Dave (Personal)

  • My degree wasn’t useless, even in the “wrong” career

    Twenty-three years ago, Columbia University awarded me a doctorate in social and organizational psychology. Given that my career in the last decade has been publishing in the auto industry, with organizational change relegated to a part-time now-and-then status, I’ve sometimes made light of the usefulness of my degree. The other day, though, I started to think about it. Regardless of whether it was the right degree or career for me, learning about social and organizational psychology did change my life. Even in undergraduate work, under Mel Gary, I learned about the roots of prejudice and discrimination, how they work, and how inevitable they are, which reshaped my attitudes about people and society. In graduate school, we went through reward systems,…

  • What I’m doing now

    As my role in Allpar is dropping down to that of moderator and sometime contributor, you may ask, what am I doing now? Since my old job at Rustler is no longer available, I’ve given some much-needed attention to my long-standing toolpack.info (organizational change and improvement) and acarplace.com (automotive) sites. I still have to devote some time to expanding macstats.org, particularly the tests of free statistical software. There are some long-term projects I’d like to attack, including the writing books, which has eluded me through my life so far, finding new homes for some of the historical materials I’ve collected, and figuring out, well, what to do next. As with most people, I need to make sure I don’t get…

  • You can learn from experience, but you don’t have to!

    In olden times, so I’ve been told, older people were considered wiser. The young ’uns deferred to the elderly for their accumulated wisdom. Keep in mind, of course, that the old folk were probably in their forties or fifties. People live a lot longer now than they used to, in most of the world, since we’ve figured out how to avoid dying from various plagues. Still, there is often much to be learned from older people. Except… Except that not everyone gains wisdom with age. You can learn from experience, but you don’t have to. You can just have experience and fit it into whatever mental molds you have sitting around. The mind is very good at chucking out things…

  • The lingering shadow

    Most people who have recovered from cancer, strokes, or heart attacks are happy to still be here; and there’s not much we can do, usually, other than shrug and go along with it, taking whatever drugs, doing whatever exercises, diets, or surgery, we are told to take or do. That makes it easy to have a “good attitude,” at least to other people. Still, there are some things you don’t see from the outside, and I doubt I’m alone in this. “Before.” I gave up an adrenal gland, kidney, and spleen, and one other organ, but in the end, I drink more water and less alcohol, and that’s pretty much the impact of the surgeries. There are other problems, though, which…

  • Getting back to normal
    dave with another Valiant

    I’ve now passed the three-year anniversary of my surgery, which means I’m likely to live long enough to die of something else. Why is three years a key milestone? Around 80% of people in my situation die within three years. If it shows up again within six months, doctors advise against even trying to stop it; it’s time to get your affairs in order and, perhaps, get it over with on your own terms while you still can. (Or not; there’s always a chance.) Over the last few months, I’ve had to change my mind-set again, from “I’ve got a definite time limit” to “I might just make it out of this alive.” Well, long enough to die from my…

  • What and who you know

    When I was first starting out as an organizational development consultant, I went to various career seminars given by experienced professionals. One thing that kept coming up was, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” It’s cynical advice, but it’s largely true. You can set up shop and be the very best in the world at what you do, but unless you can “schmooze,” or network, it doesn’t matter. What’s often not mentioned is that this includes keeping track of the people you work with. Volunteers working together and getting to know each other at an event unrelated to consulting… because I needed a photo for the story. Whether you work with other people as part of a consulting firm, or…

  • The “early senility” phase
    dave with another Valiant

    I don’t know about everyone, but for me, chemotherapy was like getting senile far ahead of my time. The effects seem to be sticking with me, too. Early on I started to lose focus. In the past I’d been fairly high-strung, but could dive into something and stay there, which is handy if you’re coding or writing. I’ve had two jobs where I replaced (or was replaced by) two or three full-time people. At Allpar, I do a good deal of writing, all the editing, a bunch of photography, the occasional video, all the business-end work (including tax returns and my own pension), and nearly all the tech work — which, in a world of ever-changing Web technologies, is nothing to sneeze at….

  • How not to save money at work

    Early in my working life, I saw that “traditional” approaches to cutting costs usually didn’t work. My micro-level experiences may be valid at a macro level. One cost-cutting story comes from my time as a temp, at a cheap (and I don’t mean frugal) outfit that made huge sums in investment banking. The bankers usually got high salaries, with bonuses in seven digits, but they were ill-tempered and always conscious of the costs of their temps. The going rate for skilled Manhattan computer jockeys was around $16-$22 per hour, if you could type at least 80 words per minute with minimal errors, and be skilled at Word for DOS, which everyone seemed to use though Windows had been out for a long time and our printers were…

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