Hit Coffee is the story of Will Truman (trumwill),
transplant in the mountain west with an IT background who bides his time
substitute teaching while his wife brings home the bacon.
This site is a collection of reflections
on the goings-on in his life and in the world around him. You will probably
be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the
third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.
Greetings from Callie, Arapaho, a red town in a red state known for growing
red meat. And from Redstone, Arapaho(Aw-RAH-pah-hoe), a blue city with blue collar roots that's been feeling blue
for quite some time.
Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though
if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character
and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.
This website is maintained by Guy Webster (web),
who also contributes from time to time.
Web hails from the midwest and currently lives
in Truman's home city of Colosse, Delosa. He works as a utility IT person at
Southern Tech University, their alma mater.
Also contributing is Sheila Tone (stone) a West Coaster, breeder, and lawyer
who has probably hooked up with some loser just like you and sees through
your whole pathetic little act.
Patrick Hruby argues that NCAA basketball players should go on strike. The argument for paying college football players is weak. The argument for basketball is even weaker. If they want to get paid, and they’re really good, they have a multitude of options. Also, Title IX. You can’t may men’s basketball without also paying women’s.
Matt Yglesias points out that if we had more dense cities, we’d have less dense elsewheres. This would allow for more things like grass-fed cattle ranching. Though true, it still doesn’t explain how you get the rest of the country to agree to more dense living.
Due to a labor dispute an entire Arena Football team was fired during a pregame meal. Stranger still? The on-the-spot replacement team went on to win.
I really hope that makeshift publishing becomes a thing. If we’re going to keep paper books around, the inventory problem has to be dealt with.
China has begun construction of a megacity, planned to be four times the population of New York and twice the size of Jersey. A part of me thinks this is just awesome. Except that I fear it will be disasterous.
Tim Noah suggests that Romney’s attack on the light bulk regulation that will retire the incandescents is misguided, and that he should instead focus on toilets:
A much more vulnerable target for anti-regulatory ire is the low-flow toilet, bequeathed by a law–passed in 1992 under President George H.W. “Poppy” Bush, so you can’t blame this on Democrats either–that mandates a very stingy 1.6 gallons per flush, as compared to the traditional three to five gallons. For at least the first generation of post-regulatory toilets, one of which I have the misfortune to own, 1.6 gallons is not sufficient. (Thank God I don’t live in California, where you get only 1.28 gallons.) This problem doesn’t get discussed much, even by conservatives, because the details are disgusting.
As someone who deals with toilet overflows on a regular basis, I am rather sympathetic to this. I have before recommended that we embrace two-flush mode toilets. As long as most trips to the restroom are urinary in nature, it does make sense to limit the amount of water being used (they do save water, extra flushes notwithstanding). However, a lack of water can fail to force large deposits through. And I tend to leave large deposits.
Really, though, bigger than toilets and lights (the new ones don’t bother me at all, though Clancy doesn’t like them) are low-flow showers. I have recommended in the past that we go with two-mode showers as well. You basically have a limit to the flow except when you’re pushing a particular button, which would send a rush that would slow back down (not unlike public sinks use to prevent people from leaving the water on. That way, less water when you don’t need it, but more water when you’re washing your hair. I don’t know how easy or difficult this is to do technically, however.
Bigger pains to me than that, though, is the phosphate ban. This does have some negative environmental repercussions, because it means more time is spent hand-cleaning everything before putting it in the dishwasher (and hand-cleaning uses a lot more water than dishwashes do).
The biggest pain on the horizon are the potential for plastic bag bans. For the most part, movement is towards a tax. I can actually live with a tax. I’ll pay five cents or ten cents for each bag. I’ll pay even more if they would make the bags just a little bit sturdier and larger. But bringing my own bags to shop with is rather problematic. Maybe I can get in the habit of it and I’ll wonder why I ever hated it, but until I started putting it on my phone, I was lucky if I made it out the door with my shopping list.
According to Thomas Freedman, we shouldn’t be worried about broadband capabilities in rural America:
Right now, though, notes Levin, America is focused too much on getting “average” bandwidth to the last 5 percent of the country in rural areas, rather than getting “ultra-high-speed” bandwidth to the top 5 percent, in university towns, who will invent the future. By the end of 2012, he adds, South Korea intends to connect every home in the country to the Internet at one gigabit per second. “That would be a tenfold increase from the already blazing national standard, and more than 200 times as fast as the average household setup in the United States,” The Times reported last February.
Therefore, the critical questions for America today have to be how we deploy more ultra-high-speed networks and applications in university towns to invent more high-value-added services and manufactured goods and how we educate more workers to do these jobs — the only way we can maintain a middle class.
I know the fact that people live in rural areas and small towns is inconvenient for people obsessed with national planning and technological fetishism, but that’s the reality of the United States. You can’t just marginalize these people and their futures by dooming them to second-rate access to resources. I mean, you can, but then you have to deal with endemic poverty, high rates of drug use, domestic violence, and any number of other social problems.
He is particularly concerned about rural Hispanics.
I am, of course, in the middle of this. I am a broadband using geek living in rural America. So naturally, I am sympathetic to the idea that the “last 5%” should get broadband. I am not presently in the last 5%, but I’m close enough to it that we would have to be careful about where we buy a home. I’ve already let it be known that broadband is not optional. But I am a computer geek. A lot of people out here can live with cut-rate connectivity. There’s nowhere in the country (or the lower 48, anyway) that you can’t get something, even if it’s satellite. Satellite might not be good enough for me, but I am not a typical case. The degree to which the rest of the country should bend over backwards for its most rural brethren is limited.
It leads to projects like this, where millions was spent on areas with 35k homes, of which 30k already had fixed broadband service. Over 90% of the remaining 5k had 3G availability, which isn’t ideal but is still something. I would be surprised if satellite were not an option for the remaining 500 houses. At some point, I think you have to say “good enough” and move on.
On the other hand, Friedman’s suggestion about the top 5% leaves me cold. Namely because we want a degree of universality to our service. Even if some get left behind, web site developers and content deliverers (like Netflix, Hulu, etc.) need to have some idea of the sorts of speeds that people are going to get. If you plug in Silicon Valley, and their speeds are significantly faster than everyone else (who isn’t in the top 5%, that is), they will be developing things for those speeds. This is already a problem, with inadequate buffering on the unjustified beliefs that everyman’s delivery speeds are faster than they are.
In terms of Internet, what I would very much prefer over raising speed caps is raising speed reliability. The other day I was at a coffee shop wherein all of the comments I wanted to leave at blogs had to be emailed to my cell phone, where I could then post it using my phone. The main reason is that they (I believe) have to dedicate so much of their bandwidth to downloading and so little to uploading, that the latter just became impossible. This is at a hot spot. This is where we really need improvement before we’re worried about the top 5% (or, for that matter, the left behind 5%).
KevinMD has a look at why there is such a gender gap in physician salaries. The obvious solutions, such as specialty choice or work hours, don’t appear to apply in this case. What’s particularly interesting is that the gender gap has grown hugely since 1999 despite the fact that women are moving away from lower-paying primary care jobs into higher-paying specialties. Yet, even “it’s sexism!” doesn’t work, unless one believes that sexism has increased so dramatically over the last few years.
I’m actually dumbfounded, though at the same time not particularly surprised. Now, given my wife’s career I am ten kinds of biased here, but there are a number of issues that female doctors seem to have that male doctors do not. Back in residency, there was an ongoing issue between the female doctors and the obstetrical nurses. One female resident chose to go without obstetrical training in order to not have to deal with them anymore. And to be honest, there have been ongoing issues not just between my wife and nursing staffs, but between nursing staffs and female doctors more generally. How is this pertinent? Well, because a hostile work environment is not conducive to career maximization. There have also been issues with male coworkers, particularly in Deseret, though at least where my wife has been that has been less of an issue.
Another issue is the disruption caused by family. My wife’s relationship with her current employer has long been… cagey, for lack of a better term. She has been looking to make some changes so that we can serve out the contract and they have not been very accommodating at all. For a while we wandered if they wanter her to go. But that made no sense because the shortage at the moment is so severe that my wife’s departure could lead to the ending of obstetrical care for the town of Callie. Anyhow, a few weeks ago someone let slip why they didn’t feel that accommodating Clancy was a good investment: she’s trying to get pregnant. So she’s probably leaving anyway, or is otherwise going to be gone for a significant portion of the contract. When a male doctor has children, it can be completely outsourced to the wife. When a female doctor does, it can’t. One way or another, this has to show up in salaries.
But none of this explains why it would have gotten so much worse over the last several years. If anything, it should be getting better as female doctors become more typical and they start going into the specialties. The only thing I can think of is that there has been an increasing stratification of doctor pay within the last decade or so where you have more and more profit-maximizing places popping up and women are choosing not to be a part of that. The last time my wife looked for a job, there was one posted (for which she was qualified) that made $400k a year, which is more than twice what she is currently making. And you see a fair number of these. I suspect that they are almost never filled by women, because women are less interested and women are less likely to get the job if they are (I suspect career interruptions are not well received in such environments).
For some reason, I got it in my head to watch an episode or two of Voltron. I have fond memories of Voltron. I remember the playground at West Oak Elementary where we used to argue over who would get to be which lion. I never got any of the figures myself, but I got access to them when I played with friends.
One of the things I remember was the inconvenient of the Blue Lion being female. No females at West Oak Elementary wanted to play Voltron, and no boy wanted to be the female Blue Lion. The way out of this was to say “Well the original Blue Lion was a boy!” Truthfully, I thought we were making that up. It turns out that we weren’t. There was another Blue Lion before the Princess became the Blue Lion.
One of the thoughts I had while watching it was a fan dub idea wherein the bad guy was actually a freedom fighter of sorts, who was pointing out how ridiculous it was that the townspeople lived in squalor while the royal family had all of these super-neat toys and a comparatively opulent castle. It’s funny how I notice these things as I get older.
One of my (admittedly many) quirks is my desire for variety of soft drinks. What’s particularly odd about this is that I am not much for variety otherwise (at least when it comes to food and drink). When going to an Italian restaurant, I always order the fettuccine alfredo. When I go to a Mexican restaurant, my “big choice” is between cheese enchiladas or chicken ones. Every now and again I will try something new, but it’s pretty rare. Why should I ever eat B when I prefer A. But when it comes to soft drinks, I have about twelve boxes open at any given time. Half of them are some variation of Mountain Dew. At the moment I have: generic red cream soda (swapped out with vanilla cola), generic blackberry citrus drink (swapped out with black cherry drink), Citrus Drop (Kroger variation of MD), Citrus Drop Extreme (their attempt at Mello Yello, which is MtDewish), Pepsi Throwback (which I alternate with Coke), Mountain Dew Throwback (I alternate between that and regular MD until I finally rid myself of the Throwback), Voltage (MD Blue-colored), Whiteout (MD smooth-white), Gamefuel Red (MD citrus cherry), Gamefuel Green (MD of undisclosed “Tropical” flavor), Code Red (MD cherry, which I get only on occasion), Supernova (MD strawberry), Livewire (MD orange), Hawaiian Punch (which I swap with generic fruit drink), generic strawberry, Sprite (which I swap with Ginger Ale), generic root beer (which I swap out with generic cream soda).
One of the reasons I duplicate on some flavors is because I like having a horde of both caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks, depending on the time of day. Although, with the exception of red cream soda, cream soda, Sprite, ginger ale, and root beer, I actually use the non-caffeinated drinks as a part of mixture with non-sugar coolade. It’s a way of not doing away with the sugar entirely (which has too detrimental an effect n the taste) but cutting back all the same. I may have been the only person in the world who liked C2, Coke’s attempting at bridging Coke with Diet Coke. When I get fountain drinks, I’ll usually fill it with 2/3 diet and 1/3 regular. Just a little sugar. As for my contraptions, it becomes an ongoing thing: as my bottle starts getting empty, I will refill it either with more coolade or soft drink as it requires, so I will have the same bottle in the fridge for a week with rotating flavoring.
So I keep this army in the fridge, taking up half of the second shelf. Every couple of days I’ll go through and restock whatever I took. I have a definite hierarchy or preference (Livewire is better than Supernova is better than Gamefuel Green is better than Voltage is better than Gamefuel Red is better than Whiteout (and anything) is better than Code Red. This is reflected by how quickly I go through a particular can, though sometimes I will go through something I don’t like faster than something I do because I want something sugary but don’t want to waste one of the “good” drinks. There is little logical reason why I even get Citrus Drop Extreme when there is no circumstance in which I favor it over regular Citrus Drop. And I dislike Code Red 99% of the time, but it alternates with Pitch Black as the go-to flavor if I want something that tastes putrid. But not V8 putrid. That stuff is nasty.
When discussing the nature of at-will employment (which a lot of people don’t understand), I often use the example “You can be legally fired for wearing the color purple” as an example of the lack of legitimate pretext needed to fire someone. In the future, I will have to use orange, instead:
In an interview with the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, several of the fired workers say they wore the matching colors so they would be identified as a group when heading out for a happy hour event after work. They say the executive who fired them initially accused them of wearing the matching color as a form of protest against management.
Orange is widely considered to be one of the most visible colors to the human eye. Orange vests are worn by most hunters as a safety precaution and by school crossing guards. Most prisoners are required to wear orange jump suits.
The color orange is arguably Florida’s defining color. The self-described “Sunshine State” is widely known for its orange juice exports.
The law offices of Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. offered “no comment” to Sun-Sentinel reporter Doreen Hemlock, but four ex-employees tell the paper they were simply wearing their orange shirts to celebrate “pay day” and the upcoming Friday group happy hour.
Outside The Beltway has a post on the subject. Joyner thought that it might be related to St. Paddy’s day, with orange being the color of the unionists. It was, however, unrelated. More than a couple of people have suggested that a company that would do this is probably not a company one should be excited about working for. One rumor making its way around is that it wasn’t actually a lunch thing, but rather a bunch of employees making fun of an executive’s fake tan. I have no knowledge that this is true, but I am going to pretend that it is. That would make it a little more understandable, I guess, but it is still indicative of a problem.
I have the distinction of having worked for one of the ten worst employers in the nation, a company I will call Bregna. I worked the overnight shift. This was a terrible, terrible company to work for and it, as a coworker put it, “breeds contempt.” The overnight shift had a custom of urinating on the side of the building during our nightly round (we worked the server room, but doubled as “security guards.”). Leaving aside the immaturity of urinating on the side of the building, when you have a bunch of white collar employees feeling compelled to go out of their way to do so, you have a problem. And it’s not dried urine on the building when everyone walks in to work in the morning.
The same applies to a law firm where you can get over a dozen employees to wear orange to make fun of somebody there. Given the response, one can assume it was not “all in good fun.” And if this was a light-hearted place where it was taken too far, we should be able to assume a lighter punishment than this.
I broadly support employment-at-will, even if it does lead to circumstances like this on occasion. Forcing a company to get its paperwork in order to be able to fire someone they want to get rid of doesn’t negate the overall power imbalance. It simply turns termination-without-cause into termination-with-cause a couple months later. I don’t actually extend this to various other protections, many of which I do support. At least in part because such laws are more enforceable, because it’s easier to establish a pattern of coming down too hard minorities, women, gays, the disabled or whatnot than it is to establish a pattern of firing people who wear the color orange or, for whatever reason, the employe doesn’t want to keep around.
I am going to start lightening up on our commenting policy. Going forward, racial issues and political issues can be discussed. The only limitation is that I do want a tone that does not completely lack disrespect. Criticizing our immigration policy is fine, or discussing the racial aspects of various items. I mostly want to avoid accusations of maliciousness or malicious intent. Such conversations tend to go nowhere and be distracting. Try to be respectful, but other than that I am moving away from declaring things off-limits. We’ll see how it goes.
I got pulled over yesterday for the second time in six months. Which is kind of funny for three reasons. First, because I intentionally speed less than I ever have in the past, and I don’t usually toy around with the 10mph grace period anymore. Second, because I live in a state that is known in the region for being lenient on speeders. Third, I drive less than I usually do. Despite 1 and 2, I’ve gotten pulled over on comparatively open highways for 10 and 11 over.
The last time, it was a relatively brief affair. Arapaho has a law that says if you get pulled over for 10mph or less during the daytime in good weather, you just pay the cop on the spot and it goes away (insurance never finds out about it). At first I was wondering if it was just a matter of the cop making a little money on the side, but he gave me official documentation and everything on it. It was one of those cases where I was going 85 in a 75, downhill, without intending to go 85.
Yesterday, I was taking Clancy to the doctor out in Alexandria. We were running a little behind, but even then I was sticking to 75 in a 70. I even commented, just a couple minutes before getting pulled over, that no matter how close the car behind was going to follow me and no matter how impatient they were, I was going to stick to 75. Apparently, I didn’t. The cop did a Uey and I looked down and saw that I was going about 80. So I got pulled over and the speed demon who’d been following right behind finally got rid of me blocking his way.
I told the officer about the appointment. If I’d been thinking, I would have said, “Officer, my wife, has a doctor’s appointment in Alexandria at 4:30. I apologize for going so fast. She was busy working the emergency room last night - she’s a doctor*, you see - and we ran behind so that we could make her appointment establishing care with the obstetrician that’s going to deliver our baby!” (How would he know otherwise?) Instead I just explained that we were falling behind and she had the appointment and we’re really sorry. It worked. He checked my license and he let us go. He said, “81 is a little too fast. Could you pare it down to 75?” “Yes, sir!”
It was rather fortunate that I put the updated registration sticker on my car a week ago. I lost the paper documentation for the latter part of license and registration, but I could point to the sticker. It was also a reminder that I need to put my wife’s registration sticker on her car.
* - Police officers tend to be lenient with doctors. Especially when they do emergency room work. Clancy said that he might have resented it if I’d laid it on too thick, so maybe it’s for the best that I didn’t.
That’s the case that Daniel Indiviglio made in The Atlantic last year:
If you look to industries where compensation is common knowledge, then you find employees that have far better success achieving more pay. One clear example is Wall Street. At investment banks, salary transparency isn’t encouraged, but bankers and traders just can’t help themselves. After all, many are obsessed with money. So come bonus season, they compare packages and relay information from firm to firm. Industry publications even include league tables to show which banks pay better than others.
Salary transparency is also quite strong among chief executives across the economy. Public companies are required to report this information. Is it any coincidence that executive pay has been rising over the past few decades? Each CEO wants to be paid above average, so pay ticks up.
This brings to mind some causality problems. People that get a lot of scrutiny, such as chief executives and athletes and such, where people are most likely to know the salaries to begin with. This creates not just higher wages, but distortions (at least in the case of CEO’s). Where people are a brand name, and they’re not just paying for actual performance, but for the brand. In the case of Wall Street, people are most likely to talk about how much they make precisely because they’re doing well. At least, I think that’s more likely than the notion that they’re doing well because they talk about how much they make.
I don’t know how I feel about the proposal overall. A few jobs back, at Falstaff where I was working when I started Hit Coffee, we talked regularly about how much we were making. It did not, actually, result in higher wages. It did result in a fair amount of resentment. My resentment, to be precise. There was a guy named Edgar (some of you may remember him) who was… not bright. He was perpetually one of the worst two employees in our department. We started the same week. But Edgar made more than I did. Five cents an hour more. And it drove me crazy. Five cents an hour became an actual point of resentment. Pay within the department was relatively uniform, but for the five cent raise he asked for at just the right time to get it (he didn’t ask for such a paltry raise, but that was all they were willing to give him. But after that, they refused to give anything to anybody). Due to circumstance, I’ve historically been overqualified and underpaid, and that never bothered me like the Edgar thing. We were at the same place, doing the same job (indeed, when I got a promotion without a raise, I was above him and making less).
Even though we weren’t supposed to talk about it, we always did and management actually used this to their advantage. No one could say that Jack didn’t deserve a raise, but they couldn’t give one to him without also giving one to Joe. Yes, Jack deserved it and Joe did not deserve it, but such things are bad for morale. With some exception, I would actually expect pay transparency used in this way more than any other. Not preventing disparities between different jobs, but completely flattening them within departments and job descriptions. This could be good for things like wage equality across genders and such, but from a productivity perspective is problematic. Because it will, the vast majority of the time, breed resentment the more than people know that other people are making more at them at the same job. That some people are more valued than others.
And yet… I am a critic of the status quo of treating unequal employees equally. I have noticed, in my professional life, that over and over again that not nearly enough care is taken to avoid losing the best employees (we can’t give Jack a raise) and too much effort is made to accommodate the worthless employees (We can’t fire Joe, he has a family to support). This isn’t hard policy, exactly, but the way that things often work. At Falstaff, for example, there was the assumption that nobody was going to be able to find a better job, so they should be kissing the feet of Falstaff for giving them one that paid them a solid $10/hr. And yet, at the same time, until the budget absolutely forced them to, nobody wanted to fire Edgar, who had a wife and four kids to support and was an all-around decent guy. So the end result is that, contrary to their belief that nobody can find other work, they lost the ones that were talented and skilled enough to actually find other work, while the Edgars stuck around. My criticism of this is at odds with my apprehension about wage transparency.
When I heard that they were making a TV show based on The Firm (a sequel, really, taking place ten years later), I decided to finally consume the book and watch the movie (I saw it when I was a yungun, but only paid half-attention). Hollywood has a tendency to make movies about two grades worse than the book. The Chamber was a mediocre book that became an obnoxious movie that reversed the few good traits of the book. The Firm was actually a good book, but the movie was rather mediocre. Not in the way that books are hard to translate to movie because of what you have to cut out, though that’s always an issue, but rather because they completely changed the ending. Warning, spoilers ahead for the book, the movie, and the TV show.
The basic story of both the book and the movie is that Mitchell McDeere, fresh out of law school, is hired on by a corrupt law firm in Memphis that is in bed with the Chicago mafia. In the book, McDeere, his wife, and his brother all sneak off to the Carribean. McDeere gives the Feds enough on both the firm and the mafia that the feds won’t go after him, but skedaddles for fear of what the mafia does. In the movie, he works it so that he gives the feds some dirt on the firm, but not the mafia, so that he can stay in Memphis.
Which makes no sense. The FBI isn’t interested in the law firm except as a way to get to the mafia. So the dangling question, after watching the movie, was why the mafia was okay with this when the inevitable result of the firm’s arrest is that they would flip on them (I don’t believe that lawyer-client confidentiality applies when both are acting in concert in the commission of a crime).
Well, the makers of the TV show saw the same thing that I did and decided to use it for the show. In the show, the feds leaned on the firm, who then rolled on the mafia and put their don in prison. At which point, of course, McDeere is in the mafia’s crosshairs and has to go into Witness Protection. The show takes place ten years later as they are getting out of Witness Protection because, well, they’re tired of it. Surprise surprise, the mafia is still after him. He’s with a new (also corrupt) firm. And that’s the premise of the TV show. So far, I am not hugely impressed. I’ve only seen the first two-in-one episode, and I’ll give it a couple more, but it’s pretty low on my list of priorities.
Anyhow, I thought it was funny that they devoted a new TV show to the egregious plot hole in the movie. I still don’t understand why the movie changed the ending, except as a possible sequel (like another one starring Tom Cruise, not a TV show fifteen years later).
Back when I was minding the hellspawn, one of the diamonds in the rough was a girl named Magdy. Unlike Dariette (a Daria-like girl, but with Aspergers), I didn’t take an immediate liking to Magdy. But as the days progressed, she became increasingly helpful. She was tough enough not to be intimidated by the other kids, but unlike most of the other tough kids chose - for whatever reason - to be rather helpful to me. Dariette was nice and friendly, but Magdy helped me get control of the classroom to the extent that I did. And when she wasn’t helping me, she was quiet doing her work or her own thing.
Despite my taking a liking to her, I also got the sense that… things are not likely to turn out well for her. Not the least of which because she was in resource/remedial classes. But also because… well, it was just a sense I got from her. She’s not going to college. She probably won’t graduate from high school. She may be a mother before then. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up on drugs or in skirmishes with the law. I can’t even explain why I thought these things about a girl who was nothing but helpful to me and by appearances was almost standard (not dressed provocatively, typical hair-care, and wore little or no make-up).
So last week, I was back at the middle school teaching another resource/remedial set of classes. The 8th graders I had this year were the same as the 7th graders I had last year (and a couple 8th graders I had this year were 8th graders from last year, as well). Magdy was among them. And once again, she was just a marvelous student (with bonus points for actually remembering me). Which was odd, because her name was on the list of students to be wary of and for whom there was a specific protocol for misbehavior (never a good sign). I also got a look at her file, which was… not ideal. Some problems in the 7th grade, more in the 8th. But her previously standard appearance had started changing and she has already started the physical (at least) progression to where I think she will end up. Nose ring. Another piercing below her lip. The first day she looked kind of… messy (though less so the second day).
Also, this time around, I got a better idea of where these classes are, scholastically (it’s easier with English and Math than Science and Social Studies), and it was disheartening (a subject for a separate post). None of these kids are going to college - not even community college. The Direct Instruction I ran through was more reminiscent of elementary school than regular middle school. Groans of frustration doing relatively simple mathematical tasks such as counting change (True or False, seven dimes and seven pennies equals seventy cents?), percentages (a pie chart split in six with one of them colored in), and comparatively simple multiplication (24x6). Magdy could do the first but didn’t like it, did well on the second, but struggled on the third.
The kids end up in these classes generally for one of two reasons: they have legitimate developmental problems or they have attitude problems, or both. Magdy seems to fall into the second category, which makes her perhaps the only student who does that I actually took a liking to and wish the best for in more than an abstract wish-the-best-for-everybody sort of way. I’m just hoping it’s not both.
On a sidenote, one of the things that gave me a little hope last year was that she talked about her father during some downtime and said something that suggested that he was a fixture in the household. My expectations for the Magdy-like kids are such that I thought “Well hey, at least she has a father who stuck around!” Well, I came to find out that it was her step-father and she doesn’t know her real dad. There’s still a bright side, I suppose, if there is a stepfather she gets along with well enough to think of him as a father.
I’m going through a bunch of old links that I meant to write posts about, so if you’re wondering why I am writing about things written a year ago, that’s why.
Megan McArdle suggested, in the strongest possible terms, never to cosign for a loan:
When the primary borrower defaults, you’re on the hook, not just for the loan, but for any late charges or collection fees that may have accrued. If it’s a car, the repo man will sell it for cheap at auction, and then sue you for the difference–there are no “non-recourse” auto loans. Meanwhile, your credit will be trashed. Contracts don’t always include notice requirements for the secondary borrower, so you may not even find out about late payments until it’s in collections.
Even if they pay, the full amount of the outstanding loan will be counted against your debt-to-income ratios for the purposes of both calculating your credit score, and obtaining loans for yourself, since after all, you are responsible for paying it off. That may hamper your ability to get a mortgage or other financing.
If you can’t afford to pay off the loan, then–no matter how much you love them, how great your need, or how much you want to believe they will pay–you must “just say no”.
Moreover, many people mistakenly believe that cosigning makes them the payor of last resort–that they will be on the hook only after the collections department exhausts every possible effort to make them pay. This is almost the opposite of the truth. You are fully liable for the debt, and while my understanding is that it varies by state, in many places the collectors get to choose who to go after. Who do you think they will choose: the deadbeat with an empty bank account, or you, with your sterling credit and well-padded savings?
Now that I think about it, the vast majority of friends I’ve had that has had a parent cosign a loan for them have been friends that - though I love them dearly - I would never cosign for. I would, as McArdle suggests, loan them to money first. And probably write it off in thinking that I am never going to get it back.
Because my college was paid for and there was always a hand-me-down car if I needed one, I never had to take out a loan or refinance or consolidation for my parents to cosign. If I had needed a new-to-me car, and my parents didn’t have one, my parents probably would have used the opportunity to get something newer or nicer for themselves so that they would have a car to hand down to me. I would attribute this generosity to my parents’ nice income, but actually Julianne’s parents did the same thing. The only difference was that her parents would buy a car with a down-payment and five-year loan while mine would buy a less expensive car outright.
While my parents never cosigned on a car, they did cosign on my first apartment (that was how I found out how much Dad made, twice as much as I thought). McArdle doesn’t really comment on that, though a lot of what she’s talking about applies to apartments, too (and there is a discussion in the comment sections about how that is also not a bad idea). Really, though, I don’t know how I would have been able to get my first apartment otherwise. Somebody’s father was going to need to vouch for us. In retrospect, signing that was probably a hard thing for them to do because they didn’t want me to get an apartment. They wanted me to move back home. But that was not what I needed. And I am much better off for them having done so.
I happened to be subbing in heavily Irish-American (among other euro-ethnicities) Redstone the day before St. Paddy’s Day. Since it falls on a weekend this year, Wearing Green was done on Friday. Not realizing this, I wore read (but I came so close, my second choice was a green shirt). Anyhow, here are my favorite Flogging Molly songs!
There has been a recent spate of articles about lost smartphones. ArsTechnica talks about what you could lose if you lost your smartphone. BoingBoing talks about that and also about ways to protect yourself:
–Always protect your phone with a password or a “draw to unlock” pattern.
–Use security software designed specifically for smartphones to lock up programs on your phone. Some of these programs can be used to help locate the phone, or to wipe its memory from remote locations.
–Don’t lose your cell phone. This falls under the category of “Well, duh.” Nobody loses a smartphone on purpose, obviously. But try to make sure you keep it in you pocket or purse when not in use.
–Companies that issue phones to their employees should make sure to train workers on security, and should secure every phone with passwords.
The last time I lost a smartphone, it was at a movie theater. It had fallen out of my holster (an usher found it and I got it back). Because of that, and a few instances of it jumping out of the holster as I ran, I stopped using that particular holster with that particular phone. That, more or less, sums up my idea of “security.” Wiping a phone from a remote location might become an option, if more sensitive information ends up on my phone. But those locks are a pain in the posterior. Also, as someone points out, how is someone supposed to return the phone to you (if they are so inclined) if they don’t have any information? Well, you can incessantly call the phone, but it actually makes me wonder why contact information isn’t left on the Lock screen. Can anyone think of a reason not to do this? Also, in case of an emergency, where you are not conscious, people can use your phone to contact an ICE number.
These are the rationalizations I use to avoided the dreaded lock screen.
I did want to address something written a while ago at Forbes and that I have seen written over and over again elsewhere. The question of why we don’t expect cell phone carriers to help find lost phones, even though they could:
In short, Nevius notes that carriers in some other places – Australia, for instance – maintain a joint database of mobile phone serial numbers. When a number is reported stolen, the phone is rendered inoperative. That’s not what the U.S. carriers do. They focus on remote wiping, and making SIM cards invalid. But Nevius notes that thieves can simply replace the bad SIM cards with new ones. And he points out that when phones are stolen, carriers benefit as consumer buy replacement phones.
The piece opens with the words “prepare to get angry,” but my anger (to the extent that I have any) is actually directed at the author and people saying what the author is saying. We do not want to make cell phone carriers to do this. While it might be nice if they did… once we place this burden on them (whether by statute or expectation) we are giving them the justification they need to do bad things. Do you know what’s cheaper than helping someone find their lost phone? Refusing to activate phones that they don’t sell you. AT&T and T-Mobile, to their credit, will activate any phone. Verizon and Sprint, however, do not. Even phones that would work on their network. They will only let you activate a phone that they improve. They publicly talk of it as quality assurance, but it’s also a good way to force people to buy phones. Well, with this, we could force us to buy phones from them. The secondary cell phone market allows people to buy cheap phones without signing on to a burdensome contract. Is there any doubt that at least some of the companies would love an excuse to do away with it entirely?
Granted, you could pass a regulation that forces carriers to find lost phones and forbids them from refusing to activate phones that they didn’t sell you, but that might require an act of congress. And if it doesn’t, the fact that nobody who is harping on the carriers has even mentioned the possibility of the above paragraph suggests to me that they are thinking too narrowly and wouldn’t think such a regulation through, throwing the carriers into a briar patch.
Five so-called health foods to avoid. I was happy to see Sun Chips get a waiver. There actually wasn’t anything on the list that I consume on the basis of it being healthy. I eat reduced-fat cheese and tons of high-fiber stuff. The latter helps. Not sure about the former, but the main reason I eat it is because it doesn’t taste as good and therefore I eat less of it.
Katherine Mangu-Ward on why all government anti-obesity efforts seem to fail.
Windows 8 is apparently confusing. I’ve just finally gotten used to Windows 7 to the point that I have no preference between Win7 and WinXP (though, dag nabbit, I want my versitile Quicklaunch Bar back!).
Aldous Huxley though his dystopian future was more credible than George Orwell’s dystopian future. I actually listened through 1984 a couple weeks back. I need to see if I can get Brave New World.
Matthew Yglesias defends the Sun Belt. Namely, its desire to expand. The oft-derided sprawl helps keep down the costs-of-living. This is not looked at nearly enough. Lowering the cost of living is almost as good as raising wages.
Most finders of lost smartphones are snoops. Wouldn’t you be?
California has an unbelievably good higher education system. Would that they made it more accessible, both in terms of grades and in terms of cost.
The North Dakota Fighting For The Sioux Name saga continues…
It’s actually a bit… unexpected… that I would marry a doctor. Especially a (for now) family practice doctor. I never had “a doctor” growing up. We had a clinic. First come, first serve. I had a dentist and an eye-doctor. The former I remember well, the latter made an absolute mint in Lasik and so he became harder and harder to see and so I would usually see an associate. But no guy I could call “my doctor.” And it was just as well because I never went to the doctor enough to have formed that relationship anyway. The truth is, I avoid the doctor. I try to take medication are rarely as possible. I am the prototypical critic of modern medicine, but married to a doctor. And the latter has, as one might expect, changed my outlook on the medical profession.
Dr. Saunders counters a piece by Virginia Postrel about contraception prescription requirements and they they exist. As it turns out, it involves questions I recently asked him over at Blinded Trials: Namely, what’s the rationale for allowing Plan-B over the counter but not contraception, and could we go more than a year between prescription re-ups? As I asked the question, though, the thought of “extortion” never crossed my mind. But there was a time when it did (well, maybe not “extortion” but “policy based around self-interest”).
I am a clumsy and forgetful sort of guy. I misplace, and break, glasses with regularity. I also wear contacts. Because I lose and break glasses with such regularity, I have to replace them with regularity as well. Generally, you can’t refill a prescription that’s more than a year old. The only reason for this that I could figure was that the eye-doctors wanted the business. They’d talk about how it was for safety and blah-blah-blah, but it was really about their pocketbook! It’s a tempting, and seductive, thing to believe. It provides a bad guy (the Eye Care Establishment!) and provides a cheap soapbox moment.
None of this is to say that I have come around to agreeing with the law. It is unnecessary hassle. Not just because of the required visit, but because I am terrible at those eye-tests and half the time my new prescription is worse than my old. And, for contacts, even a slightly different contact can have all sorts of glare problems or just not turn out as well. The other thing is that the eye tests always send off all sorts of warning bells for glaucoma, which I suppose isn’t their fault but it opens up a can of inconvenience each time when they refer me to somewhere else for visits every three to six months to “monitor the situation” until insurance coverage runs out.
When it comes to the medical profession, they want things “just so” because that is their job. Just like it’s a safety inspector’s job to be obsessed with safety. So of course convenience is going to take a back-seat to the best health care when it’s even moderately close. They know all of the things that can go wrong and to worry about, so they are going to be more attuned to all of the things that can go wrong and need to be worried about. Getting someone in to the eye doctor once a year to run some tests is thus valuable. They might have glaucoma! And if they didn’t, the inconvenience of testing does not compare to catching glaucoma early! Don’t talk to me about inconvenience - glaucoma is awful! And you don’t even have to pay for the testing (until you do, then the balance does start to change).
I still oppose the eye care requirements for a plethora of reasons. On the prescription contraception subject, I simply don’t know. Russell and Clancy are both pretty adamant on the subject, and I am relatively disinclined to suggest that I know better. I am still not entirely sure about the yearly requirements. As Russell points out (and Clancy said when I talked to her about it a while back) it’s pretty standard for any medication. I’m not sure the extent to which it should be, especially when you’ve been taking a medication for a while. But even so, it’s mostly a question of how you balance this with that. And it doesn’t take conspiracy theories to answer why physicians are particularly cautionary and might put a little more weight on making sure things don’t go wrong. That’s their job.
There’s a Mormon running for president… of Mali. (via Abel)
Alan Jacobs discusses the benefits of the traditional publishing route. David Ryan goes a step further and declares self-publishing dead.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn is right: TSA officials have no business wearing badges unless they have actually gone through actual law enforcement training. Security guards wear badges they didn’t earn quite that way, but it’s different when we’re talking about actual government officials. (And honestly, if your job is to observe-and-report, I don’t think you should get a shiny badge, either.)
New Army guidelines are making it tougher for NCO’s to re-enlist. It wasn’t that long ago when we had to take measures to prevent them from leaving.
Piracy marches ever-forward. The Pirate Bay has found a way to host a searching mechanism and provide (a) some legal distance for themselves and (b) some anonymity for users. Meanwhile, the powers-that-be behind BitTorrent (who knew that such a thing would have PTB?) are changing formats for their videos, and their customers aren’t happy about it. Out of curiosity, I compared them side-to-side and determined that the new video is noticeably better even while being smaller. However, the new standard doesn’t play on my phone.
Via Web, an article about actors that are hired to call-in to radio shows and help create content.