Tag Archives: Virginia

How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk: What About Canada?

I’ve been clearing out some of the tweets that I’ve favourited over the last week or so and one of them was a fun dialect quiz from the New York Times Sunday Review. There are 25 questions that ask you the various ways you do (or do not) refer to certain things in the world around you. For instance, do you say y’all or youse or you guys (or something else) when referring to other people?

I found it relatively fun.

If you do decide to do it, though, I’d advise you to be careful in selecting an answer too quickly. There were a few questions where I clicked on one option and hit next and as the next question was loading, I noticed that there was actually an option for (none of these).

I realize that the New York Times is hosting this quiz, but I would have been interested to see where I stand in Canada. Maybe The Globe and Mail or the National Post can look into doing something similar?

I grew up in the Toronto area and have spent some time in British Columbia (and now Ottawa), but I’d be interested to see how I compare to other Canadians. Since I did grow up in Toronto, I wonder if that throws a wrench into my dialect. And, since I’ve lived in so many different places (California, Hawaii, New Zealand, Michigan, Virginia, etc.).

On the whole, it turns out that my dialect is closest to the people in Portland or Seattle. If I’m being honest, after undergraduate university, the west coast of the continent is where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I spent about a year in California and about a year in British Columbia (and about a year in Hawaii). The next closest would have been Virginia with 2 years.

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Is It Time to Pay Politicians More?

A few months ago, I saw this very argument made in Slate. At first, I’m sure you’re doing a double-take? Why would we pay them more? They are hardly doing the job that we elected them to do in the first place. Why would we reward failure, stagnation, and an inability to get stuff done? That’s absurd!

All natural reactions, yes, but when you take a second to think about it, the idea isn’t that bat-crap crazy. For instance, consider the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. Josh Barro over at Business Insider makes the case that the Governor is underpaid. Why? Well, look to the incentives! The Governor of Virginia has a salary of $175,000, which is in the 90th percentile for Governors in the USA. That’s certainly a lot of money — almost triple the median income in Virginia. So, again, you may be thinking, why would we pay them more?

Well, consider the kinds of people that the Governor interacts with on a daily basis. Plutocrats. Governor McDonnell, on a daily basis, interacts with people who have income/wealth that far exceed the Governor’s “measly” $175,000 salary. You may be thinking, why is this a problem if the Governor got into politics for purely altruistic reasons?

Even if the Governor did do such a thing, research tells us that unethical behavior has to do with the kind of person you are and more to do with the situations you find yourself in. For instance, you may be the most ethical person in the world, but if you happen to find yourself in a bind financially and a whole host of other variables are weighing on you, there’s probably a situation that you may find yourself in where overlooking a conflict of interest may seem like an okay thing to do.

That’s the argument for increasing the salaries of politicians — to remove the incentive to be unethical. Of course, there’s still likely to be unethical behavior conducted regardless of what the salaries are raised to, but it may eliminate some of it. How much, I don’t know. What would be a fair salary?

The article in Slate discussed Sinagpore, which is known for being one of the most efficient governments in the world. He explained that in Singapore, the Prime Minister earns more than four times the salary of President Barack Obama and the President gets $400,000 a year! Government Ministers (akin to cabinet Secretaries), earn over $1 million a year. The highest paid cabinet Secretary (Secretary of the Treasury) gets approximately $190,000. So, government Ministers earn more than 5 times as much as their American counterparts.

I’m not advocating this particular raise, but I think it’s a conversation worth having.

I suppose the other option would be to remove the influential plutocrats from the equation. Although, I don’t know that with the American political system arranged in the way that it is, if that’d be constitutional. Larry Lessig, someone who’s been working tirelessly on the option of getting money out of politics was asked what a question about salaries for Congress. I’ll leave you with the question and his answer:

Question: You advocate in your book that congressmen should be paid much more than what they are right now (about $175,000/year). How much do you think they should be paid to make them lose the incentive to become a lobbyist? Does 250-300k sound better?

Lessig: Oh please don’t out me on this. Ok, but DON’T TELL ANYONE I SAID THIS: They are lawmakers. Why aren’t they paid as much as a first year partner at a DC firm? In Singapore, gov’t ministers get paid $1 million a year. Where is corruption in Singapore. NO-where.

Appreciative Inquiry and George Mason University’s Strategic Vision

This morning I was fortunate to be part of an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) event at George Mason University. If you’re not familiar with AI, from Wiki: “Appreciative Inquiry is primarily an organizational development method which focuses on increasing what an organization does well rather than on eliminating what it does badly.” The whole purpose of today’s AI was, “to help shape aspects of the new Vision related to Mason’s mission, values and the Mason Graduate (the attributes we wish all of our students have in common by the time they graduate).” Currently, George Mason University is creating a new strategic vision.

During my time as the student body president of Saginaw Valley State University, I contributed to the university’s strategic planning process. I was fortunate that during my time as the president coincided with when the university was in the process of redoing its 5-year plan. I say this because at the AI event today was George Mason University’s student government president. It made me a bit nostalgic about my time in that role.

Getting back to AI: I really like this method. By focusing on the positives of an organization, it certainly feels like there’s a better energy about the process. I could be demonstrating one of my biases, but even the faculty facilitator (who was there at the birth of this method in 1987!) spoke about the importance of steering clear of falling into a trap of opining the things that an organization lacks. Why? Simply stated: that list is never-ending.

The group of folks that I spent morning with really came up with some great ideas. This process gave me a new appreciation for some of the positives of George Mason University. In fact, I even joked with the group that it made me want to forget about moving back to Canada and get a job here at Mason.

Lastly, I wanted to say that today’s event reinforced my enjoyment of being part of strategic planning. While there wasn’t any actual “strategic planning” that happened today, I knew that the things that the larger group (of about 100 people) talked about today would be a data point that could be used by those folks who are doing the strategic planning. So, in a larger sense, today’s event was about strategic planning. And strategic planning is something that I can get really excited about.

Oh, one last thing. There was a really great line that was said during the meeting that the room seemed to love. I captured it in a tweet: