Impatient for the Life Ahead of Us

I have a preeettty good salary at my current job. However, it mostly rewards me with autonomy, excellent benefits, flexibility and familiarity. I am full-time, salaried, and unionised, but I could earn more cash elsewhere (with worse conditions).

My husband, our two kids and I need to buy a family home and in order to make that happen we are going to need more cash. Right now, it’s about earning more money. I want to stay in my current job with its attendant flexibility, and ideally I want to be paid more. I just am really dreading talking to my boss about a raise.

My position is tied to a pay scale from 1 to 8. The idea is that you start at 1 and move up annually until you’re at an 8. I was brought in at a 2, and after one year made a case to move up to a 5. This month I’ll be moved up to a 6. But I want to be an 8! I want to be an 8 so badly I can taste it. Once I’m at an 8, I know that I will have maxed out my money-getting opportunities here, and my choices will be to stay and shut up, or go. I have some reasons to think this isn’t totally unlikely. I am overqualified. I do an excellent job. I got a rating of “well exceeds expectations” on my last performance review. I think that less qualified/not as good employees as me are getting paid more than me, in my team, in my company, and in the industry. However, most of them were brought in at a time when everything was a bit more flush.



When Pop Culture Was Obsessed With Dads

In the nineties, Dad was sometimes the coolest guy in the room. He was sometimes the butt of the joke. He was sometimes the absence that made all the difference. But he was always, insistently, at the center of the story.

For the Paris Review Daily, Willie Osterweil writes about the nineties, a time of paternalistic foreign and economic policy, a time of newly grown-up baby boomers, and a time of SO MANY DAD SHOWS: READ MORE


Leftover Woman

I am supine in a plush recliner. A woman is kneeling before me, pressing her thumbs into my feet. My friend Jon, a Chinese-American Tsinghua professor, is next to me in an identical chair. The TV in front of us is switched on a nature channel. The leopard pouncing on an unsuspecting gazelle makes sense in any language.

A man is rubbing Jon’s feet. “Is that your girlfriend?” the masseur asks him in Mandarin, nodding to me. “No,” Jon says, “she’s an old friend.”

“How old is she?” the masseur asks. Jon asks me and I answer 29 in English although I understand the Chinese. Jon translates and the masseur asks him if I’m married. Jon doesn’t need to consult me. “No,” he answers.

“Ahhhh,” the man says, “American women like to play for a long time, huh?” He laughs, and Jon laughs too, in uncomfortable solidarity. The woman rubbing my feet looks up at me and our eyes meet. We say nothing.

Someone in Beijing explained it to me like this: western men think Chinese women are spoiled. Little princesses. They want to be fawned over with teddy bears and expensive gifts. Better to cry in the back of a BMW than smile on the back of a bicycle. Chinese men think western women are spoiled. Little princesses. They say whatever they want and have opinions about everything. They drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. They are easy, have probably slept with dozens of men before you, but still want respect. I know enough Chinese and western women to know this is both true and also the furthest things from the truth. I, for one, love both alcohol and teddy bears.



Citywide Blight Due to Shady Donation Boxes

Have you ever seen or used one of those donation boxes placed in parking lots used to collect donated clothing, books, and shoes? Sam Levin reports at the East Bay Express that the boxes are often ill-maintained and usually run by for-profit businesses:

“As a practical matter, it’s next to impossible to keep these boxes cleaned up,” said Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan. “They are creating a problem that doesn’t seem easily solved.”

Opponents of the bins also argue that they divert donations away from East Bay charities that recirculate items locally and use their revenue to fund jobs and important social service programs. The out-of-town businesses that operate the donation boxes are instead typically driven by profits and generally sell donated clothing to wholesale buyers, thrift store chains, and textile recyclers. That means materials can be shipped across the country and overseas, which is less environmentally efficient than local reuse. And to some, the bin operators are clearly using misleading marketing tactics to collect clothes from residents who likely don’t realize they are giving their goods to non-local, for-profit businesses, instead of local charities that need these donations.

A spokesperson for Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay says it has seen a 5 to 10 percent decrease in donations since the bins have proliferated: “That makes a significant impact on what we can provide in the community to folks in need.”

So if you are able to donate your unwanted goods directly to the Salvation Army, that’s the way to go.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Sailing Around the World And Getting By Without Cash

Sixty-five mangos, 12 coconuts, and three rubber-banded baggies of coffee slide across the deck in two large plastic bins. There’s a broad-built man in a little boat called COUNTRY staring at me. I have no money and it’s 600 miles to the nearest ATM.

For four years, I’ve been traveling the high seas, alone aboard my sailboat BOBBIE long enough to know that being cashless doesn’t have to be a problem. For centuries, explorers have ploughed all corners of our watery world, armed with little more than improvised currencies. From the Portuguese pursuits of exotic spices in the Moluccas, to the movement of molasses across the West Indies, the sea has always remained the most flexible of marketplaces.

And so, in much the same way, today on this tiny island in the middle of the Java Sea, we shall improvise. I duck inside, grab a half-full bottle of rum and toss it to Romy, my new bounty-bearing friend. It’s a solid deal: I don’t drink at sea, and he hasn’t seen commercial grade liquor in the better part of a decade.



Going to the Bathroom at Work

This Atlantic article about the design of public bathrooms (or lack thereof), pee-fear, and the guy whose patients call him Dr. Pee but he doesn’t want them to call him Dr. Poop is my everything.

Of course, like most shame-centered human drama, things really come to a head in the workplace. We all have our coping mechanisms — loud coughing, premature flushing, waiting it out. Maybe some of us just own it! Or hold it in forever and then die. One woman featured adopted the short-lived strategy of bringing her iPod into the bathroom with her and blaring music while she poops. Something to think about:

Now, in the workplace, she has new strategies.

“I walk in, I immediately scan every door,” she says. “I take in the situation and if there’s nobody in there, I start running. I sit down and am immediately yelling at myself ‘Go, go, go, you can do it, goooooo!”

But if someone comes in before she’s able to pee, it’s over. READ MORE


Injured While Adjuncting

Linda Lee is a part-time faculty member who slipped on ice and fell at a university where she was teaching. She recently wrote an informative post at The Adjunct Project on worker’s compensation from the perspective as an injured adjunct:

My injury occurred while walking to my car after class, and I did not realize how badly I was hurt until I administered first aid at home about 15 minutes later. Shortly thereafter, I reported the injury to campus safety — first via telephone, then in person after returning to campus. Though campus safety offered to bring me to the ER when I filed my report, this seemed an unnecessary measure at the time–in part, due to other professional obligations later in the day.

Though I asked directly about how to seek medical attention, I was told that an investigator assigned to my case would answer my questions the next morning. It took almost five hours to speak with the investigator the next day, who directed me to Human Resources instead.

A brief conversation with HR more than 24 hours after the initial injury yielded information about covered providers. This information is critical because employers are required to pay for medical bills only when employees use covered providers.

Had I visited a doctor of my own choice, I would have been responsible for all costs, including copays and deductibles.

Photo: Patrik Jones


Should We Pull The Plug On All This And Buy A Bookstore, Y/N?

There is a bookstore for sale on the Oregon coast, via Shelf Awareness (best terribly-punned bookselling newsletter there is), and it is in the same town where they filmed parts of The Goonies. Need I say more?! It is called Cannon Beach Book Company:

Owner Valerie Ryan said on Facebook: “It is time to turn my wonderful store over to someone who is interested in and capable of doing all the necessary social networking, moving into e-books and all the other things that make bookselling very different from what it was when I began almost 40 years ago.” Ryan added that Cannon Beach, on Oregon’s Pacific coast, is “a beautiful place to live, the store has been here for 33 years. What’s not to like? Oh, also, sales continue to be strong!”

Of course you guys would be welcome to visit anytime and do your Monday check-ins IRL. We won’t even pressure you to buy a book. Although uh, you know! That would be great.


Now What? How Answering This Question Lead Us to Changing Everything (Part IV)

This is a series that follows two Chicago writer-producers as they try to make it in Los Angeles.

Everyone seems to have a way of summing up Los Angeles.

It doesn’t matter if they’ve never stepped foot in California or if they’ve lived there all your life: Everybody just knows. They’re so sure they’ve got it succinctly summed up.

Mine is this: “Los Angeles is a clothesline of the surreal.” Ceda defers to mine, but we tend to think alike a lot (Obviously—we got in the car and left our old hometown together; it’s a given we’ll agree from time to time).

We’re getting to the point in our journey—or whatever you want to call this—where I think we’re actually starting to become friends and allies. Not just partners. We’re realizing how lucky and unusual we are as a pair.

This was a month where I think we—or at least I—grew up a lot. We’ve been here long enough to form strong opinions about stuff, like how we’re spending our time. We got sick of asking people for advice and are getting savvier about reading what people aren’t saying; about wondering why people are meeting with us: two people who really haven’t done much yet.

This may be our most rambling entry yet. We’ll try to keep it to the point, and as always—thanks for reading. — David



The New SATs

The Washington Post reports that a preview of the new SAT test is out and it actually sounds kind of better?

There are two major changes to the multiple-choice format of the SAT. The test will list four possible answers to each question instead of five. And there no longer will be a scoring deduction for incorrect re­sponses, which the College Board said would encourage students “to give the best answer they have for every question without fear of being penalized for making their best effort.”

In reading, a section that will take 65 minutes, there will be 52 multiple-choice questions based on several passages totaling about 3,200 words. Forty percent of the passages will be in science, 40 percent in history/social studies and 20 percent in literature.

One sample question asks about this sentence: “The coming decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and city-regions.”

Students are then asked whether “intense” most nearly means: (A) emotional; (B) concentrated; (C) brilliant; or (D) determined.

Other sample questions ask for analysis of a complex congressional speech on impeachment and for interpretation of data from a passage and informational graphic about turtle migration.

I kind of want to take this test a la Drew Magary to see how fun it is. It does seem kind of fun when you have no stake in it.

Somewhat related: In college, I had a side gig as an SAT proctor, which I got via a job listing on campus. I basically had to watch a bunch of nervous kids take a test, and the job paid about $15 an hour! Highly recommended if you are looking for extra cash on the weekend and can find a gig in your area.

Also, the answer is (B).

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Millennials Apparently Good With Money

TIME reports that a new survey shows that Millennials are good with their money—recognizing that they need to save and become better with their money.

One of the financial virtues of this group appears to be a slow and steady approach to building a nest egg. Roughly a third favor a long-term tried-and-true strategy, Northwestern Mutual found. Another third would like to take that approach but feel like they are too far behind to play it safe.

Millennials’ cautiousness may be a double-edged sword. Just 14% in the survey say they are pursuing a high-growth investment strategy even though such a strategy would promise superior long-term returns. This may be a case of playing it too safe. Millennials have 40 years to ride out any bumps. If their money is socked away in savings bonds and other ultra-conservative investments it won’t grow fast enough for them to retire even over a long period of time. Now is when they should embrace prudent, low-cost, diversified risk through stock index funds and similar investments.

What makes the Millennial generation so thoughtful about money?



Paying for Dinner

I recently stayed with two friends while visiting their city, and to thank them I told them that I wanted to take them out for dinner.

“No, no!” they said. “We’re just happy to host you while you’re visiting!”

I planned to pay for dinner anyway, and when we went out to dinner on our last night and the check arrived, I pulled out my card and insisted on paying—but my friends ended up handing their card to our waitress and told her to just split the bill.

This may seem like a silly question, but is there a nice way of insisting on picking up the check? — B.