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Guest Post - Living Wage

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.13

Chris Y writes: OK, hive mind, would this work?

Labour would offer tax breaks to persuade the private sector to pay a living wage as a way to boost productivity and cut welfare bills, Ed Miliband will propose on Saturday.
The Labour leader suggests that firms could be offered either tax reliefs on training or capital investment, or lower business rates, in return for paying the living wage."

Obviously this proposal is being made in a British context, but I don't see why it couldn't be generalised to any developed country.

The living wage is currently set at £7.45 per hour outside London and £8.55 in the capital. There are 200 employers accredited with the living wage campaign. The statutory minimum wage is £6.19.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank has calculated that if all those currently on the minimum wage received the living wage there would be a £2.2bn net saving to the public sector including higher income tax and national insurance receipts.

Clearly the private sector isn't going to come on board with effectively higher minimum wages without there being something in it for them. This could be done by threatening them with expropriation at gunpoint or by bribing them, and at this juncture, we're talking about bribery. So most of that £2.2 billion is going to go right back to the employers, but the promising bit as I see it is that the government would be in a position to make "stuffing their mouths with gold" conditional on them actually doing something about training and investment, rather than just taking it down to the casino in the usual way.

What's the catch?

Also, I love this bit, from the same article:

On Friday, he [Miliband] was forced in Chesterfield market square by a passing pensioner to make a public vow that if elected he will speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing the truth.

I should live to see it.

Heebie's take: Would these incentives be available to all companies? Because Wall Street already pays well above the living wage, and it seems like a free handout to wealthy companies that can damn well afford to just pay a living wage.

I have a counter-proposal: All companies required to pay all employees a living wage. If your business literally can't afford this, but you think you still offer a public good, then you write a grant proposal, applying to go on business-welfare, which would subsidize your employee's wages. If you're approved.


 

horizontal rule

 

Missing Children

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.03.13

Does my iphone really need to have an Amber alert feature built right into the operating system? It was going off all day yesterday until I got around to disabling it. Couldn't it just be an app that you download?

I get that most of society's ills don't lend themselves to cell phone technology so well - I don't need an urgent alert when subsidized housing waitlists become critically long or when funding gets slashed from schools - and finding missing children really benefits from having an army of iPhone users scanning the streets for the specific car. But it contributes to the idea that the worst of all our problems in this country is missing children, and that annoys me.

Also it annoys me that they don't follow up and let you know when (if) they found the kid.


 

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Jalapenos used to be spicy?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.03.13

Depressing!


 

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SJSU philosophy dept on MOOCs

Posted by Ben
on 05.02.13

Here.

The idea that someone who describes the average professor's activities, even classroom activities, as "spouting content" is taken seriously by people running universities is rather dispiriting.


 

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A Year Off

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.02.13

This guy turns off the internet for one year and writes about it. For the first two months, life is fuller and richer and colors are more saturated. Then life reasserts itself. I really enjoyed this piece, partly for its lack of definitive answers.

Two thoughts:
1. I wasn't that productive pre-Internet, either. I did a lot of cross-sums. I bought books of cross-sums and would listen to Lovelines, drink a glass of wine, and do cross-sums with the cat in my lap, to relax at night. A very fond ritual.

To be productive, pre-internet, I had to be deliberate: get out of my apartment, go to a coffee shop with my books or whatever, and hunker down. That's still the case, (although now I have an office and I am capable of getting work done there.) I feel like we've collectively forgotten the stupid ways we wasted time, pre-internet. And also how much boring time was spent waiting in lines, for things which are now automated and fast.

2. I was at a conference, during the summer of 2005, and I spontaneously decided to take a year off desserts. (I know I've told this story before, and possibly even posted about it, but it seems relevant.)

I didn't come up with the idea; a professor had done this, and told me about it. We were at the conference banquet, and the dessert was this fabulous chocolate molten mess of chocolatiness, and I thought "That was so delicious. That's the perfect note to end on." Then I announced it to the table of strangers and it made for decent smalltalk for the next ten minutes or so.

So I stuck to it, super strictly. Jammies and I started dating in February. He showed up at my door on Valentines Day with coffee and muffins, and dropped them off on the way to work, and I found that to be the most adorable gesture possible. After he left, I threw the muffins away, because they were too dessert-like to be allowed.

The experiment started to seem like a terrible idea right about the time that I'd sunk so much time into it that I couldn't bear to throw in the towel, maybe around December or January. I craved desserts the whole year.

After it was over, I went back to eating desserts, same as ever. I thought perhaps my sweet tooth would be recalibrated and I'd have a lower satiety point. Nope.


 

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"I'm a straight Indian filmmaker looking to explore other options,"

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.02.13

Sherman Alexie reacts to Jason Collins coming out, and is very funny about what it's like for men to be objects of desire. I'm not sure exactly what his point is, or if there really is a point, but it was funny and seemed like something Ogged would have posted.

How do I react to these sexual advances? My first thought is "Men are boundaryless animals." My second thought is "Women have to deal with this shit all the time." My third thought is "How flattering." My fourth thought is "I wish this dude hitting on me was cuter."
(From Tedra's FB feed.)

 

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Guest Post - Pessimism

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.01.13

Nick S writes: I went on a family trip to the coast last weekend and found myself thinking, as one is wont to do, about global warming which then lead me to a different thought.

Consider all of the various scare medium- to long-term problems on the horizon: global warming, peak oil, shortages of fresh water, antibiotic-resistant diseases, etc . . . what would have to happen in the next thirty years for there to be a general consensus that things were going badly and that, generally speaking, educated people in Western industrialized nations were not as well off as they had been in 2013?

When I think about the last thirty years I know that there have been all sorts of troubling tends, but my first impulse would be to unequivocally say that the average person is better off now than they were in 1983. The risk of catastrophic nuclear war seems much lower, the internet is fantastic, restaurant food (and grocery store prepared food) is much much better, the combination of high-tech and cheap manufacturing means that the average person has a lot more (and generally cooler) stuff than the person from 1983, etc . . .

I am aware of the negative long-term trends; that median wages have stagnated, that housing, education, and health care are way more expensive and retirement less secure. That it's possible that our food and public-health systems are less safe than they were (though I'm not sure about that -- partially because personal and cultural memory isn't very good for a question like that), etc . . . But, still, if you asked me, I wouldn't hesitate before saying that life is better now than in 1983.

So, my question, assume that the long-term problems mentioned above are serious, is there anything which will be both visible enough, and have a large-enough impact on day-to-day life that it would make it normal or relatively uncontroversial for people in 2043 to think back on 2013 as a better time to have been an educated American?

Heebie's take: Interesting question! To me, the question is asking "what would it take for our cultural narrative to be one of decline?" I think it would take sustained economic decline - not high unemployment, because that doesn't make it into the general news, but a decade of a stagnant stock market, say - coupled with a narrative (possibly inaccurate) that our hospitals and schools were generally failing.


 

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And you'd always be well-rested.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.01.13

Want to know what a cheeseball I am? I consider this website excruciatingly gorgeous.

(My actual taste runs a little more structured and organized than those photos, but they still make me feel all dreamy.)


 

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Unfoggedy-boboggedy-bananarama-momoggedy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.01.13

It's Mayday! Unfoggedydoggedycon is fast upon us! Official party on Saturday, May 25th, but plenty of people (myself and Ace included) will be around all weekend.

Let's use this thread for:
1. planning specifics - do people need help finding baby-sitters? (You can use the downstairs rental if you'd like to keep the kids nearby.) Are you searching for a couch to surf?
2. If someone could re-link that spreadsheet which has been storing a lot of information.
3. As always, there are donations available if money is a concern. Swallow your foolish pride and email me at heebie dot geebie at gmail. I'll keep it a secret and you won't have Unfoggedycon regret.
4. And if you want to throw some scratch in the donation pile, use that same email address on PayPal. Anything that doesn't go to help people attend will help fund the party, and anything after that will go towards paying for the server.

I haven't yet gotten the exact address of the rental - when I do, I'll post something and you'll need to email me to get it.


 

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Pants on fire

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.01.13

One thing that you want to do as a parent is instill in your kids a sense that what they say is worth something, and won't be written off. That you trust their words come from their perspective. In other words, if you negate every single batty thing your kid says, then you'll demolish them as a person because nearly every thing they say is batty. So you get things like Hokey Pokey saying "I'm drinking apple juice!" when you know perfectly well you just gave him water, and you just roll with it.

This is completely consistent with teaching your kids how to lie. If Hawaii comes out of the bathroom after two seconds, and I call to her "Did you use the bathroom or just flush the toilet?" and she says "Used the bathroom!"...I'm just going to roll with it*. (If she has an accident, then she'll learn from that.)

I know learning to lie is completely developmentally normal, and I'm not freaked out about it. I'll go a step further, though, and say it's even a good thing. You want your kids to understand that their words are heard in ways specific to the listener. Lying is a tool, and one you want to first understand and second bring good judgement to.

* Not always. If we're going to be in the car for a while, I'll call her out on it. Context, context.


 

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Mix thread!

Posted by Ben
on 04.30.13

I made a mix of mopey sad bastard music, but with a vaguely vernal theme. See? Tracklist below the fold … your mixes in the comments??????

01 - Josh Berman, Aram Shelton, Weasel Walter - Bandwagon (excerpt)
02 - Josh Ritter - Bright Smile
03 - Lavender Diamond - Everybody's Heart's Breaking Now
04 - Ella Fitzgerald - Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
05 - Oren Ambarchi - Salt
06 - Dominique Leone - Conversational
07 - Carl Ruggles - Angels for four trumpets and three trombones
08 - Polwechsel & Fennesz - Framing 8
09 - Efterklang - Step Aside
10 - Dum Dum Girls - Trees And Flowers
11 - Who Cares How Long You Sink - Like Organic Life
12 - Fred Frith - White (for Andy Goldsworthy)
13 - Iva Bittová and Pavel Fajt - Morning Song


 

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USA Today

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.30.13

Al Neuharth, the guy who started USA Today, died last week.

Just two years after launch, in November 1984, USA TODAY was losing $340,000 a day. Neuharth summoned his top executives to a grim meeting at a Florida restaurant.
They entered a private dining room to find Neuharth dressed in a robe and wearing a crown of thorns; a wooden cross leaned against the wall. Neuharth served kosher wine and unleavened bread, declared himself "the crucified one" and warned that those at the table who did not improve their performance would be "passed over." There was nervous laughter but also silence.
Charles Overby, Neuharth's aide who sometimes taught Sunday school, called it "the most offensive thing I have ever seen in my adult life."

What a nut.


 

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Guest Post - Vote on SF Pride!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.30.13

J, Robot writes: Do you want a) an anti-war whistleblower, or b) a pro-war, bomb-promoting, racist, rape-inciting float in your Parade? After careful consideration, I'm going with choice "a".

Heebie's take: This came in pre-Jason Collins, but he's also a nice, gay, thing to discuss.


 

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Singing Room for a Shy Person

Posted by Ben
on 04.29.13

I seem to recall that in some long-ago encounter with a previous version of Ranjit Bhatnagar's web site I read something about his having or having previously had a patron. "How does one get a patron?" I probably wondered at the time. "I'd like a patron."

It is probably by being pretty awesome:

The Singing Room is a place for anyone to sing freely, and in public. The room has been built with the "Shy Person" in mind, allowing them to sing without being exposed to the assumed scrutiny of others. Visitors are invited to sing in a small sound proof room. As they sing, the musical instruments outside of the room, abstractly interpret their singing. Each syllable pronounced by the singer is projected as musical and/or acoustic sounds. The installation is deliberately loud, further ensuring that that Shy Person cannot be heard.

Ranjit is also the person behind Pentametron and scans of produce.


 

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Guest Post - Femivores, Michael Pollan

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.29.13

Blume writes: This article isn't very focused, but it seems like unfogged might be interested in discussing the New Domesticity. (Excerpt below from the part I find most interesting.)

The femivore phenomenon: Cooking as creative homemaking
For young stay-at-home parents, a deep involvement in cooking and sustainable food culture can be a very twenty-first-century way of avoiding the notorious "just a housewife" trap. In 2010, writer Peggy Orenstein coined the term "femivore" to describe a certain breed of stay-at-home mom whose commitment to providing the purest, most sustainable foods has become a full-fledged raison d'être. These are the women who raise backyard chickens, grow their own vegetables for their children's salads, join raw-milk clubs to get illegal-but-allegedly-wholesome unpasteurized milk.
"Femivore" is an infelicitous-sounding term (do they eat women?!) but an on-target concept. Femivores, Orenstein says, use food as "an unexpected out from the feminist predicament, a way for women to embrace homemaking without becoming Betty Draper." As Orenstein describes it, femivorism helps give social legitimacy to stay-at-home motherhood, which is something we see in many facets of New Domesticity. She writes: Femivorism is grounded in the very principles of self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal fulfillment that drove women into the work force in the first place. Given how conscious (not to say obsessive) everyone has become about the source of their food--who these days can't wax poetic about compost?-- it also confers instant legitimacy. Rather than embodying the limits of one movement, femivores expand those of another: feeding their families clean, flavorful food; reducing their carbon footprints; producing sustainably instead of consuming rampantly. What could be more vital, more gratifying, more morally defensible?

Heebie's take: I hadn't quite put my finger on this (even though I knew all the facts):

Claiming that feminism killed home cooking is not just shaming, it's wildly inaccurate from a historical standpoint.
As should be obvious to anyone who's peeked at a cookbook from the late 1940s or early 1950s that promotes ingredients like sliced hot dogs and canned tomato soup, we've been eating processed crap since long before feminism. Yet the idea of the feminist abandoning her children to TV dinners while she rushes off to a consciousness-raising group is unshakable.

I've been irritated in the past when Pollan et al blame feminism for the end of cooking, and I knew there was an explosion of post-war, prepackaged, nasty food, but I hadn't identified this quite so clearly before.


 

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Guest Post - Made Up Data Edition

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.29.13

E. Messily writes: Plus, more academic fraud. Seriously, this experiment sounds ridiculous to me, even before he threw the questionnaires away and ate all the M&Ms himself:

Stapel designed one such study to test whether individuals are inclined to consume more when primed with the idea of capitalism. He and his research partner developed a questionnaire that subjects would have to fill out under two subtly different conditions. In one, an M&M-filled mug with the word "kapitalisme" printed on it would sit on the table in front of the subject; in the other, the mug's word would be different, a jumble of the letters in "kapitalisme." Although the questionnaire included questions relating to capitalism and consumption, like whether big cars are preferable to small ones, the study's key measure was the amount of M&M's eaten by the subject while answering these questions.

Anyway, the dude just straight up fabricated tons of data and used it to write fake articles and get lots of fancy promotions, and then got caught.

Heebie's take: I'm home alone with baby! I can sit for long stretches in front of the computer! Houseguests are all gone! Euphoria.

What I'm planning to do is take the guest submissions and post the ones that are somewhat time-sensitive, and then hang on to ones that aren't for a little longer.


 

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Guest Post - Video games fucking rock!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.28.13

E. Messily writes: Wasn't there a thread a while ago about John Scalzi's "lowest difficulty setting" metaphor? I'm too lazy/sick to find it, but this follow-up seems interesting.

Heebie's take: I don't actually remember discussing the first link, but it was linked pretty widely so I assume a lot of you saw it. The original slightly bugged me in a way that the follow-up doesn't, mostly because the follow-up takes place in a classroom. The original is so clear, easy and bite-size, (and set in a freaking video game) that it annoys me. People with privilege have a vested interest in not grasping privilege, and the extensive hand-holding gets tiresome. OTOH, the classroom is the appropriate place for walking people through bite-size, clear, hand-holding steps, and so with that audience in mind, the latter seems appropriate.


 

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Guest Post - Death On Mars

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.28.13

Parodie writes: Do you know anyone who wants to die on Mars? Apparently there is a group planning a one-way trip to Mars and they are accepting applications. The process looks rather entertaining - and the last two rounds will be broadcast and voted on, reality-show-style, to help raise funds. Brilliant or insane?


 

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