Saturday, April 10, 2010

Some Recent Q & A

I have been working hard on numerous projects, and have missed writing on the blog! I have managed to answer some questions on formspring, so that might just have to suffice until I get a chance to write next. Here are some of the more interesting questions I've answered lately:

My 18 month old grandson just had a severe reaction to tilapia. I am worried that his reaction is just one of many to come. Have you had any experience with children that have seafood allergies? Is it likely he will "grow" out of this with a good diet?

I'm sorry to hear about that. I'm not intimately familiar with seafood allergies, but I have some (hopefully helpful) information.

First, if he hasn't been seen by an allergist, he needs to be. Try to find someone with a particular interest in food allergies.

If an Epi-pen is prescribed, take it with you everywhere.

Go to FAAN's website ( and read about the specific things you'll need to avoid for fish and/or shellfish allergies. For example, Worcestershire sauce contains anchovy, and fish-allergic people will need to avoid it. There's lots of good info on FAAN.

I know that fish, shellfish, nuts, and peanut (which my son has) are the least likely food allergens to be outgrown. An allergist will be the best person to help evaluate your grandson's personal risk/likelihood of outgrowing.

Food allergies can be very scary and overwhelming, especially at the beginning. But it's manageable. Arm yourself with knowledge (and Epi-pens!) and be very vigilant and that will do so much to minimize his risk of another serious reaction. There's tons of resources and wonderfully supportive people in the food allergy world--take advantage of them! It will be okay...hard, but okay.

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Does Morgan ever specify exactly what KIND of puppy she is? by SupaTrey

Sometimes. Sometimes she's a poodle, often she's a chocolate lab or a dalmatian. Usually she's inspired by whichever dog she's been reading about or watched a movie about or seen recently out and about.

But you know something, and this is a little sad, she's less frequently a puppy than she ever used to be. :( Nowadays, she's oftener a Pet Store Peopleguy or a Customer of the Pet Store Peopleguy (read: me), and is more interested in being a human taking care of dogs (or other pets).

It was inevitable, and she's still a puppy sometimes, but my baby girl's growing up, I guess!

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When working with volunteers on a project, how can you (1) find the most reliable and capable people and (2) motivate and reward them for their work? by DianaHsieh

Those are interesting questions. I've been a manager in past jobs, and these days I work with volunteers in a similar capacity (the blog carnival, and now our new Objectivist group here in Atlanta).

I used to consider myself a poor judge of character, but I later realized my problem was avoiding judgment. I wanted to give people chance after chance just to be "nice" and that was a major flaw I had as a people manager in my career.

The best way to get a sense of how someone will handle a specific job/responsibility is to get to know them by asking open-ended questions. We used this technique to interview potential employees. Nothing's 100%, you don't really know how someone will perform or fit until you give them a chance, but open-ended interviewing can give you a good chance to learn about the person.

Examples of open- versus closed questions :

Closed: Why do you think it's important to meet deadlines?

Open: Tell me about a time when you met an important deadline and how did you manage it? Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline. What did you learn from that experience?

Closed questions usually have one really obvious correct answer. Open questions invite the person to tell a story, so you can get a glimpse into how they handle themselves in different situations. I think this can be used in volunteer projects as well as work situations, maybe a touch more informally with vounteers.

Motivating volunteers...that's a challenge somewhat different from work scenarios. Presumably, if you and they are all working on a volunteer basis for a common cause, everyone shares a common motivator: the cause.

I think expressions of genuine appreciation go a long way toward providing anyone, but maybe volunteers especially, with a little spiritual fuel to continue their efforts. I try to remember to thank my blog carnival hosts by leaving a comment in the carnival post. It's nice to have one's efforts acknowledged, even in a small way.

I know I always get a little lift when you or someone else acknowledges the work I've done on the carnival, or a particularly clever bit of writing. I don't undertake these efforts selflessly as a martyr or only for pats on the back from others, but wow, it's a great feeling to know that you've intrigued someone with an idea or made them think, or that your work hasn't gone unnoticed.

So I think finding little ways of acknowledging a volunteer's effort, accomplishment, dedication, etc is the kind of spiritual trade-off that can keep people motivated to fight the good fight!

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You explain much of your parenting philosophy and discipline to your children in terms of rights. Since rights are a very abstract principle, how do you keep the children from holding rights as a floating abstraction and confusing full political rights?

Good question. Whenever I talk to the kids about any abstract ideas, such as rights, I try to relate the idea to something they do know about, use analogies and lots of concrete examples. I also love open-ended questions, so I will sometimes use those to get them thinking.

A lot of times, they don't get it, not fully. Or they misapply the idea. That's okay--they're kids and they're learning. When appropriate I'll ask another open-ended question or two, explain the idea as best I can, etc. Eventually, they will understand the ideas fully.

I think relating the idea to something concrete that they can grasp can help them not get the idea that these abstractions are just "out there" somewhere, that there aren't referents in reality for them. The conceptual work, though, is theirs. They will have to think about things themselves.

I'm also really careful to say why *I* think something is true, and to point to reality and the evidence of my senses and explain some of my thinking. When Brendan and I talk, we talk this way, too, so we are modeling this kind of thinking for them out loud, even when not talking directly to them.

They really don't have a clue about politics just yet--they're too young. And really that's a good thing considering! So when Ryan has ideas about politics, they're often weird or hilarious. But he's thinking and trying to figure things out, and our conversations are always geared in that direction.

We don't make a huge deal about it if they say something wrong or crazy. It's okay for them to hold wrong ideas--again, they're still quite young. As I said, we sometimes correct or ask challenging questions, to get their brains moving, but there's no point really in arguing seriously about it. And they have shown me time and again that they are capable of figuring out their conceptual errors and correcting them.

If you want me to, I can think of a specific example of a time we've done this, or a conversation we've had. Some of my more amusing blog posts have to do with such higher level concepts, when they're trying to figure out the ideas and asking me wild questions. Or if you have a specific thing in mind, drop me another question. Thanks!

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Do you think "shrugging" is ever appropriate outside of the fictional setting of Atlas Shrugged? What about revolution by force? What conditions would have to be met before you committed to either of these actions (shrugging or revolting)?

The short answer to the first two questions is: yes.

Just when and how any sort of shrugging/fighting I do . . . it depends. I used to think of myself as someone too afraid to fight (physically, I mean). Then I became a Mommy and I can honestly say that if someone did something terribly awful to one of my kids, then I'm not sure what I'm capable of doing to that person. It will certainly be painful, I'll tell you that.

I'm not afraid to fight any more, and I'm not afraid to withdraw my sanction. Generally what I do is assess the risk (I'm a cautious sort by nature) and weigh it against the likelihood that I'd be putting my kids at risk of being taken from us. I'm hesitant to flaunt my state's homeschooling laws for this reason. They are stupid and pointless, but if I don't comply, it's possible my kids could be taken. Not worth the risk.

Mainly, I'm finding courage and strength that I never knew I had, and I'm generally pretty pissed off about many things happening right now. So I think I will only get more vocal and more confrontational in my old age. You heard it here first!

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Given that your son has a peanut allergy and your husband has diabetes, how would you respond to someone who advocates healthcare reform because it doesn't discriminate against pre-existing conditions? What is the prose way to handle it in a free system?

My husband and my son have really expensive pre-existing conditions, particularly my husband. It sucks sucks sucks. What can I say? It sucks.

We (Brendan and I) are infuriated any time someone suggests that we'll be better off or have an easier time of it now that this new legislation has been enacted. These conditions are expensive and they suck (have I mentioned?). But that doesn't mean I expect everyone else in the whole country to pay for it. And it's wrong for people to take our money to pay for their sucky conditions.

The proper way to handle this would be to HAVE a free system. Unfortunately what too many people fail to understand (even if they think it's okay to pile up a certain portion of everyone's money so that someone else can divvy it out according to pre-existing condition) is that we didn't have a free system before. Not even remotely. Anyone who has ever worked for a hospital or a physician or an ancillary healthcare provider KNOWS how much red tape already exists. How current prices are indexed to current Medicare rates. How prices are arbitrarily set to X% of current Medicare rates, so as to cover the costs for the insured patients and maybe make back a little of the losses taken on the Medicare/Medicaid patients. How much legal involvement there is. How federal regulators inspect hospitals and everything involved with such an inspection. How the feds created HMOs and the rules by which insurance companies currently operate.

This whole mess exists because it's essentially One Enormous Pile of Unintended Consequences as a result of prior legislation.

Taking my money to pay for someone else's condition isn't right. Taking your money to pay for Brendan's insulin isn't right. Taking money isn't right. Period.

On top of which (look out, I'm on a roll now!), we HAVE gotten insurance for Brendan and Ryan. And me, who had at the time we went through underwriting a pre-e. We got covered for most things, and had exclusionary riders on the policy. That sucked. Sucked Sucked Sucked. For years we paid for my allergy shots and Brendan's diabetes out of pocket. Oh well. We still had coverage for catastrophic accidents and medical office visits. THAT is what insurance is supposed to cover.

Stopping now....

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Wow, I've answered more questions that I realized. I think I'll save some answers for later. I only have one question in my queue (and I've been thinking about my answer to that one for a while now, I'm almost there). So PLEASE ask me more questions!

And speaking of questions--send parenting questions to Kelly and I would really like to answer some on our new podcast. The more specific, the better! :o)

1 comment:

Jennifer Snow said...

RE: Open-ended questions, I find those just as silly as other canned interview questions, personally. I love going to an interview for a non-supervisory position, coming out of a non-supervisory position, and being asked things like "tell us about a time when you managed a group of people". Yeah. Whatever. I can tell you about the times I've run people through quests on MMORPG's if you want.

The deadline one is also silly for me because almost all the jobs I've ever worked didn't have "deadlines"--you had a stack of work you had to get done in a day, and you worked until it was done. Then, in whatever time was left, you'd work on whatever projects there were going on, and they got done when they got done. I don't think "needs to be done before you go home" counts as a "deadline".

Of course, often interviewers spend no time even on their canned questions--for the first half an hour, I do almost no talking while it seems that they're trying to sell me the company. That's a no-good way to interview someone. Don't deliver a 30-minute lecture and then ask inane questions like "so, do you think that'd be a good fit for you?" It always makes me want to say, "Listen, lady, ANY job where I get PAID MONEY is a GOOD FIT for me right now."

I ran across Ask the Headhunter through Gus Van Horn ( and I think a lot of the advice there for interviewers/interviewees is top notch. Get your interviewee to talk. Give them some concrete sample problems to work on (ones that have actually come up at your business) instead of abstract ideas that may not even apply to them like "deadlines" or "leadership". If you give them actual problems, they'll also get a feel for you and your team while they're answering the questions, so you'll be imparting the info that would have gone into the sales pitch WHILE you're learning about the potential volunteer/employee/whatever.

For example: if you want to see if someone can follow instructions, give them some instructions to follow. While I was at Edge Medcom, I was in charge of hiring, and I can't tell you how many people I didn't hire because they could NOT figure out (even from detailed instructions) how to download a file from our ftp server. Then they'd complain that we "didn't train" them. Sorry, #1 job requirement IS being able to figure this stuff out without us holding your hand, because you're hundreds of miles away with a hardware/software/isp/firewall setup that WE know NOTHING about, so you have to manage it YOURSELF.