How I Spent My Summer “Vacation”

Now that October is upon us it’s time for me (aka Mr. Timely) to follow Andrea’s footsteps with a post about how I spent my summer “vacation.” (Here’s Andrea’s original post and Cynthia’s follow-up).  Of course, anytime I hear someone discuss “how I spent my summer vacation” I can’t help but think of this Cheech & Chong skit from the 70s.  Rather than spending my days hanging out at the drugstore like Tommy Chong, I spent my “vacation” doing a number of things – rescuing a kitten that had climbed into the engine mount of my car, moving to a great new house near downtown Phoenix (note to self – never ever move during the summer in Phoenix), teaching a summer session Mediation class at Hamline, and purchasing two new cars.  Besides stimulating the local economy, I managed to fit some other things into the mix.

What I read:  Now that I’m a father, I read books about parenting.  The most interesting was How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, a book I can’t recommend enough.  The theme of the book is that sheer intelligence, while important, isn’t what children need to succeed.  It’s character skills – resolve, self-confidence, self-control, persistence, coping with adversity, and the like – that determine success and failure.  How are those skills built?  By encountering and overcoming failure.  So the bigger problems are: (a) parents protecting their kids from failure and (b) parents being too caught up in their own problems to assist their children with theirs.  If you want a preview of the book, here’s a link to a This American Life episode it inspired.  On the more academic side of things my favorite read was Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves.  The book details numerous studies that Ariely and his colleagues performed about deceit.  As someone who writes about the topic I found the book fascinating, and was pleased to be introduced to the work of Harvard Business Professor Francesca Gino.  I found that almost every time I thought “now that’s interesting” it was something that Gino had worked on.

What I (wish I) wrote:  This is where Gino and Ariely could do a great study – academics discussing the progress on their summer research projects.  So I best be careful with what I say. The first project that occupied my time is an analysis of law student data (1Ls w/in the first month of law school and 3Ls within a month of graduation) in response to the DONS problem Jess Alberts and I used to study lawyers (the lawyer study is here). We were pretty surprised that freshly minted 1Ls outperformed the graduating 3Ls on our survey instrument, and that most of that difference was due to one school.  While there were a couple of schools from which we gathered data where there was no statistically significant differences between the graduating 3Ls and the freshly minted 1Ls, that means there was no improvement either.  We’re in the process of digesting what this means, but for now suffice it for me to be Captain Obvious – as a profession we need to work on turning this around.   The other project that occupied my time involves a con-man who used mediation as cover to fleece numerous divorcing women out of thousands of dollars.  He’s now in prison, and as I read the trial transcript I was disgusted with what this guy was able to get away with for nearly 9 years.  I’m using his story to argue that some form of occupational regulation for mediators is a must for the profession’s integrity.

What I am teaching: I’m teaching in the Lodestar Mediation Clinic as I do every semester.  What makes it more interesting than usual is that I’m using the Frenkel and Stark book for the first time.  It’s in its 2nd edition and many have recommended it.  What can I say, I’m just a late adapter.  Nevertheless, I really like it as it’s geared to the nuts-and-bolts of “how to” mediate, so it’s not a surprise that clinicians like it.

Anything else? Here’s a shout out to my college buddy Dennis Northcott who worked with Chris O’Donnell at the Missouri Historical Society during an episode of TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are?…… Daft Punk’s homage to disco (Get Lucky) over Robin Thicke’s wish to be Marvin Gaye (Blurred Lines) any day of the week.  And, serious kudos to Pharell for being a part of both songs…. If this post were an indication, I’ve fallen seriously behind in  posting on the blog.



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