when the status quo frustrates.

A Story of Privilege

For a couple of months now, I have been driving a young teenager from her home to her high school and back again (about 22 miles one way) for 15 dollars a trip a. Recently, I have also started doing laundry for $12.50/ hr. at the same house. So, at the end of the month, this family pays me a little under a grand. The girl has had almost all privileges a young girl can have- her parents are both corporate attorneys, she has traveled the world, she lives in a lovely McMansion, she has been exposed to culture and goes to one of the best local charter schools. For the most part, she is quite blessed.

This family would be easy to point to and say “Look how easy they have it! Of course this girl is going to succeed, she’s going to have ample opportunity too!” But this is not a story about her, or her family. This is a story of my privilege.

It is harder to look at the things that you have that you don’t deserve. It’s easier to go “I deserve so much more because I work so hard” or talk about all the difficulties but you have had to face. But, even people who have had legitimate difficulties (and I imagine there are quite a few of them) mixed in was all the stuff that institutions have favored about you, the headache that you don’t know that you don’t have*, and sheer dumb luck. I’m female, bisexual, poly and I’m currently lower-middle class. I’m also white, cis-gendered, grew up middle class and grew up in the United States. Your life is always going to be intermixed with what you do, and what happens to you.

I was reminded of that, very strongly, when reading this post from “Forever in Hell”. The post talks about a poor business owner who’s 2 miles away from the nearest bus station, and because of it can’t find anyone to work for him because he needs people to have a car. The relevant part here:

But you have to be able to drive. That’s an odd way of putting it, isn’t it? Why would you need to be able to drive to be a metal fabricator or a welder? What Mr. Isbister means to say isn’t that you need to be able to drive, it’s that you have to be able to afford a car.

Where I live, bus riders are divided fairly evenly between three groups: people too young to drive, people too old to drive and people too poor to drive. Mr. Isbister isn’t talking about the first two groups, he’s talking about the third group, and all of those people are fully able to drive. I have a driver’s license. I know how to drive a car. I just can’t afford to own, maintain, repair and gas a car. That’s expensive and I just don’t get paid enough.

Neither, I would guess, do Mr. Isbister’s employees. And that’s the problem. Henry Ford was a racist asshat, but he did get one thing right: he paid his employees enough to afford the product they were producing. He was only doing that to create a demand for his product (can you imagine a time when you had to create a demand for cars?), but the point still stands.

In order for businesses to be able to pay low wages, they depend upon our tax dollars to provide services to their employees that their paychecks just won’t cover. Low wages won’t cover the cost of owning a car, so your tax dollars pay for public transportation to get employees to work. Low wages won’t cover the cost of food, so your tax dollars pay for food stamps and WIC*. Low wages won’t cover the cost of housing, so your tax dollars pay for housing assistance*. Low wage and part time jobs don’t cover, or even offer, health insurance, so your tax dollars pay for health insurance for their children. And on and on and on.

My job is to drive a kid back and forth. I got this job, because I graduated with honors from high school, and this was my parent’s gift to me, so while I have been paying for the insurance and upkeep on it for the last 7 years or so, I never purchased it. Last month, my car which hadn’t had any problems before, suddenly had the timing belt break on me. The mechanic told me it would be at least $600 dollars to repair**. This is the third major expense on it, and Hubby and I had already decided before this happened that if there was another, that we were just going to junk it for it’s pathetic $200.

$200 dollars is not enough to buy a new car, and my job, it should go without saying, requires me to have a car. Had I not had my husband’s car to fall back on, I would have been flat out screwed. Did I do anything to deserve this luck? No. It’s just what my situation had available for me. We went with one car for awhile, and we could have stayed a one car family, but it was turning out to be really difficult with our wildly divergent schedule. So, Hubby’s family lent us their second truck, a manual. Did I do anything to deserve this? No, it was luck that’s Hubby’s family is wealthy enough to do that and that they could offer it to us. Now, Hubby’s car is starting to sound funny, so we’re taking it in to the mechanic’s. The second truck is a stick, which I of yet don’t know how to drive, so Hubby’s grandparents are lending me one of their vehicles for the couple day’s it’ll be in the shop. Again, did I do anything to deserve this? Did my hard-work lead good things to me? Did I even pay for it in any way? Absolutely not.

If someone else would have been in another situation, they would be flat out screwed. They’d have to quit this job, and lose the painfully meager salary. I have the privilege of a) having a car to get the job b) having a back-up when that fell through c)having in-laws that were in a position to, and willing to***, help me out when this car needs preventative maintenance. This is a privilege that I have that others do not, and one that I’m going to be taking advantage of. And I wish people who say things like “I’ve worked for what I have” could recognize where they didn’t work.

It is more than likely that Hubby and I will eventually be middle class, and probably upper middle class, at least if our parents and grandparents life-path’s are any indication. And I just hope, when and if that happens, that we can keep the knowledge of our assistance, and apply it to everyone else, not just who we know.

*Ani Difranco “Shroud”
**And already had called a couple junk yards to give us quotes on how much we could get for it, demonstrating that he didn’t think it was worth fixing.
***My in-laws confuse me. When it’s everyone, it’s “people should rely on themselves, and pull themselves up by their bootstraps” conservative tripe. When it’s their friends and family suddenly it’s “Everyone needs a little help in the beginning”. I’m not sure how they live with the disconnect.

Sucker Punch Review

A couple of weeks back, Hubby and I went to go see “Sucker Punch”. The movie has a pretty involved plot line for something that is at its heart an action fest. For the people who haven’t seen the movie, this trailer does a pretty good job of explaining the feel of the movie. I don’t normally do this, but heavy trigger warnings.

The rest of this post after the fold is going to be heavy on spoilers, so it goes after the fold.
Continue Reading..

The Price of Being Broke

The economy is crap right now. Everyone who has a passing connection to the economic world is aware of that fact. Everyone says it- to reassure one another that our unemployment isn’t because we’re unemployment, or to respond to that despondent friend, family member, or acquaintanceship when you sit comfortably from the valued ranks of employment.

But, it is hard to believe. It’s hard to believe when you tell it to yourself. It’s hard to believe when your parents ask if you have a job yet. It’s hard to believe when you fill out your 65th application for employment. It’s hard to believe that there just isn’t something wrong with you, and everyone else is doing fine (even when you take a look around at your friends and see them not doing fine as well). If the economy is so bad, why are there all of these job applications? If the economy is so bad, how come I’m not seeing boarded-up windows? Logic can tell you plenty of things, and your eyes plenty more but that doesn’t stop the very strongly internalized message that employment is a major source of someone’s identity, and money is a major determination of a person’s worth. I’ve sold things, things I didn’t even know were valuable to me, to get thorough my uneven periods of employment. I’m not even talking about my harp and a DVD Player. That sucks, but less of the loss of the items. I’m not even talking about the extortion at the hands of Sallie Mae, whom I’ve just ended up throwing away $150.00 so they could stop harassing me for a whole three months about the loans I am in NO position to pay back. I’ve sold a few of my morals.

A friend of a friend of mine is pretty high in a particular non-profit. In December, we were at a mutual Christmas party, and when he heard about my job difficulties, he told me to send him my resume after the Christmas season, and he’d see he could find me something. Last week I did. This weekend, I need to drive my dad about 3 hours away and spent the night at our old family friends, the Olson’s*. I have fond memories of the Olson’s of when I was a child, but I have less-than-fond feelings towards them as an adult. They are high in their respective fields, seemingly have no memory of being in their early 20s and struggling (for our middle class versions of struggling), and sneer at the fact a good chunk of scholarships are for “People who would rather not work rather than hardworking people”. They live in a place that I feel could easily be described as a “mansion” on a lake, take long, exotic vacations at least once a year, and have enough money to complain about taxes. I smiled politely at them when I was there, swallowed anything I had to say about how “lazy poor people are”, and quietly excused myself when they started talking about “Hajis”. I also sent them a Thank-You card for letting them stay at my house and to send me an email if they hear about any job openings.

I know a good chunk of the world would say “So what? You’re starting to network, that’s how you get jobs”. A few of you might even consider it maturing. But, think about what that innocent little word means. “Network”: I am not spending time with you because I like you, or because I enjoy your company, but for what you could possible get me. “Networking” doesn’t just mean that I’m possibly taking a job from someone equally or more qualified than me just because I’m tangentially connected to them- it also means that I’m viewing someone as a means to an end. They have gone from a friend and companion to the equivalent of a line on my resume.

And I don’t know where it’ll stop. I’m slowly selling values, and that doesn’t just cause cognitive dissonance. But I start wondering where it ends. A friend talks about a temporary job her company does that they don’t really advertise and I get it. Well, that’s okay, it’s just a temporary job. I start having friends-of-friends take my resumes. I write birthday cards to people I don’t even like so they can keep me in their mind. Pretty soon I’m censoring everything I say on a blog, or stop blogging all together, because that’ll keep me from having jobs, and deciding that red isn’t professional enough. Eventually I internalize it to the point where I think “Well, of course it’s reasonable to businesses to ban tattoos and earrings”. Or “my company really needs this by tomorrow, I guess I’ll just have to be late for my husband’s birthday because, hey, I got to have a job”. Slowly, but surely, I’ll start washing over, rewriting, and forgetting any morals, not because something has come up to change my mind, but because of fear. Cowardice will overwhelm any moral code. And that has to be the most expensive thing I could think to sell.

*Name changed to protect the family. Or, if it wasn’t, do you realize how many Olson’s there are around here?

New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t For Me

Welcome to 2011! Along with novelty- themed parties, and drunken singing of Auld Lang Syne, this is a time of year that is marked by an idea of renewal, growth, and rebirth; and with that comes resolutions. New beginnings means new actions, right? Time to start over, and do things right.

While I have nothing against the idea of self-improvement, picking New Year’s seems like the dumbest time to do it. For one, the day is completely arbitrary. There is nothing about the Gregorian calendar that makes you have extra-special powers of change-ness. Better to pick a day that has some significance: pick a day that is close to what kind of resolution you have. If your resolution is to spend more time with the family, then choose an anniversary of some sort. If your resolution is to learn something, than the start of school makes a good time. If your resolution is to be more involved in your community, election day’s a good time to try that. You pick a day that has some pretty powerful attachments to the idea that you are trying to improve upon. New Year’s, on the other hand, is something that people forget about until they awaken around the 27th from their post-Christmas gluttony coma.

The second objection I have against them is that they are generally a result of social pressure. We come up with a resolution because someone’s going to ask what your New Year’s Resolution is going to be. While this can be a good thing, and I understand the value of social reinforcement, if there isn’t an internal drive to improve, no amount of social censure is going to suffice. Additionally, as most can attest, that drive to improve oneself tends to taper off in about three weeks are so, and the social censure even earlier. There’s a reason that we have the same New Year’s resolutions year after year: we generally have reasons (if not great reasons) why we do what we do. For a funnier explanation, I refer to this particular cracked list.

Finally, the third objection I have to them is a matter of practicality. The things that top out New Year’s Resolutions are pretty standard: lose weight, save money, spend more time with families, get organized, and quit smoking. These are resolutions because for most people it is impractical if not flat out impossible to change these things. For the first I shall direct you to the brilliant writer over at Shapely Prose. For the last, I shall assume people know why addictions are near to impossible to give up, but in case you don’t, let me direct you to some interesting research by Malcolm Gladwell. So, let’s just focus on the middle resolutions: saving money, spending more time with the family, and getting organized.

The first reason that these resolutions are impractical to impossible is because they near directly contradict each other. The best way to save money is to make more money without adjusting spending habits, and generally the only way people have to make more money is to work more hours. Organization is a skill, and like any skill you need some natural talent and then time honing that ability. Spending time with family is an exponential amount of time, not a direct one, because in a modern family it will take time to coordinate with schedules and, if the reason you aren’t spending much time with them in the first place is because they drive you bonkers, mental clearing time after words. All of these require time, time, and energy. If people had a ton of this lying around, then they would already have started to accomplish this before. People don’t generally decide to waste money (assuming they can accurately gauge what constitutes “waste” which is a lot harder than people think considering how susceptible to advertising we are and how much advertising there is), don’t generally avoid spending time with people they like spending time with, and aren’t slobs for the hell of it.

The second reason these resolutions are impractical is because the advice given on it is either narrowly tailored to a specific group of people, or is just in general crap. Take, for a great example, saving money. A quick google of “how to save money” sends me to debtguru.com, but the advice is similar to anything that anyone would say. The “11 Money-Making Strategies” tend to be things a) people are already doing (brown bagging it, purchasing generic, taking public transit), laughably impossible (pay yourself first, quit using credit cards, have a two-month emergency fund) or not going to add up to any significant amount. The advice all assumes you are a middle-class person with lots of free time. If you’re not, the advice is worse than useless.

And, now to contradict almost everything I just said, I ask you “What was your New Year Resolution?” For myself, I do not make them. But my birthday resolution was to read a non-fiction book every two weeks, which I have had a fairly good time keeping up with.

Joys of Being Broke

The Obama administration has broken down and agreed to extend the Bush era tax cuts for not only the poor, middle class, and rich, but also the mega-rich in exchange for extending unemployment benefits. Some jerk-ass abuses food stamps and is amazed to find what you can purchase food. It seems like the most privileged people in the world have no idea what it is actually like to be poor, and therefore feel perfectly comfortable being superior asses about it.

But, let me tell you about being broke. My last temporary job ended early in November, and no new job has been forthcoming. Hubby’s still got his job, but since he makes less than a manager at Taco Bell as a pilot, this means our budget is stretched tighter than it can sustain. My credit card is maxed out, my Sallie Mae loans are past due, and we owe the hospital about hundred bucks for a bout of tonsillitis that I’m still paying off. We’re in a pretty bad place, but I still say “broke” instead of poor because our bills are paid, I haven’t accrued interest on my credit card yet, and fuck Sallie Mae, I’m never getting those loans paid off anyway. The hospital is working with us. But, because we’d like to have enough food to last us until the end of the month, I went and did that humiliating process that me, a good chunk of my friends, and probably most poor people have done at some time in their life or another: I rounded it up what stuff which was of value in my apartment (and that Hubby and I could bare to part with) and went to the pawn shop and then a book dealer’s.

I hate pawn shops. I hate how they basically scam on people who are desperate, I hate how they look at me when I bring my stuff in, and I hate how powerless I feel when I walk in. I know the stuff I have is crap. We have never had a ton of disposable cash, so we really don’t have anything worth pawning. We have a few pieces of weaponry that are family heirlooms that we basically wouldn’t get half of what we’ve spent on them, and a few pieces of jewelery that, again, we wouldn’t get a quarter of what we spent on them (I know- the last time I went to the pawn shop, it was to pawn a gold bracelet with diamonds and sapphires in it. An ex boyfriend gave it to me- he bought it new for a thousand dollars. The pawn shop was willing to give me fifty. I ended up selling it to a Cash for Gold place and getting 60 for it). I have a computer with a monitor that isn’t mine, a second-hand printer, a tv that’s half-way to broken and a pair of cars we couldn’t get $500 for. So, what I had of value in the apartment was a DVD player, and a harp. For the pair of them, I got twenty-five bucks.

The used bookstore wasn’t any better. I had about 30 books, all in good condition, popular reads, and for the lot of them I got…24 bucks. I have no idea which books cost which, or what the rubric was: they refused to say individually what book was getting what- I had a “you get 24 for the whole lot, take it or leave it” attitude.

I took it. I liked my books, I liked my harp, I liked my DVD player. Honestly, the utility I got for those items probably outweighed the cost I spent them for. But since real life is not economics, the money was more necessary than the items. This will cover gas and groceries for the rest of the month. I find it ironic- the people who have the ability to say “no” and walk away are the ones who have the most power when it comes to these sorts of negotiations. But if you’re at the pawn shop door, clutching your instrument, you aren’t in a position to say no. You aren’t the person who goes “Fuck it, I’ll wait it out and see if I can get better on Craigslist” or decide to see if Amazon can get you anything. You’re already in a position where you need the cash. It’s like a job interview in a terrible economy- you’re trying not to look too desperate, but both you and the interviewer know which one has the power. If you want better hours, better pay, better whatever *shrugs* sucks to be you. There’s a line of a hundred other people out there that can do that job as well as you can. If you are more experienced, more learned, more whatever, and you try to get those same features, you’re “overqualified” and it’s better to ask the row of people behind you to work for less.

Being broke is a constant battle with your pride and your values, and have to have people look down at you because of it. It’s begging to get a little more for your prized possessions, and groveling for a job you know you’re going to hate. It’s constantly assessing your value, because hey, even if you don’t believe them there are five million conservatives squawking about how unemployed people are just lazy, or even worse, your family and friends talking about how unemployed people are just not looking hard enough (but I don’t mean you, of course). Being broke is being tired, because you have all this time, but no money to really do anything, and nobody to do it with.

But fuck 600 billion dollars a year- rich people need a new yacht, right? And isn’t it the greatest injustice in the world that poor people can get candy?

Helping friends

Let’s hypothetically pretend that Ted’s friend Sally was raped in the last month by Sluggo, a man in an authority position over her at her job. To make matters worse, every sign indicates that Sluggo has worked out his own rape “system”, has raped others before, and will almost certainly rape again. In this scenario, Sally doesn’t report the man in any way to the police or to anyone at her job. Instead, she quietly puts in notice at her work, and quits there as soon as she can. So, Ted’s reaction to learning this is to want to tell her all sorts of things that he thinks she do– file a police report, sue the man, report him to her company and sue them if they’re unresponsive, etc, etc. But of course, she’s already the victim here. Ted knows he can’t very well tell her that she should do anything, not when it comes to anything that might even have the chance of making her life even more uncomfortable than she’s already feeling.

Is Ted being a good friend if he tells her all these difficult things that he thinks she should do? After all, it just really, really burns him that Sally’s having insult added to injury by leaving her job, AND that this shitty asswipe Sluggo is going to rape other women, too. And (it seems to Ted) that both situations could be preventible — but only if Sally took certain actions.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how Ted might encourage Sally to try to do something proactive about the rape (though maybe putting herself through more grief in the process), without becoming a complete dick himself? Or is that impossible? Maybe the best thing for Ted to do would be to stay mute about all of those unasked-for opinions of his, and simply offer emotional support in a positive way whenever/however it’s asked for. To remain as utterly non-judgmental of Sally as he could possibly manage.


The Balance

Normally, when I hear the phrase “moderate” I start to seize up. It is an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes perfectly good, innocent words get destroyed when politics come into play, and “moderate” has joined the list with “liberty” and “freedom” of words that make me instantly suspicious of you. “Moderate” in modern American politics, seems to always mean “Republican light”.

But, generally, the position in between two extremes is the right one. Not necessarily between “right” and “left” but between different poles such as authoritarianism versus libertarianism, the community versus the individual freedom. Yet, I have a hard time articulating where that balance should lie, and what exactly should be the guiding principle behind it.

A few weeks ago, a family in Tennessee had their house burn down. Because they had not paid their subscription fee to the local city, and because their county had voted down a small increase in property taxes to support a fire department, the South Fulton firefighters did not put out the blaze, and only responded when the neighbor’s house started on fire. My libertarian friends see this story as personally tragic, but ultimately his own fault. My liberal friends see it, alternately, as tragic but what happens when you choose not to pay taxes, and/or a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened either because the firefighters should have put out the fire and quibbled over the price later, or because they see it as morally wrong to even have services like a fire department up for a vote.

I, surprising no one, fall into the “this should not have been allowed to happen” camp, though, less for bleeding-heart reasons that one might guess. I do feel for the family, particularly because they lost their pets, and had it been my decision I probably would have told them to go put out the fire and quibbled over the price later. But this gentleman was 3-times an idiot. He was burning garbage instead of paying to take it to the dump, he left it unmonitored, his house had already been set on fire once before when he hadn’t paid his subscription fee and yet he still didn’t pay his subscription fee. It does make it difficult to feel sympathetic to his plight when he did act irresponsibly, and it takes money to run a fire department. Yet, here is where the “it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen” comes into play- his house on fire did not effect just him. His neighbor’s house started on fire, and there could have been explosives in his house that could have started an even larger fire. I am concerned about this county not having fire services for more than the individual homeowners- allowing it to be an opt-in, opt-out service means that even if you opt-in you are placed at a higher risk. We don’t get to be individuals in a lot of cases- what we do effects our neighbors and not just ourselves. If you have garbage moldering in your backyard you are attracting rodents and bugs through mine. Your poor school system means that I have to try and have a democracy with people who can’t name the three branches of the government, much less understand their responsibilities as an electorate. You driving on the road with a cell phone puts me at greater risk of getting into a car accident (opposing cell phone laws is cause de jour among my libertarian friends*). We don’t have the option of living as an island, and what’s more, trying to live as if we did is a recipe for a Hobbesian existence.

This would seem that I fall into more to the “authoritarian” side of things, but I can also recognize when the government plays too much interest in our lives. I wouldn’t want the government dictating what colors my houses had to be, even if it did reduce my neighbor’s property values. I wouldn’t want the government to dictate what political philosophies I subscribed to, even if it means I have to put up with tea-baggers. I, for the life of me, cannot figure out what their interest would be with what I do with my genitals, but I know that the government has no right or need to investigate in my (consensual) sex life. To something a little more controversial in liberal/feminist circles, I do not support burqua bans, even though I do believe that a burqua is dehumanizing, because it is matter of free speech.

So what’s the line? I was discussing with one of my moderately conservative friends and he pointed out that mandating fire service is a slippery slope to fascism. I countered that not having fire services was a slippery slope to not having a social contract. Generally, when we (and by we, I mean the American public or possibly two people) have a controversy, it is two competing rights going against each other that we have to balance out, generally going back to the community versus the individual.** I would say that the line would be something along the line of “If your action has a clear relationship between my well-being, then I get a say in it”, but that doesn’t seem like it would get any disagreements settled, both as a definitional issue and in cases where there are competing, compelling interests (divorce law, family law, et cetera).

So I offer this up to the internet populace: what is your guiding political philosophy, or ultimate value, the rules the balancing act? What do we tolerate versus what do we require? How much do we allow others to be idiots without being told what to do by other idiots?

* A case I don’t understand in the freaking least. It’s like opposing seat belt laws (which they also do). Though, I am receptive to the idea that the laws are ineffective or counter-effective in reducing traffic fatalities because of cell phone use. In that case, they should be repealed.
**Let’s ignore blatantly stupid debates like whether or not the earth is 6000 years old. That’s a disagreement between “reality” and “the right to believe false things”.

A Rant in F Sharp

For the last month, I have picked up another (unfortunately, temporary) job working at a call center. And for this reason, I post this rant.

Stop calling tech support pissed off at ME. It is not my fault that you don’t know what you’re doing. The current software company I work with has one of the most user-friendly software on the face of the earth, and people have the audacity to call in and be mad at us. 90% of the time, possibly more, the fault is that you don’t know how to work your computer and/or the software. Yes, you might have to by the upgrade for our software- the product we made in 1990 is not going to work on Window’s 7. Alternately, it’s not our fault that you haven’t upgraded your software since DOS and our brand-new software requires more space than your computer’s entire hard drive. Maybe 5% of the time you don’t know how to work your security, and it’s interfering with our server. About maybe 1% is it a problem that actually requires our help.

If you don’t understand how to work the software, read the manual. Alternately, check our website for our lovely step-by-step tutorial videos, or our extensive knowledge base articles. Yes, upgrading means you’re going to have to do maybe 30 minutes of familiarizing yourself with the new layout and features. If you don’t know how to drive a car, you don’t call Ford asking them for over-the-phone lessons. Same thing with us- we hold your hand enough. I don’t deserve your ire because you are to computer ignorant to follow an installation wizard. I deserve your gratitude for my patience and not pointing out your mental deficiencies.

Speaking of customer limitations; we are over the telephone. I don’t know what screen you’re looking at. I don’t know what system you’re on. I don’t know what product you’re using. These things all have to be communicated verbally- I can’t magically see your computer through the headset nor read your mind. If I ask you for information, I’m not trying to stall so don’t ct snippy with me. Additionally, don’t act like I’m a mental patient if I ask you to spell your email or to repeat something. Even if your email is “ilovecats@yahoo.com” I don’t know if that’s 1lovecats or Iluvkats, or any of a million other variations. Also “f” and “s”, “m” and “n”, “p” and “t” and “c” can sound like the same letter over the telephone, especially if you have a bad connection or a thick accent. I know people don’t necessarily know the formal phonetic alphabet, but it wouldn’t kill you to say “f” as in “Frank” or “Food” or “Fuck” for all I care. I just want to type the right letter- your mutterings make it sound like I should be using a cyrillic keyboard.

So, quick recap:
1) Don’t be rude and mad when it’s probably your fault.
3) I don’t know any information until you give it to me
3a corollary) I don’t know what you’re seeing until you tell me
4)When you’re listing letters and numbers, speak clearly and slowly. If in doubt, throw in an “as in”.

Follow these simple rules, we can both go back to our normal lives relatively painlessly.

I Haz New Job

…starting Monday. Yippee! $$$$$$!

(let me say that again)


I’m trying to decide if this is going to reintroduce me as an active blogger…it might…

Happy Labor Day

In 1894, the Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages to the workers who were already doing 12 hour days. In response, some 3,000 workers struck against them. This set off a strike from railway works that at it’s height would have a quarter million workers in 27 states striking. President Grover Cleveland called in the US military to stop the strike, on the excuse that they were interrupting the delivery of federal mail. At the end of the strike, 13 strikers were killed, 57 were wounded, there were untold thousands of dollars in damage, and the unions in the United States had been dealt a decisive blow that it would take until the Great Depression to bounce-back from.

The Pullman workers themselves did get rehired, but at their old wages and with the union dissolved. The strike leaders were never re-hired, and Eugene Debs, who lead the national strike, was arrested and convicted.

It wasn’t a total loss to labor- Pullman was required to divest a lot of his company in 1989 by the Illinois Supreme court, and company towns were found to be “Un-American”. As a sop to this still large contingency of the population, Grover Cleavland proposed Labor Day as the first Monday of September, and it was unanimously passed by Congress.

Labor Day in the United States is marked by barbecues, taking one last trip before school, and shopping, and rarely is it associated with the actual roots of the celebration. Of course, for the shopping, the travel, and the barbecues, ironically, this ends up many people are still working on labor day.

But Labor Day should be considered the American Holiday. Labor Day represents the struggle between businesses and labor, the political deals we make, the race struggle, the gender struggle, and the struggle between national and international. The Pullman strikers had legitimate concerns, but they undercut their own strength by being not letting the African-American community join, and cutting out women. We celebrate Labor Day in September to grilling meat and maybe a parade- the rest of the world celebrates May Day to fiery speeches. But the aspect that makes Labor Day the most American of all of our holidays is the disconnect between its purpose and its practice. We forget our own history, the struggles of our own people, for a narrative that we like better- that of the United States being the land of opportunity that people can bootstrap their way up. We forget the violence and the death in order to make way for a narrative we like. And we make the day a hell for those who actually labor instead of day of rest and reflection.

Happy Labor Day, for all you Americans. Happy Monday for everyone else.

The many faces of spam.

The Blatant Brownnose

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Oh my god, you guys! Do you really think so? I’ve always thought so. Of course I’ll approve your comments!

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The Non Sequitur

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That’s— That’s great? I’m really happy for you. We all long to find that one special 3 phase alternator that brings meaning to our cold, dark lives.

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I was at a wedding of my ex-lover last week and I couldn’t help remembering how uncomfortable I felt that day. I find it very awkward attending his wedding. It was a great thing he was so accommodating that even though the difficult feeling I felt glad to be there for him.

I am glad you could make it, even though the difficult feeling. You are strong. Having great summer.

The Artificial Intelligence Failure

Christopher Vivier says:
learning some thing your self and becoming able to teach it to other people, is as various as evening and day

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The Nearly Appropriate

Sherrell Sozzi (and about ninety other people, apparently ~ v.) says:

Stephen Hawking says the universe wasn’t necessarily created by God. In other news, grass is green.

It definitely isn’t an especially surprising statement—neither prima facie, nor considering the source. But why are you using it to sell people quack cancer cures that don’t even fucking work you terrible, terrible person?

The Strangely Honest

OpillaLoarp says:
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You might have been led to believe that if you’re standing in Lehi, Utah, USA, that you are in America. You’re not. You’re in the United States—not America.

America, after all, is a vast, wild frontier, where any man—only the right kind of any man, of course—can make his fortune! It’s a place filled with adventure and danger (to other people) and, most of all, freedom. A place where brave settlers defend themselves against savages, on the every edge of civilization! Where we fight tremendous wars, and they’re good, and they’re right. It’s a rough, beautiful land where men are men and women are women.

Look around. You don’t live there. Nobody lives there. We all live here, on bloody land stolen from people who don’t have the decency to either attack like wild animals or lie down and die. In a place where black and brown people freely walk the streets as though they belong, as though their lives are anything but an uncomfortable reminder that the triumphant throne of whiteness is stacked on a pile of bodies that could overflow a thousand mass graves. Where people with cardboard signs saying veteran. disabled. please help line the streets because they didn’t get the memo that you’re supposed to come back perfect and whole and blonde or in a box or a bag or not at all. It’s hard to live here—hard because the government takes everything to give to those lucky brown immigrants, hard because your Social Security check isn’t near big enough, hard because they keep showing bleeding, broken children on the news like it’s our fault they were in the way of our bombs, hard because you can’t just shoot a man on the street or slap some sense into your woman.

It was better, back then. Better in the past. The past, after all, is the only place where America lives. Maybe it was your parents’ time, or their parents’ time, or maybe if you’re lucky and old enough it was your own childhood, but whenever it was, that—that place, seen through the perfectly smudged glasses of memory—that was America.

Of course Liberty Land is a hoax—Extruded Liberty Product With Real Freedom Filling. Everyone knows that. But maybe it’s enough for now. It’s just a taste to keep us going. To remind us of what it will be like when we bring it back. When we kick out the fakes, the immigrants, the interlopers. When we bring back real America, where men are men and women are women and our wars are just and our lives are simple, clean, and good.