Managing Expectations

WaPo published Trump’s transcript from a recent interview with the AP. This exchange caught my eye.

AP: Did they give you any sense of the timetable?

Trump: I would say within a week. That’s my impression. He said two weeks. But they’re going to try and do it in less than a week.

An instructor in college taught us something I have always found useful: Say it is going to take longer than you need. Scotty told LaForge similar in the episode “Relics.” If you miss the deadline, then you look incompetent. If you get done early, then you look like a hero.

Trump clearly did a Kirk. The Saudis said two weeks. Trump probably assumed they are doing a Scotty and halved their estimate. (Technically, Scotty said he needed 4x longer than the actual.)

Everyone needs to assume Trump is going to halve their estimate and report that is the true estimate. So they need to always tell him quadruple.

Framing Dangers

IMG_0163
From my 2015 beach trip

Hurricane Michael leveled much of Mexico Beach, which is a place I know pretty well. Spread out over my lifetime, but a rough impression is, I think, I have spent about half a year at this particular town. That would rank it third longest of places where I have lived.

Several people have expressed surprise about this hurricane was as strong as it was. I wonder if part of the problem is communication. This hurricane quickly intensified. A meteorologist I follow from UGA wrote Tuesday morning when it had increased to a Cat 2:

Michael will likely be a Major Hurricane (Category 3 or higher) at landfall.

And on Monday in Forbes:

As I write this, the [Big Bend] region is staring at the very real possibility of a strong category two or major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) making landfall in the Wednesday-Thursday time frame this week.

He was communicating this storm was quickly intensifying and to expect something far stronger than the usual storms that strike this area. People I love live in Valdosta, which was being named dropped over and over as a likely target for the storm after it made landfall. Everyone I know chose to hunker down and ride it out even as the likely winds to hit Valdosta increased through tropical storm to Cat 1 and Cat 2. People with large trees that could cave in the roof of their homes. My wife’s extended family in the Panama City area also chose to stay.

Why? I called my mother to encourage her to come to stay with us because Valdosta was in the path. She didn’t want to leave. My mother described that Hermine was pretty bad, but it wasn’t that bad for them. A tree damaged just a corner of the roof. Hermine was also a Category 1 with 80 mph winds where it came ashore and probably down to tropical storm strength where Mom lives. Thankfully Michael came ashore well west of Hermine and tracked away from Valdosta family, so they were spared the worst part. We still have not heard from most of my wife’s Panama City family.

So, while meteorologists were trying to say, “this is going to be really bad,” people didn’t really hear it that way. Mom is someone who took meteorology courses in college and wasn’t getting the message. The UGA one has a timeline defending that the NWS did enough to provide notice.

4 am Monday CDT (October 8): …  there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall.

He also said:

Yes, the rapid intensification was shocking but there was plenty of information hinting or explicitly stating that a major hurricane (even category 4) was possible.

I guess my point is hints are not enough. The reason why stores have prices ending in 99 cents is that one extra cent difference lowers sales because people tend to have the impression it is more expensive. Saying “3 or higher” pins people to think 3, not 4 or 5. This effect, called Framing, is pretty well studied in how people make poor decisions because of it. Even marketers study how to use it to influence shoppers. Maybe if some behavioral economics experiments are done to see show Framing affects the way people interpret meteorological messaging, scientists looking not to overstate what they are seeing may learn they are inadvertently giving people a different impression than intended. It is a struggle to be sure, to find the correct way to communicate this stuff.

Skynet for school shooting prediction

This sounds likely to be fraught with false positives.

In particular, the language a student uses during an interview can help distinguish a high-risk teenager [shooter] from a low-risk one, according to previous research Barzman directed. That study concluded that the former was more likely to express negative feelings about himself and about the acts of others. He also was more likely to talk about violent acts involving himself and violent video games or movies.

My clique in high school were the metalheads, barely passing nerds, and social rejects. Self-deprecation was the basis of our humor. Violent video games or movies was the basis of our media consumption. The only one of us every accused of fighting was a case of mistaken identity as the first and last (not middle) names matched the very common actual guy of another race.

Artificial intelligence is the tool of choice for this kind of stuff. I hope the research is light years ahead of where this article describes it.

Automate Yourself Out Of A Job

At VSU, my boss got a promotion when his boss retired. Then a shuffling of jobs gave me a promotion, but it also sent my old job to another group. That left the web services group going from 2.5 full-time positions down to 1.5.

We did not have that much free time. If anything in the early 2000s, the responsibilities were growing which is how we ended up with 2.5 people. My only way to restore sanity was by automation. Admittedly, I love scripting and schedulings, so my approach to things at that time was to write scripts to handle jobs. The change gave more motivation to ensure that anything that could be automated was. Or I would drown in the work.

What made it hard was, even as I automated these jobs, more things were coming to the web. The needs grew faster than I could develop the tools to handle it. It was a fantastic experience, though.

The Importance of Student Workers to A University

Gille believed that [UGA] Transit could not succeed without its stable of student employees. She said the campus-centered transportation is best fulfilled by students who are on campus nearly every day, not individuals in the community who rarely otherwise come in contact with the University of Georgia campus. It’s easier to acclimate hundreds of students to campus driving routes than to find the same number of non-students willing to learn the routes. The Importance of Student Workers to A University

My first day at Valdosta State University as a student, I also applied for and got a job working in the library. (Yeesh, I think that means I’ve been working for the same employer-ish for 22 years.) I loved the public and school libraries growing up. And I did some of my research for the middle school science fairs in the college library. I love books, so why not?

My final summer, they hired me a temporary staff to fill-in at the reference desk. Normally, a faculty member librarian did that work, but I was being entrusted to do when they were at half capacity. That seemed to seal the deal: I would go to library school for my master’s degree and become a librarian. (Fate intervened by running into my future boss the next fall who convinced me to come work in IT.)

As staff at VSU IT, I supervised a handful of students near the end. They were invaluable for keeping Web Services running. Yes, they were cheap labor. They also hopefully learned some skills that made their careers. Student labor is what made the school operate. Hiring good students is just as important for any staff position because they represent the university, they do the work that allows it to run, and they ensure the quality of almost anything except maybe the professor vocalizing to a classroom. Students do not get the respect of staff, but they for many areas are most of the staff. The departments might not exist without student workers.

 

Non-Update

Nothing frustrates me more than the non-update. I define it as:

a communication issued within the promised window of time to express the status of nothing has changed and to establish another window for an update.

I am patient and willing to wait for a real update. When I see an email from someone I am waiting to hear from, there is the surge of dopamine in anticipation of a completed task. Only to receive the disappointment of that surge of neurotransmitters being falsely exerted. I feel betrayed. Well, not at first, but when I’ve been strung out over and over, I come to feel like they are terrible at their job.

Save yourself the trouble.

  1. If you think you can have an update for me tomorrow, then give yourself an extra day. If you think you can this week, then give yourself an extra week.
  2. If there are obvious difficulties present such as your people are at an all week meeting, then do not commit during that event. Give me a time after it is over.
  3. If there is any likely stumbling block, then let me know ahead of time rather than after which sounds like an excuse. A vendor told me on a Monday they would have something for me that week only for me to find out the next week the system needed went down for upgrades and would be down two weeks. As soon as they learned it would be down, I should have been told rather than have to learn about it later.
  4. Hedge by giving me a range of time. “I’ll try to have this to by x. but it might be as long as y.”

 

Acknowledgement

Trying to get a price quote from a vendor. It has been two full weeks. The first week plus was confusion within their organization who should be working on it. See, back in April they reclassified our account, so we got a different representative, which is fine. But four months later, they should not be repeatedly trying to have the old one work on the quote. Only when the old one realized that we were not his client did it get shifted to the correct person.

However, three days since then I just realized that I have not seen anything from our representative that he is in indeed aware of the quote, confirming what is supposed to be in the quote, or providing the estimated time it should take to provide us a quote.

Hopefully, I am not a narcissist, but this lack of acknowledgment made me nervous the request had been overlooked. After yet another poke of the vendor, we did finally get a quote. Overall, it was two weeks, one hour, 28 minutes later after the initial request. I hate to nag, but I also hate to allow the request to be overlooked. The acknowledgment lets me know the fulfiller knows about it and it not being done is due to something else.

Why you need a pre-performance routine

As he moves toward the OR, McLaughlin is running through a precise series of thoughts and visualizations, which he calls the Five Ps. First is a Pause: He tries to forget what’s happened earlier in the day and focus only on the present. Next, he thinks deeply about the Patient. “This is a seventy-three-year-old man, and we need him to come out of this pain-free and able to walk more easily,” he says to himself. He reviews his Plan, mentally rehearsing the surgery step-by-step. Then he offers some Positive thoughts: “You were put on this Earth to do this operation,” he says. Finally, as he steps toward the table, he says a quick Prayer. “It’s very ritualistic, and I’m very focused,” he says.

Back when I had to do Friday night maintenance work as a GeorgiaVIEW database administrator, I had something like this. I would do the Pause to quiet my mind to become fully present. Then I would think about the systems involved. Then I would mentally step through the plan for the maintenance.

 

Automatic For the People

This program and I are at odds over what “automatically” means. It says that the dataset is updated automatically, which is fine. Except they produce new data multiple times a day at the most frequent and every couple days at the least. The agent software is supposed to update every day. My dataset was 202 days old, so something was obviously wrong.

I decided to give it a kick in the teeth by doing a manual update. Just annoyed at it informing me that I don’t need to do this because it does it automatically. Obviously I did because it was not actually automatically doing it.

Now it is telling me that I need to reboot and giving me a 20 day countdown until it does.

Stealing the T

The Georgia Institute of Technology has a tradition of stealing the letter T. I first ran across this in a local news media story where the letter T was stolen from signage. The main tradition is stealing the T from Tech Tower which has “TECH” on each of the four sides. (They return it during halftime of the homecoming American football game.)

It occurred to me that it would be especially hilarious for some GT alumni to steal the Ts in Trump Tower in Manhattan. It would become Rump Ower.