Journal: Bearing Less than Uplifting News

So, sometime between last night and this morning, there was a third reactor blast in Japan.  Needless to say, I felt that it was important to talk about it today too.  Instead of trying to use Google Images, I used a primitive form of visual expression called “Emily attempts to draw on a chalkboard.”  My nuclear reactor was kind of lop-sided, but at least it was simple.  We talked about the water level going down, the explosion, the crack in the reactor wall, and the evacuation.  It was all based off of this BBC article from this morning.  I think today’s lesson/discussion went much more smoothly than yesterdays, which is heartening!

So then I get to class and realize that I need to give them a standardized reading test today and that I want to give them a unit test Thursday before Spring Break.  I’m a horribly mean teacher!

Despite harping on bad news all morning, what with Japan’s challenges and the epic bout of testing this week, I feel like it was a good class.  We did some controlled practice with giving and asking for directions at school, and then did a nice fluency activity asking for directions in a store.

Regarding Russia/Georgia

I majored in International Studies and Russian in college, and while I am by absolutely no means an expert, I’m relatively well-informed and extremely interested in the goings on in Russia and Georgia.

My concern is that most of the American reporting I’ve seen reports on the rhetoric the US has been directing at Russia.  People who skim a headline or read a regular article about the situation here and there are likely to not be getting anything close to the big picture.

I thought the Wall Street Journal did a pretty good job in “Smoldering Feud, Then War: Tensions at Obscure Border Led to Georgia-Russia Clash.”  I especially appreciate the short but to-the point mention of the history (it sites tensions since the 1990s, which have actually been there since before Georgia was a country) and additional politics (especially that Georgia is working to become part of NATO).  The summary of how events in this chapter of the conflict unfolded was also nice to see in one place.

However, I think that the article biased in favor of Georgia; for politics this entangled, I think it’s too early in this piece of the conflict and too coincidentally in line with the US government’s stance to conclude that Georgia is at fault.  I also find the title offensive.  For an article that does a decent job of conveying the fact that this is one of a couple of long-time areas of dispute in the region, calling it “obscure” seems contradictory and… well, kind of stupid.  Please, stop pandering to the audience you’ve managed to come close to informing.

That being said, give this article a go if you’d like a better idea of what’s going on.  Any other great resources out there?

Online Communities Plunge Into Lake Scranton

The Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog posted “Why Most Online Communities Fail.”  (Thanks to Doug H for sharing it on Twitter!)  It’s short and sweet, and explains it’s based on a study of around 100 businesses with online communities.  Three big, common errors: 1) They spend too much on “oooh, shiny!” technology, 2) They don’t appropriately staff the projects, and 3) Their goals and metrics don’t align so they’re pretty much doomed to appear to fail.  The article points out that these are pretty obviously mistakes.  Any thoughts on why these illogical errors were so easy to make for so many businesses?

It’s so good to read a concise yet pithy post about what not to do!  Sometimes I think that social media talk is just a tad more Pollyanna than is warranted, though I obviously partake and enjoy doing so.  The We Are Media Project has been talking about how to be Social Media “Evangelists.”  I think that sharing awareness of common pitfalls is a huge part of being a responsible social media evangelist.  It shows that it’s not a brand-new, completely untested idea.  It shows that you’re informed and honest.  And it provides a more complete map to guide our organizations.

The fate we’re all trying to avoid is that of Michael Scott, who unthinkingly follows his car’s GPS straight into a lake and then insists that technology tried to kill him.  We can be intelligent about new-to-us technology, and understanding where pitfalls (or lakes) are can keep ridiculous plunges on The Office and out of ours.

Harnessing Habits

The other day I happened to read two pieces that both touched upon habits.

The first was an article called Warning – Habits May Be Good For You from the NY Times.

  • a branch of successful marketing creates consumer habits, i.e. using Febreze.
  • some people think this is wrong, creepy, etc.
  • a nonprofit partnered with one such marketing company to promote the habitual use of soap in parts of West Africa, which saves a lot of little kids from dying.

Then I read a post called The Meaning of Life from the Positivity Blog.

  • we don’t have to go through life playing out the same old tired, automatic habits.
  • we can choose how to react, and therein lies our freedom.
  • it suggests working toward synergy and also doing what you love.

It was fascinating to read them on the same day because they’re so close to contradicting each other.  I think, though, that they both point to the idea that habits are powerful and can to some extent be controlled.

My takeaway is a whole bunch of questions to ask myself that I’ll also share with you:

  • Are you aware of your habits?  Habits of mind, relation to your environment, treatment of others, technology usage, verbal tendencies, etc.?
  • Is your organization aware of its habits, its automatic actions?
  • How are said habits serving you?  Your organization?  What would you change if you could?
  • How can we make positive change in personal or organizational habits?
  • How can we move beyond writing more policies and procedures to actually change our everyday experience?  Is this a logical place for Social Media to step in?

Can you see your organization with a jet?

I found myself with some extra time and a cool breeze and paged through the NY Times to see what I could see.

The business section includes an article, “On the Road – Boss in the Corporate Jet is Likely to Be a Woman.”

When I finished the article, I didn’t know quite what to focus on first.  Here’s what came to mind, in no particular order:

  • Shoddy statistics made for a misleading title and overall weak article.
  • It’s sad to me that women with money and power are anomalies to be reported on, though of course I’m glad to see successful women featured.
  • I’d like to know what the author’s basis was for generalizing male motivation for private jets (ego, status) and women’s (buying time, avoiding problems). He doesn’t say
  • Reading this while commercial flights are getting worse for the rest of us who don’t have $130,000 (or $375,000+) for a plane was a little hard to swallow, though of course I’m very happy that women are better represented in the “haves” category.
  • Oh yeah, what about all those people who can’t afford a coach-class commercial flight to whine about?

And that leads me to my nonprofit-related thoughts and questions:

  • What would I do with $130,000?  What would my organization?  Who could we serve, and how?
  • Does it make sense for a charitable organization or foundation to have a private jet?  At what point does the cost of elaborate organization cause a poor return on investment and defeat its own purpose?
  • Where does nonprofit reporting live in our major newspapers?  Where should it?  Business?  Education?  Health?  Our strength, that we address all of those categories, can be a weakness because we’re hard to feature as one entity.

What do you think?