Friday, August 22, 2014

The worst evaluation you will read today

For those of you who remember/were alive for the Reagan years, you will be interested to see that Paul Laxalt's grandson, Adam Laxalt, is running for Nevada attorney general. Someone has chosen to leak an evaluation of his time at a Las Vegas law firm to a journalist, Jon Ralston. It's... not complimentary*: 
The assessment by the Lewis & Roca Associate Evaluation and Compensation Committee (AECC) suggested that Laxalt attend seminars to "address basic legal principles" because of his "horrible reviews" and because he "has judgment issues and doesn't seem to understand what to do." 
The recommendation: A "freeze in salary, deferral, and possible termination." 
The summary of the findings, which I have obtained, authenticated and posted below, is incredibly scathing and derogatory. The conclusion: "You need to work on the quality of your work. You need to work on your legal writing skills."
I don't think I've ever received such a negative evaluation, but I did once have a manager tell me that I needed to work on my fundamentals. I was pretty irritated at that statement, but I managed not to let it show. (And some good came out of that statement.) There was also the time where a supervisor I deeply respect noted in a draft that my view of management was "cynical." Truer words could not be said, actually. I wish it weren't so.

Readers, what's the worst thing someone's ever written about you in an evaluation?

*What makes this particular leak unkind is that, according to the law firm, Laxalt himself had never seen the document. Yeowch. 

I'm trying, I'm trying

Another busy week means not much blogging. I'm reminded for some reason of this passage in Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential:
...I worked with a chef who used to step behind the line to a dirty cook's station in the middle of the rush to explain why the offending cook was falling behind. He'd press his palm down on the cutting board, which was littered with peppercorns, spattered sauce, bits of parsley, breadcrumbs and the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates quickly on a station if not constantly wiped away with a moist side-towel. 'You see this?', he'd inquire, raising his palm so that the cook could see the bits of dirt and scraps sticking to his chef's palm, 'That's what the inside of your head looks like now. Work clean!'  
Working clean, constantly wiping and cleaning, is a desirable state of affairs for the conscientous line cook. That chef was right: messy station equals messy mind. 
I don't know if my hood is clean (answer: not really), but the inside of my head is definitely messy.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An intern is going to be executed at dawn for this one

In the American Chemistry Council's daily newsletter, a link to a "Minding the Campus" piece by Peter Sacks titled "WHAT STEM CRISIS? THERE ISN’T ONE." Surely someone has screwed up here, sending this piece out.

I like the cut of Mr. Sacks' jib.

(The article itself is a good summary of material covered here and elsewhere.) 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Peter Cappelli on the skills gap

Peter Cappelli is a Wharton School professor and the author of Why Good People Can't Get Jobs. He has written a long National Bureau of Economic Research working paper on the so-called "skills gap." It's worth noting that Professor Cappelli is a 'skills gap' skeptic. Here's a small excerpt:
More generally, if the labor market is not enticing students to pursue particular fields, should public policy push them to do so? Manufacturers, for example, have long complained about the shortage of students interested in machinist training programs and assert that the cause has been that schools and guidance counsellors were not advocating for those programs. But the pay for such jobs has declined by 20 percent in real terms over the past two decades while the skill requirements for those jobs have shifted toward computer use, a field with better pay. The number of machinist jobs has already declined by 20 percent in that period (the total number of jobs in the economy has increased by 40 percent) and is expected to decline further (Cappelli 2012). The reasons why there has been a decline in the number of students taking vocational education courses that could prepare them for manufacturing jobs merits further attention, but we should not assume that it is independent from the attractiveness of the jobs offered at the end of those programs.
Of course, I find this paper compelling and worthwhile, but I would, wouldn't I? Read the whole thing -- I have more comments later.

UPDATE: I don't know why, but it seems that people are having a paywall for the NBER and I did not. Here's a Google Docs version. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

This week's C&EN

Some interesting articles here:
  • I had no idea that Sally Evans (Dave Evans' wife) was responsible for ChemDraw; it's really a remarkable #altchemjobs story, when you get down to it. (story by Bethany Halford)
  • Someone doesn't like that C&EN has a paywall. 
  • I'm still finding the rail car safety debate fascinating - DOT wants DOT-111 tankcars retrofitted and that's catching the ethanol industry by surprise. I think I'm okay with this, but I understand why folks who own these cars are squawking (article by Glenn Hess.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Quote of the day: penicillin frustration

For some reason, I was reading about the scaling-up of penicillin and came across this wonderful quote, via an ACS writeup:
Pfizer's John L. Smith captured the complexity and uncertainty facing these companies during the scale-up process: "The mold is as temperamental as an opera singer, the yields are low, the isolation is difficult, the extraction is murder, the purification invites disaster, and the assay is unsatisfactory."
You know, that gives me a bit of perspective.