Archive for the ‘People’ Category


October 3, 2015

Recently, I was sent a link to an article in The Atlantic (Google American is Still a Patriarchy to find it) about how American society is patriarchal. In the article, the author (a sociology professor called Philip Cohen argues that because men run most institutions, and women take men’s name on marriage, we have evidence that society is patriarchal.

Now my instinct is one of “Well duh, it mostly is, but it’s changing, just talk to the under-35s”, but what irritated me is this last paragraph:

I expect some readers will go right to their favorite statistics or personal experiences in order to challenge my description of our society as patriarchal. In that tit-for-tat, men leading the vast majority of the most powerful institutions, and that American families usually follow the male line, become just another couple of data points. But they shouldn’t be, because some facts are more important than others.

Now I highlighted the last sentence. I did so because it beyond irritated me. It made the whole article read as if the author thinks all men are bar-stewards, and will always be bar-stewards. Facts are facts, if you can’t interpret the trend so you can make predictions about the future, or target thinking in certain areas, then you shouldn’t be in the sciences, social, or otherwise.(the author was a social scientist).

To me the issues are why do women earn less than men, when they’re older than 35? Do women and men make different lifestyle choices that can be addressed to reduce income inequality as they age? And more generally, what are the long term trends in equality between the sexes?

Introverts vs. Extroverts

April 4, 2015

When I started my MBA at TCU a few years ago, they had us do a Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory (as I think it was at called the time). Put briefly, it helps you identify how you approach the world. It was fun, and perhaps confirmed some things about how I approach the world (or maybe just reinforced my pre-conceived ideas).

One of the elements they test is your introversion/extroversion. It was a 60 point scale ranging from E30 (i.e. extreme extrovert) through 0 to I30 (i.e. extreme introvert). The presenter who explained the results had the class line up with the most extroverted at one end and the most intoverted at the other. I came up as so introverted on the scale that there would have been a 7 or 8 foot gap between me and the next person in the class, had he done it to scale (I came up as I26, she was I10). Had he explained the definitions before we arranged ourselves, about that spectrum I’d have known I was introverted. but even I was surprised how strong a score I presented.

The presenter asked me a bunch of questions about my score (way to go presenter, play to my wheel house), where I conceded that I wasn’t much for parties, or small talk, and just needed a small number of good friends.

I’ve always been told I’m intense, or earnest, or focused, or driven, or determined, or “walking to the beat of my own drum” (in a way that implies that I’m a bad, bad boy for feeling that way), and I think that this is related to introversion in some way, but I’ve never been sure exactly how to find out (or cared sufficiently, I’m earnest about stuff, shouldn’t everyone be?)

Anyway, I said all this to say that…. I was trying to explain the difference between extroverts and introverts to a friend recently, and made a right pig’s ear of it. What I should have said was…

“Introvert know exactly how the meeting/presentation will be. They can’t be sure of the outcome, but they’re prepared. Totally prepared. They have followed a set of rules he discovered years ago, and has developed them ever since. They knows they work, and why they work.

There may be a crowd of people tomorrow, but they don’t phase the introvert. They’re is prepared – this is no longer down to social skills, but to how good his preparation is.

For the introvert presenter, there is nothing more important than preparation – it lets you put together all the hard parts of communication without anybody looking at you. it lets you shape ideas in your own time and your own space. Spend as much time as you can on the preparation, and the presentation will take care of itself.”

To my friend that sounds like control issue. It isn’t it’s just playing to our strengths as introverts. The problem is, when it comes to new things that are outside my wheelhouse, I can come off as nervous, when it’s not. Extroverts are better at thinking with their mouths. I’m not. I couldn’t wing anything, no matter how had I tried, but give introverts time, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Latinos in Hollywood display at LAX

October 7, 2014

I was at LAX airport on Sunday, and they had this big display about Hispanic/Latino actors and actresses in Hollywood. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Los Angeles has a large Hispanic population, and it’s always good to display positive examples of ethnic minorities (if for no other reason than to say to potentially bigoted white folks that there’s nothing to fear).

As I was looking at it, I decided to make a list about who expected to be on display (it was set up so I couldn’t see all those on display immediately). On my mental list were Desi Arnaz, J-Lo, Martin Sheen, Jimmy Smits, Héctor Elizondo, Edward James Olmos, John Leguizamo, Michelle Rodriguez, Andy Garcia, Danny Trejo, and Eva Longoria.

I mean no disprespect by this, but my list was better than that on display in the airport. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I missed some (I’m not a 12 year old girl, so didn’t think of Selena Gomez, I don’t watch crappy reality television, so Missed Mario Lopez, I’d never heard of his wife, so missed Courtney Mazza, and I didn’t recognise the older Hispanic actors they mentioned because I don’t know much 1960s American TV). I’m slightly embarrassed I missed Anthony Quinn, and I was surprised to learn Madeleine Stowe and Rita Heyworth is/was Hispanic.

The ones I got that the display missed were Martin Sheen, John Leguizamo and Danny Trejo. I tried to think why these actors were missed out. I could immediately see why Danny Trejo might not be included. He’s a good actor, and he’s cleaned his life up since he was a kid, but he did have “issues” in his youth which might make people risk averse. to him

The thing that irritated me was the exclusion of Martin Sheen, and I started wondering why. He’s famous enough, so was it because he had an Anglo name? No because they had Anthony Quinn and Madeleine Stowe up on display. Was it because he’d changed his name (making him less authentically Hispanic)? Well he might have been born Ramón Estévez, but Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca. Was it because he’s only half Hispanic (if there can be such a thing, his mothers name is Mary-Ann Phelan)? Hmmm I don’t like the argument, and I don’t believe they’d use it. Is it because he doesn’t speak Spanish (I have no evidence for this, but I read somewhere that J-Lo doesn’t speak much Spanish, and she was up there. It can’t be because he wasn’t born in Los Angeles either, because Selena Gomez was born in Texas, and Andy Garcia was born in Cuba.

Part of me thought “Meh, maybe they just forgot him.” till I read the sign by the picture of Jimmy Smits which said “one of the first people to play a Latino President on network television”. That sentences reads to me like gymnastics to avoid including Sheen, and that really does make me wonder why.

I know I’m not the most naturally funny guy in the world, but come on…. really?

January 9, 2014

It’s exam season at our school at the moment, and (as usual) we’re getting a crop of humorous answers in our exam papers. This isn’t surprising, given our kids aren’t native English speakers, but it always gives us a smile when we get comments like “a white prostitute would be made” as an answer in a Chemistry exam (we assume he was going for precipitate, but it speaks volumes for this particular teenaged boy that his mind alighted on that other word instead).

Anyhow, the response of a lot of teachers I know is “Blame the teachers.” It’s a sort of.ironic dig at people who blame teachers for everything from the way 5 year old’s behave, to the rise of teenage mums, to increasing knife violence. It’s a way for teachers to acknowledge that we seem to get blamed for the the fact that that we don’t live a land of picket fences, warm beer, cricket being played on the village green, and the poor knowing their place.

I’ve used it when a kid’s done something dumb, and had it used against me when kids I teach have done something dumb. It’s POSITIVELY NOT supposed to be criticism of something where you (as a teacher) actually did something wrong (I’d let you know privately about that), it’s just an ironic recognition of the fact that all criticism isn’t justified.

Anyhow, we got a particularly silly answer off a student (he’d been asked explain something in pictures, and not used them), and jokingly said “I blame the teachers.” One teacher took issue at this, and assumed I was having a dig at him. Now let’s just disregard, for a moment, the fact that the guy’s got a tonne of experience. Let’s disregard the fact he’s been selected by the firm for potential future advancement, Let’s disregard, finally, that I asked him the yesterday to show a new teacher how to build relationships with students (surely a sign I have some regard for him), and ask what sort or person do he think I am? Does he really think I’m the sort of idiot who’d publicly undermine someone who was being a a sound individual?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d support your honest efforts to improve if you were bad. This might involve talking to other people about you, but I’d NEVER, EVER publicly throw you under a bus. I just wouldn’t.