News

Heartbreaking Story About Homelessness in San Francisco

The myth of the “good poor” kills me, the idea that people should have to point to their accomplishments and credentials to make clear that they don’t deserve to have to live on the street. No one should have to live on the street.

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Link Roundup! “Breaking Bad” Dolls, Men’s Watches, Last Call for Holiday Flights

+ Sorry, guys. Since a Florida mom complained, you can’t buy “Breaking Bad” action figures at Toys R Us anymore. Note: the NPR article about this story uses “dolls” and “action figures” interchangeably, but I feel like I read something in the New Yorker once delineating the subtle but fascinating distinctions between the categories — which matter a lot for import tax reasons. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Did I dream it, like I dreamed last night that I got mauled by someone’s pet tiger? (“He’s usually very friendly,” the person said, cleaning my wounds.)

+ Remember those happy days when there was a clear hierarchy to men’s watches?

If you’re scaling your way up the ladder of rich douchiness, you start with a middle-class-friendly Casio or Timex. After your first six figures in the finance industry, you move to an “entry-level” luxury watch, like a Rolex, by 30. Then, in your 40s, if you’re lucky, you park your annual bonus on a high-end Swiss number. And in your 50s, feeling both flush and the literal press of time, you rock the equivalent of a Porsche on your wrist, before passing it on to the next generation as a family heirloom.

But since 2007, the whole system has been disrupted by something called “the Ice-Watch” (??), at least in Europe, where everyone, even rich people, wants the cool fun watch that costs only $200. The best part of this article is that it says the Ice-Watch “cock-blocked Swatch.” Wow. Mike would wash our mouths out with soap if we talked like that.

+ Haven’t purchased your flights home for the holidays yet? There’s still time, maybe! A little time, not much. Some years the cheapest flights appear 10 days out, right before prices spike. And holiday flights are actually super expensive in July and August, to punish those of you who might otherwise feel good about being on the ball.

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“Is There Anything More Ironic Than Coming to Live in Des Moines”

“Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.” –Field of Dreams

We’ve mentioned it here before on the site, so we’re not too surprised, but Des Moines is getting a lot of love these days. According to the National Journal, only half-jokingly, we should all be moving to Iowa, or at least visiting and considering it:

It was a normal night at the Social Club when we visited. The art gallery was open, just next to Capes Kafe coffee shop and comic-book store; upstairs, nine people in a comic-book drawing class watched an eccentric, gray-haired instructor in skinny black jeans and thick-rimmed glasses draw a cartoon about a retired Elvis impersonator named “Sid.” Out on the purposely graffitied porch with rope-spool tables, dozens of members of the local Young Nonprofit Professionals Network chapter met to network, drink, and take professional head shots.

Looking out over the courtyard marked by an old telephone tower and murals, Brianne Sanchez and Danny Heggen, both 29, describe the chapter they founded in 2013 for monthly coffee meetings. It has turned into a group of more than 550 members that successfully draws millennials downtown to connect and help each other out. It’s a quintessentially Midwestern mix of selflessness in a deep pool of ambition and drive.

“We always joke that Des Moines is a big small town,” says Heggen, a project manager for a firm that transforms old art deco buildings into new apartments. “But really, Des Moines is a large living room. There’s this homey feel. What I most want is everybody around me to be successful. And I believe that everyone wants that for me, as well.”

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A Drunk Stole My Kale. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Today’s Link of the Day, a gripping tale of tragedy, redemption, and kale, comes from the vibrant, increasingly yuppie Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.

About two weeks ago, my Tuscan kale plant disappeared. … we wrote it off as lost, a casualty of the urban environment in which we knew fenceless gardening to be a risk. And then, over the weekend, we found this wet note sticking out from under a flowerpot. [Note reads: "To: Wonderful Gardener. From: A Remorseful Kale Thief (I was drunk & I'm very sorry."] Attached to the back was a $25 gift card to Ace Hardware, where we plan to restock our gardening supplies in the spring. Never has my faith in humanity been more emphatically restored. Kale thief, if you’re reading this, all is forgiven and then some.

Back in the early days of our relationship, Ben borrowed my laptop and left it attended for a moment in the law school library. Some other enterprising law student, no doubt bound to be one of those shysters who advertises on billboards using dollar signs, made off with it. Ben was devastated — so upset, in fact, that I ended up calming down so that I could calm him down. (Good trick, btw, if you can pull it off.)

What’s the most valuable thing anyone has ever stolen from you? Did the thief make recompense somehow? Or have you ever had to express your remorse for taking something that wasn’t yours?

Photo via Washington City Paper

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Working While Pregnant

Sometimes the Gray Lady does a good deed. I mean, she spends a lot of time preening, and baiting us with the travails of the city’s most obnoxious, narcissistic 22-year-old as he searches for a $3700-a-month apartment big enough to decorate like an Orientalist bordello, complete with a huge oil painting of himself. But sometimes she also manages to help an unfairly fired pregnant woman get her job back:

Ms. Valencia, who earned $8.70 an hour as a potato packer for Fierman in the Bronx, was told by her supervisors in August that she could not continue working unless her doctor gave her a full-duty medical clearance. (Ms. Valencia, who had a miscarriage last year, was told by her doctor that she should work only eight hours a day, no overtime.) Lawyers for Ms. Valencia said the company had violated New York City’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Her story was the subject of a Working Life column on Monday.

My god, what employers will try to get away with when they think nobody’s looking. Sadder still is that most of the time, nobody is looking. If you’re working while pregnant, know your rights.

 

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Getting the Paper

The daily paper The Oregonian sent reader Ken Bilderback a note thanking him for being a loyal subscriber. The reader forwarded the note to Jim Romenesko, drily pointing out that loyalty comes at a cost: “Another reason newspapers are failing. We subscribe to The Oregonian. The good news is that we will get the Thanksgiving and Christmas papers we’re paying for. The bad news is that our subscription will be shortened because of it.”

That’s because the “special” holiday editions of the paper cost more, being chock full of good stuff / unnecessary junk like “money-saving coupons.” The conversation continues on Romenesko’s FB page:

Do you invest in your local paper, and if so, do these pricing shenanigans bother you? My local paper is the NYT, and I do subscribe; my loyalty is boundless and my enjoyment — which encompasses the ability to mock without mercy – is priceless.

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Kickstarter’s New Motto: Kaveat Emptor

Anonabox, the Washington Post reports, may not just be a silly name for a product; it might have the distinction of being a Kickstarter cautionary tale.

But the Anonabox, which has raised more than $600,000 from 9,000 people since going online four days ago, is a curious case. Most Kickstarter controversies erupt after the fact, when a project has been funded and the creator fails to deliver. (Earlier this year, in fact, Washington’s attorney general sued a Tennessee-based project that did just that.) But funders began to notice problems with the Anonabox — a tiny, affordable Internet router that anonymizes your online activity — long before that point. There were glaring discrepancies, they noted, between creator August Germar’s original description of the Anonabox and actual pictures of the device online. Germar claimed that he had designed the hardware from scratch, when, in fact, the primary components were bought almost off-the-shelf from China.

Haha oops! And backers are not happy.

Since 9 a.m. today, donors have withdrawn roughly $14,000 in pledges, or 2 percent of the project’s earnings to that point. (Under Kickstarter policy, backers can change or cancel their donations at any time before a project closes, with some exceptions if they cancel in the last 24 hours.) According to Anonabox’s Kickstarter page, more than 200 people have contributed at least $250 to the project, and a handful have donated considerably more.

Funny that Kickstarter refuses to get involved in a case of fraud and misrepresentation, whereas GoFundMe was quick on the draw when it discovered that a woman was trying to raise money for a lawful abortion. But the bigger lesson is, of course, caveat emptor, everyone.

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Should Economic Equality Have Come Before Marriage Equality?

At the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg reflects on the new movie Prideusing it as a launching pad to discuss whether the LGBTQI[infinity symbol] rights movement made a mistake by putting marriage first, as a goal, instead of economic equality. After all, she writes,

According to a Williams Institute analysis of data from the American Community Survey, lesbian couples in the United States are more likely to live in poverty than married heterosexual couples, and gay African American couples “have poverty rates more than twice the rate of different-sex married African Americans … Almost one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 percent of children living with a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1 percent of children living with married different-sex couples. African American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3 percent) of any children in any household type.”

Marriage, she argues, only helps those who are partnered for the long-term. Passing a national Non-Discrimination Act would help more broadly. Especially because lots of people in the community are poor. The Williams Institute reports, “We find clear evidence that poverty is at least as common in the LGB population as among heterosexual people and their families.”

Yet many folks — up to and including one of the nation’s most powerful short-sighted bigots men, Justice Antonin Scalia — harbor the misconception that to be gay is to be rich. In an opinion in the 90s, Scalia wrote of the queer community’s “high disposable income” and its concurrent “disproportionate political power.” Presumably Scalia watched an episode of “Will and Grace” and another of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and drew conclusions. But he’s not alone, here or abroad. The Atlantic calls the widespread notion that gays have influence and cash “the Myth of Gay Affluence.”

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Advice for Retirement: Invest in a Metal Detector

There’s gold in them thar hills — at least, the hills of Scotland, as a retiree with a metal detector recently discovered:

Amongst the objects is a solid silver cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th century, a silver pot of west European origin, which is likely to have already been 100 years old when it was buried and several gold objects. “Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland,” Scotland’s Treasure Trove unit said in a statement.

The Viking hoard is McLennan’s second significant contribution to Scotland’s understanding of its past. Last year, he and a friend unearthed around 300 medieval coins in the same area of Scotland. … The latest find, also containing a rare silver cup engraved with animals which dates from the Holy Roman Empire, and a gold bird pin, is the largest to be found in Scotland since 1891 and could be worth a six-figure sum, the BBC said.

(If, like me, you’re reading the Outlander books, about a WWII nurse who accidentally time-travels back 200 years to the Scottish highlands, this news is particularly apropos and entertaining.) Vikings, man! They came to rape and pillage and they did a lot of burying treasure in Scotland and England too, which means there’s probably more to find.

But even if you can’t fly out to the UK and start marauding, you can still find money just by looking down when you walk: I’ve collected easily $50 over the years that way, as well as a really pretty tiny diamond ring. One morning, when I was a kid, I found $100 in an unmarked envelope hidden in my dresser. No idea what the story was but for a while there I lived like a king.

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What Your Sex Life Has to do with Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg

His estimate for how much money he has spent on first dates in the past six months was $1,000. “That’s approximating $15 per, because a first date is one drink: I take her to a bar and then I get a beer, and following suit she usually gets a beer too, even if she leaves half of it, so it’s not too bad.”

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Being a good girl did not work for Lilly Ledbetter. It will not work for you.

If your boss believes that your superpower includes 1) doing A+ work, and 2) having no needs — being serene in your knowledge that, however unfair it may be that you earn 75% of what the guy next to you takes in, everything will come out in the wash eventually — then of course you’re going to be hesitant about approaching him for more money. His good opinion of you is tied to his assumption that you are non-threatening.

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