Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Freakonomics

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner 
Non-fiction, Ebook

In an attempt to make some progress on my Tried and True list, I had planned to start with The Tipping Point but got sidetracked a little. As it turns out, Freakonomics references The Tipping Point a few times and I ended up listening to the audiobook immediately afterward. They tied into each other nicely.

The underlying premise of Freakonomics is that people are driven by incentives, whether they be financial, moral, or social, and that conventional wisdom often gets those incentives wrong. In other words, people are not necessarily responding to the incentives that we think they are. Each chapter explores a different issue and tries to suss out what incentives are at play and how they affect outcomes.

Levitt covers a broad rage of topics, from cheating sumo wrestlers to the link between legalized abortion and crime rates, and the ideas presented are thought-provoking. The chapter discussing the inner economic workings of a crack-dealing gang in South Chicago was my personal favourite. There were many times, however, where I wished that the topics would have been discussed in greater depth, like teachers cheating on standardized tests or hidden prejudice. I was also expecting the book to present the actual data that Levitt's conclusions were based on but it didn't. All of the studies he referenced are cited at the end so the reader can look them up, but I would have found it useful to see some of it within the book. I like my charts and graphs, what can I say? 

All in all, I did really enjoy this book despite finding it a little unsatisfying. The authors went on to create a successful blog, podcast, and several more books after this one so at some point, I would like to check those out too.

P.S. A quick back-to-work update: I had an interview on Thursday for that teaching job I was interested in and should hear back Monday or Tuesday. Fingers are crossed!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Summer Days, Drifting Away

T-minus two weeks until school starts! There are two reviews on deck in the near future (Freakonomics and The Tipping Point) but in the meantime, a few random updates:

  • A is cutting her third tooth of the summer and the fourth is not far behind. These include her lower molars. It has not been a great time.
  • Also not a great time: A has decided she hates when I change her diaper and will not lay down for me. I've tried nearly every suggestion I've come across, including introducing the potty, but nothing has worked. The alligator wrestling is getting old. 
  • Our house is currently cleaner than it's been since before I got pregnant. Yay! This is because we're dealing a fruit fly infestation. Not yay. Not yay at all.
  • The job search hasn't been going well. I seem to be limited by my lack of Masters in Education and my lack of counselling experience. It's discouraging and makes me think it's easier to just stay in teaching.
  • Speaking of which, a full-time teaching job came up for the fall semester that I think I have a reasonable shot of getting. After some initial panic, I had an epiphany of sorts and am actually really hoping to get this. I'll write more on this in the near future. 
I think that covers the main goings-on around these parts. Stay tuned for some reviews (and hopefully employment news) soon!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Preparing For The End

There's one month left to go until school starts, which means I'm counting down the days until I have to go back to work. I'd be lying if I said that thought doesn't fill me with a certain amount of panic. After 15 months at home with A, she'll be heading to day care and I'll be heading...somewhere.

What exactly I am going back to has been a question that I've been grappling with even before getting pregnant. If you've read this blog from the beginning, you've probably gathered that work hasn't exactly been my Happy Place over the last few years. I thought that a year away might help me get my motivation back but it has only increased my desire for change.

I considered my options:

1. Same old, same old. The thought of going back to substitute teaching and continuing to wait for things to get better leaves me feeling deflated and stuck. In my province, you start out as a sub and basically wait your turn for a permanent position. It's been five years with no real prospects in sight. Maternity leave felt like a "now or never" opportunity to get off of that hamster wheel and if I don't take it, I'll constantly be wondering "what if?" 

2. A completely new direction. The big downside here is that most other career directions would require going back to school. That's a big time and money commitment that I'm not ready to make at this point. I actually did have a college program picked out before A was born but as I started looking into it more seriously, I was unable to find a version that could be done totally online. Right now, that's a deal breaker. Also a deal breaker was how much sales would be a part of the job (the program was in the financial services sector).  

3. Half in, half out. This is the current plan. I'll be going back to teaching in the fall and actively looking for something else. If I do find something, I'll take a leave of absence from teaching to see where things go. I am cautiously optimistic; while there isn't anything right now, I did come across a few interesting opportunities earlier in the year that would have been doable. That gives me hope that something will come along, I just have to keep watching and waiting.

That probably doesn't sound like much progress but it feels good to have a plan and feel like I'm doing something to make a change instead of just complaining about how much the status quo sucks. I've already updated my teaching resume and have applied for a couple of contracts, since a full-time paycheque would be good if I could get it. The non-teaching resume is a work in progress. 

What doesn't feel as good is knowing that I won't get to spend my days with A anymore. Realistically, this change will be good for both of us. She will make new friends and have tons of new experiences, and I will have some adult time again. Sometimes I get excited by the thought of having total freedom once she's in day care and I have days off. I can get stuff done around the house! I can enjoy some quiet! Then I feel guilty and worry about who will comfort her when she needs a snuggle. We found a day care that we love and I know that she will be in good hands. I know she will be ok. But it will be a big change for both of us so I'm making extra effort these days to appreciate all this time together while we still have it.