Thursday, December 14, 2017

This is How Huge Door-stopper Fantasy Novels Get Made |

The book-making process. Pretty cool.

This is How Huge Door-stopper Fantasy Novels Get Made |

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Measuring and Calculating Wealth

Found a site to calculate how much money back then would be worth today.

It looks to have quite a few other calculators that I'll have to check out later.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Helping your child find her voice | Parenting

Helping your child find her voice | Parenting:

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From the Great Schools website (

Helping your child find her voice

When teasing by middle school boys took an inappropriate turn, the principal helped my daughter advocate for herself.
by:  May 18, 2017

My ex-wife, Jeni, called to deliver the news. A group of middle school boys had harassed our daughter, Tiana. Nothing physical or outright menacing, but there were enough sexual overtones to make a shy and sensitive seventh grade girl feel deeply uncomfortable. Jeni wanted to tell the principal. She wanted something done.
Tiana wasn’t so sure. As a rule, she avoided confrontation. She was upset, but escalation wasn’t her style.
At the time, I sympathized with my daughter. I recalled how brutal my own middle school years had been, resulting in a usefully thick skin. Maybe the same would be true for Tiana?
Jeni persevered. She convinced us that this was too important to let slide, that it was our responsibility to all the girls at our middle school to call out this bad behavior.
So we met with the principal, Rebecca Cheung.
We weren’t crazy about her response — at least not initially. Principal Cheung told us that in cases like these, her recommendation was for the aggrieved party to personally confront the person who had said or done something harmful. Tiana, she suggested, should explain to the boys why what they had said was so hurtful.
This didn’t sit right with any of us. Tiana was the victim! Why should she be forced to directly address the offender? For a shy girl, the experience would surely be excruciating.
Now it was Principal Cheung’s turn to persevere. She outlined the benefits for Tiana: Standing up for herself would be beneficial to Tiana’s long-term emotional growth and sense of self-worth. The confrontation would happen in Principal Cheung’s office, under her supervision. Neither Jeni nor I would be allowed to attend, another element furthering the goal of getting Tiana to stand on her own two feet. Principal Cheung told us she’d done this many, many times before, with good results for all parties. Though we were all still trepidatious, we decided to give this method a try.
That was 10 years ago. After this incident, high school came on like a tsunami, followed by college and foreign travel and serious boyfriends. We all kind of forgot about that middle school incident… until recently.
One day earlier this year, I started wondering how much of the strong, self-assured, utterly-unafraid-to-advocate-for-herself-or-others young woman I know today was born in that moment in Principal Cheung’s office. When my seventh grader put aside her diffidence, looked a boy in the eye, and explained to him his malfeasance — was that a breakthrough that forever shaped my daughter?
The answer, I thought, could be useful to anyone with a child in middle school. Middle school is notorious to everyone — parents, teachers, students — as a painful transition between the nurturing embrace of elementary school and the exciting drama of high school. We tend to think of middle school as a time to be endured, gotten through, tolerated. As parents, our impulse is often to try to shield our children from the roughest waters and keep looking ahead.
But a couple of decades of neuroscience research informs us that young adolescence — especially for girls — is an enormously important period of neural growth and transformation. The brain is literally being rebuilt, on the fly. Some developmental psychologists believe that making the right educational and developmental interventions in middle school could be as important as anything that happens in the 0-to-3 years period widely believed to be the most important developmental stage of life.
“The amount of neurological and developmental change that is happening right then [makes middle school] the second and last major window in which the brain is massively reorganized,” says Diane Divecha, a psychologist affiliated with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. “It is a great period of vulnerability and opportunity. We should be pouring as much resources, study, attention, money, and support programs into this period as we have in the 0-to-3 range.”
It is, in retrospect, impossible to determine exactly how any single event can affect any person’s overall process of maturation and personal growth. But what I didn’t realize before investigating the hows and whys of my daughter’s experience is just how important it is to take a proactive stance in helping middle schoolers learn how to grow up at a time when everything — their brains, their hormones, their sense of self-identity — is in a state of roiling turbulence. We can’t shield our kids from these traumas; we need to get right in there, like Principal Cheung did, and show our kids how to grow from them.
Rebecca Cheung now works as the academic coordinator for the Principal Leadership Institute at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. She remembered Tiana, although she did not recall the specifics of this particular instance of harassment.
She acknowledged that her recommendation for a sit-down between harasser and victim was standard operating procedure during her time as principal. Quite a few girls, she said, had gone through similar experiences during her tenure. Middle school, said Cheung, is challenging for everyone, but it is especially tough for girls.
“What the research says is that girls by and large mature faster than boys,” says Cheung, “and so girls are really going through the puberty period during middle school. Puberty and adolescence come with a lot of awakenings for kids around their physical body — their identity, beauty issues, hormones. It’s really challenging for them to navigate, physically and psychologically.”
Her decision to bring both the victims and perpetrators of a bullying or harassment incident together to talk things out in her office was, says Cheung, a conscious effort to nurture youth empowerment “informed in part by some theories around resiliency and around student voice and advocacy.”
“I remember many, many instances of having to help kids find their own voice in navigating these types of issues,” says Cheung. “I remember telling them I’m not always going to be there to solve this problem for you. Part of our role is to help you be able to advocate for yourself.”
According to Cheung, the ensuing showdown wasn’t a sink or swim situation for Tiana or any other girl or boy. It was an adult-guided effort to resolve issues while building the child’s strengths. By being present in the room and lending her authority to the interaction, Cheung says she made it clear to both parties that this was an important interaction, that in her position as principal and leader of the school, she was using her authority to “to support Tiana… to emphasize the importance of her voice.”
Simply using her power to lecture the offending party on the error of his or her ways would be self-defeating, Cheung explains.
“Students have to find their own voice. That’s what self-advocacy is all about. If I advocate on her behalf, I could be reinforcing a victim mentality for her. [Instead], it’s like I’m taking my power, and using it to say ‘this is really important and you need to hear this now.’ ”
“Victimization happens when you can’t get yourself out of that space or mentality of fear,” she continues. “The empowerment is to move beyond the fear, to be able to speak and say your piece, and to make something right with the person and then for them to honor their words to each other, and move on.”
I wonder: Did it ever blow up in her face? Did resolution ever fail to occur?
“Oh yeah, that happened,” she acknowledges. “And then we do it again. But in between we have individual conversations with the students who are struggling, and we talk about why it was a struggle. These types of skills take time and practice to develop and sometimes they are really unfamiliar or uncomfortable for kids, and so I think we have to do right by them: which is to give them another chance.”
Intriguingly, according to Divecha, Cheung’s approach ran counter to the “conventional wisdom on bullying and harassment.”
“Peer mediation is not recommended,” says Divecha, “because you are putting the target of the harassment back into the relationship with the people who did the harassment.”
Which, of course, was precisely the concern that I had as a parent when Cheung first suggested bringing the students together to talk it over.
However, noted Divecha, it is also possible that “the principal was sophisticated enough to finesse that interaction so that your daughter didn’t feel re-victimized… and to make this happen to help her feel confident to stand up to something like a transgression on her dignity.”
In the immediate aftermath of the “interaction,” Tiana didn’t tell us much about what happened, except to note that the boys were extremely embarrassed. The initial harassing comment had involved the boys teasing Tiana about whether she knew “where the Tampon goes.” The retelling of this incident in front of the principal, apparently, was not something the boys enjoyed sitting through.
But at a time when the very structure of your brain is in great flux, maybe it’s a good thing to be forced to feel acutely embarrassed at your own dumb joke. And conversely, it seems possible that the principal’s encouragement to Tiana to be her own self-advocate may well have had outsized reverberations, given that we now know that everything that happens in middle school packs a larger-than-normal punch.
And that seems to me the thread to hold on to. Whether or not Principal Cheung’s intervention really did help transform my daughter into the adult she is today, it is clear that middle school is a time when such interventions make a huge difference. We’ve got to stop fearing middle school and learn how to embrace it. The potential for encouraging long-term positive personal growth and building your child’s strengths is simply too great to ignore.
Andrew Leonard

About the author

Andrew Leonard is a Berkeley based writer who covers technology, economics, and Sichuan food.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Budget Hero Game Gone

NPR had a show in 2008 about a simulator that you could use to try your hand at balancing the Federal Budget. I had a link to it on here, because I think it's a great idea, and a great way to learn how our tax dollars were spent.
Plus it was a game, and a fun one!

It seems Budget Hero was retired in August 2014,

I found another, but it's not the same. Probably more detailed, but the world has gotten more complex, so I guess it makes sense.

Stabilize the Debt: An Online Exercise in Hard Choices

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why the Gap Between Worker Pay and Productivity Is So Problematic - The Atlantic

Why the Gap Between Worker Pay and Productivity Is So Problematic - The Atlantic:

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I just learned this is the case. It kind of made sense, since I was living it, but we still liked to think life was improving.

by  on  

One of the most frustrating parts of the sluggish recovery has been paltry wage gains for most workers. The stock market may be booming, corporate profits increasing, and home values rising, but middle and lower-class workers often don't truly feel the benefit of such improvements unless wages rise.

But wage stagnation isn't just a problem borne of the financial crisis. When you look at the relationship between worker wages and worker productivity, there's a significant and, many believe, problematic, gap that has arisen in the past several decades. Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

I spoke with Jan W. Rivkin, an economist and senior-associate dean for research at Harvard Business School who studies labor markets and U.S. competitiveness, in order to learn more about the history of the gap, and what it means for workers and the broader economy. The interview that follows has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Gillian White: So how long has the gap between wages and worker productivity persisted, and what does it mean for workers, other than the fact that they aren't seeing significant wage gains?
Jan Rivkin: From the end of WWII until the 1970s productivity in the U.S. and median wages grew in lockstep. But from the late 1970s until today we've seen a divergence, with productivity growing faster than wages. The divergence indicates that companies and the people who own and run them are doing much better than the people who work at the companies.
If the U.S. economy was healthy and competitive, we'd see firms able to do two things: win in the global marketplace and lift the living standards of the average American. Large businesses and the people who run them, and invest in them, are thriving but working and middle-class Americans are struggling—as are many small businesses.
White: Some say that the decrease of collective bargaining has played a role in creating the gap, how true do you think that is?
Rivkin: There are a number of causes, one is the underlying shift in technology and globalization. Another is systematic underinvestment in the commons, which is a set of shared resources that every business needs in order to be productive: an educated populace, pools of skilled labor, a vibrant network of suppliers, strong infrastructure, basic R&D and so on. A third is shifts in institutions and politics and bargaining power, which is embodied in the decline in collective bargaining and the weakening of labor unions. There's no question that that is part of the story. How large a part? I don't think anyone has a well-informed perspective.
White: Ok, so let’s talk more about some of the principal reasons this gap developed and then started to widen.
Rivkin: Starting in the 1980s changes in geopolitics and technology opened the world for business. It became possible to do business from anywhere and to automate an increasing array of activities. Globalization and technological change brought great benefits to the U.S. economy, but it had a few other consequences.

White: For instance?
Rivkin: It weakened the connections between companies and their communities. Those connections had led companies to invest in the commons, so corporate investment in the commons starts to decline around that period. Second, it put intense pressure on the middle class, which found itself competing for jobs with hundreds of millions of skilled, ambitious workers around the world—so this is the point at which we see the divergence between productivity growth and median-wage growth.
A third consequence occurred at the other end of the skills spectrum. For those who had unique skills, this became a golden age because now those individuals were able to sell their talents around the world, amplified by technology. So this is when we see inequality begin to soar.
White: This gap, like lots of other forms of inequality seems to bear down on the middle class—why do you think that is?
Rivkin: We could have doubled down on making the middle class so capable that it could compete with anyone, but I think instead, what we did collectively is we made a series of unsustainable promises to maintain the illusion of prosperity. Promises like let's extend credit to the middle class so that people can consume—especially houses; promises like the government will increasingly cover your healthcare costs in retirement; promises like the government will directly employ you. You then take those promises, couple them with a nasty recession and two wars and you wind up with a government that is physically hobbled and politically divided. So from government and from business you've got a systematic underinvestment in those shared resources that we need for the middle class to thrive.
White: You’ve said before, this isn’t just a middle-class issue, it impacts everyone and has ramifications for the economy as a whole. So how does this issue stretch beyond middle-class workers?
Rivkin: The divergence that I described is not just a problem for the middle class, it's a problem for all of society. Without a strong middle class we see weak consumption. With unhappy workers we have a less productive set of people for business to hire. If we're only tapping the creativity and potential of a small fraction of our population that can't be good for society. If working, middle-class Americans are not thriving, eventually they become anti-business voters. So this should be a concern for the 1 percent not only ethically, but economically.
White: Is there a way to rectify the situation, to close the gap or at least create better outcomes for workers?
Rivkin: There are some forces at work that are unstoppable and we probably wouldn’t want to stop them even if we could. Forces of globalization, technological change—those genies are out of the bottle. But there are other parts of they dynamic that are purely choice. The damage done by underinvestment is a Self-Inflicted Wound.
We need a movement toward cross-sector collaboration for rebuilding the commons and for sharing prosperity. We're seeing multiple examples of businesses that have realized that it’s in their interest to make sure that their workers are well educated, are skilled, that their supply networks are healthy, that the infrastructure in the cities where they operate is strong.
Investing in the commons should not be a substitute for raising wages, but wages are determined in a competitive market. It's impossible, for a company to justify paying an employee more if that employee hasn't been appropriately productive for the company. I think that business leaders just need to recognize that companies can't thrive for long if their communities are struggling.
White: Do you think that actual changes in business and policies that could help the situation are feasible in this environment?
Rivkin: It is a tricky moment. I really see us at a crossroads with two pathways. The current path is one where federal policy makers squabble for partisan gains, delay tough choices, and make America a less attractive place to compete. Business leaders pursue their narrow short-term interest and free ride off each other's investments—the business environment deteriorates, businesses leave America, the government enacts anti-business policies, companies reduce their U.S. activities further, and distrust deepens.