for my interview tomorrow, and applied for two more. Also, I'd met a lovely woman last week at the Women in Devlopment networking social I attended, and she had mentioned that her co-worker was looking for an annual fund person. We traded cards, but I hadn't been able to send off my resume until today, since I had been fastidiously making sure I left my last job neat and tidy for my replacement to pick up from. It took one hour from my email to the woman to the hiring manager calling me to schedule an interview. I can only say, I'm thrilled.

Before the work issues began, I had ordered for myself a set of "personal" business cards from VistaPrint.com with my home info, email, and this blog URL on them. They were supposed to be to give out to new friends. But, since I needed contact info to give out, I ended up using them at the networking event. I'm considering ordering a new set without the URL, and a little less "me" (they're black with gems spilling in the bottom corner). It would cost about $15, so I may just go ahead and do it.

Other considerations have been springing for nice paper for resume printouts; the stuff I currently have is nice, but pale blue. It worked fine last time around, but I'm not sure I want to be "quirky" on paper.

Any advice is much welcomed and appreciated.

1

Something Rotten

The headline at the top of my Gmail Inbox just a moment ago:

Yahoo! News: Entertainment News - Oprah wept at learning of school assault (AP) - 3 hours ago


Why is this entertainment? Shouldn't a school assault be regular news, or at least filed under outrage? The ironies of the American cult of celebrity astonish me.

Friday, November 02, 2007

2

Resource Found

In looking for ideas about how to sum up my goals, I stumbled across a very informative new website, with an amazing amount of links to even more information about succeeding in the non-profit world. I am completely amazed at the depth and breadth of content. If you are interested in the non-profit world, please stop by Perspectives from the Pipeline by Rosetta Thurman.

The post I especially liked was How to Kickstart Your Non-Profit Career in 7 Days. Some of the things on the list were things I've already done, like join LinkedIn, or check out Idealist.org, but the organization of how each building block can create a career foundation was really inspiring.

3

October Poll Results

I'm happy to say that 88% of my voters are green commuters.

Subway/Train
6 (66%)
Bicycle
0 (0%)
Foot
1 (11%)
Car
2 (22%)
Airplane
0 (0%)


Votes: 9

But I wish more people would vote. There's no way this is a statistically significant poll, so I can't use the data to really shout about how my readers are very cool and doing their part to be good green commuters.

1

Setting Goals

As I idle here at my desk, cleared of almost all its clutter, I am considering my next moves. I have a job interview on Tuesday with a consulting firm. I am waiting for a call from another firm, who I may just call myself if I don't hear from them by lunchtime.

But I'm thinking about direction. Where am I coming from? Who am I? Where am I going?



This is Gaugin's masterpiece: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

A few years back, the MFA ran an exhibit, Gaugin in Tahiti. I had never really appreciated Gaugin until then, mostly seeing him as a misogynistic pseudo-Impressionist. But I loved the exhibit, especially seeing a familiar piece I had always known from the Worcester Art Museum. Growing up in Central Mass, no year of elementary school was complete without a trip to the Worcester Art Museum, a wonderful gem of a museum that not enough people know about or go to. It was amazing to see the Brooding Woman in context at last, and it suddenly made sense to me.

I loved seeing the freedom that Gaugin experienced in Tahiti, to explore his art, his passion. And now, as I enter a "free" stage in my life, I want to really discover my passions and learn what I want to set as a goal for myself.

For the past five years, I have wanted to be a college president. My dream was to found an educational complex, a college with a K-12 school attached to it. A women's college and school. A school with half the students paying tuition, and the other half on full grants, coming from places where women are not allowed or encouraged to be educated, women from Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and rural China. I had dreams of an international experience for women, to band together, to take their skills to these places where women are oppressed and demand change, work for change. This was my dream.

And now, I don't think being a college president will get me there. I think I need to immerse myself in learning to raise funds, but also to learn about how to work for social change. Dreaming big isn't going to get me anywhere without action. And now, in this time of freedom, I am going to figure out how to create action.

Light, camera, ACTION.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

0

Be Nice, But Not Too Nice

Yet another relevant article on the topic of Women at Work. Lisa Belkin today dissects the various research that has been conducted recently in determining how people perceive woman at work. This involves taking into account her expression of emotions, how she dresses, and all the other hard-to-nail-down instances of how women are easily kept out of the top tiers of leadership.

[Of course I found much of this striking a chord with my own current situation. One of my confidantes here said that a possible reason for my ouster was that my amazing capabilities and intelligence (yes, that was said about me, and it felt great to know that someone thinks so highly of me) may have threatened a few people. I think this would be an example of a woman being unafraid to voice new ideas, and being "unfeminine." One thing I've learned from this office is that double-standards rule.]

I think the research presented by the group Catalyst, headed by Ilene Lang was the most clear cut on the damning situation for women at work:

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.

In 2006, Catalyst looked at stereotypes across cultures (surveying 935 alumni of the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland) and found that while the view of an ideal leader varied from place to place — in some regions the ideal leader was a team builder, in others the most valued skill was problem-solving. But whatever was most valued, women were seen as lacking it.

I'm very intrigued by the work presented by Catalyst, and it even crossed my mind to look into a job there. Sadly, it would involve relocating out of state, which is not a possibility until Nate finishes graduate school.

Some of these perception issues continue to pop up, time and again, and in order to avoid them in the future, I've been trolling various websites for advice on keeping on top of the situation. I've found some helpful pieces on Damsels in Success, and some of the other sites you'll find listed under "Recommended Reading" on the sidebar.

It's odd to be learning about these things while I'm already out in the world; I wish I'd been prepared in high school or college. But then again, my high school's entire mission was to get me into college, and at college, I spent all my time studying or working to pay for college. How ironic.

Maybe my next venture could involve training high school girls to anticipate these situations? It's certainly food for thought.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1

Suffer the Children

My 13 year old niece has been visiting from interstate with her best friend. It’s been an education! But an interesting event took place between the two of them over a foul chess maneuver which left me thinking.

It turns out one had allegedly failed to call a “check” and what followed soon evolved to a lengthy debate on who was right, who was in the wrong, the rules of chess and the possible remedies. On and on it went.

About 5 minutes into the discussion I felt my mother’s voice welling inside of me. I was about to interject with mum’s infamous “that’s enough!” to restore “harmony” in the household when I was struck like a bolt out of the blue.

The girls were behaving exactly as any leader would expect of their followers: there was no bad language; no temper tantrum; no name calling. Just a good debate by the “wronged” on the facts of the case, what rules had been broken and what result should flow. So why bring it to a premature and unresolved ending, when they clearly were willing and able to reach a resolution (which they went on to do)?

It occurred to me that had it been my nephew and his mate, I would probably not have batted an eyelid. Boys will be boys. Yet for the girls, I had a notion of what was “appropriate” under my watch and I was ready to respond accordingly.

I wonder if this conditioning flows on to our professional lives, as I so often see senior women failing to stand their ground on issues they know to be well founded. Whether it’s fear of being a dissenting voice, a lack of confidence, or a perception of how a lady should behave, there are many women out there who struggle with this.

Yet we are educated, intelligent women with knowledge to share and passion to give. So don’t hold back. Stand your ground and stand out as a leader.

--Jen Dalitz, Damsels in Success Forum


It's funny to read this, because I know in my heart of hearts, I am very biased toward girls over boys. I am so attached to my own memories of girlhood, and I want to right all the wrongs I see in the world that hold them back. I worry not about boys, they will be fine. They will be strong and get through life just fine. But the girls... they are told they are baby factories. They are taught to play with dolls and not trucks. They are told to wear pink and not blue. They are told they won't work hard enough to succeed in math and science, or worse, that they can't understand it simply because they have two X chromosomes. They are brainwashed into believing that they must be beautiful to succeed, not smart.

If I had a daughter, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't think twice about a similar situation. I'd probably listen to the debate, and hope my daughter was out-arguing her opponent.

I don't know what I'd do if I had a son.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

1

Iraqi Revolution

I first properly studied the French Revolution in college, taking a graduate course on the topic from Simon Schama's protogee, Kathleen Kete. I did well in the course, and wrote my final project on Marie Antoinette, but I really didn't absorb as much as I could have. (At the time, I was a Royalist through and through.)

Since then, I've read a lot more about the Revolution, spurred by my trip to Paris in 2005, where I saw a lot of the historical sites, and picked up some books about the topic. The book that stands out most in my mind is The Lost King of France, by Deborah Cadbury. It's a short book, but gives an excellent overview of the Revolution and the Terror.

At the Museum of Fine Arts, the latest exhibit is Napoleon: Symbols of Power. The review of how the Empire style developed paints a picture of the Revolution as well, showing how the Democratic ideals of the Revolution eventually gave way to Napoleon's imperial domination.

It's strange to consider the American relationship to the Revolution; had Louis XVI not spent so much money supporting the American Revolution, he might have had more funding to feed the Third Estate, and the Revolution might have gone very differently. It might not have happened at all.

And now, Francois Furstenberg provides another Franco-American link through the Revolution:

If the French Terror had a slogan, it was that attributed to the great orator Louis de Saint-Just: “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” Saint-Just’s pithy phrase (like President Bush’s variant, “We must not let foreign enemies use the forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself”) could serve as the very antithesis of the Western liberal tradition.

On this principle, the Terror demonized its political opponents, imprisoned suspected enemies without trial and eventually sent thousands to the guillotine. All of these actions emerged from the Jacobin worldview that the enemies of liberty deserved no rights.

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

I was surprised to learn the origin of the word "terrorist," and the connection is chillingly apt. I am not the only person who feels that the term terrorist applies equally to Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush.

A part of me looks at the way the country has allowed George Bush to erode the powers of Congress, and make himself a more imperial leader, and I shudder to think of the future. Part of me wonders if it wouldn't be better if we all rose up in revolution, razed the current administration and rewrote the Constitution to be more precise in guaranteeing rights to all. I'd like to see the Electoral College replaced with one vote for each person. I'd like fair voting rights for all, and rid ourselves of measures that keep minorities from voting. I would like to make all people equal, that a poor man could have as much chance for running for office as a poor man. I would like to see campaign spending limits, to prevent money from dictating our leaders.

I want my own Revolution. But a safe one, without Terror.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

4

Looking for Answers

My life is in limbo.

I'm not sure where I'm going, or what I'm going to do.

My career is in crisis.

Yesterday, I had a panic attack that took me to the emergency room.

Today, I'm trying to pick up all of the pieces.

Hopefully, by next Friday, there will be something to grab on to.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2

Letter Read*

In October of 2002, when the Bush Administration was actively pushing the Iraq War (and Vice President Cheney made those great remarks about how civilians would be spared through the miracles of modern warfare's intricate targeting abilities), I wrote a letter to George Bush telling him that I didn't think that invading Iraq was a sound plan, and that it was unfair to kill Iraqis in the quest for blood payment from the perpetrators of September 11th, which had nothing to do with Iraq.

Months later, just after the initial invasion, I received a letter from one of Bush's press secretaries, which read, succinctly, "Thank you for your input, but we're going to go ahead with our plan anyway."

Today I have in my hands a letter from an alumnus responding to a recent change in faculty at the Institution. He feels that the changes are untrue to the College's mission, and wanted to let us know that he won't be donating to the College anymore. This is a red flag for my supervisor, because this gentleman has given us over $130,000 over the years. So I am charged with writing a response to him.

And looking over the press releases I have to draw my answer from, I feel like I am essentially writing the same letter the press secretary wrote to me: "Thanks for your concern, but we're not changing our policy." I feel like a tool of the Institution. I feel disappointed in myself writing this letter, because I happen to personally agree with the alumnus.

I suppose I could ask to have this letter reassigned, but the truth is, I really shine in writing. I need a chance to show that I'm really good at writing, and opportunities like this don't often fall in my lap. So I'm trying to craft as neat a response as I can without making the alumnus feel like I'm blowing him off.

* Title from my favorite tune by Rachael Yamagata

Monday, October 22, 2007

1

Big Green Taxi

I think anyone who's been paying attention knows that the biggest pollution problem in America is the car (or really, SUVs, because they're gas-guzzling pigs). I don't own a car, but Nate does, and we do drive sometimes, but mostly, we take the train. Driving is really for places the train doesn't go.

Now part of the biggest problem of cars (and buses and trucks) is idling. There have been laws passed in some urban areas prohibiting school buses from idling while they wait to pick up children after school. But there are still tons of people idling all over the city; the driver who lets the car run while he "just nips in" to get some money from the ATM. Or the idling in the drive-through at McDonalds, while people wait for their food, or their change. All that idling contributes major pollution to the air.

In NYC, however, SmartTransportation.org has lobbied the city government to replace taxis (chronic idlers, and pollutant spewing machines) with hybrid vehicles. I think this is a great idea. And Thomas Friedman, in writing, also explored the effect of the change on all the stakeholders:

I asked Evgeny Freidman, a top New York City fleet operator, how he liked the hybrids: “Absolutely fabulous! We started out with 18, and now we have over 200, mostly Ford Escapes. Now we only put hybrids out there. The drivers are demanding them and the public is demanding them. It has been great economically. With gas prices as they are, the drivers are saving $30 dollars a shift.” He said drivers who were getting 7 to 10 miles a gallon from their Crown Vics were getting 25 to 30 from their hybrids. The cost of shifting to these hybrids, he added, has not been onerous.


T. Friedman's point in the column is how to make change through a grassroots effort. And so, I took the idea to heart, and I wrote to the LEV (low emissions vehicle) project coordinator in Boston, and also to SmartTransportation.org to see how I can get involved to help push the hybrid taxi idea here in Boston. Since Governor Deval Patrick is already investing in wind power, I think it would be great if he could back better emissions standards for taxis by making them hybrids. I suspect if the effort were started, it would easily go through.

Friday, October 19, 2007

1

An Inconvenient Injury

When I weigh the choice to have a child or not, and I imagine the possibility of having a baby, I always imagine myself in a hospital, with ice chips, and my husband by my side holding my hand, having nurses clean off the baby, and holding a healthy infant, safe and warm in a clean bed. I imagine having access to painkillers, medicine if needed, and someone to follow up in case of complications.

In developing countries, women who give birth often do so in huts, with dirt floors, with no painkillers, no ice chips, no sterile environment at all. Labor complications can occur with no one to help. If a woman can get to a hospital, often times she can't afford the medical care she needs, like a C-section, or antibiotics for infection.

And worst of all, particularly for extremely young mothers (under 20), there is the risk of developing a fistula. It's an ugly word, fistula. It's caused during obstructed labor and is basically a rip between the vagina and bladder and/or rectum, that leave the mother incontinent. Usually the baby dies, or is stillborn. The woman is then ostracized.

Here is a story from one such unlucky woman:

HALIMA GOUROUKOYE, 18, NIAMEY, NIGER

I was 13 years old when I was married to my husband and 14 when I developed fistula after a difficult birth.

It was an arranged marriage. I wasn't happy about it but my parents told me that he was a good man and that he would look after me. It's better than nothing.

I got pregnant after my very first period. I didn't understand what was happening with my body. I started to have little illnesses and the traditional medicine wasn't working so my husband told me to go to the clinic.

It was there that they told me that I was pregnant. My reaction was: "Oh God! I'm dead!".

When I returned home I was still ill all the time but I continued to do everything - I had to collect wood, prepare meals, clean the house and care for my husband as well as work in the fields. I had to do everything.

When the time came for me to give birth, I had two days of labour at home because in my culture it is preferred if you can give birth at home.

But it wasn't working so I went to a clinic. Labour continued and they said I would need a Caesarean section but the doctor sent me home because I couldn't afford the operation.

I had to wait for my family to collect the money to pay for the operation. Then we drove to Niamey which took a day. By that stage I had been in labour for days. I didn't know where I was, I was almost unconscious.

At Niamey they carried out the Caesarean. The baby died. He was a boy, I felt so sad.

Three days after the birth I realised that I could not hold in my urine. I was told to be patient but the leaking carried on for six days. They told me to go home and come back in two months.

We didn't tell my husband, we told him that I was ill and I went back to stay with my parents. We tried to hide it from everyone.

They thought I was cursed. I didn't want anyone in the village to know. I felt very isolated.

After two months we returned to Niamey to a non-governmental organisation which helped me.

I had one operation and I was healed. I was delighted. Before, I was always crying but afterwards it was like I was reborn. Only now that I am healed does my husband know what happened to me.


Stories like this make me want to cry. Halima lived for months like that. If you click on the link, you can read another story, and the woman in that one suffered her fistula for 12 years. I've read worse stories in other places, including one of a 13 year old who suffered a rectal fistula and was left by her husband to die in a makeshift hut in the woods with no food and surrounded by wolves. It makes me sick to think that my cat Brooksie got better medical care for her cancer than these women do for the basic function of giving birth.

OBSTETRIC FISTULA FACTS
  • Caused by prolonged labour
  • Hole develops between vagina and rectum or bladder
  • Renders women incontinent
  • Occurs almost entirely in developing world
  • Two million have the condition
  • Up to 100,000 cases each year
  • Operation costs £170 ($350)

Source: UN Population Fund

Each year at the holidays, I make a donation to the Campaign to End Fistula. I encourage others to join me. It's a very simple operation in most cases, and there are so many women who need it.


(C) 2007 - 2009 Kate Hutchinson. All rights reserved.

All opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the author.