To Balance Work and Life

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Although his advice comes from an academic perspective, Matt Might explicitly and successfully writes for a general audience on the subject of balancing professional and personal obligations (a.k.a. "work-life balance"). His conclusion is as follows:

Continuously adapt

Realize you won't always strike the right balance.

You will make mistakes.

That's okay.

Listen to your partner and if they're not satisfied, take action. Move the boundaries; change your habits; or reduce your workload.

Recognize that achieving work-life balance is a never-ending process.

Don't treat the balance in "work-life balance" like a noun.

Treat it like a verb.
This last line caused me to think of a tightrope walker using a balance beam by continously making needed changes to its position. In addition to being memorable, this image fits quite well with Might's advice, which not only stresses that continual adjustments are crucial, but also how to make them. His tips on boundary-setting are exemplary:
Avoid over-commitment

It takes a few minutes to entangle yourself in commitments that can take years to unwind.

Learn when and how to say "no."

If you're over-committed, say, "I'd really like to take on that task/role, but I'm concerned that with my current commitments, I might not be able to perform the this task to the high standards to which I hold myself."

Before you say "yes" to anything, sleep on it.

If you find yourself over-committed, start delegating, canceling, recusing and refusing.
Experience has shown me the value of not becoming over-committed. In addition to it being difficult to extricate oneself from some of the excess obligations, it potentially makes one look bad. Many of the people who already know how to avoid doing this don't necessarily appreciate that some people have difficulty learning that skill.

-- CAV

Anti-Police Police Statists

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jim Holt, aka the Gateway Pundit, notes an odd use of the term "activist" by the news media. In a story given the headline, "Activists Visit Judge's Neighborhood", by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Holt summarizes and interprets the story as follows:

  1. Leaving letters full of demands at the door of a Judge’s home is not a threat.
  2. Knocking on the door of all of her neighbors is not a shakedown.
  3. Demanding a special prosecutor after Wilson has been cleared of wrongdoing is not double jeopardy.
Let me add my own further observation. These thugs are behaving just like the kind of authoritarian regimes they pretend we have in the United States, and that actually exist elsewhere in the world. Unannounced visits, the enlistment of neighbors and friends as "informants", and arbitrary demands are just as wrong when implemented by an anarchic mob as they are when implemented by the state.

And not only do the actions of these bullies remind me of a police state, they and their slavish coverage by the Post-Dispatch remind me of the following, from a synopsis of the end of the Weimar Republic in The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff:
The civility cherished by the civilized men had finally been defeated by their ideas, although they did not know that this was the cause. After years of preaching contradictions and of evading principles with an anti-ideological shrug, these men were astonished to see the nation conclude that man cannot live by principles, that reason is no guide to action, and that anything goes. After years of institutionalizing interest-group warfare, which they had justified as sacrifice or collective service, these men were astonished to see hostile gangs take to the streets and demand one another's sacrifice. After years of undercutting the mind by preaching the primacy of gentle feeling (whether "progressive" or religious or skeptical), these men were astonished to find that irrational feeling is no counter to "wild emotionalism." (p. 227)
The Ferguson protests would have fizzled out long ago were it not for a big assist by a sympathetic media, but bias has to come from somewhere, as Peikoff shows in his aptly-titled book.

-- CAV

Can GOP Stomach Looking Bad While Doing Good?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Unsurprisingly, a bunch of documents pertinent to the question of whether the White House used the IRS to target conservative groups weren't really lost after all:

After saying over and over -- in press statements, in court filings, in congressional hearings -- that the emails that went missing when Lois Lerner's hard drive crashed were gone forever, up to 30,000 Lerner emails have now turned up and are on their way to Congress. [link dropped]
Or, at least they were said to have been...
Now Treasury has clammed up again, trying to keep its contacts with the White House secret and reiterating that it is exempt from disclosure. The administration has offered a bizarre rationale: It would be illegal to turn over documents the IRS shared illegally since it is illegal for the IRS to share the files with anyone, including the court. [bold edded]
As the rest of story indicates, the onus (and opportunity) of prising open the IRS will go to Congress, which can thereby (1) stop a dangerous precedent from being set, an (2) nail the President for an offense even greater than one which was drawn up as an article of impeachment for Richard Nixon. We can be sure that Obama's media apparatchiks will ignore the urgency of the task and pretend that it's just ugly politics. Republicans should understand that this line will appeal primarily to people who didn't and will never vote for them anyway, not that winning elections is an end in itself.

We shall soon know what our new GOP majority is made of.

-- CAV

Follow Us on Twitter ... Or Else

Monday, December 15, 2014

Over at Forbes is a column about a Supreme Court case dealing with the increasingly arbitrary way regulatory agencies exercise their authority. At one point, the article outlines the problem the case may help address in terms that remind me of the explanation for bureaucratic expansion offered by Ludwig von Mises in Bureaucracy:

... Government officials administering regulatory programs, particularly by bureaucratic staff without electoral constraints, will tend to aggrandize their own authority as each year passes, even with the most benign motives. Broad delegations of power to regulatory agencies are a continuing invitation to churn out more regulations, which almost always impinge personal freedom. Thus, regulatory officials tend to regularly expand their own power at the expense of individual liberty, regardless of the President's ideology.
Not only are lots of things that shouldn't be crimes already illegal, but our current political milieu presents a temptation irresistible to most of our current politicians in the legislative branch to expand regulation. These problems are bad enough, but at least they don't put us so nearly at the mercy of a bureaucrat's whim.

This piece indicates that administrative law attempts to impose some restraints on the regulators, but that it remains necessary for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter. This is because such informal communications as FAQs and internal emails have been treated like these agencies as if they are regulatory rulings. "By Interior's logic, agency tweets also could be 'regulations'", the authors point out. That's the last thing we need.

Until political momentum builds for truly reigning in government to its proper, limited role as protector of individual rights, we should at least ensure that the regulatory process is intelligible and predictable.

-- CAV

12-13-14 Hodgepodge

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Delegation on Steroids

At Harvard Business Review is an interesting piece about how Google attacks problems. The piece breaks the approach down into four parts:

    1. People want to do a good job.
    2. Given enough eyeballs, every bug is shallow.
    3. People perform best at tasks that interest them.
    4. Great leaders provide a sense of mission and purpose.
Based on the concluding paragraph of the third point, I would essentialize this by saying that Larry Page is a master of delegation:
[T]he "best people" weren't chosen by Page, they chose themselves and proved so adept at the task that the AdWords problem was solved over a weekend. Far faster than most CEO's can organize a meeting among "top people."
We see Larry Page using his grasp of the better, value-oriented side of human nature so well that his urgent tasks seem to delegate themselves! It is astounding how much time and effort that harnessing the interest of others can save.

Weekend Reading

"Human knowledge is neither automatic nor infallible, and it's not a moral failure to not know everything." -- Michael Hurd, in "What Makes a Person a Perfectionist" at The Delaware Coast Press

"For two decades I've been questioning the concept of the alleged disease of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." -- Michael Hurd, in "ADHD: The Party's Over" at The Delaware Wave

My Two Cents

I'll remember the Hurd piece on ADHD when my son reaches grade school age: I have seen ADHD used to "explain" typical boyhood behavior so many times that I regard having to contest such a diagnosis as almost inevitable. I have never been on the ADHD bandwagon, but I would have to challenge professional authority if someone decides to apply that label. 

Word to the Wise: Dump Sitemeter

The "third-party script" that was causing people to have trouble visiting my blog stopped causing the problem as soon as I removed it. As has been the case for numerous other bloggers with the same or similar problems, this was the script that enabled the (former?) site statistics-tracking service, Sitemeter.

My site being replaced, without my knowledge or consent, by a full-page ad for something I've never even heard of is completely unacceptable, and I don't care if it happened through incompetence or sleaziness. I don't run ads here, and if I ever decide to, they will be unobtrusive. I hate being made to redirect my attention by visually-distracting, noisy ads, and I have a general policy of not subjecting others to things I that find annoying.

Sitemeter has lost my trust and I can't think of anything that outfit can do to gain it back.

My thanks go to reader C. Andrew for bringing my attention to this problem.



Today: Corrected reader credit in last part of post.

Friday Four

Friday, December 12, 2014

1. I took Little Man to the pediatrician for his eighteen-month checkup this week and played the part of amused interpreter when the physician opened a conversation with me about my concerns. Immediately, his three-year-old sister started repeatedly interjecting something. On noticing this, I got Pumpkin to slow down and repeat herself again.

"He's allergic to strawberries," was the message, and delivered at the appropriate time, too. As I suspected about the rash he got at daycare one day, it could be due to any number of things, and we won't really know what it is for some time.

In the meantime, I nevertheless have a cute memory of Pumpkin being proud of contributing, and being a good Big Sister. And I got a chance to begin helping her understand the limits and basis of knowledge.

2. Heh! Electric cars are a Bad Idea, part 5,000:

After 15 or 20 minutes, a woman shows up, unplugs her Nissan Leaf and pulls away. I've finished my burger, so I speed-walk to my Leaf and speed-drive through the garage to snag her spot. I plug in, and wait. I've got work to do, anyway. An hour later, I've got enough juice to get back to San Francisco, where I park, exhausted. A trip that would have taken an hour in a regular car -- Bay Area traffic is a hassle, after all -- took me almost three.
This tempts me to make something like "range anxiety update" into a recurring feature of this blog.

3. Thomas Sowell, among a few other random thoughts, quips:
You know you are old when waitresses call you "dear."
This reminds me of something I noticed when I was around thirty-five or so. Starbucks baristas, young waitresses, and the like started calling me, "sir". I called it the s-bomb back then.

It's good to know I have something to look forward to!

4. I enjoyed seeing the below interview of Bosch Fawstin, creator of the anti-Jihadist super-hero, Pigman:

This just about makes me want to adopt an all-pigskin wardrobe.

-- CAV

Philosophical Rohypnol

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Heather Wilhelm explains why she left feminism at the Federalist. Wilhelm does not attempt an analysis, but I think the article is a fine snapshot of what this movement means for women in practice. Here's an example:

In a recent Slate article, writer Emily Yoffe tried to gently suggest that college girls drinking to the point of incapacitation might not be the best idea, safety-wise. Feminists, of course, blew a gasket. "Real equality is when women have the right to be as drunk and stupid as men," Jessica Valenti wrote at The Guardian, in a column that is not satire. "This false idea, that women's behavior is the real reason they are victimized," wrote Katie McDonough at Salon, "is regularly used to blame sexual violence on the 'problem' of young women today."

Well, no. We all know where the blame lies: with the perpetrator. The goal is to encourage women to protect themselves, with reality being what it is. It almost leads one to wonder: Do feminists really care about women's safety at all? Or do they care more about their dream world, where there's an abortion clinic on every corner and a Vagina Monologues in every theater? [links in original, minor format edits]
I have, over the years, observed a couple of things about feminists: (1) A flattery-by-imitation of some of the worst male behaviors (and stereotypes thereof), and (2) a willful blindness to actual differences between the sexes (e.g., upper body strength) and their consequences. In that light, the admonition that liberation somehow entails drinking oneself into a stupor is hardly surprising.

Regarding explanations for why this is so, I refer the reader to the writings of feminists, such as Andrea Dworkin, and to Ayn Rand's comments on feminism in her 1971 essay, "The Age of Envy" (republished in The Return of the Primitive). Among them:
(I regard myself as surpassed by Women's Lib in one respect: I did not know that it was possible to blow up the character of Comrade Sonia to such gigantic proportions.)


Every other pressure group has some semi-plausible complaint or pretense at a complaint, as an excuse for existing. Women's Lib has none. But it has a common denominator with the others, the indispensable element of a modern pressure group: a claim based on weakness. It is because men are metaphysically the dominant sex and are regarded (though for the wrong reasons) as the stronger that a thing such as Women's Lib could gain plausibility and sympathy among today's intellectuals. It represents a rebellion against masculine strength, against strength as such, by those who neither attempt nor intend to develop it -- and thus it is the clearest giveaway of what all the other rebellions are after. [link added]
Fascinatingly, nothing in Wilhelm's article would have been a surprise to Rand, as her other comments on "Women's Lib" indicate. I also have to confess amusement here, given a third thing I have observed over the years: professed feminists mouthing admiration for Ayn Rand. In that vein, I would recommend that any "feminist" who is actually simply interested in being respected as an individual, become more familiar with Ayn Rand. Although the feminist movement may want to co-opt her, she is actually worthy of admiration for the right reasons, and provides an antidote to both subservience and self-righteous stupidity: individualism.

-- CAV