The Empty Ocean

The Case for Asking Your Employer for References

A friend of mine is looking at a life-changing job offer. It would require relocation, sectoral change, a personal clock frequency increase, and, of course new people. There are plenty of reason to take the offer, including lots of independence, challenges, and, it doesn’t hurt, buckets of money.

So, he’s taking the job right? Well, he’s not sure. Not, however, because he’s some nervous sort, afraid of taking risks, etc. It’s because of the people — because it’s a small group, and a few meetings, calls, and emails have only given him a limited sense of what it would be like dealing with them day after day.

He asked me what I thought he should do. I said, “Ask them for references”. Yes, ask his prospective new boss co-workers for references. It’s sort of surprising that you don’t hear about the idea more often, but I’m actually a fan of reverse references. You really sometimes need an independent sense of what employers are like, and one way to get there is via their references.

Sure, there are plenty of ways to game the system, just as prospective employees can, but when you’re faced with a life-changing decision there is nothing wrong with asking for references — theirs.

The Catfish Housing Recovery

From my friends at Altos Research, the “catfish” housing recovery. Note that it helps if you blow the presentation to full screen.

Groupon’s IPO Filing Produces Novella of Risks

The Groupon IPO filing is out, and, as expected, it’s hugely entertaining. The Risks section alone is more than 13,000 words, or around the… [cont.]

[Full post at my Bloomberg blog]

Job Listings Up, Jobs Down?

Kind of hard to entirely reconcile this — perhaps it’s sectoral issues, or maybe it’s relative sectoral sizes — but the… [cont.]

[Full post at my Bloomberg blog]

The Worst Science in the World

There’s a very dark humor that permeates the culture of field science. Tales of hardship, suffering, and endurance are often told with a peculiar form of irony, filled with braggadocio, and sprinkled with in-house jokes. Nowhere is this strange mixture of hardship, suffering, and dark humor more evident than in Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s celebrated memoir of Antarctic exploration dramatically titled The Worst Journey in the World. Its memorable opening line sets its tone: “Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.”

via The Worst Science in the World.

EHEC Outbreak Watch

A few links worth reading on the ongoing EHEC/E. coli outreak that I’ve been tracking. Serious stuff.

Getting Shouted at is Almost Good for You

Others’ anger makes people work harder not smarter: The effect of observing anger and sarcasm on creative and analytic thinking.

Miron-Spektor, Ella; Efrat-Treister, Dorit; Rafaeli, Anat; Schwarz-Cohen, Orit

Journal of Applied Psychology, May 16, 2011, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/a0023593


The authors examine whether and how observing anger influences thinking processes and problem-solving ability. In 3 studies, the authors show that participants who listened to an angry customer were more successful in solving analytic problems, but less successful in solving creative problems compared with participants who listened to an emotionally neutral customer. In Studies 2 and 3, the authors further show that observing anger communicated through sarcasm enhances complex thinking and solving of creative problems. Prevention orientation is argued to be the latent variable that mediated the effect of observing anger on complex thinking. The present findings help reconcile inconsistent findings in previous research, promote theory about the effects of observing anger and sarcasm, and contribute to understanding the effects of anger in the workplace. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)

via PsycNET – Display Record.

Bill Gross Versus Frogs

This is me being more than a little pedantic, but I’m picking a personal nit here. In his latest <a… [cont.]

[Full post at my Bloomberg blog]

Field Notes: Soccer, Rafting, Bonds, Urination, etc.