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.
I just got off the phone with a “pollster.” I put the word “pollster” in quotes because I’m relatively sure that they were working for one of the campaigns in the Garvin/Wannemaker race. They breezed through all of my thoughts on Republicans, Democrats, the presidential election, this issue and that one, and so on, then spent about 3/4 of the call asking “which criticism of Garvin do you believe to be most salient?” and the same for Wannemaker. Given how much less time they spent going over Wannemaker, I suspect it was either his campaign or his party that was funding the research.
I haven’t decided who I am voting for in the presidential election, though they left off Gary Johnson as a possibility (and he is the leading candidate in my mind). Notably, they didn’t leave the Libertarian candidate of the Garvin/Wannemaker race, which is another thing pointing to the fact that my responses there were very important.
They did it wrong, though. They asked whether I was going to vote for Garvin, Wannemaker, or Prince, but never asked me how strongly I felt about it (Wannemaker, not strongly). To gauge the effectiveness of various criticisms of Garvin, that seems to me a rather important tidbit. If I’m somebody who might change their mind, then that’s different from somebody that is already in Wannemaker’s camp. I’d think.
I also found it odd that they never asked about which positive issues, if any, should be focused on. I gave them a good run-down on Garvin’s and Wannemaker’s vulnerabilities as far as I was concerned (they never asked about Prince, except whether or not I’d be voting for him), but was never asked whether I think Wannemaker is right to focus on campaign finance reform or Garvin is right to focus on the Wannemaker’s support for gay marriage.
Maybe the questioning was actually more scientific than that, and had I answered differently on earlier questions they would have asked about that. Again, though, that’s where asking whether I am firmly a Wannemaker man or simply leaning in that direction.
They also wasted a question or two on asking whether I lived in a town of (insert five categories) and then later asking for my ZIP Code which would have told them that (plus, they called my landline, so they can reasonably guess where I live anyway).
The whole conversation was somewhat hard to hear due to the lack of good acoustics on their end. I could hear the questions other callers were asking bouncing all over the other side of the call.
The kid who made the call was hard to understand and couldn’t pronounce a lot of their names. I’m guessing he hasn’t been doing this long (he is, though, an American or a good facsimile thereof, if you’re curious).
I didn’t quite catch the name of the firm. I tried the backtrace the number that they called from, but had no success.
Bring a rural doctor, my wife knew going in that it would be different than what she’s done before. When we were in Deseret, there would periodically be a patient of hers that would run into us at Walmart and immediately dive in giving Clancy an update on how whatever she was last in for turned out. When I’m in Redstone, I’ve periodically run into students or the occasional teacher at the local bookstore or Walmart. But here in Callie, it’s different.
The other day she took a vacation day off work because she had an afternoon appointment (if she just takes the morning off, she can still be double-booked to the point that she would have to work through the afternoon to get through everybody). She still had an AM morning she had to go to and when she left she went to the local coffeehouse to take care of some paperwork. While there, she ran into a colleague who had herself taken a couple vacation days to take care of hospital and clinic paperwork. There were some officey things to discuss, but as soon as she was done, she ran into a patient. They chatted for a while (about, among other things, the need for substitute teachers in Callie). Clancy came back a little regretful of not having been more productive at the coffeehouse, but it was pretty apparent that the time had done her some good. That represented the good side of working and living in such a small town.
The bad side came the next day.
Clancy and I don’t live in the best part of town. In fact, she inwardly groans when she recognizes an address being nearby ours. It often (though not always) means a problem patient of one sort or another. And so it was with a patient that came in the next day. Without going into details, it was a bad visit and authorities had to be contacted (legal and professional responsibility). And wouldn’t you know it, the patient lives on our street (I haven’t a clue who it is - don’t want to know). Anyhow, on account of this, when Clancy walks the dog, she’s going to be going out the back way for a while.
Several years ago (approaching 15… gah!), I was talking to a cop and he made a comment that he would never work in the same city where he lived. He used the metaphor of eating where you excrement. Prior to talking to this cop, most of the cops I’d gotten to know had been in the city of Phillipi. My ex-girlfriend Julianne lived there her father was a volunteer fireman, and there is a fair amount of crossover between being a cop and a volunteer fireman. Not a single Phillippi police officer I knew didn’t live in Phillippi as far as I knew. The idea of living in one community and protecting another seemed rather strange to me.
When I started substitute teaching, rather than subbing in Callie, where I live, I signed up to do so out in Redstone. There were a number of reasons for this. Redstone is the bigger district so I figured I would get called in more often. Callie gave me the run-around while Redstone asked the soonest day I could take the TB test. I had my standard question when asked about it, though: “I’ve never subbed before. I figured by substituting in Redstone, if I was lousy at it, I’d be messing up some other community’s kids. Since then, I’ve heard more than once that there is actually a pressing need in Callie. It also turns out that a teacher in Redstone knows the superintendent down here and is willing to write an email of recommendation. With the kid on the way, working closer to home makes more sense. Yet, for all of my joking about messing up Redstone’s kids, I actually have that sort of sense that it’s really not bad living in one town and working with the youth of another.
(To be clear, it’s not that. I’ve grown fond of some of the “repeat customers” I’ve had at Redstone schools. I also like the excuse to go out there sometimes. But I really do find the prospect of substituting neighborhood kids to be daunting, despite the fact that the kids here are generally better adjusted than the kids in Redstone, and kids surprisingly don’t hold a grudge against a substitute who gets them in trouble.)
Which brings me back to the medical community. There is a degree of separation between the medical community here and the broader community. Most of the doctors (of the ones I know where they live) live well outside of town in unincorporated county. There was actually a big to-do here many years ago where the doctors and other individuals essentially pulled their kids out of the local high school and took over a school a half-hour away. There’s a whole story there, but it’s a part of what I consider to be a broader detachment. Before we decided we would be sticking around, Clancy and I talked about where we might get a house and she felt pretty strongly about getting one out of town. Some of it is her introversion (oddly, my introversion is why I think getting a place out of town would be a really bad idea), though another part of it is the general eating/excrementing thing.
In an ideal world, none of this would be the case. The Phillippi model would true. I think in Redstone itself, of all places, it actually does. It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about that place. Interestingly, Redstone and Phillippi are both rather blue collar. Both tend to draw sneers from outsiders. For a variety of reasons, though, they retain a degree of community spirit that I think is healthy. I am thinking that such places are the exception as much as the rule, however. I know some places actually pass laws requiring civil servants to live in town. Not much they can do about doctors, I suppose.
The other day I watched a documentary about Redstone and its mining history (among other things). I’m not going to name the movie, though if you’re genuinely interested in seeing it, shoot me and email and I’ll tell you privately. I’m breaking down my observations into three or four posts. This is the second, the first is here. You (obviously) don’t need to have seen the film to understand what I’m talking about.
One other interesting thing about it was the evolution of Redstone’s patriotism. Redstone is one of the most flag-waiving, patriotic places I have ever seen out of the south. And when the rubber hits the road, Redstonians, and Arapahoans more generally, enter the military in pretty large numbers. I figured it had to do with the Irish heritage and career opportunities, but there was another aspect to it that I hadn’t considered.
Namely, Redstone had its patriotism beaten into it. The miners opposed World War I vociferously. This opposition did not serve them there. They went on strike and the Washington sent some folks over and forced them to continue working at gunpoint. Their popular image was sunk by their inability to get on board with the war. So, when World War II rolled around, they got ahead of that. They accepted the wage freezes with magnanimity, held parades, and pressured those who weren’t working or essential to join up. The patriotic and military culture has been with the town ever since.
In response to an OTB post (originally about work-life balance, but turning towards decision points and regrets), Rob in CT wrote:
I will admit to some second-guessing over an offer my father once made to me: 1) go to one of the expensive little liberal arts colleges that accepted me, or 2) go to UCONN, and he puts the difference in tuition + room/board directly in the bank for me. Totally awesome either way, no doubt (ahh, privilege. How does it rock? Let me count the ways). I picked door #1. The results have been a-ok. Not least b/c I met my wife in college. But the frugal side of me always wants to pick at that one.
This is just one of those bizarre things. What kind of choice is that? That’s not a choice. That’s “I’m going to UConn.”
I don’t know how much of that is because of how I was raised, and how much of it is regional. The people for whom this is a tough decision, or who would make the choice that Rob made, tend to live in the northeast.
Last year I was informed of a possible job opportunity for Clancy in New England (the region, not necessarily the Trumanverse state). We talked about New England and what we might like about it and what we might really dislike. In the latter column was the attitude I hear about public universities out there.
College football has finally acquiesced to a playoff. I’ll be honest, though, that I don’t fully understand how it’s going to work:
The group of presidents also endorsed a rotation of the semifinal games among six bowl sites and a rotation of the championship game among neutral sites. The semifinals either will be played on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, and the national title game will be played on “Championship Monday,” the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the final semifinal game is played. […]
There will be three contract bowls — the Champions Bowl, which is a partnership between the Big 12 and SEC, the Rose Bowl, which has a longstanding tradition between the Big Ten and Pac 12, and a bowl to be determined for the ACC, which is likely to continue its partnership with the Orange Bowl.
“In terms of our contract bowl, and our New Year’s Day tie-in, we expect to have an announcement on that jointly in the very near future,” Swofford said.
The three other bowls, called “access bowls,” have yet to be determined, but the decision will force the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl to become bidders.
Okay, here is what I don’t fully understand. Let’s assume that the final three bowls are the Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Cotton Bowl. Let’s also assume have included Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma State, and Oregon. Let’s further assume that in the rotation, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl were the semi-final games. LSU and Oregon to Sugar, Alabama and Oklahoma State to Rose Bowl.
Does the Champions Bowl take the number three team in the SEC and the number two team in the Big 12? Or does this create vacancies so they take the best teams they can find? In the BCS, the Rose Bowl would take teams like TCU, but in the BCS they were limited in which teams they could take and it’s not clear whether the new system would be so limited.
With only four teams, it’s going to be tough for teams outside of the big four to get in, and will require a fair amount of luck. The ACC will have a tough time of it, the Big East tougher, and I don’t see how any team from any other conference gets in period. So their access - or lack thereof - to the premier bowls is important.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter. If the bowls are expanding to 12 teams, then the Champions Bowl having Arkansas (#6) and Kansas State (#8) isn’t the end of the world. The question, ultimately, is whether Boise State (#7) would have gotten in at all, or if instead big conference schools outside the top 12 get in. If it’s up to the bowls, it may well be the latter. If it’s up to committees or some formula, it’ll be the former.
For all of the complaints about the BCS by the lesser conferences, they at least had guaranteed admission if they fit certain criteria. If the new system does away with that, it will actually be much worse than the status quo. They’re still probably left out of the playoff system*, and may get passed over for worse teams with bigger followings for the big bowl games. It remains to be seen whether or not this is the case.
Right now, this announcement raises more questions than it answers about the college football post-season.
* - TCU twice managed a top 4 ranking from a non-AQ conference. However, that conference no longer exists in that form (a form many argued was AQ-worthy) and a current champion from either the Mountain West Conference or Conference USA can go undefeated and will still likely be outside the top 4.
I am ordinarily not a fan of “technology is ruining us!” rants, though I found this one to be particularly well done. Though I don’t fully agree with its conclusions, it got me thinking about how I am using technology and what it might be costing me.
Daniel Yergin writes of America’s New Energy Reality. I have found the shift in the president’s approach to energy to be quite positive. Even when he stopped Keystone, he made a point of saying that he supports it in theory. I don’t know if it constitutes a new reality, but it definitely seems to constitute a new political reality: we can’t pretend that clean and renewable is going to get us there. In my hope of hopes, I’m hoping it becomes like the gun issue. I can’t think of any other issue where the center shifted so radically and quickly as it did there.
One of the downsides to television is that it makes awesome things like this look cumbersome and ineffective. Television heroes and villains can accomplish this and look good doing it!
Jordan Weissmann wonders if college students aren’t borrowing enough. This makes sense, for reasons discussed in the article and one that isn’t discussed: Had my college money run out, I wouldn’t have known where to look to even get alone and might have thought “Huh, no more money, no more college I guess.” Whereas if you know you’re going to have to borrow at the outset, you’re not going to run out of money.
The other day I watched a documentary about Redstone and its mining history (among other things). A good bulk of the movie focused on the labor struggles. I’m not going to name the movie, though if you’re genuinely interested in seeing it, shoot me and email and I’ll tell you privately. I’m breaking down my observations into three or four posts. This is the first. You (obviously) don’t need to have seen the film to understand what I’m talking about.
One of the things that stuck out at me was the symbiotic relationship between The Corporation and labor. I, of course, had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. I know what happened to Redstone when the mines shut down. Labor, of course, doesn’t know that. They only know that they’re working in dangerous conditions and breathing dangerous air, for meager wages in the shadow of The Company’s mansions. The Company’s view is not particularly well-represented in the film, but it’s not hard to tell where they were coming from (profits) and had the compulsion to keep wages minimal even though the freight ran smoother when they were able to avoid strikes every three years (if the film’s narrative is to be believed).
The Company went under due to the socialist uprisings in South America, among other things. When they suddenly lost all of their investments, they were bought out by another company. The other company looked at the labor conflicts, the increasing environmental liabilities, and decided to take a pass on most mining in Redstone. When they turned off the pumps of at the last mine, the result was water with so much mineral sludge, the mining of the lake it created is the only mining left in Redstone.
Needless to say, it wasn’t “happily ever after” for the town after that. As bad as the work was, it was still work. As bad as The Company was, they passed on things to the town that they didn’t realize were there until it was gone. The city’s economy, and population, never recovered. The employment prospects there are rather bleak outside of government work.
It’s a more peaceful place, I suppose, with not much to fight over.
Credit where credit is due: For-profit colleges do two-year programs right. Maybe. Their students graduate more regularly. Which we can’t say doesn’t matter, since we often criticize for-profits for failing to have their bachelor’s students graduate.
Farhad Manjoo writes that Windows 8 is going to require a painful transition. Not for me, because I’m going to bypass the interface.
The Economist has great maps on violence, partitions, and traffic routes of drug cartels in Mexico. That Chihuahua is such a violent haven and El Paso remains one of the safest cities in the country is nothing short of miraculous.
A lot of my friends have been passing around the video of the “You’re not special” graduation speech. JohnJ has a good retort for the enthusiasm: People are praising this speech because they don’t think it applies to them. They’re special.
I know that there would be a certain efficiency to it, but I’m not sure how much I like the idea of a single company becoming an EMR monopoly.
John Dvorak is apparently finally noticing that WiFi mooching has become nigh-impossible. I agree with him that it’s a shame, but it was inevitable when (a) people started bragging about how they were foregoing buying the Internet altogether and (b) people started being held criminally liable for what was happening on their network. Somewhere in here there is a post about community and trust and what happens when it disappears.
According to Futurity, hiding your identity at work decreases your job satisfaction and increases turnover. The methodology, however, does not breed confidence, to the extent that they reveal it. People in an environment where you do not feel free to express your identity is problematic whether you are expressing that identity or not.
Not that you guys have seen, but there’s been a little war brewing here at Hit Coffee. Namely, ever since we changed servers, I have been inundated with spam trackbacks on old posts. I don’t know why, but my “No pings allowed” setting was being ignored on old posts.
The solution was to go into the SQL database and do an update query that closed pinging on the post-level instead of the blog-level. And another update query to delete all trackbacks except the ones to and from Hit Coffee posts.
I knew going to college would be handy at some point…
There are between three and four coffee places in town, depending on how you count them and if you exclude all convenience store and restaurant coffee. One is a to-go stand, one is a Starbucks inside a Safeway, and two are conventional coffeehouses. There’s one (”Perky’s”) in the downtown area that I like to go to, though I’m less than enthusiastic about the quality of their product and their hours. The other one (”University Cup”) is in a less interesting part of town, but I like the product an hours more. I frequent the latter.
Here’s the thing, though: the owner-operator of the University Cup has never been very nice to me. I could never figure out why, but I always got the impression that I was intruding every time I walked in. It was enough that, in other circumstances, I would have stopped going there altogether.
I think I’ve figured something out, though. I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t like me. I think it’s just that she is a rather unpleasant person. The story of how I came to this conclusion is too long for even HC standards, so I’ll spare it to you.
Anyhow, knowing that she’s simply unpleasant makes me less reluctant about going back.
In a recent linky-post, I mentioned a study that suggests that skeptics of global warming are actually more scientifically knowledgeable than believers:
Some righties are getting a real kick out of a new study suggesting that global warming skeptics have more scientific and numeric literacy than its believers. Since that was clearly not the results that the study’s founders had hoped to find, that’s icing on the cake. Seriously, I don’t consider it particularly relevant. I don’t consider it surprising. I consider it funny as hell.
At some point I will write my magnum opus on this, but some things can’t wait.
What the study actually found was not that there was a strong correlation on skepticism and scientific knowledge, but actually that the more knowledgeable someone was, the more polarized they were:
We conducted a study to test this account and found no support for it. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest.
This makes nothing less than complete sense to me. Studies have shown that both Republicans and Democrats tend to be smarter and more knowledgeable than independents. The more intelligent and knowledgeable, the more extreme. This is a little foreign to me, personally, because the more I read and consume, the less certain I become about anything.
In another way, however, it makes perfect sense. We do not consume information objectively. When we sort out data and turn it into information, we often do so with an endgame in mind. Rather than increased intellectual firepower and knowledge resulting in a greater objective understanding of anything, it merely results in the ability sort information to confirm our existing biases. It allows us to rationalize or contradict inconvenient information, and to make more sense of and expound upon affirming information.
In the case of global warming, people assign scientific concepts they know or have heard about (a glass of icewater not overflowing when the ice melts) in misapplied ways towards global warming (doesn’t apply because ice will be falling off actual land and into the water).
The cause-effect here can be circular. The mind tries to find order in all of the chaotic information in processes. Intelligent minds are more capable of this than not. And so as more information comes in, it’s sorted to fit a particular pattern. On the other side, people with a particular passion tend to seek out more information on something. There are anti-evolution people who know far, far more about the theory of evolution than I ever will - and they sought it out with a particular conclusion in mind. The same applies to anti-vaccination people, who know a lot more about vaccinations than anybody but researchers, doctors, and activists on the other side. More information sought, more information processed, more righteousness accumulated.
Over the past few years, I have known people who have gone from unreasonably right to unreasonably left. They were intelligent before, and they are intelligent now. All that was required was a massive re-sorting of data.
How evaluation metrics in teaching might have saved a teacher’s job. I fully understand a lot of the concern surrounding using metrics for teacher accountability. But if you’re not looking at the results, you’re looking at the methodology, or you’re just letting teachers do whatever they want. Looking at the methodology means firing teachers not for how well they are teaching, but how well they are teaching to the script. There are worse things, actually, but we need to recognize that’s what it is.
I got a real kick out of Adam Ozimek’s piece on nudges for paternalist economists. Bloomberg’s soda ban got a lot of coverage, but not nearly enough of it talked about the class implications, which I think are actually more important than the nanny-state ones.
The world’s worse password requirements. I recently had to change my bank online password due to an error on a teller’s part (my password didn’t meet newer requirements). When a teller tells you “Could you pull around and come inside?” it’s not a good thing.
Some righties are getting a real kick out of a new study suggesting that global warming skeptics have more scientific and numeric literacy than its believers. Since that was clearly not the results that the study’s founders had hoped to find, that’s icing on the cake. Seriously, I don’t consider it particularly relevant. I don’t consider it surprising. I consider it funny as hell.
My arch-nemesis Marion Nestle signs on to a letter to Congress that, for once, I am actually quite sympathetic to. I think the “and the proceeds should go to foodies programs to teach the value of nutrition” bit should be dropped, but there seems to be room for reform. A graphical explanation about how farm subsidies work.
As Verizon customer, I fall under the $80 plan, and rarely ever go over my calling or text message caps. I don’t particularly relish the notion of a forced “upgrade” to a $100 plan — $60 for 2GB of access and unlimited voice and text messages and a $40 access fee for a smartphone — if I move to Share Everything.
For a couple, the new share plan would cost $150 for access for two smartphones, 4GB of data, and unlimited text and voice. That’s not much different than a current share plan that comes with 700 minutes, 1,000 text messages per phone, and 2GB of data each. Current couples, however, would have to give up their unlimited data plans in exchange for unlimited voice and text messages.
Part of the problem are the high access fees for devices, which make it tough for individuals who want to sign up multiple devices under one plan. The access fee for a smartphones is $40 a month, while a basic phone is $30, and laptops, Netbooks, and mobile hotspots are $20. Even the lowest rate — $10 a month for a tablet — seems excessively high.
To me, the tablet is the only one that isn’t obscenely high. Maybe it’s because I had already read about the tablet rate and so I was expecting a ballpark of $10 instead of $40. But $40 for a smartphone? Seriously? That’s what people to pay to connect a smartphone now ($10 for the line, $30 for the data plan), and it comes with data. In this case, you’re merely asking to permission to access the local data pool. Okay, you’re asking for another line, too. But $40 is excessive all the same.
I’m sitting on a tablet that is Verizon-network ready but not connected to the network. The goal should be, I think, trying to convince me to put it on the network. Because if I do, I might have to consider a higher data plan. Back when I first heard about the data plans going up, I’d figured that I would just shell out and do it. As it stands, I am thinking that I’ll want to avoid the data plan altogether.
Whether the new plan would save us money or cost us money depends on our data usage. If I assume more usage, it’s actually cheaper for me to add $40 to the bill by adding the tablet than it would be to switch to a family plan and add it for $10. I don’t think that’s a calculation that serves Verizon well.
Now that Verizon has made its dumb pricing move, it’s time for AT&T or another competitor to offer something groundbreaking—what I imagine to be the perfect wireless plan. Here’s how it would work: First, you select a data tier. That’s it.
You wouldn’t pay extra for texts, voice calls, and for additional devices. You’d pay just for the amount of data you use—the more you use, the more you pay. This plan is simple, fair, and—depending on the price of data—it could save a lot of people a lot of money. Over the long run, this plan would be a boon to any wireless carrier that rolled it out. It would bring in more customers with more devices, and—as all those people spend more time using their various mobile devices over the next few years—the network would cash in. The only problem with this plan is that it’s so transparent and customer-friendly that it’s hard to imagine there’s any wireless company forward-thinking enough to consider it. Especially not AT&T.
Like Manjoo, I really think that the goal should be to bring as many devices into the network as possible. It would encourage people to use more data, which in turn would make them more money. In that sense, I actually like Verizon’s decision and hope that it becomes a norm. The longer I keep the tablet off their network, the more money I save.
The PPACA stands to severely limit Utah’s attempts at health care reform. They’d actually initially tried to do the unthinkable: decouple insurance from employment. I don’t know what exactly it’s going to take to fix our system, though I do wish we’d try for more state experimentation. I’d like to see some states try single-payer, but also subsidized high-deductible plans.
I have a hierarchy of preference for health care reform, and there are many ahead of PPACA in that hierarchy. One of the things I’d really like to have seen tried somewhere are subsidized HSA’s and high-deductible insurance plans. Notably, whatever happens in the PPACA in court, some of the changes are going to stick.
Indiana has become the first state to allow citizens to shoot cops who unlawfully enter their homes.
Doug Mataconis asks whether the Evolution fight matters. I’m increasingly coming around to the point of view that it doesn’t and that it mostly serves as a social signal for self-justified disapproval of others. Relatedly, I think Robert Wright’s comments on the history of the struggle are on-target.
The downside to term limits: Mike Bloomberg doesn’t care what you think. Term limits in Colosse initially had the ill-effect of preventing challengers from running against incumbents (why bother? It’ll be an open field soon enough!), though we fortunately had a mayor so incompetent that it set a precedent for not waiting.
A program for medical student loan reimbursement had absolutely no applications.
Those with the largest student loans tend to actually go into primary care, rather than avoid it.
It might be overstated as a reason, but there are other factors going into what she’s taking about that should be addressed. Clancy took a pass on Arapaho’s student loan reimbursement program. It had nothing to do with being unworried about student loan debts. Rather, it was based on (a) the bureaucratic difficulty of signing up and (b) committing to the job for six years. She signed a three year contract, and there will be a financial penalty when she leaves early, so San Mateo’s more generous program might have been something we’d have signed on with when we didn’t sign on with Arapaho’s. But specific programs that offer reimbursement often do so precisely because they are among the most uncomfortable jobs. the jobs that someone is least likely to want to commit to. And the repayment is often backloaded. And you’re making payments in the meantime anyway and interest is accumulating. And the jobs will often pay less than you could make elsewhere, with the student loan reimbursement failing to account for the difference.
As far as the second thing goes, well, there it’s more complicated as well. My wife graduated in the top third of her class and didn’t have to go into primary care. But a lot of doctors who end up going into primary care do so with little choice. I suspect that these people are also those with the most amount of student debt. They couldn’t get into a state flagship (as my wife did) and end up going to an expensive (non-elite) private college. I don’t know this to be the case, but I think it’s a factor.
To me, the really pernicious effect that student loan debt actually doesn’t have all that much to do with the dearth of doctors willing to go into primary care, however. Rather, it has more to do with the medical culture itself. The desire to make as much money as early as possible in order to get out from under. This makes high-paying jobs that, on the face of it, are questionable. There were jobs that paid significantly more than the job Clancy took. She took a pass, but the ability to pay off student loans in a year is tempting nonetheless. And while you might tell yourself that it’s temporary, I think that once you’re making that sort of money, it’s hard to go back. It sets the pace for contributing to The McAllen Problem.
So what’s the solution? I’m not sure. Relieving student loan debt for doctors who want to go into primary care may help, but since such programs are often so back-loaded, I’m not sure how much of an effect they would really have. Since they’re not something you can really count on, I think a lot of docs would end up taking the enterprising course anyway.
Not that I wouldn’t mind someone stepping in and taking care of that for us.
David Feldman pushes back against the notion that college is a poor investment:
Okay, but the price tag is still very high; is it worth it? Absolutely. A college degree is an asset whose average value is $300,000 to $600,000 of extra lifetime earnings, measured in today’s dollars. And this value has risen steadily for the past 30 years. Your mileage may vary, depending on what you choose to study, but earning a college degree remains one of the best financial investments a person can make.
Nobody is saying that earning this degree is a guarantee of financial success. Even today, 18% of the college-educated workforce in prime working ages earns less than the median wage of a high school educated laborer. But in 1972, the figure was 30%. Think about that the next time someone claims that a college degree simply doesn’t pay off like it used to.
The “your mileage may vary” is understated here. It’s not just a matter of what you choose to study. It’s also a matter of who you are and where you go. People who go to some schools will make more than people who go to other schools. This is attributable to both the who and the where questions (because the who can determine the where). I am not sure where Feldman is getting his numbers, but it’s typically based on averages. And that’s problematic because the people who go to college are not the same people who don’t. Those who graduate and not the same as those who don’t. If anyone wants to point me to some numbers that are comparing apples-to-apples, I’d like to see them.
When we talk about who should and shouldn’t go to college, we should be talking about the borderline cases. Are the bottom quartile of those who go to college better off than financially than the top quartile of those who don’t? This is an overly simplistic way of putting it, since college admissions is inexact and the top quarter of people who miss out on college may well be smarter and more capable than the bottom quarter who go and even graduate. Of course, if those are the results, they are telling in their own way. So you might need to find more apples-to-apples comparisons. Though even that could be problematic because Person A may forgo college because they already have a great opportunity waiting for them while Person B is smart, has good grades, but doesn’t actually know anybody.
If I were to guess, I would say that even if you account for all of the variables, a college degree is still probably going to pay for itself over the course of a lifetime. This does not speak to the value of education, though. Rather, it speaks to (a) the networking opportunities available at college and more to the point (b) the credentialism. People with college degrees get to cut in front of a lot of lines. If everyone has a college degree, it negates the advantage.
Barring something unforeseen, Clancy and I will likely be encouraging our children to go to college. To some, this would make us hypocritical skeptics of universal college education. Actually, it means that we live in the real world. It’s reconciling ourselves to the system we have. A system that says everybody should go to college. It means contributing to a perpetuation of the system, but not supporting it on any ideological level.
Before I start with this story, a personality tick of the Redstone Gazette: The Gazette has a tendency to mention the salaries of public officials in articles where the public official is important. I’ve never really seen that before, but the paper does it with such regularity that I think it is part of some policy (or something one of their main writers or editors simply wants done). It would be an interesting angle for a conservative paper in a conservative place, but Redstone is pretty heavily blue and the newspaper’s editorial staff is, as near as I can tell, no different. An interesting thing about this policy is that it can be oddly helpful at times. Knowing that the county executive gets paid more than the mayor, but that the city councilmen get paid half of what the county commissioners do, helps put things in perspective when it comes to who is running for what. But it’s a little weird to read, in the middle of an article about the schools, “Superintendent Davis, who gets paid $75,343 a year, announced…”
Anyhow, today there was an article about the city courts being so backlogged that they are on the verge of running up against “speedy trial” requirements and will start having to dismiss charges. This goes back to a previous story involving former Judge Mike Balasevic. Balasevic, who I was informed made $63,455 a year, resigned very suddenly last year. I was also informed that he had a part-time job with the school district as a janitor, making $11,575 a year (okay, I’m making the specifics up, but those are the ballparks). He was resigning as judge, but not janitor. This was an unbelievably weird article to read, because I’d never heard of a city judge working as a janitor, and quitting one job while holding on to the other… what the hell?
I should have seen the next part coming: Federal indictment. Bribery, of a pretty crass nature. They had him having taken roughly $14,000 a couple of years back (making more from corruption than cleaning). He’d later to at least ten bribes at a few hundred dollars a piece (and a few requests that the defendant put up a yard sign for his re-election). He plead guilty to a single count and received probation and $5k restitution. Anyhow, everything apparently screeched to a halt while this was going on until they found a replacement. Hence, defendants about to go free.
As far as I know, he still has that janitor job. I’ve never actually seen him at the schools. A teacher that I have substituted for more than once is named Mrs. Balasevic. I assume a relation of some sort, but I’m not going to ask (Mrs. B has actually offered to write me a letter of recommendation if I shift to subbing down here in Callie).
Louisiana is trying to revolutionize schools. They took advantage of Katrina and did a remarkable job improving the New Orleans school district (yes, even accounting for demographics). But the NO school system is very expensive and we need to find out what, if anything, we can scale.
The Washington Post had a good op-ed piece on how we might make adoption easier across state lines. If Clancy and I have trouble with our second (or, heaven forbid, our first), adoption remains a possibility. Given our preference for lowpop states, this is a potential issue for us.
You may have heard about Diane Tran, an honors student from Texas who was sentenced to jail for missing school due in large part to having to take care of her family. I wrote about it here. Well, the judge is trying to defend himself thusly: “I’m not mean. I just wasn’t doing my job!”
Every now and again I look at Clancy’s hospital’s employment page. It’s unlikely that I would actually get a job there, but it’s a source of interest all the same. They recently had a job posting for a Health Information Specialist, which is basically an IT job with an information processing focus. What jumped out at me were the job requirements. Namely, that it listed a need for experience for Acronym Software. I had to look up what the acronym meant, because it was news to me. It turned out, they wanted experience in the precise medical records software they are using. Really obscure software. Software that is actually so bad that they are going to be retiring it next year after a petition made its way around the office. But they only want candidates who have used this.
Now, it doesn’t make all that much difference to me. The alternative to knowing the software already is having to train someone, and they’re not going to train someone that they know is going to be gone next year. So even if I were to apply, I’d be out of consideration either way. And I guess I see why you wouldn’t want to train someone in software that you’re going to retire anyway, thus wanting prior experience. Even so, this is all such short-balling that I find it quite aggravating. It’s something I have long considered to be a part of the larger problem of employers being unwilling to train employees. I’ve become increasingly hesitant to talk about this because it actually contradicts my professional experience, where after each move (until the current one) I found a job that required training. Yet even then, I remember at one point they ramped up the requirements such that I was no longer qualified for a position I’d held for over a year before being promoted out of.
Anyhow, I thought about that when I read Dave Schuler’s post on the reverse-side of our employment problem: the inability of employers to find the right people. The first thought that comes to mind is that they’re not offering enough money, but it looks to me like acronym requirements may actually be playing a larger role:
I recommend that your read the post in full but I’ll summarize it quickly. Roughly 10% of employers aren’t willing to pay what prospective employees demand. More than half of the employers report that they can’t find candidates with the necessary skills, experience, or inter-personal skills and there is some evidence to suggest that experience is the most important of these factors. Although once again I am reminded of the help wanted ad I saw in 1982: “IBM PC Expert Wanted; Must Have 5 Years Experience” (the IBM PC was introduced in 1981—not even the people who designed it had five years of experience with it).
With my generation, it was experience with Java longer than Java had been around. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
When I went to college, one of the things that they impressed upon me was that the work world was “each man (or woman) for himself (or herself)” and that nobody was going to stick around with employers forever and no employer was going to show any loyalty to its employees. This has a certain logic and efficiency to it. But it also comes at a significant cost, and the oft-cited cost (employee job insecurity) is only a part of it. On the employer side, churn causes a loss in accumulated tribal knowledge. Chances are, if I leave one company for another company, the company I am leaving actually lost more than the company I am going to is gaining. There are advantages to having new people coming in with new ideas and all of that, but the company I left has to train the next guy to know all that I knew, and the company I am going to has to train me on all of the things the guy I am replacing knew (if I’m replacing anybody). I’m sure that somewhere there is a perfect equilibrium between “new blood” and continuity, though the tilt has gone from from too far in one direction to too far in another.
One of the bigger costs, though, is that when an employee might leave at any given moment, it doesn’t pay to train them. Or to have to train them as little as possible. Now, it’s been my experience that employers are far too unconcerned with churn, accepting it as a fact of life as though there is nothing that can be done about it. But even if I had my way, where you try to hire people at the ground level and then raise them up to where they fit best as quickly as possible, there is little more reason to expect employee loyalty than there is to expect employer loyalty. So we have a stand-off. Nobody trusts anybody, employees are inclined to take their experience and leave, employers become demanding that they have to invest as little as possible in new employees. I don’t know how you break this cycle.
(None of this excuses Clancy’s employer. Hire someone who lives in Callie and likes it here, there are not many places for them to go with their Health Information Specialist training.)