It’ll only cost you a limb.

I’m not all that familiar with discrimination laws in India.  However, the recent cases against Air India have made me wonder.  Is it legal to ground a flight attendant without pay for not meeting a weight standard?  Should it be?  Are the reasons such standards are in place (reaction times in dangerous situations and the physical fitness required for the job) accurately reflected in the standards themselves?  Does a weight to height ratio truly sum up a person’s physical fitness or abilities?  Considering that muscle weighs more than fat, I would say no.  Not that I’m for muscle-bound air hostesses, but I do question the airline’s motives.  At the same time, if these are the rules of the job known when starting employment, is it fair to complain about them only now?

Most of the women are planning on dieting while in court, hoping to return to work eventually regardless of the ruling.  However dieting could still cause problems for them in the future.  It will be a constant strain to keep off the weight.  Added to that is the emotional pressure of being judged for your weight on a regular basis in order to keep your job, and you have significant mental stress.  At that point, it would almost be easier to cut off an arm or a leg to permanently take off the extra poundage.  If the airline comes after you for not being able to maintain your duties after that, it’s definite disability discrimination.  Does it say anywhere in the job requirements that you need two legs to perform the job?

Perhaps an even better way to address the physical fitness issue of flight attendants should be some sort of obstacle regularly taken to measure ability and performance.  It would be like a military one, but slightly easier and more appropriate.  It would involve things like climbing a cargo net, sprinting the length of a 747, lifting a 50-lb suitcase over your head, balance beam while carrying a drink tray, pushing a food cart at speed around a length of cones, and ending with opening up an emergency exit on a  plane and sliding down that inflatable slide thing, all in proper uniformed attire.  How fun would that be?  I’d want to take the test myself, just to measure my skills against stewardesses everywhere!  And it would add an aspect of fun to the kind of skills some airlines feel they need to measure.  You could probably even sell tickets, allowing airlines to recoup money on falling ticket sales.

And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids!

I was puzzled recently by this supposedly shortened headline on the main CNN health page:  Virus in China kills 28 children in China.  Well.  Thanks for the redundancy there.  I thought the virus in China only killed kids in Hong Kong.  Or maybe Taiwan.  Or maybe all the kids who get sick are shipped to Japan as part of an international disease exchange program.  Thank God the actual headline of the article was non-repetitive.  But it brings up a familiar question: how much information do we think we need?  And, in association, is this determination of our knowledge needs valid?

In a world where information and records are increasingly transparent, a large body of information is available to the public.  For those willing to search for it, you can find and learn about just about anything.  And yet, specialization runs rampant.  College admissions boards are seeing more and more applicants focused in one area of expertise.  Schools are focusing less and less on a broad-ranging liberal arts curriculum.  And yet in the working world, people are changing jobs and even careers more and more frequently.

What does this say for my own education and skill set?  How do I choose what might be most advantageous?  True, most skills are applicable across a wide range of jobs, but how do I determine even which job is applicable to my interests?  And how much can such generalism really help my life and growth?  How does education translate into skills and experience, and at what point does the body of knowledge I possess become useless junk that I cannot apply to my present life?  Does the thirst for knowledge still have validity, if the possession of that knowledge can easily be recreated by a simple internet search?

Lego my childhood.

Legos were an important part of my childhood – you may even say they were a building block for my future self (har, har).  On the one hand there was the creativity implicit in the more general forms of Legos.  On the other was my continued nit-picky ability to follow a pattern exactly.  I might say that Legos developed some of my skills – attention to detail, fine motor skills, and spatial perception.  I might also say that Legos helped to expand upon interests I already had – castle building, secret passages, and minute partially obscured doors.  As a formerly embarrassed product of the short-lived G/T or TAG program in elementary schools, I also was ‘required’ to learn about engineering through several Lego build projects.  But for all this, Legos were more about spending time with myself than learning or growing.

As the oldest of three, I was constantly on the lookout for things I could do by myself.  I still remembered fondly those early days when I was not in competition for my parent’s affection, where everything seemed to go my way and familial decisions were based solely on me.  Also, my sisters in their current form were annoying.  A project like building with Legos, where i could claim they were ‘messing things up’ or that I needed certain pieces to  complete whatever I was building.  Still, if a sister persisted in ‘helping’ me, they often quickly became bored with the rules I set for playing with my Legos.

Today Legos are not quite as popular as they once were, being subsumed into non-physical technology.  Why be limited by ordinary blocks that you can’t modify, or where a crucial part may go missing?  Why not just build your own whatever online?   Who needs something you can actually put your hands on?  And with this continued era of extended movie marketing, why not expand themed sets?  Who needs castle and pirate sets when you can get Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, Spongebob, Harry Potter, Bob the Builder, and Thomas the Tank Engine?  Who still buys the basic set?

When my dad was a kid, he had Erector sets and lower tech toys, and he went on to become an engineer.  When I was little, I had tons of castle Legos and went on to study architecture in college.  What are my children going to go into?  Film?  Television?  Will they have degrees in media studies?  While I must admit I am still enjoying and intrigued by the Lego website and all the wonderful little perks it has (check out my bluebird of coolness below), I wonder if we’re losing something by giving kids too many structured forms to play with, rather than the plain blocks and world around them that previous generations had.  Are we giving them enough space to dream, enough space to really play?


Work Woe, Work Joy

There are quite a few books/blogs/agendas/workshops that seek to address the idea of a work-life balance.  It’s something that I often address myself, in my search for that uplifting career path.  I found this particular post helpful as a starting point to considering this path.  However, it also raises quite a few questions about my current job.

One of the things I noticed about my own responses to the post were in regards to creation.  I like making things.  It doesn’t much matter what – I like working with my hands for utility or beauty, I like writing, I like making.  I even like polishing up other people’s work and making it pretty, or arranging things in an artful way.  It appeals to my sense of order and beauty.  The problem I am faced with is that my current job allows me to do many of these things frequently.  I keep office things in order – I organize and beautify our quarterly books.  Yet I am still often unhappy at work.

A part of my frustration I know comes from not having enough to do at some points.  True, there are a few months out of every year in which I’m truly busy, but most of the time I have significant down time.  A part of making my current job more worthwhile may simply mean filing this time too.  But I think there is also a larger issue.  Growing up as I have in an environment in which career change is not only possible, but also perhaps desirable, I am very hesitant to commit to any career path longer than a year or three.  Why spend my time and money on something I’m not going to keep with? How do I address my own career path when I feel such a broad and general desire in my future career needs?

Oh my WUSTL Archies!

I may not know what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I’m pretty sure of a few things I don’t want to do.  One of the primary ones it took me three years to realize was architecture.  I do not want to be an architect.  Sure, someday I may do something involving architecture or design.  I do have some knowledge and experience in those areas.  However, I will never spend the time or effort needed to become certified as an Architect.

Still, there are times when I wonder what my life would have been like if I had stuck it out and become certified.  Times when I see new products and buildings and I think “Oh cool,” or “I could do that!”  One of those times was yesterday, when I discovered this article.  In looking through some of the furniture, I was fondly reminded of my sophomore days in studio, when I too had the chance to design cardboard furniture.  For those of you not in-the-know, it’s uncomfortable.  Room-saving, trendy, and recyclable, yes; but also pokey in all the wrong places.

Still, it brought to my mind an important question – why aren’t I a designer?