It's not people.
I'm fascinated by this soylent stuff. I would totally give it a whirl. I'd prefer something like this for almost all my non-social meals.
(Possibly I'm just seduced by the glorious description of its transformative powers. It's not like I've sought out freeze-dried space rations thus far.)
Guest Post - Writing for free, part two
Mentioner mentions: It's the more recent TNC post about compensation for writers. What is really interesting to me is the dissent from TNC's opinion that happens in the comments. His comment section is the second-best on the Intertoobz, IMO. I decline to mention the first-best.
My take is that, for some unknown reason, TNC is coming down on the completely wrong side of this argument. He is unusually tone deaf here. No one is saying that there isn't any "inherent" merit to unpaid work, just that it seems that the journalism companies are still taking advantage of the paradigm.
ATM: egregious analogy ban violation edition
President Yertle writes: Remember that time everyone was talking about being offered puppies with brain tumors and healthy guinea pigs and wolf cubs and whatnot? Well, I got a turtle.
Turtles require a lot less care than mammals, so I don't get paid that much to take care of it. Specifically I get paid .5 of the guinea pig rate, as a base salary. My turtle will never turn in to a guinea pig, but it will probably live for many many many years.
My particular turtle and I are housed in the Training Department of the pet store. Within the Training Department, we are in a tiny program (1.5 pet carers) that focuses on, let's say, hand signals. I am the .5 in that number. The 1.0 left unexpectedly at the end of last semester. We're in the process of searching for a replacement now, hopefully to start in the fall.
Anyway, meanwhile, the Hand Signals program is a subsidiary of another program (for... um... Training Pet Owners with Certain Special Needs?). And the director of THAT program is on vacation this semester. There are two other people with guinea pigs in TPOCSN, but they don't do any work in Hand Signals at all. So I'm the only one in Hand Signals. And the rest of the Training Department just focuses on other kinds of training that involve spoken commands etc; there's zero overlap and I never see or interact with any of them.
SO, since I'm the only one there, I have ended up being given/asked/left with nearly all of the work for the program. At this point I'm actually getting .6 of a real salary, due to an overload contract last fall and another one this spring for running the Center for Practicing Hand Signals. But I'm nowhere close to getting a guinea-pig-type salary, and I'm doing all the work of taking care of one. You know, advising all the trainee pet owners, and talking to their parents, and coordinating all the (7) contract goldfish watchers and their issues, and running an extracurricular club for the trainee pet owners who are especially interested in hand signals, and helping with the search for the replacement person, etc. Some of these things I agreed to HELP with, but I have ended up doing them all, by myself, because there is no one else to do them.
I met with the Dean of the Pet Carers to complain about this, ask for some clarification in my expected duties, and ask for some additional money please. She was supportive and sympathetic and said she needed to look into it, and would get back to me soon.
That was 3 weeks ago today. I sent a follow up email last week. No reply. Today I got an email asking me to please set up two weekend presentations and office hours for prospective future pet-owners-in-training, because, the writer said, she had been told I was the interim program director. This is the third time I have been asked to do something like this by someone who had been told that.
I forwarded this to the dean, asking for advice, as well. I can't reach the actual (vacationing) program director because he's currently on a field trip to Haiti and won't be back until May.
I am planning to abandon my turtle after next year. I'll start applying for other (guinea-pig or higher) positions in the fall. I would like to maintain friendly enough relationships with all of these people so that they write nice things in their reference letters. However, I would also like to stop doing quite so much work without being paid for it.
What do you guys think I should do about this?
Heebie's take: No freaking clue. They sound completely exploitative-by-incompetence, and your choices are to either let things start falling apart or to keep squeaking. Let's hope the mineshaft is more helpful than I am.
Guest Post - Foster Parents
Thorn writes: The content of the linked post is not going to be news to most of the people who hang out in the comments where I rant, but friends and I wrote a list of things we wished people understood better about fostering and Sharon Astyk wrote up a blog post.My input was minimal, but the concept of a gin-and-chocolate fund (ajay's suggestion for the sort of compensation I've earned, and which I use a little mantra when doing that stupid self-care stuff we're always reminded to focus on) was much appreciated by the other writers and several of them have decided what they'd adapt it to for their own needs.
Because that doesn't give people much to argue about, I'll also mention that I've linked to the fosterhood blog in the past. Blogger Rebecca has been fostering her current baby ("Sandy") since the fall hurricane and then earlier this week brought home a newborn (Clementine) she hopes to adopt, though there was a lot of drama there in a disconnect between her private foster agency's placement plan and what the state/regional government agency, ACS, wanted and thought was appropriate. ANYWAY, what interested me was this post, where she breaks down how she spends the stipend check that foster parents get. I have to say I was sort of shocked that her babysitter, Asia, is willing to work for $30 a day, which seems outrageously low even if we weren't talking about NYC, and yet I don't have any problem with my own decision to foster for less than that.
Heebie's take: I saw the first link elsewhere from Thorn, and had thought about posting it, because I think there's something to argue about on the first point: "We're Not Freaking Saints".
I can understand how it's unhelpful if the rest of the world considers you supernatural or holy or something for doing what you're doing. OTOH, the reasons that most of us don't foster parent is largely because...well, I don't know everyone's personal reasons. But generally it seems hard and scary.
I think the resolution might be this: IIRC, Tedra's argument that parenting is not a choice goes roughly "At best you may have made made a choice to have a kid, at one point, many months before your kid was born or adopted. Since then, you were on a roller coaster without the option to change your mind."
Perhaps that's the key with being a foster parent: Yes, you really did make a saintly decision for each kid to come into your life. Sorry, but you did. But day to day, you're just strapped to the roller coaster, doing what's in front of you, like everyone else. (Strapped to a board, hurtling along train tracks, forced to look upwards through a tube, and all you can say is "Oh well, that's life!")
ATM: Interview the kids
This weekend is Geebie Family Day! One tradition I want to start is to interview the kids and get some good life perspective from their goofy little brains. What questions should we ask?
Re-evaluating Tactics For Dealing With Crazy People
Over the course of forty years walking around NY, I have developed a firmly ingrained reaction to people being floridly nutty around me, which is not to visibly react at all. If there is some non-obvious way to put distance between us without looking as though I'm intentionally avoiding them, I'll do that, but otherwise it's all about going on about my business as though no one was doing anything untoward.
Tuesday, I was walking to pick up Sally from rugby, and saw a guy walking fast in a sort of back and forth erratic kind of way and shouting about his lack of interest in participating in homosexual relations (phrased in a somewhat more colloquial register) to no particular audience about half a block ahead of me. To avoid him, I would have had to either turn around and walk in the opposite direction, or squeeze between parked cars to cross the street midblock, so I kept walking toward him, figuring I'd ignore him, he'd keep on shouting into space, and we'd both go on about our business. As it worked out, thirty seconds later he was shouting into my face about his active interest in participating in heterosexual relations (again, colloquially) from about four inches away -- close enough that I felt him breathing on me.
So I (reflexively, this wasn't an active decision) maintained my no-reaction policy, didn't flinch, kept walking, and he kept going in the other direction, no harm done. But I found myself thinking that there's a point where the not-flinching reaction is a bad idea -- if he'd been violent, I'd have felt like an idiot for not having done something to get away from him, and that should probably have been before he was less than a foot from me.
Eh, I don't know. It's not like the situation comes up often -- I can't think of another time when I've been actively targeted like that by a scary shouting person. I just felt a bit like one of those endangered parrots whose defense mechanism is to remain absolutely motionless when a predator is in sight, to the point that they stand there while housecats eat them.
The sky is falling!
Google Reader is closing. Do you know where your bookmarks are?
Cali Higher Ed
If I may quote Helpy-chalk wholesale:
California gutted funds for higher education, and is now mandating that colleges accept credit for courses taken from for-profit colleges instead. It is the standard Republican tactic of sabotaging the public sector service and then force people to buy the inferior service from their private sector cronies.
is exactly right.
Languages spoken by very few people in the US
Texas German is dying out. There was one occasion when I was at a faculty retreat. We were trying to find our cabins at essentially a summer camp, and were wandering down a dirt road, and asked an old farmer type for directions. His accent was a super weird combination of European and heavy Texan, and it was explained to me afterwards that he probably spoke Texas German.
Hawaiian ASL is its own language.
Not really in the same category, but fascinating article about what it's like to go through life lip-reading.
The latter two via E. Messily via FB, except that wasn't her exact link on Hawaiian ASL.
Bob Woodward, John Belushi, and Tanner Colby
Obviously there've been a lot of recent Bob-Woodward-is-an-ass articles lately. This one is particularly interesting.
Apparently Woodward wrote the semi-definitive biography of John Belushi, a year or two after his death. The author of the linked article was commissioned to write a new biography by Belushi's widow, two decades later, and so found himself looking up Woodward's sources and deconstructing the original biography line by line. Woodward is an ass.
Guest Post - Forced c-section
NickS writes: I don't have anything to add. Just awful. . .
Epsteen, 35, was more than a week past the due date for her baby boy. Despite a ultrasound that alarmed her doctors, she wanted to wait until Friday to schedule the caesarean surgery, which would be her fifth.
"I am deeply concerned that you are contributing to a very high probability that your fetus will die or your child will incur brain damage if born alive. At this time, you must come in for delivery," Yankowitz wrote.
"I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in, but you are leaving the providers of USF/TGH no choice," he continued.
Epsteen said she panicked.
"In a couple of hours there are going to be cops on my doorstep taking me away from home -- in front of my children -- to force me into having surgery," she recalled thinking.
Heebie's take: I don't think it's quite as crazy as all that. On Tuesday, a week past her due date, an ultrasound shows a fetus in distress. She wants to wait till Friday till induce? Because she doesn't have childcare for her two year old? What if she'd just plain gone into labor - what was she going to do with her child?
Furthermore, I am all in favor of VBACs - vaginal birth after c-section, but she wants a VBAC with her 5th child, after four c-sections. That means her uterus is really scarred and unpredictable. The fact that the doctor is willing to consider it signals to me that he's generally willing to go to decent lengths to respect the mother's wishes and work with her to have a safe delivery that matches her preferences. IMO she's being the cuckoo one here.
Most doctors will not let you go more than a week past your due date, because your amniotic fluid can start to leak out and fetal outcomes get worse. From what I can glean, this is highly understudied - the data is not very good on what happens two or three weeks past your due date, and whether the sheer length of time is itself cause for alarm. But the doctor is certainly within mainstream beliefs that after a week, you must get induced.
(My first OB showed me a graph - I wish I'd xeroxed it - that showed fetal mortality as a function of time. According to Dr. Asshole, the safest time to give birth was at 38-39 weeks, and according to his Magic Graph with its misleadingly stretched y-axis, you were already pushing your luck by daring to go full term. By 41 weeks, you were just asking for a dead baby.)
Guest Post - Possession of other weapons
Unimaginative writes: I was recently called on to serve on a county level grand jury, which had the responsibility to decide whether individuals should be indicted for felonies. The basic concept is that 23 random citizens listen to the police officer and/or witnesses describe what happened, and decide whether there is any evidence that supports the charge. We don't usually hear the defenses. We got about 30 cases a day, and we sat once a week for 18 weeks. One thing I learned is that 23 random citizens are somewhat less inclined to discuss issues of crime and punishment than the folks around here.
One block of cases might keep this group occupied for a few hours.
The statute: "Any person who knowingly has in his possession any other weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree."
"Other weapon" is not defined in the statute. Here are the cases, with a few bits slightly varied to preserve grand jury secrecy:
(1) The bad guy entered an unlocked garage, grabbed a lawnmower and a bicycle, and drove off. He's pulled over a few minutes later, and has a boxcutter in his pocket. He's charged with theft and with the weapons statute.
(2) The bad guy is acting drunk or high, and belligerent in a convenience store, and he grabs a soda without paying. The police come to ticket him for shoplifting, and he is uncooperative and vaguely threatens them. They pat him down and find a knife in his pocket. Since the shoplifting isn't a felony, the only issue is the weapons charge.
(3) The bad guy crashed his car, and he's injured and drunk. The police pull him out of his car and find a switchblade in his pocket, and two more sizable blades in the glove compartment. He's charged with both drunk driving and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Since we're on a grand jury, the statute is read to us but there is no interpretation offered and we're not allowed to look things up. Should we have indicted these sad sacks?
Bonus grand juror question: The typical case involves about ten minutes of testimony by the arresting officer, followed by a vote. You are physically present, but you realize as the vote is being requested you realize that you spaced out and have zero recollection of the witness, the crime described, or anything that was said in the past few minutes. Generally but not always, if there is any doubt about the case someone would start a discussion, and no one has done that. Also, the prosecutor has up to now brought cases suitable for indictment to the grand jury. It takes 12 to indict, and there are a few more than 12 in the room. Do you vote for indictment? Abstaining counts as a "no" vote, and a bad guy could go free if you don't.
Writing for free
There's been the series of writing-for-free articles that have been floating around recently. Here's Ta-Nehisi Coates, who basically says "I've written for free a lot, but I think I should have been paid."
Maybe there should be a free-lance writer's union? There's such a glut of writers, and so many of them are so terrible, that it's hard to say that magical market forces will ever compel profitable publishers to treat writers fairly if they don't have to.
We watched Bernie last night. I enjoyed it. Spoilers here, and after the jump.
It's just so sad that he's still sitting in prison!