Is It Useful to Tell a Child He Has a High IQ?

I have a higher-than-normal (self-tested) IQ, but I accept that there are many things that I am just not good at. Many people I know cannot accept that there are some things that they are just not good at. Or are they telling themselves the lie, thinking it will make them better at these things? Is it a confidence booster? Does believing it make it so? Positive thinking can only go so far. Even if I were to delude myself into believing that I am 6′ tall, I am still only 5’4″. If we’re referring to mental skills that we’re not good at (instead of physical characteristics that we can’t change, such as being taller), even then there is a limit to what someone is able to learn (possibly related to IQ). Unless you have physical problems with your brain/nerve structure, you have the ability to learn almost anything, limited only by the time you might need to learn it. You might just learn in a different way than the person sitting next to you in class.

For example, when I was in high school, girls were not expected to be “good at” math. Not that we shouldn’t care about math, but that we couldn’t be good at it! We were supposed to be better at Language Arts than the boys. All but one of the math teachers in my high school were men. I think if I had more support and more of a “belief” that I was capable of doing advanced math in high school, I probably would have tried harder. But why bother when everyone tells you it can’t be done? I might as well have tried to be taller.

When I went back to college in my 30s, I started all over again with math: Fundamentals of Algebra, College Algebra, Precalculus (trigonometry), and then Calculus. I was careful to choose female instructors for the algebra classes, because I think it’s true that women and men learn differently, and because a female math professor isn’t going to think (consciously or unconsciously) that I can’t do it simply because I’m female. I got As in Algebra. Precalculus was a summer class and only had a male instructor available. I got a B, but only because he allowed us to write formulas on a 5″x7″ index card and use it on the exams–otherwise, it would have been worse. In Calculus, I asked if we could use the index card, but no, we were to memorize the formulas. I got a C. Barely. The next semester, in Calculus II, I realized I was in way over my head and dropped the class, changed majors so that I didn’t need any more math, and graduated with a BA in Communication instead of a BS in Engineering, proving the stereotype true, once again.

I could go back to school and start over again with precalculus, but I really have no incentive to do so. Instead I’ve convinced myself that “I’m just not good at trigonometry.” And if I ever need one of those formulas, I have books and Google to help me out. I knew how to use the formulas, I just couldn’t remember them. (Yet I rememberl the formula for how to find the reactive capacitance of a parallel circuit, which I learned in 1978: XL = 2πfL.) The brain is such an odd, complex thing. So my point is that with time and practice, I did get better at math–just not as good as I needed to be to do advanced calculus in my head, and I wasn’t willing to keep trying until I got it right.

The average IQ is 100. That’s just the number that was chosen when they came up with the theory of IQ. People of less-than-average intelligence have an IQ lower than 100; people with a higher-than-average intelligence have an IQ higher than 100, the classic bell curve. 95% of the population scores between 70 and 130. 98% are below 131. MDs and PhDs tend to test around 125; college (Bachelor/Master level) graduates, around 112-115; factory workers, truck drivers, high school graduates, around 90-95. (Which tells me that education has a bit to do with how well you score on an IQ test.) Mensa requires a supervised test score at the 98th percentile–1 person out of 50. The 98th-percentile score under these conditions is 131.

This blog provides a list of people with the highest IQ (and a good, layman’s description of what IQ is). When you see how many people he lists, you might start to think that having an above-genius-level IQ is common. It’s not. Note the ones that he says have a “verified” high IQ versus an “alleged” high IQ, such as “Author Marilyn Vos Savant has a verified IQ of 186” and “Actress Sharon Stone is alleged to have an IQ of 154.”

In contrast to the blog article, according to the references below, “The highest reported standard score for most IQ tests is IQ 160, approximately the 99.997th percentile. IQ scores above this level are dubious as there are insufficient normative cases upon which to base a statistically justified rank-ordering.”

  • Hunt, Earl (2011). Human Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-521-70781-7. Lay summary (28 April 2013).
  • Perleth, Christoph; Schatz, Tanja; Mönks, Franz J. (2000). “Early Identification of High Ability”. In Heller, Kurt A.; Mönks, Franz J.; Sternberg, Robert J.; Subotnik, Rena F. International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: Pergamon. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-08-043796-5. Lay summary (6 October 2013). “norm tables that provide you with such extreme values are constructed on the basis of random extrapolation and smoothing but not on the basis of empirical data of representative samples.”
  • Urbina, Susana (2011). “Chapter 2: Tests of Intelligence”. In Sternberg, Robert J.; Kaufman, Scott Barry. The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 20–38. ISBN 9780521739115. Lay summary (9 February 2012). “[Curve-fitting] is just one of the reasons to be suspicious of reported IQ scores much higher than 160.

Seems as though the only valid IQ test would be around 6 years of age, after the brain has developed and before a lot of education. Or maybe at high school graduation. But then they say that the risk center of a man’s brain is not fully developed until after age 25, so maybe after college would be a better time to test men. Unless you didn’t go to college. Or high school. I suspect IQ scores have some education bias.

Is it useful to tell a child that he has a high IQ? Even if he doesn’t? If you frequently tell your child how smart, how handsome, how important he is, when he goes out into the world, he may be very, very confused and disappointed when the rest of the world doesn’t share your opinions.

It Just Works

As a technical writer, I often say that no one notices when the documentation is good, but everyone notices when it’s bad. The same can be said of data security. As you chug on day after day, uploading files, downloading files, copying files … everything “just works.” You don’t think about all of the things going on behind the scenes: firewalls, virus scanning, virus blocking, alerts about suspect files and suspect connections, servers going down, maintenance updates, security patches, and so on. At least, you hope you don’t have to think about those things. You expect your IT team to be on top of that. Yep, no one notices when all of that “just works,” but when it stops “just working,” EVERYONE notices.

At home, you don’t have an IT team. You need to be smarter to protect your own security. Even if you don’t do banking on your computer and all you do is Facebook and email, you still have to think about security. Most commonly, you’re going to have “harmless” malware that tracks your browsing habits, what you type into forms, and so on for the purpose of marketing. Other bad guys can use this information for identity theft. The worst-case scenario of course is that a sneaky virus will be installed on your computer that turns it into a “brick” that requires your neighbors’ son who lives in their basement to fix it for you. These sorts of viruses probably benefit computer manufacturers the most, because many people will just shove the old, bad computer in a closet and use that as an excuse to buy a new one.

So what can you do? The most important thing you can do is to install the regular Microsoft and Adobe updates/patches, which are often released for the sole purpose of fixing a security problem. And pay attention to manufacturer’s “End of Life” policies, which means after a certain point, they are no longer upgrading or patching that software, making it more attractive to hackers. Install a brand-name antivirus app on your computer and keep it updated. Make all of these updates (Microsoft, antivirus, etc.) automatic and occur during times that you don’t expect to be using your computer, such as while you’re asleep or at work.

If you are really uninformed regarding regular computer maintenance, then there are two things you can do: pay the money to have someone regularly clean up your computer for you, or buy an Apple computer, which is made for people who don’t know and don’t want to know how to maintain a computer properly. Actually, there are even more options these days for those whose only use for the computer is Facebook, email, picture sharing: some tablets, mobile phones, Chromebook, and so on are “locked down” so they are updated automatically.

You’ll still need a mobile antimalware app, though (such as Lookout). And you still need to cleanup temp files. Your computer needs a part of memory (RAM) and maybe hard drive space just to display all the interfaces and to run services in the background. If the hard drive and RAM are clogged with remnants of files that aren’t being used, it’s harder for the computer to run active apps. You can clean it up yourself if you know what to delete (cookies, web history) and what not to (system files). An app the IT guy I know showed me is called CCleaner. They have a free and a paid version that you can use to clean up temp files, cookies, web history, and so on.

Maintaining your computer is like maintaining your house or car. You can keep your computer running well for a long, long time if you regularly clean up your computer, install updates, and install protective apps. If you ignore it until there is a problem, it can be much more expensive.

Word Tip: Inserted Picture in Word is Cut Off by Preceding and Following Paragraphs

A coworker asked for my help with this issue. He was working in a document that he had received from someone else. He placed the cursor in front of a paragraph, pressed ENTER, then inserted a picture. He could see the outline of the picture when the picture was selected, but only a small piece of the picture appeared in the line where he had placed it:


He checked the picture layout (i.e., Text Wrapping > Behind Text), and everything was fine. Then he asked for my help.

I selected the paragraph into which the picture was inserted. Then I opened the Paragraph dialog box to check the line spacing:


The Line spacing was set to “Exactly 12 pt” which means no matter what he did to the picture, it was only going to show exactly 12 points of it. Changing the Line Spacing to “Single” allowed the entire picture to appear:


Why did this even happen? For some reason, that document’s “Normal” style had line spacing set at exactly 12 points. There really is no reason for this in “regular” documentation. If you were doing something fancy with layout, you might want to adjust the line spacing. But plain old “single” spacing is usually fine for most documents, and that line spacing will adjust automatically depending on the font size. (The same reason that you do NOT have to double space after a period!)

Our Self-Absorbed Society

Just as a car was going by, I crossed the street and leaped onto the curb. Louie (a poodle) was startled by the car and jerked his chain (which was attached to my water belt) in the opposite direction from which I was headed. The slight pull from Louie while I was airborne was enough to make me stumble several feet and eventually fall, smashing my hand into the sidewalk, dislocating my pinky, and fracturing the bones in my right (dominant) hand. The passing car continued on without hesitation.

I don’t know whether he/she saw me fall. I sat up and felt my hand, winced in pain, and thought, “Crap, I think it’s broken. And that pinky does not look right at all.” I called my husband, who didn’t answer his phone. I called my son, who didn’t answer his phone. I tried each of them 3 more times as I started my slow, painful walk back home. Fortunately, my hand was the only major injury. I ended up with a bruised temple, shoulder, and forearm, but nothing broken there. (However, months later, the pain from soft-tissue damage in my neck and shoulders has started to emerge.) About a block from home, my husband called. “Want me to come get you?” Kinda late for that.

I’ve fallen like this before, but didn’t break anything. When I was in college, I was hurrying to class, running across a wooded area with tree roots sticking up. I tripped over a tree root and somersaulted onto my shoulders. Others on their way to class rushed on past, oblivious to my discomfort. (No one even held up numbers, as in a sporting event, to rate my somersault!) Embarrassed, but not injured, I brushed myself off and went on to class.

In January 2013, I ran in the half marathon at Walt Disney World. Running along a busy road with one lane blocked off for the runners, we were all running down a “cattle run” of sorts, barely enough room to run because of so many people. I kept to the right side of the “trail” so as not to impede the faster runners. A woman came up behind me, trying to pass those of us who are slower (and running on the right side, I repeat), and stepped on the heel of my shoe. Keep in mind, we’re all running about 6 miles per hour (some faster, some slower), so the shoe was launched off of my foot and flew off to the side, in the part of the road where the cars were.

As you might expect, the suddenness of it scared me, I yelped and stumbled, and my son caught me. He then stood next to me and held my arm while I put my shoe back on, and then we continued on our run. Meanwhile, the tall, Olive Oil-esque blond girl, with a  huge, bright smile, having the time of her life, continued on her merry way to the next set of Disney characters to get her picture taken, seemingly oblivious to my discomfort. It was bad enough that she stomped on the back of my shoe–she should have stayed to the left side with the faster runners and not followed so closely behind me. But she could have stopped, apologized, and offered to help me put my shoe back on. I doubt it even registered in her mind what she’d done. In fact, I may not have been her only victim that day! For all I know, for her it was part of the fun to stomp on the back of slow people’s heels for “extra points”!

Remember, this was a DISNEY run. It’s supposed to be fun. You’re not going to qualify for Boston on this run. She was hurrying because 1) she could and 2) she wanted to get in line to get her picture taken with the Disney characters along the route, but still wanted to finish with an unembarrassing (for her) time. The reason she had fallen back to where the slow pokes like me were is that she’d stopped at every other photo spot before this one. She should have known that her time was going to suck if she did that. But she’s (apparently) not the sort to care about other people, only herself. She was in a hurry and I was in her way.

Lately, I’ve been noticing many people are not the sort to care. Yeah, I know in times of major disasters like the Boston Marathon bombing, the fires in Colorado and California, the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, and so on, people do “grow a conscience” and actually help each other. But in everyday life, it’s rare for someone to go out of their way to help their fellow humans. Many people will pick up a mangy, flea-bitten stray dog before they’ll help a stranger who falls on a sidewalk. I’m sure there are many reasons for this attitude (our litigious society, for one), but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Take a cue from my mistake: don’t hook your dog to your water belt! Even a 13-pound miniature poodle can knock you off balance when both of your feet are off the ground.

Light the Night Walk Annual Fundraiser

Each year, the company that I work for, Globalscape, hosts numerous fund-raising events in San Antonio, TX. Again this year, they are one of the sponsors of the “Light The Night Walk” for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The walk, an annual fundraising walk to pay tribute and bring hope to people battling cancer, is held in downtown San Antonio, starting and ending in Hemisfair Park. It is definitely a walk, not a run! There are so many people, you couldn’t run if you wanted to. Last year, I took my dog, Louie, a miniature poodle, with me. My husband and I took turns carrying him, because he was a bit freaked out by all of the people—and we didn’t want him tripping someone!

Some of the walkers carry a lighted balloon (a small flashlight is inserted, and then the balloon is filled with helium). It would be a cool sight to see from above, I think! All of the streets are closed, of course, and police are at the barricades, so it’s a very safe walk—aside from the fear of small dogs getting stepped on!

Even though The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was created to help fight blood cancers (e.g., leukemia), their research has also benefited people with solid tumors and autoimmune diseases. In the past 10 years, nearly 50% of cancer drugs approved by the FDA were originally approved for blood cancer patients. I’m sure you know someone who has battled cancer or have a loved one who has battled cancer. My mom died of cancer that started in her lungs and moved to her liver. I’ve also had two dogs who have died of cancer.

Please take a moment to visit my donation page to learn more about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and, if you can, make a donation. Any amount is very much appreciated, but a donation of $100 helps supply laboratory researchers with supplies and materials critical to carrying out their search for cures, which I think is where your money would do the most good.

Please join our team’s effort today by making a donation. Your participation in the Light the Night Walk will help save lives. If you can’t afford to make a donation yourself, register to walk with us, if you’re in San Antonio. Or visit and click local walk sites to find a walk in your area. (It can be slow to load the page; type in your zip code, then click Submit.)

Be sure to check our team Web site to see our progress—our goal is $10,000. Thanks for your support!

Motivators Depend on Personality Type

Are you motivated by money? Fame? Shame? What motivates you depends on your personality type. Introverts tend to be motivated internally and extroverts tend to be motivated externally. By “tend to be,” I mean we’re not widgets, and it’s not just black or white. Many variables affect motivation, so what I am saying here does not apply to every single human being.

Are you an Introverted Ivy or an Extroverted Evy?

I am very introverted. I am not motivated by other people’s impressions of me. I am motivated by my own goals and what I think is right, just, or what I’m “supposed” to do. I go to work every day and do my job well, because that’s what I get paid to do. No one is harder on me than I am on myself if I’m not doing a good job. I’m not motivated by a boss who constantly tells me I’m wonderful or gives me awards. I’m not motivated by coworkers patting me on the back or nominating me for awards. I am, however, quite motivated by continued employment, annual pay raises, bonuses, and paid vacations!

How are we motivated differently?

Programmers and writers (I am a technical writer at a software company) tend to be introverted. We work better alone, without external distractions and noise, so that we can focus on our work. Coding and writing take uninterrupted focus. Interruptions mean starting over from the top or sloppy work. Stopping work for an hour or so to attend a meeting is an unwelcome interruption—unless the meeting is directly related to what we’re working on.

Sales and Marketing professional are typically extroverts. They need to talk to customers/potential customers, communicate with other people about trade shows, communicate with coworkers about what they are doing, and so on. Attending meetings IS the work; skipping a meeting to write a report is an unwelcome interruption. Extroverts are motivated by external forces: awards, bonuses, commissions, and the constant praise and admiration of their bosses and coworkers. “She’s so quiet!” is considered an insult to an extrovert, but admirable to an introvert.

Can introverts work on a team?

Managing a team of introverts and extroverts together requires more effort and thought than a team of only extroverts or only introverts. You can’t just say “Here, do this” if only half the team (or less) is motivated by the project’s success. Getting everyone to cooperate as a team requires that you know what motivates each person on the team so that you can offer them the proper reward(s) for successful completion of the task.

  • If the project requires each individual’s solitary contribution, the introverts on the team will be successful.
  • If the project requires that one individual lead the project, or requires a public spectacle of some kind, the extroverts will shine.

If there are multiple extroverted people on the team, they will compete to lead the group. The introverts on the team will follow whomever assumes that position. Assigning someone to be the lead can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t chose the most extroverted member of the team. (Even in a team of 100% introverts, you can be sure there is one who is the least introverted of all.)

With extroverts especially, you need to provide clear instructions as to the goal of the project and ensure that they understand. Without clear instructions, your extroverted team members will take that as a challenge to see how far “over the top” they can go and may misunderstand the goal of the project entirely.

What does it all mean, Basil?*

Most personalities fall somewhere between extrovert and introvert. Extreme introverts and extreme extroverts are not comfortable in the other’s realm, but usually as adults we learn to function (still uncomfortably) in the opposite world. Whether you are a manager trying to get your team to work together more effectively, or one of the employees on that team, pay attention to and use what motivates THEM, not what motivates you.

  • If you’re an extroverted manager, understand that your introverted employees might find your “fun team-building contest” a waste of time that could be used actually working.
  • If you’re an introverted manager, understand that your extroverted employees would probably enjoy a Friday evening, after-work  happy hour, but your introverted employees might consider it “working overtime.”

* From the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

Which is “better,” extroverted or introverted?

Neither personality type is “better” than the other; we’re just different, with different needs and different motivators. Before you criticize the employee, coworker, spouse, sibling, child, friend, or neighbor who thinks, talks, or behaves differently than you do, consider why it bothers you so much. Forcing opposites to work together without the proper motivation does not bring good results. If you need your team’s or a person’s cooperation, think about what you can do to motivate them to want to cooperate. You might think of it as manipulation, which it is, but it is manipulation with positive results for everyone. If you can change your behavior or thoughts, the other person is more likely to cooperate with you. After all, the only person you can truly change is yourself.

This web page provides, in a table format, a partly humorous, partly serious look at the differences between extroverts and introverts. Here are some examples:

WORD Extrovert’s Definition Introvert’s Definition
Extrovert, n. A nice, normal, sociable person. Never surprises you with anything weird. A boisterous person who may be very nice, but who is somewhat exhausting to spend time with. Usually not too deep, but fun.
Good manners, n. Making sure people aren’t left all by themselves. Filling in any silences in a conversation. Not bothering people, unless it’s necessary, or they approach you. (Sometimes you can bother people you know well, but make sure they aren’t busy first.)
Internet, n. Another medium for advertising. A place where geeks with no life hang out. A way to meet other introverts. You don’t have to go out, and writing allows you to think before just blurting something out.
Introvert, n. One of those who likes to read. Moody loners. One who shows a perfectly natural restraint and caution when meeting new people. One who appreciates solitude.

My Standing Desk Project

I keep seeing blog articles for standing desks, so I’ve decided to throw mine out there.

I have made two attempts (so far) at making a standing desk. My first effort involved a wooden bench, which I made out of 1″x10″ pine shelving, and a laptop desk like you would use while sitting in bed. The laptop desk was not wide enough for my keyboard and mouse pad, and offered no space at all for resting my hand or documents.

Standing Desk v1.0

So I got rid of the laptop desk, and made the bench short enough to comfortably type and mouse on it. I found two mismatched monitor stands and put my monitors on them. The monitors are extended as high as they go and still aren’t tall enough.

Standing Desk v2.0

I put felt on the bottom of the legs to prevent scratching the cubicle desk, and I put contact paper, like you put in your cupboards, on top to prevent the keyboard from sliding off. I have my mouse pad on there also.

My biggest constraint is that I can’t alter the existing desk, which is built in to my cubicle. This was my process:

  1. The first step in designing my desk was to measure the distance from my elbow to the desk. That told me how high my desk had to be for good ergonomics. (Your forearm should be parallel to the floor when you’re typing.) My first effort was too high, because I didn’t take into account the thickness of the keyboard. So in my case, the height of the standing desk had to be the distance from my elbow to my cubicle desk, minus the thickness of the keyboard.
  2. Next, I had to decide how wide to make the desk. At first I was thinking it only needed to be as wide as my keyboard and mouse. But the laptop desk showed me that I needed room to the right of the mouse if I wanted to rest my hand, and I needed to room to the left of the keyboard for the same reason, and for documents. I also had originally planned to put both of my monitors on it (as shown in Standing Desk v1.0), so I measured the total width of them when they are side by side, which turned out to be plenty of room for the keyboard, mouse, both arms, and documents.
  3. And finally, I needed to decide how deep (from the front of the desk to the back) to make it. As I said, I wanted to put my monitors on it, too, but I have a couple of monitor stands I scrounged in the office, so they are working OK for now. The current depth is only slightly more than the depth of the keyboard.

The current setup works OK as is, but isn’t ideal. When I’m sitting (and the monitors are adjusted as low as they go), I’m looking up at the monitors, and when I’m standing (and the monitors are adjusted as high as they go), I’m looking down at the monitors. That’s not good ergonomics and definitely puts a strain on my neck and shoulders. When you’ve spent most of your career sitting at a desk, you have to work up to standing all day, so I have to set up and break down the desk often, which is a bit of an annoyance.

For the setup to be perfect, I need:

  • a drafting chair that can I can sit on at the same height as when I’m standing, so I can continue to work without setting up/breaking down the desk or adjusting the monitors
  • a taller stand for the monitors so that the top of the monitor is at eye level when I’m standing

My plan is to search Goodwill and other such stores to find a 30″ x 30″ end table. Then I can cut off the legs to the desired height.

If/when I build Standing Desk v3.0, I’ll let you know how it goes.