Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Christmas Card to You

I didn't get around to sending out Christmas cards this year...I just let time get away from me...& pure laziness settled in:o)
So this year, I sent out an electronic Christmas card version.
A few weeks ago I won My Memories digital scrap-booking software. I have been playing around with it and I have really enjoyed it. There are some really great templates to choose from.
This is the one I chose for our card.

The original version had our names where the tree is. I just swung over to Picnik and added the tree...for privacy purpose, ya know:o)
So anyway, we hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas! Hoping to see you all back here next week after the BIG day, and I will share some of the gifts I made.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dining Table Set Up

Saturday's Holiday Walk was a success. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and they were very kind in their remarks on our house.
Since we had so many coming through the house, I finally mustered up enough motivation to set the dining table. This is what I came up with.

We have a fun week ahead of us. Lots of gift and cookie making going on here. I won't be sharing any of the gifts until after Christmas though:o) 
Have a great Monday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I decided to take a break from the crazy cleaning frenzy that I am in the middle of. We are on the Holiday house tour for our neighborhood tomorrow...YIKES!...and the house still needs lots of work.
I really wanted to share what I made yesterday with all of you.
I made these cookies to give as gifts. They are melted snowman cookies & they WERE delicious..."were" meaning there are NONE left:o)
The hubs took some to work and said they were a big hit. 
For instructions and recipes, visit Crazy Domestic for all the details.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fun Video for Kids

For the past 3 years, my children have received a special email message from Santa.
It's a personalized video that directly addresses your child.

If you follow the link below the picture, you will be taken to the site where you can personalize your message.
Portable North Pole.
The message is the same for everyone, so I let each of my children watch it by themselves, so as not to spoil "the good news" for the other.
My kids absolutely love it, and they don't really remember seeing it from the year before. They do change things up from year to year, though. If you are into this sort of thing, definitely try it out. You will be amazed at how your child's face will light up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Business December 14th 2011, "Nato Green and Friends" Edition

This Wednesday, we welcome back one of our most beloved and most frequent visitors, Nato Green, along with two brand-new guests! Nato Green is the creator of Iron Comic, the co-founder of Laughter Against the Machine, a prolific HuffPo blogger, and a Jew who cures his own bacon. He's such a regular friend to the show that he's earned the coveted moniker of "The Fifth Businessman," a title previously shared by Stu Sutcliffe and Brian Epstein.

We also welcome Sammy Obeid, a UC Berkeley graduate and nationally-touring comedian who was the first comedian to ever appear on the Food Network telling jokes. He placed third in the SF International Comedy Competition and won Best of the Fest at both the Arab-American Comedy Festival and the Out Of Bounds Festival in Austin. Though Sammy does five sets a night, every night, this is somehow his first visit to The Business. It's long overdue, but we are glad to have him.


Finally, all the way from the City of Angels, we have Josh Androsky. He used to write for awful TV shows, then quit or got fired from enough to start doing standup. He runs the acclaimed monthly show "Hamclown" the last Thursday of every month in Downtown LA, and he has lost four pairs of glasses in three different oceans.

All that, and Alex, Bucky, Chris, and Sean, too! Seven comics! Five bucks! What a country!

This Just Pinned

Monday, December 12, 2011

Most People Don't Know Their Business (so asking them is useless)

I’ll admit it; I am rapidly becoming a skeptic when it comes to interview-based data. And the reason is that people (interviewees) just don’t know their business – although, of course, they think they do.

For example, in an intriguing research project with my (rather exceptional) PhD student Amandine Ody, we asked lots of people in the Champagne industry whether different Champagne houses paid different prices for a kilogram of their raw material: grapes. The answer was unanimously and unambiguously “no”; everybody pays more or less the same price. But when we looked at the actual data (which are opaque at first sight and pretty hard to get), the price differences appeared huge: some paid 6 euros for a kilogram, others 8, and yet other 10 or even 12. Thinking it might be the (poor) quality of the data, we obtained a large sample of similar data from a different source: supplier contracts. Which showed exactly the same thing. But the people within the business really did not know; they thought everybody was paying about the same price. They were wrong.

Then Amandine asked them which houses supplied Champagne for supermarket brands (a practice many in the industry thoroughly detest, but it is very difficult to observe who is hiding behind those supermarket labels). They mentioned a bunch of houses, both in terms of the type of houses and specific named ones, who they “were sure were behind it”. And they quite invariably were completely wrong. Using a clever but painstaking method, Amandine deduced who was really supplying the Champagne to the supermarkets, and she found out it was not the usual suspects. In fact, the houses that did it were exactly the ones no-one suspected, and the houses everyone thought were doing it were as innocent as a newborn baby. They were – again – dead wrong.

And this is not the only context and project where I have had such experiences, i.e. it is not just a French thing. With a colleague at University College London – Mihaela Stan – we analyzed the British IVF industry. One prominent practice in this industry is the role of a so-called integrator; one medical professional who is always “the face” towards the patient, i.e. a patient is always dealing with one and the same doctor or nurse, and not a different one very time the treatment is in a different stage. All interviewees told us that this really had no substance; it was just a way of comforting the patient. However, when we analyzed the practice’s actual influence – together with my good friend and colleague Phanish Puranam – we quickly discovered that the use of such an integrator had a very real impact on the efficacy of the IVF process; women simply had a substantially higher probability of getting pregnant when such an integrator, who coordinates across the various stages of the IVF cycle, was used. But the interviewees had no clue about the actual effects of the practice.*

My examples are just conjectures, but there is also some serious research on the topic. Olav Sorenson and David Waguespack published a study on film distributors in which they showed that these distributors’ beliefs about what would make a film a success were plain wrong (they just made them come true by assigning them more resources based on this belief). John Mezias and Bill Starbuck published several articles in which they showed how people do not even know basic facts about their own companies, such as the sales of their own business unit, error rates, or quality indicators. People more often than not were several hundreds of percentages of the mark, when asked to report a number.

Of course interviews can sometimes be interesting; you can ask people about their perceptions, why they think they are doing something, and how they think things work. Just don’t make the mistake of believing them.

Much the same is true for the use of questionnaires. They are often used to ask for basic facts and assessments: e.g. “how big is your company”, “how good are you at practice X”, and so on. Sheer nonsense is the most likely result. People do not know their business, both in terms of the simple facts and in terms of the complex processes that lead to success or failure. Therefore, do yourself (and us) a favor: don’t ask; get the facts.

* Although this was not necessarily a “direct effect”; the impact of the practice is more subtle than that.

Ballard Knock Off-Corday Accordian Drying Rack

Happy Monday morning to you all! I trust that you all have almost wrapped things up with your Christmas shopping, and are completely relaxed and ready for the big holiday approaching...HA! Funny, right?:o)
Anyway, as promised, I am sharing my Ballard Designs knock off that has been hanging on my wall for months.
 There is NO tutorial on this. Sorry girls. 
I found this drying rack at a yard sale last summer for $5...not in it's current state, mind you. 
And I apologize that I do not have a before picture. 
It is made of pine and at one time was probably part of a home filled with country blues and pinks that we all loved so dearly....20 years ago.
When I saw the Accordian Drying rack from Ballard, I kept trying to figure out how in the world I could get the hubs to construct it for less. It just seemed like too much work, but I knew that I wouldn't be forking over the $199-$269 that they cost.
So I just resigned myself to the fact that I would never have one.

You can only imagine my excitement when I came across the drying rack for 5 bucks! We already had bead board and hooks on hand. 
I took the shelf apart and the hubs used his jig saw and cut bead board to fit the back of the shelf. I spray painted the whole thing, and then he added the hooks.

I am so glad that I found this piece and it has been perfect for air drying the kids clothes and a few of mine. 
 So for now, the laundry room is finished. Someday we plan to put up bead board on the walls...another project for another year:o)

Thanks for stopping by today!

Participating in:
The Stuff of Success

Furniture Feature Fridays

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Home for the Holidays-Home Tour

I hope that you all are having a great day. I have finally gotten around to taking pictures of my Christmas decorations. About time, right?:o)
I have added a few new things, but most of the decorations are the same as last year. 
Here is our mantle. 
 The headboard above our mantle and the sheet music wreath are two of my favorite items in the whole house. Me loves them!;o)
The "Merry" pennant banner was made from painters  canvas, twine, stencils & black fabric paint. I have two more hanging in the house as well.
I added a few more paper wreath ornaments to the tree this year. They were left over from my craft booth. I was actually kind of glad I had so many left over. I love how they look on my tree.
I finally got our family pictures in some frames. I still have 6 more that need to be framed..ahh!
This picture is awful, but there is no natural light in this area during the winter months. Anyway, you get the general idea:o)
I got E a new tree this year. I noticed last year that none of his black ornaments could be seen on the dark green tree, so this year I opted for white, and I think it's perfect for his "Star Wars" themed tree.
 "Come to the Dark Side"
 He LOVES his tree, and it's helping us to slowly transition into a Star Wars bedroom. I have a few ideas for his room, but those will have to wait until after the new year.
We put a bigger tree in S.R.'s room this year. The ornaments are the same, so there isn't much to report about this one...other than it's super girly and has little Barbies all over, which she had a fit over:o)
 Did you notice Cinderella on the wall? I don't think I showed you all the "after" when I had her framed. She was an early Christmas present...I couldn't wait to get it on the wall.
Our dining room...I decided to have less fuss in here...more because I am just lazy now:o) Our neighborhood Holiday walk is next week, so the table will more than likely get a sprucing up before then.
I don't think I have shared this new piece with you all..or maybe I have..who knows! Anyway, this hall tree sits at the entrance of the office. It was given to me and I LOVE it. Accept when I smash my knee into it in the middle of the night..OUCH! The hubs has "run" into the same problem;o) 
I hung the kids special stockings on here. These particular stockings hold their letters to Santa...then Santa's elf comes to get the letters and hand delivers them to Santa.
The kids love this little tradition.
 And last but not least, the master bedroom tree. 
I found this tree on a Facebook yardsale page a few weeks back..9 feet and pre-lit for $80. The seller actually turned out to be one of my clients..ha!
I have one more tree upstairs, but it's nothing to write home about.
I hope that you all have enjoyed a glimpse into my home for the holidays. Maybe you found a little inspiration for your own home.
Have a great weekend!
I will have a Ballard Designs Knock Off to share with you all on Monday. See you then!

Participating in:

A Christmas Tree Party

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Lying Dutchman: Fraud in the Ivory Tower

The fraud of Diederik Stapel – professor of social psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands – was enormous. His list of publications was truly impressive, both in terms of the content of the articles as well as its sheer number and the prestige of the journals in which it was published: dozens of articles in all the top psychology journals in academia with a number of them in famous general science outlets such as Science. His seemingly careful research was very thorough in terms of its research design, and was thought to reveal many intriguing insights about fundamental human nature. The problem was, he had made it all up…

For years – so we know now – Diederik Stapel made up all his data. He would carefully review the literature, design all the studies (with his various co-authors), set up the experiments, print out all the questionnaires, and then, instead of actually doing the experiments and distributing the questionnaires, made it all up. Just like that.

He finally got caught because, eventually, he did not even bother anymore to really make up newly faked data. He used the same (fake) numbers for different experiments, gave those to his various PhD students to analyze, who then in disbelief slaving away in their adjacent cubicles discovered that their very different experiments led to exactly the same statistical values (a near impossibility). When they compared their databases, there was substantial overlap. There was no denying it any longer; Diederik Stapel, was making it up; he was immediately fired by the university, admitted to his lengthy fraud, and handed back his PhD degree.

In an open letter, sent to Dutch newspapers to try to explain his actions, he cited the huge pressures to come up with interesting findings that he had been under, in the publish or perish culture that exist in the academic world, which he had been unable to resist, and which led him to his extreme actions.

There are various things I find truly remarkable and puzzling about the case of Diederik Stapel.
• The first one is the sheer scale and (eventually) outright clumsiness of his fraud. It also makes me realize that there must be dozens, maybe hundreds of others just like him. They just do it a little bit less, less extreme, and are probably a bit more sophisticated about it, but they’re subject to the exact same pressures and temptations as Diederik Stapel. Surely others give in to them as well. He got caught because he was flying so high, he did it so much, and so clumsily. But I am guessing that for every fraud that gets caught, due to hubris, there are at least ten other ones that don’t.
• The second one is that he did it at all. Of course because it is fraud, unethical, and unacceptable, but also because it sort of seems he did not really need it. You have to realize that “getting the data” is just a very small proportion of all the skills and capabilities one needs to get published. You have to really know and understand the literature; you have to be able to carefully design an experiment, ruling out any potential statistical biases, alternative explanations, and other pitfalls; you have to be able to write it up so that it catches people’s interest and imagination; and you have to be able to see the article through the various reviewers and steps in the publication process that every prestigious academic journal operates. Those are substantial and difficult skills; all of which Diederik Stapel possessed. All he did is make up the data; something which is just a small proportion of the total set of skills required, and something that he could have easily outsourced to one of his many PhD students. Sure, you then would not have had the guarantee that the experiment would come out the way you wanted them, but who knows, they could.
• That’s what I find puzzling as well; that at no point he seems to have become curious whether his experiments might actually work without him making it all up. They were interesting experiments; wouldn’t you at some point be tempted to see whether they might work…?
• Truly amazing I also find the fact that he never stopped. It seems he has much in common with Bernard Madoff and his Ponzi Scheme, or the notorious traders in investments banks such as 827 million Nick Leeson, who brought down Barings Bank with his massive fraudulent trades, Societe Generale’s 4.9 billion Jerome Kerviel, and UBS’s 2.3 billion Kweku Adoboli. The difference: Stapel could have stopped. For people like Madoff or the rogue traders, there was no way back; once they had started the fraud there was no stopping it. But Stapel could have stopped at any point. Surely at some point he must have at least considered this? I guess he was addicted; addicted to the status and aura of continued success.
• Finally, what I find truly amazing is that he was teaching the Ethics course at Tilburg University. You just don’t make that one up; that’s Dutch irony at its best.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Business December 7th 2011, "Miles QUE?!?" Edition

Who's gonna be at the Dark Room Wednesday?
Miles K!
Miles QUE?!?

Who's a witty comic comin' up in the Bay?
Miles K!
Miles QUE?!?

Who's website is
Miles K!
Miles QUE?!?

Miles K. Stenehjem, that's que!

To quote East Bay artist Kaitlin McSweeny:

"Miles K. Stenehjem is an elegant satirist with a wit born of sensitive desperation and fearless experience, in my opinion a sort of Oscar Wilde of this time, if Oscar Wilde could lay down some pretty sweet freestyle rhymes and deliver stand-up performances that make even today's recession-depressed audiences gasp and guffaw."

Miles has also recently opened for Andy Kindler, has a show of his own called "Everything Jamboree" and now joins us on our humble show.

Sean is taking a well deserved victory lap around Los Angeles this week, but Chris, Bucky and the newly returned Alex will be on hand to stoke your hot comedy giggly-fire.

As always we ask but only a simple $5 cover charge, begin but only at a simple 8pm, and offer but only a simple proximity to good food and cheep drinks.

My Home for the Holidays-Cute Hand Towel

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We(mostly the hubs) have been busy out in the yard moving dirt, bushes and mulch. It is looking so good in our backyard. I can't wait to show you how it looks:o)

I found a really cute hand towel a few weeks ago made by Mud Pie. The price was really good, but I knew it was something that I could make. I couldn't find their version online, but mine is pretty similar.
 The towel was made from an old shower curtain I found at a thrift store back during the summer. I also had the ribbon on hand. I didn't have enough to alternate the colors evenly, but I think it still turned out pretty cute:o)
 I just cut 28 strips of ribbon at 3" long. (I think the width of the ribbon is 3/4".) I started at the bottom row with seven strips of ribbon folded in half and stitched them to the towel..the next row 6..and so on. 
Just a little side note...if you plan to make this towel, make sure you put your ribbon on at an angle to make the tree form...I made the mistake of putting it on straight up and down and it was totally wrong:o)
A quick and easy...and very festive hand towel for our half bath.

Participating Here

The Stuff of Success

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Convoluted Views about Media Ownership Inhibit Effective Policy

I was recently reviewing the effectiveness of media ownership policies and regulations and was struck by the limited success they have achieved during the past 50 years in Western nations.

There seem to be two central problems with ownership regulation efforts: ownership really is not the issue that we are trying to address through policy and we have convoluted views of ownership.
Media ownership is not really what concerns us, but is a proxy of other concerns. What we are really worried about is interference with democratic processes, manipulation of the flow of news and information, powerful interests controlling public conversation, exclusion of voices from public debate, and the use of market power to mistreat consumers. It is thus the behavior of some of those who own media rather than the ownership form or extent of ownership that really concerns us.

This is compounded because media practitioners, scholars, and social critics have highly convoluted views about ownership and most have complaints about all forms of ownership. It is thus nearly impossible to identify a preferential a form or extent of ownership.
We don’t like private ownership of media because proprietors can use them pursue their private interests; we don’t like corporate ownership because companies can put profit goals ahead of social goals; and we don’t like having just public service media because they doesn’t provide enough choice and are often limited in their ability to pursue political agendas--a function important in democracy.

We don’t like big companies because they can be arrogant and unapproachable and because they can control content as well as markets; we don’t like small companies because they can’t provide the range and quality of content we desire and because they sometimes can’t withstand pressures from powerful interests.
We don’t like foreign owners because they don’t share our identity, don’t represent who we are very well, and can bring foreign influences that affect national sovereignty; we don’t like domestic owners because they can be too close to those with domestic social and political power.

The list of ownership we do not like—and the fact that most regulation is promoted because of particular proprietors we disliked—makes it difficult to fashion effective policies. We are stymied because no ownership form itself is good or bad and they all have advantages and disadvantages. And there are examples of good and bad owners under all the forms of ownership.
Using ownership regulation to control the behavior of bad owners can only somewhat limit the scope and scale of their activities, not address their poor behavior. It is like permitting higher levels of crime in one area of town as long as it does expand into other areas.

If we are to effectively address our real concerns, we need to develop better mechanisms for influencing behaviour and we need to stop ineffectively regulating ownership just because it makes us feel like we are doing something.