Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 28th, 2008

May 6, 2007

“A woman of independent means” by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

The heroine Bess Steed Garner wrote to her father when she learned that her mother left her rich in her will: “I never realized she was a woman of independent means.  I always attributed her sense of dignity and self-esteem to a more spiritual source.”  In May 5, 1909 Bess wrote her mother: “I will marry Rob this summer. Please don’t say anything to him as I want to be the first to tell him”.  She proposed to her long time friend from grade school because she was rich and he was poor and she knew that he wouldn’t take the next step before he is well off.

Bess lent her husband $20,000 in due legal papers and signed by two witnesses to be paid $1000 a year for twenty years. Rob reimbursed her the full amount within four years when his real estate business took off. When Bess was pregnant with her third child she went on vacation to Europe in 1913 with her two kids; she wrote to her mother-in-law: “Ever since Annie (her German helper) described to me the freedom accorded expectant mothers in Europe, I have been hinting to Rob that I would be happier spending the summer abroad. I would have felt at home this summer hiding behind shuttered windows.  It is ironic that the Old World is more permissive concerning the conduct of pregnant women than the New World. We may have won our freedom as a country in 1776 but in the area of feminine legal rights the battle is still raging.”

Rob died in 1919 due to the influenza epidemic that the US soldiers brought with them from Europe after WWI.  Bess was barely 27 and she decided to take over the board of directors of her husband’s insurance business; she opted to sell her house in order to pay the debts due to the rate of mortality that year instead of declaring bankruptcy; she convinced the employees to accept a reduced wage in compensation of shares in the company.

Bess lost her eldest ten year-old son to spinal meningitis while taking her family to spend the summer in Vermont on a farm.  Death was her Enemy and she encouraged her friends to fight it with their nails and teeth; she castigated those who sent condolence letters asking her to accept death as a way of life.  She writes: “Injustice makes villains of us all, and I am afraid I am going to lose more than my husband before I find enough charity in my heart to forgive those whose only sin is that they are still alive.”  At the death a friend that the kids knew very well she asked her second son to write a letter recalling the important moments in his life that the diseased made an impact on him.

Bess handled money as an important leverage to get her way by attaching checks as deposits or for advanced several months rent or tuitions or reservations.

When Bess’s kid daughter Eleanor was stuck by a car, Bess stayed by her side at the hospital for a whole year; Bess used to write Eleanor a letter every day about kids sending her letters from the clouds in the sky.  Bess sensed that the advent of automobile is going to be a scourge to humanity and she also predicted that aviation will keep husbands away on business trips with goals of building empires for profit.

“A woman of independent means” is written in the style of a series of frank and witty letters that Bess Steed Garner sent to family members, friends and officials that let her life unfold before us as a woman of independent means as well as independent in spirit. Her daughter fell in love with a young Italian Count until they visited with his family in Sicily.  Bess wrote her friend Totsie: “I cannot imagine any woman who is used to having her opinions received with respect, submitting by choice to such arbitrary authority of her husband”.

Bess sent her boy to the East of the USA for schooling so that he gets a better education and acquire a different cultural perspective than what is offered in Dallas.  She purchased lands around the provinces of Dallas because she forecasted that this city is bound to expand and made plenty of profit.

Her son and daughter being married with children Bess visited with her second husband the world every summer; she flew to Europe for the third time, Finland, Alaska, Hawaii and Mexico.  As most Americans, her second husband was very reluctant to go out of the USA because of the language barrier and the different life styles.

When on a trip to Mexico she offered to hold one of the babies of a Mexican woman in the bus and Bess was terribly hungry: “She offered me a banana and I ate it so hungrily that, four bananas later, we were fast friends.  My hunger had made me seem like a sister no matter what language I spoke”.  After Eleanor married and got three girls she started to reluctantly invite her mother Bess to luncheon that consisted of the younger generations and Bess to write her daughter: “How dare polite society segregate people on the basis of age?  I feel that when I am alone with you I am continually auditioning for the pleasure of your company.  I find myself apologizing for boring you with answers to questions you never asked”.

Bess even wrote her own obituary way ahead of her timely death and asked the editor of “The Dallas Morning News” to interview her so that he might fill in more complete information and then to send her the edited version for her approval. She also wrote the obituary of her ailing husband.  She used to amend her testament every year or when a new grand-grandchild comes to this world.  Those who benefited from her finances while she was alive she reduced the amount commensurate to allow the newly born a higher trust fund paid with quarterly checks.

I feel like writing almost verbatim Bess last unfinished letter to her favorite namesake granddaughter Betsy before she suffered a massive stoke.  Although it might not make mush sense to anyone who didn’t read the book it does make a lot of sense to me: “It is hard for me but I want you to know, Baby is beautiful.  Like child of Cloud Fairy. I want to hold.  Not just pictures.  When will we see? You can go and leave baby here.  I will hold tight to her hand.  Trust me. Soon baby will walk, thinking I am always behind. Guests are coming and Eleanor too.  Still no flowers are on the table.  I must go into the garden. Where did red birds go? So many places I never saw. This is a strange land. Sun never stops shining. I must call Sam so he can go to bed.  Then I can sail.  I am dining with Captain tonight. I want letters waiting.  Adieu.  Nana.”

Article #42  (April 6, 2006)

 “New semester, new approach to teaching the HF course”

This semester ten students enrolled for my class; only one is a computer engineer finishing his degree and the remaining are industrial engineers.  As a reminder, this course is required for IE and the other engineering disciplines managed to open up new elective courses and were trying to market them at the expense of the wishes of many students who wanted to take my course and their petitions were denied.

With a class, one fourth its usual number, I had to capitalize on the advantages of smaller classes, once the shock is under control.  This semester, methods applied in human factors engineering are the focus and the reduction to half the previous semester of body of knowledge in the course materials might encourage my class to appreciate the efforts and time invested by the pool of human factors researchers and professionals to make available practical design guidelines for the other engineering professions.

Whereas in the previous semesters I shun away from exposing my class to new methods, except teaching them explicitly the concept of controlled experimentations, the differences among dependent, independent and controlled variables and correcting their misunderstanding, thinking that there was an abundance of knowledge to assimilate for a meager semester, I boldly changed direction in my teaching approach by investing more time on exposing and explaining the various methods that human factors might be applying in their profession.  The first assignment was using excel to compare 40 methods used in human factors, industrial engineering, industrial psychology, and designers of intelligent machines.  This assignment was a version of article #14, about the taxonomy of methods, from 20 articles that I wrote the previous years and offered them as an introduction to the course, in addition to the course materials. The students were supposed to select five categories from more than the dozen ways to classifying methods such as definition, purpose, applications, inputs, processes, procedures, output/product, mathematical requirements, disciplines teaching them, advantages, disadvantages, sources/links, connections with other methods, and comments.

I expected that, as engineers, they would logically select for columns applications, input, procedure, output, and comments because they are what define a method but somehow they opted for applications, procedures, advantages, disadvantages, and comments mainly because it is how the internet offer information.  After 3 students submitted their assignment on time I handed them over 40 summary sheets for the 16 methods used to analyzing a system or a mission, at least 2 sheets for each of 16 methods, one sheet on the purpose, input, procedure, and output/product of the method and the other sheets as examples of what the output is expected to look for presentation. I then asked the less performing students to concentrate on only the 16 methods for their assignment and most of them did not submit this assignment even two months later.

So far I used up six sessions for methods or related topics such as the methods applied in the process of analyzing systems’ performance, psychophysical procedures, the fundamentals of controlled experimentation methods, human factors performance criteria, and what human factors measure in their experiments. 

As for the body of knowledge I extract a few facts from experiments and asked them to participate in providing me with the rationales or processes that might explain these facts. For example, if data show that females on average are two third the strength of males then what could be the underlying causes for that discovery?  Could that fact be explained by the length of the muscles, the cross section thickness of the muscles, the number of muscle fibers, or the length of the corresponding bones?

Facts are entertaining but I figured that they are big boys to be constantly entertained while shovelful of money is being spent for their university education. Facts are entertaining but there have to come a time when these big boys stop and wonder at the brain power, Herculean patience, and hard work behind these amusing sessions.

The next assignment was to observe the business of the family’s bread earner, note down the minute tasks of his typical day work, learn about the business by attempting to generate detailed answers from a questionnaire they have to develop based on a set of investigative query and problems related to human factors performance criteria in the assignment sheet, and to report back what are the routine and daily tasks that enabled the students to join a university.  Three students worked with their fathers’ in summer times and enjoyed the assignment; the remaining students could not shake off their 8th grade habits, wrote the questionnaire, mailed it, and waited for the answers.  I was expecting that the students would apply the methodology they learned in analyzing systems such as activity, decision, and task analyses but the good stuff was not forthcoming. To encourage them to cater to the business that they might inherit, I assigned them a lecture project that would generate the requisite analyses with a clear objective of focusing on near-accidents, foreseeable errors, safety of the workers and heath conditions in the work place.

So far, the products of the two quizzes were complete failures; although most of the questions in the second quiz were from the same chapter sources as the first quiz, it is amazing how ill prepared are the students for assimilating or focusing on the essential ideas, concepts, and methods. So far, with a third of the semester over, I can points to only two students who are delivering serious investment in time, hard work, and excitement and are shooting for a deserved grade of A.

For a sustainable growth: Gold-paper currencies (October 28, 2008)


In these uncertain financial crisis and economical deflation I suggest a psychological incentive for people to recover some sense of value to their currencies.  My idea is to issue hard currencies that are an alloy containing the quantity of gold commensurate to the large denominations.  This currency would be almost as thin as paper money and could not be forged unless the amount of gold is the same as the officially issued currencies. It should be feasible because gold can be made as thin as needed; then if we find a cheap metal or plastic that can add resistance and flexibility to the currency to be folded and handled as paper money then everybody would be satisfied.

At first, the gold paper-like money could be distributed at a rate of say 1% increase over its real value to recover the upfront expenses in addition to the increase in market value of gold, averaged once a week; these extra expenses would not discourage the use of paper money for those who could not afford the extra cost of gold currencies.  The higher denomination currencies would be larger to keep the same thinness as the other smaller denominations.  As the value of gold would certainly keep increasing then the government would at interval retrieve the older currencies from the market and replace them with smaller size currencies containing the market value of the amount of gold in the alloy; this is logical because the gold-paper currencies would require less gold as its value increases.  Travelers could then exchange their State own gold-paper money abroad and register them at any bank for Interpol investigations in case of thefts and get exactly the same money value of the respective States. Obviously, all governments that signed in to this system would have to submit to international control when issuing gold-paper money for credibility and quality reasons.

I believe that with real gold-paper money then the businesses of currency speculations and rate of exchanges should wane and quickly disappear.  What might remain is currency trade or the accumulation of gold in rich sovereign funds.  The governments would quickly learn to issue enough gold-paper currency to satisfy internal commerce. The superpowers and regional powers would exercise political and military “incentives” on weaker and unstable States to issue more gold-paper currency than needed for inner commerce but then they would have to deliver real gold and good value products to retrieve the surpluses.  The US Administrations do not have real value money or real value economy to horde gold and will not be able to do so for many decades to come; only China, India and the rich oil producing States with small populations would be the major players in currency trade of gold-paper money.

There are several policies that governments would revisit to manage this new system.  Governments might issues a composite weight of the amount of gold-paper and regular paper money that should satisfy internal commerce.  Either the gold-paper money would concentrate in the hands of the rich and thus reducing commerce to regular money with industries specialized in high quality and luxury products for the rich and industries focusing on lower quality and basic products for the masses; or the little people would not desist from the gold-paper and use them as personal saving account in their homes and thus deflation would hit the economy due to the lack of currency circulation.  Consequently, governments would have choices to either limit the amount of gold-paper in circulation to encourage circulation of money or eliminate regular paper currencies to force the masses into liberating their horded gold-paper. 

The same pitfalls and recurrences of the present monetary system would be exhibited but the remedies would be more straightforward to comprehend by the common people. Furthermore, an interesting phenomenon will emerge: cultures where mostly little people horde the gold-papers and cultures where gold-papers are concentrated in the class of the rich.  Well, if there is civilization clashes then this division between the two types of cultures would set the foundations for a new sociology science where the manipulation of hard money is the first principle.

This system would require many fine tuning but the advantages must far exceed the disadvantages for smaller and weaker States.  Countries with real value-added economies would not be affected by any mischievous financial embezzlement schemes in destabilizing their financial status because the middle classes would have re-learned the value of hard money and desist from speculative schemes for some times.  This re-learning process of the value of real hard money is the fundamental benefit of the new system so that financial history would repeat its cycle of development for the century.  In any case a genuine International Monetary Control and Management Fund would be instituted to focus on the circulation of money within and among States and help in the synchronization of real commerce.

            The crux of this gold-paper currency system is to stabilize growth to a sustainable level for human kind.  Since gold is limited on Earth and its production has reached a limit then wild GNP rate of increases would slow down; redundant and irrelevant consumer products would make room for basic products essentials for the survival of mankind.  The new economical strategies would focus on cutting cost, cutting waste, re-cycling and vigorously researching for substitute renewable energies for the benefit of all States.




October 2008

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