Dear Discreet Guide

Dear Discreet Guide

A show about work, working, and how to make work better. Hosted by Jennifer Crittenden, a former CFO who worked in corporate America for over 20 years. She is the author of several career-related books.... Show More

Episodes

August 9, 2020 31 min

W. Somerset Maugham's 1925 novel concerning an unfaithful wife whose husband takes her to China during a cholera epidemic was adapted into a 2006 movie starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. We contrast the surprisingly edgy and page-turner style of the book with its dreamy romantic representation in the movie. The book presents some themes about sexuality and feminism ignored by the movie while the movie is more cognizant of ...
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August 7, 2020 30 min

We talk about the immigrant experience where second generation Americans express their appreciation and respect for what their parents went through to get them to where they are, whether it was working menial, low-paying jobs, multiple jobs, being underemployed, or being invisible to their employers. We talk about what occupations are likely to be filled by immigrant workers and what typical pay rates are. The future of the America...
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Joe Payne, the CEO of Arcturus Therapeutics, is back to talk about exciting progress on their messenger RNA Covid-19 vaccine and answer questions about testing for antibodies versus T-cell immunity, potential longevity and timing of the vaccine, and what countries are signing up for the potential Arcturus solution. He also talks about what we might expect after the pandemic slows and how Covid-19 might be similar to or differ from ...
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August 2, 2020 27 min

Yay! Another novel about a dystopia caused by a virus! This time, Canadian Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, presents her view of an over-engineered world of capitalism run amok, leaving it vulnerable to mad science. Despite its length, it's a simple tale of love and morality, and, as it is the first in the MaddAddamm trilogy, there must be some hope left. Another in our Sunday literary series during the pande...
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Here are five ways to quickly improve your spoken English and improve your understandability. I've been offering the Your American Voice program for many years, and I find people often think that improving their English is going to be harder than it is. These tips include learning stress inside a word, rhythm inside a sentence, better pronunciation of just a few sounds, making connections between words, and having a good starti...
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Linguist Nick Enfield joins us to discuss ways that humans collaborate during a conversation, from turn-taking with split-second timing to using continuers to encourage a speaker. He also explains how filler words like "um" and "uh" can serve as traffic signals and how a listener can help or derail a storyteller. We also discuss how nuances of conversation reveal relationships and the subtleties of the communication...
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Maxwell's semi-autobiographical novel is told in three parts from the perspective of two young sons and a husband who lose their mother and wife to the 1918 Spanish flu. It's a moving work, full of vignettes of the objects and home that make up a domestic life in the Midwest, and heart-wrenching in its eventual portrayal of loss from an epidemic. Here, we shed the tears so you don't have to and explore the the parallels...
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July 24, 2020 26 min

Extolled by management societies and consultants, Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, laid the groundwork for a clear demarcation between labor and management: management was for planning, guiding, and measuring, and labor was for moving stuff around and doing as it was told. Controversy still rages over the genius or evil of this approach and what it has meant for a capitalist system. We look at Ta...
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July 21, 2020 17 min

When McDonalds posted a sample budget to demonstrate to employees how they could live on minimum wage (including a second job), it triggered a hostile reaction from media, comedians, and everyday people. Here, we take a look at the estimated expenses, and consider how realistic they are, especially in light of comments on social media from workers around the country. We review briefly the intention of minimum wage (though more of ...
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July 19, 2020 29 min

Bulgakov's science fiction novella, The Fatal Eggs, set in 1928 post-revolutionary Soviet Union, is an absurdist satirical tale of dead chickens, monstrous frogs, bureaucratic bungling, and a miraculous red ray of life. Bulgakov struggled in obscurity, and many of his works were banned because of "ideological nonconformity," but he has now been recognized as an outstanding Russian writer of the 20th century. His humor, ...
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July 17, 2020 28 min

Studs Terkel was a Chicago broadcaster, author, and actor, whose oral histories came to represent the voice of Americans during the 20th century. His book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, was celebrated as a masterpiece of American thought and feeling and a presentation of real people. Despite being published in 1974, its stories, a few of which we read, still seem relevant toda...
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When you start adding things up, it's not looking very good for baseball right now. Sports journalist Andrew Pridgeon and I talk about the truncated 2020 season, the coronavirus risk to the players and their families, attitude of the owners and commissioner, the unrelenting blackout policies, cost of viewing packages, and number of big names dropping out. And that's just this year. What about the aging fans, lack of support...
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Computer scientist Brian Kernighan joins us to talk about Dennis Ritchie, creator of the C programming language and co-developer of the Unix operating system along with Ken Thompson. Ritchie never sought the limelight, but his impact on the computer world is still visible everywhere from a multitude of operating systems to programming languages, search engines, car engines, and websites. Brian takes us through what made Ritchie'...
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July 7, 2020 50 min

Commercial real estate broker Scot Ginsburg of the prestigious tenant rep firm Hughes Marino joins us to talk about what is happening and is likely to happen with office space. Are we going back to the office? Will available sublease space skyrocket? How will landlords react to a potential economic downturn? Scot shares what indicators are appearing on the horizon in California and elsewhere. He also discusses how office layouts ma...
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July 5, 2020 37 min

Published in 1982 and set in 1996, The White Plague, written by Frank Herbert, the acclaimed author of Dune, describes the unleashing of a female-specific virus created by a bioterrorist (before the word was even known) seeking horrific revenge for the murder of his family. Whew. The book is a pretty hard read, but you can appreciate it with this episode and save a lot of time. Thoughts? Comments? Potshots? Contact the show at: h...
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July 3, 2020 24 min

From disasters with ice cream and cheese sauce to exploding milkshakes and smoothies, to garbage and blueberries ending up where they shouldn't, and inevitable Ranch dressing nightmares, work catastrophes can be really funny when they are on someone else's watch. We recount and make some observations about training and management, though mostly we just laugh. A good time-for-a-break episode. Related episodes: IT Screwups: ...
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June 30, 2020 61 min

Behavioral scientist Natasha Ouslis explains how diversity training can backfire, as well as irritate and shame your employees. Implicit bias testing and training focused on the individual are especially flawed. Instead, companies can take positive steps to improve their workplaces by targeting negative behaviors and procedures that restrict access and opportunity. She outlines the components of an effective diversity action plan w...
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Joanna Ross's science fiction book The Female Man published in 1975 is still hailed as one of the most influential feminist books. It concerns four women in four different worlds, one of which is "utopian" because all the men have been killed. Another is dystopian because men and women are engaged in a literal battle of the sexes. Many find the book's criticisms of patriarchy still highly relevant; others think it&#...
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Pop music aficionado Dan Stalcup joins us to talk about Adam Schlesinger, musician, singer-songwriter, producer, who passed away on April 1st from COVID-19. The list of Adam's contributions seems to surpass what one man could create: co-founder of the bands Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, and Tinted Windows, writer of Crybaby, Josie & the Pussycats, and for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend along with dozens of shows, as well as a multitude of ...
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June 23, 2020 33 min

For a change of pace, we talk about a different working species today—dogs! We introduce four avalanche dogs, three from Mammoth Mountain and one from June Mountain, as profiled in the book Working Dogs of the Eastern Sierra. We discuss breeding, puppy assessment, training, personality, and the zest that they bring to their work. We also review the origin of Eastside K-9, the nonprofit that provides medical care and insurance for t...
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