If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium and six or seven other places

Cruise ships.

Whoa.

I think I forgot to mention, before we left, that the first leg of our 8 weeks away this summer was to be an extended Viking Cruise around the Mediterranean. Greece, Italy, Croatia, Monaco, Spain. In two weeks.

We joined the cruise because Ed was recruited by a booking agent to give lectures to the passengers. More accurately, he was recruited by the booking agent to become a client of the agent, who then pitched him to various cruises. Within a couple of weeks he had 3 offers for the summer, and we chose Viking.

Ed’s lecture on one of the stops, Monte Carlo, was fabulous, by the way. Monte Carlo was a tiny little principality—it’s still a tiny little principality—so poor that to keep body and soul together the prince was selling off his towns to France. Then he hit on the idea of recruiting a criminal gambling entrepreneur with a genius for marketing and guest services—not unlike Viking (the marketing and guest services part, not the criminal entrepreneur part !)1 —and the rest is history.

I’ve never thought of myself as a cruise person, and, lo and behold, I am not a cruise person.

More to the point, I am not a recirculated-air person. For a human with an immune system like mine, being on a cruise ship for two weeks—even worse, being on a tour bus for two weeks (multiple tour buses, no less)—is like being on an airplane for two weeks.

It’s insane.

When I finally got to Paris I was so sick I was in bed for two days. After that I was up all night, every night, convulsed by a seizing, racking cough. I was so sick I missed the French Open, which we’d bought tickets for. Ed brought me back a t-shirt.

Eventually the situation came down to a choice between buying a ticket home so I could be sick in my own bed, or visiting an English-speaking doctor here in Paris and hoping s/he could patch me up.

That’s another thing: the French medical system.

The doctor I went to—from Quebec originally, so fluent in both languages—not only fixed the problem but also, as a bonus, diagnosed the issue I’ve been having for—oh—call it the last decade or so,2 and told me which specialist to see3 when I got back to the U.S.

In contrast, the G.P. whom I see occasionally in Westchester spends half our appointment pitching me on a colonoscopy. This she does without fail, no matter what I’m there for. (Urinary tract infection? Get a colonoscopy. Shingles? Get a colonoscopy. Etc.)

Having changed my life in the course of an unhurried 30-minute appointment, my Paris doc then charged me half what anyone in my neck of the woods at home would charge. Try seeing a doctor in the middle of Manhattan, and—well, you can’t necessarily get in to see a doctor in the middle of Manhattan, not unless you’re a member of a concierge practice with an upfront membership fee of twenty thousand or so.

My own Manhattan doctor, whose office is directly across the street from Trump Tower (that’s actually been a lot of fun, watching the show outside—I was even there the day Melania and Barron moved to D.C., for some reason) charges $500 for a 15-minute office visit. A 15-minute telephone consult is somewhere around $125 (Ed thinks it’s more), and she doesn’t take insurance.

The meds, which we paid for out of pocket, were cheaper than the same meds in America covered by insurance.

(Sidebar …. have Katharine and I mentioned C&K is a nonpartisan blog? If not, this is probably a good time – (!) I delved into comparative healthcare systems about 10 years ago, but have now forgotten most of what I learned, and I never got around to reading the book I bought comparing the US system to the French system. In case you’re interested, I think this is it: Differential Diagnoses: A Comparative History of Health Care Problems and Solutions in the United States and France by Paul V. Dutton.)

Back to cruise people and not being one.

If I were a cruise person, I would be a Viking cruise person, no question. The people running the company, as well as the people running the boat, have the whole thing down. The entire Viking operation is pretty much a miracle in logistics, and that’s on top of the aforementioned miracles in marketing and guest services. A fair bit of the conversation over the many meals and drinks we all consumed was: Viking. Wow. How do they do it ?

Almost everyone we met was on their second Viking cruise at least, with many more to come. One woman, a retired middle-school teacher from Texas, told me she and her husband take lots of pictures so they can show their adult children “where their inheritance is going.”

An architect on board told us the cost to build and launch a boat like the one we were on was in the neighborhood of $1.4b. Viking has built a whole bunch of big boats now, and they’re building a bunch more. Sixteen more, I think.4

That’s another thing: big, for Viking, is not that big. There were roughly 900 guests and maybe 600 staff on our boat (a 1.5 to 1 ratio – hard to imagine for a person like me, involved in education).

The really big cruise ships, like Celebrity, have nearly 5000 people on board, all told. Apparently there are Chinese ships with thousands more.

Five thousand souls on one ship. That’s an awful lot of germs in close proximity.

Two weeks on a Celebrity cruise and they’d probably have to carry me off the boat on a stretcher.

1. The entire Viking enterprise feels and presumably  is scrupulously honest.     
2. Asthma.    
3. Pulmonary specialist.    
4. Not fact-checked.    

EGGs & NEGGs: books

I mentioned a while back that precision teaching spends a lot of time “training the inspector”: teaching students how to tell a good performance from a bad one.

Which you do by giving students as many examples and nonexamples as they need to learn the discrimination.

EGGs and NEGGs. Examples and nonexamples.

Thursday I spent a couple of hours in an actual bricks-and-mortar bookstore (bring them back ! ), where I discovered EGGs and NEGGs books for French and Spanish.

Happy day.

Now I need the same for listening and talking.

9780071788243
9780071773003

Off-topic: review of “The H-Factor of Personality”

As promised, below is a slightly edited Goodreads review I wrote of The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive–And Why It Matters for Everyone by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton.

The book was especially meaningful to me because prior to reading it I had spent 10 years wrangling with my school district–wrangling as a parent and, as a resident, engaging in political efforts to improve it. The review’s references to hiring decisions all have to do with district hiring.

Reading The H Factor, I realized that a core belief I held about human nature was completely wrong.

Background

The H Factor adds a 6th personality dimension, “Honesty and humility,” to the traditional  “Big 5“:

  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

Review

The first 6 chapters of The H Factor are a revelation. Fantastically helpful.

The most useful points for me:

Honesty and humility (the “H” factor) track together in numerous languages and cultures: the figure of “Honest Abe is a reality everywhere. By the same token, dishonesty and arrogance also track together, which means that when you’re dealing with arrogant people you’re on reasonably safe ground assuming they are dishonest as well. I didn’t know that.

– It’s quite difficult to gauge another person’s level of honesty and humility, even after you’ve known him or her for some time, and this is especially true in the work place. This finding, in particular, explains some of the hiring fiascos I’ve witnessed over the past several years.

– High-H people – those high in honesty and humility – prefer each other’s company, and the same goes for Low-H people. Dishonest, arrogant people like to befriend, marry, and work with other dishonest, arrogant people. (This also explains the hiring fiascos I’ve witnessed over the past several years.)

– People high (or low) in “Openness to Experience” prefer each other’s company.

– The other 4 personality factors seem to mix together randomly and happily, as do the high’s and low’s of each dimension taken individually. E.g.: high-Emotionality can marry low-Emotionality, and high-Agreeable can marry low-Agreeable, but High-H can’t marry Low-H, nor is High-O happy with Low-O.

The chapter that explains what ‘low-H‘ looks like in combination with the other five personality factors is especially illuminating. As it turns out, a person can be dishonest, arrogant, and agreeable. A warm personality and warm words do not imply honesty and modesty.

That’s one mistake I won’t be making again.

If you spend much time dealing with people beyond your family and friends, Chapter 4 alone is worth the price of the book.

One caveat, and the reason for 4 stars instead of 5: the two chapters on politics and religion are weak, and conservatives in particular should steer clear of the former. Everyone else should, too.

The authors report that, in the U.S., liberals and conservatives have the same level of honesty and humility, but then devote many pages to “Right Wing Authoritarianism” and “Social Dominance Orientation,” neither of which is compatible with honesty and humility. Nor, to my knowledge, has either construct been validated by factor analysis of the everyday language people use to describe personality.

Meanwhile, the main factoid Ashton and Lee offer re: religion is that religious people are slightly higher in Agreeableness and Honesty/humility than everyone else, a difference they suggest can be chalked up to “softhearted” people hoping everyone gets to see each other again in heaven. Yes, that would certainly account for millennia of religious belief. (And what about Buddhists?)

The problem is that Lee and Ashton are experts in personality, with little exposure to political philosophy, theology, history, or even social psychology (so it appears). Their musings on politics and religion read like filler.

And see:
Broward County and the H factor 

Off-topic: Broward County and the “H factor”

Broward County has been on my mind.

It’s been on my mind for the same reasons it’s been on everyone else’s mind, but it’s also taken me back to a book I read a few years ago, which believe it or not is at least tangentially related to the subject of this blog:

The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive–And Why It Matters for Everyone by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton

The “H factor”–“H” stands for honesty and humility–is a core personality dimension uncovered by a form of corpus linguistics:

Trait theory takes a lexical approach to personality, which assumes that traits can be described using single adjectives or descriptive phrases. If enough people regularly exhibit a form of behavior and no term exists in a given language to describe it, then according to the lexical hypothesis, a term will be created so that the trait may be considered and discussed with others.

Until the late 1990s, when Lee and Ashton plucked the H factor from the Korean language, lexical research had uncovered just five such dimensions. They argue that “H” should take its place alongside the Big Five:

  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

And, now:

  • Honesty-Humility (H): sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, pompous (You can take the quiz here.)

Fun side note: Lee and Ashton weren’t actually looking for a 6th personality factor when they found it. They were looking to see whether Korean personality adjectives sorted into the same five categories Western adjectives do.

The answer was yes: Koreans describe personality the same way we do.

Having established the apparent universality of the Big 5, they decided to see what happened when they sorted the list into 6, 7, and 8 factors:

[N]ow we wondered how the Korean adjectives would sort themselves out if we asked the computer to sort them into more than five groups. So we checked out the results for six and seven and eight factors. . . . To some extent we were just procrastinating, taking a break from the chore of writing the manuscript. But we were curious to see what would happen.

(Now there is one fruitful bout of procrastination.)

The rest is history:

When we looked at the results for eight factors or seven factors, some of the categories were very small, consisting of only a few adjectives. But the results for six factors were much more interesting. . . . . [T]here was a sixth factor that was fairly large and easy to interpret: on one side, it had adjectives (translated from Korean) such as truthful, frank, honest, unassuming, and sincere; on the other side, it had adjectives such as sly, calculating, hypocritical, pompous, conceited, flattering, and pretentious….

At first we were surprised to see that there was a large sixth factor. The previous studies of the English personality lexicon had found only five; no sixth factor could be recovered…. [W]e started checking the results of some recent lexical studies conducted in various European languages. Now, most of these studies had focused on whether or not the Big Five would be recovered. In a few studies, however, the authors did mention briefly the results they found when they examined six factors. In each case, they found a factor that was defined by terms such as sincere and modest versus deceitful, greedy, and boastful–much like the factor that we observed in our Korean study.

So: basically the H factor is the a****** factor.

The corrupt a******* factor.

Which brings me to Broward County and its police department.

When reports emerged that one Broward County deputy had failed to enter the building, and, subsequently, that other Broward officers had also failed to enter the building, I wondered.

Who runs into the building where children are being murdered?

Because we know people do run into the building.

What kind of person runs inside?

What kind of person doesn’t?

Like everyone else, I’d seen multiple references to “Broward cowards”….but what makes a cowardly police officer? What makes 3 or 4 cowardly police officers inside the same sheriff’s office?

Having read The H Factor, I think the answer is corruption.

Who runs inside the building?

People with integrity.

When corrupt officials are in charge, no one is safe.

I’ll post my Goodreads review of The H Factor later on.