Friday, July 22, 2016

Is all your tech really helping you?

Don't toss all the old.
Does  your phone make you smarter? Does GPS do much a map can't do? Does your phone make you a photographer?

Jonathan Coopersmith, professor history at Texas A&M, says the technology of yore used to demand some skills to use it--skills you had to acquire, which made you smarter.

Many of the steps are eliminated in today's tech.

This has always been the trend for technology, but the pacee of this has accelerated. More people specialize in some skills and not others, more work is outsourced to technology, and more people can afford and acquire technology.

But it you learn to be a nurse, you may not learn to grow your own food--some skills are sacrificed to other skills. So we become more dependent on others for those other skills.

One drawback can be if the technology people depend on fails.

Case in point: Thte US Naval Academy is now teaching cadets how to navigate using a sextant. Just in case all the computers and GPS fail...

It is possible, Coopersmith says, to learn more about our technology and learn the basic skills of fixing and troubleshooting them.

Technology may make is more efficient and even smarter, but is it making us wise?

Good question. Even a wise one.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lessons from your pooch

Come on, it'll be fun.
Ali Wunderman, Government Executive, says we can learn a lot about dealing with the boss--from our dogs.

Animals constantly communicate and adjust themselves in the hierarchies around them.

The author quotes Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, at University of Colorado Boulder, when he says when animals play, they perform behavior used in other arenas--such as predation, aggression, or reproduction.

They constnatly assess their standing as they play. Dogs even do a "play bow." They lower their heads and stick up their rear ends--time to play, I don't want to eat you or fight with you.

This corresponds in the office to "Clarifying your interests."

Animals also play fairly. If they play too roughly they can be ostracized by the others.

Playing also establishes a tone. You can tell when an animal "checks out"--tail tucked, ears back. In a person this can be arms folded across the chest.

Let your instincts run the show. But remember, you still have some higher reasoning powers.

I would describe this as knowing when to quit or change tactics or even retreat.

You even hear the phrase "He or she came to play" in terms of negotiations. It could have deeper implications--ask your pet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rant on manners--from a friend

A friend of mine--like me--is not enchanted with today's manners in the workplace.

Here is some of what she wrote me:

Regarding simple communication etiquette: There ain't none no more, be it in the workplace or out and about in society or even among friends. And forget phones, emails, and mail. You'd think with everyone wanting to be so immediate in their connections that they'd be also concerned with manners. But no, none of them have mothers, or so it seems.

This reminds me of a pet peeve in the work place, she continues.  I'd walk to a co-worker's cube to ask or talk about a work-related issue. That person would have another guest talking to him/her in the cube's entry way or would be on the phone. I'd show up and wait to be acknowledged and then have the cube inhabitant say "I'll be with you in a moment" or "This is a non-work-related conversation, so we'll quit and I'll talk to you now" or something along those lines. 

It NEVER happened. I'd wait for a minute. Be completely unacknowledged. And return to my cube. Hey, if you don't care, I don't care. Too weird, really.

She also told me her ex used to nail people who interrupted rudely by saying, "Don't you have a mother?"

Apparently this reference to manners learned at a mother's knee went--WHOOSH--right over their heads.

The other day I read an interesting phrase: "We need less data and more information."

Maybe we should also say, "We need fewer communications tools and more communication."


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Groan--politics at the office

As opposed to "office politics," which is a good thing to tune into.

But Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder, says in this season politics is hard to avoid--it can range from tussles on Facebook to heated office chat.

In a recent survey, three in 10 employers have argued with a coworker over a candidate this season--and 1 in 5 workers.

These candidates are just so darn arguable!

For one thing, 50% of workers say their office is too politically correct, and 59% of employers feel the same?  What does that mean, though--it's wrong to downplay political opinion--too chicken, or something?

If you want to avoid political discussions (OK, fights), Lifehacker suggests:

Excuse yourself. Say you have a project to finish up. Walk away.

Change the topic. Try to segue back to a work issue.

Accentuate the positive. If talk turns negative--ask, "What is going well for you these days?"  If the person walks away after that, well, you are done with the conversation.

Hide. Put on your headphones. Work at home a few days. Or hide out in the office library or someplace.

Because the one thing you probably can't do--change anyone's mind.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A doc's office is still an office

Mary K. Pratt, writing in Medical Economics, says a new study of what physicians think of the electronic health record (EHR) and their computerized environment shows they are not thrilled.

Not only did they have a low opinion of the EHR, but the EHR was not making them more efficient.

The computerized provider order entry system (CPOE) was also not a hit.

"Unintended negative consequences," muttered one of the study's authors, a hematologist at Mayo.

The study was published in the July Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Only 36% of the 5,358 responding doctors using EHRs were satisfied or very satisfied, and 43.7% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.


On the CPOE (where the docs write orders and send out prescriptions), 4,847 physicians responded and only 38.1% were satisfied or very satisfied, while 41.9% were not.

The same went for whether these systems improved patient care. Only 36% said yes, 41% did not think so.

Only 23% thought these systems improved efficiency.

The president of the American Academy of Family Physicians was not shocked. She herself, she says, would sit for 10-20 minutes watching the little spinning circle. She also thinks it's "heartbreaking" to turn her back on patients to type.

Docs also spend hour entering info into these systems.  Improvements need to come at a faster clip.

Efficiency can be improved by using medical scribes to enter info, having nurses answer patient emails, and other steps.

I once had an eye surgeon would not not type--or could not--I never knew. He used a voice system and while I sat there he would try to make the darn thing spell...He would go "try again," try again..."

It was ridiculous.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Please, companies, don't help us so much

Oh, they just want to help. Here is a new version of your software, of your whole operating system, look at this, a new modern webpage for your old bank you use everyday.

Chase Bank decided to "update" its website, apparently. I went on in a rush--I needed to be on a video conference--and WHAAA, where was the thingie to see my "messages"--they emailed me I had one.

I looked everywhere--bottom of the page, top, middle...could not even find their phone number--no click for Customer Service. Who has no Customer Service option?

I got the phone number from my address book, called, did all the secret handshakes with the robot (I cannot UNDERSTAND you....blah blah, OK, Robbie).

Finally I got a human by wildly pressing ZERO

I ranted and she soothed in some Eastern European accent. Finally she informed me that on the upper left there were three little parallel lines--click those. I did--there were all the options...

THREE PARALLEL LINES? Is this some arcane international code?

I was frantic.

I sure hope Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon enjoys his $27 million a year salary. I am not enjoying Jamie Dimon.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Low-income nabes can be a book desert

There is much talk about low income neighborhoods being a food "desert"--with fresh fruit and veggies scarce or unvailable.

But a study led by NYU finds a startling scarcity of children's books in low-income areas of Detroit, Wash DC, and Los Angeles.

This is not to reinforce the president's recent statement that a young person can get a Glock easier than a book--that was rhetorical nonsense.

But children's books are hard to come by in some places.

Access to books, stories, and other tools have both immediate and long-term effects on kids' vocabularies, background knowledge, and comprehension skills.

Also--I would say--on instilling a lifelong curiosity.

The research teams analyzed 40% poverty and 18-40% poverty areas in the three cities.

They went street by street--cataloginv what books, magazines, and newspapers were available.

Dollar stores were the most common places to get children's books. In the poorer section of Washington DC, 830 kids would have to share an age-appropriate book. Nearer to Capitol Hill, that was two kids.

The research was done in summer--where learning opportunities are fewer anyway due to school vacation.

Reading skills accumulated through the year drop then anyway.

So what's to be done? Donate books to Goodwill? Donate to the library? Ideas?