Monday, October 18, 2010

RED Weekend in LA

We went to LA for the weekend for a weeding. I ask the boy this morning which things they enjoyed the most and the least. Not surprisingly, going to see the movie RED was at the top of the list. I used to feel bad about "wasting" time at a movie when traveling, but I've realized what matters the most is not seeing the most tourist attractions, but having a great time. And kids love going to the movies no matter where they are. Besides, LA is "movie town" so it felt appropriate :-). N enjoyed the hotel's pool, even thought he only used it for 10 minutes. P enjoyed seeing C's old lab at UCLA (and crystal through the microscope). They all enjoyed rollerblading on Venice Beach and in generale just "going to LA". The didn't like not being able to attend the wedding (it was adults only), and having no weekend left in SF.

What about me? I mostly enjoyed seeing friends & eating at our favorite Cuban restaurant. And I hated the traffic and the flight delays.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

A spent a bunch of time researching the computer he plans to buy on his birthday (in 4+ months). I told them we should be careful about getting ahead of ourselves. For example, spending a lot of time planning an event that might not even happen. Or spending a bunch of time planning a purchase so far in advance that our research might become obsolete by the time we are ready to purchase (or, we might change our minds and not purchase anything eventually). Or, planning how to spend some money that we might not even get...

Of course, sometimes these things can be fun. I remember spending two years doing research into which sailboat to buy. I didn't want to purchase anything because the shopping was so much fun! And the research often pays off (it did in the case of the boat). But fun aside, it can be a big waste of time (and sometimes worst) when we get ahead of ourselves.

[Update: a month after this conversation A decided he wont buy a new computer after all]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

I am grappling with a small "dilema" and asked the kids for advice: I need to purchase new kites (for kitesurfing). After a lot of research I chose a brand and model only to find out that they just released their 2011 models and have a 3 month backlog. Problem is we have two holiday (Thanksgiving & Christmans) when I was hoping to use the new kites. I tracked down some 2010 kites still available, but the cost would be comparable to the newer ones, which I would get in January. So, do I buy the 2010 kites to have them for the trips? Do I order the 2011a and find some alternative for the trips, e.g., rent something, or, do I order my second choice kites, which do have 2011 units available? Life or death stuff...

N thought I should get the 2010s so that I could have them for the trips. P thought I should wait for the 2011s, since whatever I buy I will keep for a long time, so better to be very happy with them. A wasn't paying attention to me (he will have to go on the back seat for the next week as a consequence!).

I am still trying to get a 2011 in time...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Courtesy of a "Heads Up"

A missed an afternoon of school last week to got tour a prospective high school. We asked the previous day to send an email to the teachers' whose classes he was going to miss giving them a heads up. He refused, saying there was no need, as his classmates would just tell the teachers, if they asked, that he was gone to check out a high school. Today I talked to the boys about the importance of giving people a "heads up". People really appreciate it if at the beginning of a meeting (or class or phone call) one says "I might need to leave early because...", or "I might need to take a phone call". A simple heads up lets you get away with stuff that would be pretty rude otherwise, such as taking a call in the middle of a meeting, or leaving in the middle of a class.

The same principle applies to delivering bad news. The more heads up the better. For example, if you do poorly in a test but don't tell your parents. Then don't share the test results with them. But wait until the teachers drops the bomb at the parent-teacher conference, your parents are likely going to be very upset (and probably take away some of your privileges). If instead, you give your parents a heads up the day of the test "mom, I had a math test today in which I think I did poorly", then the consequences once you share the test results with your parents are likely to be much less severe. By sharing the info early you showed you cared. You were honest, and, you lowered expectations...

Friday, October 8, 2010

X Prize

Met someone from the X Prize Foundation last night. Very cool organizations. They create $10MM prizes to encourage research and development into worthy goals that might otherwise not be financially viable e.g., space vehicles, affordable genomes, fuel efficient cars. This "prize" approach has being gaining popularity because it is highly leveraged: instead of giving the $10MM to directly fund research and development, the prize generates many times that amount of work funded by those who want to win the price. A bit like a lottery (which as we all know, is such a profitable model only governments can do it!). Another analogy the kids are familiar with is Threadless, which pays a few thousand dollars each week to the winning design for a t-shirt, but gets dozens, if not hundreds of designs for free...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bring the t-shirt if it is warm

P was wearing a long sleeve shirt and asked me to tell C to bring him a t-shirt to soccer practice "if the day got hot". I called here, in front of him, and told her to bring him a t-shirt. No conditionals. P said, she only needs to do it if it gets hot. I told him that it was better if she simply brought the shirt. Otherwise, what if he thought it was a hot day but she didn't? In general, it is a bad idea to agreements based on subjective criteria, like whether the weather is hot or not. And even some apparently objective criteria van become subjective. For example, is it night or day during the sunset hours? Is it raining or not when it is drizzling?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bad Referees...

Over the weekend P had two soccer matches. I watched the first on which his team played great and won. I didn't watch the second one in which the referee was so biased he made them lose 3 to 1... Or so P says. I wasn't there, so I don't really know. Still, I spoke with the kids about not blaming external factors for their failures. Even if those factors are true, it is usually better to focus on the things we could have done better. Why? Well, for one, we might learn something and do better in the future when faced again with a bad referee. But also we avoid coming across as "sore losers". We cause a better impression on others when we show humility and openness to learning than when we blame others for everything and don't acknowledge ant faults on our end.

P said the problem with my suggestion was that people would think we were bad (soccer players). I answered that most people can assess how good or bad we are without our explanations as to why things went the way they did. Our explanations have a much bigger impact on people assessments of our character than our skills. P insisted that wasn't always the case. For example, what if I am interviewing a candidate for a job and he blames himself for a past problem. Wouldn't I think he was weak and not hire him? I explained that before hiring people I do reference checks, and that a candidate who blames external factors for something he had responsibility for wont do well once I check his story... On the other hand. someone who shows me he has learned and improved will do much better.