Service of Everybody Gets a Trophy: College & University Academic Honors Galore

July 16th, 2018

Categories: Academia, Academics, Awards, College, Grades, Graduation, University

Photo: debate.org

Not short of recognition in my professional life, in college I was a dorm officer and on the college student council but I wasn’t much when it came to academic honors. [I made Dean’s List one semester, a shock to me most of all.] I’m impressed with my Phi Beta Kappa friends and with anyone who graduated with academic honors.

Photo: rochester.edu

I was not happy to read Melissa Korn’s Wall Street Journal article, “You Graduated Cum Laude? So Did Everyone Else.”

Korn wrote: “Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t.” Over 50 percent of Middlebury’s graduates and at Wellesley, 41 percent were so honored, up from 1/3 in the past 10 years.

Korn quoted former Duke professor Stuart Rojstaczer: “A 4.0 does signal something significant, that that student is good. A 3.7, however, doesn’t. That’s just a run-of-the-mill student at any of these schools.” Rojstaczer has focused on grade inflation for years according to Korn.

“Most elite schools cap the share of the graduating class that can receive academic honors. But the caps vary widely, from 25% at Columbia University to up to 60% at Harvard,” she wrote.

Excerpts from the article:

  • “Harvard’s number hit 91% in 2001, as highlighted at the time in a Boston Globe article about generous honors policies. Soon after, the school revised its selection process.
  • “Academic researchers say that uptick is a sign of grade inflation, not of smarter students.
  • “A handful of schools, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have tried to rein in the awards.
  • “Derrick Bolton, dean of admissions for Stanford University’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars graduate program, said application readers may glance at honors designations, but don’t dwell on them.” The program that accepted 50 and rejected 3,451 students, “looks more for candidates who challenge themselves academically, even if that means a B grade along the way.”

To be eligible for academic recognition the GPAs required by the colleges and universities in the article started at 3.5 and 3.6. At Tufts, which wouldn’t share with the Journal the percentage of students awarded academic honors, you needed a 3.2 in engineering.

Harvey Mudd College

If someone is paying yearly almost $70,000–$52,666 tuition and $17,051 room and board–at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif., they might expect an award, don’t you think? Harvey Mudd was the first in a list of the 50 most expensive colleges and universities in Business Insider published in February 2017.  The publication credited “Trends in College Pricing” as its source. Brown was the least expensive charging $64,566 for tuition and room and board. I went to Boston University, number 38, now at $65,110 per year, whereas Yale, number 47, where my husband graduated, cost $64,650.

Do colleges and universities think that they are doing students a favor by lowering the bar in handing out academic honors by the pound? Are they being smart? Is the likely chance a student or child will be so honored a selling point to attract candidates?

Photo: dentaltechnicianjobs.net

Service of Say What? Inadvertent Impressions Businesses Make

July 12th, 2018

Categories: Actors, Advertising, Automobiles, Commercials, Driving, Marketing

Photo: gofindtheothers.com

It’s not hard to find businesses that mean well but do their customers or themselves little good with their marketing efforts.

The Grass is Greener….

I couldn’t stop the car last weekend to snap a shot of a scruffy looking property with a small sign on the remarkably unkempt grass that promoted a lawn care business. Made me sad for the business.

Divorce Auction Style

A postcard advertising a “Divorce Liquidation Auction” would have done well to omit the words “Have Fun.” “Fun” didn’t go with the headline that indicated that two people had to sell their belongings due to an unfortunate situation. On the reverse side of the card we read that the couple had been married 20 years and had travelled a lot. I know: I’m thin-skinned, but when I saw the card I envisioned vultures circling a carcass looking for spoils. Not fun.

Warning: Read But Don’t Look

Our 2018 Malibu flashed a warning on the dashboard screen. I took my eyes off the road to see that it said “Taking your eyes off the road too long or too often could cause a crash resulting in injury or death to you or others. Focus your attention on driving.” Struck me funny.

I have driven the car since May, and find that the over-sensitive screen is a dangerous distraction as well. I barely touch it and something changes—like my favorite radio stations. I end up with links to three of the same instead of the selection I’d originally made.

I’ve given up using the address book transferred to the car from my mobile phone. As I scroll through the names with my finger touching the screen as gently as possible, I must press too hard because I mistakenly call two to three people before tapping the person/number I want to call.

I’m also fearful that General Motors and probably the world now have all the phone numbers of everyone I know or knew.

Head-Scratcher

Actor Sofia Vergara plays Gloria Pritchett on the TV sitcom “Modern Family” on ABC and also stars in Head & Shoulders shampoo commercials with her son Manolo and other family members. I like that she gets Proctor & Gamble to include her relatives but the twist in the current commercial is mean. Vergara exclaims how soft Manolo’s hair is, runs to wash hers and then shoves herself on to his chair and takes over. A mom that steals a scene from her kid: Not funny and gives the wrong impression. And I don’t think Vergara is a nasty person.

What marketing slipups or miscommunications have you noticed lately?

Sofia Vergara and son Manolo

Service of Did You Know That When You Bought or Rented It?

July 9th, 2018

Categories: Bans, Co-ops, Restrictions, Rules

1966 Ford pickup. Photo: classiccars.com

I once rented a glorious apartment with a view of the East River and Manhattan out the kitchen window; a working fireplace; large living and dining rooms; two bedrooms and a skylight in one of the bathrooms. I soon discovered it had a serious paucity of electric plugs and closets so shallow that when we closed the doors one shoulder of every jacket was crushed and wrinkled.

I was so taken by the rest of the place that I paid no attention to these flaws.

Photo: pinterest.com

Some NYC co-ops don’t permit washing machines in apartments which could be a deal-breaker if you have young children. Suburban communities often don’t allow people to hang laundry outdoors which if this is important to you, you want to know before moving in.

The subject of Douglas Belkin’s Wall Street Journal article, Luke Lambert, soon discovered that he wasn’t allowed to park his pickup truck outside–in his driveway or on the street–when he moved to Flossmore, Ill. The ban, which caused the man’s dad to borrow a sedan to visit him from Wisconsin because he got a ticket when he parked his pickup in his son’s driveway on his first visit, is one of many restrictions in this Chicago suburb.  Aboveground pools, dog leashes longer than 8 feet or grass taller than five inches are also prohibited. Residents have 24 hours to hide garbage cans after pickup.

The outlawed pickups must be stored in a garage but Lambert’s 1966 Ford was too big to fit so he parked it at his grandmother in laws’ house 10 miles away. Flossmore citizens think that theirs may be the last American community with such a residential restriction and Lambert wants to reverse it. Currently pickups are allowed outside of businesses and in church parking lots and for a few minutes outside homes to unload contents.

Lambert built a Facebook page in his effort and collected 300 signatures. The opposition suggested that people “Build a bigger garage or buy a smaller truck and park it in your current garage. No one who is not using it for business ‘needs’ a giant truck.”

According to Belkin, after a fall referendum, the trustees will make their decision. The mayor can’t predict the outcome and thinks it will be close.

Have you ever moved somewhere only to learn too late about problematic, inconvenient imperfections or rules? Do you think the conservatives in Flossmore are out of step or that Lambert should leave well enough alone?

Photo: learnwithkak.com

Service of Adventure: Food, Physical or Business

July 5th, 2018

Categories: Adventure, Bravery, Dislikes, Food, Risk

Photo: goway.com

When I read Charles Passy’s article about his distaste for a Japanese delicacy—natto–I knew I wanted to write about his predicament. Last April I’d covered the topic of the foods I’ve tried and can’t force myself to eat again and I’ve not added to the short list that included grouse and animal entrails. I’m game most of the time.

Passy admitted in his Wall Street Journal article, “As someone who has spent a good part of his journalistic career writing about food, I take a certain pride in the fact I will eat anything and everything… such as a taco stuffed with chile-dusted fried grasshoppers and ice cream made from durian, the infamously pungent fruit.”

Natto. Photo: seriouseats.com

But he can’t tolerate the odor and texture of  Japanese fermented soybeans—natto–regardless of how they are prepared and what accompanies them. He wrote: “It smelled like a stinky cheese left outside the fridge for at least an hour too long. But even more notable was the texture: If you think okra is slimy, imagine okra that, on a scale of 1 to 10, goes to 11.”

I’ve often heard adults admit that they take no chances when it comes to food and won’t accept even a tiny taste of unfamiliar fare. Many claim to be meat and potatoes enthusiasts.

Tatsu rollercoaster. Photo: the coasterguy.com

At the same time they may be far braver than most when it comes to putting themselves in physical danger by gliding in a hot air balloon, riding upside down in a Tatsu roller coaster or putting their life in the hands of a cable and pulley for a zip-line trip down a mountain.

And then there are those who take huge chances in business.

Have you tasted natto? Are you adventuresome in some ways and apprehensive in others? In your work has there been one thing that you dislike, as Passy does natto, even if you’re pretty happy with the other 99 percent?

Fried grasshoppers. Photo: menshealth.com

Service of a Simple Transaction Done Well: Kudos LAZ Parking

July 2nd, 2018

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Training, Travel

Photo: worldartsme.com

One smart, quick, knowledgeable, engaged person can make a huge difference when there are potential stumbling blocks in a transaction designed to be seamless.

We received a letter from LAZ Parking, the company that runs parking lots and grants permits at Metro-North railroad stations. We had parked in the LAZ lot in Dover Plains for 15+ years and sent a check to renew our yearly permit before the other one expired. In return, LAZ provided proof of payment to display in the car window. The system worked well.

But they changed it. [I could write many posts about so-called upgrades that turn out to be downgrades for me.]

LAZ asked us to sign up online, to download proof of car registration and supply other information. In addition to online registration systems that in my experience are often fraught with peril and traps leading to potential error, our situation had a few complications:

  • My husband had held on to the letter for at least 10 days which was 9½ days too many. Each station has a limited number of monthly parking slots and they are promptly scooped up.
  • We needed to change the account from my husband’s name to mine to match our new car registration.
  • We wanted to pay by check, not by credit card, the way the system is set up.

We were saved by Kathleen Dawson, LAZ Administration Assistant Supervisor, who shepherded our order through all the twists and turns. She was in one office and our online application was used by another. She cleared up the system’s initial confusion over the name change which caused us at first to be refused a permit, responded to all my concerns, expertly advising me and warned those at the other LAZ office about our quirky situation. What might have been a nightmare that ended up with the loss of our parking permit turned out just fine. We are grateful to Ms. Dawson and to those at the second office who expedited and approved our request the day they received our check.

Have you been as lucky as we were to have someone like Ms. Dawson guide you and lubricate a transaction that had many opportunities to become grounded? Do most companies nurture, respect and reward five star customer service support staff such as Ms. Dawson?

Service of Too Good to be True II

June 28th, 2018

Categories: Medical, Medical Tests, Scams, Too Good to Be True

Photo: depositphotos.com

I’ve followed highlights of the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos criminal case for a while in newspaper and radio coverage and a few things nag at me:

  • How did high profile investors, partners and board members get duped by a machine and service that never worked?
  • Even though “Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes and the blood-testing company’s former No. 2 executive,” news focus brushes over life-changing damage done to patients who think they are OK when they’re not.

The charges allege “that they defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars and also defrauded doctors and patients.” This quote and the one above made up the lead to John Carreyrou’s recent Wall Street Journal article.

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

“The blood test machine her company created doesn’t work — and never has,” Scott Simon wrote recently, capturing an interview with Carreyrou on NPR’s Morning Edition that he hosts. “She raised almost a billion dollars from investors, including Rupert Murdoch, Carlos Slim Helú, and the family of Betsy DeVos, and signed contracts with Walgreens and Safeway, by lying to them.” Carreyrou’s original coverage led to the 2½ year investigation.

He also wrote a book about the scandal, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” and the test that was expected to revolutionize the industry by costing less and using blood drops from a finger pin prick.

Simon continued quoting Carreyrou: Holmes and “Sunny Balwani, who was the number two of the company, knew as they were rolling out the blood testing services in Walgreens stores in California and Arizona that the blood tests were faulty, and yet they still went ahead with the rollout. And there were, I came across personally in my reporting more than a dozen patients who had health scares because they received bad results from Theranos.”

Photo: pehub.com

This was the most in-depth comment I could find about the patient victims of the scandal. Others mostly referred to them though in his New York Times coverage, Reed Abelson wrote that the so-called tests endangered lives.

So how did Holmes get away with bamboozling five star board members along with all the rest? Carreyrou told Simon “she capitalized on this yearning there was, in Silicon Valley and beyond, to see a woman break through in this man’s world in Silicon Valley.” In addition, he said, the investors based their decision on the Walgreens contract, figuring the company had confirmed the accuracy of the tests. This was a false assumption. Holmes refused to show the equipment claiming she was afraid the competition would discover the secret sauce.

About venture capitalists Abelson shared the prediction of Lakshman Ramamurthy, a former FDA official, now with Foundation Medicine, who “is not certain investors have learned their lesson. Companies like Theranos, which offered little hard evidence that its tests worked to its investors, ‘have their own rules,’ he said. ‘That hasn’t changed. The Silicon Valley hubris remains.’”

According to Ken Sweet’s AP article, referring to Holmes and Balwani: “If convicted, they could face prison sentences that would keep them behind bars for the rest of their lives, and total fines of $2.75 million each.” At one point the company, built on lies, was worth $10 billion +. I wonder if the fine covers the damage to investors sufficiently.

Surely lawsuits will follow should patients prove they were harmed either because they weren’t properly diagnosed or were damaged because they were given harmful medicines they didn’t need. Are you surprised that such high profile businesses, canny investors and high profile board members were deceived by the old “I can’t show you the goods” trick so soon after Bernie Madoff played the same card?

Photo: harp-onthis.com

Service of Nosey Smart Speakers That Gossip

June 25th, 2018

Categories: Air Travel, Airlines, Eavesdropping, Hotels, Technology

Photo: quora.com

I’ve never wanted live-in help, not that I’ve had that option. I couldn’t relax or have an argument in peace. Unless I needed round the clock nursing, I wouldn’t want a non family member around all the time to observe my habits.

For this reason I cannot imagine inviting into my house a smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Alexa, Google Home, Home Mini and Home Max or Sonos One. The speakers allow voice commands to control tech elements in a home, office or hotel room. Fans consider them as helpers; I see them as potential giant eavesdroppers by total strangers.

Photo: literallydarling.com

Amazon Echo boasts 15,000 skills. It can buy stuff on Amazon while it supports smart home devices. I’m perfectly happy to log on to Amazon if I need something or open Facebook on my smartphone, but I’m clearly alone. According to techcrunch.com, 39 million Americans own one.

Strangers already know far too much about us. In “What the Airline Knows About the Guy in Seat 12A,” Scott McCartney wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Airlines know a lot about you, from date of birth and home address to travel patterns, vacation preferences, beverage purchases and whether your last flight was good or bad.”

Photo: buffered.co

In the same newspaper, Laura Stevens wrote: “Echo home speakers mistakenly recorded a private conversation and sent it to a person in the owners’ contact list, an incident that raises questions about the security of such voice-operated devices.” The title and subtitle of her article say a lot: “Amazon Alexa-Powered Device Recorded and Shared User’s Conversation Without Permission–Amazon said the incident involved a series of misunderstandings, with words being confused for commands.”

Kim Komando, the computer/digital lifestyle expert, shared a news brief on WCBS radio last week announcing that as a result of a deal between Amazon and Marriot-owned hotels, there will soon be an Alexa smart speaker in every room. You can ask it to have housekeeping bring you more towels, make dinner reservations and have easy access to all hotel amenities. It’s a sales win for Amazon but not so hot for your privacy. She didn’t sound so tickled about the “advancement” either.

Stevens concluded: “‘The privacy side has not been fully fleshed out with digital assistants,’ said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, a venture-capital firm specializing in tech research. Digital assistants still need more training to interpret commands and language more perfectly, he said, something that consumers should consider with the devices in their homes. ‘Eventually we’re going to get it figured out’ but it’s not there yet, he said.”

Do you really want a cake on your airline seat should you be traveling on your birthday or would you find that creepy? Do you mind giving up privacy so you can say, “Turn on my TV” or “Get me more towels,” instead of clicking on the remote or picking up the phone in your hotel room? Would you be tempted when the technicians have a better handle on ensuring that there would be no glitches in transmitting your commands or would the privacy issue still prevent you from jumping in to join the smart speaker craze?

Photo: mai-assoc.com

Service of Meditation That Makes Me Nervous

June 21st, 2018

Categories: Meditation, Mental Health, Mindfulness

Photo: careerbuilder.com

Of all the people I know I could probably most benefit from daily periods of meditation to calm down. But Ellen Gamerman’s Wall Street Journal article, “Competitive About Meditation? Relax, Everyone Else Is Too,” made me nervous.

Gamerman wrote “Type-A people are descending on the ancient practice of meditation and tweaking the quest for inner peace to suit their hard-charging needs—racking up streaks and broadcasting their running tallies to the world. The result, for some: Meditation has never been more stressful.”

Photo: medium.com

There are apps, like Headspace and Calm that keep track of the straight number of days subscribers meditate—or practice mindfulness–and subscribers compete. “Headspace and Calm report roughly 30 million and 26 million downloads of their apps, respectively.” Gemerman explains “Meditation, which can mean different things to different people, is a more focused state than mindfulness, which is a state of calm attention to the present.”

Members of online groups such as Mindful Makers can post daily and others can compare streak rankings. They live around the world. Another, Beeminder, tracks goals. Subscribers are fined if they don’t meditate. One paid $810 because he didn’t practice mindfulness an hour a day for a period of time.

“Streaks are big business for Headspace and Calm, which sell access to audio-guided meditations and other features for $12.99 a month, or less depending on the package. But pursuit of a streak has its risks: Customers can become discouraged if their runs end abruptly and might ditch the app or stop meditating altogether. Even a completed streak can potentially diminish enthusiasm: The only thing harder than the 365th straight day of meditation, some say, is the 366th.”

Photo: engadget.com

To change behavior, people buy devices, like wristbands, that feel like a bee sting when they shock. Pavlok sells them for from $145- $245 [photo left].​

I admire successful entrepreneurs and tip my cap to those who identified and addressed a need for people to quantify their calm times and pay for gadgets to nudge or sting them to meditate or otherwise change their behavior. Much of this counting and prodding seems counterintuitive, adding more to busy schedules and raising adrenalin to win, which makes sales victory in this space even more intriguing. However, it doesn’t inspire me to meditate—and you? What techniques do you use to calm down?

Photo: finerminds.com

Service of When It’s OK to Steal

June 18th, 2018

Categories: Air Travel, Pilfering, Stealing, Travel

Photo: pinterest.com

When smoking was in style, some restaurants and bars had fantastic looking ashtrays that found themselves in customers’ handbags. Many venues considered it a way to get their logos into homes–a reminder of a great meal or fun evening and the cost of inspiring future meals. Others would stop guests as they were leaving to ask if they wanted to pay for the ashtray. [I know someone who was stopped!]

Today airline passengers paying $thousands for a ticket in first or business class are snitching bigger souvenirs: blankets, pillows and duvets according to Alison Sider and Andrew Tangel. And they boast about it. “Danny Kashou, 53, a business owner in San Diego, was impressed by the soft fabrics and Saks monograms on the blankets on an international trip earlier this year. ‘Heck, yeah, we took it,’ Mr. Kashou says. ‘We didn’t ask. We just stuck it in our carry-ons and walked off,’” the reporters wrote in their Wall Street Journal article “‘Heck Yeah, we Took It.’ Fliers Are Swiping Airline Swag.”

Photo: pinerest.com.uk

They wrote about another passenger who “At home, sips brandy from his favorite British Airways glasses and his children curl up in premium Norwegian Air shuttle blankets. Last year, British Airways began offering a soft, satin-edged blanket from the White Company, an upscale brand. Mr. King has three of them.”

On the trinket side, passengers have taken 26,700 salt and pepper shaker sets from Virgin Atlantic that stamped them “pinched from Virgin Atlantic.” The company reports missing 1,700 lightweight blankets from its A330-200 aircraft.

“So far, airlines aren’t taking a heavy-handed approach to pilfering, hoping to keep things friendly. Premium cabins—first and business class—account for 5.5% of international passenger traffic, but more than 30% of revenue, according to the International Air Transport Association.”

Photo: moneyinc.com

United Airlines sells the Saks designed bedding it uses on its international business class flights because its customers like it so much. A Polaris duvet costs $59.99 and a memory foam pillow $27.99 at United’s online store which it encourages passengers to use.

Sider and Tangel report that Delta flights from LA to Dubai can run as high as $15,000. Surely there’s enough profit built in to cover the costs of the two duvets one passenger saw another stuff into a carryon bag.

Would you feel comfortable snitching something that costs more than a dollar or two? Is it considered OK these days to remove anything used during a flight? Passengers feel perfectly comfortable to brag to reporters about their take–is that normal? Unless encouraged to do so, should rule of thumb be “don’t take anything?”

Photo: traveler.com.au

 

 

Service of Secrets That Burden

June 14th, 2018

Categories: Leaks, Promises, Relationships, Secrets

Photo: rd.com

I’ve covered this topic before. I defended Nora Ephron in one post. Many of her friends had complained when she died “suddenly.” She’d kept her Leukemia diagnosis a secret. I wrote about General David Petraeus’ pillow talk where he was accused of sharing state secrets with his lover and about leakers in business and government.

Elizabeth Bernstein brought up a different perspective when she wrote “Should You Keep a Secret?” in The Wall Street Journal. One of her sisters, Rebecca, asked her to travel to be with her when she had a breast biopsy. She asked her to tell nobody else in the family, one that is chock full of doctors from surgeons to gynecologists. Her sister, an internist who trusted her surgeon, didn’t want the pressure of unsolicited advice.

Photo: theundercoverrecruiter.com

Bernstein asked: “How do you decide whether to keep someone’s secret when there are good reasons to tell?” More later about the repercussions of her decision to stay mum.

She offered other examples: You know the spouse of a person having an affair–do you snitch? What about a secret drinker in the family who needs help? Say you learn that a close friend, who died, had led a double life? “You might want to disclose someone’s secret if it will help him or her in the long run. Or if someone else is being hurt or has a right to know the information.”

According to studies to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology “we often feel closer to a loved one when we know a secret of theirs, but this information can also be a burden. The studies show that the closer a person is to a friend or loved one whose secret they know, the more he or she is likely to think about the secret. And the more friends the two people have in common, the more likely one person is to keep another’s secret.”

Photo: popsugar.com

Bernstein quoted the lead researcher, Michael Slepian, PhD, Columbia Business School: “Just having to think about someone else’s secret makes it harmful to our wellbeing.” In an earlier study Dr. Slepian reported that when people think about a secret, everything seems to be more difficult: “They estimate hills to be steeper and distances to be farther” than people not so burdened.

So what happened to Bernstein? She was still at her sister’s house when her mother called. Mom knew—her sister had told her—and “was angry with me for preventing the rest of the family from supporting Rebecca.” The gynecologist was “hurt that I didn’t seem to value her expertise. Too late, I realized that in keeping Rebecca’s secret, I might have betrayed others. It took me almost a week to get back into everyone’s good graces. By then, we’d learned that the biopsy, thankfully, was negative.”

Had you been Bernstein, would you have told the rest of the family? Do you think anyone has “the right” to personal information and someone’s secret and that you should be the person to share it? Have you felt burdened and sluggish when harboring a dear one’s secret? Have you been in the “no good deed goes unpunished” position, like Bernstein, on the bad end of the stick when others learn you knew but didn’t share? Are there some personal secrets you should never share under any circumstance?

Photo: kbic.com

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics