Let’s Manage Our Subscriptions

frosted mini-wheats So I recently got a free month of Hulu Plus because I ate three boxes of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats.

(It is, admittedly, the coolest prize I’ve ever gotten for eating cereal.)

I used it mostly to watch Leverage and How to Get Away With Murder, and then when my month ended, tweeted out:

And, in fact, I did pay $8.75 to Hulu Plus on November 21, or, to be more accurate, $8.75 was automatically removed from my Paypal account. I didn’t stop it. The How to Get Away With Murder mid-season finale was coming up, and I wanted to know how Dean Thomas was going to get away with murder.

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Elizabeth Warren Vs. Walmart

Wall StreetChampion of the left Senator Elizabeth Warren has been feeling a little “is that all there is?” lately, so she’s decided to take on Wal*mart, the biggest retailer in the nation (and among the biggest in the world).

Warren and her colleagues also plan to discuss legislation that could help Walmart employees and other low-wage workers around the country, including measures that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, forbid unpredictable irregular work schedules for part-time workers, and help prevent employers from retaliating against workers who share wage information.

Roughly 825,000 of Walmart’s hourly store employees earn less than $25,000 a year. About 600,000 Walmart workers are part-time, and many rely on food stamps and Medicaid. Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, says its average full-time hourly wage is $12.83, though OUR Walmart has calculated it as closer to $9 an hour. Walmart has retaliated against employees who have protested these low wages. In January, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the company illegally fired, threatened, or disciplined more than 60 workers in 14 states for publicly complaining about wages and working conditions.

Why Walmart?, wonders the Washington Post. Aren’t other retailers also awful?

Why is Wal-Mart specifically under seige, rather than Best Buy or Target? Other retailers pay low wages too, of course — recent research found that the average cashier at Starbucks makes $8.80 per hour, only a few nickles more than the average Wal-Mart cashier. … In addition, it dramatically illustrates the themes of inequality that have resonated among the public, with the Walton family occupying spaces eight through 11 on the Forbes list of billionaires.

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Places I’ve Lived: Paris, St. Louis, NYC

56 Boulevard du Montparnasse Paris google streetviewBoulevard du Montparnasse near Rue de Rennes, Paris, France, €600/mo, September-December 2012
After two years of living in dorms designed to be their own sort of “village” that were vaguely reminiscent of Disneyland, I lived in a tiny apartment in Paris for three months with a 60 year old psychoanalyst (a pure Freudian, because, well, she was French). She regularly rented out her apartment to visiting students and was dismayed at my lackluster French skills. I slept in her son’s old bedroom and was given my own bathroom. It wasn’t a bad arrangement, as the apartment was centrally located in Paris and I wasn’t obliged to eat any meals with her. I was awakened regularly at 8 am by screaming French children being dropped off by their parents for appointments. When I asked my host mom her “spécialité,” it all made sense: she treated kids who were “hyperactif.” Hence the early morning wails.

6621 University Drive St LouisUniversity Drive near Melville Ave, St. Louis, MO, $740/mo (my third) January 2013-May 2014
When I got back to school, I moved into a nightmare of an apartment just across a busy highway from campus. For three months, we endured a nightmarish landlady who would drive by slowly in her white Lexus and drop by unannounced at unexpected times of day using keys she wasn’t supposed to have. While I’d been living abroad, my roommates had gotten extremely sick from the apartment’s mold, the existence of which she denied. We found a similar apartment two buildings down, moved out after finals, and lived on the exact same block with a saner landlord for senior year. The new apartment featured a handyman who was basically our fourth roommate, so often was he there. His name was Bob Obbin. Say it aloud. READ MORE

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Thank Goodness for Gratitude: It Bolsters Willpower

Terms of Endearment supermarketIt tricky to go shopping and not return with more than you expected. That’s because of Willpower. Basically we have one lump of it; after we use up that lump by, say, not buying a Pumpkin Spice Latte, that’s it, it’s gone. The next temptation you meet, no matter how slight (“Oh, look, free kittens!”), will do you in, and before you know it, you’ll have spent $600 on vet bills and another $300 on allergy medicine and a vacuum cleaner because congratulations you’re a pet owner.

What with the approaching holidays, the need to shop drags everyone from their homes, or to their monitors, with even greater frequency. Does anything help us hit “refresh” to get a brand new lump of willpower? An Op-Ed in the Times offers a potential fix: gratitude.

those [psychology subjects in the test] feeling grateful showed almost double the financial patience. They required $30 in the moment to forgo the $100 reward a year from now. What’s more, the amount of patience people possessed was directly tied to how grateful they felt.

What these findings show is that certain emotions can temporarily enhance self-control by decreasing desires for immediate gratification. While feeling happy doesn’t do much to increase patience, feeling grateful does.

So if you’re looking to avoid impulse-buying this year, take time not only to celebrate with your friends and family, but also to count your blessings.

It does not explain exactly how this process works, but I liked the idea and tried it at the grocery store where I went to buy ingredients for chili. As I scoured the aisles for beans and tomatoes, I was enticed by the instant gratification stuff, like chocolate-covered pretzels at $3.99 a bag and 99-cent York Peppermint Patties by the checkout counter. Ooh, yummy, let’s buy that, you know you deserve a treat, said one voice in my head. Be grateful we have legs!, another voice replied. What?? said the first voice. Uh, we have Hershey’s at home, a third voice said, interceding. So we went home and ate lots of it.

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Monday Check-In

windowsGood morning! We’re having a shorter publishing week due to Thanksgiving. Let’s check in.

On Saturday, I woke up chilly, so I decided to drop by the hardware store to pick up some window insulation (the kind where you cover the frame with plastic and then blow-dry; $20), and then picked up a bottle of Knob Creek as a host gift for a dinner party ($60). I also got a haircut ($60, including tip), picked up a few groceries ($30), and then picked up the check when a friend and I had lunch ($45). I had estimated $150 and spent $215, but am warmer in both home and friendship.

How were your weekends?

Photo: tiggy

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Flying Over The Ocean in Economy Class

original_How_To_Date_a_Flight_Attendant

Mike: Meaghan, when is the last time you flew on an international flight?

Meaghan: Oh man, a LONG time ago, if Mexico doesn’t count. 2004! Wow. ALITALIA.

Mike: Obviously, mine was like, yesterday, but I’m still kind of astounded each time? Free movies, free booze. Enough bathrooms? That hot towel they give you. Oh, also meals with real silverware. And it’s all included in the ticket.

Meaghan: The silverware is crazy. Were there knives? Wait and hot towels? The last time I did this I was 21 so I only remember the wine.

Mike: Yeah, there was a knife for like, slicing your bread roll, and spreading butter on it! And also your block of brie, if you wanted (lol).

Meaghan: BRIE? Hahahaha. So international flights have somehow preserved the fanciness feeling that flying “used to have,” or whatever, when people wore suits to fly. Wait, I feel like you might dress up to fly. DO YOU?

Mike: Well, I don’t dress down. I essentially wear the same button-down and jeans I would normally wear. I don’t revert to sweatpants. But yes, it does seem people on international flights don’t really revert to sweatpants like they do domestically? They are sitting there and reading the Financial Times! READ MORE

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Putting Your Money Where Your Apology Is

i-carried-a-watermelonIt is as tricky to apologize right as it is easy to make a mistake. (She said ruefully.) I’m not alone, tho! Mallory Ortberg apologized recently as did Dan Kois on Slate’s Mom & Dad Are Fighting podcast. It was a big week for digging yourself out of a hole.

Now, more and more, to prove they’re sincere, famous fuck-ups have upped the ante and started donating to relevant causes. Words are wind, right? But nothing speaks louder than cold hard cash.

Daniel Handler, aka children’s book author “Lemony Snicket,” made a series of racist jokes the other night when he hosted the National Book Awards. Now he is trying to make amends.

After his initial apology on Twitter, Handler further apologized and has pledged to match donations to We Need Diverse Books for 24 hours up to $100,000.

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Things I’ve Learned, and What I Got Paid For Them

rory-book

Music Theory, Music Composition, Music Performance: I was all ready to say $20,000 and counting, but then I remembered that I’m still in debt from my music career and I lose money on many shows I play. At this point, probably -$2,000.

Postmodernism: Despite the fact that my postmodernism “final project” was an interpretive dance (no, seriously, I put on my leggings and my poofy shirt and did a dance), I’d argue that postmodernism and poststructuralism have done as much, if not more, to help me think critically about what and why we signify than anything else. This is an essential skill when you’re trying to break apart an Atlantic or ThinkProgress article in 15 minutes so you can write about it for The Billfold. I’m going to generously say $10,000.

Introductions to Chemistry and Physics: Sorry, nope. Haven’t earned (or used?) anything from this.

Introductions to French: Le nope.

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What Makes Us Feel Better When We’re Sad?

BH_5001_0Everyone has a favourite activity for when they’re mildly depressed. For some, it’s huddling in bed with a comforter pulled up around their ears to shield against this cruel world; for others, it’s donning neon underwear and blasting “Deceptacon” for an impromptu bedroom dancing party.

My own ministrations involve watching old episodes of Freaks and Geeks I’ve already seen at least four times, soothing myself with the familiarity. (If I need a quick hit of joy, it’s straight to Youtube to watch a 47-second clip of Bill Haverchuck stutter “You cut me off mid funk!”) When that’s not working, I go watch videos of Michael Clark. For the unitiated who may not share my interest in post-punk and wacky outfits—Michael Clark is the apotheosis of the two combined. He was the enfant terrible of 1980s contemporary dance and you can watch old videos of him leaping gracefully along to the jagged guitar screeches of The Fall in ass-baring leotards or polka dot face paint. And now that it’s November, I’ll surrender to the sweeping melancholy of the Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs and let the music seep into my listless limbs.

The point is, no one is immune to getting the mean reds, the SADs, the abject paralyzing fear of continuing to live your own life. No matter what you want to call it we all have our own unique ways of coping with the world when everything turns to shit, and I’ve made it my mission to collect some of the “sadness routines” of some of my favourite people on the Internet and IRL.

So here’s to buying an entire box of Hallowe’en candy for yourself and eating it while watching The Craft. Here’s to buying overpriced essential oils and pouring them in the bath. Here’s to putting your socks in the microwave to warm your feet. And most of all, here’s to allowing ourselves to wallow and assuage our guilt with the knowledge that hopefully soon we’ll feel temporarily a little bit better. READ MORE

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Here Is Your Open Thread

— Companies that provide their employees with perks like catered lunches and workout classes have also created a role for people to manage those perks. The WSJ has a profile of one of the people in that role: Jen Nguyen, the “head of workplace” at Pinterest.

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If You Buy Your Wife a Mansion

a house in franceThe holiday season is upon us, and I know what some of you are thinking. “I’d love to buy my wife a house without asking her if she wants it.”

“But, Meaghan, I’m a woman, as are the majority of your readers.” Sssh, you sit this one out. Take the time to practice your ‘I’m not vexed this is just what my face looks like’ face.

Anyway, if you are a man married to a woman, a woman who I guess conveniently has no opinions and desires to give no input on where she spends her life, here is a gift guide for you, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Faith Zelenko ’s husband, Cliff, called her at work one day to tell her there was something he wanted to show her. That night, he took her to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “Cliff opens the door and says, ‘This is your new home,’ ” recalled Ms. Zelenko. “I was, like, are you kidding me? You’re joking, right?”

Then, she burst into tears.

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