The week@work – heat dome, plagiarism, ‘Pokemon Go’, Yahoo, life/work coaches, and classical music

This week@work was hot, with a meteorological ‘heat dome’ encasing most of the continental United States. When I saw the photo above in The New York Times on Wednesday, I just wanted to be transported to a barge in Venice where the cast of Amazon’s ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ were filming. (Enjoy the view from Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times)

In other stories this week, the Republican Party chose their candidate for president and initiated a valuable conversation about plagiarism. The ‘Pokemon Go’ app provided a much needed diversion as thousands engaged in this new high tech sport of creature collection. Vindu Goel took a stroll down memory lane to a time when Yahoo reigned over Silicon Valley. Life/work coaches are the new workplace perk, and classical musicians are returning to the small screen.

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No that is not a photo of Zeus expressing displeasure with politicians in Cleveland. It’s Port Washington, Wisconsin photographed by AP photographer Jeffrey Phelps.

Rebecca Herscher reported on the weather for NPR.

“A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping. The air is forced to sink back to the surface, warming even further on the way. This phenomenon will result in dangerously hot temperatures that will envelop the nation throughout the week.”

NASA reported on Tuesday that ‘2016 Climate Trends Continue to Break Records’.

“Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the late nineteenth century.”

We are hot. We are busy. We live in a time of ‘short-cuts’. Workplace deadlines force creativity into ‘cut and paste’ document creation. Original thought becomes a casualty of increased workload. Sometimes we forget to give credit to other’s ideas and find ourselves on the slippery slope of plagiarism.

Last week the Republican National Convention became the unexpected catalyst for a discussion of this topic, an essential component of every college new student orientation program.

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Writing on huffingtonpost.com, Karen Topham offered ‘An English Teacher’s View Of The Trump Plagiarism Issue’.

“Plagiarism is any unattributed content. It’s kind of like pregnancy: you can’t plagiarize just a little because even a little is plagiarism.

I had my last case of plagiarism late last winter. A girl was under the gun and copied an essay from the internet. I explained to her (as I’d done so often before) that she was probably lucky in the long run that I had caught her. Anyone who gets away with this stuff is likely to try it again. In high school, it’s a zero and maybe a chance to do it over. But in most colleges, it’s a violation of academic honesty that can get you expelled. And this is my point: we hold college students to this very high standard.”

You have been warned.

On the lighter side, David Streitfeld gave a first person account of ‘Chasing Pokemon In Search of Reality In a Game’: downloading the app, setting out to capture a few creatures, and meeting fellow gamers along the way.

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“In this season of random assassinations and political uproar, who could resist the temptation to supplement a high-strung and frightening reality with some gentle make-believe?

Fifty years ago, the F.B.I., worried that the youth of America might foment revolution, would infiltrate San Francisco demonstrations. Now the tech companies are doing the monitoring, wondering if games like Pokémon represent a threat that must be neutralized or an opportunity to be exploited. That’s progress for you.”

In other Silicon Valley News, Wall Street Journal reporters Ryan Knutson and Deepa Seetharaman confirmed the Verizon acquisition of Yahoo.

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“Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to pay $4.8 billion to acquire Yahoo Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter, ending a drawn-out auction process for the beleaguered internet company.

The price tag, which includes Yahoo’s core internet business and some real estate, is a remarkable fall for the Silicon Valley web pioneer that once had a market capitalization of more than $125 billion at the height of the dot-com boom.

For New York-based Verizon, the deal simply adds another piece to the digital media and advertising business it is trying to build.

The deal is expected to be announced early Monday. The news was earlier reported by Recode and Bloomberg.”

In an article earlier in the week, Vindu Goel revisited a time ‘When Yahoo Ruled the Valley’.

“Back in the mid-1990s, before Google even existed, the world’s best guides to the internet sat in Silicon Valley cubicles, visiting websites and carefully categorizing them by hand.

They were called surfers, and they were a collection of mostly 20-somethings — including a yoga lover, an ex-banker, a divinity student, a recent college grad from Ohio hungry for adventure — all hired by a start-up called Yahoo to build a directory of the world’s most interesting websites.

Today, with more than one billion websites across the globe, the very notion seems mad. Even then, there was a hint of insanity about the enterprise.”

Two additional articles of interest from the week@work cover a new benefit for employees transitioning back to work after a leave and a TV series providing classical music performers with visibility not seen since the days of Ed Sullivan.

‘A New Perk For Parents: Life-Work Coaches’ by Tara Siegel Bernard

“At a time when new parents may find themselves overwhelmed — even sobbing late at night as they deal with their new at-home responsibilities while trying to hold down a full-time job — a growing number of companies are making efforts to soften the blow. They are providing employees with coaching sessions, either in person, over the phone or through small group sessions that may be broadcast over the web. The services are often available to new fathers, too.”

‘Classical Stars Seek TV’s Elusive Spotlight’ by Michael Cooper

“It was after midnight on the Grand Canal here, and Plácido Domingo was standing on a floating stage slowly motoring toward the Accademia Bridge, singing the opening lines of a duet from “Don Giovanni.”

With this operatically over-the-top spectacle last week — which drew squeals and flurries of smartphone photos as people passed on a vaporetto, or water bus — Mr. Domingo became the latest classical star to shoot a cameo for “Mozart in the Jungle,” the Amazon comedy about a fictional New York orchestra.

Paul Weitz, who was directing the episode with Mr. Domingo and is an executive producer of the show with Roman Coppola and Mr. Schwartzman, said that the possibility of reaching those viewers was especially enticing to the musicians who have appeared.

“Obviously, it’s a huge issue, and it’s something that is dealt with in the show a lot, about whether classical music is going to be passed on to a new generation,” Mr. Weitz said between shots in his director’s chair. “And all these artists, the reasons that they’re doing this show is because they feel like it’s good for that aspect of the art — that it can bring the music to different people. And anecdotally, I think that’s actually the case.”

Stay cool this week@work with a favorite piece of classical music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – An astronaut in Greenland, a McDonald’s worker in Edinburgh, Facebook’s identity crisis, and how to design a happier life

This week@work, a former astronaut and climate scientist, and a McDonald’s employee in Edinburgh challenged expectations and stereotypes, journalists questioned Facebook’s content algorithm, and a leading happiness scholar shared his formula.

In January, Piers J. Sellers, Deputy Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate and Acting Director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA/GSFC wrote an opinion for The New York Times Sunday Review, ‘Cancer and Climate Change’.

“I’m a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?

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Journalist and author, Jon Gertner continued the story this week with ‘An Astronaut Finds Himself in Greenland’ for The New Yorker.

“Piers Sellers landed in Greenland on a frigid Monday morning in April, and as he stepped off the plane at Thule Air Base he regarded the surrounding snow-covered hills with delight…Sellers was visiting the country for the first time. “I didn’t even see this from space, since the farthest north the shuttle goes is fifty-one degrees latitude,” he said. “We’re at seventy-six degrees now, right? Fantastic.” Sellers’s plan was to rendezvous with NASA researchers at Thule (pronounced “TOO-lee”) and accompany them on Operation IceBridge, an annual mission to collect data on the diminishing ice in the Arctic Ocean and on the Greenland ice sheet. “These guys at IceBridge are always saying, ‘Oh, you should come along, see where the rubber meets the road,’ and I say that I’m too busy, with too much piled on my desk,” Sellers explained. “But, given my current situation, of all the things that we’re doing in the field, this one is probably the most critical right now.”

After the diagnosis, he briefly considered living his final year or so—assuming his doctors’ expectations prove correct—as a rich man might, in a tropical, hedonistic splurge. “I thought of myself sitting for weeks on a beach,” he said. “What would I do? I’d be thinking about climate.”

So Sellers went back to his desk job at Goddard, where he oversees the work of about sixteen hundred people, and considered how he could fit a few modest adventures between his office duties and chemotherapy sessions. Soon it occurred to him to go to the Arctic, which is warming faster than any other part of the world.

The second story this week comes via Mashable and writer Davina Merchant‘s coverage of the Facebook post of McDonald’s employee, Mike Waite. Bravo for debunking stereotypes!

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“Today I have had enough of the judgemental criticism. Let me be clear. YES I work at Mcdonalds and do it nearly 50 hours a week. Why? Not because I have no aspiration, motivation or intelligence…but for the opposite…because in a few months time like a great number of people I work with I will be going back into higher education. McDonalds has this reputation which is quite unfounded in the recent age, every person I work with has a story and every person is working their ass off in what can be a very tough job for their own reasons…be it they are in school, uni, have family, have kids, saving…etc. The one thing McDonalds is is a job which is extremely (extremely) flexible, has opportunities for growth and can allow you to do what you want to do. There are people becoming pilots, lawyers, designers, architects, and people who are at a point in their life that they will do whatever it takes to look after their family. I work with people I would aspire to be like, who have strengths in areas I wish I had, who have overcome situations I never could and who have the determination to not fade away on handouts but rather step up and work for their living unlike a huge number of people in this country. In the past I have known and worked with very rich folks in very high end jobs, and a few of them could never match the resilience and work ethic of some of the current lads/lassies. After the ending of a big part of my life McD’s is not only letting me save up for University, but setting me up with flexible work I can continue over the next years to come. Not only that but I intend on eventually progressing into the management side of things, something which ties in directly to my degree and will enhance my future job prospects.”

Beyond brilliant posts to its site, Facebook was in the news this week when Gizmodo reported that content on the platform was being ‘subjectively’ curated.

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David Uberti reported ‘Facebook wants you to think it’s just a platform. It’s not.’ for the Columbia Journalism Review.

“As prominently argued by Emily Bell, director of Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Facebook is increasingly shaping the contours of the public square, and citizens and news organizations have little choice but to go along for the ride. The power shift raises the all-important question of how information travels in free societies—and what we know about it.

“This is an unregulated field. There is no transparency into the internal working of these systems,” Bell said in a University of Cambridge speech earlier this year. “We are handing the controls of important parts of our public and private lives to a very small number of people, who are unelected and unaccountable.”

News organizations once had a more central role in setting the terms of public debate, balancing money-making aspects of publishing with more civically minded accountability journalism. They also generally followed widely accepted journalistic standards. Social networks have assumed much of the same power, Bell and others have argued, though they typically use more opaque processes and have a greater focus on those profitable slices of publishing. That’s not to say this new construct is necessarily worse, but it is foreign. And Facebook has little incentive to open up about its methodology.”

Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran introduced us to London School of Economics professor and happiness scholar, Paul Dolan in ‘How To Intentionally Design A Happier Life’.

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“After decades of studying happiness, Dolan has developed a happiness formula. He says that happy people pay attention to the everyday experiences that give them pleasure and purpose, then organize their lives so that they are doing more of those things. It sounds obvious, right? Sure, but the problem is that we spend so much of our lives on autopilot instead of consciously focusing on doing things that make us happy. “We are creatures of habit and we automate processes very quickly,” Dolan says. “We do a lot of what we do because we’ve always done it, not because it is good for us or because we enjoy it.” The good news, however, is that Dolan offers two tangible ways for us create more happy moments in our lives. The first is creating a mental habit of paying attention to what makes us happy and the second is designing our lives so it is easier to do those things.”

Two additional stories of interest this week@work:

‘It’s a Tough Job Market for the Young Without College Degrees’  by Patricia Cohen for The New York Times

“Only 10 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds have a college or advanced degree, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, although many more of them will eventually graduate.

And for young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is disturbingly high: 17.8 percent. Add in those who are underemployed, either because they would like a full-time job but can only find part-time work, or they are so discouraged that they’ve given up actively searching, and the share jumps to more than 33 percent.”

‘The Miserable French Workplace’ by Pamela Druckerman opinion for The New York Times

“While many other European countries have revamped their workplace rules, France has barely budged. The new labor bill — weakened after long negotiations — wouldn’t alter the bifurcated system, in which workers either get a permanent contract called a “contrat à durée indéterminée,” known as a C.D.I., or a short-term contract that can be renewed only once or twice. Almost all new jobs have the latter.

(French workers) believe that a job is a basic right — guaranteed in the preamble to their Constitution — and that making it easier to fire people is an affront to that. Without a C.D.I., you’re considered naked before the indifferent forces of capitalism.

No matter what the government does, the workplace is becoming less secure.”

To close this week@work, let’s return to Piers Sellers’ January 2016 NYT opinion piece.

“As for me, I’ve no complaints. I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had on this planet. As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.

And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.”

‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ a poem by William Wordsworth

As world leaders gather in New York to sign the climate accord reached in Paris in December, let’s celebrate Earth Day with a poem by William Wordsworth.

In 1802, the world outside our window looked a bit different. On a walk with his sister Dorothy, Wordsworth observed a “long belt” of daffodils, inspiring him to pen I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.

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The poem captures the essence of Earth Day: preserving the beauty of nature, and the life affirming inspiration of a simple walk outdoors.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

‘The Saturday Read’ Pope Francis’ Speech to the Congress of the United States of America

On Thursday morning Pope Francis addressed the a joint session of the 114th US Congress. He challenged his audience to address issues of immigration, climate change, poverty, family and to abolish the death penalty. Throughout his delivery he demonstrated his quiet but firm leadership style and structured his remarks to reflect American values in the stories of four American careers.

‘The Saturday Read’ this week is the text of Pope Francis’ congressional speech.

“My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice — some at the cost of their lives — to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.”

“Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.”

He included remarks that provided insight to his view of leadership.

“It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue — a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons — new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”

But, as noted by NPR, the pope omitted a section in the text challenging the influence of money in American politics.

“A potentially controversial sentence in the prepared text of Pope Francis’ address went unspoken when he delivered the speech to Congress.

The line appears to challenge the dominant role of money in American politics.

A paragraph in the prepared text quotes briefly from the Declaration of Independence — the passage on self-evident truths — and then says, “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

The paragraph defines politics in terms of the “compelling need to live as one” and building a common good that “sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life.”

The text is written to be read. It is a model of how to craft a message: connect with an audience, employ storytelling to illustrate that message, and insure individuality shines through.