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Notes from my forthcoming memoir A Curmudgeon at 17; Awesome 4-Eva

Posted by Stanley
on 09.17.11

On working days I'm in the habit of taking lunch at my desk, where I enjoy reading the day's newspaper as I dine. Almost without fail I'm interrupted at least once during this respite to field questions about what it is, exactly, that I'm eating.

This line of questioning emerges regardless of food choice (lentil soup, salad, leftover Indian food, a hummus sandwich, for instance), and it doesn't seem to be limited only to me—I've witnessed similar interrogations of cow-orkers who had been dining peaceably to themselves. And I find it deeply irritating.

Which leads me to several questions: what's going on here? Am I being weird about food? I'm not embarrassed about what I'm eating, so I don't think that's it, but maybe. Are people just nosy and bored? Or hungry themselves and in search of inspiration? I suppose that's understandable, and maybe I should lighten up. Maybe.

Related: as an undergraduate, I would usually eat lunch in the dining hall, also with a newspaper. People would inevitably join me, perceiving Friend Reading Newspaper as Friend Who Needs Company, which is very kind, and I've long been extremely lucky to be surrounded by so many caring people (and I'd love to join all of you for dinner later on today; that would be lovely).

But, seriously, sometimes a person reading and eating wants exactly that.


 

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Most Awkward Conversation Ever

Posted by Alameida
on 09.16.11

I was in the paint store the other day trying to decide between chips for my friend's place. Here in Narnia they enragingly won't give you access to the great big key-ring o'paint colors, you know the ones, which proceed from a bluish white to royal blue over the course of 6 rectangles. Even though I know they have one, the cocksucking bastards. I have seen one with my own eyes at the DIY store they used to have in Ikea, though lord knows they treated it like the fucking ark of the covenant and would no more let me take a paint strip away than go piss on Ganesha's head during a temple procession. Despite this everyone denies such a thing even exists. Anyway, Sandstone? Hm. Or Desert Grey?

While I am thus cogitating a little girl of four walks up to me and starts chatting. I love children and was happy to talk to her, so we quickly became friends (she yelled out to her mom at the end of another row: "mommy I made a new friend!") She had beautiful ringlets of dirty blond hair, but was obviously at least half Asian, Indonesian or something, I would have guessed. I explained what I was doing, and then asked her how she was doing. Well, she needed a fan, but she wanted a pink one, and her mommy could only find blue, and her friend Emily has a blue one, etc. etc. Then the kicker: she came very close to say: "when I'm six my daddy is going to teach my a game that mommy and daddy play, but it's a secret." Me, heart racing uncontrollably, "it's a secret? So you can't tell anyone about it? What about your mommy?" "It's a secret!!" At this point she skips off down the aisle.

It had become clear from the previous discussion that her parents weren't together. I stood there staring at these stupid fucking paint chips thinking, OK it's now. I have to go talk to the mom RIGHT NOW. Fuck! I'll never forgive myself if they walk out. Fucking fuck!!1!! Then the girl skips back up the aisle again to chat more. She leans over very close and cups her mouth with her hand theatrically. "Do you want to know the secret?" Me, trying not to spook her, all studied casual "sure."

"It's poker. I'm too little to remember the cards now. But when I'm six I can do it." Me: heart still shuddering like an old truck engine that doesn't want to turn over, beads of sweat all along my hairline. "I bet you'll be great at poker."


 

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Guest Post - k-sky

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.16.11

At the brand-new L.A.-based politics and economic-justice-themed Frying Pan group blog, Jon Zerolnick breaks down a recent NLRB report about how to bitch about your boss on social media without getting fired.

1) Don't scorn, organize! You shouldn't just gripe; you need to be engaging in group action. Simple venting and expressing frustration -- posting to your non-work friends about how your boss is a slave driver -- is not protected activity. Posting about how your boss is a slave driver and asking your coworkers if they agree probably is protected!
In one recent case, an employee was fired for bitching about a coworker--but because the post ended with "My fellow coworkers how do u feel?" - this made the post "a textbook example of concerted activity," and was therefore protected. By contrast, an employee who posted on the Facebook wall of her U.S. Senator was not protected, for there was no concerted activity.
2) The more your comments concern the "terms and conditions of employment," the safer you are. A steady stream of narration about every customer who comes through the office puts you on less solid ground than pointing out that you aren't paid nearly enough to put up with this nonsense.

Unfortunately, recommendation 3 is to not use social media at work. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.


 

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Ask the Mineshaft: Letter of the Law

Posted by Stanley
on 09.16.11

A lurker writes:

I've been asked to ghostwrite a law school letter of recommendation on behalf of my boss. This makes sense as I've had more experience with the candidate, who has been a volunteer at our non-profit for a few years. But I have decidedly less experience writing letters of recommendation.

The candidate is a leader in her volunteer capacity at our organization, but I'm not sure I can speak to her relevant-to-law-school abilities in the same way I could if I'd spent time with her in an academic setting.

Any advice on/tales of great letters of recommendation? Any uniquely law-school-related qualifications I should mention?

My response: I've never written a letter of recommendation. However! I suspect some commenters will have opinions and free time to share those opinions.


 

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The Worst Jobs

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.16.11

What are the worst jobs? Some type of manual labor involving toxic substances? Being a phone solicitor on a clock with quota expectations where you keep getting verbally abused by people you have to call? Data entry, or something tearfully boring but requiring sustained attention? Far, far worse. That could happen to you.


(Any job can involve horrible people and thus be a horrible place to work. Obviously.)


 

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It's Not Exactly Killer Robots

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.16.11

But if anyone's planning to check out the Maker Faire in Queens this Saturday, I'll be teaching crocheting at the TNNA Needlearts Zone from 2 until 6. If you're there, stop by and say hi. Other areas of the faire (man, do I find that spelling grating) will have killer robots.

Anyone I don't know, obviously you should ask anyone crocheting if they'd like to sex Mutombo. That can't possibly go wrong.


 

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More purging

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.15.11

Remember my custodian with the overwhelming problems?

...her other daughter is in Mexico with an abusive boyfriend, and she calls all the time crying that she wants to come home. So they try to send her money so that she can take the bus, but he intercepts it. So on Saturday, Grandma took $150 for gas money and tried to drive to Mexico, but got stopped at the border. (Not sure why.) They had to drive an hour and a half away from the border to get cell reception to call the daughter. The daughter said she'd meet them at the checkpoint. They returned to the border and the daughter never arrived. They finally got back to town at 1 am.

Grandma works at Heebie U at 7 the following morning. Near the end of her shift, she misplaces keys and spends three hours trying to locate them.

On Tuesday, her daughter - the one with the seven kids who are living with Grandma - goes out to get some food. She gets pulled over, and has outstanding tickets, and gets arrested. Grandma has to miss work the next day to watch the kids. Three of the four school age children get sent home for being sick. When they go to bail out the daughter, she splits the bail bondsman fee with her ex-husband. More money gone that they needed to use elsewhere. She keeps saying how stressed out she is and the anxiety of it all. Upcoming court dates, her own expired car insurance, the seven kids under 9, the injured shoulder...

I don't even know.


 

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FBI Training

Posted by Ben
on 09.15.11

Spackerman's latest seems worth discussing.


 

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Guest post - Sir Kraab

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.15.11
Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, plans to announce her bid for U.S. Senate against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) on Wednesday.
"The pressures on middle class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington," Warren said in a statement. "I want to change that. I will work my heart out to earn the trust of the people of Massachusetts."

It seems self-evident that Elizabeth Warren would have had a greater impact as a regulator than she can have as a junior senator. Is there something meaningful she can accomplish as a senator? Does it realistically position her for something down the road? (In my dreams, the Honorable Elizabeth Warren presides.) Or is she more effective as an academic and policy advisor? Also, isn't there some huge public policy issue that she sucks on?


 

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Why must Journey be so omnipresent?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.15.11

File under: Headlines I Never Expect To Tead.


 

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And then I gave $5

Posted by Ben
on 09.14.11

Should I give Obama $5 to gain the chance to dine with him?


 

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A game.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.14.11

Let's play Tell Me Something Good.

I'll start: The inquiry-based real analysis class I'm teaching is going phenomenally well. None of the students are ringers, and only 1 of 16 is totally clueless. The proofs they put up on the board have a fantastic array of errors, but usually aren't completely sunk. They're working hard outside of class and not being grade-grubby.(Somewhere I described this teaching method; I'll hunt for the link in the archives. (here.)) I'm really enjoying it.

Now your turn!


 

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To infinity, and beyond!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.11

Dear Professor,
I wanted to be certain that you heard about Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith--a new book in a series cosponsored by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

With respect for the history and ever-changing applications of mathematical principles, James Bradley and Russell Howell, along with a team of fellow scholars, invite students to reconsider the generally-held belief that mathematics is all about numbers and formulas, with no religious significance--an attitude that belies the faith-based work of such thinkers from Plato to Newton.

Designed to help students and teachers understand how the interplay of mathematics and Christian belief can enrich the study of both, Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith invites students to explore such questions as:

* What is the relationship between chance and divine providence?
* Do concepts like infinity point beyond themselves to a higher reality?
* Is mathematics discovered or invented, and why is it effective in the sciences?

If you would like to consider Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith (HarperOne: 978-0-06-202447-3, paperback, $19.99) for one of your classes, please let us know by filling out our desk copy form.
Sincerely,
Dxxx Sxxx
Director, Academic & Library Marketing


 

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Mirrored shoes

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.11

Via Oudemia:

Bill Hain spies and documents peeping Toms in Union Square park. Apparently there are a lot of them. How gross is that? No wonder people get paranoid and move to suburbia and insulate themselves in their snout houses and grump about taxes and join the Tea Party movement.

Hain has a whole website dedicated to documenting the techniques and strategies of the peepers.


 

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A theory on weight-obsession

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.11

I've (obviously) had a lot of weight fluctuation over the last three years, and here is a detail that I didn't expect: clothes are much less forgiving than other people's eyes. In other words, it takes a much bigger change for other people to think "Huh, that person looks different", whereas just a few pounds can make your clothes uncomfortable.

(The part I didn't expect how vast the gulf is. Loosely speaking, my clothes can handle a range of N pounds, and people don't notice anything within a range of 4N-5N.) I think this might be part of why people hold themselves to a much harsher, rigid weight expectation than they have for other people.

I'm not saying we ought to have any weight expectation whatsoever for other people. Let them weigh what they weigh. I'm saying most people do have gentler standards for other people than for themselves, and I think this issue might explain a lot of it - you notice when your clothes are tighter waaaaaay before you look noticeably different to anyone else.


 

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FML

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.11

Oh my god, a skunk sprayed somewhere inside the building, near my office. It smells so awful. I don't want to smell like skunk when I leave the building. This building has had its ups and downs, but this is the worst.


 

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The work of weddings

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.12.11

Good post on the division of labor in wedding planning:

Sniezek went ahead and looked at the devision of labor between genders in wedding planning (for heterosexual couples). The reason she says she was looking into this is that sociologists hadn't before looked at weddings in terms of work or division of labor:
[A] good portion of the work involved in wedding is easily overlooked as it is frequently "invisible" stereotypical women's work. Wedding planning, for example, involves very similar tasks as routine housework including decorating, making meal choices, shopping and coordinating family schedules (Westlake-Chester 1995; Sniezek 2002). Wedding work, such as arranging airport transportation for guests and stamping invitations is, like housework, taken for granted and seemingly unending (Sniezek 2002).
So she interviewed these 20 couples to see how their perception of this type of work was perceived and how it played out.

It's a quick read, and it's interesting.

So what? Does it matter that couples think they are jointly planning their wedding, which is totally in the bride's wheelhouse, and thus not surprising that she's actually doing more work? If they were jointly building a treehouse for the kids, would the ratios flip?

Sniezek argues that this is a problem because not only is this yet another area of life where women take on more work that is perceived as less valuable, but because this is often the first major project the couples take on together (about half her sample lived together before tying the knot, about on par with the rate of couples nationally at the time).

Who knows. Still, I thought it was interesting.

Via Becks


 

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Dumb thoughts for Monday

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.12.11

I've never lived in a house that had a garage. It seems weird to build actual foundation, and walls, and square footage, and then have it be this dank unpleasant place. I suppose if you have a messy hobby like working on cars or carpentry, a garage could be perfect. Or if you like to bang on the drums all day.

Are garages almost always junk repositories? What is the advantage over a carport? Do people love their garages?


 

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This claims to be the antidote to annoying things.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.11.11

This next email forward - same sender - is topical to 9/11. And the sender is a cousin who incidentally lost her cousin on the other side in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, a fact which she name-drops in all sorts of random emails, but oddly enough not this one.

Short version: God hand-selected certain people to live that day, but did a spectacular job making it look like the ordinary statistical distribution of reasons why people sometimes run late. So next time God is making you late, console yourself that he's probably saving your ass.

Short short version: what the fucking fuck?

There is no reason to click through and actually read the damn thing. I just included it for completeness. Also I'm not going to post any more of her forwards unless they're particularly amazing, so don't worry about this becoming a thing.

The ' L I T T L E ' Things

As you might remember, the head of a company survived
9/11 because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was
His turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her
Alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike
Because of an auto accident.

One of them
Missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take
Time to change.

One's
Car wouldn't start.

One couldn't
Get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man
Who put on a new pair of shoes that morning,
Took the various means to get to work
But before he got there, he developed
a blister on his foot.

He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.
That is why he is alive today..

Now when I am
Stuck in traffic ,
Miss an elevator,
Turn back to answer a ringing telephone ...

All the little things that annoy me.
I think to myself,
This is exactly where
God wants me to be
At this very moment..
Next time your morning seems to be
Going wrong ,

You can't seem to find the car keys,
You hit every traffic light,
Don't get mad or frustrated;
It May be just that
God is at work watching over you.

May God continue to bless you
With all those annoying little things
And may you remember their possible purpose.

Pass this on to someone else, if you'd like.
There is NO LUCK attached.
If you delete this, it's okay:
God's Love Is Not Dependent On E-Mail!!


 

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