The eyes have it

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

This is a long article about which work teams are successful, and why.
It has a lot to do with the soft skills of being able to read others’
facial expressions and body language and respond to those. I think there
are parallels for families, too. Do the conclusions seem correct to
you, Totebaggers?

111 thoughts on “The eyes have it

  1. I thought the article was really interesting, although the conclusion was pretty obvious if you’ve been paying attention. If the team is all about showing others how smart you are and Not Failing, then people aren’t going to risk the off-center answer or ask the critical question that might imply that they don’t already know everything. A good team is going to find a way to make it safe for everyone to voice their ideas.

    But, wow, that description of Team B was basically my worst nightmare. Maybe that’s all fine, if all you have to do all day is this one meeting. But when I have X things to get done before I need to leave at 4 to get my kid, PLEASE don’t waste the first 15 minutes with chit-chat, and then expect me to stay on forever because no one can actually END THE DAMN MEETING. Part of making any team work is respecting the other things team members need to do and being respectful of and efficient with their time. Let people come early/stay later to bond, sure, but don’t hold everyone hostage to foster “good team interaction” or some other consultant-speak crap. I just tend to disengage at that point, which leads to the opposite result.

  2. LfB – agreed re: Team B. I hate those kinds of meetings!

    What I thought was interesting: “What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home.”

    I think YMMV on this point. It probably depends on how much you like your co-workers, and how much you feel like your “personality and inner life” might affect your work. For example, I don’t talk much about the kids/DH at work AT ALL, because of the motherhood penalty etc. etc., nor do I share how my “personality and inner life” would rather be working at home and not talking to anyone at work! ;)

  3. Oh man, if I had to be on that Team B, I would have slit my wrists. Actually, I have been on teams like that. I was on one team when I worked at a software company where status meetings used to drag on for 3 hours because our team leader would just let the meeting turn into a free for all of chitchat and web surfing. In my current department, we can’t get anything done at faculty meetings because everyone has to have a say on everything, and no consensus ever emerges. So decisions end up being made by fiat – the department chair just does it without telling anyone – because otherwise nothing would ever happen. That isn’t a good way to work at all.

    My sense is that most studies on team dynamics are crock. All it has led to are teambuilding exercises that no one wants to participate in, or meetings in which everyone has to “telll us something surprising about yourself” in turn. Teams work well when everyone treats each other with respect and dignity, when opinions are heard and considered, but then someone has the authority to make a decision, and when there is a common sense of purpose.

  4. I think the key is being able to figure out when it is a Team A meeting and when it is a Team B. Occasionally I don’t mind a meeting that is like Team B. If I haven’t seen those people in a long time and need to catch up, or if we all like March Madness and want to air our displeasure for a particular horrible loss. But, I also know in what situations we need a Team A and it is straight to the point, no messing around.

    Someone like my oldest DD can not read the social cues for when it is A or B. She thinks everyone is a B. She is still young, but we already know her brain does not read facial expressions without intense training.

  5. The other thing to remember about this is that the study was done at Google. Google is an incredibly homogenous place, especially in terms of age and ethnicity. I have visited Google NYC a few times. The faces are overwhelmingly under 40, with no black people to be seen. Everyone is nerd-culture-hip. They are people you would see in the evening at the trendy artisinal cocktails-and-shareable-plates hangouts. I get the sense that many of the employees see their workplace as a kind of extension of college, and treat it as their major place of socialization. I think those characteristics would really skew a study like this. I think in a more diverse workplace, where there are older people perhaps caring for elders, and parents juggling kids, and people of color from less advantaged backgrounds, you might find people are less comfortable with sharing everything and might prefer a more buttoned-down, get-down-to–business approach.

  6. “Teams work well when everyone treats each other with respect and dignity”

    Anyone read The Boys in the Boat? Perfect example of a team falling into unison.

  7. I agree with previous comments about hating team B meetings. I think a lot of it depends on your personality. I can see where a lot of people would love team B meetings. At the same time, a lot of pepole prefer team A meetings where everyone sticks to the topic and they start and end on time. A lot of it is just being able to read people, which goes back to those interpersonal/communication skills we’ve talked about many times.

    At a previous employer, they would do an “employee engagement survey” every year or two. The goal was to measure “engagement”, which is different than “satisfaction.” Anyway, it was a series of 12 statements and you had to say how much you agreed or disagreed. One of the statements is “I have a best friend at work.” We always thought that was a weird quesion, but they said that it really does correlate with how engaged people are with their jobs.

  8. Mooshi, I totally agree with your assessment on culture of Google factoring into it. I bet if they studied meetings at a much more conservative workplace, maybe an old school BigLaw or something, they would get significantly different results.

  9. I get the sense that many of the employees see their workplace as a kind of extension of college, and treat it as their major place of socialization.

    Like grad school?

  10. I thought it was a great article. Maybe we are all reading this blog is because we have not found a type B meeting to attract our focus back to work.

  11. “Best friend at work”. DD – my employer clearly hired the same consultant! One of the reasons cited for making teleworkers come back into the office was “engagement” and the idea that we would be more engaged if we had a work best friend. Umm, I did have a couple, and every few years you lay them off. So now, I just want to do my job efficiently and go home. I already have to work occasionally at home in the evening. If I let my cube neighbors regale me with their son’s little league triumphs for an hour, or the great which-BIL-should-get-to-smoke-the-brisket dilemma every single day for two weeks, then that means more evening work for me. Plus, my cube neighbor is a passionate Trump supporter. So I’d prefer to briefly exchange pleasantries then get to the task at hand.

  12. I have quite the diverse workplace in terms of life stage, color, places people are from, gay/straight etc. My team is a mix of Team A and personal components from Team B. I don’t feel the need to hide that I have kids. There is no oversharing but each one is aware of their team members personal situation. I can bring best self to work. We rarely socialize outside of work because most of us have other commitments. Work wise, what we do share is information that is beneficial to output. We have collaboration but it is not the to the extent that the article describes.

  13. The DBA, who sat near me at the last company I worked for was a crazed ex-hippie (clearly had done too many drugs) who subscribed to every conspiracy theory out there, and who I am totally certain is a Trump supporter now. I bet he is at every rally. He was quite the a$$hole himself, and at one point, got arrested for mooning someone in the parking lot at work. People like that are why I look elsewhere for my besties.

  14. When I was younger, I had some best friends at work and I had a lot of fun at work. At this job, I speak very little with my colleagues, beyond work stuff. I have no desire to get to know them, and I have no desire to let them get to know me. The work I do is interesting, but I am fairly disengaged from my job/employer.

  15. The one thing that crops up among our work group is the checking of email while on vacation. One or two people check and respond to their emails, even when they are supposed to completely disengage. There is the feeling that this creates an expectation that everyone will do it and most would much rather not have this become routine.

  16. You know, I’m really fed up with USAA right now. It’s a long and tedious story, but the short of it is that they won’t do anything with my claim until an appraiser comes out to look at the damage, and the only people they have as appraisers in this area are incompetent businesspeople who are unable to even make a phone call to set up an appointment as required. USAA does not try to follow up to see if anything is getting done; it requires me calling them, and all they can offer is “Well, there’s nothing *I* can do about it. What do you want *me* to do about it? I’m in Tampa….”

    And I’ll explain, again, that I want you to follow through, I want you to ensure that the appointment is set up. I shouldn’t have to be the one to keep calling you about this. And furthermore, I want someone to recognize that this response so far has been unsatisfactory.

    To which they just respond “Sir, what do you want *ME* to do about it? I’m in Tampa.”

    Screw them. I make next to no claims, ever. I feed them money every month covering a house, three cars, now a boat, and a $3M umbrella policy. And all they can do now is give me two crappy appraisers who don’t even call me back?

  17. Have you all ever taken the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test? It’s mentioned in the article and is supposed to indicate how well you read emotions based on eyes. I noticed that some expressions could be mistakenly taken as romantic when they are actually something else, and vice versa. That could lead to trouble!

  18. “Umm, I did have a couple, and every few years you lay them off.”

    This. Companies don’t seem to realize that people care a lot more about what they do than what they say. DH’s employer does “employee engagement” surveys every year, and one year, DH got some subtle criticism because his group’s score had gone down. Well, one of the statements people needed to agree/disagree with was “I have the tools I need to do my job.” Year 1, people responded “no.” Year two, same question, even lower scores. Why? Because the company never FIXED THE PROBLEM. So Year 2, the employees still don’t have the tools they need, and now they’re PO’d because the company blew them off, which of course just convinced them that the whole “engagement” effort was a meaningless utter waste of their time.

    Touchy-feely/”engagement”/”how does that make you feel” works only when you show that you actually care about the answers you get.

  19. Maybe we are all reading this blog is because we have not found a type B meeting to attract our focus back to work.

    I’m “working from home” today, as much as you can in my line of work, because we’re in the middle of a major snowstorm. One of the great things about my job is that there are no meetings.

  20. I have taken the Gallup survey at a couple of workplaces. The low scores have indicated dissatisfaction which is true. The issues have been resolved by people transferring out or bad managers getting reassigned, fired or quitting. The acceptable scores really can’t be improved because next year, the teams, chain of command etc. have all changed so there is no apples to apples comparison.

  21. One of the things I love about solo practice is that there are almost no meetings that are pointless. (There is always the stuff about dealing with difficult clients, but that comes with the territory!)

    That line about “work face,” is really interesting to me. I noticed early in my first legal job that a lot of young attorneys just showed up and wanted to be young, be silly, be themselves. I’d always been encouraged that at work you act professionally, strive to not only be competent, but also appear that way, etc. I found that having “work face” got in the way of actually making work friends. These days that’s less of an issue, perhaps because it’s easier to earn respect when you don’t look like a fresh graduate?

  22. Tulip, I think the trick is figuring out when you need to present which face.

  23. Tulip, I did the same thing. I actually got dinged on a performance review because my manager thought I didn’t come out of my cube enough. This was a job where I had to travel with my co-workers all together in one vehicle, so we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. I had more than enough togetherness. In the office, there was a 40-something year old guy (to my 24) who would be sitting on the floor at a filing cabinet outside my cube and would call out things like “come stand over my face”. So I was not all that interested in venturing out. The 24-yr old me had no idea how to handle stuff like that.

  24. I concur with LfB that people care more about what you do than about what you say.

    I didn’t think much of the study because Google (with its well-educated, under 40 workforce) is not representative of what makes teams work. I think about Ada and the skills she needs to lead an ER team. I think about the skills my math teacher/department head/union rep friend needs to optimize our local public schools within resource constraints. I think about my constraints- mostly family and geographic at this stage of life- and how those interact with other people’s constraints.

    I think that communicating about your limitations is important outside of the always-available business school study groups. Our equipment installation has been slowed a few days because our installer’s mother was having end-of-life issues. I and my senior engineer discussed it, and we decided to accept any resulting delay because there are risks to changing people, and we have a strong work culture of “Everyone has a life.” Given that the median age of my colleagues is fifty-something (range: 40ish to 65ish), lots of people are dealing with eldercare issues.

    When I returned to work, I was unsure if I needed to attend a particular meeting outside my normal hours. I asked my colleague about it and he said he could easily cover for me, knowing that I was returning to work and scheduling around Baby WCE.

    And RMS, if you’re reading after your comment about engineers and terrorism, one of my best business trips was with an Iranian colleague who left when the Shah was overthrown. I learned a lot about the Middle East from him. I’m unsure if engineers are drawn to terrorist groups or if potential terrorists are drawn to engineering. From what he (and since then, other colleagues from that part of the world) said, you don’t go to graduate school in chemical engineering if you are strongly opposed to chemical weapons development. People who want to avoid political intrigue study civil engineering, not chemical engineering, because governments use people with technical expertise to maintain power. I think it’s a geographic, not a religious, phenomenon, because my teammates from Malaysia (also Muslim) didn’t seem to have those concerns.

  25. Thanks, WCE. Did you read the article? Just thought it was interesting. And yes, I’m reading, because Denver is entirely shut down due to the blizzard. The airport is closed, Peña Blvd (the big artery leading to the airport) is closed, CDOT has issued an order that traction control (i.e., snow tires OR chains OR 4-wheel drive) is required for driving in Metro Denver. That’s a first. Usually traction control is only required in the mountains. Since my sad little Camry has none of those things, I’m drinking coffee, posting pictures of snow on Facebook, and keeping the cat company. DH has a 2014 Forester so he went to work.

  26. Milo, I am shocked that you are having a problem with USAA and getting an appraisal done. I just called them this morning because someone knocked off my driver’s side mirror and I know I will pay the cost from my deductible but I wanted the rental. USAA has always come through for me with appraisers for damage to my home and vehicles. They have an auto body shop that they recommend and I just take my car there and they send the estimate to USAA. I’m surprised when you live in a USAA enriched area for military and ex-military that they don’t have something like that set up in your area.

    I do think that USAA might have outsourced some of their services. A couple of years ago I had a bit of a time collecting from the insurance company that insured the guy who damaged my car. It seemed that since the damage was within my deductible they didn’t want to handle collecting the money from the other company. I was not a nice person and they finally did their job. We have been with USAA for 46 years (love the senior bonus) and I had never had to go to bat with the at fault insurance company myself.

    I wonder if USAA is losing their focus and want to become more a financial services firm rather than an insurance company. I will be sad to see them become mediocre.

  27. I found the article pretty interesting, but I love all kinds of corporate culture analysis. Since I’m an outside person going into all different organizations, it’s fascinating to me how many different cultures can exist all in the same industry.

    Milo I’m very sorry to hear that about USAA. We have stayed with them rather than price shopped solely because of excellent customer service, so I hope that’s not slipping. It’s been a few years since we needed them on the claims side, but the few times we’ve had, they’ve been great.

  28. OM – Yeah, I was telling DW the same thing. I’ve never done a home claim before. The appraisers are outsourced, and they don’t return calls quickly, and when they do, they’re nice enough but don’t have any openings until next week. The weather has been rather mild; I’d hate to think what would happen if a line of severe thunderstorms or something came through the whole area. But what really got me was how dismissive the claim rep was about the issue, saying (and this was in a back-and-forth feedback/comment/reply on their website, so visible to everyone there) that it’s “out of our control” what the vendors do.

    Now, finally, I’ve had a couple conversations with the manager who said it was fine to go ahead and get my preferred contractor over (the one who’s done our renos) and see what’s what. She also called back an hour later–finally, someone who has an ounce of initiative–and offered to get in touch with another company who would act as both the appraiser and do the work, but since I’ve already contacted my friend, I’ll wait to see if he wants the work.

    Their service has always been exceptional, and this time it’s taken about six calls and a manager until I got someone who was competent at her job. I suspect that they’re expanding too quickly. Their advantage was supposed to be running a not-for-profit insurer among a limited pool of members with a heavy selection bias toward personal responsibility. Now they have a ton of emotional commercials, but they’re basically saying that if you can find some great-grandfather who may have done a one-year stint in the Army, by all means, come on in!

  29. Also, for a boat policy, they just connect you with Progressive, who becomes the insurer at some sort of discounted rates (and they do seem like competitive rates). DW works with USAA on business liability insurance, but they farm that out also.

    So on some level, they’re kind of just operating as referral service and just taking a fee for that (I’m sure) while waving the flag and pictures of the troops. As a coworker likes to say “What are you, really? Fish or fowl?”

  30. Milo, the first tip off was your initial contact was in Tampa not San Antonio – not getting a rep from San Antonio never happened in past years.

    Quite a few years ago – not Sandy- NJ had a lot of flooding. USAA brought in appraisers from other companies, put them up in hotels and rented them cars. We had a great young man from Arkansas. We felt so badly that he hadn’t been home in a couple of weeks, we had him to dinner. That was service!

  31. RMS, my first world problem today is my new laptop is on a UPS truck that isn’t going to come.

  32. I’m just glad that I no longer have to negotiate the workplace, although I had a finance committee meeting of the 501(c)(7) org at my home yesterday and had to get through that. One can always resign, blaming grandchildren or sick relatives or one’s own health rather than the volunteer culture, where EVERYONE has to get a say. The same say over and over again.

    A lot of this emphasis on open ended team culture is another way to keep the young and cheaper bodies cycling through the workforce. As soon as someone has constraints or a bit of been there done that, they are dead (and usually expensive) wood to be replaced. Great managers, who have a broad skill set, know how to get the most out of individual contributors, focussed teams and inter specialty collaborations. Google is likely able to function on one size fits all, but we all know how limited the group is on whom clothes with that label actually look good.

  33. RMS, I just read the article. Liberal arts requirements are a joke because the lower level liberal arts/humanities courses that don’t require prerequisites (because you don’t have enough spaces in your schedule to get to upper level humanities courses) are deadly dull and targeted at people with ACT scores of 24, at least at the land grant universities I’ve attended.

    The view of engineering education in the article is not what I experienced or what my professor friends describe now. I remember a professor who started with, “Visualize the energy band diagram for silicon… and if you can’t do that, you don’t belong here.” The emphasis on open-ended, interdisciplinary projects in teams is ignoring the fact that there is a selection funnel that needs to occur somewhere in order to create a class of people who can nod “Yes” in response to the professor’s instruction. And “engineering teamwork” presumes that everyone speaks passable English, which was not a given in my grad department.

    I have an article selected for a post which I will hopefully get submitted soon that is tangentially related.

    In short, companies want engineers who will do what they’re told. They don’t want engineers who think for themselves.

    I wonder if the researchers studied why male engineers, not female engineers, tend to become terrorists, especially given that female engineers are more common in at least some of those countries than they are in the US and western Europe.

  34. Rocky, I read the article, and a couple thoughts came to mind:

    1. I wonder how familiar the authors are with engineering.
    2. I wonder if how successful the engineers who became terrorists were as engineers, and in school, for that matter.

    Some of the thoughts about engineers not having to deal with ambiguity are, IMO, full of it. Engineering is all about dealing with ambiguity and finding a solution, not the solution.

    Perhaps some of the engineers who became terrorists were disillusioned by the realities of engineering.

    Engineering is a field, or perhaps more accurately, a group of fields, with a high attrition rate. I’ve posted here or TOS before about the purported correlation, and possible causation, between unjustified self-esteem and sociopathy. Perhaps this is an example of that.

  35. “my first world problem today is my new laptop is on a UPS truck that isn’t going to come”

    I think it’ll come, just not today.

  36. “Visualize the energy band diagram for silicon… and if you can’t do that, you don’t belong here.”

    You didn’t start with the Schrodinger wave equation?

  37. For all the comments about engineers making good husbands, I think the answer is fairly obvious: sexual frustration.

  38. Engineering is all about dealing with ambiguity and finding a solution, not the solution.

    Not in my experience, if we’re taking about software engineering.

  39. ““Visualize the energy band diagram for silicon… and if you can’t do that, you don’t belong here.”

    That rules me out.

  40. I read this article when it came out, and my interpretation was – teams who don’t have a-holes talking over everyone and teams who generally like & respect each other do their best work. Not really that groundbreaking in theory, but incredibly hard to implement in practice, especially across functions and departments with their own cultures. How to you make sure that your team has a low a-hole quotient?

    I don’t have a lot of time for BS either, so the meetings that drag on without any purpose are definitely my enemy, but I don’t mind a little friendly chit chat. I am not spilling my guts to anyone at work, but I would be very lonely 7 disengaged if all I did was sit alone in my office all day & all my meetings were 100% strictly business. I find friendly relationships also get you rewards at work because it is easier to get things done and important information comes your way more readily as well.

    I would also say that I interpret the “best friend” thing differently. I have a “best work friend” at this job, and I have at all my past jobs, so I would say the answer to that is yes. Currently, this person is not my best friend in real life, and our friendship would probably die if either of us left, but having someone to complain about the state of the bathroom or the weird decisions by management with makes work a whole lot better, so I agree with the premise of the engagement study too. People who like their coworkers are happier at work. Seems like a no brainer too.

  41. I don’t think Google is as unrepresentative as most of you think it might be. There are some crazy- smart people there, but there is more diversity (in gender, race, ethnicity) than most high-tech companies.

    DH worked there for awhile and I had the pleasure of eating in their fabulous cafeteria a handful of times. I also got to go to a casual work get together once. From this, I feel I am well-qualified to generalize about the workforce.

    Compared to other such events, I found DH’s team to be incredibly socially inept and boring. They made work and Magic The Gathering jokes. They did not appear to have hobbies, much interest in current events, etc. That workplace event is still a running joke around our house – nothing could be as terrible as that.

    While he was there, there was an episode where someone (allegedly) disrespected one of the food service workers. This became a location-wide angst-filled discussion. The result was that there was all kinds of over the top celebration for the workers’ effort. I think there was a parade. Google is PC in a way that other tech companies aren’t.

    Anyway, there is something special about Google – but it is not the raw content of their engineers.

  42. “Visualize the energy band diagram for silicon… and if you can’t do that, you don’t belong here.”

    See, the only correct response to this is “Fuck off and die.”

    If I started my Intro to Social and Political Philosophy class with “Visualize Kantian constructivism; if you can’t do that, you don’t belong here”, then Fuck off and die would be an appropriate response to me as well.

    Do ALL math and engineering classes have to start off with dick swinging and pissing contests and emotional rape? If so, why? Do not fill more than two blue books with your answer.

  43. Do not fill more than two blue books with your answer.

    I always wondered who out there required such strictures. (People with bionic writing hands?)

  44. “Milo, it was a specialized senior/graduate level class”

    Ok, so the band diagram shouldn’t have been new to anyone in that class.

  45. “I always wondered who out there required such strictures. (People with bionic writing hands?)”

    This reminds me of my aunty telling me that, as preparation for college, I should practice writing because I would regularly have to deal with exams in which I’d have to write continuously for an hour or two.

  46. “Not in my experience, if we’re taking about software engineering.”

    I wonder how many of the terrorist engineers are software engineers. More generally, I wonder if the researchers have that level of granularity. One of WCE’s posts suggests that there might be a disproportionate representation of ChemEs.

  47. “I wonder if the researchers studied why male engineers, not female engineers, tend to become terrorists, especially given that female engineers are more common in at least some of those countries than they are in the US and western Europe.”

    I’ve expounded here on my theory/observation of females in engineering (in the US) often being there because of being very good at math and science, while many of the males are there because they want to be engineers (and unfortunately, some of them are not good at math and science).

    I wonder how that compares with the situation in other countries, especially those with higher percentages of females in engineering.

  48. “How to you make sure that your team has a low a-hole quotient?”

    At a previous employer, we did group interviews, and one of the foci of those was to screen a$$holiness.

  49. Back OT, at a previous job, we used to have Team A-type meetings and Team B-type meetings– with the same group. Which type of meeting to have largely depended on the meeting topic.

    For those of you who hate the Team B-type meetings, there are ways to do that that aren’t so painful. One common technique was to start with a catered lunch, and the chit-chat could go on during that time, which minimized the feeling of time being wasted, and free food also mitigated that feeling.

  50. In that same previous job, while the company organization was based on functional groups, most of us were also members of multiple cross-functional product/project teams.

    It also helped that respect for all co-workers, from janitors to CEOs, was a stated corporate objective. (WCE, one of the better equipment techs I worked with started as a janitor.)

  51. My workplace does hiring interviews with team manager plus panel interviews. One thing they are successful at is hiring and maintaing a balance of personalities types. This keeps things from being deathly dull.
    This is in contrast to a previous employer where all the women on my team were so similar, we had the same hairstyle.

  52. “See, the only correct response to this is “Fuck off and die.”

    I never heard any speeches like that except from the boxing instructor. He said in a very threatening manner “Once a week this semester, when you come into my gym, it is not the year 2000. It is NINETEEN SIXTY-SEVEN!”

    Apparently, things were generally more violent in those days, hazing and indoctrination were conducted with less oversight, and I guess guys generally weren’t such pu$$ies.

    If anyone considered saying “Fu(k off and die, he thought better of it.”

  53. No, see, it’s exactly like those intro Calculus classes where the instructors (often not actually professors) smirk and say, “Look to the left; look to the right; 50% of you won’t be here by the end of the semester.” What’s the point of that? To scare smart but easily-frightened girls like me? Fuck off and die.

  54. When I heard such speeches by professors/teachers – I always thought that they were bluffing. I used to say to myself – bring it on !

  55. Louise, I think I’ve already told you that my mental response to the obnoxious Saudi contingent (the majority of one grad class) was, “Not only am I brilliant, but I have bigger balls.” I surprised myself by setting the curve- they were all bluster.

  56. RMS, weren’t you successful in academia as a philosophy professor, which I’ve heard is an area of academics even more cutthroat than engineering or science? I’ve always figured you could give me interaction lessons. I can fake it for 50 minutes, but being that obnoxious for long is exhausting.

  57. being that obnoxious for long is exhausting.


    I’m done for the evening. You win. Must be those enormous balls.

  58. RMS – I love you. Seriously. And amen to “Fuck off and die.” I may also think simultaneously “bring it on” but why the pissing match? You are my favorite.

    And I’m so excited that you bought the house!

  59. Was the article on engineers and terrorism the one that appared in the Chronicle? If so, that article was seriously flawed. The author clearly was not familiar with the cultures that many foreign engineering students come from. In those cultures, which include China, India, and Korea AS WELL AS the Middle East, engineering is seen as a major stepping stone to the middle class by huge swaths of working class people. The governments of those countries also tend to restrict scholarships for overseas study to fields like engineering. The result is that huge numbers of students from those countries come to the US to study engineering. The vast majority of them do not become terrorists, When was the last time you heard of a Chinese terrorist with an engineering degree? I bet never/ Right there, that should tell you that this has nothing to do with engineering education. The very few who do become terrorists come from very troubled countries – the Middle East yes, and sometimes a few other countries with extreme political instability These people bring their beliefs and politics with them. They are studying engineering mainly because they don’t have many other choices and they become terrorists because of the politics and anger they learned in their home countries.

    The article was a shining example of confusing correlation and causation.

  60. Anon said “Compared to other such events, I found DH’s team to be incredibly socially inept and boring. They made work and Magic The Gathering jokes. They did not appear to have hobbies, much interest in current events, etc. ”

    Why don’t you consider MTG to be a valid hobby? Is collecting coins or bowling or playing chess somehow more real in your view? As for interest in current events, that seems to be lacking for all sorts of people. Most diehard sports fans I know are not all that into current events either.

    Just for the record, I play MTG myself :-)

  61. “Most diehard sports fans I know are not all that into current events either.”

    IME, they are very much into current events, although that range of events in which they are interested is often extremely limited.

  62. well, from that point of view, diehard MTG players, who follow new card releases and tournaments closely, are also into a limited set of current events…
    I suspect the anon author meant something different by current events.

  63. Well, news broadcasts and news channels commonly cover sports.

    Not sure about new MTG card releases.

  64. IME, unfortunately, screening “assholiness” means “hire more people who look like me”, which-surprise!-results in more white guys getting hired to the exclusion of everyone else.

  65. L, I have definitely observed the phenomenon you described at 6:44 at some law firms. I’m wondering if it is more likely to occur amongst lawyers, or if it’s the same across the board.

  66. I’ve always figured you could give me interaction lessons. I can fake it for 50 minutes, but being that obnoxious for long is exhausting

    I am literally laughing out loud at this one. Priceless.

  67. IME, unfortunately, screening “assholiness” means “hire more people who look like me”, which-surprise!-results in more white guys getting hired to the exclusion of everyone else.

    That’s not what happens when you screen for assholiness. That’s what happens when you hire based on “cultural fit.”

  68. Thanks, tcmama. And I’m glad we got the house too, since Santa Cruz is looking pretty good through 12 inches of snow.

  69. RMS, I think you will really love having this home in Santa Cruz, with the type of surrounding homes. Right by the beach might have been ideal in some ways, not in others, and even more overpriced. I know you wish you still had property in your home town, but there is a relaxed atmosphere that is ideal for a retirement destination. I think that your husband will enjoy it enough for you all to spend a lot more time there than he anticipates while still working. Good restaurants, good weather, good low altitude hiking, and even quality local theater ;) Who knows, I might even spend my last years there rather than back in DC.

  70. I finally saw some pictures of the CO blizzard, and it was nasty. Our district has no real spring break this year due to a long gap between Easter and Passover. They created two separate four day weekends. It’s chilly here today, and I’m looking forward to a long weekend in the Caribbean. I need some time away from family medical issues, Con Ed, and homework.

    DD is worried about travel this weekend thanks to terrorists. I know it’s something she is usually aware of since there is typically police or national guard presence in Grand central and other places that she frequently visits. It’s tough to be a kid now. Her school just got new doors to help protect in a Newtown type of situation. These kids have every type of lock down drill plus ISIS. It’s a lot of scary stuff that can’t be avoided since the coverage is every where.

  71. Wait – did I miss you got the house, or did I just forget? Either is possible, these days I could hide my own Easter eggs.


  72. And RMS, I hope it’s clear that I am laughing at WCE’s comment because of how unintentionally (I think) insulting it was, not because I in any way think that being a professor = obnoxious.

  73. Lol at the WCE quote. RMS – we love you !
    My city is on spring break next week. Kids are out of school and families are taking off. The weather is nice but the allergy sufferers are miserable.

  74. Thanks, y’all. I appreciate the kind words. And yeah, we’re on track to close on April 4. I transferred the down payment money to checking yesterday. Ow. O_o

  75. Lauren, the different districts in Westchester this year all did different things, which is odd – usually we are all on vacation this year. My kids have been off all week. I get Thus/Fri/Mon off because we are a Catholic affilicated university. I have one of DS2’s friends over at our house, both yesterday and today, because his dad teaches in New Rochelle and they are still running.

  76. Homework – we were reminded by DS’s teacher that when we come back it will be the home stretch of the school year. It is the hardest time of year here to be focused, because everyone wants to be outside.

  77. Oh, Rocky, that’s awesome and terrifying all at the same time — congrats!

    And on a much smaller level, we finally have THE garage design and quote. Of course it’s still more $ than I expected in theory, but this has been a good exercise in “we don’t live in theory” (e.g., zoning codes allow a garage in this location only if it is attached, but we can’t make an actual attached garage without taking out our dining room and study windows, so now we need to build a pergola to “attach” the garage to the house). And some of the extra $$ is deferred maintenance that we need to do anyway (e.g., removal of 150′ of 40-yr-old asphalt we inherited with the house). So it’s just time to bite the bullet and go — the snow this year threatened to collapse the roof on the Mustang, and the mommy guilt is getting bad (we got DS a basketball hoop for Christmas a year ago, and we still haven’t built the parking area to put it on — he has been very, very patient). So pulling the trigger and writing checks as soon as we get home.

  78. RMS – I call BS on bullying as a motivational tool too. I agree – F off and die if you want to treat people that way.

  79. Congratulations, LfB and Rocky!

    I need to get moving on getting some plans drawn up for this house. We’re in long-time-contemplation stage of thinking about additions to the house.

  80. Congrats to LfB and RMS :)

    I’m home with barfing children.

    Every time I buy them cute coordinating holiday outfits, they pass around a contagious disease for the week surrounding the holiday, ensuring there are exactly zero photographs.

    If I skip the outfits, they stay healthy and I have a bunch of pictures of them heading to church sporting Paw Patrol/My Little Pony tees.

    It’s like they don’t want to be captured on digital media wearing seersucker dresses and shortalls!

  81. Sky– Sounds like you’ve figured it out! I’m sorry. Home with puking kids is a horrible way to spend the day.

  82. Blessings to all of you for keeping motion and demand in the economy. Carpenters, roofers, pavers, realtors, mortgage underwriters, title agents…all good stuff.

  83. “It’s like they don’t want to be captured on digital media wearing seersucker dresses and shortalls!”

    Well, can you blame them? :-)

    If it helps, you *will* someday laugh about this (I do now at least smile when I recall the Great Family Flu that left me and the kids lying in our own vomit on the bathroom floor and DH too sick in bed to come help)

    @L — how is your purchase/sale going — all smooth, I hope?

  84. Sky, bummer about the barfing. But you just need to do what my mom did — she went through a phase in the very early 60s where she bought tons matching-ish outfits for herself and me and Sis. Like, lots of them. We wore them all the time. Your kids can’t barf all the time! I have tons of snapshots of all of us wearing matchy outfits. It’s a little creepy, actually.

  85. RMS, my insult was totally unintentional. I was trying to observe a commonality between attitudes of philosophy professors vs. engineering/science professors. It was intended to be a compliment that you succeeded in a tough environment in which I would not have been successful.

    I am sufficiently insecure about when I’m the problem and when someone else is that I’ve never told anyone to f*& off. Reading the obituaries of Andy Grove and thinking about the stories from my mentor who worked at Intel in the 1970’s, I kind of think I wound up in the wrong field.

  86. In Cat news, my new jellies arrived yesterday and I am reliving the awesomeness that was my youth.

    RMS – you have been on fire lately. I am glad you are getting the new house.

  87. Here’s a classic example. Those dresses were actually bright yellow and white. And of course eventually I grew into Sis’s dress too, so I got to wear all this stuff twice.

  88. Cat, what kind of jellies? Mine always made my feet bleed, but maybe that was because we had cheap ones.

  89. RMS, my insult was totally unintentional.

    Too bad, because it was really brilliantly executed. :-)

  90. RMS, my sister and I were frequently in matching dresses, homemade of course, to better accentuate the attractiveness of how my mom cut my bangs in an almost level 1-inch line. My brother occasionally posts a classic on his Facebook, so my friends from later in life can share in the good times. It’s so nice to be loved.

  91. Cat – please report back in a few days regarding the comfort level of the jellies. I’d love a pair, but don’t want bleeding feet!

    RMS – I love that photo. So cute and classic.

  92. I will! Bleeding feet didn’t stop me the first time, so they likely won’t this time either.

  93. Sky – I have similar wants WRT matching dresses!!!

    LfB – uggggggghhhh, should sign P&Ss today but the sellers on the house we are buying are being real a**holes (apparently par for the course with everything we learn about them!).

  94. Congrats RMS and LfB!

    Sky, I’m home also with a baby recovering from a stomach virus. But my husband stayed home with her yesterday when she was still in the thick of it, so in contrast it’s not so bad. :)

  95. ” Right by the beach might have been ideal in some ways”

    I would recommend strongly against right by the beach. At the rate things are going, within your lifetime that would likely mean having waves wash against your house. Locally, a lot of beachfront properties are shrinking rapidly.

  96. “IME, unfortunately, screening “assholiness” means “hire more people who look like me”, which-surprise!-results in more white guys getting hired to the exclusion of everyone else.”

    This suggests that your experience is largely working in environments largely populated by white guys who are able, or think they are able, to judge assholiness by appearance, and who apparently think a female appearance indicates a higher level than a male appearance.

    That’s not my experience, but keep in mind the work environment I referenced was probably much different than yours. As WCE and I have discussed, females tend to be disproportionately represented among the top engineering students, and there are also a lot of non-white engineers, especially Asians. Limiting hiring to white guys would result in a very shallow pool. This also meant that the interviewing groups were typically a lot more diverse than a bunch of white guys.

    BTW, local stereotypes suggest the median a-holiness of people other than white guys is not higher than that of white guys.

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