community Service means Business!

25 June 2010

Counseling and Anger Management

via Crime and Consequences Blog by Bill Otis on 6/25/10

There's a good deal of hand-wringing going on about the United States as "incarceration nation." This is typically followed by a call for more "humane" or "creative" sentencing such as counseling and anger management.  These represent more enlightened options for the much-ballyhooed "first-time, non-violent" offender  --  which apparently means all of them, since the "incarceration nation" crowd is seldom able to locate an inmate who might actually be dangerous.  Counseling and anger management will do.

Hence this delightful story from near my hometown:


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- A former priest and anger-management counselor who pulled a gun in a traffic dispute on two men who happened to be U.S. Marshals has been sentenced to a year in prison. Fifty-seven-year-old Jose Luis Avila of Annandale pleaded guilty earlier this year in U.S. District Court to assaulting a federal officer.

In January, Avila was driving by the marshals near his home. He honked his horn because he believed they were standing in the road. When he thought one of the marshals made an obscene gesture at him, he pulled out a loaded handgun.

The 12-month sentence was in line with what prosecutors had sought. Defense lawyers wanted probation or time served; Avila has been jailed since January.

Avila has also been ordered to undergo anger management.


Honestly, you can't make up stuff like this.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Slide Fail

"I have noticed that you failed to come into the lab on several weekends"

work-ethic-work, repeat.

via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker on 6/25/10


The stereotypes those little seventh graders had, of scientists who do nothing but work? Those come from somewhere. It's worth noting that Guido Koch is employed today, despite his youthful experimentation with the forbidden allure of the weekend.

Chemistry Blog: Something Deeply Wrong With Chemistry

(Thanks, Aaron Rowe!)

Posted via email from jimuleda's posterous

23 June 2010

No Backstage Pass: Student Presentations of Self to Professors

via Everyday Sociology Blog by W. W. Norton on 6/21/10

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

Dear Class,

When I was creating my syllabus, I forgot to mention that there is one more exam covering everything we did for the semester—yes, it’s cumulative—and a 20 page research paper. I know that this is the last week of class but could you please excuse me? Pick whichever reason you like best from the following to excuse my lapse:

A. My child had a fever and I had to take her to the doctor and then to the hospital and I didn’t get any sleep at all that night. And my dog was hit by a bus. Plus, my computer was acting funny. I think it has a virus. (If you’re taking an on-line course, add this: I was having trouble getting into Blackboard and Blackboard kept kicking me out.)

B. I was focused on my career and really needed to get some other work done to make sure I get promoted.

C. I really didn’t understand that I was so supposed to put all of that in the syllabus. It’s so hard trying to figure out months beforehand what I’m going to do with a class. The university wants us to hand in the syllabus long before the class even starts. I didn’t expect all of this to be so hard. I’m really good at all the other things I do and get really good evaluations on all of my other work.

D. This is the last class I’m going to teach. I’ve always got good evaluations for all the other courses I taught and I really don’t want this class to bring down my overall evaluation grade.

E. I just need an extension. That way I can add this information to the syllabus and nobody will have to know that it wasn’t there when you first got it.

Do you think I have ever told the student version of any of these to my professors? In earning four degrees, I have taken about seventy university courses so I’ve had ample opportunity. I’ve pulled a few all-nighters, pecking away at a typewriter trying to finish papers on-time. I trudged to the library in snow to do research. I was up until 2 and 3 o’clock studying for exams. Eventually, I realized that the students hovering around my professors were not asking questions clip_image002[6]about the materials but instead were explaining why they need an extension on this or that assignment. An extension? I thought a deadline was …well, the point after which you might as well drop dead as far as your professor is concerned. I didn’t realize it was only a suggestion. I wasn’t familiar with the ritual of negotiating a new deadline or alternative assignment.

I complied because that’s what I knew. I was lucky in that though, because, let me let you in on a secret that your professors may not have told you: Most of us have worked very hard to complete our own degrees, and have done so despite a variety of personal problems, challenges, and frustrations. In fact, many of us struggle to meet deadlines (teaching, writing articles, books, conducting research) that cause us stress. So when you tell us your personal problems in the hopes that we will extend deadlines, it can be infuriating to us. When you go on about how good your grades are, but show little or no evidence of how you could have possibly attained those grades, we don’t feel sympathy for you. We feel frustration. And we tell each other jokes about the most outrageous excuses that our students give us. (We don’t use your names though.) It suggests that you don’t understand the concept of impression management. For sociology students, this is particularly egregious because the concept was developed by sociologist Erving Goffman.

Impression management is an awareness of how others view us and how we can manipulate that perception and ultimately shape the way others treat us. Goffman differentiated between front stage and back stage behavior. Front stage refers to our public persona, our “onstage” roles. Front stage is what we want others—our audience—to think, know, or feel about us. Back stage is our private self; the dressing room at the back of a theatre where we put on make-up, get dressed, and prepare before entering the front stage.

clip_image002Back stage: You tell your friends/spouses/significant others about your burdens and why you really need to pass this class without really doing the work.

Back stage: We—faculty—talk about bizarre student excuses.

Front stage: You ask questions of your professors and make comments to them that illustrate how hard you are working to earn a good grade. You find ways to let them know that you’ve done all of the readings, exercises, and other assignments, even if they’re only “recommended”.

Front stage: We teach. And we act like we believe unbelievable student excuses.

As at a theatrical performance, the ”audience” should not be permitted to go back stage. Create an impression that you are a serious student, even if it is only an impression. Otherwise, make your excuse as good as this one in the video below....

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Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

Meek Chic

via Futility Closet by Greg Ross on 6/21/10

Why is modesty a virtue? Classically, to be virtuous is to be wise, thoughtful, and prudent. But modesty seems to depend on ignorance.

Julia Driver writes, “For a person to be modest, she must be ignorant with regard to her self-worth. She must think herself less deserving, or less worthy, than she actually is. … Since modesty is generally considered to be a virtue, it would seem that this virtue rests upon an epistemic defect.”

As Sherlock Holmes says, “To underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.”

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

22 June 2010

A Business Plan Doubles Your Chances for Success, Says a New Survey

via Small Business Trends by Rieva Lesonsky on 6/20/10

The value of writing a business plan is often debated in the entrepreneurial community.

For every successful business that was launched with a well-thought-out business plan, it seems you can find an equally successful one that was launched with nothing more than some scribbles on the back of a napkin. In fact, the contrarian approach may be the one you hear most about — i.e., entrepreneurs dismissing a business plan as something they wrote and then stuffed in the bottom of a drawer.

Palo Alto Software founder Tim Berry (a contributor here at Small Business Trends) recently reported on some new data showing the value of business plans.  Palo Alto did a survey that asked thousands of its Business Plan Pro software users questions about their businesses, goals and business planning. The responses showed that those who completed business plans were nearly twice as likely to successfully grow their businesses or obtain capital as those who didn’t write a plan.

More success with a business plan

Tim gave this breakdown of the numbers:

2,877 people completed the survey. Of those, 995 had completed a plan.

  • 297 of them (36%) secured a loan
  • 280 of them (36%) secured investment capital
  • 499 of them (64%) had grown their business

1,556 of the 2,877 had not yet completed their plan.

  • 222 of them (18%) secured a loan
  • 219 of them (18%) secured investment capital
  • 501 of them (43%) had grown their business

Of course, as author of the original Business Plan Pro software program and founder of Palo Alto Software, Tim admits he’s a little biased in favor of business plans.  And people who respond to a survey by the company that made their software may be biased in favor of saying good things.  So Tim had the University of Oregon Department of Economics assess the validity of the data. Eason Ding and Tim Hursey wrote a report on the data with the supervision of Professor Joe Stone. “Results suggest that planning with software is highly correlated with subsequent successes for a variety of firms,” they wrote.

Regardless of the type of company, the growth stage of the company and the intent for the business plan, Ding and Hursey’s analysis found that writing a business plan correlated with increased success in every one of the business goals included in the study. These were:  obtaining a loan, getting investment capital, making a major purchase, recruiting a new team member, thinking more strategically and growing the company.

The authors concluded:

“Except in a small number of cases, business planning appeared to be positively correlated with business success as measured by our variables. While our analysis cannot say that completing a business plan will lead to success, it does indicate that the type of entrepreneur who completes a business plan is also more likely to run a successful business.”

And if I correctly interpret the last sentence in the quote above, the act of going through the business planning process may make you a better entrepreneur.

So there you have it:  you’re better off WITH a business plan than without one.    In fact, based on the survey, you are twice as likely to grow your business or achieve funding if you have taken the time to write a business plan.

From Small Business Trends

A Business Plan Doubles Your Chances for Success, Says a New Survey

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

The $20,000 Question: Why?

via Simple Justice by SHG on 6/22/10

It's one thing for a cop to tell a bunch of kids, young toughs they used to be called, to move along.  After all, they're just kids.  It's not like they have the right to be there, or the smarts to question the cop's right to command.  But don't try that with a 62 year old women.  She's heard enough commands in her life. 

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Balko, the Atlanta City Council was scheduled to approve a $20 thousand settlement to Minnie Carey for the 10 hours she spent in jail on disorderly conduct charges.  The 62 year old Minnie Carey was standing on the street discussing funeral arrangements for her sister with some friends, when officer Brandy Dolson gave the ubiquitous command to all people standing on the street with black skin: Move along.  It's not because Dolson did anything wrong.

APD was named in the suit, and a spokesman for the department said Friday that an internal investigation found officer Brandy Dolson "acted within the parameters of department policies and procedures," which complied with national standards. "Those [national] guidelines are based on a set of proven standards that take into account the difficult situations police officers face every day, and the split-second decisions they must make to protect citizens and reduce their own personal risk,” APD public affairs director Carlos Campos said in an e-mail.

Sounds as if Dolson's actions must have addressed a pretty serious situation, since there are national guidelines based on proven standards taking into account the difficult situations police officers face.  So what was the "split-second decision" Dolson had to make?

Around 4 p.m. on March 26, 2009, Carey and her friends were on the sidewalk in front of the Boulevard Lotto convenience store, just a few blocks from downtown Atlanta. They had been talking a few minutes about funeral plans for a woman they all knew when Dolson and his partner pulled up. Dolson told the women to “move it.”

Three women started walking away but Carey didn’t, asking “why” instead.

Dolson’s answer to Carey was “because I said so,” according to records.

“I’m a citizen and I’m a taxpayer and I have a right to be here. I’m merely trying to find out about a sister’s funeral,” Carey responded.

Busted.  Apparently, Officer Dolson wasn't aware of the correct response to the question "why?"  It could have been so simple had he taken the philosophy elective at the Police Academy.  Instead, he took the class that taught him to say "because I said so."  A lot of cops opt for that class.  It's got the easier test.

The reaction to incidents such as this from the great blue circle is that outsiders, meaning anyone not an LEO, don't understand the pressures of being a police officer.  A wag might respond that police officers don't  understand the pressure of being a citizen confronted by a police officer.  On the high end, it's the absence of dignity, being treated like a human being rather than cattle.  On the low end, it's the fear of crossing the shield, turning "citizen and taxpayer" into submissive sheep complying with every utterance just to avoid the consequences.

Of the four women standing on the sidewalk in front of Boulevard Lotto, three chose to walk away rather than ask the question.  Only Minnie Carey stood her ground.  It got her 10 hours in lockup.  Her charges weren't dismissed until the third court appearance, when Dolson failed to appear.  It got her $20,000 (less attorneys fees and expenses, no doubt).  Was it worth it?

On the flip side, Police Officer Brandy Dolson won't be paying Ms. Carey a dime.  And why should he?  After all, he was just complying with those national standards developed to deal with critical split-second police decision-making when he told Minnie Carey, "because I said so."

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Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

8 Ways To Bring Your Creative Passions to Work

via Stepcase Lifehack by Mike Brown on 6/22/10

A “creative” person I worked with at a “trucking company” developed a reputation as frustrated  and bitter over her 30-year career. At her retirement, I inquired about her plans, particularly since she was relatively young. Asking if she hoped to create more art since she was now freed from cranking out corporate brochures, she told me, “No.” Instead, she was going to work at a garden center, since she loved plants and being outdoors.

While her answer was startling, the next time I saw her confirmed the impact this life change made. She was barely recognizable! Her long white hair was cut short and stylishly, she was tanned, and had a huge smile you couldn’t wipe off her face.  All this, a result of finally expressing her creativity as she truly enjoyed.

Makes you wonder why, if your creative passions involved the outdoors and plants, you’d sit in a cube for 30 years working on sales collateral while your bitterness festered? Maybe she felt stuck because she didn’t think a garden center job would pay enough. Yet surely, there were other alternatives.

Many people find themselves in similar situations. You have creative pursuits you enjoy OUTSIDE work, but can’t imagine incorporating them into your day job to make it more enjoyable. If you feel that’s your situation, it doesn’t have to be. Using my “graphic artist in a decidedly non-creative trucking company friend” (let’s call her Betty) as an example, here are 8 ways to incorporate your creative passions into your job:

1. Don’t complain about your situation. Start figuring out how to adapt it.

Betty was all about complaining, which stopped people from wanting to work with her in new, creative ways. Instead of griping, invest your energy in thinking strategically about how you could adapt your work to be more creative. What co-workers, customers, situations, projects, programs, products, and critical business needs might be waiting to incorporate the creative skills you’re truly passionate about using?

2. Map out how your interests could tie to your job.

Step back to generalize and innovate on how your creative passion could connect to your current company’s business. This will start creating potential hooks you can use to attach your passion to your job. In Betty’s case, working with plants at a garden center could be generalized to cultivating and growing things, design, customer interaction, outdoor settings, etc. Once you’ve moved from “working in a garden center” to “what happens at a garden center,” you have the seeds (pun intended) to plant in your regular job for new sources of creativity to spring up.

3. Do some thinking on your own to imagine hidden opportunities.

After thinking about your outside passion, consider your company and where it might need the same talents, experiences, and results related to your creativity. In the trucking company example, Betty’s list could have included: landscaping around our headquarters, design and planning for field facilities, plants in offices and common areas inside our building, sprucing up corporate meetings and conferences, and employees’ club fund raising projects and events. Any of these (and more) could easily have components tied to gardening and design.

4. Put your interests into the language of business.

When trying to introduce creativity, you’ll hit brick walls if you talk in the language of your creative passion. If Betty walked in and announced, “I want to work with flowers here at the trucking company,” her ideas would have been dead on arrival. Instead, consider the language you can use to express your interests. Betty could have used vocabulary related to events and facilities to initiate conversations.

5. Find like minded people.

Ask others about their outside creative interests: “What do you like to do for fun? How do you express yourself creatively?” If the company is of any size and your creative interests are anywhere near the mainstream, you’ll likely discover others who share your passions. Learn what ideas they may have and how they react to your possibilities for bringing your creativity more squarely into the workplace.

6. Volunteer for smart opportunities even if they’re out of the spotlight.

Start expending energy to insert yourself into smart opportunities you’ve identified. In Betty’s case, the first stop should have been the company employees’ club since it offered opportunities to help plan a summer get together (being outdoors), coordinate a holiday party (floral design and decoration), sponsor fund raisers (a plant sale), and at one time, send floral arrangements to hospitalized employees (direct interaction w/ florists). While Betty’s is a specific instance, the same concept applies for you. Map out and implement the plan to seize opportunities (even if they’re small ones) and increase your workplace creativity.

7. Begin doing even more.

Once you start to get a reputation for contributing successfully in innovative ways, the word will spread, and new opportunities will surface. In our company, we ultimately started sponsoring major events for hundreds of customers – both meetings and NASCAR events. New and enhanced creative approaches were always desirable and could certainly have included floral design as an element. Since no one wanted to work with Betty, however, she was never asked to participate. Being able to realize those first small successes, however, can lead to new opportunities to do even more creatively.

8. If it’s not working, don’t stick around and be miserable.

Betty chose to stay 30 years making herself and those around her miserable. If you try this approach, and for whatever reasons it doesn’t work in your particular company, look for another job rather than fuming. In a similar situation, our neighbor was a nurse who also wanted to work at a garden center. One day, she quit her nursing job and made the switch. The garden center only paid about 1/3 of what nursing did, so after a few years of blissful work at a garden center, she went back into another area of nursing. Not only does she have the memories to sustain her, she still works part-time at the garden place, keeps in touch with friends she made, and always knows she can make the switch again in the future. She’s happy, not miserable, realizing she has options.

I used these tips in the same not particularly creative company as Betty to uncover ways to introduce my love for art, music, and speaking into my job to make it much more fulfilling. While it wasn’t always exactly how I wanted things to be, it was so much better than never being able to exercise my creative passions. Whether you try just one tip or use them in sequence as a personal success plan, make sure you get started today!

Image: LastMariner

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Mike Brown leads The Brainzooming Group, helping organizations succeed more rapidly by expanding their strategic options and efficiently implementing innovative plans. He authors the Brainzooming™ blog, shares innovation ideas on Twitter, and wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation.” He's also a frequent keynote presenter.

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Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog


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