The Halo Effect in three parts

There are a couple versions of the experiment.  In one, teachers are shown video of a classroom session.  Before they observe, they are told that the students are either gifted, average, below average/troublesome.  The teachers are asked to record their observations. 

For the 'gifted' students they observed engaged students.  Obviously high achievers.

For the below average/troublesome students, they tend to diagnose ADD.  They pick out the troublemakers.

But the video is the same.

In another version, the teachers given pre-conceptions are actually teaching the classes.  Same result.  Gifted students tend to get A's and praise and the Below Average ones are graded poorly.


When I was in flight school, I saw a version of this.  If someone's first flight went well then any problems on subsequent flights were seen as aberrations.  If someone had a rough first flight, any successes after that were seen as aberrations.  Consistent performance can get you out of the group you were placed in up front but it is difficult and rarely fully successful. 


When I was in High School and College, I was often called in to join orchestras/bands.  My Trumpet teacher gave me this piece of advice.  

 "No matter what the group is, sit at first chair"

If you sit at last chair and you really fit at a different place, they will probably move you up one chair - maybe.

If you sit at first chair, they may move you to second chair but they won't move you all the way down to the bottom.



When I am leading a new team, I keep this in mind.  I know the team can be successful and I keep my expectations high.  I tend to trust people with more authority than expected and try to give them permission to fail (when we can spare it).  People tend to grow into the expectations you have for them.  When they don't is a different story. 

Back to Tilden

The Tilden botanical Garden is one place we tend to go to in order to prove that the season is changing.  Today we walked around there for about an hour, taking pictures as we went.

It's funny, I take more pictures of wildlife there than plants.

12 things I've learned in Management

I've been managing people for quite some time now.  Over time one develops their own style and credo.  In no particular order, here are twelve things I've learned.


  1. If everything is an emergency then nothing is.
  2. If you rely on line-of-sight tasking to assign work, everyone will avoid you.
  3. Respect your teams time away from you.  This includes the lunch hour.
  4. Micro-management is a sign of distrust.  If you have to do it then do you have the right people?  Or is it just you?
  5. A well run team will continue being successful without your constant interference.
  6. Remember you are dealing with adults.  Give them the goal, answer their questions, get out of the way.
  7. A goal has both a tangible result and a time frame.
  8. There are two ways to deal with your time regarding orders from on-high -  Funnel or Filter.  If you are a funnel, why are you even there?
  9. Success and Failure are both addictive
  10. Provide your team with the tools they need.
  11. Have their back and they will have yours.
  12. Remember these are people, not pawns.  They know which way you are treating them.

Day 18 - Gloom

We occasionally play a game called Gloom.  The basic idea is backwards from most games.  Make others happy before they die and make yourself miserable (and then kill yourself when you are at your happiest).

It can be a pretty morbid game full of storytelling and memory (for added difficulty play after a couple mojitos).

Well, this morning our lovely bassets, Babar and Opal, decided to get into the shower with me.  AND THEY WOULDN'T GET OUT.

As a result, I was mostly clean and they smelled like wet dogs (which they were).

2014 - Yep, it's a year

It's the time of year for reviving unused blogs - to make promises to yourself that (at the moment) you intend to keep.

I like new years, they are like the punctuation of life.  I enjoy the feel of a reset.

But life isn't resettable, we are always building on our past.  We take where we are and we move forward.  I think the question is 'moving forward toward what?'

I'm not going to have the same legacy as most of my friends.  I'm a little sad about that but again, we are talking about building on the past.

Just to enjoy my life seems a little hedonistic, though I do still

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Teddy Roosevelt was Mechachronophobic

I was awakened today by the traditional national park alarm-turkeys. It is a proud tradition dating back to the founding of the national park system when Teddy Roosevelt signed his executive order stating "Each lodging in the national park, being devoid of time pieces (Roosevelt feared mechanical watches), will be assigned a turkey (or indigenous fowl) for the purpose of alerting each visitor to the beginning of the day. This should give each visitor time to prepare for the mandatory calisthenics"

Since then, the morning exercises have been put aside but the proud tradition of the alarm-turkey (or goose in some cases) lives on.

I'm to understand this is a legacy position, with children learning and taking the role over for their parents.

This morning I was in for a treat. I was granted the soulful song of not one but TWO alarm-turkeys. They are normally shy when you try to engage them in conversation so I have dubbed my two Nathaniel and Fuzzbutt 2.


After my morning routine, I attempted to seek out these proud traditionalists. I caught up with them at shift change. Nathaniel was departing for other duties and his replacement, Zoot, continued his route.

[Pic 2 is Zoot and Fuzzbutt 2]

I'm pretty sure I witnessed an interoffice rivalry coming to a head, the two did not seem to care for one another. Still, in the presence of visitors, they did not come to blows.

I believe an office counseling session is in order. I'll offer this advice to HR as I depart.

Driveabout - Day 1


Day 1 of the drive-about.  I left the house around 1 today.  Probably a late start but traffic-wise, it was pretty much perfect.  I stopped in Gilroy to stock Ray up with garlic and continued down my standard path towards Monterrey.
Wow, the coast is beautiful.  The rocky shoals are somewhat like Oregon.  Every mile or two there is a place where everyone is pulled off to take pictures or just see the view.
Around 5, i decided to get a room.  There is no reason to push things.  If I wanted I could make it to LA (but why would I go there, I was there Thursday).
So here I am at the Big Sur Lodge (the lodge in the park).  I have a 'cabin' (no phones, no TV, no Wifi (thought that wouldn't stop me).
In a bit, I'll walk down to the restaurant and relax in the lodge.


In the Pit

When I was in college, I played trumpet – a lot. Part of being a music major meant performing in various groups. My last two years at the University of Washington, my role could be best described as ‘Rover’. Because I had a decent amount of skill and could sight read (thank you Darrell), I was often dropped into performances for one or two rehearsals and then perform.
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Night Flight

When I was in flight school, qualifying to be a Naval Flight Officer, I did not have an easy time. I have a tendency to dig down into the details on things and sometimes that focus is too intense (I suppose that is the geek in me). The flights were about showing what you have learned on instrumentation, thinking on your feet, and the ability to take in a lot of data without being overwhelmed.
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Applications I Use #003, #004 - Kindle and Delicious Library 2

My house is filling with books.  I am a lover of knowledge (and non sequitur trivia) and the annoying enabling job (for a time) of working in a bookstore.  My home was losing cubic feet quickly.
So...two applications this time.
Last year I got a Kindle, Amazon's ebook reader.
Now, the Kindle has several positive aspects.
  • Free Internet!  Granted it's pretty much 8-bit, color-blind, 1982 version of the internet but it can prove to be useful.
  • A fairly huge library of books to purchase.
  • The screen is easy to read, even in glare-inducing light.
  • The battery can pretty much last forever.
And several negative ones.
  • DRM on the books.  You can't loan a book to a friend without giving up the rest of your library at the same time.
  • You can only purchase from the Amazon store.  Granted, there are ways to get other books on the device but they are kind of hack-ey.
Still, I enjoy the Kindle but I have not touched it in a few months.
I got an iPad.  Now the iPad does have the Apple book reader (iBook) but I only use that to read my own documents (epub and pdf's) but it also comes with a Kindle application.  All the books I purchased on my Kindle, I now have on my iPad.
I like it.  The iPad also supports various multimedia in the books, something that even the Kindle itself doesn't support.
The book piles are growing more slowly now and I now can take most of my new books with my when I travel.
Now, as to the book piles.
There is a program for the Mac called Delicious Library 2.  On the surface, it looks like a combination of iTunes and a wood bookshelf.
It's an inventory program, designed to keep track of your books, music, tools, movies and software.
What's so special about that?  I could write a program in a few minutes that lists my belongings.  The hard part
is getting your data into the program and then displaying it coherently.
One word - barcode.
The program uses the built in camera.  You hold your item up to the camera and Delicious Library scans your item, gets a picture of it from the Internet and voila! it shows up on the shelf.  It's easy and relatively quick.
Then comes the fun.  If you decide you want to sell your item, right click on it and you can sell it as used on Amazon (you still have to set up an account).
You can set up friends as well.  Why?  So you know where you've loaned your belongings.  You can become an actual library, with expected due dates and excellent tracking of who has your stuff.
If you want to get fancy, you can publish your library as a website or send it straight to your iPad or iPhone.
These two programs are how I am dealing with my book problem.  It may not be a perfect solution but at least it's getting better.


Applications I Use #002 - OmniFocus

At the risk of continuing to scare off potential...never mind. Anyway, I am going to continue this geeky series. Apparently you can lose that along with your youthful eyesite. It turns out that writing things down on random pieces of paper is not as efficient as you would think. So, I heard about David Allen's book Getting Things Done. The book describes a workflow for dealing with all the tasks that need to be done (seems self explanatory from the title, I suppose). Technically, you can use the techniques he describes with pen and paper but where is the fun of that?
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Applications I Use #001 - 1Password

Let's say you signed onto your favorite online gaming site only to find out that someone else has obtained your username and password. Do you feel a stab of panic not knowing how many other sites that person now has access to? Using that same password, can they now get to your online banking? How much work would it be to change all of your passwords?
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Revener did not intend to steal the blood, if indeed you could say stolen.  To steal implies intent, and Revener was merely doing what rabbits do, eat the food available.  That the ground that bore the lovely greens had been soaked in the blood of a deity, Revener neither knew nor cared.


He had been the first to eat of the fruit of that blessed earth so Revener was labelled a thief and was alone in bearing the curse.


Two days later, Revener became immortal.  Forty days after that, he received his soul.


For a thousand years, he wandered the world.  His mind expanded, he grew wary.  As a rabbit, he was considered a meal the world over.


In the East, he learned how to be invisible - to dim his existence below normal perception.  He met a wise man who lived in a small shack at the base of a mountain.  With him, he learned how to control his body.  Painfully, over years, he grew his limbs so they could grasp.


He grew large and strong, and lonely.


After a thousand years, the handlers found him.  The task they assigned him was insane.  Once a year, he was to invade chicken farms and steal steal the unhatched young.  As you would imagine, neither the farmers nor the birds took kindly to the kidnapping.


Many birds died those first years.  Doing what birds do, they defended their eggs.  Each time Revener was attacked, the bird fell dead.


The stolen eggs, he preserved and decorated on a massive scale.  Then he would hide the unrealized carcasses of his thievery for children to find.  Children!


In recent years, he found the children possessed his likeness in effigy.  These abominations, they would ritually maim - slowly consuming him from the head down.  The children did this with relish, enjoying each disfiguring bite with maniacal giggles.


Enough was enough; this could not stand.  In an obscure Romanian castle, he found what he needed.  For some, what he was to do would grant immortality.  Revener did not care, for immortality he already had.  Sinking his teeth into the evil, non-decaying corpse, he sacrificed his soul for power.  He drank it in.


Every day for a month, the handlers sought him out.  Finally, they found him at night, for to have his revenge, he had to sacrifice the day.  Never again would he see the sun.  He would do this task - he would obey the handlers this one last time.


One last time, the bunny would steal the young of the birds and complete his dark, yearly ritual.  But never again would they giggle with glee at his dismemberment.


This year, the bunny would have teeth.

Apparently islands always start with a hill - Bike Trip

I don't remember what year it happened exactly, I think it was 1981, 82, or 83 (hey, it was a while ago).  My friends Darrell, Tia, and Judy decided to do a bit of a bike trip.  
The plan was for three of us (Me, Tia, Darrell) to ride and Judy would be our chase car.  We would leave our homes and proceed on a circuit of the islands around Puget Sound, staying each night either camping or at a pre-selected location.
I just mapped the route, 120 miles total.
We were young, right?  I was in relatively decent shape at that point and I  neglected one major point - to train.
I don't remember how we met up, but I think Darrell and Tia rode to my house in Bothell and we went from there.  Judy would follow later, after she got off work.
Now, to get to the various islands and the peninsula around Puget Sound, there are two ways to cross the water - either by bridge or Ferry.  Our first goal was the Edmonds Ferry to Kingston.  The ferry fleet in Washington is pretty weathered nowadays, it seemed that way back then too.  I took those rides for granted back then, the Sound is truly one of the most picturesque places in the world.  Our ride had just started, so we weren't feeling too bad and besides, we were on an ADVENTURE.
After arriving at Kingston, I got a glimmer of a fatal flaw in my understanding of the trip.
If you arrive at an island, everything starts out up hill.
Darrell's tire was apparently cursed as soon as we hit the peninsula.  He used up his spare tubes pretty quickly and patching didn't seem to hold for too long.  I was starting to feel like I was in pretty bad shape and we hadn't seen Judy yet (pre cell phone era).
It was getting pretty late in the day by the time we got to our first stop,  Fort Flagler.  The Fort was originally
built in the 1890's as part of 3 strategically placed battlements that could theoretically stop an invasion of the Sound by sea.  Those of you not from Washington might recognize the sister Fort, Ft. Worden as the set for 'Officer and a Gentleman'.  All the Forts were converted to state parks and one of these was our destination for camping the first night. 
Judy finally caught up (with food and the huge tent) and we crashed for the night.
Walking the next day was a challenge.
The original plan was to go to the next Fort to camp for the next evening.  Our inability to move very well altered our plans somewhat.  We made it to Port Townsend in relatively one piece the next day, purchased all the bike tubes we could find for Darrell and took the Port Townsend Ferry over to Keystone Landing on Whidbey Island.
So, why if we were in so much pain did we decide to add 10 miles (the ever present 'just got to the island so it is uphill' problem did not go away) to our trip?
Strategy, my friend.  Strategy.
Five miles after Keystone Harbor, we had an oasis.  My family had a cabin on Whidbey Island.  It was right on the water with a wonderful view of the Olympic Mountains and, most importantly, plumbing and beds.  Originally, we planned the cabin for our final night but the amenities called to us - demanding that we make use of them.

Our legs held out (as well as Darrell's tire) and we made it to the cabin.
We stayed two nights, played board games and had a thoroughly relaxing time.
The final day seemed more like the last leg of a quest.  I think we all just wanted to get home.  There was one more Ferry ride (Clinton to Mukilteo) and about 15 miles to get home (for me anyway).  Towards the end, we each split up to head to our respective homes.
Is there a lesson from this trip?  Sure there are probably a few:
  • Adventures with friends are priceless
  • When you get to an island, it is always up hill.
  • Don't be stupid - train!


A padded club used to keep puppets in line

In the last few months, I have noticed a word showing up over and over.  I’ve seen it in both books and news stories and I cannot recall ever having seen it before. 


Wonderful, another new word to show me how completely out of touch I am.


The word is ‘Boffin’.


Just looking at the word, I am drawn to the concept of puppets hitting one another or some kind of comedic event.


It’s not hard to discern the meaning by its context.  I just ran a query on boffin on Google News and this is a sampling of what I got:


“Brain Can’t Handle More Than 150 Facebook Friends Finds Oxford Boffin”


“Aliens will have our worst traits claims Boffin”


“German Boffin wants to make dumb gadgets smart”


“Boffin calculates pi to 2.7 trillion digits”


So, in American English, the translation appears to be ‘geek’, ‘egghead’, ‘person who is too smart for their own good’.


The context seems to keep things just on the geek side of the geek/nerd line (geek is someone with particular interest or skill; nerd denotes social awkwardness).


So, I did what anyone would do, I went to Wikipedia.


“...boffins are scientists, medical doctors, engineers and other people engaged in technical or scientific research.”


It came into use during and after World War II, where it was applied to those described as a modern-day wizard who labored in secret to create incomprehensible devices of great power.  From the look of the headlines that are associated with the term now, it is currently used for scientist in general.


It seems strange that a word can get by for so long without notice.  Maybe it fell into disuse for a decade or three and is only now having a resurgence.  Perhaps I just ignored it.


At least I know it isn’t something I didn’t understand because I am getting old and senile.  At least I hope not.



TV networks should pay me for this kind of prediction

There is a disturbing trend at the end of each year for people and organizations to post 'best of' and 'worst of' lists. Personally, I think it is pandering to your audience and is, quite frankly derivative. Let's face it, the list post is an unoriginal concept that should be allowed to fade into obscurity. LET IT GO PEOPLE! There are other ways to get your views out there. Try other formats - you may find they get your point across even better. Quite frankly, list posts disgust me and they should disgust you as well. Anyway…here is my list (in no particular order) of favorite cancelled TV shows...
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If you are young and use your mind - the terrorists win

(or anything homemade with electronics is a bomb) An 11 year old at Millennial Tech Magnet School in San Diego, actually used his mind and created something. Using an empty soda bottle as a structure, he assembled components to create a motion detector. He brought it to school to show his friends (inventing something at a Tech magnet school - horrors!). A vice principal noted the interest and of course did the prudent thing. He assumed the child had determined a way to explode air with only electronics in an otherwise empty bottle and called the police (evacuated the school).
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