Chapter 2. Skill E.

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√ Campus Life.
√ History.
√ Biology.
√ Drama.
√ Business.

1 Campus Life.

W: What’s the matter, John?
M: Oh, I’m just really frustrated at the moment. My midterm paper
for my philosophy class is due at five o’clock, and I have to type
it up, but the computer lab is always packed with people. No
matter what time of the day I go there, there is always a waiting
list a mile long to get on a computer.
W: Which computer lab do you go to?
M: What do you mean, which lab? The only computer lab I know
of is the one in the basement of the library.
W: Actually, there are several computer labs around campus. The
one in the basement of the library is the biggest, but that is
probably why everyone goes there. That or, like you, they don’t
know about the others. Personally, I usually use the computers
in Anderson Hall.
M: Anderson Hall? Isn’t that the Business Administration building?
W: Yeah. They only have about a dozen computers in that lab, but
it’s pretty easy to find free ones there. I guess not many people
know about it.
M: I had a business class there last semester, but I never saw a
computer lab in that building.
W: It’s kind of hidden away. My roommate’s an accounting major.
She spends most of her time in that building, and she told me
about it.
M: So where is it then?
W: Do you know where the student lounge is in Anderson Hall?
M: It’s on the second floor, right? The first room you come to at
the top of the stairs --- the stairs at the front of the building, I
W: Right, and a couple of doors down from that is the copy room.
Go in there, and you’ll find another door that goes into the
business computer lab.
M: Oh, I know what you’re talking about. I always thought that
door went into some kind of storage room. They should put a
sign on it or something.
W: Maybe, but it’s kind of nice that no one knows about it.
M: And anybody can use it? I mean, I’m not a business major. If I
went in there and tried to use the computers, would anybody
kick me out?
W: I don’t think so. Even if they were reserved for business students,
I don’t think they’d care. I mean, like I said before, there are
usually a couple of free computers. If there were people waiting,
they might say something, but that’s never happened to me.
Any time I go there, no one even asks for my student ID or anything.
I just sign in and start working, and I really don’t think there’s
ever been a time when somebody was waiting for a computer
to become free.
M: I think I’ll go over to Anderson after my next class and check it
out. Thanks for the tip. I might actually get this paper in on time.

2 History.

M: There certainly seems to be a lot more interest in history these
days, especially personal or family history. That’s why I wanted to
take some time in class to talk about non-academic historical
research. You probably know this type of research better as
genealogy. Genealogy is the investigation of family histories.
Professional genealogists use written records and stories people
tell in order to learn about where and when people lived and
about their lifestyles. Aside from strictly personal interest, the
information they gather can lead to reunions of families who have
been disrupted by adoption, foster care, or immigration. This type
of research could also lead to family reunions of distant relatives.
But professionals as well as people who undertake genealogy
as a hobby have to be careful. Genealogical investigations are
not always based on reliable data. Well, before we talk about
unreliable data, maybe we should list some different kinds of data
that someone might look at when they do this kind of research.
People might use census returns, birth, death, and marriage
records, and even maps to determine when, where, and how
relatives lived. But these records are not always accurate, as we
shall see. Some types of information tend to be more accurate
than others, so wary genealogists start with the most accurate
information and then try to fill in whatever blanks they can’t fill
by using less reliable information.
Let’s start at the top. The most accurate type of information is
place names, so genealogists rely most on information containing
the names of cities and towns. Place names are long lasting and
seldom change. So, information related to the place of an event
is often accurate. Are any of you interested in doing genealogy?
Here is a rule of thumb for determining where someone was
born --- actually two rules because it is different for men and
women. Historically, a woman would typically get married in
the same place where she was born. So, if you find a marriage
certificate, there is a good chance that the bride was born in
the same place where the wedding took place. Not so for men.
With men, actually, you look at where they were buried. Men
were usually buried in the area in which they were born. This
makes sense when you think about it. In old times, women
worked in the home. Men usually took over the family business.
So, while weddings traditionally took place in the bride’s hometown,
she would probably move with her new husband to his hometown
after marriage, where he would probably take over the family
business. In the old days, they would most likely stay there for
the rest of their lives. So, if a man was buried in a town, there’s
a good chance he was born there, but for women, better to
examine her marriage certificate to find out where she was born.
Then we have names. Even names are not as reliable as you might
think. Surnames, or what most people refer to as last names,
are more reliable than first names, but not by much. Surnames
have so many differences in spelling, it is difficult to tell whether
people were related or not. Now, we wouldn’t use first names
to determine if people were related, but we still might be misled
by first names. For one thing, they are really trendy. You get a lot
of the same names recurring within each generation. Nicknames
were common, too. In one village, for example, you might have
three girls named Elizabeth. One goes by Beth, one by Lizzie, and
one by Betty. On the census return, unfortunately, they are all
Elizabeth, and they’ve all got brothers, Jack, John, and Jonathan.
Another complication is that sometimes the same name will
reappear in the same family...even in the same generation! This
is because long ago, many children died in their infancy, and
parents would often recycle the name when the next baby of
the same gender was born. So, baby Mary died at birth, and
then another baby Mary came along who survived. Both go
into the record books.
The least reliable information of all is dates. You can’t even trust
the dates that were reported on census returns. For one thing,
people lie about their age. And another problem in the past
was that census takers weren’t very accurate either. They didn’t
want to be bothered with lots of different data to manage, so
they would round people’s ages off to the nearest five!

3 Biology.

W: Have you ever wondered how we know which plants are good
to eat and which ones are poisonous? Well, it was simply a very
long and drawn-out process of trial and error. Throughout history,
people ate what they could find, kill, or otherwise get a hold of.
When there was a lack of a traditional food source, people had
to try new things. Over time, they started to figure out which
plants made them sick and which didn’t.
Now, I am not just talking about ancient times before farming
became established. This trial and error with plants was going
on well into the 18th and 19th centuries! In fact, historical records
indicate that in the 1800s plant poisoning had become a serious
issue. Since food wasn’t as readily available then as it is today,
people were forced to take more chances with what they ate.
Rather than drop by the market at the end of the street, people
would have to wander out into the fields or forests and find
whatever looked edible. Today, because the food supply is rather
ample and stable, we rarely have to go find our lunch or dinner
out in the woods.
Nonetheless, we still need to be careful. Poisonous plants can be
found all around us: in our homes as decoration, in our lawns, and
in the general landscape. Of course, we don’t generally go around
putting random plants in our mouths. However, children do. Have
any of you ever caught your baby brother or sister chewing on
one of the plants in your house? Or maybe you were caught
chewing on one! Considering the fact that a baby’s body is
smaller and less hardy than ours, we have to look out for them.
A small amount of poison that might go unnoticed in an adult
can cause more serious harm to a child. So, poisonous plants are
dangerous to kids, but there are measures that can be taken to
ensure safety. You can identify the plants in your surroundings
by giving a call to your local garden center. You can describe the
plant to them, and hopefully they can tell you whether or not
it has poisonous properties. Alternatively, you can take the plant
down to show them. Also, if you buy a new plant, it is wise to
ask whether or not it is poisonous.
Now, there are three main categories of toxicity in plants: extremely
toxic, moderately toxic, and minimally toxic. These names, however,
are very misleading. You see, the severity of the poison depends on
a host of other factors, like the particular plant and the metabolism
of the person. The term “poisoning” itself is actually also misleading.
Poisoning doesn’t only mean a person dies from the poison.
Poisoning can result in anything from indigestion and skin irritation
to lethal brain damage or death.
Let’s talk about a few categories of poisonous plants now. One
category is the alkaloids. These are bitter-tasting plants with
nitrogen compounds in them. A good example is hemlock.
I mention it as an example because hemlock is famous. History
buffs in the class may recall that it was the poison extracted from
this plant that Socrates was forced to drink as his death sentence
for corrupting the youth of Athens. That’s just an interesting side
note. Anyway, the effects of hemlock are similar to nicotine,
but, obviously, much more severe as it can cause the nervous
system to shut down, resulting in death. Plants with minerals in
them form another category of poisonous plants. These plants
build up a large amount of some mineral that is toxic in humans,
such as lead or copper. The effects of eating these plants can
include psychological malfunctioning and, in higher doses, death.
Plants containing oxalates are the third category. Oxalates, spelled
O-X-A-L-A-T-E-S, occur as small crystals in the plant and irritate
the mouth. Not quite as serious as the other two, but poison
nonetheless. Once again, those three categories of poisonous
plants are the alkaloids, plants with minerals, and oxalates.
So, you may be wondering, why did poisonous plants evolve?
What purpose does this serve? Well, there are many different
sources of poison in different plants as we just heard, but in
most cases, the poison is a by-product of one of the plant’s natural
life processes, and the poison serves as a defense mechanism
for the plant. Animals learn which plants to stay away from
because they get sick when they eat them. So, it follows that
the plant will survive and reproduce because no one is eating it.

4 Drama.

M: Welcome to Theater 351, Stage Management. Some of you may
have worked as volunteer stage managers in the past. As such,
you have probably developed your own habits, working practices,
and manners of relating to the cast and crew, but, you are taking
this class for a reason, correct? You want to learn how to do these
things properly. If you thought you knew all there is to know
about stage management, you wouldn’t be here. So, you’ve
got all that amateur experience. Forget it. Clear all of your old
habits and techniques from your mind. The truth is, you most
likely either didn’t learn much at all, or you learned how to be
a typical, amateur stage manager. I’m going to teach you to be
an effective, professional stage manager.
OK, now the second thing I need you to do is to appreciate the
responsibility of this position. A great deal of the success of the
show depends on you. You are foremost responsible for every
aspect of the performance of the technical crew and for the
preparedness of the stage, set, and props. This includes every
cue in the show. You must know exactly where in the script the
cue occurs and ensure that the crew and equipment is prepared
to make the necessary technical adjustments. This is important, too
--- keep records of all of the decisions made during rehearsals
and meetings. This can prevent a lot of arguments and confusion
down the road. For example, let’s say it is decided that a certain
cue will be changed, and then, a while later, an actor says that no
one ever told him about the change. If you have a written record,
you can get it out and show him the meeting or the rehearsal
in which it was decided. I might add, too, that when people
know that records are being kept, they tend to make more of
an effort to be responsible and remember what’s going on.
Another thing you are responsible for is the safety of the cast
and crew. This is, of course, of paramount importance. You must
arrive early to every rehearsal, without exception, in order to inspect
the stage for safety hazards such as loose nails, weak boards,
ramps, and stairs. You should also make sure that all exits are
marked with glow tape so that actors and crew will be able to
move around safely in the dark. Further, you must be aware of
the location of the first aid kit and fire extinguishers, and you
should be certified in CPR and first aid. Taking this course won’t
give you this certification, but I will be giving you information
later in the semester about certification courses you can take.
These are offered by paramedics at the fire station.
The third thing I need you to do is get rid of any ideas you may
have about the stage manager being a privileged person ---
someone with lots of assistants and an attitude. If you come in late
wearing sunglasses and barking orders at people, you are not
doing your job effectively. You’re also letting people know that
you are not a professional stage manager. First off, a professional
is polite and treats people with respect. Secondly, a professional
always remains calm and never yells at others or panics. If people
see the stage manager panicking at a performance, this panic
can easily spread throughout the rest of the cast and crew.
Needless to say, the overall performance will suffer. Thirdly, you
have to learn to delegate authority as stage manager. As I’ve
said, you have a tremendous responsibility. Don’t think that you
can do it all yourself. You have assistants, so use them, but always
do so politely, especially if you are working with volunteers. After
all, they’re not getting paid. They’re working because they want
to have an enjoyable experience. If you treat them badly, they’ll
probably leave. At the same time, don’t expect your assistants
to do it all, and don’t expect them to do all the menial tasks either,
while you do the important ones. Get used to the idea that stage
managers do make coffee, go on food runs, make photocopies,
etc. It is of utmost importance that you maintain a good rapport
with everyone. Part of your responsibility of making sure the
performance comes off without a hitch is to make sure that
everyone is content and feels like part of the team. The three
most important things you’ll learn, then, are preparation of cast
and stage, workplace safety, and creating and maintaining a
positive rapport with all the people involved in the production.

5 Campus Life.

M: I’m kind of nervous about the test tomorrow. Want to sit down
over here and go over the notes from class together?
W: OK, but do you mind if we sit somewhere else? People are
smoking here.
M: Oh, sorry. I didn’t know it bothered you so much. Let’s go over
W: Thanks. Yeah, it really does bother me. Frankly, I think it’s gross.
I don’t see why the campus just doesn’t go totally smoke-free.
All of the buildings are smoke-free now. Why don’t they just
put an end to smoking on campus altogether?
M: I don’t know if they could. I mean, we’re all adults here, and
you’re not really hurting anyone else by smoking outside. I guess
they don’t want to deny people their right to smoke if they
want to.
W: Well, they’re already denying smokers the right to buy cigarettes.
M: What do you mean?
W: None of the convenience stores or vending machines on campus
sell cigarettes.
M: Well, I wouldn’t really call that denying people their right to buy
cigarettes. It’s the university’s prerogative whether they want to
sell tobacco products or not. People are free to leave campus to
buy a pack. Is that true, though? That you can’t buy cigarettes
on campus? I hadn’t noticed that they didn’t sell smokes on
campus anymore.
W: Yeah, it’s true. The closest place to buy a pack of cigarettes around
here is the Speedy Mart across University Boulevard.
M: Yeah, that’s where I always go to buy them.
W: You smoke? I had no idea. I’ve never seen you with a cigarette.
M: Well, I don’t smoke habitually. Sometimes, I have a smoke when
I want to take a break from studying. Of course, that means I
have to go outside the library or outside my dorm building, but
I don’t mind so much. It gives me a chance to stretch my legs.
The walk helps clear my mind, so I can focus better when I go
back to hit the books.
W: So, if our campus ever did go completely smoke-free, I guess
you’d be pretty upset.
M: Well, it would inconvenience me a little, but I wouldn’t be that
upset. I can quit anytime. I guess I just smoke now because the
opportunity exists.
W: So, you’re saying you would quit if the campus was smokefree?
M: Yeah, I guess I probably would.
W: Well in that case, I think that’s an excellent argument in favor
of a fully smoke-free campus. Maybe there are lots of students
like you who would actually give up smoking if there were no
places to do it around here.
M: Yeah, I guess so, but I think most smokers are more addicted
than I am. You sure are anti-smoking, aren’t you? Why is that?
W: Well, I used to smoke in high school, but then I finally wised up
and quit before I graduated. Now, I find the smell of smoke

6 Business.

W: Investing money is risky. Naturally, you want to make money, not
lose it. So any investment decision has to be carefully thought out.
Once you have decided to invest some money, you need to decide
how you are going to invest it. This is a big decision, and you
need to learn about risk management. There are many factors
to be considered in risk management, and I am going to go
over three major ones today. They are business risk,

valuation risk, and force of sale risk.
So, first you need to think about business risk. You are investing
in a company, and in order for you to earn money, that company
has to earn money. So, if its profits suffer due to competition
or mismanagement, your earning power is decreased, too. So,
how are you, as an investor, to know whether a company will
be successful? Well, you need to look at the company’s business
plan and determine whether or not you think they have a solid
plan for making a profit. But it doesn’t have to be all guesswork.
There are certain indicators that can give you a clue as to good
or bad investments. One indicator is franchise value. Franchise
value refers to the ability of the company to raise prices. You see,
if some other factor contributes to loss of profits, like increased
wages or increased costs of materials, the company needs to raise
prices, right? Some types of businesses can do this easily. Those
are the ones with franchise value. Other businesses, without
franchise value, cannot increase prices because people will stop
buying their products. These are called commodity-type businesses.
Commodity-type businesses do not have the flexibility to raise
prices because their sales are based on low prices, not on a factor
like name recognition. So, if the economy is not doing well, a
commodity-type business probably won’t do well either because
their costs will go up.
OK, so, once you have found a business that looks strong, you
need to consider valuation risk. This is risk that is based on the
relative value of different stocks. Just because a company looks
like it is going to do well does not mean that you should invest.
You have to consider the price of the stock relative to the price
of other stocks. Remember what we talked about last time?
Opportunity cost equals opportunity lost. As I mentioned before,
this means that when you choose to invest in one opportunity,
you are losing all kinds of other opportunities to invest, so it
may come down to this: one company looks strong, but you
have to invest a lot of money. Another company might not look
quite so attractive, but the stock is not as expensive. In the end,
you might make more money on the less attractive company
because you can buy significantly more stock of that company.
This is valuation risk. You see, a company might have an excellent
business plan, and you might reasonably expect the company
to grow. However, if their stock is overvalued, that means that
they are basing the value on their forecasted growth and not
on their current growth. Any number of events could occur that
might prevent that projected growth from taking place. So, like
I said, you might be better off buying a different stock that is
being sold at face value. In essence, when assessing valuation
risk, do not just ask, “Is this company a good investment?” but
ask, “Is this company a good investment at this price?”
Now, once you find a company with both low business risk and
low valuation risk, there is still one more risk to consider, and that
is force of sale risk. This has to do with the time period in which
you are expecting to see your investment turn into significant
gains. If you are planning on making money by a certain date,
you are taking a very big risk. Here is a good rule of thumb to
follow: in the stock market, you might be able to know WHAT
is going to happen, but not WHEN. Did you get that? You may
know WHAT, but you don’t know WHEN. You should never
count on seeing your investment grow in a certain time period.
So, ultimately, you are looking to minimize risk by investing in
a company that is going to make money in good times and in
bad. But you also want to buy stocks at a reasonable price in
order to decrease valuation risk, and you want to be flexible
about when you wish to cash in your stocks, minimizing your
force of sale risk.

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