Monday, December 29, 2008


Hypocritical Torture

Hypocrisy does not sit well with me, and I'd just like to bring your attention to a case that I'd like to see bite the Defense Department in the ass. We all know that during this misguided "War on Terror" that the US military has tortured prisoners. Even Dick Cheney thinks waterboarding is a "no brainer."

With that in mind, prosecutors are currently seeking a 147-tear prison term for Charles Emmanuel for--wait for it--torture.

MIAMI -- U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father's reign.

Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles "Chuckie" Taylor Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.

A recent Justice Department court filing describes torture -- which the U.S. has been accused of in the war on terror -- as a "flagrant and pernicious abuse of power and authority" that warrants severe punishment of Mr. Taylor.

"It undermines respect for and trust in authority, government and a rule of law," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller in last week's filing. "The gravity of the offense of torture is beyond dispute."


Mr. Emmanuel, a U.S. citizen born in Boston, was head of the Antiterrorist Unit in Liberia from 1997 to 2003, when his father left power. Trial testimony described the ATU, also known as the "Demon Forces," as an elite battalion used to silence opponents of the president, train fighters for other African conflicts and conduct brutal interrogations of prisoners.

Witnesses described horrific torture techniques involving electric shocks, molten plastic, lit cigarettes, hot clothes irons, bayonets and even biting ants shoveled onto people's bodies. Prisoners were often kept in water-filled pits covered by heavy iron grates and barbed wire.

Mr. Emmanuel had argued in previous court papers that he was being unfairly prosecuted for acts similar to those committed by U.S. personnel in Iraq and elsewhere.

The administration of President George W. Bush has been criticized by some around the world and in Congress for using aggressive interrogation techniques. Justice Department memos were seen as providing legal underpinnings for some of the techniques.

However, administration officials have blamed abuses at places such as Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison on a small number of soldiers or agents and insisted there has been no systematic mistreatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The issue as I see it: Emmanuel, a US citizen, tortures other people, and the justice system is trying to sentence him to (effectively) life in prison. From the description of the torture above, I'm certain that Emmanuel was helped in his endeavors, maybe by a small number of soldiers or agents.

The Bush Administration has engaged in torture. It conveniently calls these incidents "harsh interrogation techniques." The hypocrisy is that although we have evidence that the White House approved torture (such as waterboarding), the only people who will be punished will the soliders who followed orders, and not, as in the case of Emmanuel, the person giving the orders. It is entirely unfair that the US will prosecute people who commit torture elsewhere, but not our own citizens.

A few acquaintances wonder how I can have so little faith in President Bush and his administration. (This usually crops up when I say that I believe that Bush et al knew 9/11 was coming and let it happen to build political capital.) As Caroline Heck Miller says (see above), this issue has undermined my trust and respect for the government.


Cyberbullying and an Older Generation

I had a strange phone call with my mother today. It started as a flurry of emails:

Mom: Can you go on Facebook? Is there a group called LOLenactors? Can you see it?

Me: I'll check. No, I don't see this group. Do you know someone in the group? I could look up a profile and see if someone's a member?

Mom: Fred Farby.

Me: I'll check. Okay, I have Fred Farby, and here's a list of all the groups he's in.

Mom: It's not on that list.

Me: But there's a ton of reenacting groups. Could it be you have the name wrong?

Mom: Here's an email Martin Musket sent me...

Me: It's just pictures with funny captions and lot of pointing out of farby details.

Mom: Well, someone in our group says there's really nasty comments.

Me: Well, there's remarks about people being heavier than the actual people were, and there's a rant against purple clothes. Not much else.

Mom: Someone was really ticked off by it.

Me: It's just a spoof of the LOL cats. (I explain what the LOL cats are.)

Mom: Well, a lot of people are very upset by all this.

Me: Look, if people are unhappy, we could report the group as stealing photos that
belong to other people. Or we could say it's derrogatory and offensive, that
would get it taken down too. There are ways.

Mom: well...

I don't need to go on, but really, what is this? That's right! It's cyberbullying. It's not up on par with Kathy Sierra or Megan Meier, but still, that's what we're looking at.

When I was little and people picked on me, I was always told to ignore them. It was a strange experience to be explaning the cyber version of this to my mother. I explained to her about times when I have been cyberbullied (via the DailyJolt in college, and blog comments in 2004-5), and really, the only thing you can do is ignore it. I delete nasty comments, because this blog is my space and I'm allowed to.

I wish I could explain to the "ticked off" reenactors how silly it is to be worried about a few lousy pictures like this. First off, no one is actually named in the photos. Second, the group is secret, meaning that it's limited to a handful of members. No one new is going to be able to join the group, it's not in the public domain, and it's not going to spread. I'd love to explain to these people how lucky they are not to be discussed on a major public internet forum, or to be picked up by a major blog or even a magazine.

Just like we all have to put up with an idiot or two (or seven) in the workplace, we have to put up with jerks in real life, and real life now includes the internet.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


An Interview With Kate

Q: Hey, Kate. Long time no see? Where've you been?

A: At school. Having surgery. Getting my front teeth replaced. Working my internship. Trying not to neglect my husband and cats. Celebrating the elections. Meeting cool new people.

Q: So, okay, you've been busy. But you've been busy before. So why haven't you been writing?

A: Because I'm sleep deprived. Because I need every waking moment to study. Because I spend so much brain power on school that I have nothing left to blog with.

Q: Does this mean the end of Defending Pandora?

A: No. I have a month off from school coming up and I'm planning on finishing a lot of posts that I have started and posting them. I miss writing non-assigned work.

Q: Aha! So you *have* been writing. What have you been writing about?

A: Elections. The majesty of Barack Obama. Organizational behavior at my internship. The first female four star general in the United States Armed Forces.

Q: Well, I've missed you. Thanks for letting me know.

A: I'll be back next month, and until then, you can always follow me on Twitter!

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Success of the Week

I'm tired, I'm exhausted, I've been going since 7 AM, and I'm about to head to "bed" where I'll be reading homework. It never ends. If anyone out there is considering Business School, be warned: you will never get to rest.

But, there are so many rewards in this program: amazing classmates, involved faculty, the world's best Dean, Mary D, and all the fascinating things I'm learning. And then there are the golden moments like this comment on my Organizational Behavior midterm:

You write and cite work and connect theory like an advanced doctoral student or like a faculty member. Beautiful: it is quite easy, even compelling to read your work.

I feel like I've just won a Pulitzer Prize. Hopefully this glow of achievement will carry me through the crunch of my Marketing project work next week.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008



Monday, November 03, 2008


Read Before Voting

I don't anticipate any problems voting tomorrow, after all, I'm a consistent voter and I've been alerted to and located my new polling location, and I know how to fill in the oval on my ballot. But plenty of people are going to encounter problems, because we don't have a universal voting system.

So, before you vote, read this. It's worth it to prepare in case you run into any problems at your polling place.

Heading Off Election Day Mishaps

Most Pitfalls Have a Remedy, if Voters Are Prepared; Bringing Along Proper ID

Tomorrow is Election Day: The campaign is over, and it is time to cast your ballot at last. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty. A poll worker may say you aren't registered. Your voting machine could malfunction. Your meddling neighbor could say you aren't eligible to vote. Or maybe you are offered a provisional ballot -- and what is the difference between regular ballots, provisional ballots and emergency ballots, anyway?

There is a remedy for most of these problems, and a bit of advance preparation should ensure that they never come up. Here is a voter's guide on what could go wrong at the polls and what to do about it:

  • You aren't on the voter rolls. This could happen for several reasons, and the remedies are different for each.

The huge number of new voters has caused registration backlogs in some states, and the voter rolls may not show your name if you registered just before the deadline. That "has the potential to be a significant problem," says Jonah Goldman of the nonpartisan Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

If that happens, you may have to file a provisional ballot. Elections judges open provisional ballots after Election Day and, on a case-by-case basis, decide which should be counted. Your voter-registration form will have been dated and time-stamped and will provide proof that you are eligible to vote.

Be sure you are in the right precinct and polling place. State laws differ -- in some states, a provisional ballot cast in the wrong precinct will be counted; in others, it won't. The Web site can tell you where your voting location is and how to get there.

You also might not be on the voter rolls if you haven't voted in several elections and have been moved to the inactive list. Make sure poll workers have checked all of their voter lists for your name. Inactive voters are entitled to cast regular ballots, which are counted on the night of the election and aren't subject to the additional scrutiny of provisional ballots.

Elections offices also regularly purge their rolls to remove voters who have died, moved or been convicted of felonies. Federal law outlines when and how they can do that, however, and Colorado and Michigan recently were ordered by federal judges to reinstate voters who were unlawfully purged. If your name was removed from the rolls, you might have to file a provisional ballot.

  • You don't have an ID. Only Georgia and Indiana require an identification with a current photo. Other states require some form of identification. And still others require an ID only of first-time voters who registered by mail. A map at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice Web site ( shows the ID requirements for each state.

Some states allow voters who don't have the required ID documents to file provisional ballots. Don't take a provisional ballot if you don't have to: State laws differ on how and when provisional ballots are counted, and there is a chance that yours will be excluded.

If poll workers ask for an ID even if one isn't required, you can appeal to the chief judge at your polling place or call the nonpartisan watchdog group Election Protection for guidance. Their number is 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Election Protection will operate 25 call centers, staffed by some 10,000 lawyers and other volunteers, and is expecting 100,000 calls on Election Day.

Probably the best solution to an ID problem, though, is to show your driver's license, whether it is legally required or not. "There's not a lot of time on Election Day to stand on principle," says Mr. Goldman.

  • There are voting-equipment problems. There are different remedies for different problems.

Touch-screen voting machines may lose power or otherwise stop working. In that case, polling places will have emergency paper ballots on hand. An emergency ballot, unlike a provisional ballot, is counted on the night of the election and doesn't undergo a review by election judges. Make sure your emergency ballot isn't mingled with provisional ballots, or it might not get a timely count.

Votes may "flip" on an electronic voting system, showing that you cast your vote for Barack Obama, for example, even though you are sure you voted for John McCain. Flipping usually is caused by a calibration problem, says the Brennan Center -- that is, the voting machine isn't matching up the candidate's name on the screen with his name on an internal program.

Summon a poll worker to fix the error, make sure your vote is registered properly on the summary page of the electronic ballot and then call Election Protection, which is tracking machine problems.

Many states will keep their registration lists on electronic poll books this year. In some trial tests and primaries, those have crashed or been too slow to be of any use. If that happens, there is no way poll workers can verify your registration data, and you will have to file a provisional ballot.

  • Your eligibility is challenged. The Republican Party has said it might challenge voters registered by activist groups like Acorn, whose field workers it has accused of signing up fictitious people, felons and others ineligible to vote. State laws vary widely about who can make challenges and under what conditions. In Ohio, only poll workers can challenge a voter; in Florida, any voter can challenge any other.

Be prepared for a challenge by bringing along proof of your age, identity and address. If those are in order and you are in the correct precinct, you must be offered a regular ballot. If they aren't, you may have to vote by provisional ballot.

  • The lines are long. Tough luck.

A few jurisdictions require election workers to offer emergency ballots if lines are more than 45 minutes long. Everyone else can probably expect a long wait.

Voting hours vary by state, so check the Web site of your local elections board. Everyone in line at closing time will be allowed to vote, no matter how late the polls must stay open.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Go Vote

Yes, I've been MIA, I know, but here's what it comes down to. On Tuesday, you're going to go vote. VOTE.

You're going to vote because you care what happens to your country. Or because you want change in Washington. Or you're some nutbag who really wants McCain in office. Or you believe in the future, universal healthcare, tax reform, social services, education, and a president who can pronounce "nuclear", so you're going to put the best candidate, Barack Obama in the White House.

Or maybe just because Harrison Ford is so damn compelling.

Whatever. Take tomorrow to find out where your polling place is. Mark out a time to go vote. Maybe before work, on your coffee break, at lunch, whenever. Make sure you do it. Call someone to give you a ride there if necessary. Just make sure it's on your schedule, or BlackBerry or whatever.

It's your future.


Friday, October 24, 2008


I Would Tap That, My Friend

I offer a lighter look at Presidential politics today, courtesy of Wonkette, and my friend Jamie. - Watch more free videos

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Universal Healthcare Works

Before the economy took a nose-dive and sucked up almost all available air time in this election, one of the biggest issues the concerned voting Americans was Health Care. It's still a big issue; it's just been dwarfed by the fact that Wall Street has crashed.

I live in Massachusetts, where, since 2006, we have had state-wide universal health care. The bill was signed into law reluctantly by Mitt Romney, our ersatz governor at the time. He was quite open in his opposition to the bill, saying that health care was the responsibility of families. He felt that this move would hurt the insurance companies and drive up insurance costs.

Romney's fears were not realized to a great extent. In Mass., you now have the option to select an insurer on your own, pick from numerous plans, with a wide range of prices. There is a governmental office to help you pay for insurance if you can't afford it on your own. The numbers of the uninsured in Mass have plummeted. Emergency room wait times have dropped because they are no longer the only place for the uninsured to go for treatment for routine problems. The response has been overwhelming: people want to be insured and the universal system works to keep them insured. In the long run, this will mean more preventative care, which will improve the state's health overall and lead to a drop in health care costs.

When I lost my job last year, I couldn't afford coverage under the COBRA system. So, I called a few health insurance companies and found that Blue Cross Blue Shield offered a great plan at $200 less than COBRA. I was very happy with that plan. When my budget dropped significantly this summer, I looked at my options again. I could sign on to my husband's insurance plan, but it would actually cost more to insure me this way (his employer's "family" plan only becomes economical once children come into the picture). So I shopped around again, and found an even cheaper, comparable plan from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

I know one woman who until recently was between jobs, and she didn't want to pay for health insurance in between. She's lucky that nothing went wrong in those six months. But I wasn't willing to take that risk, and so, when I went to the hospital earlier this week, I could focus just on the surgery and recovery, and not worry about how much the stay at MGH would cost me out of pocket.

When John McCain talks about his $5,000 health care credit, that is bunk. For me as a single person, that wouldn't cover my monthly premiums, to say nothing of my deductibles, co-pays, prescription costs, and so forth. The system today is set up to favor the health insurance companies. Here in MA, the companies get plenty of business from the previously uninsured, and a dose of healthy competetion.

I would like to see people all over the country have the same options that I do regarding health care. Universal Health Care Works.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Picking Up

Thank you to everyone who wrote to me with your kind thoughts! All those emails and comments really made me feel better.

Yesterday around 1:00 I had my gallbladder removed via larascopy. I now have four beautiful small holes around my abdomen, which are all patched up. The surgeon came by this morning and said they looked "perfect." They're going to discharge me today, but I will be at home and resting for the rest of the week.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of all of this: I'll have a few days to read and study, and I can rest at home with the cats. Maybe I can even put out a real blog entry!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Engine Off Track

Today I write to you from the hallowed halls of Mass General Hospital, the same place that recently treated Sen. Ted Kennedy.  Last night I was quite ill, and ended up going to the emergency room.  This morning I was admitted and I go in for surgery sometime in the next hour.

I've never had major surgery before, and I will be quite frank that I'm a little afraid.  I'll write again when they let me go home.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The Little Engine That Could

It's October now, and my first semester at Simmons is halfway over. As you might guess, I'm mostly occupied with my coursework, and additionally I've taken on a paid internship to help make ends meet.

I really enjoy my internship, and it makes everything I learn in school instantly applicable. In Quantitative Analysis, I've been learning about charting information and analyzing data, which lines up with the data analysis project I'm doing at work, tracking the efficacy of an email program. The position is in the Communications Office of the firm, and I have a chance to apply the theories I learn in Marketing to the outgoing communications pieces that I work on.

The job is a testimony to networking--my supervisor is a Simmons alumna, and I was introduced through the Simmons career services office.

I'm truly surprised by my ability to handle so much work at once, as well as still keeping in touch with friends and family, and spending enough time with my husband. I hope I can keep this up until December.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Apple: Customer Service Superstars

Meet Christian and Jess. As you might guess from the distinctive plexiglass staircase in the background, these two fine, upstanding Apple salesfolk work at the Boylston Street location. Christian and Jess were so amazingly helpful that I decided they needed a commendation via blog post.

The Background: In my classes, I take notes via my computer, so I don't have to worry about deciphering my own handwriting, and because I can type faster than I can write. This works superbly for my Marketing class, or my Organizational Behavior class. On the other hand, for Economics, I run into some trouble. I am required to sketch diagrams for demand schedules and marginal utility schedules, which can't be done by typing.

I cast about for a solution, and finally remembered my supervisor at my first job having a similar problem. He was teaching distance learning courses to Senegal from Boston, and in the "virtual classroom" had a really difficult time trying to write equations (he taught Physics). His solution was a Wacom Tablet. Think of a mouse mat, but instead of just having a mouse, it also has a stylus. The software integrated with various existing programs so that you could use the stylus just like a pen on the screen. This seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. If I had a stylus, I could simply draw my diagrams right onto the page in my virtual notebook.

A tablet is a complicated piece, and while I could have bought one online, I decided to go to the Apple Store to see what they recommended and to ask how exactly it would work with my MacBook. I did a little research prior to my trip, and had come to the general conclusion that I was looking for a Wacom Bamboo. I was pointed in the right direction immediately, and once I found the item on the shelf, I found myself asking Christian for some help with my questions about how it worked.

Christian was very friendly, and knew immediately that Jess was the person in the store who knew most about the Bamboo. He took me and the product down to where she was, and discovered that she was already helping another customer. I smiled, and said, "That's okay, I can wait for her for a bit." And yet, instead of a "See you later," Christian stayed with me and helped me find some of the needed information from the tech specs on the box, and then we pulled out my MacBook to determine what version of MS Office I was running and if it would be compatible. I really appreciated his interest and earnestness in helping me out.

When Jess came over, she was very enthusiastic about the Bamboo. Jess is an illustrator and uses a tablet for drawing; apparently my need for a tool to draw Econ diagrams was not something she encountered very often. The two of them were absolute poster-children for customer service: friendly, knowledgeable, working together to help me, the customer. And to boot, they taught me a new trick for using Photo Booth: holding the shift key when taking a photo shuts off the flash and holding the option key shuts off the countdown before the photo.

A few days later, I am very happy with my Bamboo. It works brilliantly with the "Scribble" feature in Word's Notebook layout. I can draw to my heart's content, and I really like using it for mousing too. If you're interested in a tool for drawing, do take a peek at the Bamboo.

And if you're in the neighborhood, stop by the Boylston Street Apple Store and say hi to Christian and Jess. I'm sure they'll help you out too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Sarah Palin, Unqualified for Office

The election nears, and I have to admit, the most interesting thing to me right now is Sarah Palin. I've already talked about her and her stance on women's reproductive rights, but I can't stop there. Things tumble from the media outlets that I cannot ignore: her complete ignorance of the Bush Doctrine (see above), combining prayer and policy, inquiring about banning books, accepting extravagant gifts from Big Oil... If John McCain thinks this woman is fit to be Vice President, he isn't fit to be President.

The LA Times has a great piece on Palin and her bizarre career in the public eye. I say bizarre, because she is outspoken about certain issues, like abortion, but often fails to follow up on her rhetoric:

As governor and in her formative role as mayor of Wasilla, Palin has trod carefully between her evangelical faith and public policy on issues such as abortion and library books. At times she has retreated when her moves have sparked controversy or proved politically impractical.

She has harnessed the political muscle of social conservatives and antiabortion groups, yet she did not push hard for a special legislative session on abortion, and she did not challenge a court ruling that allowed health insurance for same-sex partners of state workers.

Essentially, we have a politician who says whatever will get her elected, but won't actually do anything that will affect her approval rating. I simply cannot respect this behavior; if you say you believe in something, you should put your money where your mouth is. Perhaps Mrs. Palin was simply too busy shooting moose or riding her ATV to do anything more than spout anti-abortion rhetoric.

Another red flag from the archives: upon being elected governor, she refused to work with her assigned gubernatorial mentor. Mentors exist to build relationships and serve as advisers. I worry about a person who can only be described by her mentor as "nice":

"I think most people who have met her think she's very pleasant and a nice person to be around," Rounds said. "She's just a very nice person. She's quiet and doesn't say a whole lot unless you ask her specific questions, and then she'll share with you what her thoughts are."
Her thoughts include equating proximity to Siberia to foreign policy experience with Russia:

"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska," she said. "It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."

To end on a positive note, a quarter I normally consider less than intelligent on political issues--Hollywood--is at least smart enough to reject Miss Wasilla's official act:

"I don’t think I would want her running the country.... I’m not going to vote for her because she’s a woman.

-- Eva Longoria on TV's "Extra"

"This woman hates women.…She is not a feminist. She is not the woman that's going to come behind Hillary Clinton and do anything that Hillary Clinton would've been capable of.... I can't imagine overturning Roe vs. Wade. She's not of this time. The woman terrifies me."

-- Pink

“I think there’s a really good chance that Sarah Palin could be president, and I think that’s a really scary thing, 'cause I don’t know anything about her -- I don’t think in eight weeks I’m going to know anything about her. I know that she was a mayor of a really, really small town and she’s the governor for Alaska for less than two years. I just don’t understand. I think the pick was made for political purposes.... Do the actuary tables and there’s a 1 out of 3 chance, if not more, that [John] McCain doesn’t survive his first term and it’ll be President Palin…. It’s like a really bad Disney movie. The hockey mom, you know, ‘Oh, I’m just a hockey mom’… and she’s facing down President Putin [of Russia]…. It’s totally absurd …. It’s a really terrifying possibility.”

-- Matt Damon

It is a terrifying possibility, particularly when you do consider the chances of McCain dying in office. Or even if you consider the amazing amount of power that a Vice President can wield now, thanks to Dick Cheney. This is a woman who thrives on personal gain and grudges. Do you really want her finger "on the button" when John McCain is having his annual colonoscopy?

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Reflecting on the Presidential Debate

Image credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

The image above is striking.

Taken at the debate last night, this photo shows the two candidates greeting each other on stage. John McCain, the Republican nominee, older, more experienced, stands quietly and passively, while Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, younger, impassioned, and well-studied, leans over in a gesture of greeting. The two men are shown in crystal-clear contrast, and the viewer is left to see the Old Guard being passed over in favor of the New Leadership.

Overall, I was disappointed in the debate last night. Neither man really spoke to the other, as encouraged to by moderator Jim Lehrer, although Obama made an effort to address his opponent directly. Both candidates evaded questions, particularly about how they would adjust spending based on the current economic climate. Answers were vague: McCain said he would "rein in spending" without saying what spending he would cut. Obama spoke well about his top priorities (energy, health care, science and technology, and education) but couldn't offer anything that wasn't a top priority.

I admit, I continually kept thinking that John Kerry was a much better presidential debater in 2004. But then again, Kerry debated against Bush, as opposed to McCain, who is at least much smarter than our current president.

It was an evenly matched debate, and the most informative portion was the section on foreign policy (which really deteriorated into a discussion about war policy). Here, the two candidates differ greatly, and each made a convincing case for his point of view. I am much more in favor of Obama's preference for diplomacy than I am McCain's provocative "League of Democracies." (Obama made a wonderful point that should McCain create a "League of Democracies," it would disclude two major nations, China and Russia--"you can hardly call them democracies.")

According to the Wall Street Journal online poll of readers, Obama won the debate. I would agree, but part of what pushed Obama over the edge of the close encounter was his style. In split screen views, McCain spent the time while Obama spoke by laughing to himself, blinking rapidly, and not paying very much attention. In contrast, Obama listened carefully to what McCain said, and made very few quirky facial expressions. In speaking, Obama used no Washington insider language, and used good rhetortical phrasing (i.e. "Let me speak clearly..."). John McCain often appeared stiff, which only added to the impression of his age.

Obama enjoyed many advantages, not least of which was his choice of running mate. When speaking on foreign policy, Obama specifically mentioned choosing Joe Biden for his Vice Presidential nominee because of his foreign policy experience. This indicates a willingness to lean on others for their expertise, creating a Master Mind, if you will. On the other hand, McCain was unable to speak of the advantages of his running mate, Sarah Palin, because she believes her proximity to Russia equates to foreign policy experience. Knowing this, I felt it was ridiculous for McCain to be continually telling Obama "you don't understand" foreign policy.

(I can remember in the 1992 election between Ross Perot, George Bush, and Bill Clinton, my mother explaining me that people were afraid to vote for Perot because of his running mate, James Stockdale. In the event that Perot could not uphold his duties, she said, no one wanted Stockdale to become President. I often wonder if anyone considers that angle when looking at McCain's candidacy. McCain is of an advanced age, and if elected president, and his health failed, I would be appalled to have Palin become Commander in Chief.)

I believe Obama to be the winner of last night's debate, but not by much. I would hope that in their next meeting, both candidates would bring more discussion to the podium, instead of more planned speeches. And I would also hope that someone would bring some BenGay for McCain, to keep him from looking so stiff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Marketing Study: New Balance

For my Marketing class this semester, I've been assigned a group to work with. Our project is to select a company/product/brand and create a marketing plan for it, including analysis of data (all the data: target customers, budgeting, track records, etc.).

My group has selected New Balance, for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Our group has two athletes who are interested in working with sports gear
  • One group member has a degree in fashion retail
  • It's a local company
  • They are a large share of the sneaker market (#5 maker in the world)
  • They don't have that much brand recognition
Our particular focus is how New Balance markets itself to women. We've done some starting research into their vision and goals for the next five years, and who they currently sell to.

The disadvantage to working on New Balance is that they are a privately held company. This means that they have no publicly traded stock, and no annual report. This afternoon I tried calling New Balance's Marketing department to see if anyone there would be interested in hearing about our project and possibly providing some more data for it, outside of what we can glean from the lean pickings on the website. Sadly, I was given the brush off. I was fairly disappointed, but I knew that it was a possible outcome.

I'd be interested to hear from my readers. Are any of you New Balance fans? Do you have a story you can share about New Balance shoes or athletic gear? Would you be willing to take a survey next month for this project?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The Secret Life of the Overscheduled

For most of my life, I have known people who were overscheduled. Some of them were high school overachievers, the star athlete who also did drama, took 3 AP courses, and volunteered at the local soup kitchen while also taking piano lessons and being tutored for the SAT. Some of them were people with families, kids who needed to be picked up from school or taken to doctor's appointments, dinners waiting to be made, playdates to arrange. I was never one of these people; I always made sure there was plenty of time to do everything I wanted without being rushed, and still have room left over for an afternoon nap.

I look back on this former self and laugh. I have joined the overscheduled. I go to business school full-time, which means classes five days a week and study sessions and group project meetings too. I've just landed a communications internship, which will add 16 hours per week to my schedule. I'm on a Women in Development Committee, and there are untold hours of homework reading and writing. The afternoon nap has gone by the wayside, along with the afghan I was crocheting, and a stack of recipes I was hoping to try out. Forget Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Bones. I don't even have my subways commute to myself anymore; instead of bopping along to Duffy's Rockferry, I'm now reviewing cases for class discussions, or consulting my notes on Economics.

What I find most amusing about this is that I have a once a week gig as an Academic Coach now, and when I first met my client (we'll call her Maggie--not her real name), I was dumbfounded as to how she could cram so much into her schedule. Her school, a particular religious school, takes up her day from 8-6, followed by extra-curriculars every evening (community service, drama club, newspaper, etc.). Her weekends are squeezed by Sabbath observance. I work with her on time management, building a solid schedule with awareness of assignments and due dates, prioritizing work, reviewing drafts of her writing, and so forth.

All of my work with Maggie has given me a lot of perspective on my own now jam-packed schedule. I try to approach what I'm doing with the same attitude that I convey to Maggie: be prepared. Do what you can in advance. Ask for help when you need it. I find my coaching work is as beneficial to me as it is to Maggie.

This weekend, I have scheduled in a barbecue for some friends, as my designated relaxing time. I'm coming to realize that you can't schedule so much work and relax in between; you must actually schedule your down time, or you will miss it. You'll end up filling it in with yet another hour of work.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Reading Roundup

Another week dominated by school projects, another weekly roundup of things I've been skimming online:

Friday, September 12, 2008


Apple: Fumble and Recovery

Ah, the Genius Bar, where Mac Geniuses crowd to answer any and all questions you may have. Aside from the pretentious name, the Genius Bar is a great customer service tool in the Apple Empire. In my days of PC ownership, I never had the option to go to a PC retailer and have my questions answered about how to set up scheduled diagnostics, or install a wireless network. But at the Apple Store, any Mac owner can ask unlimited questions and have them answered by people who really understand the product.

Last week, I took my MacBook to the Apple Store on Boylston Street because the deck plate was cracking. (This is the official name for the piece of plastic that covers the surface area around the keys on the keyboard.) Particularly, the resting spots for my hands were covered with cracks and pieces of it had broken off on the right side of the mousepad. I was not happy, so I consulted the Genius Bar to find out what could be done about this.

Matt, the genius I met with, was the most unhelpful Apple customer service person I'd ever met. His seemed unconcerned with the breakage, and told me it was a very common problem, without offering a solution. When I pressed him, he told me the deck plate could be replaced, but it would take two or three days. When I pointed out that I am in business school and can't let my laptop go for that long, he just shrugged. As I continued to argue, Matt motioned to the Genius Bar scheduler to send over the next person in line, essentially telling me that he was done listening to me. Needless to say, I left angry, frustrated, and unsatisfied.

Two hours later, my husband, who was just as upset over the issue, came by and said he would fix the problem. He took my Mac and left me to chat with a friend over a snack at a nearby cafe, and returned in about half an hour. "Victory!" he declared, and let me know he had just dropped it off and we could pick it back up at 9 the next morning. What did Nate do differently? He told them a sob story about me being a Dragon Lady MBA student who would tear him limb from limb if their didn't fix the problem.

I was insulted by this, not just because my husband made up an unflattering story about me to get what he wanted, but because it worked. I was unable to stand up for myself and argue for the needed service, but a man making a sexist point about me succeeded. As you might expect, this seriously darkened my attitude toward Apple. I was fairly certain I wouldn't be back anytime soon, at least not to that location.

And yet, yesterday, I found myself there again anyway. My Bose Tri-port Earphones had broken, and while Bose will replace them, it takes a while to send them back and get a new pair. In the meanwhile, the only pair I had around the house were some severly beat up earphones from an old Discman, covered in that yellow foam that disintegrates and scratches the skin in my ears. When I'd first gotten my iPod, I loved the earbuds that came with it, and remembered that a new pair cost just $11.

On the second floor, I found two similar looking packages, one called "Stereo Headset" and the other called "Earphones"; both were $29. I took one of each to a salesperson and asked him what the difference was. He explained in a friendly and non-patronizing way that the stereo headset had a microphone piece attached that could be used with the iPhone. "You probably don't need that," Scott explained. "You should probably just go with the earphones."

"That's great," I said taking the earphones. "But why are they so expensive now? They used to be $11." Scott looked at the book thoughtfully.

"Stay right here," he told me, "I'll go ask." Five minutes later he returned with a new pair of earbuds, wrapped in plastic but taken out of the box. "Those earphones you have now look really uncomfortable," he said, gesturing toward the ripped foam on the ends of the buds. "Since you're a loyal Apple customer, we'd like to give these to you." He handed over the new earbuds.

I was really amazed. The best part was that I knew this was a genuine gesture; this wasn't someone trying to make up for the poor treatment I'd received the week before. It was a small gesture for Apple to give away a pair of earbuds, but it meant far more to me. It took away from my anger toward the "genius" I'd dealt with, and I was particularly pleased that it was framed in the context of "we want to do this because you're a loyal customer." This is true. I could have gone to a convenience store, or Best Buy, or any number of places for new headphones. But I chose to go with Apple, because I like their products. Scott could also see that I'd invested a lot in my iPod (it's a 60 gig Video iPod in an Apple Store retailed case). I was being rewarded for my loyalty to Apple.

From this I'd say that my faith is restored in the Apple Store in general, but I will continue to be wary of the Genius Bar. If I need to visit it again, I know I will specifically ask for a customer service person other than Matt.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Reading Roundup

I am occupied with homework tonight after a lovely early happy hour with my classmates, and so I offer up the following items for your perusal:

  • Dilbert - I laughed hysterically at this. My husband thinks I'm nuts, because I want to go into Marketing.
  • GenPink - A blog for twentysomething career women. I'll overlook the pink.
  • Corporette - Found via Twitter, this site covers affordable professional work wear for women. I highly suggest following Corporette on Twitter, as the site offers an array of interesting links around the clock.
  • Facebook Ads Target You Where It Hurts - Rachel Beckman on the theory of social networking ads
  • Arcadia Maximo - When the guys told her she couldn't, she did--by starting her own construction company
Feel free to post any other interesting links in the comments.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Pregnant In The Public Eye: Sarah Palin and Her Political Ramifactions

A few people have asked me, as a feminist, if I will vote for John McCain, because he has picked a woman, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, to be his running mate. The answer to that question is a resounding "No." No, I will not vote for a candidate simply because she is a woman. I am an educated voter, and I know that I disagree with Gov. Palin on more than one issue, and therefore, I will vote with my brain, and not with my ovaries.

With that out of the way, we can move on to the scandalous news that Palin, a pro-life, pro-family values, mother of five, must now cope with the controversy of her seventeen year old daughter's pregnancy. Apparently this news was revealed in part to squelch rumors that Palin's youngest infant was actually her daughter's child:

The rumor started circulating on political blogs just hours after Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's veep candidacy had been announced: that her four-month-old with Down Syndrome, Trig, was actually the child of her 17-year-old daughter Bristol. Partisans and gossip mavens emailed each other the "clues": a supposed “baby bump” in photographs, Bristol's holding baby Trig at her mother's first appearance with John McCain and a supposed five-month absence from Wasilla High School (her parents told school administrators that it was a case of mononucleosis). The rumor had apparently circulated among Alaskans for months but picked up speed Friday when a contributor to the Daily Kos, a heavily-trafficked liberal-leaning blog, posted an entry on the subject, asking whether the blog should be investigating the rumors of Bristol being Trig's parent.

When Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign came out with a statement Monday morning refuting the rumors, they broke some startling news of their own: that Bristol is currently five months pregnant. "Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We are proud of if Bristol's decision to have her baby, and even prouder to become grandparents," wrote Palin and her husband, Todd. The McCain campaign claims to have been aware of the pregnancy when Palin was selected as a running mate. Obama declined to comment on the issue, telling reporters at a campaign stop in Michigan that "people's families are off limits and people's children are especially off limits." But the blogosphere lit up again; Kos himself (a NEWSWEEK contributor) used the news as an opportunity to inveigh against abstinence education; Washington, D.C.-based Wonkette drew comparisons to the John Edwards affair, while a handful of blogs on motherhood hashed out how much Palin's approach to parenting might have figured in her daughter's pregnancy.

I have two reactions to this story. The first, as I have with any scandal in a candidate's private life, is to simply drop the subject. Palin's daughter is not running for office, she did not ask to have her private business flashed all over the national news, and it should be addressed by the family rather than the media. That said, I want to examine the different threads of this story.

Sarah Palin is definitely pro-life, and she will be supporting her daughter in keeping the baby when it is born. Most sources view her dedication to keeping a fetus alive as best on display in her decision to carry a pregnancy to term when it was known that the child would be born with Down's syndrome. For the Right, this could be an excellent opportunity to show what a devoted anti-choicer their VP candidate is. Her young daughter is pregnant and she will support her. Like any follower of Right Wing Family Values, she is making sure that her daughter marries the father. In this light, the pregnancy is more of a boost for Palin as a candidate for the Right than anything else.

And yet, Palin is a staunch abstinence-only sex education supporter. So one is left to wonder what sort of sex education was given to Palin's daughter. If it was abstinence-only sex education, the younger Palin was not taught about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, or how to protect herself against STDs. Statistically, teenagers given only abstinence-only sex education are more likely not to use condoms or contraceptives when they do engage in sexual activity, increasing the risk of pregnancy and disease. While we don't know the details of the pregnancy (and we shouldn't, that is absolutely no one's business but her own), from the outside, what happened here fits the trend of teenagers who are not given access to accurate information. Abstinence-only programs not only do not explain how to use a condom, but they also tell teens that condoms don't work. From CBS' 60 Minutes, with interviewer Ed Bradley:
Denny Pattyn, a Christian youth minister, founded Silver Ring Thing in 1996. "After three-and-a-half hours of giving them our best shot [on stage], 75 percent become convinced and put on the ring," says Pattyn. "Our goal actually is to create a culture shift in America. We want to see the concept of abstinence be the norm rather than the exception."

Pattyn doesn’t just preach the virtues of sexual abstinence. His show is full of negative messages about condoms – messages warning that condoms won’t protect kids from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

"We spoke with some of the kids after the show in Fort Myers and they said that going into the program they thought that condoms did work, but your show convinced them that they didn’t," says Bradley to Pattyn.

"Right. Well, that’s good because we believe that condoms aren’t the answer," says Pattyn.

"You’re telling kids not to have sex. But some kids are going to have sex," says Bradley. "What do you tell those kids. You tell them not to wear a condom?"

"What I would say is: If you choose to use a condom, don’t think you’re getting the protection you think you’re getting," says Pattyn.

"A kid’s part of your program, and he comes to you and says, 'You know, I’m going to have sex. I’ve reached a point and I’m going to do this. Should I use a condom?' What do you say?" asks Bradley.

"My own daughter, my 16-year-old daughter, tells me she’s going to be sexually active. I would not tell her to use a condom," says Pattyn. "I don't think it'll protect her. It won’t protect her heart. It won’t protect her emotional life. And it’s not going to protect her. I don’t want her to get out there and think that she’s going to be protected using a condom."

But wouldn't his daughter be more protected with a condom than without? "Not long term," says Pattyn.
But teens don't stick with abstinence for long. Those who take "virginity pledges" or wear "promise rings," or otherwise swear to not have pre-marital sex may hold out a little longer than than their non-pledged counterparts, but they often don't make it to the altar. According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, of the 20,000 adolescents tracked over a seven year period, 4,000 had taken a vow to remain a virgin. By the end of the study, 70% of the abstinence pledgers had engaged in sex. Additionally, the study found that pledgers were much more likely to engage in oral or anal sex, which both encourage high rate of disease transmission. Will Palin continue to support abstinence-only education in the face of teenage, pre-marital pregnancy within her own household?

Next on the agenda is how this event tempers public opinion on Palin's parenting skills. While John McCain can have dalliances and not be overrun with morally outraged constituents, Palin is a woman, and as such, her role as a mother is going to dominate the conversation about her capabilities. Political men, particularly conservative political men, serve two roles as father: the breadwinner and the disciplinarian. He is the example for the family, but does not engage with the family as an active parent. These conservatives are the throwbacks, to the imaginary Golden Age of America, where Dad went to the office and Mother stayed home and raised the children. Any woman in politics will be hamstrung by her private role as a mother, or conversely, if she has chosen not to have children, she will be judged as a lesser woman because she is not a mother. Palin should rank high in conservative opinion because she has five children, and therefore has not shirked her "duty" to be a mother. But her daughter's pregnancy suddenly begs the question, "Did Palin's career keep her from being an active mother?" People are going to question if she could have done more to prevent her daughter from having pre-marital sex. And in light of this, she will be found wanting as a mother, which will impact how the country views her. For example:

“How is this really going to work?” said Karen Shopoff Rooff, an independent voter, personal trainer and mother of two in Austin, Tex. “I don’t care whether she’s the mother or the father; it’s a lot to handle,” she said, adding that Ms. Palin’s lack of national experience would only make her road more difficult.

“When I first heard about Palin, I was impressed,” said Pamela Moore, a mother of two from Birmingham, Ala. But upon reading that Ms. Palin’s special-needs child was three days old when she went back to work, Ms. Moore began questioning the governor’s judgment. Partly as a result, she plans to vote for Senator Barack Obama.

If a woman wants to go back to work after having a baby, and there is adequate care provided by a father, a nanny, a relative, a friend, there should be no issue. But you can see here, there are people who are going to doubt her ability to be an effective politician based on her parenting choices. People are going to judge her on her personal choices, on her home life, on her gender. If Palin were a man, her daughter's pregnancy would be much less important, because fathers are not as responsible for their children as are mothers.

I have already said that I am not voting for Sarah Palin because I will not vote for John McCain. But she is a pioneer for women in politics, and I am not going to ignore her nomination. I will be watching to see how the public reacts to her choices, her image, her campaign. Whatever she does, she is paving the way for more women to reach upper level political nominations.

And lastly, I repeat that this is her personal business. The Republicans began the issue of making the personal public and political in the 1990s, because it was a convenient tool to use against Democratic candidates. Sadly, in this case, it appears their mud-slinging tactics are going to come back to haunt them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Public Presentation: How to Sit and Speak

Are you a fidgeter? Do you sit in meetings and click your pen or jiggle your foot? Does the thought of speaking up with your idea make you break out in hives? Or maybe you just can't sit on your thought, and you feel compelled to interrupt. If any of these describe you, then this is for you. A very welcome part of my Business School Orientation was a lesson on sitting and speaking in class, and everything covered applies equally to a meeting at work, or a business lunch.

Perhaps you're at a desk while you're reading this. If not, go find a spot to sit at a desk or table. Sit the way you would normally; pay attention to how you hold your body. Are you leaning back? Where are your feet? Where have you focused your eyes?

The Body Triptych

According to Professor Dale DeLitus, who addressed my class, there are three segments of the body that you need to concern yourself with: feet, torso, and hands. He began with the feet, demonstrating as the class followed along, where not to place your feet:

  • on the legs of one's chair
  • in the air after crossing one's legs
  • resting on the tips of the toes while one crosses one's ankles
  • tucked under the torso on the chair
As DeLitus illustrated, any of these positions constricts the legs, and one's circulation. Extrapolating the constriction, he outlined how it affected the flow of blood through the body, and kept one's energy bottled up. I found this idea nearly yogic in its philosophical nature; in yoga, one attempts to keep the body open, to allow all internal energy to flow. Or in chakra theory, in order to reach enlightenment, to clear the mind, energy must flow through the chakras. If you are constricting your body by keeping your feet off of the floor, you are stifling your energy flow, and therefore your voice, as it comes properly from deep within one's body. In order to allow for a strong, flexible body, one's feet must remain flat on the floor, parallel to one another, and not moving. (Of course, moving one's feet can be very distracting. I say this as the person who is often admonished to stop jiggling my knees under the table.)

Consider the torso. Not only does one's voice mainly derive from the torso, but it also conveys a great sense of one's personal attitude. If you are sitting in a meeting, or in a class, and are participating in the conversation, here is a list of torso placements and their expressed meanings:
  • Leaning back in one's chair = I'm very relaxed and not engaged in the conversation
  • Hunched over with hands under the desk = I'm secretly text messaging my girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/stockbroker where you can't see
  • Hunched over scribbling notes = I'm not paying attention to what you're saying because I'm preparing what I'm going to say when you're done
  • Slouching = I have nothing to contribute and I'm wasting my time by being here
  • Crossed arms = I hate this meeting and all of you for making me attend
  • Shifting around = I am unable to sit still and/or I have had far too much caffeine today
So what should you do? With your feet firmly on the floor, put your rear firmly on the chair so that your lower back is resting against the back of the chair. Sit up straight, lean slightly forward to indicate that you are engaged in the conversation.

Side note: the last item on the "do not" list is a problem for me. I suffer from chronic pain in my neck and shoulders and sometimes I simply must shift in my chair to subtly stretch. Try to do this while the lights are turned down for a presentation and you are less visible, or while someone not close to you is talking. Always minimize the attention you draw to yourself if you absolutely must crack your neck.

Once your feet and torso are in place, one must address the hands. Humans have incredible hands that do amazing things, and are gifted with opposable thumbs. Hands serve many purposes, but often in meetings or classes, they are occupied with clicking pens, picking at cuticles, or scratching an itch on one's nose. Even more dreadful are the moments when the hands cover the face, blocking the voice, or stretching the skin into strange faces.

Hands should rest on the desk, empty of any utensils. If one must take notes, pick up a writing implement and note the thought quietly, and set the pen or pencil down again. It is quite usual for one to pick up a pen and chew on it after taking a brief note, thereby creating the impression that one hasn't eaten in days and must resort to snacking on a Sharpie. Or, should one be holding a "click pen," the urge to click the nib in and out of the barrel can be irresistible to many. Do everyone a favor and avoid these annoying traits.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


First Day of School

Yesterday, Liz and I were chatting about the start of business school. First we talked about the financial issues, time management, what I was looking forward to, what I should prepare myself for, and so forth. And then, she gave me some real advice.

"You should fill your study group with people who are the opposite of you. Look for people whose strengths are your weaknesses," she said, lying back on the bed and thinking. "And remember to listen a lot."

Listening has not always been my top skill. I can be very competitive, and dominate conversations, and while I know listening is important, it takes a lot to push myself to stop talking sometimes.

Today, in the classroom for the first time, I really listened. I listened to what the other women in the classroom said about our case study, about how they thought a situation should be handled, about what they hoped to gain from the business school experience. I listened to the professors who led different parts of the day's agenda. I listened to the Career Services, Student Services and eLearning offices at our working lunch. I listened to the conversations of everyone around me during breaks.

Listening in the Simmons classroom is entirely different from listening in most other settings I've studied or worked inside. There's a truly intangible component to an all-women's classroom, an atmosphere that takes away a lot of my competitive drive. I explained this to Liz tonight, after class.

"When I'm usually in a classroom, the guys always talk the most, and sound the most confident--they dominate. And I never want to be left out of the conversation, so their behavior makes me that much more aggressive. I want to demonstrate that I know as much as they do--or more. I want to be seen as just as smart as they are. But in a room without men, I don't have to hold myself up to that kind of competitive standard. I can just be myself, and listen to what's going on, without worrying about how many times I've spoken, or competing with the loudest guy in the room."

There's a relief that I feel in this classroom that I've never felt before. Almost instantaneously, I feel very committed to the program, the professors, the staff, but especially my fellow students. There is a sense of community in this program that is stronger than I've ever experienced in a classroom setting.

Before I left tonight, I thanked Liz for all her help in supporting me, first the application to business school, and now as I'm starting the coursework. She grinned at me.

"You're going to be very, very successful," she said.

Friday, August 22, 2008


How To Make It Into The Boston Business Journal

Taking his cue from the homeless, MBA graduate Robert Nims walked the streets of Boston’s financial district on Friday with a makeshift sign around his neck. But instead of asking for money, Nims is looking for a job in Boston. His sign, written in marker, says, “MBA for Hire.”

Nims, 24, said he knows he faces an uphill climb to get his dream job in project management or wealth management. “I’m like Rudy,” Nims said, comparing himself to the undersize Notre Dame hero in the football movie, “Rudy.” “I didn’t go to a top Ivy League program. I’m not gifted.”

As he says in the cover letter that he hands out on the street, “I did my MBA from a school in the middle of Ohio you’ve probably never heard of.” That’s Youngstown State University. But Nims does have moxie.

He said he currently works up to 50 hours a week at a New England financial services firm. He’s been taking Fridays off to walk the pavement and get exposure with his walking billboard at busy street corners in Boston. But last Friday, he got caught in a downpour, undercutting his plans. He also said he’s been told to take his walking billboard elsewhere by security guards near Post Office Square and the Pru.

“It’s probably the toughest job market in 15 years,” Nims said. “... I have a lot of respect for my current employer, but it’s not where I want to be.”

So if you’re looking for someone whose “learning curve is exponential” and “energy is endeless [sic]”, contact Nims at

This came through my Inbox as I was starting up my laptop to start writing notes on my first business school assignment, a case study. I think Nims' approach is definitely creative--although I would have used something a bit more eyecatching for the slogan.

Part of the reason I chose Simmons was the amazing network it gives it students and the career services office. So next year, you won't see me with a sandwich board. You'll see me on my way to the boardroom.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Business School Bound

I'm in! I'm IN!

I'm going to business school at the Simmons School of Management--on Saturday! I found out two hours ago and I'm bouncing off the walls with excitement. I've called everyone, Nate, my in-laws, my parents, my friends; I'm ridiculously excited.

Last week, in no uncertain terms was a disaster. Between studying for the GMAT, a barrage of headaches and having my wallet stolen, nothing agreeable happened. This week has been fantastic. With the GMAT over, I was able to sleep, I got a detective assigned to my stolen ID case, and today, my best friend Margaret and I decided to have lunch at Les Zygomates, my favorite restaurant since it was Restaurant Week and they had a fixed price lunch (I had the smoky corn chowder, duck a l'orange, and chocolate mousse... mmm!). I got home to a voicemail from the Director of Admissions at Simmons SOM.

Not only did I get in, but I was also awarded a Dean's Merit Scholarship for $20,000. I nearly fainted.

My first class is all day Saturday, Sunday is free, and then back to class on Monday. I can't wait. I can't WAIT.


A Collector's Collector

KNEELING on the dining room floor, Evan Lattimer sliced open a cardboard box and braced herself for what might be inside: a lock of human hair, a half-smoked cigar, an arcane torture device, perhaps? Her face broke into a smile as she peeled away the bubble wrap: a dinosaur egg.

“You just never knew with Dad,” she said.

When her father, John Lattimer, died in May of 2007 at the age of 92, Ms. Lattimer knew her inheritance would include more than the family tea set. Dr. Lattimer, a prominent urologist at Columbia University, was also a renowned collector of relics, many of which might be considered quirky or even macabre.

Over the course of seven decades he amassed more than 3,000 objects that ranged in age from a few years to tens of millions of years. “He was like a classic Renaissance collector,” said Tony Perrottet, a writer specializing in historical mysteries who spent time with Dr. Lattimer before his death. “Anything and everything could turn up in the collection, from Charles Lindbergh’s goggles to a bearskin coat that belonged to Custer.”

Several of the relics had a certain notoriety, like the bloodstained collar that Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was shot, or the severed penis that may or may not have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. For decades, though, much of the collection has been sitting in boxes and disorganized piles in the 30-room Lattimer home in this suburb of Manhattan.

I read this article with great fascination, because I am also a collector. I am greatly limited by space and means, but I enjoy collecting items with stories, or some sort of historical significance. Most of my collection comes from my grandparents' estates: a 200 year old tri-leg table, a Singer sewing machine from the 30s painted with gold sphinxes, a mahogany bedroom set. My love of Egyptology has brought a number of items my way, mostly scarabs, but also the top portion of an ushabti, and an art deco wood box, inlaid with the images of Ramses III hunting that opens to reveal trays for holding cigarettes. Because of my love of Medieval history, my father secured for me some English pennies, some whole, some cut from the time of Robin Hood.

As a history enthusiast, I love these items because they are a part of the past that I can actually touch. I can run my fingers over the ushabti and feel the cut inscriptions against my skin. I also love them because they are fairly unique. I've never seen another painted glass mirror with a gilt frame like the one around mine. And certainly no one else has a watercolor self portrait of my great-great grandmother.

Sadly, a lot of my ersatz collection is in storage. My great-grandmother's cocktail service. My grandfather's mother-of-pearl cuff links. The 19th century vanity that waits for me at my parents' house. I can't wait to someday live somewhere where I can display all of these things, instead of crowding them onto shelves or hiding them in boxes.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Mr. Postman Look And See

Some very good news! At some point on Thursday, the thieves ditched my wallet somewhere downtown, where it was discovered by a very kind postman named Justin. Justin found my ID from my last employer in my wallet, and called the Lost and Found there. He was unable to make it to the institution, but he left word that he was leaving my wallet in the Parcel Post Division at the General Facilities (better known as the All-Night Post Office) where I can go and get it.

My biggest hope is that my Charlie Card is still in there, since they left my IDs in the wallet too. What a nice day for a Monday!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Don't Panic

Yesterday, at the Emerson College Cafe, someone swiped my wallet off the counter as I paid for my overpriced fruit cup. I didn't even notice, until nearly an hour later when I was thinking about purchasing a book at Borders on the other side of downtown. Naturally, I emptied my bag three times to make sure it wasn't hidden somewhere. And then, I acted fast. If you ever find yourself in the same situation, here's what to do:

Cancel any cards in your wallet

For me this meant my debit card and my credit card, and three store accounts too. You'll have to answer a lot of security questions so try to remember if your account password is your mother's maiden name or the name of your childhood pet. Also, if you don't have a cell phone (or it's been stolen too) and have no quarters for the pay phone (because your quarters were in your wallet), just go into the first store you see. Most places will gladly lend you a phone to call and cancel your cards. Another safe bet is a cellphone store; the display models are usually active. Cancel the cards and have new cards sent out. The card issuer can also flag the stolen card for possible use in catching the thief.

Report the theft to the police

Part of me feels that its silly to bother the police with a stolen wallet (which I should have kept my eye on), but really, you need to do this. If someone has put charges on your card, you will need a police report to send to your bank or credit card company to contest the charges. Besides, there's always the chance that the thief will be caught.

Check for charges

Have online banking? Check your account as soon as possible to figure out what the charges on. Call the police back and tell them where those charges were made, in case there are surveillance photos. Call your credit card company and ask for the last set of purchases made on the card. The more you know, the easier it will be to get everything straightened out.

Get a new license number

If you have your license stolen with the wallet, tell the RMV. They can flag your ID as a fraud risk to protect you from identity theft. If your social security number was in your wallet, call the Social Security Administration local branch to have that flagged for fraud too. When they reissue your license, get a new picture taken and ask for a state generated ID number.

Ask for help

A long while ago my debit card (just that) was swiped, and I was left with nothing to pay my rent. Even though I was newly out on my own and trying to prove myself, I recognized that I was in over my head and asked my parents for a loan. I earned big bonus points by paying it back the minute the matter was settled with the bank. If you're in a jam and not prepared to ask your family or friends, call your bank; they will often help you with your cash flow issues (but make sure they have the police report!).

Be prepared

It can happen to anyone, but you can be prepared for this sort of emergency. Keep a small stash of cash in the house, so that when your cards are all canceled and your transit pass is gone you will have something to purchase bus fare with. Write down the toll free service numbers from the back of your cards so you won't waste time looking them up.

Hopefully this will never happen to you. I'm taking it as a learning experience and sharing what I've picked up. If you have any other helpful advice, be sure to leave it in the comments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Goodbye, Puck

One afternoon, when I was three, I was sitting in my yard, playing with an inflatable ball, when a German shepherd came along, began barking at me ferociously and made a lunge for me which resulted in my ball exploding in his bite. My mother came out and saved me before anything worse happened, but it was pretty scary.

When I was thirteen, riding my bike one morning, a giant unfriendly albino German shepherd launched himself from his home yard and at my bicycle. I fell over, slightly trapped beneath my bike, but the dog did get a grip on my jacket with his teeth, and ripped it off of me. In a feat of pure adrenaline, I let him keep my jacket and I got back on the bike, pedaling furiously. From these incidents, I developed a real dislike for dogs, particularly bigger ones. I wouldn't pet or play with them, no matter how friendly they were, until I met Puck.

Puck was a lovely golden retriever that belonged to my husband's family. The first time we met, he was so happy to see me that he jumped up and knocked me over. At the time, I was terrified. But as I continued to visit, I realized that even though he was a big, strong dog, he was also sweet, friendly, and loving. Puck taught me to overcome my fear of dogs, and even to love them.

I spent a lot of time brushing Puck, and clipping his nails to keep him looking nice. I went for long walks with him, threw tennis balls for him, played tug of war with towels. I slipped him treats under the table at dinner time, brought him rawhide bones for chewing. I loved to lie on the carpet with him, my head on his chest, just knowing that he trusted me to love him as he loved me.

When he got older, and got knots in his long fur, I'd trim them out. If he was too tired to go for a long walk, I'd rub his tummy instead. When his legs started to give out, I was patient, helping him to go outside, rewarding his great effort with bits of turkey or cheese. When he couldn't manage stairs anymore, I would hoist his back end to get him in and out, always careful not to hurt him, and then I'd lie down with him and brush his fur.

Yesterday, at the great old age of 13, a huge achievement for a golden, Puck had to be put down. A tumor had formed around his heart and was squeezing it. He had lost the use of his legs because there just wasn't enough blood pumping to keep them functioning. And yet, it was so hard to say goodbye, with his soft brown eyes gazing up with love. How do you say goodbye to someone who changed your life?

It will be strange going to my in-laws' house now. There will be no happy tail wagging thumping the floor when I go through the door. No one will beg for treats at the table. There will be no more walks filling in the space in the routine of a visit. I won't trip over food dishes, and I'll have to sit on the sofa, because there will be no more Puck to lay my head on from the carpet. Goodbye, my sweet Puck. I love you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Tuesday Quick Takes

Studying for the GMAT. Finishing the application essays. Job applications. Worrying about my husband's childhood dog. Helping take the dog to the vet since he can barely walk. Scheduling the final appointment for the dog.

These are the things that are occupying my time right now, and since I haven't got a coherent full entry in mind, here are a few things that I want to jot down:

Inquisix - I met Michael Kreppein at Diane Darling's "Breakfast Above Tiffany's" last week. He runs a new site for business referrals called Inquisix. It's launching soon, so check it out and preview all the site has to offer.

The House Bunny
- The premise: Ex-Playboy Bunny becomes house mother for nerdy sorority and teaches them to be totally glam! It's hard to be any more obvious in telling us all that women are only useful in providing sex for men.

John Edwards
- He had an affair. I don't care. I don't care what politicians do out of the office. I vote for a candidate because of what she or he has to offer in the way of governance. If she or he wants to hire doms or sleep around when she or he gets home, that's fine with me. I wish everyone would just shut up about it, particularly Maureen Dowd.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Heading Toward September

This morning I got up with Nate, and I walked him to his new office for the first day of his new job. He was a little nervous (who wouldn't be?) but still excited about this new opportunity, and finally getting to work in transportation planning. Nate has been interested in transportation and urban planning since he could first pick up a train and say "Choo-choo."

As the summer winds down (and here in Boston, it has already sunk into a decidedly autumnal pattern of gloomy grey clouds, cooler temperatures, and near incessant rain), I feel a certain wistfulness about my situation. I admit I'm a little envious of Nate, going off to the next stage of his career. I'm proud of him; he's worked long and hard and paid his dues to get there. But the fact that he's moving on and I am in limbo is a little frustrating.

My Simmons application is just down to my GMAT (to be taken on Saturday), but still, there's no guarantee that I'll get in. I am prepared for it to go either way on the admissions decision. If I get in, that's fantastic. If I don't get in, I'm still working on job applications and with recruiters to find full time employment. There is no sense in abandoning the job search until I am certain that I'll be going to school.

That said, my hopes are that I will be accepted, because the more I read/learn/think about the Simmons MBA program, the more I want to be a part of it. Last week, I attended a reception to celebrate the graduating class of August, and I met four incoming students. Each was a terrifically smart, intelligent woman--every woman I meet in connection with the program is a truly intelligent and confident woman. And I want to be one of them.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


A Pause in Routine

Nate's last day at his former job was Wednesday, and since then, we've been enjoying having a few days to ourselves, to do whatever we want to do, and just relaxing in each other's company. On Monday he starts his new job, and while I'll miss him while he's there, I'm more than thrilled that he's finally going to be doing what he has always wanted to do: Transportation Planning.

If you're in Boston, some fun things you might like to do (that we've enjoyed) are the MFA exhibit of Art Nouveau jewelry, the Sharks and Rays show at the New England Aquarium (they have a tank of small sharks and stingrays and you can touch them!), and the Wedded Bliss show at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Older and Wiser

If I flash back eleven years, to the beginning of my college application process, I have to cringe. I remember being obstinate about studying for the SAT, and the three SAT II tests that my college prep high school had me take. I remember scowling at multiple choice algebra, no partial credit, and the long writing segment on my SAT II English test (this was in those days before the regular SAT included writing). Don't get me started on the abhorrence of the Common Application, the writing of essays, the listing of extracurriculars. And I groaned when I heard about some of my classmates who went in for Admissions Consultants and test prep tutors.

And now, I am here in this spot again. But this time, it's not an obligation hanging over my head. I'm not going to business school because my parents are making me go. I'm making an investment in myself. And I willingly got up early today to go to the office to borrow a PC to take a practice GMAT test. (Note to the GMAC: having Mac-compatible test software would be a great idea.) I went to see a GMAT tutor yesterday, and have committed to at least one hour of study on the test per night, more if I can.

I wrote my essays, brought them to my mentors, who took them apart and gave me advice on how to put them back together. This is an incredible sign of maturity. I used to tune out any and all writing advice because, of course, I knew better than anyone what to put down. But I can admit now that admissions essay are a format I don't have a lot of experience with, and can use help on. I have help available and I'm making use of it.

Look at it this way: in business, you have projects, you gather a team, draft a plan, and assign parts that the leader assembles together. This application process is a project. My team involves editors, tutors, network connections, and admissions officers. I have a plan of action, and I work with different people on different segments of the project. In the end, I stitch it all together. In itself, I have learned a lot from the process. So even if I don't get in, I won't have come away empty handed.

If I could go back eleven years and talk to my high school self, I would say, "Don't be so stubborn." I'd tell myself to stop pretending that I know everything, ask for help when I needed it, and be open-minded about everything. But since I can't do that, I'm telling you. Work hard, use the process as a learning experience. If you hit an obstacle, ask for help. Never be afraid of getting advice. Most people want to help you, so don't shut them out. Weigh everything together, and in the end, it's your work. Your name goes on the end product, so create something that you are proud of. And if it doesn't work, make sure you take something away from the process, so you don't repeat your mistakes.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


House Rules

Memoirs are strange; they are written first-hand accounts of a life, and at some point in reading one, I always wonder how the author remembers the exact dialog from incidents that are so far in the past. I just finished a memoir, House Rules: A Memoir by Rachel Sontag, found via a recommendation on Felicia C. Sullivan's site. (Sullivan's memoir, The Sky Isn't Visible from Here: Scenes from a Life, is a highly polished reflection on her life as the child of an addict, developing her own addictions, and freeing herself from both.)

Sontag's story is richly complex, the story of her controlling and manipulative father, and how he broke their family apart with his iron rule. The book lays out the life of a family, all women, held hostage by an emotional batterer. Rules were arbitrarily set, with steep punishments--family exclusion, silent treatment, isolation from friends--should those rules be broken.

House Rules describes how Sontag's father battered her as his victim of choice, dividing her from her mother, and completely ignoring her younger sister Jenny. According to her father, Sontag was the one driving the family apart; at one point he compares her to Saddam Hussein, trying to manipulate her mother as if her mother represented the Kurds in Iraq. This came along with an exercise in forcing his daughter to write down a list of "descriptors"--selfish, disgusting, revolting--that she was to read back as admission of her character flaws. I would compare Sontag's father to Robespierre: the only way to rule people that he saw as unworthy of autonomy within a democratic system was to keep everyone in terror, on edge, and unable to form working partnerships.

Sontag ultimately breaks free of her father, and takes ten years to unravel the web of control that her father wove around her. Her built up defense mechanisms against the emotional abuse that she suffered kept her from forming healthy relationships with friends, boyfriends, extended family. And yet, with careful resolve, she has risen from her tragedy to start a normal life, carry on a normal job, and even reform a bond with her sister, understanding how their father's neglect of Jenny was as destructive as his open offense against her.

The story is true, which makes it all the more frightening. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a house where one's every move is under scrutiny, phone calls are recorded, arguments and "discussions" are recorded, and there is no place to escape to. I wonder what reading the father's account of the same time would describe. Would he sound paranoid? Would he reveal that, despite his disappointment in his children, that he really loved them? Or would he push the idea of writing it up aside defensively.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


My Greatest Accomplishment

On Monday, I had a job interview, and I was asked by two different people, "What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?"

This is a fairly standard interview question. It's an opportunity for the candidate to push their track record, highlighting one of her biggest or most successful endeavors. But it's also a way for employers to weed out candidates; what if you answered "My daughter is my biggest accomplishment," or "I ran the Boston Marathon last year." That could be used as a gauge to argue that you are more interested in your personal life than you are in your work.

I have a wide range of projects that I'm very proud of, and my answer to this question is "I don't have any single greatest accomplishment." This is qualified by a list of increasingly important projects and goals that I've achieved, and a statement about how I am certain I will do things in the future that will be even bigger and better. Yes, most employers are looking for a track record, but I also want them to know that I have a lot of potential to keep growing and improving. I am not the sort to rest on my laurels.

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

All opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the author.