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.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Upcoming Construction at 1604 & Bulverde

From the San Antonio Business Journal-

Local multifamily developer closes on 11 acres, across from future H-E-B


Monday, January 9, 2017

When teens lie (because they all do!) | Parenting

When teens lie (because they all do!) | Parenting:

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From in the Parenting section.

When teens lie (because they all do!)

Teenage lying is nearly universal — and developmentally appropriate. So how can you build a trusting relationship with your adolescent child?

“Nelly, where are you going?” asks her mother one Saturday night, as her 16-year-old daughter scampers out the front door in a low-cut shirt and miniskirt.

“Shannon and I are going to a movie, I forget the name. Then we’re gonna eat at the new whatchamacallit cafe and I’ll be back by 11 or 12. Don’t wait up!”

“Okay… but… but… but…

Nelly’s mom frowns suspiciously as her daughter disappears into the night. She wonders: Was my daughter’s last-minute outfit change related to the furious spasm of texts she just got? Did she really break up with Dragomir, the too-old and too-rude wrestler? Is my daughter being honest with me?

Interrogating her, she realizes, is useless. Every time she tries, Nelly avoids her questions. Or gets angry and yells, “Mom! It makes me so mad you don’t trust me!”

It’s the paradox of parenting teenagers: their job is to develop the decision-making skills they’ll need to become responsible, autonomous adults. Our job is to give them enough freedom to practice those skills — but not so much freedom that they get themselves into serious trouble. We need to be able to trust them. But how reasonable is it to expect teens to be completely honest with their parents?

Trustworthy teens
Teens are old enough to have a well-established sense of right and wrong. And they value honesty — at least in the abstract. In the Josephson Institute of Ethics 2012 survey of more than 23,000 high school students around the country, more than 95 percent of teens said they believe “lying is morally wrong.” And 86 percent agreed with the statement, “It’s not worth it to lie or cheat because it hurts your character.” Like most adults, teens find lying to be more acceptable when the motive is to be polite or do good, less acceptable when the lies cause harm or self-gain. So that’s the good news. But if you’ve ever grilled your teenager for coming home after curfew, you’ve probably wondered if they’re telling you the whole truth.
Dr. Nancy Darling, professor and chair of the psychology department at Oberlin College, has researched teens and honesty for 20 years, conducting studies in the U.S., Chile, the Philippines, Italy, and Uganda. Her conclusion is that 98 percent of teenagers worldwide lie to their parents.
“Is that all?” My 16-year-old friend, Jesse, scoffs when I tell him this stat. “I think 2 percent are lying.”
Teens lie, Darling says, about how they spend their money, where they go with their friends, what they’re doing, who they’re dating, and their alcohol and drug use.
If the topics teens lie about are fairly predictable, the reasons they do it are also pretty easy to understand. According to Darling, the three reasons teens lie are, “they think they will get in trouble, they think their parents will be disappointed in them, and they think their parents will stop them from doing something they want to do in the future.”
My insightful friend Jesse offers a fourth reason teens may be reluctant to tell their parents everything: “We lie because we have this craving for autonomy and independence. By bending the truth, even in small, unimportant ways, we get to keep a morsel of information for ourselves. Every lie we tell is something our parents don’t find out about our lives. We crave that.”
My daughter Tallulah, also 16, agrees. “Kids lie,” she admits, “because they don’t want their parents to know what they’re doing or even thinking. Plus, parents always ask questions that kids don’t want to answer.”
There’s an argument to be made that this is a normal, healthy teen attitude. Dr. John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens, writes in an email, “Among the primary challenges of adolescence is making your own decisions and establishing an identity separate and apart from one’s parents…. More often than not, some degree of lying, or fibbing at the least, typically takes place here. This is a part of the ‘rebellion’ that helps establish a personal point of view.”
Perhaps more worrisome than a teen who gently rebels, Duffy suggests, is one who doesn’t. “I find that the teens that always ‘toe the line’ are a bit quashed developmentally and somewhat overly dependent on their parents, sometimes well into adulthood. As a clinician, I find myself relieved when teens push the envelope a bit, knowing that the present difficulty will likely result in a future strength.”
Nosy parents, private teens
Darling’s knowledge of teenagers includes at-home experience: she’s the mother of two boys, including an 18-year-old. She has advice for respecting teens’ natural desire for privacy and autonomy.
“You don’t want to be intrusive,” she explains. “If you try to get into their personal business, they’ll push back, they won’t want to tell you… they might lie. They’ll throw up barriers.”
I feel guilty. I am a nosy dad.
“How do I know,” I ask, “what is intrusive, and what’s not?”
“I need to know if my son’s homework is done, but I don’t need to read it and make sure it’s all correct. I don’t need to over-control it,” she explains. “I need to know he went to school and was in class, but I don’t need to know every person he talked to at lunch. I need to know he was at his friend’s house, but I shouldn’t be asking about the content of his conversations.”
If you want more details, Darling suggests, try asking teens casual questions when they are doing a chore like the dishes. “They might be happy to talk and talk because they are bored and it is more relaxing then.”
Tough love when teens lie
Darling and Duffy agree that while it’s normal for teens to want to keep some details private, that doesn’t mean you should expect your child to lie to you, nor should you ignore it if they do.
“If you think they are lying, you should raise your eyebrows and say, ‘it’s undermining my trust in you, it’s undermining our relationship.’ When they do tell you the truth, you should thank them. Don’t punish them, otherwise next time they won’t tell you. Tell them, ‘I’m really disappointed that you lied, but now I really appreciate that you told me the truth’ and then move on,” Darling says.
They also agree that an honest, trusting relationship with your teen is an attainable goal.
Teens are the most frank with their parents, Darling says, when parents utilize two semi-opposing strategies. The first is to parent with warmth and acceptance, so your teen doesn’t feel they will be harshly and unjustly punished if they tell you something you aren’t going to like.
The second is to set clear rules — and enforce them consistently. “Let them know that you regard it as your job as a parent to set rules that are good for them in the legitimate domain of parental authority — safety and school-related concerns,” says Darling. And trust them with the decisions that are appropriate for their age and maturity level.
So, make it clear you expect total honesty from your teen when it comes to activities that put their health, safety, and future at risk — including drugs, alcohol, sex, driving, ignoring homework, ditching classes, and other thrill-seeking adventures. And respect their personal business — we don’t need to know everything they’re thinking and doing or control their self-expression and social life.
But what about the big, big gray zone, the area where clashes happen and lies are told? Do behaviors like wearing clothing you consider inappropriate — getting a tattoo, spending allowance money on items you think are foolish, going to parties where there will be drinking (to name just a few) — fall under parental jurisdiction for health and safety reasons or under teens’ personal business?
Only you and your teen can answer those questions for your family. Ideally, you’d decide together. Calmly explain your position. Relate to your child why you believe that getting an eyebrow piercing or extending their curfew until 2 am is a bad idea. Explain why you view it as your business to intervene.
Darling’s research shows that rulemaking plus warmth equals teenagers who are more likely to ask for your permission and more likely to confess if they have broken a rule. “They need to respect you and believe you will be warm, accepting, and non-punitive,” she says.
The recipe for honesty turns out to be cultivating warm, strong relationships with teens so they respect your rules and value your advice. And the best way to do that, says Duffy, is to “establish a strong positive balance in the emotional bank account. This means spending a lot of quality time together, just enjoying each other’s company, listening to your kid’s music, laughing with them, asking them to show you how an app works. This lays the foundation for a trusting relationship.” Research suggests that teens lie less when they have this kind of relationship with their parents, in part because they don’t feel like they need to, and in part because they don’t want to risk losing their parents’ trust.
Wonder what happened to Nelly, the wild and evasive teenager? I checked in with her on Facebook. She’s now a 21-year-old business major at Northeastern University. She wants to be a hedge fund manager, like her father.
“Nelly,” I ask. “Give me some advice. How can parents have an honest relationship with their teens?”
“Be honest with them,” she replies. “Get as interested and involved with their life as you can. That way, you’ll know what your kids are doing, even if you don’t agree with it.”
This is part of a new series on how the science of character development can help parents promote honesty, diligence, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, and curiosity in their children.

About the author

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer on education and brain development, and the author of Brighter Brains: 225 Ways to Elevate or Injure Intelligence. He is also the director of the Brighter Brains Institute.