Monday, May 14, 2012

When it comes to the workplace, is 70 really the new 50?

A. Hardly. In today's business environment 50 is the old 70. Ask any 50 year old looking for work, how hard it is to get interviews and hired for new jobs.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Study Suggests that You Are What You Read

From MSNBC...
Researchers have found that when you lose yourself in a work of fiction, your behavior and thoughts can metamorphose to match those of your favorite character, according to the study published early online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In that case, I'd like to have the humor and bravado of Spenser from the Robert Parker series. Maybe the adventure and cunning of James Bond from the 007 Ian Fleming series. The stoicism and unflappability of Everett Hitch from the Robert Parker series on Westerns.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve

Great book. Written by Dr. Steve Perry who is on the front lines of education. Some snippets below...

  • We the employees of public schools, have the best work calendar of all full time professionals. Most of us work no more than 187 days a year vs. a typical 250 days for the rest of the economy. Our workday is 6 1/2 hrs. vs. 8 hours or 32 1/2 hrs a week.
  • According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 data, the mean teacher's salary nationally is $55,900 compared to the national mean of $44,410 for full time employees.
  • Teachers' unions have made it virtually impossible to extend the school year.
  • In my first year as principal of Capital Prep---for almost the full school year, in fact---I fought to remove a teacher whom I observed openly sleeping in class. Not once but twice...I fought with the Hartford Federation of teachers every damn day for an entire year trying to get this guy off the job. Remember this wasn't a case of hearsay, I personally saw him asleep in a class full of children. They tried to make me assign him a mentor. A freaking mentor? For sleeping?
  • As the world races to explore the new frontier of man made energy, our kids intelligence is being measured by standardized tests requiring regurgitation of a facts and figures from outdated textbooks.
  • As beautiful , thoughtful new political discourse is blogged every minute, our kids are are weighted brown with book bags bulging with George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations (1861). They're great novels, sure, but not exactly fresh. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Smart Financial Advice

Great financial advice from Harry Gross:
Through many years of teaching, writing and lecturing, I have come across or invented many aphorisms that apply to financial situations. Here’s an abbreviated list. Enjoy.
  • The only way to get ahead financially is to live beneath your means.
  • If it sounds too good too be true, IT IS too good to be true.
  • Don’t put all your money in one basket, no matter how good the basket.
  • The man who passes on without life insurance does not die. He absconds.
  • Disability insurance is the most undersold product in the insurance industry.
  • Never use a credit card unless you can pay the balance in full during the grace period.
  • If the whole world goes to pot, gold will open doors.
  • Don’t give it all away during your lifetime.
  • When a parent gives money to a child, both smile. When a child gives money to a parent, both cry.
  • You cannot die without a will. If you don’t prepare one, the state does it for you.
  • Never name a child as trustee for your spouse.
  • Why does anyone need more than two credit cards?
  • Tax-protester seminars are good for only the presenter.
  • Watch out for the guy who has an ax to grind.
  • When acting as trustees, banks have their own agenda.
  • NEVER buy from someone you don’t know.
  • Never buy on the telephone unless you initiated the call.
  • There is no evidence that load funds perform better than no load funds.
  • Is he trying to sell you that because it’s good for him or good for you?
  • Leave a letter of instructions for your heirs.
  • The education of your children is the world’s best investment.
  • Don’t rust out; wear out.
  • Cities and authorities may go down the tubes, but nothing will happen to any state.
  • A flat income tax will only benefit the very rich
  • Renting is often a better option than buying a home.
  • Most market-timers perform poorly.
  • An oral agreement is not worth the paper it’s not written on.
  • Failure to return telephone calls is the most frequent complaint about lawyers.
  • Very often, people buy a school district, not a home.
  • The only person who can cheat you is a person you trust.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How Creativity Works and Groucho: Two Books on Two Favorite Subjects

I read two books on some of my favorite subjects: creativity and Groucho Marx. I guess there is a connection there as Groucho was one of the most spontaneous and creative funny men in comedy. Even as I get older, I still look for ways to become more creative.

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer offers science, stories and practical tips on the creativity process. I've listed some take-aways below:

  • Creativity doesn't increase with experience. It tends to peak after a few years of work and then go into a long slow decline.
  • One needs to think like a young person, willing to embrace radical new ideas and new challenges.
  • To be creative, one needs to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions and leave behind the safety of one's expertise. One must escape the shackles of familiar thought.
  • Brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.
I also read Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House by Steven Stoliar that essentially covers the last years of Groucho Marx. In many ways this is a very sad book as Groucho battled old age, poor health and family squabbles around control of his wealth and affairs. Stoliar was a Groucho fan who as a young college student worked for Marx as a secretary and archivist. 

Even while battling strokes and poor health, Groucho still evidenced his quick wit and humor that Stoliar was able to capture. Stoliar also shared stories about various celebrities that he came in contact while working with Marx including Mae West, Steve Allen, Bob Hope (who did not come off well in this book at all), Jack Lemmon, George Jessel, Marvin Hamlisch and many others.