Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Leader's Ethical Guide

Time for another semester to come to a close. Of my three graduate courses this semester, I expect to receive three "A's" :) During my Ethical Leadership course, I created this Leader's Ethical Guide to help the leaders of Fabulous to make ethical decisions on a daily basis.

Fabulous is the intended name of our small retail store John and I are wanting to open.

This Leader's Ethical Guide was created as part of a class project, one that I received an "A" for completing. As a consequence, it reads more like a class project of five parts than like a corporate document. Prior to implementing it in a real corporation, it would need to be cleaned up a bit, but the idea would remain the same. For those of you who actually know John and I, the information covered will not be a surprise.

This document is 24 pages of text (27 including the references pages). I welcome your commentary

That's how I understand things,
Laura Benedict

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Social vs. Natural sciences

Laura Benedict
IDS 802
Dr. P. Tramel
Homework 2
The Superiority of Social Science
Humans are inherently interested in scientific principles. Every child begins asking the all-important question “why” multiple times a day, sometimes for the same concept repeatedly. On this note, Carl Sagan stated, “Every kid starts out as a natural born-scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact,” (Psychology Today, 1996, p. 33). The mind boggles at the breadth and depth of scientific questions. It might be primarily for this reason that most of us allow other commitments and challenges to entice us away from science as a vocation.
If you think of “Science” as an Earth, you can then think of the major disciplines such as physics, geology, and biology as continents. The one thread that holds the entire planet together, the solid metal inner core of the Earth, is the scientific method. Mathematics and English do not belong on the same planet, they do not even belong in the same orbit. They are subjects as different in kind as to be almost completely oblivious of the existence of the other. This is not so with science. No matter how different astrophysics is from abnormal psychology, they belong on the same planet. Just as geological continents are segmented into countries, cities, and then neighborhoods, scientific disciplines are similarly segmented into ever more specialized fields. This essay will effectively compare the East and the West hemispheres. As a graduate student, I know that last statement is an Americentric misnomer: East and West are relative terms. The sun shines equally on the whole Earth around the equatorial region. Similarly, each scientific field of inquiry is equally important.
Even though scientific wonder is inherent, scientific thinking and knowledge is not. “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge,” (Sagan, 1994, p. 104). Scientific thinking requires going beyond the original statement of fact, it requires digging deeper into the subject, as well as around the subject. The scientific thinker will ask if the statement is really true, if there are other possible explanations for the same conclusion, and how would the conclusion differ if one small detail is changed. In short, scientific thinking requires thinking critically. This level of thinking, questioning, and researching does not tend to make friends among peers or instructors, especially at the grade-school level. For this reason, many interested in scientific endeavors are dissuaded by peer pressure.
Another form of dissuasion from the study of many of the natural sciences is the language used. Digging too deeply into the natural sciences will bring the student face-to-face with large, difficult to read words, which require other large, difficult to read words in order to define and understand (Machlup). Meanwhile, social sciences provide a friendlier window into the world of science because the jargon is frequently used in the news, on social media, and in every day conversation. These concepts still require deeper learning to fully understand, but the layperson feels he or she can grasp the basics earlier, providing much needed confidence (Machlup). Students of natural sciences frequently disdain the social sciences because the social sciences display greater variability in their observed data, they do not formulate general theories within their fields, and they have no constant numerical relationships on which to rely. However, despite this apparent disdain, we will see that the social sciences hold a valid place in the scientific world, arguably a loftier place. The social sciences use the same basic principles to search for answers to different questions than the natural sciences, but they add more to every answer than the natural sciences can ever achieve.

Variability of Observed Data
The basic method of scientific inquiry is generally and broadly described as the scientific method. This is a general outline of a course of action in answering any question as empirically as is possible at the current time. In my High School basic sciences class, my teacher amazed us all by creating a vacuum, and pulling a boiled egg through the narrow neck of a bottle merely by the use of a match. I made peanut brittle and ice cream in chemistry class by closely following the instructions written in chemical notation, instead of kitchen recipe format. These classroom “experiments” are easily replicated to find the exact same results. Not all scientific research is as easily replicated. At this moment, I can pluck from my archives scholarly sources on such subjects as the efficacy of teaching ethical decision making skills at the post-secondary level, the benefits of utilizing authoritarian parenting styles versus authoritative or permissive parenting styles, and a brief overview of string theory. None of these research projects are easily replicated; not all of them are classified as social science.
Machlup views the social sciences to be inferior to the natural sciences because while conducting experiments, social scientists find it impossible to control for every relevant variable. Scriven agrees with Machlup in that the considerably greater number of relevant variables inherent in the social sciences makes primary experimentation, therefore experiment replication, nearly impossible. However, he feels that these extra variables add a richness and dimension, found only rarely in the natural sciences. The conclusions found after analyzing field observations are richer, deeper, and more meaningful than the clinical reporting of data and facts found from the natural sciences. Indeed, where the natural sciences fill you with awe and wonder, and entice you with marvelous facts, the social sciences do so over a cozy warm beverage of choice, and the comforting company of friends.

Theory Formulation
The natural sciences are replete with general theories to explain how the world works, but the social sciences are more apt to ask the question, “why”. This is the very question that will strike fear and dread in the heart of a weary parent who does not know the answer, and does not care. This is the same question that keeps social scientists up for days on end, seemingly tirelessly, searching for a glimmer of an answer. The short answer is, there is no short answer. It is for this reason that many natural scientists look down their noses at the social scientists who do not care, because they are too busy searching for answers with a gleam in their eyes. Fay and Moon write that the natural sciences formulate a theory by considering theory and measurement. However, they add that the social sciences must also consider the identity and meaning of the actions so closely observed by the researcher. These actions must be identified and defined by the social actors themselves, or the context is lost and the observation is useless. On this note, Machlup seems truly saddened that this dimension is non-quantifiable. As an economist, he is used to dealing almost exclusively with numbers and their meanings, thus aesthetic and poignant depths are likely impenetrable to him.

Constant Numerical Relationships
This subject seems to be a favorite of Machlup, given his chosen field. He writes of the velocity of light, Planck’s constant, the gravitational constant (which I argue is only constant on this planet), the Coulomb constant, proton mass, the ratio of proton mass to electron mass, and the fine-structure constant. “Sociologists…have reported some ‘relatively stable’ ratios…but the ‘stability’ is only relative to the extreme variability of other numerical ratios,” (Machlup, p. 13).
This suggests that the lack of numerical constants implies a social science inferiority to natural sciences. However, numerical constants are not the only constants that matter. Machlup does not overtly provide a reason for requiring numerical constants, but he implies that they simplify mathematical computations. However, mathematical constructs are only one small part of the whole picture. Constants other than numbers are called archetypes; for instance, behavior archetypes such as the Mother and the Warrior. Personality archetypes are also familiar to many people by their letter notations such as ENTJ and ISFP. Additionally, social groups always separate into a hierarchy in consistent ways, such as by monetary worth, by brute strength, or by something more arbitrary such as color of skin. The constants found in social sciences are more interesting, provide more information, and are more usable than are the constants found in mathematics.

Our scientific Earth is held together by the basic principle of gathering empirical evidence: the scientific method. The higher variability of observed data in the social sciences leads to richer, deeper, more meaningful conclusions than are found in the natural sciences. The general theories found in natural sciences answer “how”, but social sciences are more interested in answering “why”. The social sciences have more interesting, more informative, and more usable constants than do the natural sciences. Therefore, the social sciences use the same basic principles to search for answers to different questions than the natural sciences, but they add more to every answer than the natural sciences can ever achieve.

Fay, B., & Moon, D. J. (1994). What would an adequate philosophy of social science look like? In M. Martin & L. C. McIntyre (Eds.), Readings in the philosophy of social science (pp. 21-35). Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Bradford.
Machlup, F. (1994). Are the social sciences really inferior? In M. Martin & L. C. McIntyre (Eds.), Readings in the philosophy of social science (pp. 5-19). Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Bradford.
Psychology Today, (1996, Jan-Feb). A slayer of demons. Psychology Today, 29(1), 30-66.  
Sagan, C. (1994). Can we know the universe? Reflections on a grain of salt. In M. Gardner (Ed.) Great essays in science (pp. 102-109). Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Scriven, M. (1994). A possible distinction between traditional scientific disciplines and the study of human behavior. In M. Martin & L. C. McIntyre (Eds.), Readings in the philosophy of social science (pp. 71-77). Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Bradford

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rainbow Vacuum

The Rainbow System Company thrives on word of mouth advertising. They beg you to tell others about your experience. So friends, here is my experience with the company and their representative. There is good news, not so good news, and bad news.

The summary:
The good news: The Rainbow System is an effective product
The not so good news: The Rainbow System is incredibly expensive
The bad news: The representative was a deceptive sales shark

The story:
I visited a completely unrelated show a few weeks ago, and put my name into a drawing for a small air purifier. On Thursday evening, I was called, and informed that I had “won” the drawing, and that in order to obtain this air purifier, the lady would like to show me the larger model. Okay, I have no problem looking at the larger model. I might be interested in the larger model. I set up the appointment.

Keep in mind that when I made the appointment, she told me she would only need an hour, and I made it clear I needed to get up early the next morning.

She arrived on time at 6:30 on Friday evening. She set up the small “air purifier” that I had “won”, and then began the presentation of the larger model. After a few minutes of her presentation, I began to recognize the design of the contraption. I asked if this was not the same company that made the vacuum that my mom had growing up. She denied that it was the same thing. However, further into the presentation, she agreed that it was, indeed the same company and the same thing.

Now, I agree that today’s model is indeed prettier, but it is the exact same thing I grew up with.

The good news: this vacuum is effective. It does what it says it’s going to do. It sucks up all of the dust from the carpet, etc., traps it in the water vat, and keeps it (the dust) from blowing back out into the air.

The not so good news: It is expensive! This vacuum is over $2,000. Not to mention the fact that it is bulky, it is difficult to use, and it is gross to clean up when you are done cleaning your house.

The bad news: The representative was a deceptive sales shark. She used deceptive tactics to gain access to my home. She was not there to sell me an air purifier, she was there to sell me a vacuum. No matter how much you flower up the language (and she did flower up the language), an air purifier is not the same as a vacuum. She told me she would be there one hour, she was there for over three! She tried to use every tactic in the book, from being overly friendly, to telling me how much weight I lost since the last time she saw me; from complementing my children, to using guilt trips.

I will tell you this right now: lying to me is the absolute worst way to get my money! This company has been in business for a long time, and sells an effective product, but has forever lost my sale because of this poor sales experience.

That’s how I understand things,


Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Given by Vicki Pettersson

The Given by Vicki Pettersson: It is not very often that I get the pleasure to read a book the day it is released to the public. To add to the joy of waking up to a new book in my Kindle account, I had the luxury of meeting with the beautiful and witty Vicki herself that evening (5/27). As luck would have it, my schedule aligned perfectly to allow me to finish by Wednesday afternoon.

            As always, I relished in the detail of the descriptions of even seemingly trivial items. As a reader, I appreciate when the author takes the time to consider all the senses of the characters. This affects my senses as well. I especially appreciate the intimacy between Kit and Griff, but also between Kit and Frank. With the strength and resilience of Kit and Griff’s relationship, I wonder if Vicki draws on personal experience. I hope I do not lean too heavily on woman’s intuition when I opine that she enjoys a healthy, supportive marriage.
            Getting back to the book: I like how everything comes full-circle, back to the beginning, back to the end. All the loose ends are tied. All the questions are answered. In so doing, the last nail is hammered in the coffin of this series…almost (eyebrow raised). If I know Vicki (which I can only hope to) she will find a way, if she so chooses.
            I will search for her previous offering to read when I have a few more minutes between semesters, and I am definitely looking forward to her next release J
That’s how I understand things,


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
            For a few weeks, I am between semesters. This means I am able to search for books that interest me, not just books that fill an educational need. With this in mind, I browsed through the David R. Parks Lending Library at The Center, looking for a good book about Intersex people. I checked out Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. The synopsis on the back of the book states that Callie is not like other girls because of “the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal.” I believe in judging a book by the cover, at least by the synopsis on the cover. Based on the synopsis on the cover of this book, I decided to take it home.
            Callie is raised as a girl, and finds out at the age of fourteen that she is actually a male. He changes his name to Cal, changes his clothing, the way he walks, the way he talks, and his mannerisms. In short, everything about himself. Without ruining the storyline, this is not as easy as I make it sound. Additionally, the book is not really about this transformation. Three quarters of the book is really about the family dynamics for two generations prior to Cal. I did appreciate the personal perspective of the emotional changes Cal went through. Additionally, I found it poignant that people in the story think they have Cal pegged as a certain type of person, and "knew it all along", even though they have no idea. Cal takes this all in stride, but I feel this is typical of certain people. This story is obviously fictionalized, but reads as if it is based on a true story.
            I enjoyed the perspectives provided by Eugenides, and I hope you will too.
That’s how I understand things,


Friday, May 2, 2014

Semester Work Spring 2014 (2)

Here is an update, for all of you waiting with baited breath for the updated essay concerning business ethics

IDS 804: Ethics in Corporate Practice
This is almost completely re-written, and will look and read much differently than the original. I hope I receive a good grade on both of these essays, as I obviously put a lot of research and writing time and effort into both of them.

I will keep my readers posted on my progress.

That is how I understand things,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Semester Work Spring 2014

During the Spring semester of 2014, I am enrolled in three courses; two of which require a 20+ research essay. I am in the process of rewriting the essay for 804, but I hope the essay for 803 is sufficient.

These can be found by following these links:
IDS 803: Globalization and Las Vegas
This essay discusses the positive effects globalization has had on our fair city.

IDS 804: Ethics in Corporate Practice
This essay describes the research in the field of ethics in the business arena, including how the subject is taught at universities.

That is how I understand things,