Monday, September 30, 2013

Dancing With the Stars--Showing Up!

Bill Nye had grievously hurt himself last week, yet he performed today on the show. They figured out a way of dancing that would work with his injury.

My point is that in show business and other such, the show goes on. You do what you can to perform, unless you are dead. It's not true among students and scholars, where excuses are a finely wrought art. You've got to deliver, show up, and reserve your excuses.

A Go-Bag: Leaving Your Institution

At some point in your career you may be encouraged to separate from your institution, whether for good reason or not.* I leave it to your attorney and academic senate to give you advice. However, be sure that you could walk out of your office with just a USB drive having all your valuable files. Anything else that is crucial to your future work should be at home or elsewhere. My image is that my office incinerated itself, but what I had on my USB freed me from worry. Have a noninstitutional email account (say, and it may be time to use it much more, especially if you are inundated with stuff from the institution on your institutional email. [See the previous post.]

*Red Scare as at universities in the 50s; allegations of misconduct; ...  Also, now that our lifespans have increased and our healthy lifespan is also increased, what used to be 65 as the age when most retired is moving up, given the end of mandatory retirement. For some faculty, earlier than 65 retirement might be a good move. For others, their research and teaching are still strong, and they want to continue, and they will retire later. Very little has been invested in most universities is making it comfortable for senior faculty to retire but still be involved with their research and teaching careers (offices, etc.--space is a premium). At some point, a dean will see senior faculty as preventing them from hiring more junior faculty, and there are many apparently legal ways to make such senior faculty uncomfortable. (It helps if the stock market is doing well.)

Back Up Your Life: the Scholar's Go-Bag

Given some recent experience and stories I have heard, I realized once more the importance of backing up my files, contact lists, and other such valuables. Perhaps you know this, and do not need to be reminded. (I do need to be reminded.) But if not,...  [Note that what I am saying is minimal, and would be looked on with horror by experts.] (See also the newer post before this one.]

1. A USB thumb drive, say 8GB, is likely to be enough to hold all your current writing projects, a copy of your contact list, and any other significant files.  I know that you should have such backups in several places, formats, etc. But if you are not so perfect, at least once a month or two, back up what is important, even in one place. If there is important email, copy it too. Do not count on other servers to be available when you need them, even though their reliability may be very very high. My advice is based on the notion of a "go bag," the idea being that if the university and the servers disappeared, you would have on your person your most valuable stuff. In effect, institutions own your files, and could well discard them, so you want to have those files with you.

2. My Contact List on my smartphone (iPhone or Android devices), seems to have every address I have ever sent anything to (most of which I do not have in my formal address lists). I have the Exchange server as one of the email files, and somehow all is imported in. (I'm not sure what I did to make this happen.) There is a way to save Contact List to your PC or to the cloud or elsewhere. 

3. If you have stuff on the university drives, and much of your stuff may be there (eg Documents,...) be sure you have copies on your USB. If they are outdated by a month, that is better than not having copies. I am told that my c: drive has the stuff that is really on my office physical computer, and again, you want to be sure that any relevant files are on your USB. 

4. Your smartphone probably has enough memory to be another backup for your work files.

5. I have some digital files that add up to 100's of Gigabytes. I use an external hard drive, 500 GB, and also DVD's as storage. I suspect that those of with terrabytes of data have already implemented suitable backups.


Last Thursday, a conference organised by the independent thinktank Wales Public Services 2025 concluded that there would be increased pressures on the Welsh public sector over the next few years as government expenditure continues to shrink.

One report presented at the event suggested that with increased demand for funding in education, health and social services in Wales, there could be dramatic cuts of up to £1.4 billion in areas such as culture, economic development, transport and housing.

Another study indicated that such cuts would inevitably result in a more fundamental change in mind-set on the part of public service leaders, staff and the general public over the next few years.

From my own perspective, the key question is whether the Welsh Government can continue to develop services in these areas alone to ensure their continuity?

In particular, it must consider whether all of the wisdom on making public services more efficient and effective lies within its own managers or whether it should bring in new ideas and solutions from outside the civil service?

One radical approach to such a quandary was launched earlier this month by the Mayor’s Office in the city of San Francisco.

The Entrepreneurship in Residence (EIR) programme is a competition to select talented teams of entrepreneurs who will work alongside senior government officials to help solve particular problems, help increase revenue, enhance productivity and create meaningful cost savings.

In doing so, the individuals chosen will drive innovative solutions in key areas such as healthcare, education, data, mobile and cloud services, transportation, energy and infrastructure.

And to ensure they quickly adapt to their new surroundings, they will be mentored by senior public sector leaders and supported through training on important topics related to working with government like open data standards, procurement and security.

So what are some of the problems these entrepreneurs can help to solve?

According to the City of San Francisco, these can range from examining how the public sector can leverage the growth in open data can enable better decisions, to how public assets can be utilised to generate additional revenue.

It can also include far more simple, but effective solutions to issues such as improving transport efficiencies and optimising the purchase and use of energy.

The public sector will clearly benefit from such an approach that brings entrepreneurial expertise and experience to bear on specific and protracted problems.

However, there is also the advantage for those entrepreneurs participating in the programme in that it will serve as a showcase for specific solutions that can be applied across other parts of government, which is a massive potential market for any business.

In fact, part of the selection process is that the city of San Francisco expects those chosen to “ramp up” their business through competitive offerings that governments consider purchasing because it has a measurable impact such as lower costs, enhanced productivity and increased revenue.

To a large extent, it could be argued that such a programme is acting as an incubator for those businesses who would want to provide solutions in the public sector but have yet no idea on how to access the purchasing process. Certainly, this is an idea that may be highly relevant to the Welsh public sector that is the largest purchaser of goods and services in our economy.

To date, using the private sector for delivery of public services has been largely a no-no to the successive Welsh governments that have held power since 1999.

However, I believe that this philosophy, whether you agree with it or not, should not preclude politicians from utilising private sector expertise and experience to ensure that we get the most from our public services.

Indeed, there are already examples, such as the potential for the South Wales Metro transport system, where businesspeople have driven forward innovative ideas through their drive and energy.

But more could certainly be done and there is certainly the entrepreneurial talent in Wales that could be drawn upon to help government solve some of its immediate problems.

With some economists suggesting that the public sector accounts for as much as 65 per cent of Wales’s economic output, adopting programmes such as the EIR could establish real opportunities to bring business and government together to not only create greater efficiencies but to also open up new markets for innovative Welsh solutions that can be applied across the rest of the UK.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Provosts/Deans: Your Current Faculty is Your Major Asset

All of what follows is for a university where contributions to scholarship and the arts ("research") matters.

Not only is the current faculty your major asset, no matter what you do it will be your major asset during your term of office. Yes, you can make incremental changes, but if you want to make larger changes, you have to address the faculty you have.

There is much talk about faculty renewal, with "contracts" and deadlines, so that people begin again to make a contribution that is warranted. You could be like Larry Summers who asked Cornel West to get on with his "big" book--I believe West's leaving Harvard since he felt insulted by Summers is the usual sign of people not ready to face the music. If you've been promising a big book, it's fine for the university to ask you to focus on it.

But faculty who have not lived up to expectations, or have become discouraged, or become enmeshed in activities that are not scholarly, ought to be given a chance to get back on track. Is there a medical or family reason? Have they lost touch with the field? Have they discovered they never should have become academics?

Ask: What do you need to get back on track in your scholarly career? Give it to them, and do this at least once more. If faculty indicate that they are unwilling to get back on track, help them find a job where their talents are better matched to the institution.

Most deans and provosts and even department chairs may not be good at this. But some faculty will be good at mentoring their colleagues. Encourage such mentoring, and pay for it. Pair up lost faculty with their productive colleagues in similar areas of interest.

As for sticks vs. carrots, the UC system has decelerated, vs. accelerated, promotion, leading to lowering one's "step" in the salary system. Ideally, what you do is find an attractive position elsewhere, and the person is encouraged to leave.

If faculty are focused on teaching or service, and nothing can be done to redirect them, their contributions here should be as substantial as the faculty focused on research and teaching and service. Raise their expectations of themselves--textbooks, more profound service contributions,...

Asking Questions at Seminars, Colloquia, ...

The best questions asked at seminars are pointed and clear, and focus on the work being presented. If you have comments, you can preface your remarks saying something like, I would like to add a comment, but do have a short question at the end. Don't go on very long, at all.

Technical questions about method must have real import for the work. That you can think of a hypothesis that was not tested is only interesting if the hypothesis is important and it is relevant to the work at hand. Asking about colinearity, or about some statistical technicality, should be about the work's consequences, not just a technical point.

Assume that your job is to make the work better. If it is awful, just walk out.

If you tend to wander in your questioning, it helps to write out your question before you speak.

Don't worry if your question is too simple. A good speaker knows how to make the answer interesting. Often, others in the audience want to ask the question, but are too shy.

In one seminar I go to, most of the questioners begin with, I thought this was a very interesting paper, and then they ask questions.

Rather than asking, Did you test for...., ask, What would be the effect of ....

There will be speakers who dismiss your question. There is nothing you can do then and there, but there is no reason not to write them a note afterward elaborating on your question.

In my experience there are what might be called devastating questions, where you have no response. If you don't, for whatever reason, promise to get back to the questioner later or right after the talk.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

When the Deans are Afraid of the Faculty Members, THEN You Might Have a Strong University

In the strongest universities, the deans are respectful of the faculty members, and to some extent "fear" them. They want to keep the faculty, and they listen to them. At weaker universities, the faculty are treated as employees, the deans as their bosses, and the Industrial Relations are antediluvian. Even at weak universities there can be units which are protected and treasured by their deans, so that within that unit, whatever else happens in the university the faculty has that sense of respect.

Once the deans and provost think they are in any sense better than the faculty, the university is on a downward trajectory.

I have worked at both sorts of universities. What distinguishes the stronger institutions is their sense that the university is the faculty, and the job of administrators is to create an environment that allows the faculty to thrive and be in charge. Chairs of departments rotate among the faculty. And deans, when they end their terms, often return to the faculty.

None of this means that the faculty are allowed to be irresponsible or laggards or act out their prejudices.

You want a faculty that is hard to keep, since they get offers from elsewhere, but are easy to maintain, since they know what they want to do and do it.

Of course, there will always be problematic faculty and staff, perhaps even sociopaths and the like. They are never allowed to destroy the institution. See my earlier posting, with the summary of the "opera" La Devadora. And there will be bureaucratic actions that are unconscionable. The latter hurt the institution make it harder to keep good people.

Time--Doing My Work. A Nap Often Helps.

I like my work. I like to do my projects. Some of the time I am exhausted or lost, but most of the time I really do like my work. Teaching is fine, service is ok; students are good. But my work is interesting and engaging even if I also have lots of junk work to do.

Of course, your family comes first. That's never been an issue for me.

So I work lots. I may be a workaholic, but I feel more like I am pursuing projects that I really want to get done. I get paid to do what I really want to do.

Now I have limited energy or focus, so if I wake at 5 or earlier, and work til 12, I am usually not much use until later in the day. And I'm often saying to myself that "I am not smart enough" when I can't figure out some mathematics or some political/social/literary theory, or some philosophical analysis. A nap often helps.

Current projects:
Finish off my work in City Heights, and on lower level entrepreneurs.
Get the second edition of Doing Mathematics done.
Prepare a good DVD of my sound documentation, with lots of photographs from the photodocumentation of LA.

More fieldwork and documentation.
Second volume of Scholar's Survival Manual
Book of LA documentation images and sound: people, places
Maybe my work on Pollution
Maybe my poems written to accompany pictures.

Defense and Veterans, for teaching

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Enthusiasm and Ambition

Serious scholarly work (and artistic work) demands perseverance and hard work, and ambition is often helpful as well. Ideally you find problems that engage you, and new ones come along as you work out a problem. Your depth of understanding, your sense of the range of what might be doable, develops in time. Your past work is your specific asset.  And of course, you know what others have done.

If you not have that enthusiasm and ambition. you may still make significant contributions to scholarship.  Professional ethos, choosing the right problem, and sheer doggedness will often lead to a strong career path.

The literature on Richard Nixon points out his perseverance and resilience, his ambition for respect, his constant reforming himself and his legacy. And of course his talents, and his capacity to do himself in.


Forbes Magazine has some fantastic articles on entrepreneurship which are worth catching up on every week.

During the last few days, there have been some exceptionally informative ones on easy businesses to start, teaching entrepreneurship and trends from Silicon Valley.

However, I do enjoy the articles from Paul. B Brown and his latest one, summarising the lessons he has learnt from a lifetime of entrepreneurship,

I wouldn't agree with everything on the list, it is a good place for those who want to launch a new business to start. So what are his 23 lessons for entrepreneurs.....

1. The best way to predict the future is to create it.

2. The most important decision you can make is…where do you want to spend your time. You only have so much time, energy and ability to focus. That means, as much as you would like to, you can’t do everything. That’s a given. So is this: The places which receive your full attention will do better than the places that won’t. What follows from that is this: You need to make hard choices about what you will do–and what you won’t. And it is really is the important decision you can make, because everything else you do will flow from it…including the next point.

3. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, there is no such thing as work-life balance.  I am not advocating that you spend a disproportionate part of your life working on your company.  (I am also not advocating against it.) I am simply reporting that is what the most successful entrepreneurs do. I have never found an exception.

4. The best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas, they solve market needs. You and I can come up with wonderful ideas all day long but unless they satisfy a large enough need, one that can support a business, they don’t do anyone any good.

5. The one thing all successful entrepreneurs have in common is the desire to make their idea a reality. What entrepreneurs need most of all—above motivation, focus, hope, financing, marketing skills, a brilliant idea, etc.—is the will to bring their idea into existance. Unless you truly want to make something happen, the odds are nothing will. Without that desire, nothing else matters…or occurs. Your life will be filled in other ways.

6. Action trumps everything.  Stop thinking and get underway.

7. Take small, smart steps towards your goals.  Contrary to the popular press, the most successful entrepreneurs are not swing-for-the-fences, bet-everything-on-one-roll-of-the-dice  types.  They are extremely conservative. They take a small step toward their goal; pause to see what they have learned from taking that small step and build that learning into the next small step. Then they pause to see what they have learned from that second small step, build that learning in and then take another small step and so forth. They don’t take large risks.

8. If you want to build a successful company give up control. You can try to micromange but: the business will never grow bigger than one person (you, the CEO) can handle effectively; the company won’t be able to move very quickly. Since everything will have to flow through you, you will create a bottleneck; you won’t get the best ideas out of your people.  Once they understand the company is set up so everything revolves around you, people are not going to take the time to develop their best ideas. “Why should I,” they’ll ask. “He is just going to do what he wants anyway.” And it’s exhausting.

9. Forget about working on your weaknesses, play to your strengths.  This is what will make you successful in the long-run.

10. You need to be able to turn every obstacle into an asset. Yes, every single one.

11. All you need to know about marketing in exactly 30 words? Marketing, when you strip everything away, is extremely simple: You figure out who you want to sell to, and then you determine what it is that will get them to buy.

12. Here’s the only market research you need: Get your product out in the marketplace and see if it sells.

13. If you insist on doing market research anyway, here’s the one question you need to ask. Show potential customers a prototype, or describe the service you are thinking of offering and then say: ”Is this something you would buy,” and if they answer yes, ask for the order then and there. If, as the cliché goes, they are willing to put their money where their mouth is, you are probably on to something. If they aren’t, you still have work to do.

14. You must figure out how you are going to collect what you are owed.  Nobody thinks about this before they get underway and suddenly they learn first hand what they phrase “cash flow crunch” means.

15. As much as you are going to fight it you need a (really smart) advisory board.  You want a board to: give you new perspectives and ideas; to give you people to talk to and to provide honest feedback.

16. If you want to get more done faster and better…create checklists. Checklists are a wonderful way to make sure you don’t overlook anything, and that it is true whether we are talking about the best way to treat someone in the emergency room or if you are about to make a big presentation to a client you really want to land.

17. How to motivate yourself and stay motivated. Starting anything new is hard and the number of obstacles you are going to encounter can easily get overwhelming. Click on the link here for proven ideas that can keep you going.

18. If the dogs don’t like the dog food it’s bad dog food.  You don’t determine what a good product is. Only your customer does.  And if they don’t like your product, it’s a bad product. Period. In others words, the customer is always right. Darn it.

19. If the customer doesn’t like the product, there isn’t much you can do about it with pricing or promotion or positioning. Unpopular products are going to remain so. It is better to come up with a different version, than to keep trying to sell–at a discounted price–the one people don’t like.

20.  If you are going to fail, and sometimes you will, fail quickly and cheaply.  Always take small steps toward your goal and pause after each one to make sure you are staying on the right track.

21. (Really) Learn from your mistakes.  You are going to make mistakes. That’s a) a given and b) okay, providing you truly understand what went wrong.

22. Creativity and innovation must be linked to a business objective. Creativity is wonderful. But creativity that isn’t tied to making money is just a hobby. It isn’t a viable business concept.

23. Get while you still have your marbles. You never want to stay too long at the fair, even if you own the fair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013


Increasingly, governments and policymakers are realising that entrepreneurs provide one of the primary engines of growth as the global economy emerges from the problems of the last few years.

And not only do they now provide most of the new jobs in many countries, as various research studies have shown, but they develop new products and services, create new business models that can revolutionise industries and support local communities.

This is despite the fact that most societies do very little to promote the development of an entrepreneurial culture where new businesses are promoted and supported, a finding that is reinforced by a study published this week which shows that there is still much work to be done by the World's leading economies if entrepreneurship is to be boosted to make a greater contribution to innovation, job creation and prosperity.

The Ernst and Young Entrepreneurship Barometer provides a detailed insight of the entrepreneurial environment within the leading G20 countries by surveying more than  1,500 leading entrepreneurs, obtaining insights from more than 250 entrepreneurs, independent academics and experts, and undertaking an analysis of more than 200 leading government initiatives.

The latest edition of this important research has a number of recommendations as to how countries can identify the relative strength of their entrepreneurial environment and, more importantly, how to build on this in the future.

According to the study, the most important aspect in terms of a supportive enterprise ecosystem is related directly to how society views entrepreneurs. In that context, it is argued that a more positive image must be created for entrepreneurship by emphasising the impact of these wealth creators across the economy, especially as individuals who are directly supporting employment in local communities through their efforts.

In fact, whilst jobs have been lost across large businesses and the public sector in the UK in recent years, it is easy to forget that entrepreneurs have continued to employ staff, usually by making personal financial sacrifices themselves.

Given this, it is not surprising that 84 per cent of those entrepreneurs questioned as part of the Ernst and Young study said that raising awareness of their role as job creators could significantly improve attitudes towards entrepreneurship, especially in countries where large firms and the government are still significant employers.

87 per cent of the same group also suggested that improving communication around success stories would improve the image of entrepreneurship. Indeed, it was argued that much more needed to be done to showcase the success stories of local entrepreneurs to the rest of the population, as they can often act as an inspiration to other to consider working for themselves.

In Wales, we have seen this type of positive PR with publications such as the Wales Fast Growth which, in just over two weeks time, will highlight the fastest growing Welsh firms and those founders who started them. However, more could be done to promote business success stories, especially through the more effective use of social media by both the private and public sectors.

In addition to the promotion of entrepreneurship, Ernst and Young also suggested that a stronger entrepreneurial culture can be encouraged differently in various groups.

For example, it suggests that women have a more positive outlook on the economy than males when to comes to business creation, especially if they are given the right support to start a business.

Similarly, whilst young people are more likely to want to start a business in the future, there is very little targeted support available within many countries for such opportunities, despite high levels of youth unemployment.

And whilst there is an increasing debate on curbing immigration across more prosperous countries, the report suggests that migrant talent, rather than being turned away, should be welcomed. In fact, governments need to examine their immigration policies carefully
to ensure that those with entrepreneurial flair who want to set up new businesses in their adopted countries are given every opportunity and support to do so.

So what can be done by government to encourage a more positive entrepreneurial culture? According to Ernst and Young's analysis, there are three characteristics of successful government programmes that have been set up to change cultural attitudes within leading economies.

First of all, they encourage successful local business leaders to give up time to act as mentors and role models for other owner-managers in their community.

Secondly, they create networking opportunities so that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from other businesses in other regions. And finally, they highlight entrepreneurship’s vital role in the community and the broader economy, encouraging people to be proud of this career choice.

For Wales, it could be argued that these characteristics have been generally absent from the approach to enterprise policy during the last few years although there is now a commitment to greater change to drive forward greater entrepreneurial activity. Indeed, with the right strategy, all of the above factors can be easily implemented into current business support practices and, in doing so, could reignite the entrepreneurial potential that exists across the economy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Quoting Canonical Sources. Originalism. Authentic Early Performances of Music.

Punchline: You can make any argument you wish. If you quote from a distinguished source, you had  better be sure that you have good reason to believe that there are not other quotes from that same source, or other interpretations of the quote, that turn against you. 
My problem with how people use Clausewitz, and with Sun Tzu, is that they would seem to provide quotes for whatever position people want to take, or you can find quotes in them to show they are wrong. I take comfort from Pope Francis, who has announced that matters of doctrine (homosexuality, abortion, contraception) should take a second place to doing good, including people in the faith, and helping the poor.  See below for more on the Church and doctrine.****

From Wikipedia, my underlining and bold:
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz[1] (/ˈklzəvɪts/; July 1, 1780 – November 16, 1831)[2] was a German-Prussian soldier and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), was unfinished at his death.
Clausewitz espoused a romantic conception of warfare, though he also had at least one foot planted firmly in the more rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment. His thinking is often described as Hegelian because of his references to dialectical thinking but, although he probably knew Hegel, Clausewitz's dialectic is quite different and there is little reason to consider him a disciple. He stressed the dialectical interaction of diverse factors, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the "fog of war" (i.e., in the face of incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of fear, doubt, and excitement) call for rapid decisions by alert commanders. He saw history as a vital check on erudite abstractions that did not accord with experience. In contrast to Antoine-Henri Jomini, he argued that war could not be quantified or reduced to mapwork, geometry, and graphs. Clausewitz had many aphorisms, of which the most famous is that"War is the continuation of Politik by other means" (Politik being variously translated as "policy" or "politics", terms with very different implications), a description that has won wide acceptance.[3]

****I take comfort from Pope Francis, who has just announced that matters of doctrine (homosexuality, abortion, contraception) should take second place:  to doing good, including (rather than excluding) people in the faith, and helping the poor.  The last two popes were rather different than Francis, their having put lots of energy into doctrine and also encyclicals of that sort. What Francis is doing is saying that doctrine, drawn from the New Testament and earlier Church teachings, is being used rather selectively and so letting the faithful avoid the true mission of the Church. His taking the name of St. Francis, this sounds appropriate. 
Many years ago, I knew John Noonan, appointed eventually by Reagan to the Appellate Court, Ninth Circuit. Noonan was a professor of law at Berkeley, and wrote big books on canon law and history. He did a big book on contraception, showing that the Church had had various points of view on contraception, and varying emphases on it. Similarly, John Boswell did a book on homosexuality within medieval Christianity, again showing how changing was Church doctrine and practice. In general when you know lots of history, the sureness of what you draw from documents and text tends to disappear. Hence, the originalist position of Judge Scalia of the Supreme Court, depends to some extent on what we know of Early American History. I always wonder if Scalia would change his position on various issues if we discovered documents showing that the plain language of the Constitution meant something very different than what Scalia takes it to mean. Similarly, the same issues come up in musicology when people aim to have authentic early instruments and styles. Richard Taruskin has shown how problematic is such a presumption.

What Employers Want: Passion, Luck, Initiative, Thinking, Communicating

From the New York Times, 20 September 2013, an interview with the CEO of AirWatch...  (my underlines, my bold). All of this is well known, and may not apply in many situations,  but I think it is good to hear it.
Q. So let’s talk about hiring. How does the conversation go?
A. We ask how people feel about mobile. Do they like it? How do they interact with their devices? We want people who are passionate about this. We ask them if they feel lucky. We want people to feel lucky, because the harder you work, the luckier you get. So people who work hard actually feel lucky.
And I make the statement that I think there are three kinds of people in this world. With the first, you ask them to do something, and they can’t get it done. With the second type of person, if you tell them what to do, they’ll get the job done. There’sa third type of person — you point them in the right direction and they’ll figure it out. We need that third type of person.
Q. What other questions do you ask?
A. You ask them to tell stories. Give me situations where you’ve done something creative. Give me situations where there was a problem that you needed to solve. Give me a situation where you didn’t have the leadership telling you what to do, but you had to go fix a problem. And then you just let them go from there. By asking really open-ended questions, you get a good sense of not only how people answer questions, but also how they think.
And I almost always ask somebody to take something that’s complicated and that they know really, really well and explain it to me. I don’t care what it is. Can they put it in plain language and communicate it in clear and crisp and complete terms?There’s just nothing more important than clear communications. Being able to take the complex and turn it into simple — that’s what we do for a living. It takes a lot of technology to create the illusion of simplicity.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Emails to Die From

I will be posting emails here that should never have been sent. There is no problem per se with the sentiment, but in their current form they are bound to explode in the faces of their senders.

I received the following two emails. The first was from a person in charge of one of our programs. I had written to students about a course I was going to teach, but unbeknownst to me she had decided to teach it herself. I have no problem with that. My italics.

1. Never send emails that tell people you are so busy with important things.

Please refrain from emailing students as I’m doing my best to diffuse most recent happenings and prevent escalation. In addition, the information to them in the latest email is wrong.   Already, I’ve had multiple student emails asking for information and I have so many other important things to do.

2. Never send emails where you deny doing something inappropriate or dishonest, if you give lots of details. Students received notices from our university committee concerning itself with academic integrity. One wrote me. I am not sure what kind of potential plagiarism she is referring to, but that is not the kind that triggered the university committee's concern. Moreover, I could have allayed her fears, but I could not write to her.

I cited directly from the author and captured all of their statements in my works cited and reference pages. The problem was that I included too much information that I did not know how to properly articulate within the context of my project and through the written essays. … I just included their statements in my paper and acknowledged their statements in my works cited and during our discussion in class. I was very transparent. But, I must have made a mistake somewhere, otherwise this would not be happening.

. . . What I need is time. I don't have that since I am running a small business and have a lot on my plate. …. I just didn't want to get it wrong, so I stated exactly what the experts said and made sure to cite.

I just wanted to make sure you know that I intend to fight this, so that I may maintain my personal integrity and reach the goal of completing this program by next semester. The Dean's office received a copy of the correspondence. I am very embarrassed, but I am not a cheater and hope to have a resolution that is appropriate for all those involved. 

Professor Krieger, you are copied on this message so that you are made aware of my intention to go through the administrative process regarding this matter .... Please do not respond to me nor write back to me regarding this correspondence and please remove me from your mailing lists until this matter is resolved by the University and per the standards set forth by the division of student judicial affairs.

3. If you want to complain about someone, don't do it in email. Better in person, or written. Email circulates.

Reviews of The Scholar's Survival Manual

I'll put these up as they appear:

Library Journal 9/15/13 .

“Krieger (planning, Univ. of Southern California; Doing Physics) certainly knows his way around the halls of academia. Pulling content from his blog on this topic (, he counsels everyone from graduate students to untenured and tenured faculty to university administrators on how to navigate their scholarly aspirations. In his role as the kindly, seasoned colleague who has his readers' best interests at heart, he urges them "to do the right thing the first time." Eschewing a linear format, Krieger encourages readers to dip in anywhere rather than start at the beginning. The book functions as a guide to careers in academia and perpetuates his online presence with its short, pithy posts presented in an informal style. The tone is inviting and intimate. Instead of empirical evidence, many of the anecdotes come from firsthand knowledge acquired over a lifetime. Works such as Wayne C. Booth's The Craft of Research, James H. McMillan's Educational Research, and Kjell Erik Rudestam and Rae R. Newton's Surviving Your Dissertation offer more structure and comprehensive direction. VERDICT Anyone interested in or connected to the world of academic scholarship will discover here solid, considered, and instructive strategies to walking those hallowed hallways.”—Jacqueline Snider, Library Journal
It was also listed in Library Journal's 

Fall & Winter Wonderland, Part Two: More Trade Titles Coming from University Presses

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Asking Questions at Seminars

In a talk or seminar, the audience is crucial to success. Will they ask incisive interesting questions? Are they prepared? In some seminars there is a tradition of very vigorous questions, often not letting the speaker go for more than a few minutes. That is, there is no waiting until the end of the talk.

In the law school workshop I attend, people have the papers ahead of time, read them carefully, and the session begins with a commentator, then a response from the author, and then questions from the audience. The commentator is often incisive in figuring out what is crucial in the paper. The audience is ready with questions that they have noted while reading the paper, and some members have particular kinds of questions they always ask. I find it interesting and fun, even though my knowledge of law is epsilontic. In general, the audience is trying to help the author make for a stronger paper. It is in the family, so to speak.

I tend to be impatient, and want to know what's up well before most speakers (if no paper ahead of time) tell you. So often in the first twenty minutes I finally figure out what is going on, and ask if my figuring out is correct. Ideally the speaker would give away the main ideas and findings or argument in the first few minutes.

My advisor would seem to sleep through a talk, and then ask a crucial questions. One of my other teachers, used to ask innocent-sounding questions, likely to sink the speaker since my teacher had discerned a deep problem with the work.

My other questions are usually about analogies to the current subject or situation.

There are questions about statistics, reliability, etc, characteristic of social science, chipping away at the work. Rarely are they interesting or able to much decrease the credibility of the speaker. Some of the time, they can be devastating, but a good scholar has already anticipated those problems, largely because they have colleagues read their work before going out and talking about it.

The best questions come from understanding the problem in the writer's or speaker's terms, and then try to deepen or question the endeavor. One is reading to find out what is really going on, and your goal is not to chip away at the paper. Rather, you want to engage in a conversation with the author/speaker that enables the work to be seen in a more significant light.

Minor advice for speakers: If you quote numbers in your talk, be sure to give comparisons. Telling me that 532 schools were closed is useless unless I know how many schools there are. If you are quoting numbers that are statistical or simulation-model based, be sure to give the error bars or estimates or the range from sensitivity analyses. Be sure that you can tell the main point in plain English. And if it is a complicated argument, sketch out the argument before you go through it--and perhaps have that sketch available throughout the argument (as a slide or handout) so that people can follow what is going on.

Also, give away the findings that are important in the first few minutes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Lifelong Struggle

Whenever I am having issues with anything, whether it's relationships, or just the inside war I'm fighting in myself, I will always, eventually, go back to what I feel natural about: authenticity. Few, in my experience are similar to me in that way, which can make for a challenge. I get tired of being the one that usually dives into conflict or confrontation. It seems like I am always making the first move at getting real. Sometimes I go through phases and think, ok, I'm done, and I put a boundary up. But that doesn't last long because not only am I prone to authenticity, I believe we were all created for it. The world doesn't really support us in this way though now does it? That's another blog post.

I've often asked my Mom and Dad if I have always been this way. Emotionally, deep feeling, authentic, seeking beauty, being positive, and passionate about others and life. They both have answered "Yes", as far as they can remember. It drives me nuts that I feel so "different", and I will often go to them asking them why.

What brings me here today is intimate. Very. I've felt discouraged about writing lately because I literally have believed that no one cares or wants to hear from me. Along with going through a lot of changes with my daughter going off to college, I have also felt my voice doesn't matter. So, I stay quiet. I've had a ton of encouragement along the way but I've also been discouraged too.  And there is a reason for that.

Believe it or not I want to talk about abuse today, and what it can take away from you. I was sexually abused when I was 4/5. I won't go into the details of it, and this is insanely hard to share, but lets just say I remember every single thing about it. It's absolutely outstandingly unbelievable what abuse can take from you. All abuse too. Verbal, emotional, physical and even financial abuse. Since the age of 5, something changed in me. Consciously and subconsciously. From that moment on you are a survivor, and you spend most of your life, trying to feel like you are someone. And believe me, there were plenty of ways I tried to be a "someone" in this life, that were terribly dysfunctional. When innocence is taken from you, your very worth (is what it feels like), and you are led to believe you are trash, and nothing more than, well . . .what happened to you, something changes. You do go into survival mode. You fight to feel loved. I have struggled with feeling, and believing I am loved for as long as I remember.

People and circumstances can rob us of a lot. I am here today, writing to tell you to not let it. Whatever it's been for you. Do not let that win. Do not let the person who has rejected you, mislead you into thinking you aren't worth it. Do not let the church that judged you, make you think that that is the true picture of God. Do not let the guy that left you, define who you are as a woman. Do not let the parents that abandoned you determine your very being of how special you truly are. Where you've been, what you've done, what someone has done to you does not have to set your life's path. Do not let that illness win and steal joy from your spirit. Do not let insults or hurls get the best of you, allowing someone else who isn't on your side or out for your best interest win by believing what they say to you!  Do not let a mundane marriage set the tone of your life...fight, I ask you all to fight. Whatever you have to fight for, do it!!! Don't let darkness take over, work toward the light.

I have had to fight for my very psyche. The voices, the lies, they are never ending. YES, they have gotten better over the years, but that's because I FIGHT! For me it has been finding my absolute worth and definition in God, but that doesn't mean that is how everyone else will fight. I believe with my heart and soul that I am God's Beloved, and even just me loving God and Him loving me is enough for me to live. That alone is all I would need, that alone shuts down all the voices and lies. It's God's love that has led me to forgive the man that shattered me 35 years ago and who could have controlled my life until my grave had I not chosen to fight! It's who God says I AM alone, that makes me not only live, but makes me come alive.
It's how I fight. It's why I fight. How will you fight?

When I had to quit work in 2007 due to the 7 surgeries I had that year, it was hard. Not the illness alone and the physical trauma and emotional trauma of all I was going through and had already been through but because in America, we are obsessed with WORK. Not just in our 9-5p jobs, but in our yards, in our garages, in our work work. Yes! I believe a we must work! But when the emphasis is borderline obsessive in my opinion, it can mess with your head and if one doesn't work outside the home, they can tend to feel like a loser or like they are useless. I mean what is the first thing people usually ask you when you are at a party or a gathering? "So, what do you do for a living, where do you work?"

For the first 3 years or so of my not working, I didn't think much of it because I was in such bad condition. But over the last 2 years, my recovery is taking shape, but not to the point where I am able to work yet. If I did work, I wouldn't have a life outside of that because it would take everything out of me, and I would only last a week or two because I would be drowning in fatigue and pain. The point of all of this is that now that I am able to do more in my life and now especially with my daughter gone, it's more all up in my face that I don't work. I can not let this win. I have to shut out voices in my own head, and voices of other people, and always keep telling myself the truth, and reminders of why I can't work. I have to remind myself that I do have things going on, like opening up a Etsy shop come October, and that I am a Lay Counselor. But I don't even have to convince myself that way. It's OK to be non-conventional, even if I could work, and I chose not to, it's OK. How ya like them apples!!!

I encourage you to not let what is beating your spirit down, to continue. Get real, face it, dig deeper and come clean with yourself in your struggles. It's ok to struggle, we all do. But not living in authenticity, like I haven't been with my blog for a while, is not true to who we are. We all have something to share, say and fight for. Sometimes coming clean with ourselves is the hardest thing to do, but I've found it's the most rewarding.

With my daughter out of the house now, I have to find the rhythm of my new life, and not my abuser, or anyone else in a negative way will shape that. They don't define it, they don't have to agree with it. As long as I'm fighting for what's real, and for the truth, my life is worth something.


Plagiarism is an Improvised Explosive Device

The University says that professors ought report instances of plagiarism to the University academic integrity committee. Whether it is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity, they want to know--in part to protect the reputation of the University, in part to make sure you don't continue to do something that will eventually get you in trouble. Some of my colleagues tell me that they do this as a matter of course, and are pleased with how the committee handles this.  

The Graduate School might even put your dissertation through Turnitin--it seems they might well do so (see below). In any case, now that dissertations are part of the Digital Library, others can readily gain access and if they wish they can put it through Turnitin. Also, pdf's of past dissertations are available from Pro-Quest. Hence, plagiarism turns your thesis into an landmine or an Improvised Explosive Device.

I mention all this because at least some students' work, and even some dissertations I have reviewed, have pervasive "mosaic" plagiarism. I'll give you an example, using text from this email:

Original text: Whether it is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity, they want to know--in part to protect the reputation of the University, in part to make sure you don't continue to do something that will eventually get you in trouble.  

Plagiarism:  It is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity, the academic integrity committee needs to protect the reputation of the University. (Krieger, 2013)  

This will get you in trouble: The reference is there but the fact that some of the text is quoted verbatim is not indicated nor is a page given.

Right Way "[I]t is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity," the academic integrity committee needs "to protect the reputation of the University . . ." (Krieger, 2013, p. 1)  

Note that I have used brackets around the initial letter of the first word, to indicate that it is not capitalized in the original, and " . . ." at the end to indicate that the quoted passage is part of a longer text and does not end at a period.


In the Graduate School's presentation about Thesis and Dissertation Process, they have the above slide. If you are unsure of how to avoid plagiarism, there is good guidance provided by every university. In effect, you never want to use someone else's words without quotation marks and reference (page also), their ideas without reference (and pages). If you are paraphrasing, give a reference. If you are quoting from someone's article where what you are quoting is a quote from another source, go back to the original source, and then give that reference and the reference where you got the quote in the first place. 

It's not just a matter of academic integrity. Scholarship is a network of research presented in articles and by giving the right references, you show that you are a member of the community. On the other hand, it is quite likely that the person you quote without attribution will read your work (they share your interests!, who else will read your work?). No one wants to be ripped off.

There is no reason for you to worry if you follow standard practice. (My experience has been that people who tell me, "I am not a plagiarist" or "I am not a cheater" are almost always deceiving themselves, often because they do not appreciate just what is academic integrity.) 

Proudhon's "property is theft," does not have many scholars' agreement, because their property is their words and ideas. On the other hand, they depend on your referring to their work for it to be influential. Hence the peculiarities of scholarly reference. 

To quote a bit, with attribution, is divine. To quote lots is to violate fair use.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Scholar'sSurvival: Blog Postings

1. From the Indiana University Press Site: 

Guest post: Corrosive Plagiarism - Publishing Means You Never Want to Say You’re Sorry

By Martin H. Krieger
Scholars-survival-manualIn The Scholar’s Survival Manual I discuss plagiarism with a presumption that there is a shared sense of just what is plagiarism. Recent experience convinces me that my imagination is not reliable. I thought I could detect plagiarism by reading a paper, and surely I have found it once in a while. But that was a vanity.
Last semester I taught two doctoral courses, and after the grades were in I received several complaints about grades from the students. In the course of our conversations, one said something to me like “I’m no plagiarist.” I figured I had better be sure. So I put the class papers through Turnitin. And wrote to students about what I found. (I was then told to stop bothering students about it, since the class was over, but to my mind they were putting their future degrees at risk.)
The “similarity scores” tell you little. You have to look at the papers and the sources. What I discovered was that mosaic plagiarism was endemic. Namely, student would take a source, refer to it in their footnotes, and then take phrases from the source and put their own words as linkages to those phrases—but not put quotation marks around the phrases they had copied. They might have said, “X revealed…”, but to my mind that the “…” indicated these were quoted phrases was not revealed by the word revealed. There needed to be quotation marks around the copied phrases.
Some papers had similarity scores of 40+%, but those at 5% were as well systematic mosaic plagiarizers. I gather they thought this was OK, and one told me that this was the norm in their field of public health.
I even checked a few doctoral dissertations, including staff associated with these students, and the practice was everywhere. And it did not happen once in a while. It was systematic.
I don’t know what to do about the grades I gave, and I am now checking out other sources for guidance. I know that my university does not condone such plagiarism, the Harvard College guidance on Using Sources does not either.
This sort of plagiarism is surely less astounding than the cases in the German universities of plagiarized doctoral dissertations. But I am discovering that what I thought was obvious is surely not so obvious.
Publishing an article or depositing a dissertation should mean that you never have to say you are sorry. But your article or dissertation may well be read by someone in your field (who else will read it?), and they may be haunted by the phrasing (perhaps it’s their words!). They can readily put your work through Turnitin. It’s perhaps unlikely that some mosaic plagiarism will lead to your degree being rescinded, but you don’t really want to find out.
Martin H. Krieger is Professor of Planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan and has served for many years on university promotion and tenure committees. His upcoming book The Scholar's Survival Manual will be released this October. He blogs

From the Inside Higher Education Site:
September 9, 2013
1. Your job is to get the place in shape. If there is unfairness, waste, idiocy, lack of organization, what you want to do is to get the place in shape. People who have special privileges need to realize the party is over, those who are sloths need to realize it's time to wake up. If people have stopped doing research, you want to get them back on track — provide incentives, positive and even punitive.

2. You do not count. No special favors for your friends, your partner's friends, your friends' friends, people who work in your field, etc. If there are fishy procedures or processes, straighten them out. It's all about making the place good enough that you can leave for the next job. If you just want to stay in place, say until you retire, you should resign -- see #5 below.

3. There are bound to be loads of points of friction: those who benefit from the past ("rentseekers" is what the economists call them), those who have special privileges or who are getting away with not doing their jobs, etc. You are cleaning house. While you are doing so, don't leave behind garbage for your successor. Your claim is that you are trying for fairness and comity among your faculty.

4. Don't get in battles with anyone, at least battles that look like battles. You want to have things just happen. If the higher-ups won't help, AND they are stopping you, they need to realize that your job is to clean up the place. If they won't go along, start looking for another position, or just go back to being a professor. Don't be an instrument of someone else's corruption or revenge -- even your most reliable colleagues will use you to do their dirty work. Surely there will be resistance, but again you are acting for a superordinate goal: fairness and excellence and comity. Your righteous resisters need to realize the consequences of their resistance, since they are not only taking on you but also the provost and perhaps the president. If they threaten to leave, make sure you throw them a nice good-bye party and wish them well.

5. You don't need this job. You almost surely have a tenured professorship. If you can't make a difference, get a research grant and go to work.

6. Don't antagonize your strongest faculty. They should be your allies, but if not, you don't want them as your opponents. Of course, a la #1 and 4 above, you will need to ensure fairness, and that may mean problems, but credit that to the provost, the president, and the board who hired you and are forcing your hand.

7. Every few years, ask yourself, What's the next challenge? Keep in mind that you need to resign when you don't see a path forward.

8. It is quite unlikely that you are as strong as a scholar as your strongest faculty. Just because you are dean or provost does not mean people should respect you as a scholar.

9. You are in the sales business, promoting your units or university. Keep that in mind. But don't be deluded by your own patter.

In retrospect, I might add: I am thinking of deans, not assistant deans, etc, and not deans who head non-academic units.


Martin H. Krieger is professor of planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. His new book, The Scholar’s Survival Manual: A Road Map for Students, Faculty, and Administrators, has just been published by Indiana University Press. His blog is here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reliable Research

The mathematician Frank Quinn argues that one of the distinguishing features of mathematics since about 1950 was highly reliable error-displaying methods--rigorous proof. Intuition and pictures were no substitute for rigorous proofs, and in general they could be misleading. If you made an error in a modern proof, it would be displayed, that is, other mathematicians would  eventually find it, even if your result were eventually shown to be true by a rigorous proof.

In the kind of work most people do in the scholarly realm, there is no such sure-fire method. There are lots of good practices--use of sources, references, generation and use of data; and if you have made some sort of error it is likely that other readers, your competitors so to speak, are likely to discover them. But usually we are so wrapped up on our work, it is hard for us to discover such errors. In mathematics, on the other hand, mathematicians find errors in their ongoing work all the time, and so improve their proofs.

I am assuming good will and ethical behavior, although in fact that is not always the case.

On the other hand, if you violate good practices: plagiarism, faked data, poor arguments, you will be skewered.

Quinn also points out that modern methods allow ordinary mathematicians to make contributions, since even if they do not have "intuition" of a high order, they can know if their work is rigorous.


During the last couple of months, I have been having regular meetings with the Welsh Government’s sector panels to discuss the implementation of the first stage of my access to finance review. They have been fascinating discussions, especially given the varying financing needs and requirements of firms operating in different sectors of the economy.

These panels were established to support the nine key sectors identified as being vital to the Welsh economy namely the creative industries, information, communication and technology (ICT), energy and environment, advanced materials and manufacturing, life sciences, financial and professional services, food and farming, construction and tourism. Each panel is made up of representatives from the private sector and their role is to provide advice to the Welsh Government on how to take these key sectors forward.

Clearly, the development of these sector panels has been one of the key economic policy instruments of the current Welsh Government. Given this, it is worth examining the statistics around the current and previous performance of businesses within the nine sectors that was released last week.

This data shows that around two thirds of all VAT/PAYE registered businesses in Wales were within one of the nine priority sectors, with the largest number to be found in energy and environment and the lowest number in life sciences.

The structure of each of the sector also varied considerably. Whilst nearly 80 per cent of firms in the construction industry were small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), only 41 per cent were based in the manufacturing sector.

In terms of growth within the economy, the number of enterprises operating within the key sectors in Wales has increased by 2.3 per cent in the period 2005-2012, although this is considerably lower than the 12.8 per cent expansion in the same sectors across the UK.

The financial services sector has shown the biggest increase in the number of firms since 2005, expanding by 12.7 per cent although this is only half the growth rate across the UK.

In contrast, the number of manufacturing firms has decreased by 8.7 per cent during the same period, although this is a smaller decline than the 12.2 per cent experienced across the UK as a whole. 

However, such statistics do not tell the whole story about which particular sub-sectors are expanding or contracting within the Welsh economy.

For example, whilst manufacturing as a whole has been in decline, the aerospace industry has been growing at a far higher rate in Wales than for the UK, with the number of firms operating in this area almost tripling since 2005. Within the creative industries, whilst the number of design companies has grown by 57 per cent across the UK, the same subsector has experienced a decline of 12 per cent in Wales. This suggests that perhaps a far more nuanced approach is needed to identify and support those specific subsectors that have the potential for growth but, for whatever reason, are not demonstrating this within Wales.

In terms of creating employment, which is the key economic priority of the current Welsh Government, the performance of key sectors is mixed. For example, during the period 2005-2012, those businesses operating outside the key sectors have experienced three times the increase in employment than those found within the nine sectors. However, in the period 2011-12 when the sector panels were operating, there has been a growth in employment of 1.3 per cent amongst priority sector firms as compared to 0.9 per cent for those in other industries.

The sectors with the largest growth in the number of employees since 2005 have been the financial and professional services sector (16.5 per cent) and tourism (18.2 per cent), both of which increased at a faster rate than the UK level. In contrast, ICT (-18.6 per cent) and manufacturing (-26.0 per cent) have shown the biggest decrease in employment over the same period which, given the higher level of wages within both sectors, could be a worrying trend within the economy.

However, it is also worth noting that both sectors have also increased their productivity over the same period at a far higher rate than at the UK level, suggesting that there is increased efficiency within those businesses operating in these two sectors.

Finally, it is worth noting that in terms of new businesses being created, the business birth rate for the priority sectors in 2012 was above that of the non-priority sectors. The highest birth rate was to be found in financial and professional services sector (16.2 per cent) whilst the lowest was in the food and farming sector (0.3 per cent).

Therefore, the data on the performance of the priority sectors in Wales presents a mixed picture. The growth in the number of businesses within these sectors does lag that of the rest of the UK although there are signs that specific sub-sectors, such as aerospace, are outperforming their equivalents in the rest of the economy.

In terms of employment, non-priority sectors have done better since 2005 although there is an indication that the nine key sectors are now starting to generate jobs, particularly through new business creation.

Certainly, I am sure that policymakers will continue to track this data carefully over the next few years to establish whether this sector-based approach adopted by the Welsh Government will begin to bear fruit in terms of increased employment and prosperity.